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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 16 – The Nine Yin Manual

    The coffin’s lid opened; it turned out it had not been nailed down. There was no zombie inside; only a good-looking young girl with a pair of big eyes. It was none other than Mu Nianci. Yang Kang was pleasantly surprised and quickly he held out his hand to help her out.

    Chapter 16 – The Nine Yin Manual
    (Translated by Foxs, Edited by Eliza Bennet)

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong left the Cheng’s residence and were very tired since they have not had any sleep for the rest of the night. They had wanted to go back to the inn to rest, but suddenly heard the sound of hoof beats came galloping fast from the south heading north. The sound was coming near, but suddenly it stopped. Huang Rong’s curiosity was piqued, “There must be something unusual happening. Sounds interesting.” Utilizing her lightness kungfu she immediately went to take a look. Guo Jing followed closely.

    To their surprise, what they saw was Yang Kang standing on the roadside, holding a horse’s rein and talking to Ouyang Ke. Guo and Huang did not want to come any closer because they did not want to be detected. They hid themselves quite a distance away; moreover, those two spoke in low voice. So what Huang Rong could hear were bits and pieces. Ouyang Ke mentioned ‘Yue Fei’ and ‘Lin An government office’; while Yang Kang did say ‘my father’. Huang Rong was curious, she wanted to come nearer, but at that time Ouyang Ke cupped his fists and heading east, along with all his female disciples/concubines.

    Yang Kang stayed behind. He stared blankly for a while, then let out a long sigh and mounted his horse. “Xian Die [lit. Worthy Brother, but I think it would sound silly, so I am going to use Xian Die from now on], I am here,” Guo Jing called. Yang Kang heard his voice and he was startled, but stopped his horse anyway. “Elder Brother, you are here as well?” he replied.

    “I ran into Miss Huang here and we fought that Ouyang Ke, that’s why we were delayed,” Guo Jing explained. Yang Kang’s face turned red; he felt uneasy since he wasn’t sure if Guo Jing heard his conversation with Ouyang Ke. But Guo Jing’s face remained calm; so Yang Kang felt better. “This man cannot pretend,” he thought, “He wouldn’t be this calm if he heard me.”

    “Elder Brother,” he said, “shall we hurry up and continue our trip tonight, or shall we spend the night here? Will Miss Huang go to Beijing with us?”

    “It’s not I who go with you, it is you who follow us,” Huang Rong said.

    “What’s the difference?” Guo Jing smiled. “Let us go back to that ancestral temple and have some rest. Tomorrow evening we will enjoy the Beggar Clan’s banquet; and then we can continue our trip.”

    So the three people walked back to the temple. Huang Rong lighted a candle; grabbing the candlestick she picked up the needles she shot out a moment ago. This time of the year the weather was getting hot, so they took down the doors, and brought the planks outside. They intended to sleep in the courtyard.

    Just before they fell asleep, the sound of horses’ hoof beat from a distance can be faintly heard. They tilted their head to listen. The sound was coming fast, sounded like it was more than one horse.

    “Three horses in the front, pursued by more than 10 people,” Huang Rong guessed. Guo Jing literally grew up on horseback; he knew exactly the number of the horses.

    “There are 16 pursuers altogether,” he said. ”Well, well, well … what do you know?”

    “What?” Huang Rong asked.

    “The three horses on the front are Mongolian horses, but the pursuers are not,” Guo Jing answered. “What in the world are the Mongolian horses doing in this area?” he wondered.

    Huang Rong pulled Guo Jing’s hand and they walked outside the temple gate. Suddenly a swishing sound was heard, and arrow flew above their heads. The three riders rushed toward the temple. An arrow flew from the pursuers and hit the last horse’s thigh. The horse uttered a sad neigh and knelt down on the ground. The rider’s equestrian skill was superb; he managed to leap just before the horse hit the ground. Looked like the rider did not know any lightness kungfu, his step was heavy. The other two riders stopped their horse and turned back.

    “I am all right,” shouted the one who fell down. “Quickly, go! I’ll try to block the enemy!”

    “I will help you block the enemy. Fourth Prince, you go ahead,” shouted one of the other two.

    “How can you do that?” asked the Fourth Prince.

    Those three were speaking Mongolians. Guo Jing who was listening thought he knew those voices. They sounded like Toulei, Jebeh, and Bourchu. He was really surprised. “What are they doing here?” he thought.

    He wanted to come nearer, but the pursuers had already surrounded the three riders. The three Mongolians were experts in shooting arrows; so the pursuers did not dare to come too close; they only shot their own arrows from a distance.

    “Let’s go up!” one of the Mongolian shouted, his hand pointing to a flagpole. Three people scurried to the flagpole and climbed up. They were trying to gain a better position.

    The pursuers dismounted their horses and surrounded the flagpole on all directions. Somebody shouted an order and four soldiers lifted high their shields; came near the flagpole and tried to chop it down with their swords.

    “You are wrong,” Huang Rong whispered, “There are only 15 pursuers.”

    “No, I can’t be wrong,” Guo Jing countered. “Maybe one of them was shot dead.” He just closed his mouth when a horse came wandering, there was a rider on it, but he was dead; his foot was stuck on the stirrup so the horse was dragging him along, an arrow sticking out from his chest.

    Guo Jing crawled toward that corpse. He drew the arrow out. As soon as he traced his fingers on the arrow, he could feel that it was made of wrought iron, and had an engraving of a leopard head. It was the arrow used by the Master Archer Jebeh; heavier than average arrows. His suspicion was gone; he called out, “On the flagpole, are you Master Jebeh, Brother Toulei and Master Bourchu? This is Guo Jing!”

    The three people were delighted. “How can you be here?” they asked.

    “Who pursued you?” Guo Jing asked.

    “The Jin soldiers!” Toulei answered.

    Guo Jing took the dead Jin soldier’s body, lifted it up and rushed forward. He threw the corpse toward the soldiers at the foot of the flagpole. The corpse did knock down two soldiers that the other two was scared and ran away.

    Out of the blue two white shadows swooped down to Guo Jing. He recognized those were his two condors, which together Huazheng and he raised back in Mongolia. Those two birds also recognized their master amidst the dark night, so they uttered a loud cry and came down on Guo Jing’s shoulder.

    Huang Rong had heard Guo Jing’s story on how he had shot down an eagle, and how he raised a pair of condors as his playmates; and now suddenly saw the white condors she ignored the surrounding soldiers. She came running toward Guo Jing and called out, “Let me play with them!” She held out her hand to stroke the condor’s feather. But the condor did not know Huang Rong, so it moved its head to hit Huang Rong’s hand with its beak. Luckily Huang Rong was quick; if not, the back of her hand would be injured.

    Guo Jing hurriedly pulled the birds away. Huang Rong sulked, “Your pet birds are bad!” But actually she was happy, she leaned her head to take a closer look at the birds.

    “Rong’er, watch out!” suddenly Guo Jing shouted. Two fast arrows flew toward Huang Rong’s chest. She ignored the arrows, nonchalantly reached toward the dead soldier’s pocket. The arrows hit were right on target, but they hit the soft hedgehog armor and simply fell down near her foot. Huang Rong continued groping the pocket until she found some dried meat and fed them to the birds.

    “Rong’er, play with the condors, I am going to kill some Jin soldiers!” Guo Jing said. He jumped to strike an arrow flying toward him, stretched his left palm and with a cracking sound broke a nearby Jin soldier’s arm.

    “Where did the dog that creates trouble in here come from?” suddenly a voice called out in the dark. Surprisingly, he was speaking Chinese. Guo Jing was startled, “This voice sounds familiar,” he thought. At that time a couple of metal came flashing down his way; two short hatchets came chopping down on him, one slashing his chest, the other slashing toward his lower abdomen.

    Guo Jing saw the incoming force was fierce; he knew the attacker was not an ordinary officer. Immediately he shot his palm using the ‘divine dragon swings its tail’. His palm hit that man on the shoulder, broke the shoulder blade into pieces and sent the man flying backward a few feet. The man cried out pitifully. Suddenly Guo Jing remembered, “This is one of the ‘huang he si gui’ [four demons of the Yellow River], the ‘sang men fu’ [deadly gate hatchet] Qian Qingjian.”

    Guo Jing knew that his martial art skill had improved tremendously these past several months; of course he was in entirely different league compared to when he fought the Four Demons of the Yellow River in Mongolia a while back; but to be able to strike the enemy more than ten feet away with only one palm? He was blown away. While he was still amazed by it, a couple more metal objects came down flashing toward him. This time it was a saber and a spear.

    Guo Jing guessed they must be ‘duan hu dao’ [severing soul blade] Shen Qinggang and ‘zhui ming qiang’ [pursuing life spear] Wu Qinglie. His right hand forming a hook and caught the spear near its head and pulled it hard. Wu Qinglie tried to resist, but he was pulled along and fell face down in front of Guo Jing. Right at that moment Guo Jing was stepping back to elude the chopping saber; that Shen Qinggang’s blade was hacking toward his martial brother’s skull.
    Guo Jing’s leg flew up, kicked Shen Qinggang’s right wrist. A streak of blue light flashed in the dark night, his saber flew up from his hand; Wu Qinglie’s life was saved. Guo Jing then picked up Wu Qinglie from his back and whirled him against his martial brother. With a ‘bang’ sound two brothers collided and passed out immediately.

    Among the Four Demons of the Yellow River, only three left, since ‘duo po bian’ [soul snatching whip] Ma Qingxiong was killed by Lu Guanying when he was trying to penetrate the robber gang of Lake Tai. These three people were the elite fighters of the Jin soldiers who pursued Toulei and his company. The rest of the Jin soldiers were not aware that their leaders had fallen due to the dark. They were still engaging Toulei, Jebeh and Bourchu in shooting battle.

    “You are not running away, do all of you want to die here?” Guo Jing roared. He rushed toward the enemy soldiers, hit here and grabbed there, throwing bodies everywhere. Very soon the soldiers panicked and scattered in all directions. Shen Qinggang and Wu Qinglie slowly came out to their senses, each with a splitting headache. They were seeing things, but realizing that their company scattered they also ran away without hesitation. Accidentally they stumbled upon Qian Qingjian and woke him up. He mumbled indistinctly, but seeing the rest of the soldiers scattered away, he ignored his pain and ran different direction.

    Jebeh and Bourchu were skilled archers; they kept shooting their arrows and managed to kill three more Jin soldiers. Toulei looked down and saw his sworn brothers had scattered the enemy; he was delighted and called out, “Anda [Mongolian term for sworn brother]! How are you?” Holding the flagpole he slid down to the ground.

    Guo Jing and Toulei held each other’s hand; they were very happy that they were speechless for a while. A moment later Jebeh and Bourchu joined them. “Those three Han people holding shields to block our arrows, prevented us from shooting them,” Jebeh said. “If Jing’er did not come and rescue us, we won’t be able to drink Onon River’s clear water anymore.”

    Guo Jing pulled Huang Rong’s hand and have her meet Toulei and company. “This is my sworn sister,” he introduced her.

    “Will you give me these two white condors?” Huang Rong asked, smiling. Toulei did not understand Chinese, his translator ran away when they were being attacked by the Jin soldiers. He only noticed that Huang Rong’s voice was clear and sounded pleasant to his ears, but actually he had no idea what she was saying.

    Guo Jing ignored Huang Rong’s request. “Anda, why did you bring the condors here?” he asked.

    “Father sent me to see the Song Emperor; to make a bilateral agreement between the north and south, so that we can dispatch troops together and attack the Jins from both directions,” Toulei explained. “My sister thought I might meet you here, so she sent these condors to you. She guessed right, didn’t I meet you here?”

    Guo Jing heard him mentioning Huazheng, his heart was saddened. He had fallen in love with Huang Rong; but occasionally Huazheng came into his mind. Not that he had any romantic feeling toward her, but actually he did not know how to sort this thing out. Sometimes he chased that thought away; but now hearing Toulei he was at a loss. His only thought was, “Within a month I am going to the Peach Blossom Island where Rong’er’s father might kill me. How could I attend to her?” Therefore, he turned toward Huang Rong and told her, “These two birds are mine. You can have them to play with.”

    Huang Rong was delighted; she found more dried meat to feed the condors.

    Toulei proceeded by telling how his father, Genghis Khan had gained victory over the Jins on several fronts; but the Jin army was strong in numbers. They consolidated themselves and for many years strengthen their forts that for a while they have managed to defend their borders. Thereupon Genghis Khan had sent Toulei to make contact with the south to form an alliance with the Songs to attack the Jins. Unfortunately they ran into a brigade of the Jin army and could not prevent a battle. Their company perished and only three of them managed to escape and ran away there.

    Guo Jing remembered that day at the Cloud Village he heard Yang Kang asking Mu Nianci to go to Lin An and see the Prime Minister Shi Miyuan, to ask him to kill the Mongolian messengers. At that time he did not know anything, but now he knew that the Jins had found out the conspiracy and had sent Yang Kang to prevent the Songs and the Mongols to form an alliance.

    Toulei continued, “Looked like the Jins have determined to kill me to avoid Mongolia and the Song Dynasty formed the alliance successfully; that the Sixth Prince himself personally led the troop to capture me.”

    “Wanyan Honglie?” Guo Jing asked in surprise.

    “That’s right!” Toulei answered. “He was wearing a golden helmet, I saw him clearly and even shot three arrows to him, too bad they were blocked by his bodyguards’ shields.”

    Guo Jing was ecstatic, “Rong’er, Brother Kang! Wanyan Honglie is here, let us quickly find him.” Huang Rong quickly came, but Yang Kang was nowhere to be seen. Guo Jing was impatient, he shouted, “Rong’er, you go to the east, I will search to the west.” Two people launched their lightness kungfu and ran very fast opposite directions.

    After several li’s Guo Jing managed to catch up with several ran away Jin soldiers. He captured one of them and found out that indeed it was the Sixth Prince Wanyang Honglie who personally led the pursuers, but that soldier did not know his whereabouts.

    “We have deserted the Prince without any regard of his safety; if we went back, we will be executed. Hence we are throwing away our uniforms and try to hide among the common people,” that soldier said.

    Guo Jing turned and resumed his chase. It was almost dawn, but where was Wanyan Honglie’s shadow? He knew the enemy who killed his father was near, but seemed to be unreachable. He was anxious.

    He rushed forward a little bit further and arrived at a small wooded area where he saw a white shadow flashing by. It was Huang Rong. Two people met, they looked at each other and knew they did not find him. Dejectedly they decided to go back to the temple.

    “Wanyan Honglie led quite a number of troops pursuing us; he was riding a fast horse. I think by now he must be going back to fetch enforcement to capture us,” Toulei tried to reason. “Anda, I am bearing my father’s decree; I can’t stay for long. Let us part here. My little sister asked me to deliver this message to you: Please go back home to Mongolia as soon as possible.”

    Guo Jing agreed to what he said, but feared that it would be difficult for them to meet again in the future. His heart was heavy. He hugged Toulei, Jebeh and Bourchu farewell, but said very little. They mounted their horses and galloped away. The sound of hoof beats gradually vanished away; men and horses slowly hidden behind a cloud of yellow dust.

    “Let us hide and wait for Wanyan Honglie to come back,” proposed Huang Rong. “If the troops are numerous, we will simply following them and try to assassinate him in the evening. Don’t you think it’s a good idea?”

    Guo Jing was delighted. He praised Huang Rong incessantly. Huang Rong was very happy too, she smiled and said, “It was nothing, I was just using the common tactic of ‘yi an jiu chuan’ [leaving to shore to move to a ship].”

    “I’ll go to the woods to hide our horses,” Guo Jing said. He walked toward the backyard of the temple, and suddenly saw something gleaming among the grass under the morning sun. He bent down to take a closer look and found that thing was a golden helmet, inlaid with three big jewels. Guo Jing picked it up and walked back to Huang Rong. “What do you think this is?” he quietly asked.

    “Wanyan Honglie’s golden helmet?” Huang Rong guessed.

    “Exactly!” whispered Guo Jing. “I believe he is still hiding somewhere close to this temple. Let’s spread out and find him.”

    Huang Rong turned her back, her hands pressed down on the wall and she floated atop the wall in no time. “I am searching from above, you from below,” she called out. Guo Jing entered the temple.

    “Was my lightness kungfu a moment ago good?” Huang Rong called.

    Guo Jing was taken aback, he stopped in his track. “It was very good! Why?” he asked.

    “Then why didn’t you praise me?” Huang Rong said with a laugh.

    Guo Jing stomped his feet. “Oh, you mischievous kid! You still want to joke at a time like this,” he said.

    Huang Rong simply laughed; raising her hands she flew to the rear courtyard.

    When Guo Jing was fighting the Jin soldiers, Yang Kang had observed from the side. Despite the darkness he could recognize the Sixth Prince Wanyan Honglie. Although by now Yang Kang knew he was not his own father, but nonetheless he had raised Yang Kang for more than ten years; he had been a father’s figure for Yang Kang all this time. Yang Kang saw how Guo Jing had dispersed the Jin soldiers; if Wanyan Honglie was seen by Guo Jing, he would lose his life for sure. It was a critical time, Yang Kang did not have too much time to think; so he jumped to the battleground. At that time Guo Jing was hurling a Jin soldier’s body to the air. Wanyan Honglie’s horse got scared, so he was busy holding the rein. Yang Kang grabbed him from behind and pulled him to safety.

    “Fu Wang [Father King], it’s me, Kang’er. Don’t make a sound!” Yang Kang whispered urgently.

    Guo Jing was still fighting, and Huang Rong’s attention was occupied by the condors. The night was dark, so nobody saw him with Wanyan Honglie moved toward the rear courtyard of the temple.

    Yang Kang quietly pushed open the door to the west wing, and equally quietly two people hid themselves there. Their ears could still hear the battle cry outside, then the noise of Jin soldiers scampered away; finally they heard the mumbling sound of the three Mongolians talking to Guo Jing.

    Wanyan Honglie thought he was dreaming, “Kang’er,” he whispered, “What brought you here?”

    “It was a fortunate coincidence,” Yang Kang replied. “Ah … but that man surnamed Guo meant you harm.”

    By that time Wanyan Honglie heard Guo Jing and Huang Rong were going separate ways to look for him. He also saw a moment ago how Guo Jing had defeated the Three Ghosts of the Yellow River; and how fiercely and swiftly Guo Jing had beaten and killed numerous Jin soldiers. If he were discovered by those two, what would happen? He shuddered involuntarily.

    “Father King, if we exit now, I am afraid we’ll run into them. Let’s just hide in here, they will eventually leave. Wait till they are far away, then we can slowly come out,” Yang Kang said.

    “That’s not a bad idea,” Wanyan Honglie said. He paused, then said, “Kang’er, why did you call me ‘fu wang’ [father king], and not ‘tie’ [father/papa/daddy]?”

    Yang Kang was silent. He remembered his late mother’s fate; his heart was filled with turbulent emotions.

    Wanyan Honglie slowly said, “You were thinking of your mother, were you not?” He stretched his arm to hold Yang Kang’s hand; that hand was icy cold, Yang Kang’s cold sweat.

    Yang Kang gently pulled his hand away. He changed the subject, “This Guo Jing’s martial art is high. He is seeking vengeance for his father; he is determined to find and kill you. He also has befriended many-many experts in martial art; it will be impossible for you to guard against him. I think it will be to your benefit that you do not go back to Beijing in the next six months or so.”

    Wanyan Honglie recalled what happened at the Ox Village of Lin An nineteen years ago; he was saddened, yet there was a tinge of guilty feeling in him, so he was silent for a quite a while. “Very well,” he finally said, “I’ll avoid Beijing for a while. Have you gone to Lin An yet? What did the Prime Minister Shi say?”

    “I haven’t been there,” Yang Kang coldly replied.

    Wanyan Honglie heard the tone of his voice, he could guess that Yang Kang had probably found out about his own life story; but why did Yang Kang save him? Could he have another plan in mind?

    Those two men had lived together for eighteen years as father and son; they loved each other dearly. But now that they were together in that small room, suddenly Yang Kang thought there was a deep hatred between them. There was a raging battle inside his heart: “With just a whack of my palm I will avenge my father and mother, but how can I do that? That Yang Tiexin fellow was my biological father, but what did he give me? Normally Mama treated Father King well, if I kill him now, would Mama like it? Besides, if I really forsake being a prince, will I end up wandering around in the wilderness, destitute just like Guo Jing?”

    He was still having these disquieting thoughts when Wanyan Honglie said, “Kang’er, we have had father-son relationship. No matter what, you are my son and I love you. Within ten years our great Jin will conquer the Song. At that time I will have enormous power and authority in my hands; with unlimited riches and honor. This beautiful country, this mortal world, will eventually fall into your hands.”

    Yang Kang understood the implication of his speech; Wanyan Honglie aimed to be the emperor. Thinking about ‘unlimited riches and honor’, his heart was thumping loudly, secretly thought, “With the power of the Great Jin, it is not difficult to crush the Song. Mongolia will pose another problem, but it will be temporary. They are just a bunch of barbarians with excellent riding and archery skills; nothing refine. Father King’s management skill is superb. Which Great Jin’s other prince can be compared to him? When all’s said and done, I will definitely become the crown prince of this world.” Thinking thus far his blood boiled. He stretched his hand to grab Wanyan Honglie’s. “Tie [Daddy], your child will certainly help you in this great undertaking.”

    Wanyan Honglie felt Yang Kang’s hand was warm, he was delighted. “I am Li Yuan, you are Li Shi Min.” [Translator note: Li Yuan and Li Shi Min were father and son, founder of the Tang Dynasty]

    Yang Kang was about to reply when suddenly they heard a noise behind them. Two men froze. Quickly they turned their heads. It was already morning; a bright sunlight came through the window. They saw seven, eight coffins scattered throughout the room. Turned out this west wing was the temporary placement of the dead before burial. They listened carefully; the noise sounded like it came from one of the coffin.

    “What was that?” Wanyan Honglie asked.

    “Probably a mouse,” Yang Kang replied. At that moment they heard Guo Jing and Huang Rong were talking outside about the golden helmet; then joking around looking for them.

    “Confound it!” Yang Kang thought, “Father’s golden helmet is left outside! This could be bad.” With a low voice he said, “I am going to lead them away.” Quietly he opened the door and jumped outside, toward the roof.

    Huang Rong was on the roof; suddenly she saw a shadow flashing on the roof peak. “Good! He is here!” She dashed toward that shadow, but the shadow quickly jumped down and disappeared over a corner.

    Guo Jing heard her voice and came. “He can’t run away, he must be hiding in the woods,” Huang Rong said.

    Two people were about to run into the woods when suddenly there was a noise from the bush and out came Yang Kang. Guo Jing was pleasantly surprised. “Xian Die, where did you come from?” he asked. “Did you see Wanyan Honglie?”

    “Wanyan Honglie is here?” Yang Kang feigned surprise.

    “He was the commander of that troop. Look, his golden helmet is here,” Guo Jing said.

    “So that’s how it is,” Yang Kang said.

    Huang Rong saw his expression was unusual; she also remembered he was speaking with Ouyang Ke earlier; she was suspicious. “We were looking for you everywhere just a moment ago. Where were you?” she asked.

    “I ate too much strange food yesterday, I think I suffered a food poisoning, so I relieved myself over there,” Yang Kang said, pointing to a small wooded area.

    Huang Rong did not believe him, but she was uncomfortable to chase him. “Xian Die,” Guo Jing said, “Let’s look together.”

    Yang Kang was worried; he was not sure if Wanyan Honglie had run away or was still there; but his face did not show anything. “He came here to die! We could not have asked anything better,” he said, “Why don’t you two search to the east, I’ll go to the west.”

    “Very well!” Guo Jing said, and immediately walked to the east; pushing open the door to the ‘jie xiao tang’ [clemency and filial hall].

    “Brother Yang,” Huang Rong said, “I think that man is hiding in the west; let me come with you.”

    Yang Kang groaned inwardly, but his face feigned happiness. “Let us go, quick!” he said, “Don’t let him run away.” Immediately two people searched from room to room.

    The Liu family of Bao Ying was originally a big family during the Song Dynasty; naturally their ancestral temple was huge. But because of the war with the Jins, this temple was partially burned and some of the Liu family was killed. Hence the parts of temple were left in ruins without any effort to rebuild it.

    With a cold look Huang Rong watched Yang Kang opened dust-laden and full-of-spider-web doors one by one. He searched each and every room. Finally they arrived at the west wing. Huang Rong saw thick dust on the floor, and on that dust there were several footprints, which – from the look of them, were recently made. There were a couple of handprints on the closed door too. “In here!” she shouted excitedly.

    Guo Jing and Yang Kang both heard her cry; Guo Jiang was delighted, while Yang Kang was anxious; both rushed toward her.

    Huang Rong kicked the door open, but to her surprise, all she saw was several coffins with no signs of Wanyan Honglie.

    Yang Kang was greatly relieved, he knew Wanyan Honglie must have escaped; but he entered the room and loudly shouted, “Wanyan Honglie, traitor! Where do you hide? Come out!”

    “Brother Yang, he must have heard us a long while ago. You don’t have to kindly let him know we are here,” Huang Rong snickered.

    Yang Kang was embarrassed, his face was flushed, “Miss Huang, why do you joke with me?” His embarrassment turned to anger.

    “Never mind her, Xian Die; Rong’er likes to joke,” Guo Jing smiled. He lowered his head and said, “Look here, someone must have left all these footprints. Indeed he was here.”

    “Quick, we must pursue him!” Huang Rong urged. Just as she turned her head, there came a noise from behind her. All three people were scared. They saw a coffin moved slightly.

    Huang Rong was always scared of coffins; ever since she entered this room, she had been feeling queasy; now that she suddenly a coffin moved by itself, she uttered a cry and tightly held Guo Jing’s arm. But even though her heart was scared, her brain was still working. “That traitor … that traitor hides in the coffin,” she said with a trembling voice.

    Yang Kang suddenly pointed his finger outside, “Hey! He is over there!” Without waiting anything he ran outside. But Huang Rong was quick, she reached backward and grabbed Yang Kang’s main artery. “You have seen a ghost?” she sneered.

    Half of Yang Kang’s body was numb; he could not move. “You … what are you doing?” he anxiously asked.

    Guo Jing was delighted. “Right! That traitor must be hiding in the coffin.” With big strides he walked toward the coffin and lifted his hands, ready if Wanyan Honglie came out.

    “Elder Brother, be careful!” Yang Kang called out. “There could be a zombie inside.”

    Huang Rong twisted Yang Kang’s hand that he fell to the ground. “You still want to scare me?” she angrily asked.

    She was certain that it was Wanyan Honglie hiding inside the coffin, but still, she was scared. What if it were really a zombie inside? You never know, don’t you?

    “Brother Jing, not so fast!” she tremblingly said.

    Guo Jing halted and turned his head, “What is it?”

    “Just hold the lid down,” Huang Rong said. “Don’t let … don’t let that thing come out.”

    Guo Jing smiled, “How can it be a zombie?” But he saw that Huang Rong was really scared, so he jumped toward the coffin and comforted her, “He won’t be able to crawl out!”

    Huang Rong was still anxious, she hesitated a little bit, and then said, “Brother Jing, let me hit the coffin using the ‘pi kong zhang’ [splitting empty palm] while you keep your eyes open. Whether it is a zombie or Wanyan Honglie, I will split the coffin up. We will see whether it is a person crying or a zombie wailing!”

    As soon as finished speaking she exerted her energy toward her palms, treaded two stepped and sent the palms hacking the coffin. Her splitting empty palm was not as strong as Lu Chengfeng’s; therefore, she needed to hack the coffin directly; while actually it could be launched from a distance with an empty air between her and the target.

    “That’s not right!” Yang Kang anxiously called, “You hack the coffin’s lid, zombie might poke his head out and bite your hand, that won’t be good!”

    He was successful in making Huang Rong more scared than ever. She was shivering and halted her movement. Suddenly a cry came out of the coffin; it was a woman’s voice. Huang Rong jumped. She was extremely terrified. “A female ghost!” she cried. Flailing her hands she ran outside and cried, “Quick! Get out of here!”

    Guo Jing was brave, “Brother Yang, let us lift the coffin lid and take a look,” he said.

    Yang Kang was drenched in cold sweat, but how could he refuse Guo Jing’s request? Surely he could not make himself an enemy of these Guo-Huang couple. But then he heard that woman’s voice again, so he rushed ahead to raise the coffin lid. They used a knife to jack the lid up, and together they open the lid, which actually had not been nailed down to the coffin.

    Guo Jing had directed his strength to his arms, ready to strike the zombie’s head. But when he looked down, he was stunned. There was no zombie; it was a good-looking young girl, with a pair of big eyes looked up on them. She was none other than Mu Nianci.

    Yang Kang was pleasantly surprised, quickly he held out his hand to help her out.

    “Rong’er, come here, quick!” Guo Jing called out. “Look who is here?”

    Huang Rong turned her head with eyes closed. “I don’t want to see!” she shouted back.

    “But it’s Elder Sister Mu!” Guo Jing urged.

    With left eye still closed, Huang Rong took a peek with her right eye. She saw Yang Kang was embracing a woman, whose appearance looked like Mu Nianci. She felt relieved, and timidly entered the room again. Who was that woman if not Mu Nianci?

    Huang Rong saw Mu Nianci’s face was haggard, two streams of tears flowed down her cheeks. She was unable to move. Huang Rong unsealed her acupoint and asked, “Elder Sister, why are you here?”

    Mu Nianci’s acupoint had been sealed for quite a while, her whole body was stiff and her breath was uneven, so Huang Rong helped by rubbing her back. After a while [lit. time needed to drink a cup of tea] Mu Nianci told her, “I was captured and held prisoner.”

    Huang Rong saw that the acupoint sealed was located at the center of palm of the foot, the ‘yong quan’ [bursting fountain] acupoint; which was rarely done by the wulin characters of the central plain. So with 80, 90% certainty she guessed, “Was it that bastard Ouyang Ke?” Mu Nianci did not answer, but she nodded.

    That day when she was trying to contact Mei Chaofeng for Yang Kang’s sake she was captured by Ouyang Ke near the pile of skulls and her acupoint was sealed. After Huang Yaoshi played his jade flute to disperse the snakes and help Mei Chaofeng; Ouyang Ke’s concubines and his three snake slaves were unconscious under the flute sound, and Ouyang Ke ran away, distressed. By daybreak the concubines and the slaves woke up and found Mu Nianci lying on her side, unable to move; so they took her to their master. Ouyang Ke tried to rape her, but she was determined to fight to her death. Although Ouyang Ke was conceited and lecherous; but he always pride himself as an elegant and cultured man, his martial art’s skill was high, so he could easily melt women’s hearts. If he resorted to violence and brute force, he would certainly succeed in raping her; but then he would mar the name of the White Camel Mountain. So because of this pride, Mu Nianci was fortunate and able to keep her purity.

    Afterward they arrived at Baoying and Ouyang Ke hid her inside one of the Liu ancestral temple’s coffins. He sent his concubines to ‘invite’ several beautiful young women of the rich families, including Miss Cheng. It was then that the Beggar Clan interfered that resulted in a battle. Ouyang Ke left in a hurry. He had had several women these past few days that he did not remember Mu Nianci was still inside one of the coffins. If Guo Jing and the others were not looking for Wanyan Honglie, she would have been starved to death inside the coffin.

    Yang Kang was unexpectedly happy to see his lover here. With a compassionate face he said, “Little sister, just take a rest here, I am going to boil some water for you to drink.”

    “How can you boil some water?” Huang Rong smiled, “I’ll go. Brother Jing, come with me.” She had a mind to let those two alone in private to alleviate their lovesickness. Who would have thought that Mu Nianci sat up straight, “Hold a moment!” she said without a smile, “Mister Yang, I congratulate you on your unlimited riches and honor in the future.”

    Yang Kang felt redness came creeping to his entire face, but his heart turned cold. “She must have heard my conversation with father king in here.” He stood still not knowing what to do.

    Mu Nianci saw he was distressed, her heart melted; she did not have a heart to reveal the secret that he was the one who let Wanyan Honglie go, for fear that Guo Jing and Huang Rong would kill him out of their angers.

    “You called him ‘Father’, wasn’t that better? It was much more intimate than if you call him ‘Father King’, wasn’t it?” she coldly said. Yang Kang felt so ashamed; he hung his head and did not say anything.

    Huang Rong did not know what was going on; she thought this young woman was upset and blamed Yang Kang for not coming earlier to rescue her. He pulled Guo Jing’s sleeve and whispered, “Let’s go out, I am sure those two will immediately make up.” Guo Jing smiled and went along with her.

    “Let’s eavesdrop what they are saying,” said Huang Rong as soon as they reached the courtyard.

    Guo Jing smiled, “Don’t you intentionally create trouble. I don’t want to go.”

    “Very well!” Huang Rong sulked. “Just don’t be disappointed if I heard something interesting and I won’t tell you about it.” She leaped to the roof and walked quietly back to the west wing; only to hear Mu Nianci was speaking harshly.

    “You called an enemy your father. I can understand that considering your past relationship; you will get over it. Who would have thought you have delusional thoughts; you want to destroy the country of your own parents, this … this …” Speaking to this point she was so furious that she could not continue.

    Yang Kang smiled nervously. “Little sister, I …” he said softly, but Mu Nianci cut him short. “Who is your little sister? Don’t touch me!” she screamed. ‘Slap!’ her hand left a red print on Yang Kang’s face.

    Huang Rong was surprised. “They were fighting already, must stop them,” she thought. Entering through the window she laughed and said, “Aiyo! Even if you don’t agree with each other, please don’t resort to violence.” But she stopped dead on her track seeing Mu Nianci’s cheeks were fiery red while Yang Kang was very pale. She was about to open her mouth again when Yang Kang suddenly shouted, “Good! You have met the new one and abandon the old. Your heart is already occupied by another that you treated me like this.”

    “You … what did you say?” Mu Nianci stammered. Yang Kang snickered, “You and that fellow surnamed Ouyang. His martial art is ten times better than mine; of course you would immediately brush me off from your heart.”

    Mu Nianci was so angry that her hands and feet were icy-cold; she nearly passed out.

    Huang Rong interrupted, “Brother Yang, you must not speak nonsense; if Sister Mu liked him, how could that bastard seal her acupoint and let her starving inside the coffin?”

    By this time out of shame Yang Kang became indignant. “The truth is good, yet hypocrisy is also good. She was captured by that bastard for quite some times, she has lost her innocence. How could she and I be together again?”

    Mu Nianci was outraged, “I … I … What innocence have I lost?”

    “You were in that man’s possession for many days; he must have cuddled you, you must have embraced him. How could you keep your crystal clear purity?” Yang Kang mocked.
    Mu Nianci really could not hold herself any longer. She was tired and angry. This last attack was too vicious for her to bear. With a ‘wah’ sound she spurted some blood and fell backward.

    Yang Kang realized his words were too vicious; seeing her like that he felt remorse and wanted to embrace and comfort her; but he remembered she knew his secret. Huang Rong had voiced her suspicion earlier; if Mu Nianci should open her mouth, his life would be in danger. Moreover, he was worried about his father king; so without saying anything he turned around, rushed outside and leaped over the wall.

    Huang Rong had to massage Mu Nianci’s chest for quite a while before she finally came to. She was unusually composed; did not even cry at all. “Little Sister,” she calmly said, “Let me borrow the dagger I gave you earlier.”

    “Brother Jing!” Huang Rong loudly called out, “Can you come over, please?” Guo Jing quickly came. “Please give the dagger that belongs to Brother Yang to Elder Sister Mu,” Huang Rong said.

    “Certainly,” Guo Jing complied. He pulled the dagger out of his pocket; it was the dagger taken by Zhu Cong from Mei Chaofeng. It was wrapped by what to the casual onlookers would look like a thin sheet of leather. The leather was full of characters tattooed with a needle. Guo Jing was not aware that the characters were actually the second part of the Nine Yin Manual. He casually unwrapped the leather and gave the dagger to Mu Nianci.

    Huang Rong also took a dagger out from her pocket; she softly said, “Brother Jing’s dagger is in my possession; Brother Yang’s dagger is now in yours. Elder Sister, this is a destiny that will bring you two together. You have a disagreement but for a moment, please don’t be sad. My father and I are also having some disagreements. Brother Jing and I are going to Beijing to look for Wanyan Honglie. Elder Sister, please don’t let your heart be troubled. Why don’t you come with us? We can leisurely walk together. I am sure Brother Yang will come back to you.”

    Guo Jing was puzzled, “Brother Yang?” Huang Rong stuck her tongue. “He provoked Elder Sister to anger; Elder Sister slapped him hard. Elder Sister Mu, if Brother Yang did not like you, when you slapped him, how come he did not retaliate? His martial art is stronger than yours. The fight between you …” She wanted to say ‘the fight between you two must be a habit’ (she was referring to the ‘Joust to Find a Spouse), but she saw Mu Nianci was grieving and she did not have a heart to say any joke.

    “I am not going to Beijing,” Mu Nianci said, “You also don’t have to go. Within the next half a year that traitor Wanyan Honglie won’t be in Beijing. He is afraid of you. Brother Guo, Little Sister, you are good people, your life must also be good …” She choked up; covered her face and rushed toward the door. With a leap she was gone.

    Huang Rong looked down and saw the blood Mu Nianci spurted earlier. She hesitated for a moment, and in the end did not feel comfortable; so she also leaped over the wall and chased after her, only to see Mu Nianci under a big willow tree in a distance. The sunlight was reflected by the naked dagger’s blade. Mu Nianci lifted the dagger high above her head. Huang Rong was anxious, she thought Mu Nianci was going to kill herself. She loudly shouted, “Elder Sister! Please don’t …” But the distance between them was too far; she would not be able to prevent her. Luckily Mu Nianci only lifted her left hand and pulled up her hair. With a slash of the dagger in her right hand she sheared a big clump of hair, threw them to the ground and ran away.

    “Elder Sister! Elder Sister … !” Huang Rong called out. Mu Nianci turned a deaf ear and kept going.

    Huang Rong stared blankly at a distance, she was lost in thought. She saw the clump of soft hair was dancing in the morning breeze. A short time later the hair was scattered to the rice field, some went to the creek, some flew up to the trees lining the pathway, some followed the blowing dust, going don’t know where, yet some fell into the flowing water. Huang Rong had always been tender, carefree and mischievous since her childhood. She laughed when happy, cried or sulked when not; the word ‘anxiety’ was never in her vocabulary. But now she saw what had just happened, could not keep sadness from creeping into her heart. Now, she found out about the world’s anxiety.

    Slowly she walked back to the temple and told Guo Jing what had happened to Mu Nianci. Guo Jing did not know why those two people were having disagreement; he simply said, “I don’t understand why Elder Sister Mu took a big deal out of it. I think her character is just too strong.”

    “How could a woman hugged by some stranger lost her innocence? Even her loved one did not respect her anymore? Did not care about her anymore?” Huang Rong thought. She did not have a clue the reasoning behind all that, so she brushed it off as that was the way it was and stopped at that. She slowly walked to the rear courtyard, sat against a pillar. Her mind was still heavy with thoughts. She closed her eyes and fell asleep.

    That very evening Li Sheng and other Beggar Clan members threw a banquet in honor of their leader, Hong Qigong, and to congratulate Guo Jing and Huang Rong. They have been waiting until around midnight but Hong Qigong still did not show up. Li Sheng knew his Leader’s unusual habit so he did not give any thought; he kept serving wine to Guo Jing and Huang Rong and they drank to their hearts’ content. The Beggar Clan people had a high respect toward these two people, so their conversation was congenial. Miss Cheng had personally prepared some food and four big pots of good quality wine and delivered everything via her servants.

    After the banquet was over Guo Jing and Huang Rong discussed what to do next. Wanyan Honglie would not be in Beijing, so it must be difficult to find him in a short period of time. The Peach Blossom Island appointment was drawing near. Guo Jing needed to go back to Jiaxing immediately and consulted his six masters on what action they would take.

    Huang Rong nodded her head in agreement. “I think it is best for your six masters not to go to the Peach Blossom Island,” she added. “You fought with him and received quite a few beatings; for him to hit a few more heads is no big deal, is it? If you don’t agree with me, let me hit you a few times in the head. If your six masters meet my father, what good will it brings?”

    “You are right,” Guo Jing said. “But you don’t need to hit my head.”

    Early the next morning two people rode south. It was the beginning of the sixth month; the weather was burning hot. Natives of Jiangnan had a saying, ‘the sixth of the sixth month, a duck egg cooked by the sun.’ Traveling under the hot sun they were very miserable. So they would hurry along early in the mornings and later in the evenings; and took some rest at noon.

    A few days later they arrived at Jiaxing. Since it was earlier than the appointed time, the Six Freaks were not there yet. So Guo Jing wrote a letter and left the letter with the innkeeper of the Drunken Immortal Tavern, asking him to deliver the letter in person to the Six Freaks of Jiangnan when they arrived on the beginning of the seventh month.

    In the letter he explained that he had met Huang Rong and was going to the Peach Blossom Island to fulfill his promise; that with Huang Yaoshi’s favored daughter’s company, he should not come across any problem, so he asked his six masters to not be anxious; and they did not need to accompany him, and so on.

    Even though he said that, actually he was scared since Huang Yaoshi was very peculiar. He was afraid he would more likely meet misfortune than good fortune. He was afraid Huang Rong would feel anxious for his sake, so he did not tell her anything. Thinking that his six masters did not have to go to the harm’s way was his only consolation.

    Two people headed east. After Zhoushan, they hired a boat and continued by sea. Huang Rong knew that local sailors were afraid of the Peach Blossom Island, like people scared of the vipers or scorpions. Nobody dared to sail within 40 li’s of the island. If she mentioned the name of Peach Blossom Island, no matter how much money she offered nobody would be willing to take them. So she said they were going shrimp fishing to a nearby island. It was only after they were quite a distance from the shore did she tell the boatman to change course to the north. The boatman was terrified, but Huang Rong wielded a dagger in front of his chest; cold and bright sparkle emanated from the blade; he had no choice but to comply with their request.

    As the boat was nearing the island, Guo Jing smelled flowery fragrance amidst the salty smell of the sea. He threw his gaze toward the island. It was green and lush with colorful trees and shrubs. Some were green, some red, some yellow, and some purple. The island looked like a massive flower garden.

    Huang Rong smiled. “Isn’t it beautiful?” she asked.

    Guo Jing sighed, “I have never seen so many beautiful flowers like that in my whole life,” he answered.

    Huang Rong was very pleased; she smiled and explained, “Come the third month, the peach blossom is in full bloom. Now, that is really beautiful. Master did not want to admit that my father’s martial art is number one in the world, but he cannot deny the fact that my father’s gardening skill is unrivaled. Too bad he is only interested in food and drink; he didn’t even know what a good flower or plant is. Such an uncouth person.”

    “You are talking about Master behind his back,” Guo Jing scolded, “Not a good habit.” Huang Rong stuck her tongue and made a face.

    They waited until the boat was closer before they leaped ashore. Guo Jing’s red horse also jumped to the shore. The boatman had heard many horror stories about the island; it was said that the Master of Peach Blossom Island would kill without batting an eye; that he liked to dig people’s hearts, lungs, livers and intestines out. So as soon as his passengers disembarked, he turned the rudder, wanting to leave the island as soon as possible.

    Huang Rong took out a silver ingot worth ten ‘liang’ and tossed it to the boat. With a clanking noise it landed on the bow. The boatman did not expect such a generous recompense; he looked ashore delighted, but still did not dare to stop on that island much longer.

    Being on her home again, Huang Rong’s joy was unspeakable. “Father! Father! Rong’er is back!” she loudly shouted; beckoned to Guo Jing, then dashed forward.

    Guo Jing saw her turning east and dodging west among the flowers and very soon disappear from his sight. He hastily chased her, but after several ‘zhang’ he had already lost track of her. He saw there were trails heading east, south, west and north; but did not know which one he should take.

    When he arbitrarily took a path and walked for while he seemed to be returning to where he started. He recalled the pathways of the Cloud Village; Huang Rong had said that although that village was wonderfully arranged it was still pale in comparison with the Peach Blossom Island, which was designed based on yin-yang and open-close elements. If he forced himself to walk in this wonderful, almost magical place he would end up wasting his strength in vain. So he decided to just sit underneath a peach tree and waited for Huang Rong to fetch him up. Who would have thought that after waiting for half a day Huang Rong still did not come. He looked around in all directions but did not see even half a shadow of a human being; not even a single sound was heard. He was lost!

    Anxiously he stood up and climbed atop a nearby tree. Again he looked everywhere; to the south of him was the sea, to the west was a barren rock hill, to the north and east were forest of flowers all kinds and colors; he could not even see the end of it. His head became dizzy. He did not see anything that resembled a wall or a chimney; did not even hear a dog’s bark. It was extremely quiet and lonely that it scared him.

    Quickly he slid down the tree and ran in panic toward the dark forest; but suddenly stopped in his track and anxiously cried, “Not good! I am running around aimlessly! If Rong’er comes looking for me, she won’t find me!” Having this thought he turned around and ran back; but he was lost again! He couldn’t even find the place where he started.

    The little red horse of his was following him closely, but then he ran among the bushes and climbed trees, very soon the horse was also lost. The sky was getting dark, Guo Jing did not know what to do; so he simply sat on the ground and waited for Huang Rong. It was a good thing that that place was covered with thick green grass, so he was quite comfortable sitting down.

    He started to get hungry and thirsty too. His mind wandered to the delicious food Huang Rong used to prepare for Hong Qigong; he was getting hungrier. Suddenly a thought came into his mind. “What if Rong’er’s father locks her up? She won’t be able to rescue me. How can I starve myself to death in this forest?”

    He recalled he still had to sort the enmity with Huang Rong’s father; also remembered he had not paid back his masters’ kindness. Then his mind wandered to his mother in a far away land of Mongolia; if he died here, who would take care of her? With these heavy thoughts he got tired and fell asleep.

    It was deep into the night when he dreamt he was on a trip with Huang Rong. They visited a lake near Beijing. They got to a beautiful spot and Huang Rong was singing a tune in a soft voice. Out of the blue there came another sound singing along; it was a bamboo flute. He woke up, startled. The flute sound was still lingering in the air. Guo Jing got up and looked around. The moon shone brightly in the sky, and the sweet fragrance of the flower was thickening by the dark night. The flute sound came from a distance; he was not dreaming!

    Guo Jing was delighted. He walked toward the flute sound following the path in front of him. It was a winding path, and sometimes there was no path in front of him, but the flute sound was still coming from the front. He remembered the pathways of the Cloud Village; so he ignored the winding path and just went straight to the sound. If a tree or shrubs were in front of him, he simply climbed or jumped over them.

    The flute sound was getting clearer. Guo Jing walked faster. Rounding a bend, he arrived at an area of white flowering shrubs. Layer upon layer of flowers glistened under the bright moonlight, they looked like a small white lake. In the middle of these white flowers he saw something big and tall, looked massive. Here the sound of the flute suddenly changed. Sometimes high, sometimes low; sometimes the sound came from his front, sometimes it moved to his back. He thought the sound was coming from the east, but when he rushed to the east, the sound moved to the west; when he chased to the north, the sound swiftly moved to the south. It sounded like more than ten people were playing flutes around him. This flute sound really drove him crazy.

    After running around like that for a while Guo Jing’s head was also spinning around, so he decided to quit running and walked directly toward that massive thing in the middle of white flowers lake. Turned out it was a grave. There was a tombstone in front of the grave with this inscription: ‘tao hua dao nu zhu feng shi mai xiang zhi zhong’ [the fragrant burial ground of Mistress surnamed Feng of the Peach Blossom Island], eleven large characters.

    “This must be Rong’er’s mother’s grave,” Guo Jing thought. “Rong’er lost her when she was very small, it was really sad.” He knelt down in front of the grave and kowtowed four times to pay his respect.

    The flute sound suddenly stopped when Guo Jing was kneeling down. Everywhere around him was very quiet; but as soon as he stood up, the flute sound resumed in front of him. “I don’t care if it will bring luck or misfortune, I will follow the sound,” Guo Jing thought.

    Again he walked among the vegetation following the flute. And again sound of the flute changed its personality. First it sounded like laughter, but suddenly changed into anger; it affected his feelings to no end. Guo Jing’s pulse quickened, “How come this tune is so pleasant to my ears?” he was fascinated.

    The tune increased its tempo, urging him to get up and dance. Guo Jing felt the urge, his face blushed, and he felt his blood was blowing even faster trough his hundreds of arteries. Immediately he sat on the ground and meditated as Ma Yu had taught him: circulating his internal energy around.

    At first his heart was shaken, several times he felt the urge to stood up and dance to the tune. After breathing in and out several times, his heart calmed down, his mind became clear. No matter how the flute was changing, he heard it like the sound of the waves of the sea, or like a breeze of wind on the tree tops. He felt his ‘dan tian’ was bursting with energy; his whole body felt comfortable. No longer he felt hunger or thirst. He knew that as he reached this state, external elements would not be able to affect him anymore; so he slowly opened his eyes only to see in the darkness, about two ‘zhang’s ahead a pair of bright eyes was looking straight at him.

    He was startled, “What kind of beast is that?” he thought while leaping several steps back. But suddenly those eyes disappeared. “This Peach Blossom Island is really strange,” he thought, “even a quick leopard or a swift fox won’t be able to move that fast.” He hesitated for a moment and then heard a fast breathing sound; it was a human’s breathing. So he realized, “It is a human being! Those sparkling eyes were his. I didn’t see them anymore because he shut his eyes, but actually he is still here.”

    Having this thought he laughed at his own foolishness; but it was unclear to him whether that person was a friend or a foe, so he did not dare to make a sound and just open his own eyes wide to observe quietly.

    At that time the flute floating carrying a passionate, seducing feeling; resembled a woman sighing and groaning: sometimes murmuring softly but at other times raging wild with desire.

    Guo Jing was still young, but he had trained martial arts since his childhood, hence did not know much about sexual relationship. He felt the flute was affecting his emotion; the melody was enchanting to the soul, but he did not give too much thought of it. But not so with the other man; he was gasping for breath, groaning softly. It sounded like he was struggling with all his strength just to resist the enticement that came from the flute.

    Guo Jing’s heart was moved with compassion toward this man; slowly he came to him. The trees on that place were dense; the moon was bright, but the moonlight could not penetrate the thick branches and leaves. Guo Jing walked closer and only then he could vaguely see the man’s appearance. He was sitting cross-legged; his hair was long, almost touching the ground. His eyebrows, moustache and beard were long, covering his mouth and nose. His left hand was on his chest, his right hand on his back.

    Guo Jing knew that was one of the positions to train/cultivate internal energy the ‘dan yang zi’ [Son of Cinnabar] Ma Yu had taught him atop that barren hill in the Mongolian desert. It was the technique to closed one’s heart and mind. Whenever someone has master it to perfection, even if thunder rumbles and the lighting flashes; or water gushes and creates landslides, it would not bother him a bit. This man looked like he knew this advanced skill of internal energy cultivation; but why couldn’t he control himself and was afraid of the flute sound?

    The flute sound quickened; that man’s body swaying and twitching. Several times he jumped a few feet off the ground; finally after struggling with all his might he was able to sit down. Guo Jing saw this cycle happened several times: he would be calmed for a moment then agitated before calming down himself again; but the cycle was getting shorter and shorter. Guo Jing knew that man was fighting a losing battle, so he started to worry for him.

    The flute played two intricate melodies softly. Suddenly that man shouted, “All right! All right!” he was about to jumped up. Guo Jing realized the time was critical; without thinking he rushed forward and stretched his hands pushing down on that man’s shoulder; his right hand tapped the ‘da zhui xue’ [big spine acupoint] on his neck. He remembered when he was training on that Mongolian cliff; whenever his mind was troubled and could not achieve tranquility, Ma Yu would gently stroke him on his ‘da zhui’ acupoint and that helped him to be calm. His internal strength was not as strong as Ma Yu’s, he could not help this man to overcome the flute sound; but because he struck the right spot that long-haired old man was able to calm himself. That man closed his eyes and seemed like he was under control.

    Guo Jing was secretly happy, but then someone scolded him, “Little beast! You ruined my big effort!” The flute suddenly stopped. Guo Jing turned his head but did not see anybody. That voice sounded like Huang Yaoshi. He became anxious and regretted his action. “I don’t know if this long-haired old man is good or bad? I carelessly helped him, surely increased Rong’er’s father’s anger. If this old man were a monster or evil witch, didn’t I just commit a big mistake?”

    He heard the old man’s breathing was slowing down to an even breathing. Guo Jing refrained himself from asking that old man question. He simply sat quietly opposite him; closed his eyes and used that time to meditate. Soon he was able to calm himself and achieve the state of emptiness. He lost track of time and opened his eyes when the morning star began to dim by the dawn sunlight.

    The morning light shone through the trees and flowers above, illuminating the old man’ face. Guo Jing could see clearly now; his hair and beard were not entirely white but God knows how many years a shaving knife had not touched his head. He looked like a cave man.

    Suddenly that old man’s eyes opened. His eyes were bright and twinkling. He smiled faintly and asked, “Which one of the Quan Zhen Seven Masters is your master?”

    Guo Jing saw his countenance was kind, he was put at ease. He stood up and bowed respectfully, “Disciple Guo Jing pays his respect to Senior. I am the disciple of the Seven Heroes of Jiangnan.”

    That old man seemed surprised. “Seven Heroes of Jiangnan? Is that Ke Zhen’E and the others? How could they teach you the internal energy cultivation of Quan Zhen Sect?” he asked.

    “Actually, Venerable Dan Yang, Taoist Priest Ma had spent two years teaching disciple, but he had not included me inside the Quan Zhen Sect’s gate and wall,” Guo Jing answered.

    That old man laughed heartily and then made faces. He looked so funny, like a child playing jokes. “So that’s how it is” he said, “How did you come to the Peach Blossom Island?”

    “Master Huang told me to come,” replied Guo Jing.

    The old man’s face suddenly changed, “What for?” he asked.

    “Disciple had offended Master Huang,” Guo Jing answered. “I come here to accept my fate.”

    “Are you telling the truth?” the old man asked.

    “Disciple does not dare to lie,” answered Guo Jing.

    The old man nodded, “Very good! Sit down!” he commanded.

    Guo Jing sat on a big rock. Now he could see clearly that the old man was sitting inside a cave on the rock wall.

    “Other than your Masters who had taught you martial arts?” the old man asked again.

    “The Nine-fingered Divine Beggar, Benevolent Master Hong …” Guo Jing said.

    The old man’s face changed again, it was so weird, like he was going to smile but restrained himself. “Hong Qigong also taught you martial art?” he interrupted.

    “Yes,” replied Guo Jing. “Benevolent Master Hong taught me the ’18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’.”

    The old man’s face showed happiness and envy at the same time, “You know ’18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’? This martial art is so amazing. How about teaching me that? I will take you as my master.” But then he shook his head and said, “Won’t do! Won’t do! As the Old Hong’s disciple your energy must not that strong. Did Old Beggar Hong teach you internal energy?”

    “He did not,” answered Guo Jing truthfully.

    The old man looked up and thought aloud, “He looks so young. Even if he cultivated his internal energy inside his mother’s womb, that would at most 18, 19 years worth of internal energy. How could he resist the flute sound, while I could not?” He was deep in thought for a moment; then he looked at Guo Jing from top to bottom and again from bottom to top. He stretched his right palm and said, “Push my palm; I want to test your martial art.”

    Guo Jing complied; he extended his right palm and pushed. The old man said, “”Qi’ at your ‘dan tian’, push hard!” Guo Jing exerted his strength. The old man pulled his palm slightly then push hard while cried out, “Be careful!”

    Guo Jing sensed a powerful force pushing him. He could not hold it, so he used his left hand to enforce his right palm. Who would have thought that old man flipped his palm and push Guo Jing’s wrist with his four fingers. The power of these fingers was enough to send Guo Jing flew backward seven, eight steps until his back hit a tree. Only then did Guo Jing manage to stand.

    “His martial art is not bad, but nothing extraordinary either,” the old man muttered, “But how could he resist the Old Heretic Huang’s ‘bi hai chao sheng qu’ [jade-colored tidal wave song]?”

    Guo Jing felt his chest tightened; he was astonished, “This man’s martial art is about the same level as Benevolent Master Hong’s and Master Huang’s. How could there be an expert his caliber in the Peach Blossom Island? Could it be he was the Western Poison or the Southern Emperor?” As soon as he remembered ‘Western Poison’ his heart turned cold, “Did I fall into his trickery?” Quickly he lifted his palm under the sunlight and checked it out. But he did not see any inflammation or black mark; he was relieved, at least he wasn’t being poisoned.

    “Can you guess who I am?” that old man laughed.

    “Disciple had heard people say that in the martial art realm there are five experts. The Quan Zhen’s founder Venerable Wang had passed away; disciples have met the ‘Nine-fingered Divine Beggar’ Benevolent Master Hong and the Master of Peach Blossom Island. Could Senior be Senior Ouyang or Emperor Duan?”

    “You thought my martial art is comparable to the Eastern Heretic and Northern Beggar, didn’t you?” the old man smiled.

    “Disciple’s martial art is mediocre, my experience shallow, I do not dare to speak nonsense. But when Senior pushed me a moment ago, I can say with confidence that other than Benevolent Master Hong and Master Huang, I have never experience such force,” Guo Jing said.

    That old man was delighted with Guo Jing’s praise; his face looked like a child’s happy face. “I am neither the Western Poison Ouyang Feng, nor the Emperor Duan,” he smiled broadly. “Guess again.”

    Guo Jing hesitated. “Disciple had met somebody whose name was as well known as Benevolent Master Hong, Qiu Qianren. But this person’s martial art is just ordinary. Disciple is really not smart, I cannot guess Senior’s honored name,” he said.

    That old man laughed heartily, “My surname is Zhou; can you guess now?” he asked.

    “Ah, you are Zhou Botong?” Guo Jing blurted. As the words came out of his mouth Guo Jing froze. Mentioning someone’s name, especially a Senior, could be considered disrespectful. He quickly bowed and apologized, “Disciple had shown disrespect, would Senior Zhou please forgive me.”

    The old man laughed, “You are right! I am precisely Zhou Botong. My name is Zhou Botong, and you called me Zhou Botong; when did you show me disrespect? The Quan Zhen Sect’s Founder Wang Chongyang was my martial brother; Ma Yu, Qiu Chuji and the others are my martial nephews. You are not a Quan Zhen disciple, you don’t have to call me Senior this or Senior that; just call me Zhou Botong.”

    “How would disciple dare?” Guo Jing asked.

    Zhou Botong had lived in the Peach Blossom Island for a long time; he was bored, but suddenly Guo Jing came along. Talking with him he found relief; he was thrilled. Suddenly a strange thought came into his mind. “Little friend, what do you say you and I become sworn brothers?” he asked.

    No matter how strange his words were, this was the weirdest of all. Guo Jing’s jaw dropped, he looked at Zhou Botong in disbelief; he thought Zhou was joking. After a while he opened his mouth, “Disciple is Priest Ma and Priest Qiu’s junior; I deserve to address you as my grand martial master.”

    Zhou Botong busily shook his hands. “My martial art skill came from my martial brother. Ma Yu, Qiu Chuji and the others did not consider me their senior; they also did not respect me as a senior. You are not my son, I am not yours; we do not have older-younger generation difference.” Speaking thus he heard footsteps approaching; an old servant appeared, carrying a food basket. Zhou Botong beamed, “Our food is here!”

    The servant opened the basket and took out four dishes of food, two pots of wine and a wooden basket full of rice. He placed the food in front of Zhou Botong, on top of a big rock; poured out two cups of wine and stood silently aside.

    “Where is Miss Huang? Why didn’t she come looking for me?” Guo Jing asked. That servant shook his head, pointing to his ear and his mouth, signaling that he was deaf and mute.

    “Huang Yaoshi had punctured his ears. You can ask him to open his mouth wide and take a look,” Zhou Botong chuckled.

    Guo Jing made a signal, asking that servant to open his mouth. Guo Jing was startled and scared; that servant’s tongue had been cut in half.

    “The servants of Peach Blossom Island are just like that,” Zhou Botong said. “You have come here; if you don’t die, you will end up like them.”

    Guo Jing heard what he said; he was silent for a long time. “How could Rong’er’s father be so cruel?” he thought.

    “That Old Heretic Huang tortures me every night,” Zhou Botong continued, “I don’t want to admit defeat to him. Last night I was almost fallen in his hand; if not for you, little brother, my more than 10 years effort of resisting him might crumble in one evening. Come little brother, here we have wine and food. Today we will take an oath to be sworn brothers; in the future we will share fortune and bear difficult times together. That year when Wang Chongyang and I became sworn brothers he also refused in every way … Why? Do you really not know? My sworn brother Wang Chongyang’s martial art was much higher than mine; that was why he was not willing to swear brotherhood with me. Is your martial art also much higher than mine? I don’t think so.”

    “Junior’s martial art is way below yours,” Guo Jing answered. “I don’t deserve to swear brotherhood with you.”

    “If you say to swear brotherhood have to have the same level of martial art, then I have to swear brotherhood with Old Heretic Huang, or Old Poison,” Zhou Botong said. “I only like to fight with them! That’s ridiculous! Do you want me to swear brotherhood with this deaf and mute fellow?” He pointed to that old servant; jumped up and down in a fit of rage.

    Guo Jing saw his face was red, he quickly said, “Disciple and Senior differ by two generations. If I follow Senior’s direction, people will laugh at us and ridicule me. If later on I meet Priest Ma and Priest Qiu; how could I not be ashamed?”

    “You have these many considerations. You certainly don’t want to swear brotherhood with me because I am too old. Boo hoo hoo …” Zhou Botong covered his face and cried, randomly pulling his beard.

    Guo Jing nervously waved his hands, “Disciple will do whatever Senior instructed.”

    Zhou Botong cried even harder. “You said that because of my coercion, you reluctantly agreed; that doesn’t count. When someone asks in the future, you will say that it was entirely my fault. I know you are not willing to call me your sworn brother.”

    Guo Jing was secretly amused. How could such an old man not act his age? He saw him taking up a dish and tossed it outside, did not want to eat anymore. The old servant promptly picked it up; he didn’t know what was going on and he was terrified.

    Guo Jing had no choice; suppressing his laugh he said, “Since Elder Brother had shown kindness, how could Little Brother not accept? Let us use the earth in place of incense; we become sworn brothers.”

    Zhou Botong smiled through his tears. “I have sworn to Old Heretic Huang that as long as I cannot defeat him, I will never leave this hole except for bowel movement or urinating. I kowtow inside, you kowtow outside,” he said.

    “If you fight Master Huang all your life, then you will live in this hole all your life?” Guo Jing thought; but he did not say anything; simply knelt down on the ground.

    Zhou Botong knelt alongside; with a clear voice he said, “Today the Old Urchin Zhou Botong and Guo Jing are tying a brotherhood [lit. ‘jin lan’ – golden orchid]. We will share good fortune together and will face difficulty together. If I break this oath, may my martial art perish that I can’t even fight a puppy or a kitten.”

    Guo Jing heard he called himself ‘Old Urchin’, and his oath was sort of peculiar; he could not restrain his smile. Zhou Botong stared at him. “What are you smiling at? Quickly say your oath.” Guo Jing quickly recited his oath; then two people poured down the wine on the ground. Guo Jing then paid his respect to his elder brother.

    Zhou Botong laughed heartily and loudly shouted, “That’s enough! That’s enough!” He poured some more wine and drank. “The Old Heretic Huang is very stingy; he served me only insipid wine. One day a little miss came and brought me some good wine; it’s a pity she never came back.”

    Guo Jing remembered Huang Rong told him she stole some wine and brought it to Zhou Botong, and because of that she was scolded by her father; which caused her to leave the island in anger. It looked like Zhou Botong was not aware of it. Guo Jing had been hungry for the whole day, he did not want to drink any wine; but he ate five big bowls of plain rice. Now at least he was full. As soon as two people finished eating, the old servant cleaned up and took the leftovers back.

    “Brother,” Zhou Botong asked, “How did you offend the Old Heretic Huang? Tell your big brother.”

    Guo Jing then narrated how he accidentally killed Chen Xuanfeng in his childhood; how at the Cloud Village he had fought and defeated Mei Chaofeng; how Huang Yaoshi made things difficult for the Six Freaks of Jiangnan; how because of that he had made a promise to come to the Peach Blossom Island within a month to die; he told Zhou everything.

    Zhou Botong loved to listen to stories; he leaned his head and narrowed his eyes to focus, he listened with enthusiasm, when Guo Jing only recounted something briefly he would ask every detail of it. Every time Guo Jing paused even for the slightest time he urged him, “Then what happened?”

    “Then I arrived here,” Guo Jing finally said.

    Zhou Botong hesitated a moment. “Hmm, turned out that pretty little girl is the Old Heretic Huang’s daughter. She is good to you. Why did she disappear soon after arriving at the island? Must have a reason, maybe Old Heretic Huang lock her up.”

    Guo Jing’s anxiety showed on his face, “Disciple also has this thought …”

    “What did you say?” Zhou Botong snapped, his face changed color.

    Guo Jing knew he made a mistake, quickly said, “Little brother made an indiscreet remark, please don’t mind me, Big Brother.”

    Zhou Botong smiled. “The way you address me cannot be wrong. If you call me any name, then you’d better call me ‘wifey’, or ‘mommy’, or ‘daughter’. No, can’t make a mistake,” he said. Guo Jing agreed.

    Zhou Botong leaned his head and asked, “Could you guess how I ended up being here?”

    “Brother is just about to ask,” Guo Jing said.

    “It’s a long story, I will tell you leisurely,” Zhou Botong said. “Do you know when the Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor, Northern Beggar and the Central Divinity, the five experts were having a sword meet on Mount Hua?”

    Guo Jing nodded, “I’ve heard people say that.”

    “It was the dead of wintertime at Mount Hua,” Zhou Botong continued. “The peak was covered with heavy snow. Five people were having a meeting there; their hands contended in martial arts straight for seven whole days and nights. In the end the Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor, and the Northern Beggar admitted that my martial brother, Wang Congyang’s martial art was number one in the world. Do you know why those five people were having that sword meeting at Mount Hua?”

    “This, brother had not heard,” Guo Jing replied.

    “It was because of a scripture …” Zhou Botong said.

    “The Nine Yin Manual!” Guo Jing exclaimed.

    “That’s right!” Zhou Botong said. “Brother, you are young, but your knowledge of Wulin matters is not shallow. Do you know the origin of the ‘Nine Yin Manual’, then?”

    “That I actually do not know,” Guo Jing replied.

    Zhou Botong playfully pulled his ears and long hair and his face showed that he was very pleased with himself. “A moment ago you told me a very interesting story, now …”

    “What I told you was not a story; that was really happening to me,” Guo Jing interrupted.

    “What is the difference? As long as it is good to listen to,” Zhou Botong said. “Some people spend their lives eating, sleeping, urinating and defecating. If those people tell me every single details of their life, the Old Urchin will die of suffocation.”

    Guo Jing nodded his head. “That’s true,” he said. “Then why doesn’t Big Brother tell the story of the ‘Nine Yin Manual’ for little brother to hear.”

    “The Emperor Hui Zong in the year of Zheng He wanted to compile Taoist books and scriptures from all over the world. He wanted to publish the work, which consisted of 5481 Chapters altogether. They were called the ‘wan shou dao zang’ [the Everlasting Life Taoist canon]. The Emperor commissioned someone to do the work; he was called Huang Shang …”

    “He was also surnamed Huang?” Guo Jing asked.

    “Bah! What’s so special about the family name Huang?” Zhou Botong spat. “This person had nothing to do with the Old Heretic Huang Yaoshi; don’t you have any wrong ideas. There are numerous people surnamed Huang in this world; that ‘huang’ [yellow] dog or yellow cat also surnamed Huang.”

    Guo Jing thought that yellow dog and yellow cat did not necessarily have ‘huang’ as their surnames, but he did not want to debate him; so he let him continue with his story.

    “This Old Heretic Huang is not as smart as that Huang Shang. He was extremely intelligent …” Zhou Botong continued. Guo Jing wanted to say, “It turned out he was also an extremely intelligent person,” but that thought stopped at his mouth.

    “This Huang Shang was very afraid he might make any mistake in the writing of the canon; because if the Emperor found out later, he would surely lose his head. Therefore, he read and re-read each volume to make sure his work was error-free. Unexpectedly after several years of studying the scriptures he became very proficient in the Taoist doctrines; he had found the profound truth of martial arts. He did not have any master; he trained himself in internal and external energy cultivation and became a grand master in martial art. Brother, this Huang Shang was many times smarter than you are. I don’t have his kind of intelligence, and I don’t think you do too.”

    “Naturally,” Guo Jing said. “If I were to study more than five thousand chapters of scripture; it will take me a life time just to read them from beginning to the end. How can I comprehend the martial art inside them?”

    Zhou Botong sighed. “This kind of intelligent people still exist in the world today,” he said, “But if you meet this kind of people chances are you will face unfortunate events.”

    Guo Jing did not agree with his view, he secretly thought, “Rong’er is very intelligent; but since I met her I have always found good luck; how can he say ‘unfortunate’?” But he was not the kind who likes to argue, so he kept his thought to himself.

    “That Huang Shang had mastered the martial art, yet he still held an office in the government,” Zhou Botong continued. “There came a time when suddenly there arose a religious movement in the kingdom; they called themselves ‘ming jiao’ [Ming Cult] something. It was said that this movement was originated from central Asia; a place called Persia. The follower of this Ming Cult were: first – did not worship ‘tai shang lao jun’ [translator note: I think he was a Taoist Deity]; second – did not worship ancestor’s spirit; third – did not worship Buddha; they only worship old foreign devil. They did not eat meat nor drink wine; they were vegetarians. The Emperor Hui Zong only believed in Taoism; so as soon as he found out he issued an imperial decree assigning Huang Shang to eradicate this devil cult. Unexpectedly there were many martial art masters among the members of the cult. They were fearless of death and fought Huang Shang and his troops, rendered them useless. After several battles Huang Shang and his troops suffered big loss. Huang Shang was indignant. He went out and challenged the Devil Cult’s martial art masters on one-to-one combat. He personally killed several ‘fa wang’ [imperial priest – just like Jin Lun Fa Wang of RoCH and ‘kings’ of Ming Cult in HSDS] and some envoys. Who would have known that the people he killed were disciples of well-known Wulin characters, some were their martial uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters; or their immediate families. Of course these people were enraged and they came together to face him. They scolded him as not handling the affairs according to the Wulin custom. To which Huang Shang replied, ‘I am a government officer, and am not part of the Wulin world; what do I know about your Wulin custom?’ Those whom family or relative was killed argued, ‘If you are not part of the Wulin world, then how did you know martial art? Are you saying that your master only taught you martial art, but did not tell you anything about the Wulin custom?’ Huang Shang replied, ‘I don’t have any master.’ Of course they did not believe him; so they were involved in heated argument. What do you think happened?”

    “They began to fight each other,” Guo Jing said.

    “Without question, wasn’t it?” Zhou Botong said. “Huang Shang’s martial art was strange; none of his enemies had seen it. Because of this he could kill some of them quite easily. However, his enemies were numerous; he was also injured from the fight, so in desperation he ran away. Those enemies of him then wiped his parents, wife and children clean.”

    Listening to this part Guo Jing heaved a sigh. He thought that people who practiced martial art would unavoidably kill others. This Huang Shang was no different; if he did not practice martial art, he would not experience such tragedy.

    “That Huang Shang fellow had ran away to a deserted place and hid himself there,” Zhou Botong continued. “There he tried to remember his enemies’ martial art one by one. He painstakingly pondered on how to defeat each and every one of them. He thought that as soon as he succeeded in developing the martial art, he would go back and seek his revenge. A long time passed; finally he was able to master the new martial art. He was very happy; expecting that very soon he would be able to avenge his family. Thereupon he left the mountain to seek his enemies. But unexpectedly the people he was looking for had disappeared. Can you guess what happened to them?”

    “Perhaps his enemies have found out his intention, and they knew his martial art was good, so they were scared and hid from him,” Guo Jing guessed.

    Zhou Botong shook his head, “No, no. When my martial brother told me this story he also asked me to guess what happened, and I also said the same thing. I even made seven, eight guesses but none of them was right.”

    “Well, if Big Brother guessed seven, eight times yet did not hit the target then I don’t have to make any guess at all; since even if I guessed seventy, eighty times I certainly cannot guess right,” Guo Jing said.

    Zhou Botong roared in laughter, “No chance, you have no chance at all! All right, since you admit defeat I won’t ask you to guess anymore. Actually several dozens of his enemies had all died.”

    Guo Jing uttered a cry of disbelief. “That’s strange! Could it be that his friends or maybe his disciples had avenged him and killed all his enemies?” he asked.

    Again Zhou Botong shook his head, “No, no. You missed by a hundred and eight thousands li’s. He did not have any disciple. He was a government official, his friends were all scholars, not martial artists; how could they avenge him?”

    Guo Jing scratched his head. “Could it be that they were plagued by some disease and died in some kind of epidemic?”

    “Also incorrect. His enemies were scattered; some lived in Shandong, some came from Huguang, several were from Hebei and Liangzhe. How could they die from the same epidemic?” Zhou Botong asked, but then he exclaimed. “Ah! Yes, yes! That’s right! Some epidemic could kill you no matter where you are, even if you ran to the end of the earth. Can you guess what kind of epidemic was it?”

    Guo Jing mentioned typhus, smallpox, dysentery, and six, seven other type of diseases; but Zhou Botong shook his head every time. Finally Guo Jing exclaimed, “Foot-and-mouth disease!” Then he faked surprise, covered his mouth, stood up and tapped his head with his left hand and burst into laughter. “I was kidding! Foot-and-mouth disease is the plague of the cattle at the Mongolian desert; it won’t attack human.”

    Zhou Botong also burst in laughter. “The more you guessed the weirder you became. That Huang Shang looked everywhere before he finally found one of his enemies. She was a woman. When they fought, she was only about sixteen, seventeen years old young girl, but when Huang Shang found her, she was some sixty-year old granny …”

    Guo Jing’s jaw dropped. “This is really weird! Ah, right, she must have disguised herself as and old lady so Huang Shang wouldn’t recognize her.”

    “She did not disguise herself,” Zhou Botong answered. “Just think: Huang Shang had several dozens enemies, each one of them was a martial art expert, each came from a respectable martial art school or family. Can you imagine how profound and complicated each of their skills was? He wanted to defeat each person’s unique skill, just how much time did he painstakingly spend to achieve such result? He was hiding in a remote mountain area and diligently trained himself. Day and night only martial art occupied his mind, he did not care about anything else; unconsciously he had spent more than forty years altogether.”

    “More than forty years?” Guo Jing was astonished.

    “That’s right,” Zhou Botong asserted. “When you are absorbed in learning martial art, forty years will pass quite easily. I have been here for fifteen years yet did not feel like it was that long. Huang Shang saw that young girl turned into an old granny; his heart was heavy with emotion. That old lady was sick to the bone; she was bedridden and was dying. Without him moving his hand she would die in a few days. His heartache and hatred for dozens of years just vanished without a trace. Brother, everybody has to die. The epidemic I was asking you earlier was death. When your time comes, you cannot run away.”

    Guo Jing silently nodded. Zhou Botong continued, “My martial brother and his seven disciples day in and day out dedicated themselves to achieve perfection of life. But tell me: is it really possible to cultivate a divine body that won’t see death? That was the reason I did not want to follow those ox-nosed way of living.”

    Guo Jing was lost in thought. Zhou Botong continued, “Huang Shang’s enemies were about forty, fifty years of age; another forty years plus, how could they not die? Ha ... ha ... ha ... Actually he did not have to trouble himself by training his martial art and developing new techniques; all he had to do was outlive his enemies. Forty plus years and the Heaven would take care of his personal enemies for him.”

    Guo Jing nodded. “Well then, should I look for Wanyan Honglie to avenge my father, or should I not?” he wondered in his heart.

    Zhou Botong again said, “However, learning martial art diligently could bring endless pleasure to one’s life. If one did not practice martial art, what other interesting thing worth doing? There are endless toys and gadgets in the world, but after playing for a while you will get bored eventually. Only martial art; the more you play, the more interesting it becomes. Brother, don’t you agree?”

    Guo Jing only made an ‘hmm’ sound noncommittally, showing neither his approval nor disapproval. He admitted that knowing martial art could be fun; but it was also hard work. He had trained martial art since he was very young and he could not say the training was ‘fun’. He had to work and suffer hard; without a single leisure day.

    Zhou Botong saw him did not show enthusiasm, “Why didn’t you ask me what happened next?” he asked.

    Guo Jing hastily said, “Right! What happened next?”

    Zhou Botong was sulking, “If you don’t prompt me every now and then I will lose my eagerness in telling you the story.”

    “Yes, yes, Big Brother, what happened next?” Guo Jing prompted.

    “That Huang Shang thought, ‘I realize I am old now, but do not have too many years of good works.’ He had taken these several dozens years in pain to master the martial art technique of almost every martial art schools in the world. But after all this years who would enjoy his works? How could he let his long-life’s work wasted just like that? Therefore, he decided to compile the techniques he had mastered into a two-volume book. What would that be?”

    “What is it?” Guo Jing asked.

    “Ay! Don’t tell me you cannot guess this one,” Zhou Botong said.

    Guo Jing thought for a moment, then asked, “Is it the Nine Yin Manual?”

    “We have talked for half a day about the origin of the Nine Yin Manual; why did you still ask?” scolded Zhou Botong.

    Guo Jing smiled, “Well, Little Brother was afraid to make another incorrect guess.”

    Zhou Botong continued, “After compiling the Nine Yin Manual, Huang Shang wrote it disguised as a literary book; my martial brother later found out. Huang Shang had hidden the book in a very secret place that for dozens of years nobody knew its existence. For some reasons later this book appeared and the Wulin world was troubled. Everybody wanted to get hold of the book. It was a dog-eat-dog situation. My martial brother said that the heroes who fought over this book and lost their lives came from all sides of the Wulin world; the number was over a hundred people. Every time someone got hold of it, before one could practice for half-a-year or a year, somebody else would find that person and snatched the book away. This cycle had repeated don’t know how many times; don’t know how many lives. The one who got it would try to avoid others, but the pursuers were so many and in the end they would always find that person. Sometimes they used force, sometimes used trickery; but I don’t know how many times the book had changed hands.”

    “If that’s the case, then this book is actually the most damned thing for mankind,” Guo Jing said. “If Chen Xuanfeng did not have this book he would be able to live peacefully with Mei Chaofeng in some remote village; Island Master Huang would not look for him. If Mei Chaofeng did not have this book, she would not be in her wretched condition today.”

    “Brother, why do you have such a negative feeling toward the book?” Zhou Botong asked. “The martial arts contained inside the Nine Yin Manual are very profound and divinely wonderful. If someone is able to learn even a little bit of it, how could that someone’s life not changed? Even though it had created a disaster; what does it have to do with it? Didn’t I say that not everybody was dead because of it?”

    “Big Brother,” Guo Jing said, “That was because you are so fascinated with martial art.”

    “That goes without saying,” Zhou Botong smiled. “Those who practice martial art have an endless pleasure. Common people are just so foolish; some loves to study to become government officials; some love gold or exquisite jewels; some loves beautiful women; but those who find pleasure in martial arts, wouldn’t those people be able to do much more in time of emergency?”

    “Little Brother has practiced a little bit of shallow martial art, but I have not yet learned to have an endless pleasure from it,” Guo Jing said.

    Zhou Botong sighed. “Silly kid, silly kid; then why did you practice martial art?” he asked.

    “Masters wanted me to practice, I practiced,” Guo Jing replied.

    Zhou Botong shook his head. “You are really dumb,” he said. “I am telling you: a man may not like to eat his food; he may not love his own life, but he cannot not practice martial art.”

    Guo Jing replied while thinking in his heart, “This Brother of mine is really addicted to martial arts that he acted this crazy,” he said, “I noticed the Twin Killers of the Dark Wind practiced the martial art of Nine Yin Manual, it was completely evil. That one is absolutely cannot be practiced.”

    Zhou Botong shook his head. “Those Twin Killers of the Dark Wind did not train correctly. The Nine Yin Manual is upright and honest, how could it be evil?”

    Guo Jing had seen Mei Chaofeng’s martial art with his own eyes, so he did not believe what he heard.

    Zhou Botong asked, “Where were we on the story?”

    “You talked about the heroes of the world fighting over the Nine Yin Manual,” replied Guo Jing.

    “That’s right!” Zhou Botong said. “Afterwards the trouble getting bigger and more complicated that the like of Quan Zhen Sect’s Sect Leader, Peach Blossom Island Master Old Heretic Huang and Beggar Clan’s Clan Leader Hong had to intervene. These five people agreed to meet at Mount Hua and have a contest. Whoever possessed the highest martial art skill would get the book.”

    “And the book fell into your martial brother’s hand,” Guo Jing said.

    Zhou Botong’s eyes were lit. “That’s right! My martial brother Wang and I were good friends; he had not become a priest when we became good friends; later on he taught me martial art. He said I practiced martial art like crazy and too determined; did not go well with the Taoism way to seek peace and perfection. That was the reason although my martial art is from Quan Zhen, but my martial brother did not let me to become a Taoist priest. That was precisely what I expected. Among my martial brother’s disciples, Qiu Chuji was the one with the highest martial art skill. My martial brother did not like it, he said Qiu devoted too much time practicing martial art and neglected to cultivate the Taoist faith. He said that whoever wanted to practice martial art must do so diligently; while those who entered Taoist way must do so with a simple heart. Those two did not go together very well. Ma Yu had inherited my martial brother’s Taoist faith, but his martial art is actually inferior to Qiu Chuji and Wang Chuyi.”

    “That Quan Zhen Sect’s Master Wang, how did he become both a Taoist saint and a martial art master?” Guo Jing asked.

    “His natural talent was so incredible. He was able to master martial art quite easily, while I had to practice hard and diligently.” Zhou Botong answered. “Where were we on the story? Why did you divert my attention with your question?”

    Guo Jing smiled. “You were talking about your martial brother obtained the Nine Yin Manual.”

    “That’s right,” Zhou Botong said. “After he had the book in his possession, he did not learn anything from it. He put the book inside a stone box and buried it underneath the flagstone where he sat daily meditating. I felt strange and asked him what was going on. He smiled but did not say anything. I became anxious, but he simply told me to go and think about it. Go ahead and try to guess, why did he do that?”

    “Was he afraid somebody might come and steal it from him?” Guo Jing said.

    Zhou Botong repeatedly shook his head, “No, no! Who would dare to steal Quan Zhen Sect Master’s belonging unless that person was bored of his own life?”

    Guo Jing pondered for a long time. Suddenly he jumped up and exclaimed, “That’s right! That book should be hidden away really well; better yet, it should have been burned.”

    Zhou Botong was astonished; he stared hard at Guo Jing. “My martial brother at that time had said the same thing; but every time he was going to do that, he hesitated at the last moment. Brother, you are not that smart, how did you guess so correctly?” he asked.

    Guo Jing blushed. “I thought that Venerable Wang’s martial art was already number one in the world; even if he trained from the manual himself, he would still be number one. I also thought that his intention in the sword meeting on Mount Hua was not to be the number one but for this Nine Yin Manual. He wanted it, not to benefit from it, but rather to avoid further bloodshed among the heroes of Wulin.”

    Zhou Botong raised his head and looked up to the sky; he looked like one whose spirit had left him. He was silent for half a day. Guo Jing became anxious, he was afraid he had said something wrong and had offended this brother of his with a strange temperament. Finally Zhou Botong sighed and asked, “How can you think of this truth?”

    “I don’t know,” said Guo Jing, scratching his head. “I just thought that this book had caused numerous deaths; even if it were a precious book, still it would be better if it was destroyed.”

    “I know his reasoning, but I have never understood it,” Zhou Botong said. “My martial brother often time said that I am smart and have a natural talent to learn martial art; also I have the determination do achieve success; but, he said, first of all I am too fascinated with it, second, I do not have a caring heart toward other people. Even if I have a lifetime to train myself hard; I still will never achieve perfection. At that time I listened to him, but did not believe him; thinking what does training myself moving my fist or kick or a blade have anything to do with the state of my heart? These past ten years or so I have been pondering about it and I cannot not believe it any longer. Brother, your heart is upright, your mind is broad. It’s a pity that my martial brother is dead, otherwise I am sure he would like what he saw in you; I am sure he would bestow his unparalleled martial art to you. If only he didn’t die …” Remembering his late brother suddenly he bent over a rock and wept bitterly.

    Guo Jing did not really understand what he was saying, but seeing his brother cried miserably could not help but feeling grief in his heart. After a while suddenly Zhou Botong raised his head and said, “Ah! Our story is not finished yet; let us finish it, then we can cry some more. Where were we? Why didn’t you persuade me not to cry?”

    Guo Jing smiled and said; “You were telling me about how Venerable Wang had hidden the Nine Yin Manual underneath a flagstone.”

    Zhou Botong slapped his thigh and said, “That’s right! He had hidden the book underneath a flagstone. I asked him if I could take look at it, but he scolded me to my face; afterward I did not dare to ask him again. The Wulin world was again enjoying peace and quiet for some time. But then martial brother died; and at the time of his death there was quite a disturbance in the martial art world.”

    Guo Jing heard the tone of his voice he became anxious, knowing that the disturbance must not be small. He opened his ears wide and listened attentively. Zhou Botong continued, “Martial Brother was aware that he could not avoid the imminent death; therefore, he arranged for us to take care of his unfinished business. He even asked me to take the Nine Yin Manual out and brought it to him. He prepared a fire and was about to burn the book down. But after stroking the book for a long time he heaved a deep sigh and said, ‘This book is the Senior’s lifelong effort; how could it be destroyed in my hand? Water can float a boat, yet it also can sink a boat; so we’ll have to see how the future generations make a good use of it. However, I forbid our Sect’ disciples to practice whatever is in this book, so that people cannot accuse me of wanting to own this book for personal gain.’ After saying those words he closed his eyes and died. That very evening, not even the third hour yet, something happened in the temple.”

    “Ah!” Guo Jing uttered a cry; Zhou Botong continued, “That night I stayed up with the Quan Zhen first generation seven disciples; keeping a vigil by the side of the coffin. Around midnight enemies came. They were all skilled pugilists. The Quan Zhen Seven Masters immediately scattered out and engaged the enemies in battles. They were afraid the enemies would desecrate their master’s remains. I was the only one left guarding by the coffin side. I heard someone outside shouted, ‘Quickly hand over the Nine Yin Manual, otherwise your temple will be burned to the ground.’ I looked outside and could not help feeling cold in the stomach. I saw a man standing on a tree branch and his body was swaying following the branch movement. That was an extraordinary demonstration of lightness kungfu. At that time I thought, ‘This lightness kungfu is superior to mine; if he is willing, I’d like to take him as my master.’ But then I changed my mind, ‘It’s wrong! It’s wrong! This man must have come here to steal the Nine Yin Manual; not only I cannot bow to him to be his disciple, but I must fight him.’ I did not know him, but whether I wanted it or not, I had to fight him. So I jumped outside and fought with him on the tree. I fought him thirty, forty moves and I was getting scared; the enemy was a few years younger than I was, but his martial art was so fierce that I had a hard time keeping up with him. Finally I got hit on my shoulder by his palm and fell down the tree.”

    “You have such a high martial art skill, yet you lost to him. Who was that?” Guo Jing wondered.

    Zhou Botong answered his question with another question, “Can you guess?”

    Guo Jing thought for a while then exclaimed, “Western Poison!”

    “Ah!” Zhou Botong was amazed. “How did you guess?”

    Guo Jing replied, “Little Brother thought that the people whose martial arts were higher than yours must be the people who were involved in the sword meet at Mount Hua. Benevolent Master Hong is straightforward and honest. The Emperor Duan is an Emperor, he would not stoop so low to steal someone else’s possession. The Island Master Huang’s real character Little Brother does not know really well, but he is a proud man, not the kind of person who would take advantage of someone else’s precarious condition and make a thief of himself!”

    From the flower shrubs outside suddenly came a shout, clear and loud, “Little animal still has a good judgment!””

    Guo Jing leaped toward that voice, but that person’s movement was so swift. Guo Jing could not even see his shadow anymore; only the trees were still swaying and the flower petals fell down to the ground in abundance.

    “Brother, come back!” Zhou Botong called out. “That was the Old Heretic Huang. He’s already far away.”

    Guo Jing returned to the front of the cave, while Zhou Botong commented, “Old Heretic Huang is proficient in amazing and weird five-element techniques; he had arranged these vegetation according to the lost art of garden arrangement based on Zhuge Liang’s law of ‘eight-wave diagram’ of the past.”

    “Zhuge Liang’s law?” Guo Jing was amazed.

    Zhou Botong sighed, “That’s right. Old Heretic Huang is well versed in music, chess, calligraphy and painting; medical, divination and astronomy, as well as farming and irrigation; economics and military strategy. Nothing is hidden from him, nothing that he is not proficient in. It’s too bad he likes to give the Old Urchin a hard time and when we fight, I will not necessarily win. Once he flies east and west among this vegetation nobody will be able to catch him.”

    Guo Jing was silent for half a day. He was thinking about how amazing Huang Yaoshi was, and was unable to restrain feeling captivated. After a while he remembered the story and asked, “Big Brother, you were hit by the Western Poison and fell down the tree. What happened next?”

    Zhou Botong slapped his thigh. “Right! This time you did not forget to remind me with the story,” he exclaimed. “I was hit by Ouyang Feng’s palm, the pain entered my heart and lungs, I wasn’t able to move for half a day. I saw him rushing into the mourning hall, but I couldn’t do anything, I was badly injured. But I gritted my teeth and risking my own life I chased him. I saw him standing in front of my martial brother’s coffin. He stretched his hand to take the book from the table in front of the coffin. I was secretly groaning; I was not his match, while my martial nephews have not come back from fighting the enemies outside. In this critical moment suddenly there was a loud cracking sound; the coffin wooden lid burst open and flew, leaving a gaping hole on the coffin.”

    “Did Ouyang Feng use his palm to destroy Venerable Wang’s coffin?” Guo Jing asked.

    “No, no!” Zhou Botong replied. “It was my own martial brother who used his palm strength to break open the lid.”

    Listening to this strange and absurd tale Guo Jing’s eyes opened wide and his jaw dropped. He was speechless.

    End of Chapter 16.
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    Last edited by foxs; 04-17-07 at 03:48 PM.

  2. #42
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 17 – Mutual Hands Combat

    The Old Urchin Zhou Botong and the Eastern Heretic Huang Yaoshi had a marbles competition, with the Nine Yin Manual and the Peach Blossom Island’s Soft Hedgehog Armor as bets. Huang Yaoshi's newly-wedded wife watched the proceedings from the sidelines. Though a marbles competition was child's play, this particular game had its own intricacies.

    Chapter 17 – Mutual Hands Combat
    (Translated by Foxs, Edited by Eliza Bennet)

    “Did you think my martial brother had become a ghost?” asked Zhou Botong, “Or did you think he came back to life again? No not at all. He was faking dead.”

    “Ah!” Guo Jing gasped. “Faking dead?”

    “Yes,” Zhou Botong answered. “A few days before he died, my martial brother found out that the Western Poison had been lurking around the temple, waiting for him to die so he could steal the book away. Therefore, my martial brother stopped his breathing by using his excellent internal energy and feigned death. He knew if he told his disciples they would not grieve convincingly. Western Poison is so crafty, he would see through the disguise straight away; that was the reason nobody knew martial brother’s plan. Anyway, my martial brother flew out from the coffin and struck Western Poison with ‘yi yang zhi’ [Solitary ‘Yang’ Finger]. Ouyang Feng clearly saw me when looking from outside the window; I was beside my martial brother’s dead bed. He obviously saw us placing the body inside the coffin. But now suddenly my martial brother jumped out of the coffin; he was so shocked that blood drained from his body. He was completely scared by my martial brother that he did not move. My martial brother’s Solitary ‘Yang’ Finger hit him on the eyebrow and broke his many years of training of the ‘ha ma gong’ [the toad stance]. Ouyang Feng then escaped back to the west and I’ve never heard him returning back to the Central Plains. My martial brother laughed long and hard; he sat cross-legged on the table. I knew launching the Solitary Yang Finger consumed a lot of his energy; so he needed to meditate and restore his strength, so I did not bother him. I ran outside and helping my martial nephews getting rid of the attacking enemies. My nephews heard that their master was not dead, their happiness was unspeakable. We rushed back into the temple but then we stopped dead on our track …”

    “What happened?” Guo Jing asked nervously.

    “I saw my martial brother’s body skewed to one side, his face looked strange,” Zhou Botong said. “I rushed and checked his pulse; his body was cold as ice. He was really dead this time. Martial brother’s last words were for us to divide the Nine Yin Manual into two parts: top and bottom, so that if somebody should steal it, not the whole book would be lost. I took the top part with the intention of hiding it later on, and brought the bottom part to south to hide it on a mountain peak somewhere. On my way south I came across the Old Heretic Huang.”

    “Ah!” Guo Jing exclaimed.

    “Even though Old Heretic Huang’s behavior is queer and he is very arrogant; he is unlike the Western Poison who knew no shame, dared to come and tried to steal the book away,” Zhou Botong said. “Old Huang happened to be with a lady who turned out to be his wife.”

    “That must be Rong’er’s mother,” Guo Jing thought, “I wonder if she knew that her mother is involved in this matter”

    “I saw them so happy together,” he heard Zhou Botong continued. “He said they were just married. I thought Old Heretic Huang was smart, what good does a wife for him? So I teased him about the marriage. Old Heretic Huang did not get angry; he even invited me to have a drink. I told him about how my martial brother played dead and wounded Ouyang Feng. Old Heretic Huang’s wife was listening to my story; she asked me if she could take a look at the book. She told me she did not understand any martial art, she was merely curious on what kind of book had caused the death of numerous masters of the Wulin world. Naturally I did not let her. Now the Old Heretic Huang loved his young wife very much, he wanted to make her happy, so he said to me, ‘Botong, this woman does not know martial art at all. She is still young and loves to see amusing thing. What’s the problem in letting her take a look? If I, Huang Yaoshi, cast a single glance toward your book, I will immediately gauge my eyeball and give it to you.’ Old Heretic Huang is a man who can be ranked among the best in the present age; his words without doubt carry a lot of weight. But to let somebody see the book is a grave matter, so I shook may head. Old Heretic Huang was not happy. He said, ‘How can it be that I didn’t understand your difficulty? If you agree to let my wife take a look, there will be time when this old Huang repay Quan Zhen Sect’s kindness. But if you don’t agree, that is entirely up to you. Who said that I have to have your friendship? I don’t even know any of your Quan Zhen disciples.’ I understood very well his meaning. This man will do what he says. He felt uncomfortable giving me a hard time, but he could make things difficult for Ma Yu, Qiu Chuji and the others. His martial art skill is too high; it was not a good idea to provoke his anger.”

    “That’s true,” said Guo Jing. “Priest Ma, Priest Qiu and the others are not his match.”

    Zhou Botong continued, “That time I said to him, ‘Old Heretic Huang, if you are angry come and find me, the Old Urchin. Why do you have to look for my martial nephews? Won’t that make you ‘the big bully the little’?’ His wife heard me mentioning my nickname, ‘the Old Urchin’, she burst into laughter and said, ‘Big Brother Zhou, you love to play around; let us forget this whole thing, let us just play around together. I don’t want to see your precious book anymore.’ She turned her head to Old Heretic Huang and said, ‘I think the Nine Yin Manual had been stolen by that Ouyang fellow, that’s why Big Brother Zhou could not show it to me. If you keep pestering him I am afraid you will only make him lose face.’ Old Heretic Huang smiled and said, ‘That’s right. Botong, let me help you find that old poison and deal with him. His martial art is above yours.’”

    “Looks like Rong’er inherits her mother’s weird intelligence,” Guo Jing thought. To Botong he said, “They were just provoking you!”

    “I know that!” said Zhou Botong, “But I don’t want to lose to them. So I said, ‘The book is in my possession; and I have no problem letting sister-in-law taking a look. But you said the Old Urchin cannot defend the book, you have to prove it to me.’ The Old Heretic Huang smiled, ‘If we fight, we might injure our friendship. You are the Old Urchin; let us just play like little kids.’ His wife already clapped her hands and called out, ‘Goody, goody! Why don’t you two compete in playing with marbles?’ before I could answer him”

    Guo Jing showed a faint smile. Zhou Botong continued, “I am an expert in playing marbles; so I cried out, ‘Let’s play marbles then, do you think I am scared of him?’ Madame Huang smiled and said, ‘Big Brother Zhou, if you lose, you will let me take a look at your book. But if you win, what do you want?’ The Old Heretic Huang immediately said, ‘The Quan Zhen Sect has its treasure, don’t you think the Peach Blossom Island also have one?’ He took out a shiny black cloth, completely covered with thorns. Can you guess what this is?”

    “Soft hedgehog armor [ruan wei jia],” Guo Jing said.

    “That’s right, so you knew it,” Zhou Botong said. “The Old Heretic Huang said, ‘Botong, your martial art is outstanding, naturally you don’t need any protection; but someday you will meet a girl urchin, and soon will have little urchins. This soft hedgehog armor will be invaluable to protect the child; nobody will bully him. If you can beat me in marbles, this Peach Blossom Island treasure will be yours to keep.’ I said, ‘I won’t meet any girl urchin, naturally little urchin will not be born; but your soft hedgehog armor is famous in the Wulin world. If I win it, I will wear it outside my clothes, then I will wander around the Jianghu, let the people know that the Peach Blossom Island Master had lost in the Old Urchin’s hand.’ Madame Huang interrupted, ‘Don’t just talk, after both brothers play then we can talk again.’ So we reached an agreement. Each man had to put nine marbles into nine holes, so I made 18 holes altogether. Whoever put nine marbles first will win the game.”

    Listening to this part Guo Jing recalled his own childhood playing marbles with his sworn brother Tuolei in the desert, a smile broke on his face. Meanwhile Zhou Botong continued, “I always carry plenty of marbles in my pocket, so we went outside to play our game. I paid close attention to Madame Huang’s movement, and I found out she really did not know any martial art. I went down and made some holes on the ground. I let Old Heretic Huang to choose his marbles first, and he did. Then we started our game. His special skill in the secret projectile, the ‘tan zhi shen tong’ [divine flicking finger] is still well known throughout the world. He knew his skill with small object was superior to mine. But he did not know that this game had a secret; there was slight difference in the way I made the holes. I made them in such a way that when a marble went in, it would jump right back out. You have to hit the marble with a perfect amount of strength; it had to be just right with a little bit of pulling force behind it, so the marble will stay in the hole.”

    Guo Jing had never thought that playing marbles in the Central Plains would be so complicated; Mongolian kids would never be able to compete. He heard Zhou Botong proudly continued, “The Old Heretic Huang had launched three marbles, all were right on target. But as soon as they entered the holes they would jump back out. He did not know my secret. In the meantime I flicked five marbles and all went into the holes and stayed in the holes. His secret projectile skill was very good; he tried hard to catch me by flicking three more marbles, while I put another marble in the hole. I was already in the lead, how could I let him catch up? He was having a hard time with the marbles. Secretly I was smug, thinking that his defeat was imminent; even the Heaven wouldn’t be able to help him. Ay! Who knew that the Old Heretic Huang would use a dirty trick to gain victory? Can you guess what he did?”

    “He hurt your hand using his superior martial art?” Guo Jing guessed.

    “No, no,” Zhou Botong said. “The Old Heretic Huang is bad, but he is not stupid; he wouldn’t use such a foolish method. He knew he was going to lose, so he sent his energy into the marbles; he flicked three marbles and hit my last three. Mine were smashed while his marbles stayed intact.”

    “Ah! Then you don’t have any marble left!” Guo Jing exclaimed.

    “I have to helplessly watch him put his marbles one by one into the holes. Thus, I lost!” Zhou Botong said.

    “But that didn’t count!” Guo Jing said.

    “That was what I said,” Zhou Botong answered. “But Old Heretic Huang said, ‘Botong, we have agreed that whoever got all nine marbles inside the holes, he wins. Blame your own inadequacy! It was your own fault that you don’t have enough marbles to put into the holes. Therefore, you lost!’ I still think he was being deceitful, but I had to admit I didn’t expect his move. Also, even if I wanted to destroy his marbles I couldn’t do what he did; I can’t hit a marble without smashing my own. So secretly I admired his ability. I said, ‘Sister-in-law Huang, I will let you see the book, but I want it back by the sundown.’ I said that because I was afraid they would say, ‘We didn’t say how long we might borrow the book; we haven’t finished looking at it, why are you taking it back?’ When that happens, the book would be in their hands for ten, even a hundred years.

    Guo Jing nodded his approval. “Right! Luckily Big Brother is smart and could foresee this. If it were me, I would fall into their scheme.”

    Zhou Botong shook his head, “Speaking of smartness, who on earth can be compared to the Old Heretic Huang? I don’t know how he did it, but he managed to find a wife who was a smart as he is. That time Sister-in-law Huang only showed a faint smile, she said, ‘Big Brother Zhou, you are known as the Old Urchin, but you are smart. You are afraid it would turn out like Liu Bei borrowed the city of Jingzhou forever, aren’t you? Don’t you worry; I will sit right here and have a look in front of your eyes; I won’t hide in a secret place. If you are feeling uneasy, you can stay by my side and stand guard.’ I listened to her said such; I took the book from my pocket and handed it over to her. Sister-in-law Huang took it and walked to a tree, sat on an upturned rock.

    The Old Heretic Huang saw I still had some trepidation on my face, he said, ‘Old Urchin, in this present age, how many people can defeat us, two people in martial arts?’ I replied, ‘Nobody can necessarily defeat you, but to defeat me, including you there are four, five people!’ Old Heretic Huang smiled, ‘You flattered me. Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor and Northern Beggar four people, each one has his own strength, nobody could defeat anyone else. Ouyang Feng’s Toad Stance had already been broken by your martial brother; within ten years he won’t be able to compete with us. There is Iron Palm Floating over the Water, Qiu Qianren, I heard his martial art is good, but he did not attend the ‘hua shan lun jian’ [Sword Meet of Mount Hua], so I am not sure; but not necessarily his martial art is so superb. Old Urchin, I believe other than these people, you are number one in terms of martial art. If we unite our hands, nobody can beat us.’ I said, ‘Naturally!’ Old Heretic Huang then asked, ‘Why then, are you so anxious? With both of us standing right here, who in the world could come and steal your precious book away?’ I heard he was very reasonable, so I felt better.

    I saw Madame Huang flipped one page after another, she read attentively from the beginning; her lips slightly moved which I thought a little funny. The Nine Yin Manual contains high-level secret of martial arts; even if she is well versed in literature, I am afraid she wouldn’t comprehend even half a word. She read slowly from the beginning to the end, taking her time. I became impatient waiting, until at last she flipped the last page. I thought she was done, but unexpectedly she turned to the first page and read again. But this time she read quickly, finished in only a time needed to drink a cup of tea. She gave that book back to me and smiled, ‘Big Brother Zhou, you have been deceived by the Western Poison; this is not the Nine Yin Manual!’ I was shocked. I asked, ‘What do you mean it isn’t? This is obviously left behind by my martial brother, it looks good to me!’ Madame Huang replied, ‘What use is its look? Ouyang Feng obviously swapped your book with this cheap copy on how to do fortune telling and divination’.”

    “Could it be that Ouyang Feng had swapped the books before the Venerable Wang came out of the coffin?” Guo Jing asked.

    “That was what I thought then,” Zhou Botong replied. “But I’ve already known for some time that Old Heretic Huang is very shrewd; I could not really believe what his mistress had said either. Madame Huang saw me stood silently; she knew I doubted her words, so she asked, ‘Big Brother Zhou, how do you know this is the real Nine Yin Manual?’ I told her, ‘Ever since my martial brother took possession of the book, nobody has ever seen the contents. Martial Brother had said that he fought for seven days and seven nights to avoid further bloodshed in the Wulin world, not for his personal gain. Therefore, he forbade Quan Zhen disciples to learn any martial art from the book.’ Madame Huang then said, ‘Venerable Wang had a just and upright heart; truly deserving an endless admiration. Even so, there are other people who would not hesitate to deceive him. Big Brother Zhou, you go ahead and take a look at the book.’ I hesitated, remembering my deceased martial brother’s last words I did not dare to defy. Madame Huang continued, ‘This is a book of divination that is available anywhere in Jiangnan; not worth half a ‘wen’ [currency, not sure the value]. Besides, even if this book is the real Nine Yin Manual, it is all right too look as long as you do not learn anything from it, isn’t it?’

    So I opened the book and looked at the first page. To me the book seemed to be describing methods and techniques to practice martial arts; where was fortune telling and divination stuff? Madame Huang said, ‘I have played with this kind of book since I was five; I know the content from the beginning to the end. We the Jiangnan kids, nine out of ten are familiar with it. If you don’t believe me, just listen to this.’ Having said that words started flowing like water from her mouth; she recited the book from the beginning to the end. I looked at the book to see if she really was reciting it from memory. Indeed, not a single word was wrong. My body turned cold, like I was plunged into a hole full of ice. Madame Huang also said, ‘No matter which page you want me to recite, as long as you read the beginning, I can recite the rest for you. I have read this kind of book since I was little, I won’t forget its content.’ I pulled out several sections just as she said, and she did recite them without hesitation.

    The Old Heretic Huang burst in laughter. I was really angry; I ripped the book to pieces and then burned it to ashes. Old Heretic Huang suddenly said, ‘Old Urchin, you don’t need to lose your urchin’s temper. Let me give you this soft hedgehog armor.’ I didn’t know I fell into his scheme; I thought I looked so sorry to him that he wanted to ease my feeling. I was still upset, besides, how could I take the treasure of Peach Blossom Island? So I only thanked him without taking his gift. I went back to my hometown and closed the door. I wanted to practice my martial art. I knew at that time that I was not Ouyang Feng’s match, so I determined to train hard for five years. I thought I would go the west to take the book back from the Western Poison. My martial brother left me the book and the old urchin could not keep it safe. How could I face martial brother in the underworld?”

    “The Western Poison is so crafty, I know you must deal with him; but wouldn’t it be a lot better if you take Priest Ma, Priest Qiu and the others to come with you?” Guo Jing asked.

    “Ay! I can only blame my own arrogance,” Zhou Botong said, “After suffering from humiliation I did not want to talk to Ma Yu and the others. If I did they would certainly see something was amiss. Several years later there arose a rumor among the Jianghu people that the Peach Blossom Island disciples, The Twin Killers of the Dark Wind had gotten hold of the Nine Yin Manual; they had mastered several kinds of exquisite martial arts from the book, and had created havoc everywhere. At first I did not believe it, but the rumor was getting stronger. A year later, Qiu Chuji came to my home. His visit was in connection with the Nine Yin Manual affair. He said that the book had really fallen into the Peach Blossom Island disciples’ hands. I was fuming mad and said, ‘Old Heretic Huang is not worthy to be my friend!’ Qiu Chuji was taken aback, ‘Martial Uncle, why did you say Huang Yaoshi was not worthy to be your friend?’ I told him, ‘He went to get the book back from Western Poison without consulting me, and did not give the book back to me.’”

    “I think he intended to do it, but right after he got the book back it was stolen by his renegade disciples,” Guo Jing reasoned. “I know he was quite angry because of this, that he cut the legs’ ligament of his other innocent disciples and expelled them from his school.”

    Zhou Botong shook his head. “You are as naive as I was, if this affair happened to you, you would surely be bullied without knowing it,” he said. “That day Qiu Chuji discussed martial arts with me, we talked at length before he finally left. Two months later he suddenly reappeared. He had visited Chen Xuanfeng and Mei Chaofeng, the couple that had stolen the Old Heretic Huang’s book. They were practicing ‘Nine Yin White Bone Claw’ and ‘Heart Destroying Palm’, two evil martial arts. He took a big risk to eavesdrop the Twin Killers of the Dark Wind’s conversation and found out that Old Heretic Huang did not get the book from Ouyang Feng. Not at all. He stole it from my own hands.”

    “You have obviously burned the book. Did Madame Huang swap the books, and gave you the fake one?” Guo Jing asked.

    “I have guarded against that possibility early on,” Zhou Botong said. “When Madame Huang looked at the book, I did not dare to leave even half a step from her side. She did not know martial art. Even if her hands and feet were swift she could not get away from us who practice secret projectiles. No, she did not make the swap; she merely recorded it I her mind!”

    Guo Jing did not understand. “How did she record it?” he asked.

    Zhou Botong answered his question with another, “Brother, when you are reading a book, how many times do you have to read until you committed what you read into your memory?”

    “If it is easy then maybe thirty, forty times. If it is difficult or long, probably seventy, eighty times, even a hundred times. Even after I read it for more than 100 times, I still cannot guarantee its accuracy,” Guo Jing replied.

    “Speaking of brain power, I am afraid you cannot be considered smart,” Zhou Botong said.

    “Your Brother is dumb by nature,” Guo Jing admitted. “Doesn’t matter whether I am studying literature or martial art, I am always very slow.”

    Zhou Botong sighed. “Let’s not talk about studying literature,” he said. “Just talk about practicing martial arts. When you learned a fist or palm technique, didn’t your masters have to teach you dozens of time before you could understand it?”

    Guo Jing’s face was red from shame. “That’s true,” he said. “Sometimes I knew it, but couldn’t remember; sometimes I remembered it, but could not apply.”

    “But there are people in the world who by simply watching other people do a stance will be able to remember it forever,” Zhou Botong said.

    “Totally correct!” Guo Jing exclaimed. “Island Master Huang’s daughter is just like that. When Benevolent Master Hong taught her martial art, at most he would teach her twice, very seldom he had to repeat the lesson three times.”

    “This girl is so smart,” Zhou Botong slowly said, “Let’s just hope she won’t share her mother’s short life! That day when Madame Huang borrowed my book she only read twice, yet she did not miss a single word. After we bade farewell she wrote down everything for her husband to see.”

    Guo Jing could not restrain his amazement, he was silent for a while only to say, “Madame Huang did not understand what she was reading; yet she was able to memorize the whole thing. How can there be such an intelligent person on the earth?”

    “I am afraid your little friend that Huang girl is also capable of doing that,” Zhou Botong said. “Anyway, after listening to Qiu Chuji I was ashamed. Immediately I summoned the Quan Zhen Sect’s seven first generation disciples to discuss this matter over. Everybody agreed we should deal with the Twin Killers of The Dark Wind to get the book back from them. Qiu Chuji said, ‘Those Twin Killers of The Dark Wind’s martial art skills may be high, but they won’t necessarily be victorious over Quan Zhen Sect’s disciples. They are your junior, Martial Uncle does not need to go into action personally; otherwise the heroes of Jianghu would say that the older generation bullied the younger one.’ I thought he was right, so I assigned one or two of them to find the Twin Killers of The Dark Wind; while the rest shadowed from the side to guard against the twin killers escaping.”

    Guo Jing nodded his head in agreement, “If all the Quan Zhen Seven Masters went into action the Twin Killers of The Dark Wind wouldn’t have any chance.” His mind wandered to the time Priest Ma Yu along with his six masters masquerading as the Quan Zhen Seven Masters atop the Mongolian barren hill.

    “They pursued the twin killers as far as Henan, when unexpectedly those two disappeared,” Zhou Botong continued. “The Quan Zhen Seven tried to find information, turned out another disciple of Old Heretic Huang, Lu Chengfeng had gathered dozens of heroes and valiant people of the Central Plains to fight those two with the intention of capturing them and send them back to the Peach Blossom Island and hand them over to the Old Heretic Huang. Nevertheless, they were still able to escape and vanished without a trace.”

    “No wonder Village Master Lu hated his martial brother and martial sister so much; he was expelled innocently from his school,” Guo Jing said.

    “Since I couldn’t find the Twin Killers of The Dark Wind, naturally I looked for Old Heretic Huang. I carried along the first volume of the Nine Yin Manual, because I was afraid I might lose this one as well. Upon arrival at the Peach Blossom Island I scolded the Old Heretic Huang, but he said, ‘Botong, Huang Yaoshi always meant what he says. I had said I wouldn’t cast a glance at your book; when did I look at your book? The Nine Yin Manual that I saw was the one recorded by my wife, certainly not your book.’ His words sounded reasonable, but I was furious, so I spoke harsh words to him and asked to talk to his wife. He smiled bitterly, and led me to the main hall. As soon as we were there I was shocked. Turned out Madame Huang had passed away. There in the main hall was her memorial tablet.

    I was going to pay my respect to her spirit, but Old Heretic Huang sneered and said, ‘Old Urchin! You don’t have to be pretentious on my face. If not because of your damned ‘gou pi zhen jing’ [dog fart manual] my wife wouldn’t have left me.’ I was startled, ‘What?!?’ I asked. He didn’t answer, only looking at me with angry eyes; but then tears started rolling down his cheeks. After a long while, he started to tell me what really happened.

    Initially Madame Huang recorded the book for the first time for her husband’s sake. Huang Yaoshi then found out that the book in his hands was the second volume; which was harmful to train without knowing the first volume. So he decided to set the book aside while he was trying to get hold of the first volume. Who would have thought that the book would be stolen by Chen Xuanfeng and Mei Chaofeng? Madame Huang wanted to comfort her husband, so she quietly determined to rewrite the whole book.

    First of all, she did not understand the meaning of what she wrote; she merely memorized the words. Secondly, it had been several years since she wrote it for the first time; how could she remember everything? At that time she was entering the eighth month of her pregnancy. After painstakingly thinking hard she was able to re-write about seven, eight thousand words, but not every word was accurate. Her heart and mind were exhausted; and because of that she gave birth to a baby girl prematurely. The baby was healthy, but her condition was like a lantern ran out of oil. Even though Huang Yaoshi’s skill was peerless, in the end, he was not able to save his beloved wife’s life.

    Old Heretic Huang always loves to vent his anger and blame others; during this time his wife had passed away, he was like a madman; talked incoherently to me. I knew his was grieving badly, so I did not want to argue with him. I simply smiled and said to him, ‘You are a pugilist, yet you put too much feeling toward husband and wife relationship. Aren’t you afraid you are becoming the laughing stock of other people?’ ‘My wife was different,’ he said. I told him, ‘Your wife died, this is the best time to train your martial art. If it were me, that was exactly what I expected. The earlier your wife died the better. Congratulations! Congratulations!’”

    “Ah!” Guo Jing gasped. “How could you say such thing?”

    Zhou Botong eyes rolled, “I said what I was thinking; what’s wrong with that?” he snapped. “But that Old Heretic Huang got angry, without saying anything he struck me with his palm and we fought. In the end I had to stay in this stupid place for fifteen years.”

    “Did you lose to him?” Guo Jing asked.

    Zhou Botong smiled, “If I win, I won’t be here. He hit me until I was spitting up blood. I ran away until I found this cave. He pursued me, wanted to break my legs, He wanted to snatch the first volume of the Nine Yin Manual to be burned in front of his wife’s memorial tablet. I hid the book inside the hole and sat at the cave entrance guarding. I said that if he resorted to force I would destroy the book immediately. He said, ‘I will find a way to force you out of there.’ I said, ‘We’ll see!’

    Just like that and I have been here for fifteen years. This man is arrogant, and he is not desperate yet, so I am sure he won’t put poison in my food. But he had used every means possible to force me out of here. I leave the cave only to urinate and defecate, he won’t have any opportunity to sneak in. Only I have to live with this stench. Sometimes I pretend to have a bowel movement. His heart itches to lay his fingers in, but he ended up enjoying the smelly thing.” He ended his narration by laughing heartily.

    Listening to his story Guo Jing was fascinated. He found this big brother of his to be smart and witty. Zhou Botong continued, “After fifteen years he started to attack my heart and mind, but so far I was able to defend myself. Only last night I was almost fallen; fortunately ghost or angel has brought you here and helped me. If not, this book would certainly fall into Old Heretic Huang’s hands. Ay! Old Heretic Huang’s ‘jade-colored tidal wave song’ contains a strong internal energy, very profound.”

    Guo Jing listened to him recounting this gratitude and grudges; his heart was troubled. “Big Brother, what will you do now?” he asked.

    Zhou Botong smiled, “I will just continue our competition. We’ll see if Old Heretic Huang will outlive me, or I’ll live a few years longer than he will. I told you the life story of Huang Shanga moment ago; he had outlived all his enemies.”

    Guo Jing felt it was not a good idea, but he didn’t have anything better, so he asked, “How come Priest Ma Yu and the others did not come to rescue you?”

    “Most probably they don’t even know I am here,” Zhou Botong said. “Even if they do, the vegetation in this island is so strange that unless Old Heretic Huang himself gives consent, other people won’t be able to enter the Peach Blossom Island. Also, even if they come to rescue me, I won’t go. I haven’t finished the competition with Old Heretic Huang yet.”

    After talking with Zhou Botong for half a day, Guo Jing found that even though this man is old, he was filled with childlike innocence and always spoke straightforwardly, without any pretension.

    In the meantime the sun had climbed high in the sky. That old servant came back delivering their meal. After done eating Zhou Botong continued, “I have stayed on the Peach Blossom Island for fifteen years, yet my time did not totally go to waste. Here my heart and mind are clear, without any disruption. I can achieve here what I can achieve elsewhere for twenty-five years. But although I know I have advanced greatly, too bad I don’t have any sparring partner; so I had to use my left hand to fight my right hand.”

    Guo Jing was astonished. “How can the left hand fight with the right hand?” he asked.

    “I pretend my right hand to be the Old Heretic Huang, the left hand to be the Old Urchin. The right hand attacks, the left hand neutralizes that attack and launches a counterattack, like this,” Zhou Botong said, then moved his hands to battle each other.

    At first Guo Jing thought it was very funny, but after several moves he realized that the stances were mysteriously wonderful, he couldn’t help but feeling great admiration. People who practice martial arts, regardless of whether they are barehanded or wielding a saber or thrusting a spear, will always use both hands either to attack or to defend; but Zhou Botong was different. He used one hand to attack and the other to defend; each attack was fierce and always aimed vital points, while the defending hand would parry and counterattack with no less fierceness; truly like two people fighting each other. Guo Jing had never seen nor heard anything like this before.

    After watching Zhou Botong fought himself for a moment Guo Jing commented, “Big Brother, why don’t you use your feet too?”

    Zhou Botong halted and smiled, “Not a bad observation! You could see through my moves. Come, come, come! You try!” While speaking thus he stretched his palm to attack. Guo Jing also stretched his to parry.

    “Careful! I am going to push you to the left,” Zhou Botong said. As soon as he finished speaking he exerted his energy. Guo Jing was ready, even before Zhou Botong warned him he had prepared himself to use the ’18-Dragon Subduing Palms’. Two great forces collided, and Guo Jing staggered back seven, eight steps. He felt his arm sore and numb.

    “Last time I borrowed the strength from my feet and you were pushed back,” Zhou Botong said, “Now I am not going to use my feet. You try again.”

    Guo Jing followed his bidding to attack again; but suddenly he felt a pushing and pulling force. He was unable to stand steadily; he fell forward; his forehead hit the ground. He crawled trying to stand up; he was in a daze.

    Zhou Botong smiled, “Do you understand?”

    “No, I don’t,” Guo Jing replied.

    “I developed this technique after toiling for more than ten years through training and meditation inside this hole,” Zhou Botong said. “My martial brother had told me once about a technique of using emptiness to gain victory. That time my understanding of Taoist principles was still shallow. I heard him but I didn’t understand. About five years ago I was moving my two hands when it suddenly dawned on me that I can develop palm technique using that principle. I was still unsure about it since it was only a theory; I have never tried it in a real combat. Brother, come and fight me again. Please don’t fear the pain. I am going to make you fall some more times.”

    He saw Guo Jing was hesitant, so he persuaded again, “Good Brother, I have been here for fifteen years, and always longed for someone to come over and train with me. Several months ago Old Heretic Huang’s daughter came and talked with me to chase my boredom. I was thinking of training with her, but she did not return the next day. Good Brother, I certainly am not going to hit you too hard.”

    Guo Jing saw his both hands were itching to move; his face showing eagerness that was hard to resist, so he complied and said, “What is falling some more times?” He launched his palm and fought a few stances; but he felt Zhou Botong palm was sometimes void of strength. He was about to fall again when suddenly Zhou Botong’s left hand hit his shoulder from below. His body was sent somersaulting in the air and he fell hard to the ground. His shoulder was hurting very bad.

    Zhou Botong face showed regret, he said, “Good Brother, I can’t let you fall for nothing. Hear me out, I am going to teach you this technique.” Guo Jing endured the pain, crawling up and came near.

    Zhou Botong said, “In the Lao Zi’s [Taoist Founder] ‘dao de jing’ [Taoist Holy Scripture – I don’t know the correct English translation] there is a saying: ‘a clay utensil is useful because it is empty, a room is useful because it is empty.’ Do you understand this saying?”

    Guo Jing’s literary knowledge was limited; naturally he did not understand the saying. He smiled sheepishly and shook his head.

    Zhou Botong took the rice bowl they used earlier. “This bowl is empty inside, that’s why we can fill it with rice. If it is a solid clay clump, how can we put food inside?” he asked.

    Guo Jing nodded; he thought, “It is a very simple truth, but I’ve never thought about it.”

    “Likewise a house can be occupied by people because it has four walls and windows and doors on those walls,” Zhou Botong added. “What good it is if the building is made of solid bricks without windows and doors?

    Guo Jing nodded again; his heart was more open to this truth.

    Zhou Botong continued, “Our Quan Zhen Sect’s highest martial art is based on ‘gong’ [empty] and ‘ruo’ [soft], these two characters. It was so-called because ‘lacking accomplishment does not necessarily mean weak, lacking fullness does not necessarily mean empty.’”

    Following these deep and profound thinking Guo Jing listened attentively and pondered deeply.

    Zhou Botong added, “In terms of energy exertion, your master Hong Qigong’s martial art is on the external side of the spectrum. Even though I know Quan Zhen Sect’s martial art, I am not his match. But I am afraid once you reach certain level of the external type of martial art you cannot go much higher. Not so with the internal type of martial art, the type that my martial brother practiced. That time when my martial brother won the title ‘Number One in the Martial Art World’ he was not just being lucky. If he were still alive today, with the additional of more than ten years of training, if he again fights Eastern Heretic, Western Poison and the others, I believe he would probably need only half a day, not seven whole days and nights to subdue them.”

    “Venerable Wang’s martial art was truly amazing; brother is unfortunate not to make his acquaintance,” Guo Jing said. “Benevolent Master Hong’s ’18-Dragon Subduing Palms’ is the pinnacle of the ‘hard’ type of martial art; but a moment ago Big Brother had made me fall to the ground using the world ‘softest’ type of martial art, isn’t that so?”

    Zhou Botong laughed. “That’s true, that’s true,” he said. “Although the soft can subdue the hard, I wouldn’t be able to push you that easy if your ‘18-Dragon Subduing Palms’ was as fierce as Hong Qigong’s. It all depends on the depth of your comprehension. Do you remember the move I used to push you down just a moment ago? Try to remember it well.” And then he carefully recounted how to move the hand and how to exert the energy. He knew Guo Jing’s comprehension was slow, so he took his time explaining everything.

    Guo Jing tried the move dozens of time; fortunately he had a good foundation of profound internal energy technique from Quan Zhen Sect, so he had a good grasp albeit slowly.

    Zhou Botong was elated, he said, “Brother, if your pain has lessened, let me make you fall one more time.”

    Guo Jing laughed. “Pain is nothing,” he said, “But I am afraid I won’t be able to remember your lesson.” While speaking he was still trying hard to memorize everything.

    Zhou Botong had a childlike enthusiasm; he kept urging, “Is it enough? Have you memorized it? Come on, quick!”

    But actually his nagging was disturbing Guo Jing’s mind. After some time was he finally able to memorize the move. So again he charged toward Zhou Botong; and again he fell down.

    Day and night those two people trained together. Guo Jing was a young man, he did not need too much sleep; but even when he did, Zhou Botong wouldn’t let him to. He kept urging him to train. Guo Jing fell down seven, eight hundreds times. His body was swollen and hurt all over, full of purple bruises. Fortunately he was strong, so he just gritted his teeth and doggedly learned and finally mastered Zhou Botong’s special skill which he created during his fifteen years inside the cave, the 72-move ‘kong ming quan’ [lit. empty and clear fist technique – the Vacant Fist].

    Two people were so engrossed in training martial arts that they did not know how many days had passed. Guo Jing was thinking about Huang Rong all day, but since he was unable to seek her, he had to be content in waiting painstakingly. Several times he wanted to go with the mute servant who delivers their meals to find her, but every time, Zhou Botong called him back.

    One day right after lunch Zhou Botong said, “You have mastered the entire Vacant Fist. After this I won’t be able to make you fall easily; so we have to change they way we play.”

    “Very well. How should we play?” Guo Jing laughed and asked.

    “We play as four people fighting each other,” Zhou Botong replied.

    “Four people?” Guo Jing was perplexed.

    “Absolutely!” Zhou Botong said. “Four people. My left hand is one person, my right the other. Your pair of hands are two other people. Four separate individuals, nobody helps anybody else. Four people in a tangled battle! That should be more interesting.”

    Guo Jing’s interest was piqued. “It certainly is interesting; too bad I cannot separate my left and right hands,” he smiled and said.

    “I meant to teach you later,” Zhou Botong said. “For now, let us just have a three-way fight.” His pair of hands made two people and attack Guo Jing immediately. He separated himself into two different entities, each hand launched different stance, they did not complement each other; totally different from one person using two hands. When his left hand was giving Guo Jing a hard time, his right hand would come to Guo Jing’s rescue. Likewise when his right was gaining an upper hand, his left would fight his right. When Guo Jing gained an upper hand, his both hands would fight together like two people facing one opponent. In short, it was like three separate individuals fighting each other. After fighting for a while they stopped for a rest.

    Guo Jing thought this way of playing was so amusing; he could not help but remembering Huang Rong. He thought if she were there, three people would be able to fight as six individuals. He was sure Huang Rong would be very interested.

    Zhou Botong was full of enthusiasm. As soon as Guo Jing caught his breath he immediately taught him how to divide his hands in a mutual hands combat. This technique was actually more difficult than the Vacant Fist.

    There was a saying, ‘Mind cannot be divided,’ and somewhere along the same line, ‘Left hand draws a square, right hand draws a circle; is not a good habit.’ But this mutual hands combat technique was precisely dividing one’s mind into two, and the way to train it was by drawing a square with the left hand and a circle with the right hand. Guo Jing practiced doing the drawings. Initially his square resembled a circle, and his circle looked like a square. He painstakingly practiced for a long time before he finally got the hang of it; both hands could draw perfect square and circle at will.

    Zhou Botong was very excited. “If you haven’t practiced our Quan Zhen’s internal energy cultivation – which enables you to combine inner and outer strength, how could you master this mutual hands combat technique so quickly?” he said. “Now, use your left hand to launch ‘nan shan quan’ [south mountain fist technique] and your right hand ‘yue nu jian’ [Yueh Maiden sword technique].” These were the martial arts Guo Jing learned from Nan Xiren and Han Xiaoying. Guo Jing knew these techniques by heart, but launching them at the same time with different hands was actually very difficult.

    Zhou Botong was dying to play the ‘four people mutual combat’, so he urged Guo Jing to train. He himself did not stop giving instructions and pointers. A few days later Guo Jing had mastered the mutual hands combat technique. Zhou Botong’s delight was unspeakable. “Come, come!” he urged, “Your left hand and my left one form an alliance against your right hand and mine. Let us have a martial art contest.”

    Guo Jing was still young, how could this kind of game not interest him? Immediately his right hand fought Zhou Botong’s left while his left hand fiercely fought Zhou Botong’s right. Nobody had ever seen or heard about this kind of battle.

    While they were fighting each other and themselves, Zhou Botong incessantly gave Guo Jing pointers on how to attack swiftly and fiercely, and how to form a stable defense. Guo Jing listened and committed each and every one of them in his memory.

    Zhou Botong only wanted to have an interesting playtime, but Guo Jing’s mind came up with other thoughts. One day when they were playing, he thought, “If our legs can also be divided, wouldn’t two people be able to fight as eight individuals?” But he knew if he brought this up, Zhou Botong would go on indefinitely, so he refrained himself from saying anything.

    Several more days passed. Guo Jing and Zhou Botong fought as four separate individuals. Zhou Botong was having fun; he fought and laughed heartily. Guo Jing’s skill was still shallow, so when one of his hands was unable to withstand, the other involuntarily would come to its rescue. Zhou Botong’s fists moved rapidly, Guo Jing was not able to keep up fighting as four separate individuals, so oftentimes he became one individual fighting two people, as in three people mutual combat. But his two hands launched different moves, so it was like two Guo Jing fought together hand-in-hand against two opponents.

    Zhou Botong laughed heartily, “You are fighting disregarding the rules,” he said.

    Guo Jing jumped back. He was silent for a while than opened his mouth, “Big Brother, I have been thinking of something.”

    “What is it?” Zhou Botong asked.

    “Well, your both hands can launch completely different moves. Why can’t they work together as two people facing a common enemy? This technique can be very useful; if your enemy is strong, you can divide your mind and helping yourself. Although the force won’t be doubled, but the stances would enjoy a great advantage.”

    Zhou Botong had created the mutual hands combat technique out of his boredom living in the cave alone. It never occurred to him that he could actually use the technique in a real combat. Now that Guo Jing reminded him a thought suddenly came flashing back and forth in his mind. Suddenly he leaped out of the cave and walked back and forth on the cave entrance; laughing incessantly.

    Guo Jing saw a sudden change in his action like an evil spirit possessed him; he became anxious and called out, “Big Brother, what happened to you? What is it?”

    Zhou Botong did not answer; but he kept laughing. After a while he said, “Brother, I am coming out of this hole! I am not going to urinate, I don’t have a bowel movement; but I am coming out.”

    “You are!” Guo Jing exclaimed.

    Zhou Botong smiled, “Right now my martial art is number one in the world, why should I fear Huang Yaoshi? I only hope he would show up so I can beat him really good.”

    “Are you sure you can defeat him?” Guo Jing asked.

    “Actually my martial art is still a notch below his, but by dividing my mind I can be two people against one; nobody can defeat me. Huang Yaoshi, Hong Qigong, Ouyang Feng; their martial arts are superb, but how can they defeat two Zhou Botongs?” Guo Jing was delighted; what Zhou Botong said was very reasonable.

    “Brother,” Zhou Botong continued, “You have understood this mutual hands combat technique; all you need is just a few more years of practice, then your martial art skill will be doubled.” As they chatted, the two became more and more excited.

    Before then Zhou Botong was afraid Huang Yaoshi would come and made things difficult for him, but now he hoped Huang Yaoshi would show up. He would beat him up and leave this awfully smelly cave forever. He impatiently looked outside hoping to catch a glimpse of Huang Yaoshi’s shadow. He would dash out to seek him if he didn’t know the pathways on the island were mysteriously arranged.

    That night the mute servant came back delivering their dinner. Zhou Botong grabbed his neck and said, “Quickly tell Huang Yaoshi to come over, tell him to try my new technique!” But that old servant only shook his head.

    Zhou Botong swore and uttered some indistinct remark before he suddenly realized, “Bah! I forgot you are deaf and mute!” Turned his head to Guo Jing he said, “Tonight we must eat really good.” Then he stretched his hand to grab the food basket.

    Guo Jing’s nostril caught delicious smell from the basket, unlike the meal they usually got. So he hastily opened the basket and saw two small dishes of vegetable with a big bowl of chicken cooked with winter-picked mushroom; one of his favorite. With a thumping heart he took a porcelain spoon to scoop a spoonful of soup. It tasted exactly like the one Huang Rong prepared for him; so he was certain it was Huang Rong. His heart was thumping even harder. Quickly he looked at the basket to see if there was anything unusual. He found a box with ten steamed buns inside. One of them had an image of a gourd, carved using a nail. The marking was so subtle that if he did not pay attention he would surely miss it. Guo Jing knew this bun was unusual. With a trembling hand he picked the bun, broke it into halves and found a wax pill inside. Guo Jing saw Zhou Botong and the old servant did not look his way, so quickly he slipped the pill inside his pocket.

    This time two people ate their dinner without caring for its taste: one person was eating while thinking how to have a peerless martial art in the world; while the right hand grabbed a steamed bun the left hand threw some fists, both hands were very busy; sometimes they were fighting each other while the mouth was chewing; the other person wanted to eat as fast as he could so that he could see what Huang Rong had hidden inside the wax pill.

    Zhou Botong ate the steamed bun with some effort; with a noisy sound he finished the soup too. The old servant cleaned up and took the basket away. Guo Jing hurriedly pulled out the wax pill, crushed it and took the paper hidden inside. It was indeed Huang Rong’s handwriting. It said, ‘Brother Jing, please do not worry. Father and I are reconciled. I will slowly ask him to release you.’ The letter was closed with two characters, ‘Rong’er’. Guo Jing was ecstatic; he showed the letter to Zhou Botong.

    Zhou Botong laughed. “Leave it to me,” he said. “He can’t not release you. We will compel him to; don’t need to ask him nicely. If he refuses, I will imprison him in this hole for fifteen years. Aiyo! That’s not right! What if in fifteen years he found the secret of mutual hands combat?”

    The sky was gradually turning dark. Guo Jing sat cross-legged and was going to cultivate his energy. But his mind kept wandering back to Huang Rong. He could not concentrate for a long time. Finally he was able to calm himself and his chest was relieved; he started to breath evenly. A sudden thought came to his mind: if he could divide his mind to control two hands using two different martial arts, why not try dividing his breathing into two? So he closed one of his nostrils and practice breathing using only one nostril.

    He had practiced for about an hour and felt that he had made some progress when he heard some rustling sound. He opened his eyes and could see in the dark somebody with long hair and long beard was moving around: Zhou Botong was practicing martial arts. He opened his eyes wide and looked closely. He saw Zhou Botong’s left hand was doing the seventy-two stance of Vacant Fist, while his right hand was doing some other Quan Zhen Sect’s fist technique. The fists moved slowly, but they created gusts of wind that created the rustling sound he heard earlier. Guo Jing admired this amazing skill.

    While he was half watching and half lost in thought, suddenly he heard Zhou Botong cried anxiously, “Aiyo!” then busily brushed something from his body. A long black and shiny thing flew from his body and hit a distance tree; like he was throwing a secret projectile of some sort. Guo Jing saw Zhou Botong was shaking; he was startled, hurriedly came near and called out, “Big Brother, what happened?”

    “I am bitten by a viper! I am dying!” Zhou Botong shouted.

    Guo Jing was shocked. Immediately he held Zhou Botong’s body. His expression had changed; he leaned on Guo Jing’s shoulder and slowly walked back to the cave. Guo Jing quickly tore a piece of his clothes and tightly wrapped it around Zhou Botong’s thigh to prevent the venom from entering the heart.

    Guo Jing took a flint from his pocket and lighted a paper fire. Under the bright firelight he could see more clearly. His heart jumped to his throat. Zhou Botong’s calf was swollen really bad.

    “This island does not have this kind of green venomous viper. I wonder where it came from?” Zhou Botong weakly said. “The snake wouldn’t be able to bite me when I practice regularly. But this time I was practicing two sets of fist technique; I put all my attention to my movements … Ay!”

    Guo Jing heard his voice trembled, he knew the poison was severe. If Zhou Botong did not possess a profound internal energy he would have died early on. Nervously he bent his waist and sucked at the wound.

    “You can’t do that!” Zhou Botong cried out. “The snake’s venom is extraordinary. It will kill you.”

    But Guo Jing was only thinking of saving his life; he did not even care of his own safety. His right arm held Zhou Botong’s body firmly, while his mouth continued sucking. Zhou Botong tried to struggle, but his body was weak; he could not move. A little while later he passed out.

    Guo Jing kept sucking the venom out and spat it to the ground. With the poison drained out of his body, plus his profound internal energy Zhou Botong slowly regained his consciousness. His eyes were still heavy. Half awake he said, “Brother, your big brother is going to return to the heaven today. But before leaving this world I can make your friendship, my heart is extremely happy.”

    Even though Guo Jing crossed Zhou Botong’s path only a short while ago, but they were of the same straightforward and honest type, so they hit it off immediately. He felt like they have known each other for dozens of years. Right now he saw his dying face and he couldn’t restrain tears from flowing down his cheeks.

    Zhou Botong smiled sadly and said, “That Nine Yin Manual was hidden inside a box beneath the stone where I usually sit. I was going to give it to you, but you have sucked deadly venom from the snake, so you will not live long. We two people will walk hand in hand to the underworld. No need to fear we won’t have someone to play with. We will play as four people in the cloud … No, as four ghosts … that would be interesting. The bigheaded ghost and the grim reaper will be baffled looking at us. The ghost world won’t be the same.” Speaking thus he was quite happy.

    Guo Jing heard Zhou Botong said that he was going to die, but he did not feel anything unusual. He took the fire to examine himself. The paper fire was about to be burned out, so he took Huang Rong’s letter and burned it. He then looked round the cave entrance to find a dried branch or grass, but amidst the hot summer weather the vegetation around him was green and lush.

    He was getting more and more anxious. He groped his pocket to find something that would be used as a torch. But he found nothing, except that leather-like thing wrapped around his dagger that came from Mei Chaofeng. Without giving a second thought he lighted that thing and extended it to examine Zhou Botong’s face. He saw the face was turning gray, no longer ruddy like a child as usual.

    Zhou Botong saw the flickering fire, he gave a faint smile. He saw Guo Jing’s countenance did not change, no sign of poison at all. He was confused. He blinked his eyes and looked at the fire. He saw the thing that Guo Jing used as a torch had some characters written all over. He squinted trying to read what was written, but after reading about ten characters or so he was so startled. He recognized the words as taken from the Nine Yin Manual. He didn’t have time to ask any question so he just raised his hand and struck the fire; asking, “Brother, what kind of medicine did you take? How come this deathly poison did not affect you?”

    Guo Jing guessed it was because he drank the blood of Liang Ziwong’s ginseng-fed big snake; so he said, “Once I drank a big snake’s blood; perhaps that was why I can resist snake’s venom.”

    Zhou Botong pointed to the leather on the ground, “That is a very precious thing, absolutely can’t be destroyed …” he passed out before he could finish his sentence.

    At this time Guo Jing did not care about any precious object; he was busy sealing Zhou Botong’s ‘gong guo’ [palace crossing] acupoint, but it did not help. He tried to feel Zhou Botong’s calf; it was hot and swelling big.

    “Four weaving machines, the weaving of mandarin ducks desiring to fly together right away …” he heard Zhou Botong muttered indistinctly.

    “What did you say?” Guo Jing asked.

    “It’s a pity not yet old but the hair on the head has turned white; it's a pity …” Zhou Botong sighed.

    Guo Jing knew he was delirious from the illness; he was very anxious. He dashed out of the cave and climbed a tree outside, shouting loudly, “Rong’er! Rong’er! Island Master Huang! Island Master Huang! Help! Help!” But Peach Blossom Island encompassed an area of more than ten li’s across; it was a big island. Huang Yaoshi’s residence was located at the other side of the island. Guo Jing’s shout was in vain. The only response he heard was his own voice echoed from the mountain and valley ahead, “ … Island Master Huang! Help! Help …!”

    Guo Jing jumped down, he was at a loss. In that critical time an idea came flashing into his mind, “Snake’s venom cannot harm me, perhaps my blood contain some antidote to the snake’s poison.” Without wasting another second he fumbled about the ground, looking for the big green bowl that Zhou Botong used to drink tea everyday. He took his dagger and without hesitation sliced his own left arm and let his blood dripped into the bowl until the drip stopped by itself. He made another cut and again filled the bowl; then he propped Zhou Botong up on his knee. With his left hand he force Zhou Botong’s mouth open and with his right hand fed him the blood.

    Although he was young and his body strong, losing that much blood drained his energy. After feeding Zhou Botong he leaned against the cave wall and closed his eyes; he fell asleep not long afterward.

    He did not know how long had he slept, but he felt someone was tending his wound. He opened his eyes and saw Zhou Botong’s white hair and beard. Guo Jing was delighted. “You … you … are you well?” he called out.

    “I am well, brother. You have sacrificed yourself to save my life,” Zhou Botong said. “I am sure the grim reaper was greatly disappointed; I am not that easy to die.”

    Guo Jing looked at Zhou Botong’s calf and saw that the dark swelling was no longer there, only red inflammation which was not life threatening.

    That morning those two people sat to meditate and cultivate their inner strength, revitalizing their body. After lunch Zhou Botong asked Guo Jing the origin of the leather wrap. Guo Jing gathered his thoughts for a moment then started narrating how his Second Master at the Cloud Village had took some things from Mei Chaofeng; that dagger was among those things, and that the leather was wrapped on it. Afterward he also noticed the characters, but he did not know what they were, so he simply kept it in his pocket without giving it another thought.

    Zhou Botong mumbled and was lost in thought for half a day. “Big Brother, you said it was a very precious object, what is it?” Guo Jing asked.

    “I have to examine it before I can answer your question. I don’t know if it is the real thing, but since it came from Mei Chaofeng, I have a strong reason to believe it is,” Zhou Botong replied. Taking the leather he looked at it from top to bottom.

    Wang Chongyang won the book not for his personal gain but to avoid bloodshed among the Wulin people; therefore, he had strictly forbidden his disciples to ever learn any martial art from the book. Zhou Botong naturally did not dare to disobey his martial brother’s last words. But he recalled what Madame Huang said, ‘Simply taking a look without training it can not be considered disobeying.’ He had spent fifteen years in the cave without anything to do, so out of his boredom he had read the first volume of Nine Yin Manual in his possession. However, the first volume only contained the method to cultivate internal energy, as well as the basic of swordsmanship; there was no real profound martial art to defeat opponent. It was useless if one did not train the second volume.

    For these past ten years or so, Zhou Botong had read the first volume over and over again; he even made some guesses as to what the second volume contained. Therefore, as soon as he read the leather wrap, he immediately knew it was related to what he had already memorized.

    Zhou Botong lifted his eyes to the distant hill and was deep in thought. He loved martial art; he was obsessed with it. Now he had in his hand the world’s greatest and most profound martial arts manual. In all honesty he wanted very much to train what was in the book; not to build up his own reputation, not to seek vengeance, also not to show off his prowess or to rule the world; he was simply and purely curious to see how profound the martial arts in the book were.

    He recalled his martial brother’s story on Huang Shang compiling the 5481 chapters on the Everlasting Life Taoist Canon; then later on he spent forty years painstakingly studied various exquisite martial arts from various schools. It really was not a small matter. The Twin Killers of the Dark Wind only got hold of the second volume; and they only managed to learn two techniques among so many; yet they were able to create havoc in the Jianghu. What if they were able to learn the entire second volume? The result would be inconceivable. But martial brother’s last words could not be disobeyed. Zhou Botong pondered these things in his heart; he heaved a heavy sigh, put the leather inside his pocket, closed his eyes and fell asleep.

    After taking a good rest he took a tree branch to dig a hole in which he intended to bury both volumes together. He was digging and sighing at the same time. But suddenly an idea came to his mind, he exploded in laughter and cheers, “That’s right! That’s right! This way I can have both ways!” He was so ecstatic that Guo Jing was startled, “Big Brother, what both ways?” But Zhou Botong merely laughed without saying anything. It looked like he came out with a really great idea.

    “Brother Guo is not my Quan Zhen Sect’s disciple. I will teach him and let him train, then I will see the result,” he thought. “This way I can satisfy my curiosity and following martial brother’s dying wish at the same time.” He was going to tell this idea to Guo Jing when suddenly he had another thought, “From the way he speaks I gathered he detests the Nine Yin Manual. He thinks it was an evil martial art; but that was because the Twin Killers of the Dark Wind only looked at the second volume; they did not train the first volume, which would tell them how to cultivate the inner energy and build a foundation for the subsequent techniques. They only took the fiercest martial arts they could find, which resulted in monstrosity of their martial arts. I’d better not tell him anything; I’ll let him practice and let him know afterwards. That time he will have mastered the martial arts; even if he wants to get rid of it he won’t be able to do anything. Won’t that be interesting?”

    By nature he was mischievous; others scold him or get mad at him, he did not care; others love him or show favor to him, he did not give it any thought. As long as he could play or make practical jokes and have fun, he would be happy. Now that he had thought this idea he maintained his composure and with a straight face he told Guo Jing, “Xian Die [worthy brother], during my fifteen years inside this cave I have created not only the Vacant Fist and the Mutual Hands Combat techniques, but also some other techniques. Now that we don’t have anything to do, what do you say I teach you some more to pass the time away?”

    “There is nothing better,” Guo Jing said, “But Rong’er said she is thinking of a way to get us out of here …”

    “Has she found a way out for us?” Zhou Botong asked.

    “Not yet,” Guo Jing replied.

    “Then what’s wrong with learning new things while waiting for her?” Zhou Botong suggested.

    Guo Jing happily complied, “That will work. Big Brother’s martial arts must be marvelous.”

    Zhou Botong secretly laughed, “Don’t you be happy yet,” he thought, “You have fallen into my scheme!” So he immediately passed on the essence of the Nine Yin Manual; a little part at a time from his memory. Naturally Guo Jing did not understand it immediately, but Zhou Botong was very patient. He would repeat the lesson as many times as needed. As for the lessons from the second volume on the leather wrap, he would memorize it first when Guo Jing was not looking, and then he would passed it on when he had memorized it.

    The Nine Yin Manual contained various martial art techniques which were different from each other. Zhou Botong taught the theory but did not give any example on how to do it. He let Guo Jing to ponder and find out on his own. Afterward he would test the newly learned technique against his Quan Zhen Sect’s martial art.

    After several days he started to see the marvelous martial arts of the Nine Yin Manual which Guo Jing gradually mastered; however, Guo Jing was still completely unaware that he had learned the Nine Yin Manual. Zhou Botong was very happy; he would often smile in his sleep.

    In the meantime Huang Rong kept preparing food for Guo Jing although she did not show up personally. So Guo Jing’s heart became content and he managed to achieve quicker advancement.

    One day Zhou Botong was teaching the ‘jiu yin shen zhua’ [nine yin divine claw]; he instructed Guo Jing to use his ten fingers to practice against the stonewall. Guo Jing had practiced several times when suddenly he realized something. “Big Brother,” he said, “I think Mei Chaofeng also trained this kind of martial art, only she practiced against human. She would insert her five fingers inside somebody’s skull. It was very cruel.”

    Zhou Botong was startled, “That’s true,” he thought, “Mei Chaofeng did not know the first volume, so she followed the instruction literally. The second volume only mentioned ‘concentrate the energy on the five fingers, firmly attack the enemy’s head.’ She did not know that ‘the enemy’s head’ means the enemy’s vital point; not literally insert five fingers on the enemy’s skull. No wonder she thought she had to train using real skulls. This Nine Yin Manual contains lessons of spiritual purity, to chase evil spirits away, how could it teach anybody to practice this cruel and ferocious martial art? That old hag had strayed too far from the truth. Brother Guo Jing is already suspicious so I’d better not teach him that kind of martial art.” Thereupon he smiled and said, “Mei Chaofeng practiced demonical type of martial art; how can she be compared with our true orthodox school of martial arts? All right, we won’t train this ‘divine claw’ martial art for the time being, I will teach you some more of our heritage martial art.”

    Speaking thus he hatched another good idea, “I will teach him the first volume until he really comprehended everything. Then I will continue with the second volume. He will see the logical connection between the first and the second, so he won’t raise any suspicions anymore.” So he started to recite the theory from the first volume and told Guo Jing to memorize it.

    The lessons in the manual were very deep and profound, how could Guo Jing comprehend everything? Zhou Botong realized Guo Jing was slow, so he told him to recite it aloud. After dozens of time Guo Jing was able to memorize almost everything. Some of it he did not understand the meaning, but he memorize it anyway. Several days passed, Zhou Botong had passed most of the book so he told Guo Jing to start practicing his internal energy cultivation.

    Guo Jing thought the internal energy cultivation method was similar to the one he learned from Ma Yu, only this one was deeper and more difficult; but he credited that to the fact that Zhou Botong was Ma Yu’s martial uncle, so naturally his way of cultivating internal energy would be more profound than Ma Yu’s. He also recalled when Mei Chaofeng sat on his shoulder battling the enemies in the Zhao palace she asked him some questions about internal energy cultivation which he was able to answer, so he did not suspect anything at all. Although he frequently noticed Zhou Botong’s funny expression, like he was amused by something funny, he thought it was Zhou Botong’s natural disposition that loved to play jokes. Maybe he was thinking of some other amusing things.

    The manual contained more than one thousand gibberish characters without any clear meaning. These past several years Zhou Botong had repeatedly pondered about those words in the cave, but he still did not have any clue on what they mean. Nevertheless he passed them on to Guo Jing anyway. And when Guo Jing asked what they mean, Zhou Botong simply said, “This secret can’t be divulged right now, you will understand it when the time comes.”

    Memorizing these thousand or so words without understanding what they say was a hundred times more difficult than memorizing a regular book. It may not be too difficult for a sharp person; but although Guo Jing was slow, he had a strong determination. After more than a thousand times reciting he eventually was able to memorize everything.

    One early morning Guo Jing woke up and immediately practiced his martial art. When the breakfast came he noticed another unusual steamed bun. Without waiting to finish his meal he took the bun to the forest and immediately crushed the wax pill to get into the letter inside. Once he took a glance he could not help but feeling very anxious. The letter said, ‘Brother Jing, Western Poison had proposed Father to give my hand in marriage to his nephew, and Father answered …” The letter was not finished, indicating that she was writing it in a hurry. Looked like the word after ‘answered’ was ‘yes’.

    Guo Jing’s heart was frenetic; he waited impatiently for the old servant to clean up then he hastily showed the letter to Zhou Botong.

    “His father gave his consent, that’s good. It’s none of our business,” Zhou Botong said.

    “I can’t do that,” Guo Jing said, “Rong’er early on has promised to be with me. She must be insanely anxious right now.”

    “If you take a wife, there are some martial arts you cannot practice. It will be too bad,” Zhou Botong said. “I … I feel deep remorse that I didn’t listen to a good advice. Good Brother, listen to my advice: you’d better not to take a wife.”

    Guo Jing thought the more Zhou Botong spoke, the more unreasonable he became; that made Guo Jing more concerned than ever. Zhou Botong continued, “If I haven’t lost my virginity and could not practice my martial brother’s fiercest martial arts, how could Old Heretic Huang imprison me in this confounded hole? You see, your thought is focused on your wife, your heart is divided, I am sure today’s martial art practice will not get you anywhere. If you really marry Old Heretic Huang’s girl, ay! That will be too bad! If only I … ay! Never mind that. In short, if you let yourself get entangled in an affair with a woman, you won’t reach the pinnacle of perfection. Moreover, you will offend your friend and disobey your martial brother; yet it is very difficult for you to forget her. Wonder how she is … Anyway, don’t ever see her pretty face, don’t ever caress her beautiful body, and don’t teach her sealing acupoints technique, because then she would feel your body to find those acupoints. Those are great taboos … worse yet, don’t ever ask her to marry you ... ”

    To Guo Jing Zhou Botong was just mumbling illogically; it was troublesome. “Whether I marry her or not, we’ll sort that out later,” he said, “Big Brother, we have to help her now.”

    Zhou Botong laughed, “Western Poison is very evil, his nephew must not be different. Old Heretic Huang’s daughter is pretty, but she must have the same character as Old Heretic Huang: perverted mind. Let Western Poison’s nephew take her to be his wife; let them both suffer, let their martial arts not going anywhere; that way we kill two birds with one stone. No, more precisely: lose two birds with one stone. Nothing good is found in either one of them. Don’t you think this is a good idea?”

    Guo Jing sighed and walked to the woods, sat on the ground. His heart was jumbled, “Even if I have to die on the Peach Blossom Island’s pathways, I must find her,” he thought.

    Once his mind was set he leaped up to start moving. At that moment he heard two loud calls from the sky, and two white shadows swooping down toward him. They were the white condors Tuolei brought from the desert. Guo Jing was delighted; he extended his arm to let the condors perch. Only then did he see a bamboo tube tied up on the male condor’s foot. Hastily he loosened it and found a letter inside. It was Huang Rong writing to him. She told him the latest development; how the Western Poison would arrive in a few days to arrange the betrothal; how her father had strictly guarded her, not letting her to get out of her quarter even for half a step, including preparing food for Guo Jing. In the end she said that if she could not get away from all these, she would commit suicide to show her love to him. She also told Guo Jing that the pathways on the island were dangerous: they were mysterious and full of booby traps, so she warned Guo Jing not to try to find her.

    Guo Jing was dumbstruck. He pulled out his dagger and carved these six characters on the bamboo tube, ‘yi qi huo, yi qi si’ [live together, die together]; then he tied the tube back on the condor’s leg and raised his arm pointing north. The condors circled him several times then they flew north.

    Once he made decision his heart was calm. He walked back to Zhou Botong, sat on the ground in front of him and listened to him imparted more lessons in martial arts.

    The next ten days passed without any word from Huang Rong. Guo Jing had managed to memorize the first volume in its entirety. Zhou Botong was secretly delighted; he proceeded with reciting the second volume for Guo Jing to memorize. Again, he did not give any example or instruction on how to train them, for fear that Guo Jing would see through his scheme. Guo Jing diligently studied and committed each and every one of them in his memory. Several hundreds times of reciting later he had both the first and second volumes down pat in his mind; including all the gibberish words such as ‘ang li na de’ and ‘ha hu wen bo ying’ [translator’s note: these characters don’t make logical sentences, so I leave them as they are]. He did not miss a single word.

    Listening to Guo Jing Zhou Botong’s heart was full of admiration. “This dumb kid can actually memorize the entire dumb martial arts manual. Old Urchin salutes him.”

    That night the sky was clear, the sea was calm, reflecting the bright silver moon shining over the island. Zhou Botong just finished checking on Guo Jing’s progress. He found out that Guo Jing had made tremendous advancement in his martial art without even realizing it. He was very happy, thinking that the manual really did contain profound martial arts techniques. He thought that if he were to train with the book, he would eventually surpassed Huang Yaoshi and Hong Qigong.

    Two people were sitting on the ground, idly chatting when suddenly they heard rustling noise coming from a distance. Zhou Botong jumped in alarm, “Snake!” he cried. He just closed his mouth when the hissing sound reached their ears. It sounded like there were a flock of snakes coming their way.

    Zhou Botong’s face turned pale, he dashed into cave. He was a courageous man, his martial art might be superb, but not when facing snakes. Guo Jing immediately pushed some big rocks and covered the cave entrance.

    “Big Brother,” he said, “I’ll go take a look. Don’t come out.”

    “Be careful and return quickly,” Zhou Botong answered. “I’ll say you don’t need to take a look. What’s so attractive about vipers? How … how can there be so many snakes in this island? I have lived here for fifteen years and haven’t seen a single snake. Look how bad this island has become! Old Heretic Huang always boasts his vast knowledge and resourcefulness but look how dirty this Peach Blossom Island has become. Sea turtles, vipers, centipedes, and all kind of creepy-crawlies are coming over.”

    End of Chapter 17.
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    Last edited by foxs; 04-17-07 at 03:49 PM.

  3. #43
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 18 – The Three Tests

    Huang Yaoshi kept blowing the flute; Guo Jing raised his hand and struck the bamboo stick between two beats of the music. He struck again, still between the two music beats. He had struck his bamboo stick four times, all in the wrong places.

    Chapter 18 – The Three Tests
    (Translated by Foxs, Edited by Eliza Bennet)

    Guo Jing went toward where the snake noise came from. After dozens of steps under the bright moonlight he saw millions of green snakes crawling together as a flock. There were more than ten men wearing white clothes carrying long poles herding the snakes.

    Guo Jing gulped; he was greatly surprised, “What are these people with so many snakes doing here? Could it be that Western Poison has arrived?” Without regard to his own safety he came nearer, sneaked behind trees and followed them heading north. Luckily the men who herd the snakes did not have high level of martial arts, otherwise he would be detected.

    A deaf and mute servant of Huang Yaoshi was seen in front of the herd, showing the way. They walked through winding path for several li’s through the forest and crossing a small hill before finally arrived at a big stretch of grass meadow. Toward the north of the meadow was a bamboo forest. As soon as they were all on this meadow, the men in whites blew their whistles and the snakes stopped. They all stayed on the ground with their heads raised high in the air.

    Guo Jing knew there must be something in the bamboo groove, he wanted to take a look; but he did not dare to reveal his presence by walking across the meadow. So he stealthily walked to the east and then circled back north, keeping his ears open at all times; but the forest was quiet. Finally he arrived and immediately entered the thick green bamboo groove.

    Inside the groove there was a small pavilion built from bamboo. Under the bright moonlight Guo Jing could see across the pavilion opening was written these three characters, ‘ji cui ting’ [old jade-green pavilion]. While on the either sides hung two couplets: ‘tao hua ying li fei shen jian’ [under the shadow of peach blossom divine sword flew] and ‘bi hai chao sheng an yu xiao’ [with the jade-colored ocean tide jade flute arose].

    Several bamboo chairs were placed inside the pavilion; the chairs looked rustic and old. Under the bright moonlight the bamboo looked longer green but smooth and shiny yellow. The pavilion was built in between two big pine trees. Their trunks and branches spread out looked like dragons lurking in the dark. The trees were several hundreds years old. The dark green bamboo surrounding, the bamboo pavilion, the trees, all gave a feeling of serenity and beauty.

    Guo Jing looked back and saw the snakes were still staying in row after row on the meadow. Only now did he realize that the snakes were not only green snakes, but other types of snakes as well: there were rattlesnakes, golden-scaled snakes, black snakes, all kinds of venomous snakes. The snakes kept moving their heads, which made the meadow rippled like ocean waves. The snakes’ tongues flicked in and out their mouths, looked like tiny flames dancing chaotically.

    The snakes’ shepherds divided the flock to open up a pathway right in the middle. Dozens of females dressed in white walking by carrying red lanterns. Several zhang’s [1 zhang is approximately 10 feet/3 meters] behind them two men were walking slowly. The first was wearing a white satin long gown, embroidered by gold threads; with a folding fan in his hand. It was none other than Ouyang Ke.

    Arriving at the bamboo groove he said in a loud and clear voice, “Mr. Ouyang from the western region pays a visit to the Peach Blossom Island Master Huang.”

    “It really is Western Poison,” Guo Jing thought, “No wonder all these pomp and fanfares.” He turned his eyes to the man beside Ouyang Ke. He was big and tall, also wearing white clothes; but because the light was coming from behind him, Guo Jing could not see his face clearly.

    Those two people stood there waiting; out from the bamboo grove came out two people. Guo Jing’s heart leaped to his throat, he almost cried out in alarm; they were none other than Huang Yaoshi holding Huang Rong’s hand to welcome the guests.

    Ouyang Feng rushed forward and raised his hands to salute. Huang Yaoshi reciprocated by cupping his fists. Ouyang Ke actually knelt down where he was, kowtowed four times and said, “Son-in-law kowtowed to the Honorable Father-in-law; wishes Honorable Father-in-law’s peace and prosperity.”

    “Enough!” Huang Yaoshi said, extending his hand to raise him up. Guo Jing could hear clearly what these two people were saying; his heart was tumultuous, he didn’t know what to do.

    Ouyang Ke had anticipated that Huang Yaoshi would certainly test his martial art, so he had been prepared early on; even when kowtowing he was fully alert. But suddenly he felt his own right hand moved toward his left hand and pushed him upward. He stumbled and almost fell down face to the ground, only by exerting his energy was he finally able to stay standing, but his body was still staggering. “Aiyo!” he cried out. Ouyang Feng immediately stretched the staff in his hand and tapped gently on his nephew’s back. Ouyang Ke took advantage of this force and steadied himself.

    Ouyang Feng smiled. “Good!” he said, “Yao Xiong [Brother Yao, translator’s note: different character from Huang Rong’s ‘Brother Jing’ – ‘Jing Gege’], was that your way of greeting your son-in-law in your first meeting, by making him do somersault?”

    Huang Yaoshi sneered. “Once he helped others bullying my blind disciple; other time he scared her with his snakes. I want to see what ability he possesses.”

    Ouyang Feng laughed. “That was children’s small misunderstanding, Yao Xiong, please don’t mind him. This child of mine, is he worthy enough to be your precious daughter’s match?” He turned toward Huang Rong to check her out, clucking his tongue in admiration he continued, “Elder Brother [translator’s note: this time he used ‘lao ge’ – ‘old elder brother’] Huang, by having this beautiful young lady, your life is lacking nothing.”

    He groped his pocket and produced a small embroidered box. He opened the box and showed a pigeon-egg-size sphere. The sphere shone brightly in the dark, dazzling to the eyes. He turned to Huang Rong and smiled, “This is the rhinoceros’ dragon pill; western region’s rare animal. I further refined it with some other medicinal substances. When you wear it, you won’t be affected by hundreds types of poison. It is one of its kinds in the whole wide world. Later on you will become my nephew’s wife; you won’t be afraid of your uncle’s venomous snakes and insects. This dragon pill’s usefulness is not small, but it cannot be regarded as the most precious treasure in the world. Your father has traversed the world, what kind of treasure he has not seen? This is only a countryman-from-a-remote-area’s first meeting’s gift. I am afraid he would laugh at it.” Then he presented to box to Huang Rong.

    Ouyang Feng was an expert in using poison; by giving this precious poison repellent as a dowry he showed his sincerity and was hoping to win Huang Yaoshi’s heart.

    Guo Jing saw everything. “Rong’er has always been good to me; she won’t change her mind. Surely she doesn’t want first meeting gift of yours,” he thought. But unexpectedly he heard Huang Rong said with a smile, “Many thanks to you!” and extended her hand to receive it.

    As soon as Ouyang Ke saw Huang Rong’s snow-white skin and face as pretty as a flower his soul had already been sold; now that she was smiling at him his whole body melted, he thought, “Since her father had given her hand in marriage to me, naturally her attitude toward me is not the same as it was before.” He felt smug. But suddenly some metal flashed toward him. “Not good!” he cried, and immediately bent his body backward using ‘tie ban qiao’ [iron bridge] stance.

    “What are you doing?” Huang Yaoshi scolded his daughter. His left sleeve flicked and struck down the steel needle shot from Huang Rong’s hand, while with the back of his right hand he pushed her shoulder back.

    “Wah!” Huang Rong bawled. “Father, you’d better kill me,” she cried. “I’d rather die than marrying this bad thing.”

    Ouyang Feng thrust the dragon pill into Huang Rong’s hand while his other hand gently fended off Huang Yaoshi’s palm. “Your daughter is just testing my nephew’s martial art, why are you so serious?” Because he was striking his own daughter, naturally Huang Yaoshi’s palm did not carry a lot of strength. Ouyang Feng’s hand also did not carry a lot of force.

    Ouyang Ke had straightened his body; he felt pain in his left chest, so he knew he was being hit by one or two needles. However, he was proud and did not want anybody else to know, so he kept a straight face. Only he was embarrassed. “She did not want to marry me after all,” he thought.

    Ouyang Feng smiled, “Yao Xiong, since our last meeting at the Mount Hua, we haven’t seen each other for more than twenty years. Now that you have accepted my nephew’s proposal whenever you have a business for me to do, your brother will not dare to refuse.”

    “Who dares to provoke you, Old Poison?” Huang Yaoshi replied. “You have stayed in the western region for twenty years, what new fierce martial arts have you mastered? Come, let me see.”

    As soon as Huang Rong heard her father mentioned ‘new martial arts’ her interest was piqued. She wiped her tears away and leaned to his father. Her eyes looked closely to Ouyang Feng. She saw a curving black staff in his hand; looked like it was made of steel. The head of the staff resembled a man’s face; with its mouth open showing two rows of sharp teeth. The face looked ugly and fearsome. What was more amazing was there were a couple of silver-scaled snakes slithering up and down along the staff.

    Ouyang Feng smiled. “I was inferior to you then, and now that I have wasted more than twenty years, I certainly won’t be your match,” he said. “We become in-laws now. I am thinking of staying in the Peach Blossom Island for a few days and asking your advice.”

    When Ouyang Feng sent an envoy to propose for his nephew Huang Yaoshi thought that Ouyang Feng was one of only a handful of people whose martial art could be compared to his own. Ouyang Feng was also an educated man, so must be his nephew. He knew his own daughter was stubborn and strong-willed. If she married just anybody, he was afraid she would bully her husband. Besides, he loathed that Guo kid whom his daughter liked. Ouyang Ke was not only highly educated, but was highly skilled in martial arts as well; not too many young men would hold a candle against him. That was the reason he accepted their proposal. But now he listened to Ouyang Feng’s sweet mouth, he could not help but feel suspicious. He knew Ouyang Feng was crafty and sly; Ouyang Feng would not easily admit defeat to others in term of martial arts. His Toad Stance had been neutralized by Wang Chongyang’s Solitary Yang Finger; could it be that he had recovered completely? So Huang Yaoshi took out his jade flute and said, “Honored guests come from afar, Little Brother is going to play a tune to entertain you. Please sit down and leisurely listen to this song.”

    Ouyang Feng knew Huang Yaoshi was going to play the [jade-colored tidal wave song] to test his internal strength; so he showed a faint smile and waved his left hand. Immediately the thirty-two white-dressed lantern-carrier maidens step forward and kneeled before them. Ouyang Feng smiled and said, “Your brother has acquired these thirty-two maidens from various regions in the west. Please accept them as my gift to an old friend. They are trained in singing and dancing; yet they came from uncultured places; of course they can’t be compared to Jiangnan’s beautiful maidens.”

    “Your Brother does not enjoy this kind of gift very much,” Huang Yaoshi replied, “Since my wife passed away, I regard the world’s beautiful women as dung. I do not dare to accept Brother Feng’s generous gift.”

    “What’s the harm in some entertainment to pass the time away?” Ouyang Feng laughed.

    Huang Rong noticed that these women’s skin was fair, lighter in color. Their statures were tall, some had blond hair and blue eyes; their noses were high and their eyes deep; totally different from the women from the Central Plains. But they were all beautiful, carrying a seductive look that would attract casual onlookers.

    Ouyang Feng clapped his hands three times and eight women took out various musical instruments. They started playing the instruments while the other twenty-four women started dancing to their tune. The musical instruments as well as the tune were different from the ones commonly played in the Central Plains; they sounded weird in Huang Rong’s ears.

    She saw the front row women bent down, turning to the left and then back to the right; their bodies were very supple. The next rows did the same, row after row dancing in succession, resembled a large snake. After a while each woman extended both their hands apart; from the tip of their left hand to the tip of their right hand, their body swayed following the tune; reminding her of snakes slithering on the ground.

    Huang Rong remembered Ouyang Ke’s [spirit snake fist]; so she cast a glance toward him, only to see that Ouyang Ke was closely staring at her. She hated him to the guts and wished that her father would not intercept her needles. She would find another way of taking his life that even if her father would force her to marry, the person was already dead. It was called the ‘remove-firewood-from-under-the-pot’ tactic. Having this thought she was happy and a smile broke on her face. Ouyang Ke saw her sudden smile, and thought that she was smiling to him. He was elated that he momentarily forgot the pain in his chest.

    By now the dance movements of the women were getting more intense. Their bodies moved erotically, their hands caressed their own buttocks, moving upward to their breasts, and unfastening their dress they showed their upper bodies and posed in various postures.

    The men who shepherd the snakes have early on closed their eyes tight; they did not dare to look. Even then their minds were disturbed.

    Huang Yaoshi simply smiled and put the flute on his lips he started playing a tune. The women’s bodies suddenly shook; their dance movements were chaotic. A few bars later both their music and their dance were following the flute’s sound.

    Ouyang Feng knew something was amiss; he clapped his hands and a maiden stepped forward carrying an iron ‘zheng’ [zither?]. Ouyang Ke started to feel his heart beating faster. The eight women playing the musical instruments have early on lost their control and totally following the flute’s tune. The men in charge of the snakes jumped up and down like crazy among the snakes.

    Ouyang Feng played a few notes on his zither; producing metallic sound like an iron horse charging toward the enemy; in contrast with the soft murmuring sound of the flute. Huang Yaoshi smiled and said, “Come, come! Let us play a duet.” As soon as the flute left his lips, everybody was relieved from their hysterical condition.

    “Everybody stop your ears! Island Master Huang and I will play some music,” Ouyang Feng shouted. The people who came with him knew the song would not be a small matter; immediately they took anything, including ripping their own clothes, that could be used to cover their ears. Layer after layer they put cotton and pieces of clothes over their ears; yet they were still afraid the sound would penetrate that barrier. Ouyang Ke also took some cotton balls to stop his ears.

    “My father plays his flute for your listening enjoyment; that was a big honor to you. Yet all of you cover your ears. That is so rude! You come to the Peach Blossom Island as guests, yet you dare to insult the host!” Huang Rong mocked.

    “Don’t talk about rudeness here!” Huang Yaoshi scolded her. “They who do not dare to listen to my flute actually have more sense. They had learned their lessons … ha … ha … Your uncle’s iron zither’s skill is considered best in the world; and you dare to listen to him? Do you want to test yourself?” Then he took a silk handkerchief from his pocket, tore it in halves and told Huang Rong to cover up her ears with them.

    Guo Jing was curious about the world’s best iron zither; he wanted to hear Ouyang Feng’s fierce method, so the came even closer a few more steps.

    Huang Yaoshi turned to Ouyang Feng, “Your snakes cannot cover up their ears.” Then he turned his head toward his own deaf and mute servant. He made some gesture and the servant nodded his head. The servant then signaled the snakes’ shepherds to go away by waving his hand. These men had been waiting for an opportunity to get out of that place; as soon as Ouyang Feng nodded his head in approval, they hurriedly drove the snakes away; with the deaf and mute servant showing the way.

    Ouyang Feng said, “Your Brother’s martial art is not good enough. I must ask Yao Xiong to reduce your strength by thirty percent.” He sat cross-legged on a big rock with the zither on his lap and immediately used his right fingers to pluck some strings.

    The original the ‘qin zheng’ [zither from the short-lived Qin dynasty (221-207BC)] produced sad and shrill sound. This western region iron zither produced an even more intensely sorrowful noise. Guo Jing did not understand music, but the zither sound had affected his feeling. The louder the zither sound, the harder his heart beat. The quicker the zither sound, the quicker his breath had become. He felt his heart was thumping really bad, almost jumping out of his throat. It was really an uneasy feeling. After listening some more time he felt his heart beat intensified; and he struggled hard to keep his consciousness. “If this zither is getting harder and harder, how could I not getting killed by its sound?” he thought; and immediately retreated a few steps back and circulated his ‘qi’ according to the Quan Zhen’s method. After a while he managed to calm his heart and the zither sound did not adversely affect him too much.

    The zither sound was getting more intense and in Guo Jing’s mind it resembled the metallic armor of a cavalry charging full steam ahead. A thin sound of jade flute appeared riding smoothly in the midst of the clamoring sound of the zither. Guo Jing was trembling; his face was red hot and he was sweating profusely. Quickly he circulated his internal energy trying to calm himself.

    Although the zither was loud, it was not able to drown the flute. Two distinct sounds intermingled, creating an eerie melody. The iron zither screamed like an ape of the Wuxia Gorge or a ghost cry in the dead of the night; while the flute sang like a phoenix from the Kunlun mountains or a soft murmur of a woman inside her chamber. One resembled a heartrending cry of a mournful soul; while the other carried a feeling of one leisurely wandered through the wilderness. One high, the other low; one rushing forward, the other leisurely retreating; no one overpowered the other.

    Initially Huang Rong watched these two played music with smile on her face; but afterwards she saw their expressions were getting serious. Her father stood up and started to walk around while blowing his flute. His steps were actually following the ‘ba gua’ [Eight Diagram]. She knew this was the footwork her father followed when he was cultivating his internal energy; showing her how fierce the battle was for her father that he was forced to use up all his strength. Turning toward Ouyang Feng she did not see anything better. Thick steam was coming out from the top of his head; his sleeves were fluttering following his hands’ movement plucking the strings; creating gusts of wind blowing everywhere. His face looked seriously focused on his zither playing; obviously he did not dare to act careless.

    In the bamboo groove Guo Jing listened to the music attentively. He was pondering in his heart what had these two instruments – the iron zither and the jade flute, had to do with martial arts? They sounded so evil to him; how could the sound affect other people’s heart and mind? At first he was too busy circulating his ‘qi’ and calming his heart and mind, but gradually he was able to control himself and was able to follow the movements of flute and zither sounds. A little while later he started to realize that those two sounds were actually battling each other. When one sound was on the offensive, the other took a defensive position; sometimes one was attacking the other furiously, while the other blocking the attack while waiting for a good opportunity to counterattack; really it was no different than a battle between two martial arts masters. After pondering some more time suddenly it dawned on him, “That’s right! The Island Master Huang is having an internal energy match against Ouyang Feng.” Because he wanted to understand better, he closed his eyes but open wide his ears with full attention.

    He began to hear the two sounds were alternately gaining victory or suffering defeat. Being music illiterate the sound of music would not affect his spirit; but he did feel openness in his heart, like he was looking at something bright. His mind wandered back to when Zhou Botong taught him the 72-stance Vacant Fist; which stemmed from the words ‘empty/vacant/open’ and ‘clear/bright’. With his mind open wide and clear he can ‘see’ every detail in the internal energy fight between Huang Yaoshi and Ouyang Feng clearly. True, his internal energy was still inferior compared to those two experts, but he had improved greatly without even realizing it; besides, as a spectator he could see better than those two who were involved in the battle. He often wondered why Zhou Botong could not resist the flute sound, while with an inferior strength he could. He did not know that Zhou Botong carried a heavy guilt inside his heart because of what he did in the past. So it was not purely because of one’s internal energy strength one could withstand the flute sound.

    By now Guo Jing heard Ouyang Feng’s zither was crushing Huang Yaoshi’s flute with a force as powerful as a thunderbolt. The flute evaded to the east and dodged to the west, and as soon as there was a gap in the zither sound, the flute would counterattack immediately. After a while the zither gradually slowed down, while the flute was getting more intense. Suddenly Guo Jing remembered the theory behind the Vacant Fist which he memorized. It said, ‘hard must not last long soft must not defend long’. He thought, “Not too long the zither will launch a counterattack.” And sure enough, when the flute was slacking a little bit, abruptly a clank sound was heard, the iron zither again assuming the offensive position.

    Guo Jing had memorized the theory well, but his perception was still low. Zhou Botong did not explain the meaning of the words he passed on to Guo Jing. Perhaps his overall comprehension was only about ten percent. Now listening to the battle in music between Huang Yaoshi and Ouyang Feng he started to understand who was doing what; it agreed with the theory he had memorized so well. Secretly he was delighted. The Nine Yin Manual contained some very advance theories of martial arts. If it were left to him to dissect the theory even with somebody’s assistance he would probably spend more than a year just to understand what it said. But now listening to two sounds collided he kept comparing the battle to the theory. However, he saw some discrepancies between the theory and the real battle situation; but he attributed those discrepancies to his own shallow comprehension. For example, there were several occasions where Huang Yaoshi was obviously gaining an upper hand; as long as he kept the flute sound steady Ouyang Feng would not be able to withstand. But Ouyang Feng also missed several opportunities to be exploited to his advantage. Guo Jing initially thought they were being modest and backed off, but as he listened more; it didn’t appear to be the case.

    His intelligence might be low, but after those two people repeatedly made the similar mistakes he began to realize that the flute and zither had a lot of holes in their defense. After listening for a little bit more a thought came into his mind, “Compared to the theory of Vacant Fist, their offense and defense have flaws and deficiencies; could it be that the theory passed on by Brother Zhou is better than both Island Master Huang’s and Western Poison’s martial arts?” But then he changed his mind, “Nah! It couldn’t be! If Brother Zhou’s martial art is really better than Island Master Huang’s, how could those two fight countless battles for fifteen years and he is still stranded inside that cave?”

    He racked his brain for a long time without any conclusion when he heard the flute sound was climbing higher and higher until if he went higher still, Ouyang Feng’s defeat would be decided. But the flute was not able to climb any higher; it had reached the peak. Guo Jing stifled his laugh, “I was really dumb! There is a limit to what one can do. Among the desires of the heart, nine out of ten cannot be achieved. I know that if my fist could generate a ten thousand catties force, I will be able to crush my opponent to dust; but how can my fist develop those ten thousand catties of force? Seventh Master often said, ‘Looking at others carry a burden on a pole easily does not mean we can do the same without breaking our back.’ If merely carrying a burden follows this principle, how much more does martial art?”

    The sound of music was increasingly fiercer; and it sounded like those two were engaged in a hand-to-hand combat, or fighting in a very close distance using naked blades. Victory or defeat would be decided very soon. Guo Jing was worried for Huang Yaoshi when suddenly he heard a long and loud whistle coming from the direction of the sea.

    Both Huang Yaoshi and Ouyang Feng were startled; the flute and the zither were slowing down. The whistle came nearer and nearer. It sounded like someone was sailing on a boat coming toward the island. Ouyang Feng moved his hand and stroked two metallic notes, ‘clank, clank.’ The distant whistle went higher to overpower the zither. Not too long afterwards Huang Yaoshi’s flute joined in. Sometimes the flute was fighting the long whistle; sometimes it entangled the zither in a close fight. The distinct sounds were fighting each other.

    Guo Jing had played ‘four-people combat’ with Zhou Botong before, so he did not have any problem dividing his mind to distinguish different sounds. He knew a senior with a high level of martial art had arrived.

    By then the person uttering the long whistle had arrived at the forest. The whistle turned high and low; sometimes sounded like a dragon’s cry or a lion’s roar; sometimes resembled a wolf’s howl or an owl’s cry; but it also sounded like a strong wind blowing through the forest which suddenly turned into a gentle rain showering the flowers. It was constantly changing.

    The flute sound was clear and bright, the zither sound was intensely mournful, yet the combination of the three made a mysteriously wonderful sound; did not sound bad at all. Three different sounds entangled each other in a close fight.

    Guo Jing was amazed and could not help exclaiming, “Wonderful!” But once he closed his mouth he realized he had made a mistake. He scurried away, but it was too late! A green shadow flashed by and Huang Yaoshi was standing in front of him. The three sounds were not heard anymore. Huang Yaoshi lowered his head and said, “Good Boy, come with me.”

    Guo Jing did not have any choice but stood up and meekly greeted, “Island Master Huang.” With the hair on his back raised up he followed Huang Yaoshi walking toward the bamboo pavilion.

    Huang Rong still had her ears covered with silk, so she did not hear Guo Jing’s exclamation. Now suddenly Guo Jing appeared she was pleasantly surprised. “Brother Jing! You have finally come ...” she called out. She was joyous, yet sad at the same time; before she could finish tears had already flowed down her cheeks. She rushed forward and threw herself into Guo Jing’s bosom. Guo Jing opened his arms and embraced her tightly.

    Since Guo Jing appeared, Ouyang Ke had been annoyed; now he saw how intimate Huang Rong with Guo Jing, his heart was burning hot with hatred. With a gust of wind his fist flew toward Guo Jing’s face. “Stinky kid! You are also here!” he shouted.

    He thought his martial art skill was higher than Guo Jing’s; furthermore, his attack could be considered sneak attack, Guo Jing was unprepared, so he thought he might break Guo Jing’s nose thus lashing out his hatred. But not in his wildest imagination that Guo Jing now was not the same as Guo Jing then, when they fought each other at the Baoying ancestral hall. Guo Jing saw a fist coming by, he leaned to side to evade, then his left hand launched ‘hong jian yu liu’ [wild geese rising from the shore] while his right hand launched the Proud Dragon Repents; both from the 18-Dragon Subduing Palms.

    The 18-Dragon Subduing Palms were unparalleled in the world; one move was very difficult to withstand, much less two stances at the same time. How could Ouyang Ke face them? Huang Yaoshi and Ouyang Feng were actually standing close-by; but they did not anticipate Guo Jing’s counterattack. Both were startled yet were unable to do anything.

    Ouyang Ke felt his opponent’s left hand was threatening his right side; he knew this 18-Dragon Subduing Palms were very fierce; he could evade but could not parry. Quickly he leaned his body to the left exactly at the same time Guo Jing’s right hand’s Proud Dragon Repents came by. ‘Crack!’ his upper torso was squarely hit; and one of his ribs was broken.

    Actually he was aware of the fierceness of the opponent’s attack; when Guo Jing’s hand arrived he had already focused his energy on his chest to protect his heart and lungs against the incoming force. Furthermore, as soon as he was hit he tried to lessen the injury by trying to jump up. But the incredible force from Guo Jing’s hand had added to his own energy and sent him flying toward the bamboo pavilion’s roof. He managed to land standing up albeit staggering badly; then slowly slid down. He was awfully embarrassed and his chest was hurt badly. Slowly he walked back.

    Guo Jing’s counterattack had surprised both the Eastern Heretic and the Western Poison; gave Ouyang Ke a lesson he wouldn’t forget easily; and acquired Huang Rong’s accolade. She clapped her hands and bounced up and down with great happiness. Guo Jing himself did not realize that his martial art had improved tremendously. He simply thought that Ouyang Ke was being careless and was caught off guard. He was afraid Ouyang Ke would launch a counterattack; so he withdrew two steps waiting for the opponent with rapt attention.

    Ouyang Feng glared angrily toward Guo Jing; loudly he called out, “Old Beggar Hong! Congratulations on your fine disciple!”

    Huang Rong had taken out the silk handkerchief from her ears; hearing Ouyang Feng’s loud call she knew Hong Qigong had arrived. Truly a savior sent from heaven. She rushed outside the bamboo groove and loudly called out, “Shifu! Shifu! [Master]”

    Huang Yaoshi was astounded, “Why did Rong’er call the Old Beggar Hong ‘shifu’?” Right at that moment Hong Qigong appeared with a scarlet wine gourd on his back, a bamboo staff in his right hand, Huang Rong’s hand in his left, smiling broadly entering the bamboo groove.

    Huang Yaoshi and Hong Qigong greeted each other and exchanged some pleasantries. Then Huang Yaoshi turned to his daughter and asked, “Rong’er, what did you call Qigong?”

    “Senior Qigong has taken me to be his disciple,” replied Huang Rong.

    Huang Yaoshi was delighted, he turned to Hong Qigong, “Qi Xiong had approved my daughter; your brother appreciates that very much. Only my daughter is mischievous, I do hope Qi Xiong would teach her some lessons.” Speaking thus he raised his hands in respect.

    Hong Qigong smiled. “Yao Xiong’s own martial arts are both broad and profound; this girl won’t be able to learn them all in her lifetime; why would I need to come meddling? But since you asked, the reason I took her as my disciple was so that I can eat for free. She prepared a lot of good food for me. So you don’t need to thank me,” he said. Huang Yaoshi and Hong Qigong both laughed heartily.

    Huang Rong pointed her finger to Ouyang Ke and said, “Father, this bad man bullied me. If not for Senior Qigong looking after me on your behalf, you won’t see Rong’er early on.”

    “Nonsense!” Huang Yaoshi reprimanded her, “How could he bully you for no reason?”

    “If you don’t believe me, ask him!” Huang Rong replied. Turning her head toward Ouyang Ke she said, “You have to make an oath that if you answer my father’s question with half-a-word of lies there will come a day when the viper on your uncle’s staff will bite you to death.”

    Listening to her words Ouyang Feng and Ouyang Ke’s faces changed. Ouyang Feng had spent more than ten years to raise the vipers on his staff. They were breed from various venomous snakes so the poison was really-really lethal. Ouyang Feng used to punish his rebellious disciples or his enemy by a bite of these snakes. Once the poison entered somebody’s system, the victim would suffer a terrible itch all over, followed by a violent death. Ouyang Feng did have the antidote; but after the poison entered one’s body, even if the antidote could save one’s life, one would lose all one’s martial arts and would forever live as a disabled person. Huang Rong of course did not know this; she simply felt that the snakes entwined on Ouyang Feng’s staff were peculiar so she capriciously mentioned them. Who would have thought that she had touched exactly the taboo matter of Western Poison, both the uncle and the nephew.

    “Honorable Father-in-law’s question, I do not dare not to answer truthfully,” Ouyang Ke promised.

    “You are speaking nonsense again!” Huang Rong spat. “You made me want to slap your ears really good. Let me ask you this: Did you or did you not see me in Beijing at the Zhao Palace?”

    Ouyang Ke broke his rib; his chest was hit by her steel needle, his pain was unbearable; but he was too proud to show his own weakness in front of others; so far he gritted his teeth and was able to speak, but this time the pain was getting worse; resulted in cold sweat on his forehead. So even though he wanted to answer Huang Rong, he did not dare to open his mouth. All he could do was nodded in affirmative.

    “At that time you, along with Sha Tongtian, Peng Lianhu, Liang Ziweng, and Monk Lingzhi had surrounded and bullied me, had you not?” Huang Rong asked again.

    Ouyang Ke wanted to defend himself by explaining that he was not in cohort with those people to bully her, but all he could say was, “I … I did not collaborate with them …” and his chest was so painful that he could not say another word.

    “Very well,” Huang Rong said, “I don’t need your answer; all you need to do is just nod or shake your head in reply to my question. Let me ask you this: Sha Tongtian, Peng Lianhu, Liang Ziweng, and Monk Lingzhi meant to harm me, did they not?” Ouyang Ke nodded.

    “They wanted to capture me, but failed miserably. Then you showed up and went into action, did you not?” Huang Rong asked again. Ouyang Ke had no choice but nodded his head again.

    “At that time I was alone inside the Zhao Palace, I had nobody to help me; my situation was precarious. My own father did not know my whereabouts, so even if he wanted to rescue me, he would not be able to do so. Isn’t that right?” Huang Rong continued. Ouyang Ke knew she was trying to win sympathy from her father and inciting her father’s hatred toward him; however, what she said was a fact, so he had no choice but nodded his head again.

    Huang Rong reached out to her father’s hand and said, “Father, look! You don’t love Rong’er anymore. If Mother were still alive you wouldn’t treat me like this …” Huang Yaoshi heard her mentioning his beloved wife and he felt a stab of pain in his heart. He stretched his left arm and hugged her.

    Ouyang Feng was smart; he felt something was not right, so before Huang Rong could ask another question he interrupted her. “Miss Huang,” he asked, “Those well-known martial art characters wanted to capture you; but you have mastered your family’s peerless skill in wushu; they could not overcome you, could they?” Huang Rong nodded her head and smiled sweetly. Huang Yaoshi listened to Ouyang Feng praising his family’s martial art showed a faint smile.

    Turning to Huang Yaoshi, Ouyang Feng said, “Yao Xiong, ever since my nephew saw your daughter his heart was captivated by her beauty and excellent skills. He sent a pigeon to summon me, so that from the White Camel Mountain I came thousands of miles away crossing the Central Plains and the sea to the Peach Blossom Island to ask your daughter’s hand in marriage. You have considered my haste and, although unworthy, have received me well. Other than Yao Xiong, there is no one in this present age that would do such thing.”

    “I do not dare to accept such compliment,” Huang Yaoshi smiled. He thought that with his high position, Ouyang Feng was still willing to travel a long way to see him; he felt honored.

    Ouyang Feng then turned to Hong Qigong and said, “Qi Xiong, we uncle and nephew admire Peach Blossom Island’s martial art; but you; how could you belittle us by bullying the juniors? If my nephew was unfortunate, he would have died under your unique skill of steel needle rain.”

    Actually, it was Hong Qigong who saved Ouyang Ke from the steel needle rain launched by Huang Rong; but now Ouyang Feng had placed the blame on him. He knew Ouyang Ke must have lied to his uncle and his uncle had used that to discredit Hong Qigong. But Qigong was an honest and straightforward man, he did not want to argue; he simply laughed a big laugh, unplugged his wine gourd and took a big gulp.

    Guo Jing could not hold his patience any longer, “It was Senior Qigong who saved your nephew’s life; how could you say such thing to blame him?”

    “We are still talking, how dare you kid interrupt?” Huang Yaoshi barked.

    “Rong’er, tell him … tell your Father what happened to Miss Cheng,” Guo Jing hastily said.

    Huang Rong knew her father’s temperament very well; he was not one who followed customs and traditions. He often said, “What do those customs have to do with us?” His way of thinking was different than common people of his time. What other people thought to be right, he would consider that wrong; what other people thought to be wrong, he might think that to be right. That was how he earned his title ‘Eastern Heretic.’ Huang Rong thought, “This Ouyang Ke’s behavior is really disgusting, but Father might think that he did what a normal romantic young men would do.” She noticed that her father was looking at Guo Jing with a fiery eyes; she hastily came up with an idea.

    “I am not done with you,” she said turning to Ouyang Ke, “That day when we were having a martial art contest at the Zhao Palace you tied both your hands behind your back and said that you didn’t need any hand to subdue me, did you not?” Ouyang Ke admitted with a nod of his head.

    “Later on after I took Senior Qigong as my master we met again in Baoying,” Huang Rong continued. “You said that no matter what kind of martial arts I used, whether it be from my father or the ones taught by Hong Qigong; you would only use your Uncle’s martial art to defeat me, didn’t you?”

    Ouyang Ke thought, “It was your own idea, I did not say such thing.”

    Seeing his hesitation Huang Rong quickly continued, “You have drawn a circle on the ground with your feet and said that if I can compel you out of the circle using the martial arts I learned from my father you would admit defeat, didn’t you?” Ouyang Ke nodded again.

    Turning to her father Huang Rong said, “Father, did you hear that? He did not have any regards toward Hong Qigong; he also did not have any regards toward you. He said that the martial arts of the two of you are inferior to his uncle’s; that even if you two come together still cannot defeat his uncle. I don’t believe it.”

    “Little girl has a long tongue,” Huang Yaoshi said. “Who among the people under the heaven did not know that Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor and Northern Beggar’s martial arts are like a pound to sixteen ounces? No one is superior to the others.” Although his mouth said those words, but he resented Ouyang Ke’s arrogance; only he did not want to raise this matter anymore. He turned his head to Hong Qigong and asked, “Qi Xiong, your presence has brought honor to the Peach Blossom Island. I wonder if there is anything I can do for you?”

    “I come here to ask you a favor,” Hong Qigong replied.

    Although Hong Qigong loved to joke around, but he was an honest and straightforward man, always upholding justice; his martial art skill was very high, so Huang Yaoshi had always respected him. Huang Yaoshi knew that whatever business Hong Qigong was dealing with, it was always taken care of, if not personally, then with the help of his numerous Beggar Clan’s members. This time Hong Qigong was asking him a favor he was extremely delighted, busily said, “We have been friends for dozens of years; Qi Xiong has anything to say, how can your younger brother dare not to comply?”

    “Don’t comply too quickly,” Hong Qigong said, “I am afraid this matter is not easy to manage.”

    Huang Yaoshi smiled, “If the matter is easy, Qi Xiong won’t think of asking your younger brother.”

    Hong Qigong clapped his hands. “That’s right!” he laughed, “That was the sign of a real friendship! You have decided to comply to my request then?”

    “Speak up!” Huang Yaoshi said. “Whether going through fire or water, I’ll do it.”

    Ouyang Feng swung his snake staff and opened his mouth, “Slow down Yao Xiong, first we must ask Qi Xiong what is it that he wants?”

    Hong Qigong laughed. “Old Poison, this matter does not concern you. You are being nosy. You’d better prepare your belly to drink ‘xi jiu’ [lit. happiness wine – the term used for wine served in wedding banquet. I don’t know the correct English translation. Any suggestions?].”

    “Drink ‘xi jiu’?” Ouyang Feng wondered.

    “That’s correct!” Hong Qigong replied. “Exactly, ‘xi jiu’.” Pointing to Guo Jing and Huang Rong he continued, “These two are my disciples; I have agreed to ask Yao Xiong on their behalf to let them marry each other; and Yao Xiong has agreed to it.”

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong were both scared and happy at the same time. They exchanged glances at each other. Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew, along with Huang Yaoshi were startled.

    “Qi Xiong!” Ouyang Feng said, “You are wrong! Yao Xiong’s ‘qian jin’ [thousand gold – meaning ‘precious’] has early on betrothed to my nephew. We come to the Peach Blossom Island today to deliver the dowry and arrange for the ceremony.”

    “Yao Xiong,” Hong Qigong asked, “Is that so?”

    “I am afraid so,” Huang Yaoshi replied, “Qi Xiong, please don’t play a joke on your younger brother.”

    Hong Qigong put a sour face. “Who plays joke on you?” he said. “You have betrothed your daughter to two families; your family’s reputation is at stake here.” Turning his head to Ouyang Feng he asked, “I am the Guo family’s primary matchmaker, where is yours?”

    Ouyang Feng was dumbfounded; he did not expect Hong Qigong would ask him that question. Stammering he tried to answer, “Yao Xiong has consented to this marriage, I have also consented; why would we need a matchmaker?”

    “Are you aware that there is somebody who has not consented to this arrangement?” Hong Qigong cut him off.

    “Who?” Ouyang Feng asked.

    “Ha ... ha … it’s yours truly, the Old Beggar Hong!” Hong Qigong laughed.

    As soon as Ouyang Feng heard this – knowing Hong Qigong’s character to be strong-willed; his conduct to be firm and resolute, he knew a fight was unavoidable; but his face did not show even a slight change; only he hesitated to say anything.

    Hong Qigong smiled, “Your nephew’s behavior was improper, how can he be compared to Yao Xiong’s beautiful-as-a-flower daughter? If you force them to get married, they will fight over all kinds of disagreement everyday; they might end up killing each other. What good does it do?”

    Huang Yaoshi listened attentively, his heart was stirred. He looked at her, who was gazing lovingly toward Guo Jing. Then he looked at Guo Jing. He hated this dumb kid to the guts: Guo Jing’s intelligence was questionable; he knew neither literature nor martial art; music, chess, calligraphy nor painting. He would not be a talented scholar or a gallant knight. Both he and his wife were intelligent people and he knew their only daughter’s brainpower was not anywhere below their own. If he let this scattered brain married his daughter, it would be like throwing a fresh flower to the cow dung.

    Right now he saw Guo Jing stood alongside Ouyang Ke, he could not help but comparing those two. Ouyang Ke’s intelligence and smart appearance was a hundred times better than Guo Jing’s. His mind was set to take this young man as his son-in-law; but Hong Qigong’s face showed he would not easily give up; so he cooked up a scheme and said, “Feng Xiong, your nephew is injured. You’d better take care of that first; we will discuss this matter further later.”

    Ouyang Feng had worried about his nephew’s condition for a while, and was hoping Huang Yaoshi would give them a chance to take care of the wound. So immediately he beckoned his nephew and two people walked back into the bamboo groove. Huang Yaoshi then engaged Hong Qigong in some pleasantries.

    About the time needed to cook some rice later uncle and nephew returned to the pavilion. Ouyang Feng had extracted the steel needles in his nephew’s body and mended the broken rib as well.

    “My daughter’s posture is as weak as a willow tree; she is stubborn and disobedient; hardly worthy to be a gentleman’s wife. But unexpectedly Qi Xiong and Feng Xiong both have given me the highest honor by asking her hand in marriage. My daughter has already betrothed to Mr. Ouyang, but Qi Xiong’s request is also difficult not to accept. I have an idea, I wonder if you two brothers would tell me if this idea will work or not?” Huang Yaoshi said.

    “Quickly say it! Quickly say it!” Hong Qigong interrupted. “The Old Beggar never likes to hear your winding and flowery words.”

    Huang Yaoshi smiled faintly. “Brothers, even though this daughter of mine is unworthy, I still hope she will find a good husband,” he continued. “Mr. Ouyang is Feng Xiong’s honorable nephew, while Mr. Guo is Qi Xiong’s outstanding disciple. Both are very fine gentlemen, it is very difficult to choose one of them. I have no alternative but to come up with a three-subject test; I will betroth my daughter to whoever passes this test. I will not favor either one of them. Would both old friends tell me if this idea is good?”

    Ouyang Feng clapped his hands. “Clever! Wonderful!” he called out. “Only thing is, my nephew is injured, if the test involves martial arts then we have to wait until he is fully recovered.” He had seen the fierceness of Guo Jing’s attack that injured his nephew; he knew that if they contended in martial arts his nephew would no doubt lose. So he used his nephew’s injury to their best advantage.

    “Certainly,” Huang Yaoshi said. “A martial art contest will harm the good relationship between two families anyway.”

    Hong Qigong said in his heart, “This is so typical Old Heretic Huang. All of us are Wulin people; if the test involves literary and not martial art skill, do you expect a ‘zhuang yuan’ [a title of a scholar, Meh’s ‘Sentimental Swordman, Ruthless Sword’ has an explanation of different titles] to be your son-in-law? If you come up with music or poetry, even if he reincarnated my stupid disciple will not be able to take it. Your mouth says no favor, but obviously you totally favor the other side. My stupid disciple will lose for sure. It is confounding! I will fight Old Poison first, talk later.” He looked upward and laughed hard, staring toward Ouyang Feng he said, “We are all martial arts practitioners, instead of contesting in martial arts, do you want to have an eating contest or defecating race, then? Your nephew is injured, but you are not. Come, come, come! We will fight in their stead.”

    Without waiting for an answer he sent his palm toward Ouyang Feng’s shoulder. Ouyang Feng stepped back several feet. Hong Qigong put his bamboo staff down on a small bamboo table. “Watch for this!” he shouted. His words were still hanging in the air when both his palms had already moved seven times in rapid succession.

    Ouyang Feng dodged to the left and evaded to the right and all seven attacks flew by. His right hand pushed the snake staff into the bricks in front of the pavilion, and in a flash his left hand had also sent seven counterattacks.

    Huang Yaoshi cheered, but did not prevent them from fighting. He wanted to see these two martial art world-class masters, who were his peers; what kind of improvements they have achieved twenty years after their last meeting.

    Both Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng were the experts of their respective martial art schools. They have reached the pinnacle of their martial arts twenty years ago. After the Sword Meet of Mount Hua both have trained hard and improved their skills tremendously. This time they met again on the Peach Blossom Island, their skills were incomparable with when they had their meet at Mount Hua. Each launched swift attacks and counterattacks, but they were actually still trying to probe the opponent’s skill. Both combatants exchanged fast and forceful palms and fists, that the gust of winds created swayed the bamboo leaves around them. Although they were only testing each other, but their moves carried profound martial art techniques.

    On the sideline Guo Jing was watching with full attention; whether it was an attack or a defense, every single one was a wonderful move, beyond his wildest imagination. The Nine Yin Manual contained the deepest martial arts theory in the world: whether it be internal or external energy cultivation, bare hands or swordplay, all kinds of the most profound martial arts imaginable. After Guo Jing memorized the content by heart – although he did not understand every single one of them, those theories were actually ingrained in his brain. Now he watched those two combatants exchanging exquisite moves, those theories came flooding back into his mind, forming a fuzzy shadow in his brain.

    Early on he listened to Huang Yaoshi and Ouyang Feng’s flute versus zither battle. That was an invisible internal energy battle; extremely difficult to clearly see their relation with the theory in the manual. This time the battle was using fists and kicks, much easier to perceive. In his delight, his heart was itching to try what he had seen.

    Very quickly Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng have exchanged more than three hundred stances. Both were surprised at the opponent’s skill and could not help but praising each other in their hearts. On the side Huang Yaoshi looked on with a sigh, he thought, “I have painstakingly trained myself on the Peach Blossom Island; I thought after Wang Chongyang passed away, my martial art would be number one in the world. Who would have thought that these Old Beggar and Old Poison both have taken their own paths and reached these frightfully respectable levels of martial arts?”

    Both Ouyang Ke and Huang Rong were deep in their own thoughts; each hoped that their side would gain a quick victory, but actually they could not comprehend the exquisiteness of the martial arts being displayed in front of their eyes. With the corner of her eye Huang Rong saw a black shadow was dancing erratically, flailing his hands and feet incessantly. She turned her head and found the shadow to be Guo Jing. But Guo Jing’s expression was weird; looked like he was in ecstasy without any reason. Her heart skipped a beat. “Brother Jing!” she called with a low voice.

    Guo Jing did not hear her; he was still busy moving his hands and feet. Huang Rong felt strange, so she watched attentively and found out that Guo Jing was actually imitating Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng’s movements.

    By now those two had changed the way they fight; every fist and every kick was sent slowly out. Sometimes they would stand still for a moment, and then sent out a fist. After they exchanged one stance, they would sit down on the ground to take a rest; then stood up and exchanged another move. In short, the way they fight was slower than two disciples practicing martial arts. But looking at their face, one could see the seriousness on their faces, almost to the point of very tense.

    Huang Rong glanced toward her father and saw him looking intensely at those two; his face was also unusually tense. Ouyang Ke was the only person around who could maintain his calmness. He looked at her flirtatiously, while lightly waving his folding fan.

    Guo Jing saw an unconventional move, he could not restrain from cheering loudly. Ouyang Ke was irritated, “Your muddy kid does not understand anything, what is he shouting about?”

    “Just because you don’t understand, how would you know whether other people understand or not?” Huang Rong shot back.

    Ouyang Ke laughed, “He’s just flailing his hands and feet foolishly. Given his young age, how would he know the wonder of my uncle’s divine martial arts?”

    “You are not him; how would you know what he knows?” Huang Rong replied.

    Two people were bickering on the side; Huang Yaoshi and Guo Jing turned a deaf ear to them, they were watching the fight with rapt attention.

    By that time both Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng were squatting on the ground; one with his left middle finger pointed to his brain, the other used both hands to cover his ears. Both were thinking really hard with their eyes closed. Suddenly they shouted and simultaneously leapt toward each other; one sending his fist, the other used his leg; then they were separated again.

    Those two people had reached the level where each and every single one of the martial arts belonging to their own family or school had no flaw whatsoever. However, they both know that no matter how fierce the stance was, the opponent would easily break it; therefore, they had to create a new and unknown move in order to gain an upper hand.

    After their sword meet twenty years ago, both men – one resided in the Central Plains, the other came all the way from the Western Region, had never met or even heard about the other’s condition; so they did not know how far had the other man improved his martial art. Now that they were fighting each other, the situation was not much different. Each had his own strengths, each had his own weaknesses; nobody could tell who would overcome whom. In the meantime the moonlight had faded, and one could see a streak of sunlight glowing in the east. Both had racked their brains and had created innumerable new and wonderful moves; fist techniques or palm strengths, along with tens of thousands variations thereof, but still nobody could tell which one was better.

    Guo Jing witnessed the fight between two top experts of their present age martial art world; wonderful moves and exquisite techniques came one after another. Sometimes he understood, more often he did not. Sometimes he saw something that was related to the theory taught by Zhou Botong; which made him excited and wanted to try. But before he could finish half of a stance, Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng had already launched new moves; and Guo Jing had already forgotten the previous move he was trying to master.

    When Huang Rong saw Guo Jing like that, she was secretly alarmed. “I did not see him for dozens of days, could it be that he got some profound martial arts lessons from a divine being?” she thought, “I looked at the fight and I got confused, how could he exclaim in admiration?” But then another thought came to her mind, “Could it be that this silly brother of mine missed me so much that he went insane?”

    She had not seen Guo Jing for quite some time, and now that they have seen each other the situation was not conducive for them to be intimate. She moved forward, wanted to hold Guo Jing’s hand. Right at that moment Guo Jing was imitating Ouyang Feng’s palm technique; he was turning his body around and launched a palm attack. It looked ordinary, but in actuality it carried enormous hidden energy. Her hand barely touched Guo Jing’s palm when suddenly she felt a surge of incredible energy pushing her. She was sent flying upward.

    After touching Huang Rong’s hand, Guo Jing came back to reality. “Aiyo!” he cried and jumped to grab Huang Rong’s waist. While falling down back to the ground, Guo Jing’s left hand grabbed the bamboo pavilion’s eave. Swinging their bodies they landed on the roof. Two people sat shoulder to shoulder on top of the bamboo pavilion watching the fight on the ground.

    By that time the battle situation on the ground had changed again; Ouyang Feng was squatting on the ground with both arms bent on the shoulder, resembled a big frog was about to strike its enemy. His mouth created some deep rumbling noise, like a cow mooing; sometimes it was audible, and sometimes it wasn’t.

    Huang Rong was amused; she smiled and with a low voice asked, “Brother Jing, what is he doing?”

    “I don’t know,” Guo Jing replied, but suddenly he remembered Zhou Botong’s story on Wang Chongyang’s Solitary Yang Finger breaking Ouyang Feng’s Toad Stance. “That must be it!” he exclaimed, “This is his fiercest martial art; it is called the Toad Stance.”

    Huang Rong clapped her hands and laughed, “He does look like a toad!”

    Ouyang Ke had observed those two people sitting close and leaning toward each other, talking and laughing; his heart was burnt with jealousy. He wanted to leap up and fight Guo Jing, but his chest was still in pain; he could not exert any strength. Besides, he did not have any confidence his martial art was superior to Guo Jing’s. But now hearing Huang Rong said ‘he looked like a toad’ he thought they were ridiculing him, saying that he looked like a dirty toad desiring to eat a swan’s meat; he was furious. With his right hand holding three secret projectiles he quietly walked around toward the back of the bamboo pavilion. Gritted his teeth he moved his hand and three silvery streaks came flying toward Guo Jing’s chest.

    In the meantime Hong Qigong was launching his palms to the front and to the back, busily fighting Ouyang Feng’s Toad Stance with his 18-Dragon Subduing Palms. These two martial arts were the highest skill of each combatant, so the fight was no longer slow and sluggish like it was before. It was fierce as two people were using their dozens of years of martial art training trying to gain victory; life and death could be decided in a twinkling of an eye. Guo Jing had learned the 18-Dragon Subduing Palms, but he had not seen his master using this technique before. It sent shivers along his spine to see how wonderful the palm techniques were, with infinite variations in them. It was truly incomparable to the ones he had already mastered. He was completely captivated with what happened on the ground; how would he expect somebody to sneak in from behind and attacked him stealthily?

    Huang Rong was not aware that the two fighting on the ground were using their highest martial art skills; she was still laughing and joking around when she suddenly realized one person was missing from the bamboo pavilion. Her mind immediately went to Ouyang Ke, she was afraid of his craftiness; so her eyes scanned around but it was her ears that heard the wind generated by the secret projectiles coming toward Guo Jing’s back. With the corner of her eyes she could see three silvery streaks coming fast. She did not have any time to think, immediately she threw herself behind Guo Jing’s back. “Puff! Puff! Puff!” three secret projectiles landed squarely on her back. She was wearing the ‘ruan wei jia’ [soft hedgehog armor] so she was not injured, but she felt some pain nonetheless.

    Her hand reached and grabbed the secret projectiles. She turned around and smiled sweetly, “You are scratching the itch on my back, aren’t you? Thank you, but I need to give these back to you.”

    Ouyang Ke saw how she intercepted the projectiles with her own body to protect Guo Jing, he was more jealous than ever. Hearing her saying thus he thought she was going to throw the projectiles back his way, so he readied himself. But after a moment he saw Huang Rong was holding the projectiles in her hand with the palm up, like she was expecting him to take them back from her hand.

    Ouyang Ke kicked his left foot and leaped to the bamboo pavilion’s roof. He intended to show off his lightness kungfu, lightly perched on the edge of the roof; looked like a white shadow swaying gently in the wind. It was indeed an excellent skill, as elegant as a deity.

    “Your lightness kungfu is truly wonderful!” Huang Rong exclaimed. She stood up and walked toward him, arm extended with the projectiles in her hand.

    Ouyang Ke saw her white complexion, he was mesmerized. Absentmindedly he stretched his hand to pick the projectiles, with an ill intention to rub her hand, when suddenly some metallic streaks coming his way. He had had fallen twice under Huang Rong’s hands and did not want to repeat it, so he somersaulted and came down the roof; waving his sleeve and parried an abundance of Huang Rong’s steel needles.

    Huang Rong giggled and threw the three silver projectiles to the ground, right in front of squatting Ouyang Feng.

    “NO! Don’t!” Guo Jing cried in alarm. He grabbed Huang Rong’s waist and jumped down the roof. Before his feet even touched the ground he had heard Huang Yaoshi’s anxious shout, “Feng Xiong, have mercy!”

    Guo Jing felt an earth-shattering force coming his way. Quickly he pushed Huang Rong aside and exerted all his strength to his hands with one of the 18-Dragon Subduing Palms, the ‘jian long zai tian’ [seeing dragon in the field].

    “Bang!” a loud noise was heard when his force collided with Ouyang Feng’s Toad Stance, and as a result he staggered back seven, eight steps. Guo Jing felt blood rising from his chest to his throat. He was alarmed, but was afraid Ouyang Feng would send another attack, so he forced himself and stood in front of Huang Rong, ready to take another blow. But then he saw Hong Qigong and Huang Yaoshi had already stepped in between them.

    “So sorry! I am so ashamed!” Ouyang Feng stood up. “I was not able to retract my force. I hope I did not hurt the young lady, did I?” he called out.

    Actually Huang Rong was scared, her beautiful face was pale, but hearing him said such thing, she put a bold face and laughed, “With my Father around, how could you hurt me?”

    Huang Yaoshi was really anxious; he pulled her hands and quietly asked, “Do you feel anything different on your body? Quickly breathe in and out a few times.” Huang Rong listened to her father and quietly circulate her ‘qi’ but did not feel anything unusual, so she laughed and shook her head.

    Huang Yaoshi was relieved. “Your two uncles are practicing their martial arts just now, what did a little girl like you doing carelessly intervening?” he reprimanded. “Uncle Ouyang’s Toad Stance is not a small matter; if he did not show you any mercy, do you think your little life would be spared?”

    In order to launch the powerful Toad Stance, Ouyang Feng had to concentrate his strength in his whole body. As soon as the opponent attack, he would be able to counterattack by launching the full power already stored. That was exactly what happened when he was waiting for Hong Qigong to attack; his strength was concentrated, ready to be launched like an arrow on a completely pulled bow. Unexpectedly Huang Rong tossed something to him that he instinctively counterattacked toward her.

    When he realized it was Huang Rong he was extremely shocked, his force had already being released, there was no way he could pull it back. He sighed inwardly, thinking he had created a terrible disaster that this beautiful-as-a-flower girl would die a violent death in his hand; moreover he heard Huang Yaoshi called out, ‘Feng Xiong, have mercy!’ Frantically he tried to divert his force, but there simply was not enough time; when suddenly he felt another force collided with his. He took this opportunity to retract his force. When he looked clearly, he found out that the person who rescued Huang Rong was Guo Jing! Secretly he admired Hong Qigong, “This Old Beggar is really good; he succeeded in training this young disciple to reach such high level of martial art!”

    Huang Yaoshi had seen Guo Jing’s martial art at the Cloud Manor; he thought, “This youngster did not know the height of the sky or the depth of the earth; he dared to parry Ouyang Feng’s fierce Toad Stance. If Ouyang Feng did not see my face and showed him mercy, his bones would have been shattered to pieces.” He did not know that the Guo Jing he met at the Cloud Manor was not the same as Guo Jing now. However, he acknowledged that Guo Jing had carelessly saved Huang Rong’s life without any regard to his own safety; his hatred toward him was, for the most part, gone. He thought, “This kid really has a good heart; he really loves Rong’er. I can’t give Rong’er to him, but certainly I can reward him by teaching him something.” The rascal in front of him looked rather stupid and the word ‘foolish’ had stirred up anger in him.

    “Old Poison! You are really good!” Hong Qigong called out, “But victory or defeat has not been decided yet, let us fight again!”

    “Very well!” Ouyang Feng replied, “I will risk my life to accompany a gentleman play!”

    “I am not a gentleman,” Hong Qigong laughed. “You are risking your life to play with a beggar!” With a jump he was standing at the courtyard again.

    Ouyang Feng was about to join him when suddenly Huang Yaoshi lifted his left hand, “Hold it!” he called out, “Qi Xiong, Feng Xiong, you have fought for more than one thousand moves yet you two are equally strong. Today the two of you are the Peach Blossom Island’s honored guests; you are entitled to drink several cups of your brother’s own brewed wine. The sword meet of Mount Hua is at hand. At that time not only you two will see who will gain victory; but your brother, along with the Southern Emperor will be there to practice our martial arts. So why don’t we end today’s contest right here?”

    “Fine with me!” Ouyang Feng laughed, “If this fight continues, I will be forced to admit defeat very soon anyway.”

    Hong Qigong turned back and laughed, “The Old Western Poison is crafty, when he said he would admit defeat, that means he is actually going to win. I don’t believe what he said a bit.”

    “Well, then,” Ouyang Feng replied, “Let me ask Qi Xiong’s expert opinion again.”

    Hong Qigong flicked his sleeve and said, “Nothing better!”

    “I see,” Huang Yaoshi interrupted, “Your arrival today at the Peach Blossom Island is actually to show off your martial arts,” he said with a smile.

    Hong Qigong roared in laughter. “Yao Xiong is right! We come here to ask your daughter’s hand in marriage, not to fight each other.”

    “I said earlier that I am going to give three subjects to test both gentlemen,” Huang Yaoshi continued, “The one passes the test will be my son-in-law, but the one fails won’t be going home empty handed either.”

    “What? Do you have another daughter?” Hong Qigong asked.

    Huang Yaoshi smiled, “No, I don’t. Even if I find another wife, I don’t think we want to wait that long. Your brother has many other skills: medical, astrology and a lot of other stuff. The gentleman who fails the test, as long as he does not belittle my shallow knowledge and is willing to learn one particular subject, I am going to devote my time and will teach him with all my heart so that he won’t leave the Peach Blossom Island empty handed.”

    Hong Qigong was fully aware of Huang Yaoshi’s ability; he thought that if Guo Jing could not be his son-in-law but managed to learn just one skill from him, he would gain a lifelong benefit nonetheless. He thought whatever subject the test would be, Guo Jing would undoubtedly suffer a loss; and he felt bad for him.

    Ouyang Feng saw Hong Qigong’s reluctance, he snatched away that opportunity to say, “Good! Let it be that way! Yao Xiong had actually accepted my nephew’s proposal, but he honored Qi Xiong’s face. So let these two kids be tested. This way it won’t damage our friendship.” Turning toward Ouyang Ke he said, “Later if you lose, you will only have your own incapability to blame, you cannot blame anybody else. We will happily drink Brother Guo’s ‘xi jiu’. If later on you have a mind to create other problem, not only these two seniors won’t let you go easily, I myself will not spare you.”

    Hong Qigong looked up and burst in laughter, “Old Poison, you are 90% sure that you are going to win. Your speech was actually directed to me and my disciple; what you are saying was ‘be a dear and just admit defeat’.”

    Ouyang Feng smiled and said, “Who win and who lose, how would you know in advance? Even for people of our level, do you think it is easy to claim victory shamelessly? Yao Xiong, please present the subjects of your test.”

    Huang Yaoshi had determined to give his daughter to Ouyang Ke, therefore, he had to come out with three subjects that would guarantee victory for Ouyang Ke. However, first of all, a man of his stature could not be blatantly one-sided; secondly, he did not want to offend Hong Qigong. But while he was still carefully considering what he was about to say, Hong Qigong had opened his mouth, “We all live by our fists and kicks, the test Yao Xiong will administer must be related to martial arts. If your subjects are poetry or music; reciting scriptures or painting, then we – master and disciple, will simply admit defeat and take our butts out of here; no need to lose our faces.”

    “Naturally,” Huang Yaoshi assured him, “The first subject is martial arts competition.”

    “That won’t do,” Ouyang Feng said, “My nephew is presently wounded.”

    Huang Yaoshi smiled. “I know that,” he said, “I cannot let two brothers have martial arts contest on the Peach Blossom Island and damage their friendship.”

    “They are not going to fight?” Ouyang Feng was baffled.

    “That’s correct,” Huang Yaoshi answered.

    “That’s so!” Ouyang Feng smiled, “Then the test giver will try each person’s martial art?”

    Huang Yaoshi shook his head, “No, if I do that, nobody can guarantee that I will be fair since I can make my moves heavy or light at will. Feng Xiong, you and Qi Xiong here have reached the pinnacle of your respective martial arts skill. The fight just now was the proof, you have fought for more than a thousand moves, yet nobody knows who gained victory or suffered defeat. Feng Xiong, you test Brother Guo, and Qi Xiong, you try Brother Ouyang.”

    Hong Qigong thought, “This is very fair indeed. Old Heretic Huang is really smart to think of this method. Old Beggar will never come out with something like this.” He laughed and said, “This method is not bad! Come, come, come! Let us play!” He beckoned Ouyang Ke.

    “Wait!” Huang Yaoshi said, “There are some rules of the game we need to address. Rule number one: Brother Ouyang is injured, he cannot exert any energy, and therefore, both of them will be tested in term of martial arts, not in term of strength. Rule number two: The four of you will fight on top of these pine trees,” he pointed to two big pine trees outside the bamboo pavilion, “The junior who falls to the ground first will lose. Rule number three: Feng Xiong and Qi Xiong, whoever puts too heavy pressure on the junior and accidentally injures him will lose.”

    “Injuring a junior is considered losing?” Hong Qigong mused.

    “Certainly,” Huang Yaoshi explained, “The two of you have such a high skill; if I don’t have this rule, once you put forth a heavy hand, do you think the junior will live? Qi Xiong, if you even scratch Brother Ouyang’s skin, you lost. The same goes to Feng Xiong. Between these two juniors, one will be my son-in-law; how can they be injured under your hands?”

    Hong Qigong scratched his head and laughed, “Old Heretic Huang is really weird, really live up to his reputation. Injuring opponent will be considered lose; this strange rule has never been heard of in thousands of years. Fine! As long as it is fair, the Old Beggar will comply.”

    Huang Yaoshi gave a hand signal and the four of them jumped up the pine trees, forming two parties: Hong Qigong and Ouyang Ke on the right, Ouyang Feng and Guo Jing on the left. Hong Qigong still had an amused look on his face, while the other three looked serious, almost tense.

    Huang Rong knew Ouyang Ke’s martial art was actually higher than Guo Jing’s; luckily he was injured. However, the competition on top of pine trees rely heavily on the lightness kungfu, which, obviously, Ouyang Ke had some advantage over Guo Jing. She was unable to not feeling anxious. In the meantime she heard her father’s loud and clear voice, “I will count to three, then you can all start. Brother Ouyang, Brother Guo, whoever falls down to the ground first will lose!”

    Huang Rong secretly thought of somehow helping Guo Jing, but Ouyang Feng’s martial art was very high, how could she fight him with her present ability?

    Huang Yaoshi had started to count, “One, two, three!” Four shadows danced on top of the pine trees, they have begun.

    Huang Rong’s gaze had never left Guo Jing, only to see he had fought for more than ten stances against Ouyang Feng in a blink of an eye. Both Huang Rong and Huang Yaoshi were secretly surprised, “How did his martial art suddenly improved by leaps and bounds? He managed to fight these many moves without showing any sign of defeat.”

    Ouyang Feng was anxious; gradually he increased his strength bit by bit. He was afraid to injure Guo Jing. Suddenly an idea came into his mind: both his legs rotated like a wheel, trying to sweep Guo Jing’s away from the pine tree. Guo Jing used the ‘fei long zai tian’ [Dragon flies in the sky] of his 18-Dragon Subduing Palms; repeatedly leaping high, both palms hacking down like knives trying to hit his opponent’s legs.

    Huang Rong’s heart was thumping madly. She turned her gaze toward Hong Qigong only to see the fight took a different path. Ouyang Ke was using his lightness kungfu; leaping to the east and dodging to the west, he did not want to engage even half of Hong Qigong’s moves. Hong Qigong was compelled to chase him, but Ouyang Ke was always running around. Hong Qigong thought, “This stinky creature is cunning, he is trying to buy time. Guo Jing is a dumb kid, he actually fights against the Old Poison. This way he will certainly fall to the ground first. Humph! This little rapist! Do you think the Old Beggar cannot fold you under my arm?” Suddenly he leaped high into the air, ten fingers like two steel claws striking toward Ouyang Ke’s head.

    Ouyang Ke saw this incoming force was swift and fierce; certainly not a contest type attack, but was intended to take his life. He was shocked and hastily tried to flee to the right. Unbeknownst to him, Hong Qigong’s attack was a false one. Hong Qigong had anticipated this movement, so as soon as Ouyang Ke turned right, Hong Qigong bent his waist mid-air and flew to the right. His hands came fast toward Ouyang Ke and clearly shouted, “I don’t care if I lose; today I am going to kill you stinky kid first.”

    Ouyang Ke was startled that Hong Qigong was able to turn his body mid-air; he was scared and froze for a moment, especially listening to Hong Qigong’s shout. He did not dare to parry this attack, so frantically he stepped back to an empty air. He fell down from the tree with this thought in his mind, “I lost this first test!” But then suddenly he heard rustling noise beside him, turned out Guo Jing was also falling down from the tree next to him.

    After fighting Guo Jing for quite a while, Ouyang Feng lost his patience, “If I let this kid fight me for another fifty moves; where would I keep the Western Poison’s pride?” he thought. Suddenly a wicked thought came into his mind. His left hand moved lightning fast toward Guo Jing’s neck while shouting loudly, “You go down!”

    Guo Jing ducked this attack and lifted his left hand and tried to parry with the back of his hand. But Ouyang Feng suddenly put more force to his hand. “You … you …” Guo Jing stammered. He was going to say, “You didn’t follow Huang Yaoshi’s rule?” but was not able to say it because he was forced to use all his energy to withstand this attack. Ouyang Feng smiled and coldly said, “I what?” and put more force to his hand.

    Guo Jing was trying to get a strong foothold for fear that he might be internally injured by this Toad Stance force. Who would have imagined that the tremendous force pushing him down suddenly disappeared without a trace. Fortunately for him that his skill was improved; if not, he wouldn’t be able to withstand Ouyang Feng’s force which was suddenly getting stronger and suddenly disappeared. Luckily it was similar to the 72 moves of Vacant Fist he learned from Zhou Botong, in which a hard force contained a softness in it. Otherwise, he would be injured just like when he fought Huang Yaoshi at the Cloud Manor, where his hand was caught and broken. Nevertheless, because of this, he lost his balance and was thrown down from the tree head first.

    Ouyang Ke fell down right side up, while Guo Jing fell upside down, both men saw the ground was approaching fast. Seeing Guo Jing falling beside him Ouyang Ke had an idea; he stretched his hands toward Guo Jing’s legs. He wanted to use Guo Jing as a stepping stone, so he would be able to jump back up while Guo Jing would certainly fall faster to the ground. Or so he thought.

    Huang Rong saw Guo Jing’s precarious situation and called out, “Aiyo!” But then strangely it was Guo Jing whom she saw jumped back up to the tree, while with a loud crashing sound Ouyang Ke was hitting the ground. Guo Jing landed on a tree branch and was out of breath, panting profusely.

    Huang Rong was extremely delighted. She did not see clearly how it happened; how in a critical moment Guo Jing was able to turn defeat into victory, but she was delighted nonetheless and was unable to restrain herself from crying out, “Aiyo!” But these two ‘aiyo’s carried entirely different emotions.

    By that time Ouyang Feng and Hong Qigong have already come down. Hong Qigong was laughing hard, repeatedly uttering, “Wonderful! Wonderful!” Ouyang Feng’s face was green from anger. “Qi Xiong,” he gloomily said, “Your smart disciple’s martial art is so diverse to include even the Mongolian wrestling skill.”

    Hong Qigong laughed, he said, “I don’t know how to wrestle, so it wasn’t me who taught him. You can’t blame me.”

    What really happened was: Guo Jing was pushed down by Ouyang Ke, he fell faster down. He saw Ouyang Ke’s legs flying up right in front of him. He did not have time to think. In that critical moment he instinctively stretched both arms to grab Ouyang Ke’s calves; pulling himself up by twisting his body from the upside-down position to the upright on. It was precisely the wrestling technique the Mongolians practiced.

    The Mongolians have trained and perfected their wrestling techniques for generations; they were considered one of the bests. Guo Jing grew up in the Mongolian desert. Before he even learned martial arts from the Six Freaks of Jiangnan he had played and wrestled everyday with Tuolei and his friends. So Mongolian wrestling to him was as natural as eating rice. Otherwise; by nature his was slow, he was falling down, fast; even if he knew Mongolian wrestling technique he would not have enough time to think. It was not like: when falling down and seeing a pair of legs in front of him, he thought, “Oh, a pair of legs, nice! Hey, why don’t I use these legs to jump back up there.” It happened so fast, that even after he managed to land his feet on the tree branch he still did not know what happened and that he had won against all odds.

    Huang Yaoshi slightly shook his head, he thought, “This Guo Jing is a slow-witted kid. This victory is obviously because of sheer luck.” He gave his decision, “The first test was won by Guo Xianzhi [Worthy Nephew]. But Feng Xiong please not to worry, you have taught your honorable nephew well. Who knows he will score victories for the second and third tests.”

    “Then please Yao Xiong present the second test,” Ouyang Feng replied.

    “The second test will be …” Huang Yaoshi started, but before he could finish Huang Rong had cut him off, “Father, obviously you are one-sided. Just a moment ago you said you would only test their martial arts skill, how come you want to test other subjects? Brother Jing, you might as well admit defeat and leave.”

    “What do you know?” Huang Yaoshi said, “After reaching certain level of martial art skill, do you still want to fight everyday? Yes, we are martial arts people; but unlike ordinary military people, we don’t live on martial arts day by day. We don’t amuse ourselves by jousting to find a spouse …” Listening to this part Huang Rong stole a glance toward Guo Jing. Guo Jing was also looking at her. They were thinking of the same thing: Mu Nianci and Yang Kang, who met each other at the capital by ‘joust to find a spouse’. In the meantime Huang Yaoshi had continued his speech, “… My second test subject therefore is asking these two Xianzhis to listen to this old man playing a tune on my flute.”

    Ouyang Ke was ecstatic; he thought, “What did this stupid kid know about wind or string instrument? The victory is mine for sure.”

    Ouyang Feng on the other hand, was not so sure. He suspected Huang Yaoshi was going to test these two persons’ internal energy strength by the flute sound. He knew Guo Jing’s level of internal energy to be quite strong; his nephew not necessarily could exceed him. Also, he was afraid his nephew would be internally injured by Huang Yaoshi’s flute sound. He said, “Juniors’ internal energy cultivation is shallow, I am afraid they won’t be able to listen to Yao Xiong’s elegant melody. I wonder if Yao Xiong would consider …”

    Huang Yaoshi did not give him a chance to finish, “My song is an ordinary one, without any high level of internal energy. Feng Xiong, set your heart in peace.” Toward Ouyang Ke and Guo Jing he said, “Xianzhis please take a bamboo stick each; follow my music by tapping it to the rhythm. The one who can follow better will win the second test.”

    Guo Jing stepped forward and cupped his hands, “Island Master Huang, disciple is very slow and stupid. I know nothing about music; let me admit defeat for the second test.”

    “Don’t be hasty; don’t be hasty,” Hong Qigong intervened, “In the worst case you will lose, why don’t you try? Are you afraid that others will laugh at your face?”

    Guo Jing thought his master made some sense; seeing Ouyang Ke took a bamboo stick he did the same.

    “Qi Xiong, Feng Xiong,” Huang Yaoshi smiled, “Younger brother will show off his inability.” Lifted the jade flute to his lips he started to blow. This part of his song did not carry any internal energy and it wasn’t any different than any ordinary person would play.

    Ouyang Ke listened attentively, trying to follow the rhythm, and then he started tapping his bamboo stick correctly. Guo Jing did not have a clue; he held his bamboo stick high in the air but did not dare to tap it. Only after Huang Yaoshi had played about the time it needed to drink a cup of tea, he started to move his stick.

    The Ouyangs, uncle and nephew were very smug. They thought that this time victory was guaranteed. Since the third subject would be another literary related, they were ninety percent sure they would win.

    Huang Rong was anxious; she lightly tapped her right hand finger to her left knuckles; with the hope Guo Jing would follow. Who would have known that Guo Jing was staring blankly at the sky, lost in thought; obviously he did not see her signal.

    Huang Yaoshi kept blowing the flute; Guo Jing raised his hand and struck the bamboo stick right in between two beats of the music. Ouyang Ke stifled his laugh, thinking that this stupid kid always strike on the wrong beat. Guo Jing struck again, still in between the two music beats. He had struck his bamboo stick four times, all were on the wrong places.

    Huang Rong shook her head in dismay, “My stupid brother does not understand anything about music,” she thought, “Father shouldn’t have tested him.” Having had this thought, she racked her brain, trying to find a way to disrupt the test. But when she turned her gaze toward her father she was surprised; her father showed astonishment in his face. She heard Guo Jing tapped several more times; the flute sound suddenly became a little bit sluggish, but it went back to its original tempo immediately.

    Guo Jing kept tapping his bamboo stick, always off-tempo: sometimes faster, sometimes slower; sometimes he drove the tempo faster, sometimes he dragged the tempo slower. On several occasion the music from the flute almost could not hold its steady rhythm and was almost dragged to follow the bamboo stick’s erratic tempo. Huang Yaoshi was not the only one who was astounded, Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng also felt something strange was going on.

    Actually Guo Jing remembered listening to the battle among three people earlier: the flute, the zither and the whistle. He noticed that the sounds were fighting each other systematically, like battle strategy in a war. He did not have the slightest degree of comprehension toward music theory, but listening to Huang Yaoshi’s flute he wanted to try to battle that sound; thus he struck the bamboo erratically to disrupt the melody.

    He tapped the bamboo stick against an old bamboo tree, creating a loud ‘bonk, bonk’ sound. The sound made Huang Yaoshi felt like he was inside a hot furnace and the fire was glowing white, forcing the flute to surrender and follow the erratic tempo of the bamboo.

    Huang Yaoshi’s spirit was roused; he thought that this kid unexpectedly possessed this kind of ability. The flute sound changed again, this time it turned faster and slower seemingly having infinite variations. Ouyang Ke only stopped to listen for a moment, but he could not resist lifting his bamboo stick and brandishing it erratically in the air. Ouyang Feng heaved a sigh and quickly pulled his nephew hand, pressing the main artery on his wrist. Then he took out a silk handkerchief, torn it into two parts and stopped Ouyang Ke’s ears. After a while Ouyang Ke started to calm down and Ouyang Feng let his hand go.

    Since her childhood Huang Rong had used to listen to her father’s ‘jade-colored tidal wave song’; once Huang Yaoshi even explained in detail every variation there was. Their minds, father and daughter’s were like one; so this song did not affect her at all, but she was fully aware that her father’s flute carried an enormous supernatural power; therefore, she worried that Guo Jing would not able to defend himself.

    This song simulated the vastness of the ocean with its thousands of miles waves, coming slowly from afar, then come crashing down the shores. The wave was foamy white, high as a mountain; but in the tide the fish leaped and the whale floated; while above the water seagulls flew. A moment later the water turned wild, like a flock of devils were stirring it up; the weather turned cold, with icebergs came floating by. Another moment it turned hot, extremely hot that the sea was rippling and bubbling like boiling water. The next moment, just as quick, the sea became calm and the surface was smooth as a mirror. The water flowed strongly, yet quietly, but beneath the surface there laid a very strong current threatening those who unwittingly brave enough to enter and challenge its power. Such was the complexities of the song.

    Guo Jing sat cross-legged on the ground, he was exerting the Quan Zhen Sect’s internal energy to suppress his turmoil heart and refresh his spirit while resisting the temptation of the flute sound; at the same time he kept tapping the bamboo stick disrupting the flute sound.

    When Huang Yaoshi, Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng were battling each other with sound earlier, they were on offensive and defensive alternately. They had to guard their own heart and mind while looking for an opportunity to launch a counterattack, trying to subdue the other’s hearts and minds. Guo Jing’s internal energy was far inferior to those three; he was only able to put on a strong defensive line, without being able to launch a counterattack; but Huang Yaoshi was also not able to penetrate his defense either.

    After half a day, the volume of the flute gradually decreased, make it difficult to be heard. Guo Jing stopped the bamboo tapping to listen. Unexpectedly to him, this was the moment Huang Yaoshi was waiting for; the softer the sound, the stronger the energy it carried. Because Guo Jing was listening attentively, his heart began to follow the beat of the flute. If it happened to other people, they would fell into the trap and would not be able to escape; but Guo Jing was different. He had learned the left/right mutual hands combat; he was capable of dividing his mind. So he used his left hand to take the shoe from his left foot to knock on the bamboo. “Knock! Knock! Knock!” again, disrupting the flute sound.

    Huang Yaoshi was startled, “This kid possesses some extraordinary skills, truly cannot be underestimated.” He started to walk around according to the Eight Diagram while his mouth continued blowing.

    Both of Guo Jing’s hands were striking the bamboo pole in an erratic tempo incongruous with the flute rhythm. These two hands of his were like two people joined forces to defend against Huang Yaoshi’s attack. “Bonk, bonk, bonk! Knock, knock, knock!” His defensive power was doubled.

    Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng were quietly focusing their own attention and energy to guard against the internal energy battle between these two people. Even though one party was only on the defensive, but they did not dare to carelessly ignore the offensive energy from the flute.

    The flute sound was suddenly turning high and low; ever changing, strange yet wonderful. Suddenly Guo Jing felt a burst of cold air flying in, carried by the flute sound. He felt like his body was wrapped by a thick layer of ice, which sent him shivering profusely.

    The flute sound gently climbed up the hill, getting more and more intense. Guo Jing felt cold to his bone. He struggled hard to divert his mind into thinking about a burning sun in the sky, or touching an iron exposed to the heat of the day, or holding a burning coal in his hand, or that he was entering a very hot stove; in short, all kinds of heat inducing thought. He succeeded. Huang Yaoshi saw Guo Jing’s left side was blue, shivering from the cold, while his right side was red, sweltering from the heat.

    Huang Yaoshi was secretly amazed. Once again he changed the flute sound, now the winter had passed, and the summer came around. Guo Jing struggled hard to resist, but his clapping tempo started to follow the flute rhythm. Huang Yaoshi said in his heart, “If this kid keep on resisting like this – even though he is still young, he won’t be able to withstand hot and cold successively; he will suffer a severe illness in the future.” The flute sound turned graceful, dispersed into the forest, and stopped.

    Guo Jing exhaled a long breath, stood up and staggered; nearly fell again to the ground. Only after taking several deep breaths did he manage to steady himself. He knew Huang Yaoshi was showing mercy; so he stepped forward, bowed and thanked him. “Thank you very much for showing mercy, Island Master Huang,” he said, “Disciple is very grateful.”

    Huang Rong noticed Guo Jing’s left hand was still holding his shoe; could not stifled her laugh, “Brother Jing, put your shoe back,” she said.

    “Yes,” Guo Jing replied, finally put the shoe back on his left foot.

    A thought suddenly came into Huang Yaoshi’s mind, “This kid is so young, yet his martial art is actually quite profound. Could it be that he was just pretending to be a fool, but in reality is a very intelligent person? If that’s the case, what would hinder me if I want to give my daughter to her?” A faint smile appeared on his face and he said, “You are very good, why do you still call me Island Master Huang?” Obviously he was saying that since Guo Jing had won two out of three tests, then Guo Jing should call him ‘Father-in-law’.

    Who would have thought that Guo Jing was really did not have any clue what he was talking about, so he only stammered, “I … I …” his eyes looked at Huang Rong; asking for help. Huang Rong was in the seventh heaven; she bent her right thumb, signaling Guo Jing he should kowtow. Guo Jing understood this signal, so he bent his knees and kowtowed four times to Huang Yaoshi, but he still did not open his mouth to speak.

    Huang Yaoshi smiled and asked, “What do you kowtow to me for?”

    “Rong’er told me to,” Guo Jing honestly answered.

    Huang Yaoshi silently sighed, “A dumb kid is a dumb kid,” he thought. Extending his hand he took the silk handkerchiefs from Ouyang Ke’s ears, and gave his decision. “Regarding internal energy, Guo Xianzhi is stronger; but my test subject was music knowledge, in which Ouyang Xianzhi is much better … Let’s just say that the second test was a draw. I am going to present the third subject, let two Xianzhis decide victory or defeat.”

    Ouyang Feng knew his nephew had lost, but he did not expect Huang Yaoshi would give him favor, so he quickly replied, “True, true! Let them compete one more time.”

    Hong Qigong was upset but didn’t say anything, he thought, “The girl is your own daughter, and others can’t meddle in if you want to give her to that rotten playboy. I always want to fight you, but right now it is difficult for my two fists to fight your four hands. Wait till I ask Emperor Duan to help me. We’ll see …”

    Huang Yaoshi produced a thin book with red silk cover from his bosom and said, “My wife and I only have this one daughter. Unfortunately she had died prematurely. Today Feng Xiong and Qi Xiong are both here to ask her hand in marriage. If my wife were here, I am sure she would be very delighted …” Listening to her father speak, Huang Rong’s eyes turned red. Huang Yaoshi continued, “This book was written by my wife, the same year she passed away. It was the fruit of her hard work. I am going to let both Xianzhis to read it, then recite it back from memory. Whoever manage to recite the most will be betrothed to my daughter.” He caught a sight of Hong Qigong had a slight cold smile on his face, but he continued on, “Actually, Guo Xianzhi had won by one subject, but this book has impacted my life tremendously; my wife died because of it. Now I silently wish her soul in heaven would personally choose our son-in-law; that she would bless the Xianzhi to win.”

    Hong Qigong could not hold his patience much longer, he shouted loud and clear, “Old Heretic Huang! Who want to listen to your crummy ghost story? You knew perfectly well my disciple is a dummy; does not know book or poetry, yet you insist on testing him on that very subject, then frightening him with your died young wife. You are shameless!” He brushed his long sleeve and turned his body to walk away.

    Huang Yaoshi sneered, “Qi Xiong, if you come to the Peach Blossom Island to flaunt your power, you still need to practice for several more years,” he coldly said.

    Hong Qigong stopped dead on his track, “What?” he raised his eyebrows, “You want to fight me?” he asked.

    “You don’t understand ‘wu xing qi men’ [lit. five ways strange/wonderful gates, don’t know the correct translation] techniques,” Huang Yaoshi replied, “If not by my permission, don’t even think of leaving this island alive.”

    Hong Qigong was angry, “I am going to burn down your stinky trees and flower bushes!”

    “If you have the ability, go ahead and try!” Huang Yaoshi coldly challenged.

    Guo Jing saw those two were about to fight, he also knew that the Peach Blossom Island was really not to be trifled with; he was afraid his master would fall into an enemy trap on the island. Quickly he stepped forward and said, “Island Master Huang, Shifu, let disciple and big brother Ouyang compete in this book memorization contest. Disciple is really stupid, if I lose, I lose.” But in his heart he was thinking, “I’ll wait till Shifu is save, then Rong’er and I will jump into the sea, we will swim as far as our strength would take us; then we will die together in the sea.”

    “Great!” Hong Qigong said mockingly, “You just can’t wait to lose face, can you? Be my guest, then! Be my guest.” His thought was, ‘if you are going to lose anyway, why compete?’ so he intended to take his disciples along, three people just walked away to the seashore, snatched a boat and sailed away from the island. Who would have thought that the stupid disciple of his could not act according to the circumstance? He had no alternatives but conceded.

    “Be a good girl and sit quietly; and don’t you have any weird ideas,” Huang Yaoshi told his daughter.

    Huang Rong did not say anything, but she expected Guo Jing would fail this next test. Her father said that he would let her deceased mother to pick their son-in-law; then the previous two tests Guo Jing had won did not count at all. Among the three tests, Guo Jing had obviously won the second one, so the decision that it was a draw was hard to accept. In short, she believed that the reason her father insisted on administering the third test was so that Ouyang Ke would win. So she started to cook an escape plan; how would she take Guo Jing out of the island.

    Huang Yaoshi told Ouyang Ke and Guo Jing to sit side by side on a big rock; then he presented the book in front of them. Ouyang Ke saw on the cover was written in the seal characters [the ones found on official documents] these six characters, ‘jiu yin zhen jing’ [Nine Yin Manual]; he was ecstatic. “This Nine Yin Manual is the world’s most profound martial arts manual; Father-in-law must be very fond of me to let me read this wonderful book.” Guo Jing, on the other hand, also saw the six characters but had no idea what they were; he thought, “He intentionally wants to make things difficult for me. How do I know this kind of curving-tadpole characters? In any case I am going to admit defeat.”

    Huang Yaoshi opened the cover and the book was actually written in normal/modern characters. The handwriting was graceful; obviously written by a female hand. Guo Jing started to read and his heart skipped a beat. The first line read, “The way of the Heaven: A simple fix is not enough to repair damage; it truly is an empty victory, insufficient for a real one.” [?not sure?] It was exactly the sentence Zhou Botong told him to memorize. He looked further down, and to his surprise, the sentences were the ones he had already known by heart.

    Huang Yaoshi waited a moment, and when he thought the two had finished, he flipped the page. On the second page the words and phrases were slightly out of order; and further down the book, the sentences were becoming more confusing while the characters looked soft and weak.

    Guo Jing’s heart was shaken again, he recalled Zhou Botong’s story on how Madame Huang had re-written the Nine Yin Manual from memory, and how it drained her emotionally and physically that she died while giving birth to her child. This book was obviously the one she wrote before she died. “Could it be that what Big Brother Zhou taught me was the Nine Yin Manual?” he wondered in his heart. “No. It can’t be. The second volume of Nine Yin Manual is lost in Mei Chaofeng’s hands; where did he get it from?”

    Huang Yaoshi saw him staring blankly; lost in thought, even looked dazed; he did not pay any attention and slowly turned the page one by one. At first Ouyang Ke was able to memorize what was written, but later on when it got to the training method the sentences were garbled; there was no clear relation between the previous to the next ones. Further down the book, even the characters were unclear. His heart sank; he could not help sighing inwardly, “Turned out he is still unwilling to show me the real full-text Manual.” But then he had another thought, “Even though I can’t see the full Manual, but compared to this dumb kid I am sure I have memorized more text. In this test my victory has been decided.” Having this thought he felt smug and could not help to cast a glance toward Huang Rong.

    Huang Rong caught his glance and she stuck her tongue out, making an ugly face. “Brother Ouyang,” she said, “You have captured Sister Mu and put her inside the coffin at that ancestral temple. You have suffocated her to death. She came into my dream last night; her hair disheveled, her face full of blood; and she told me she is looking for you, she wanted to take your life.”

    Ouyang Ke had long ago forgotten about her; out of the blue Huang Rong mentioned her name, he was startled, “Aiyo! I forgot to get her out of there!” He thought in his heart, “It’s a pity a young girl like her died of suffocation.” But then he saw Huang Rong was smiling, apparently she was joking. “How did you know she was in the coffin? Did you rescue her?” he asked.

    Ouyang Feng knew Huang Rong was trying to divide his nephew’s mind, so that he would not be able to remember the text. “Ke’er,” he said, “Don’t bother with other matters, just concentrate on the book.” Ouyang Ke shivered. “Yes,” he said; and quickly turned his eyes back to the book.

    Guo Jing noticed that the sentences on the book were exactly the same as the ones Zhou Botong taught him. The ones in his memory even had better integrity than the ones on the book, since the book contained so many holes – incomplete sentences and missing words, in it. He raised his head and looked up at the tree branches, trying to make any sense out of it all.

    A little while later Huang Yaoshi turned the last page. “Who will recite first?” he asked.

    Ouyang Ke thought, “This book is confusing, very difficult to memorize. I’d better recite it while it is still fresh in my memory.” Snatching the opportunity he said, “I will.”

    Huang Yaoshi nodded his head, then to Guo Jing he said, “Please go to that bamboo groove over there. You cannot listen to him reciting.”

    Guo Jing obeyed him and walked dozens of steps toward the bamboo groove. Huang Rong saw this as a good opportunity to escape together, so quietly she walked toward him. But suddenly Huang Yaoshi called out, “Rong’er, come here! You have to listen to them recite, otherwise you’d say I am one-sided.”

    “You are one-sided,” Huang Rong replied, “You don’t need other people to say that.”

    “That’s nonsense!” Huang Yaoshi laughed, “Come here!”

    With her mouth Huang Rong said, “I don’t want to come,” but she knew her father’s temperament very well; once he decided to keep her under his watchful eyes, it would be more difficult for her to escape. So slowly she walked toward them, giving Ouyang Ke her sweetest smile and said, “Brother Ouyang, what good do I have that you like me very much?”

    Ouyang Ke’s heart melted, his vision blurred, grinning wide he replied, “Little sister, you … you …” he could not say more than that.

    “Don’t go back to the west too soon,” Huang Rong added, “Stay in the Peach Blossom Island for several days. The west is very cold, isn’t it?”

    “The west is much bigger than you think, there are some cold regions, no doubt, but other parts are warm and sunny, much like the south (Jiangnan),” Ouyang Ke replied.

    “I don’t believe you,” Huang Rong smiled, “You love to deceive people.”

    Ouyang Ke was about to debate her, but Ouyang Feng coldly said, “Child, you can chat again later; right now you need to recite the book.”

    Ouyang Ke was startled; he realized that Huang Rong’s disturbance was intended to confuse him, and indeed he had forgotten many characters of the confusing parts. Therefore, he refocused his attention and slowly recited the book. “The way of the Heaven: A simple fix is not enough to repair damage; it truly is an empty victory, insufficient for a real one ...”

    His memory was really good; he managed to remember most of the theory in the front, but toward the back of the book – where the training method was explained, he missed a lot. It was not surprising actually, since Madame Huang did not know martial arts and it was some times later that she re-wrote the book from memory, so the words were jumbled. Ouyang Ke only managed to recall about 10% of this later part. Plus, on the side Huang Rong kept trying to divert his attention by saying, “Not right! You remembered wrong!” He could not even remember 10% toward the back of the book.

    Huang Yaoshi smiled and said, “You can remember that much and that was very good!” Raising his voice he called out, “Guo Xianzhi, it’s your turn to recite.”

    Guo Jing walked back, seeing the smug expression on Ouyang Ke’s face he thought, “This man is really smart, he only read once, yet he can recite these mumbo-jumbo texts. I don’t have that capability, so I’d better recite the ones Big Brother Zhou taught me. If that is incorrect, oh well ... I don’t have any choice.”

    Hong Qigong said, “Stupid kid, they intentionally want to make a scene out of us; they have planned it all.”

    Suddenly Huang Rong kicked the ground and leaped to the top of the bamboo pavilion. With a flick of her hand she pointed a dagger to her own chest and said, “Father, if you insist on me going to the west with that stinky boy, I will die right here right now in your presence.”

    Huang Yaoshi knew his precious daughter would do what she said; he called out, “Put that dagger down! We can talk it over.”

    Ouyang Feng stomped his staff to the ground and with a humming sound something flew from the staff straight toward Huang Rong. The secret projectile was very fast; before Huang Rong could see what it was, she had already heard a clanking sound and the dagger flew from her hand, fell down to the ground. At the same time Huang Yaoshi had leaped to the top; stretched his hand and grab his daughter’s shoulder and softly said, “It’s all right if you don’t want to get married. You can stay on the Peach Blossom Island and accompany your father for the rest of your life.”

    Huang Rong flayed her arms and legs, crying, “Father, you don’t love Rong’er! You don’t love Rong’er!”

    Hong Qigong was amused seeing this Huang Yaoshi who roamed the lake and the sea fearlessly, who killed people without batting an eye, was actually having trouble controlling his own daughter. He could not help laughing so hard.

    Ouyang Feng thought, “I will wait for the final decision, then I’ll take care of this Old Beggar and that boy surnamed Guo. We’ll sort other things later. This girl acts like a spoiled brat, what do I care?” Thus he said, “Guo Xianzhi’s martial art skill is excellent, he is a real young hero. His intelligence must be excellent as well. Yao Xiong, you’d better ask him to recite.”

    “Exactly right!” Huang Yaoshi said, “Rong’er, if you keep babbling you will disturb Guo Xianzhi’s concentration.” Huang Rong closed her mouth immediately.

    Ouyang Feng wanted to humiliate Guo Jing very much. “Guo Xianzhi, please start reciting. We are going to listen respectfully right here,” he urged.

    Guo Jing’s face reddened, he thought, “I can’t do it; I’d better recite what Big Brother Zhou taught me.” Thereupon he started reciting, “The way of the Heaven: A simple fix is not enough to repair damage; it truly is an empty victory, insufficient for a real one ...” He had recited the Nine Yin Manual from top to bottom hundreds of time before; by now it was already ingrained in his brain. He recited slowly but steadily, no hesitation at all.

    About half a page later everybody was stunned; they thought, “This kid seemed slow and dim-witted, who would have known that he is actually very smart.”

    Very soon Guo Jing had already reached the fourth page. Hong Qigong and Huang Rong knew very well that Guo Jing did not have that kind of intelligence; they did not know what had possessed him, but they were pleasantly and extremely surprised.

    Huang Yaoshi listened attentively and compared every word with the ones in the book. He found out that Guo Jing’s sentences were ten times more logical; firmly resembled the original text that he remembered. His heart turned cold and unconsciously he broke in cold sweats. “Could it be that my deceased wife’s spirit in the underworld is so smart that she managed to recall the full text and passed it on to this boy?” The words kept coming out of Guo Jing’s mouth like trickling water. Huang Yaoshi was started to be convinced that his wife’s spirit did help this youngster; he looked up to the sky and softly muttered, “A Heng, A Heng, you loved me very much that you have used this boy’s mouth to impart the manual to me. But why didn’t you let me see a glimpse of you? I played my flute every night for you; did you hear that?”

    ‘A Heng’ was Madame Huang’s nickname; nobody else but him knew this; so naturally everybody else did not know what he was talking about. They saw his face looked different; his eyes glazed in tears, his mouth quivered but nothing came out of it; they were puzzled.

    After being in that dazed condition for a while Huang Yaoshi suddenly had another thought. He waved his hand to stop Guo Jing. His face was as cold as if there was a layer of frost on it; fiercely he asked, “The Nine Yin Manual that Mei Chaofeng lost; where did you find it?”

    Guo Jing saw his eyes had a murderous look; he was really scared. “Disciple really does not know Mei … Senior Mei’s Manual’s whereabouts. If I do, I will gladly help to retrieve it and return it to the Island Master.”

    Huang Yaoshi looked at him with his penetrating gaze, yet did not see even the slightest bit of deceitfulness on Guo Jing’s face. He was compelled to believe it was his late wife from the underworld who taught Guo Jing; he was feeling joyful and grieved at the same time. With a loud and clear voice he gave his verdict, “Very well. Qi Xiong, Feng Xiong, it was my deceased wife who chose our son-in-law; your brother did not have anything else to say. Child, I betroth Rong’er to you. Treat her well. I have spoiled Rong’er badly, so you need to yied 30% of the time.”

    Huang Rong was ecstatic, she was grinning from ear to ear, “I am a completely well-behaved girl, who said I am badly spoiled?”

    Guo Jing might be stupid, he might be slow, but this time he did not need Huang Rong to prompt him; he immediately kneeled down and kowtowed, “Father-in-law!”

    He had not stood back up yet when Ouyang Ke suddenly called out, “Hold on!”

    End of Chapter 18
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    Last edited by foxs; 04-17-07 at 03:51 PM.

  4. #44
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 19 – Great Waves and School of Sharks

    Alone in that small underground room and seeing the painting of her deceased mother made by her father's own hand; with a roller coaster of emotions Huang Rong thought, “I have never seen Mother. I wonder after I die, will I meet her? Was she really as beautiful as in the picture? Where is she right now? Is she in the sky above, in the earth below, or still in this room?”

    Chapter 19 – Great Waves and School of Sharks
    (Translated by Foxs, edited by Eliza Bennet)

    Not in his wildest dreams did Hong Qigong think the memorization contest would end up this way. Guo Jing could beat Ouyang Ke and make him roll around on the ground seventeen, eighteen times would be ten times more believable to him. He was so happy that he was not able to wipe the smile out of his mouth; so hearing Ouyang Ke he snapped, “What? You are not convinced?”

    “What Brother Guo recited was a lot more than what was written on the book,” Ouyang Ke said, “He must have the Nine Yin Manual in his possession. Gathering up all my courage Junior would like to do a body search on him.”

    “Island Master Huang had accepted his proposal,” Hong Qigong said, “What other business there is to discuss? Didn’t you hear what your uncle said before the tests?”

    Ouyang Feng put on his angry eyes. “Do you think the man surnamed Ouyang will be easily deceived?” he said. He heard what his nephew just said, and was convinced that Guo Jing knew the Nine Yin Manual; he wanted very much to get the book for himself. Whether Huang Yaoshi accepted his marriage proposal or not became secondary to him.

    Guo Jing took out his belt and opened up his clothes, saying, “Senior Ouyang, you can search me if you want to.” Immediately he took everything out of his pocket and placed them on top of a big rock nearby: silver coins, handkerchief, flint, and the like.

    “Humph!” Ouyang Feng snorted, and began searching Guo Jing’s body. Huang Yaoshi had known Ouyang Feng for a long time as a ruthless man; he would do unpredictable things when angry. Plus his strength was profound; so if he put forth a violent hand nobody would be able to rescue Guo Jing. Huang Yaoshi coughed and stretched out his left hand and placed it on Ouyang Ke’s neck just about on his spine; it was a vital point. Whenever Huang Yaoshi would put some force on it, Ouyang Ke’s spine would break and Ouyang Feng could give up any idea of saving him.

    Hong Qigong knew his intention very well, secretly he was fascinated, “Old Heretic Huang is really one-sided. Now that he favored his daughter and future son-in-law he wanted to protect this dumb disciple of mine. Ay! He is capable of reciting the whole book, so I can’t call him dumb anymore.”

    Originally Ouyang Feng was going to strike Guo Jing’s lower abdomen with his Toad Stance energy, let him suffer for three years before he would finally die; but seeing that Huang Yaoshi had guard against his scheme he did not dare to strike. He searched Guo Jing’s body without any result. All he could do was stay silent for half a day, thinking really hard. He did not believe all this nonsense about Madame Huang’s spirit choosing her son-in-law. He recalled this kid was dumb and slow, apparently he could not lie. Perhaps he could coerce the whereabouts of the Manual from his mouth. He shook the staff in his hand; with a clanking noise two weird looking snakes slithered up the length of the staff.

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing saw these strange animals, they were scared and moved one step back. Pointing to Guo Jing’s throat, he asked, “Guo Xianzhi, where did you learn this Nine Yin Manual from?” His eyes were blazing red; looking at Guo Jing with a penetrating gaze.

    “I knew about the Nine Yin Manual, but I have never seen it,” Guo Jing said. “The first volume is in the hand of Zhou Botong, Big Brother Zhou …”

    “Why did you call Zhou Botong ‘Big Brother Zhou’?” Hong Qigong asked, “Have you met the Old Urchin Zhou Botong?”

    “Yes,” Guo Jing replied, “Big Brother Zhou and your disciple have become sworn brothers.”

    “One old the other young,” Hong Qigong mocked, “Really preposterous!”

    “What about the second volume?” Ouyang Feng asked.

    “The second volume was in Mei Chaofeng … Mei … Mei Shijie’s hand, but it was lost in Lake Tai,” Guo Jing explained. “Right now she is under Father-in-law order to search for it everywhere. Disciple was thinking that after everything here is done, I will go and lending her a helping hand.”

    Ouyang Feng fiercely asked, “You have not seen the Nine Yin Manual, then how can you recite it so well?”

    Guo Jing was puzzled. “Did I recite the Nine Yin Manual?” he asked, “That can’t be. It was the text Big Brother Zhou taught me; he said it was his own secret martial art creation.”

    Huang Yaoshi inwardly sighed; he was dismayed and he thought, “Zhou Botong had received his late martial brother’s order to guard the Nine Yin Manual. He played some marbles and lost to me; I tricked him and in the end he burned the book to ashes. Before that he had not looked at the content of the book at all; that was not a bit strange. But now there seemed to be a divine intervention; everything happened so coincidentally that my daughter ended up betrothed to him. Isn’t he so lucky?”

    Huang Yaoshi was still deep in thought, Ouyang Feng pressed on, “Where is that Zhou Botong now?” he asked.

    Guo Jing was about to answer, but Huang Yaoshi cut him off, “Jing’er, no need to say more.” Turning his head to Ouyang Feng he said, “It is such a trivial matter, why do you care so much? Feng Xiong, Qi Xiong, we have not seen each other for 20 years. Let us spend three days in the Peach Blossom Island, drinking to our hearts’ content.”

    “Shifu, I am going to prepare some food for you,” Huang Rong said, “Here on the island the lotus is superb; how about some chicken steamed in lotus petals, or some fresh water chestnut and lotus leaf soup? I am sure you’ll like it.”

    Hong Qigong smiled widely, “Now that you’ve gotten what your heart’s desired, look how happy you are!”

    Huang Rong just gave him a faint smile. “Shifu, Uncle Ouyang, Brother Ouyang, please,” she said. She was extremely happy to be betrothed to Guo Jing so that her animosity toward Ouyang Ke had vanished into the thin air. This very moment to her everybody in the whole wide world was a good person.

    Ouyang Feng raised his hands in greeting to Huang Yaoshi, “Yao Xiong, I must decline your great hospitality. Many thanks. Let us part today.”

    “Feng Xiong had come from a long way away,” Huang Yaoshi replied, “Brother has not fulfill my responsibility as a good host; how can I let you leave?”

    From thousands of miles away Ouyang Feng had come, not only for his nephew’s sake, but for another grand scheme as well. He received his nephew’s pigeon-carried letter which said that the Nine Yin Manual had reappeared and was in the hands of Huang Yaoshi’s renegade blind female disciple. After the marriage he would join forces with Huang Yaoshi and obtain the Nine Yin Manual. But now the marriage proposal failed, his nephew lost the competition; he was really dejected, so he insisted on leaving.

    “Uncle!” suddenly Ouyang Ke said, “Your nephew is useless, I have made you lost your face. But Uncle Huang had promised that he would teach Nephew some skills.”

    “Humph!” Ouyang Feng muttered. He was aware his nephew had not given up hope on this Huang family’s girl; so he found some excuse by learning something to stay longer, to be close to Huang Rong, to try to win her heart; who knows she would eventually fall into his hands?

    Huang Yaoshi was upset. He erroneously thought that Ouyang Ke would win the three tests; therefore, he made that promise to reward Guo Jing. But unexpectedly it was Ouyang Ke who failed the tests. Apologetically he said, “Ouyang Xianzhi, your uncle’s martial art is unparalleled in the world; others cannot hold a candle against him. You have mastered your own family heritage skills, what need do you have to learn somebody else’s skill? This old dog was lucky to master some ‘zuo dao pang men’ [lit. left-handed way, side door; means ‘second rate’ or ‘not the ultimate’] techniques. If Xianzhi does not think it too superficial, then whichever skill you like to learn, this old dog will be happy to teach you.”

    Ouyang Ke thought, “I must choose the one needed the longest time to master. I have long heard about the Peach Blossom Island’s ‘wu xing qi men’ to be number one in the world. I am sure it won’t be finished in a day.” Thereupon he bowed and said, “Young Nephew admired your ‘wu xing qi men’ techniques so much. I am asking Uncle to kindly bestow that to me.”

    Huang Yaoshi did not answer immediately; he hesitated, feeling awkward in his heart. The technique requested was the one he was most proud about. Apart from it being complicated to begin with, he had expanded and developed new interpretation and variation to the original technique he learned from his ancestors. His own daughter – due to her young age, had not learned this technique; how could he pass this knowledge to a total stranger? But he had given his promise; it was impossible to take it back, so reluctantly he asked, “The ‘wu xing qi men’ technique is very broad and deep. Which one do you want to learn?”

    Ouyang Ke wanted to stay at the Peach Blossom Island as long as possible, so he requested, “Young Nephew saw the winding pathways of the Peach Blossom Island; the vegetation arrangement is complicated. My heart admires this arrangement to no end. I am asking Uncle to allow young nephew to stay in the island for several months and study the mystery of this complicated pathways and its variations thoroughly.”

    Huang Yaoshi’s face changed slightly, he cast a glance toward Ouyang Feng. He thought, “So you want to investigate and find out the Peach Blossom Island’s ingenious arrangement. What is your real intention?”

    Ouyang Feng saw his expression, he could guess what was in his heart, so he chided his nephew, “You don’t know how high the heaven is nor how deep the earth is! Uncle Huang had spent half of his life painstakingly arranging the island. It is his defense against the intruders; how could he divulge this mystery to you?”

    Huang Yaoshi coldly laughed, “Peach Blossom Island is only a barren and rocky hill; yet I doubt it if anybody could come and harm me.”

    Ouyang Feng smiled apologetically, “Little Brother crudely made an indiscreet remark, Yao Xiong please don’t be offended.”

    Hong Qigong laughed, “Old Poison! You are very sly; you have planned this from the start. Very brilliant!” he mocked.

    Huang Yaoshi slipped the jade flute into his belt and said, “Everybody please follow me.”

    Ouyang Ke saw the indignation on his face; he looked at his uncle for guidance. Ouyang Feng nodded his head and started to walk behind Huang Yaoshi. Everybody followed not too far behind.

    Winding through the bamboo grove they arrived at a big lotus pond. The lotuses were white, emanating a fragrant scent. The pond surface was full of lotus leaves. There was a strip of dike made of small stones winding through the center of the pond. Huang Yaoshi walked through the dike, taking everybody to a building on the other side of the pond. The building was made from logs of pine tree. A rattan tree was climbing the outside wall. It was midsummer, the weather was hot, but as soon as they saw that building everybody felt a burst of cool air. Huang Yaoshi took four people and entered his study. A deaf and mute servant immediately came serving tea. The tea was dark green, cold as snow. As soon as it entered their mouth the cold seeped to their bones.

    Hong Qigong laughed and made a comment, “People say: after being a beggar for three years one would not willing to be a government official. Yao Xiong, if I stay in your cool place for three years, I won’t be willing to be a beggar anymore!”

    “If Qi Xiong is willing to stay to drink and talk to our hearts’ content, that is truly my wish come true,” Huang Yaoshi said.

    Hong Qigong could hear the sincerity in his voice; his heart was touched. “Many thanks,” he said, “It’s a pity the Old Beggar leads a busy and laborious life; I don’t have the luxury to enjoy a peaceful life like Yao Xiong.”

    Ouyang Feng said, “The two of you living together in the same place, as long as you don’t fight each other I bet within two months you will have created several sets of fist techniques or sword stances.”

    Hong Qigong laughed, “Are you jealous?”

    “This room is a big hall to study martial arts,” Ouyang Feng explained, “Naturally I came to that conclusion.”

    Hong Qigong laughed, “Ha … ha …! Another one of those ‘what-you-said-is-not-what-you-were-thinking’ speech.”

    Although these two men did not hold a deep animosity between them, their minds were usually a world apart and that was why they did not like each other. Only Ouyang Feng’s feeling was hidden behind a thick wall, unlike Hong Qigong who was open and outspoken. This time Ouyang Feng heard Hong Qigong’s comment he wanted to send Hong Qigong to the grave with one strike; but his face did not change. He laughed but did not say anything.

    Huang Yaoshi pressed something on the side of the table and a landscape painting on the west wall slowly went up, revealing a secret compartment behind it. He walked toward the wall, opened up the door to the compartment and took out a roll of paper. Gently he ran his fingers on the scroll several times before he faced Ouyang Ke and said, “This is the map of the Peach Blossom Island, complete with all the five ways variations and yin and yang elements and the eight-diagram changes; everything. Take this and study thoroughly.”

    Ouyang Ke was disappointed; he was hoping he could stay on the Peach Blossom Island for a while. He did not expect Huang Yaoshi only gave him a chart to look at. He knew it was a difficult topic to learn; but he did not have any choice but bowed respectfully and step forward to take the scroll from his hand.

    “Hold on!” Huang Yaoshi suddenly said. Ouyang Ke was startled, he pulled his hands back. “After taking this drawing, I want you to go to Lin An and find an inn or a temple to stay. After three months I am going to send someone to retrieve it. Everything on the chart you can memorize, but I forbid you to make any copies,” Huang Yaoshi continued.

    Ouyang Ke thought, “You won’t allow me to stay on the Peach Blossom Island; I don’t care much about your weird skill anyway. In the next three months I will be responsible for this chart. If not careful I might lose or damage this chart; then what would I do? No, I’d better not take it!” He was going to say some nice words to decline when suddenly another thought came into his mind, “He said he is going to send someone to retrieve it; that someone must be his daughter. This is a great opportunity to get intimate with her.” He was delighted with this thought and immediately held out his hands to receive the scroll while uttering some grateful words.

    Huang Rong took out the small box of dragon pill and gave it back to Ouyang Feng. “Uncle Ouyang,” she said, “This is your poison antidote pill; your niece does not dare to accept it.”

    Ouyang Feng thought, “If this thing falls into the Old Heretic Huang’s hands; he would be impervious to my poisons. Although to take it back again seemed so petty, I can’t afford to let him have it.” Therefore, he held out his hand to take the pill and immediately raised his hands to say goodbye to Huang Yaoshi.

    Huang Yaoshi did not hold him back; he sent them away. Walking to the door Hong Qigong said, “Du Xiong [poison brother], the end of next year will be our Sword Meet on Mount Hua. You have to conserve your energy well since we are going to have a very tight competition.”

    Ouyang Feng simply smiled casually, “The way I see it we don’t need to waste our energy to fight. The title ‘the world’s number one martial artist’ has been decided early on.”

    Hong Qigong was taken aback, “Has been decided? Could it be that Du Xiong has mastered a matchless unique skill?”

    Ouyang Feng showed a faint smile, “With a mediocre skill, how would Ouyang Feng dare to covet the title ‘the world’s number one martial artist’? I am talking about the person who taught this Guo Xianzhi.”

    Hong Qigong laughed, “Are you talking about the Old Beggar?” he said, “I’d like that, but Yao Xiong’s martial art has improved daily. For you, Du Xiong, advancing years also mean advancing skill. I am afraid Emperor Duan’s martial art skill is not getting lower either. I don’t think the Old Beggar will have any advantage.”

    Ouyang Feng coldly said, “Among the people who taught Guo Xianzhi, not necessarily Qi Xiong’s martial art is the finest.”

    “What?” Hong Qigong barely closed his mouth when Huang Yaoshi interrupted, “Uh, are you talking about the Old Urchin Zhou Botong?”

    “That’s right!” Ouyang Feng replied, “Since the Old Urchin had mastered the Nine Yin Manual, then all of us: the Eastern Heretic, Western Poison, Southern Emperor and Northern Beggar, are not his match anymore.”

    “That is not necessarily true,” Huang Yaoshi said, “Manual is dead, but martial art is alive.”

    Ouyang Feng noticed earlier that Huang Yaoshi had diverted his question; he did not let Guo Jing tell them Zhou Botong’s whereabouts; he knew something was amiss; so he decided to mention it again just before he leave. Hearing Huang Yaoshi said that he knew his suspicion was not unsubstantiated; but he was crafty, so his face did not show any changes. Nonchalantly he said, “We all know the quality of Quan Zhen Sect’s martial art; we even need to ask for their advice. Now the Old Urchin has added the skill of the Nine Yin Manual to that; even if Wang Chongyang were alive, I doubt he would be his match; not to mention us. Ay! Quan Zhen is really good; even if the three of us work hard for a lifetime, we are still a notch below them.”

    “The Old Urchin’s martial art is a lot better than mine,” Huang Yaoshi said, “But has not reached Feng Xiong and Qi Xiong’s level. I know this for a fact.”

    “Yao Xiong do not need to be modest,” Ouyang Feng said, “You and I are ‘ban jin ba liang’ [lit. half a ‘jin’ eight ‘liang’ – comparable, equal]. You have said so yourself; that Zhou Botong’s martial art is not as good as yours. However, I am afraid …” He shook his head.

    “Feng Xiong will find out next year at the Sword Meet of Mount Hua,” Huang Yaoshi smiled.

    Ouyang Feng was serious, “Yao Xiong, I usually respect your martial art, but I doubt it when you said you can defeat the Old Urchin. I think with him, you’d better watch out.”

    It was not that Huang Yaoshi did not know that he was being provoked, but he was a proud man; of course he did not want anybody belittle him. So with indignation he said, “The Old Urchin is actually on the Peach Blossom Island. Brother has imprisoned him for fifteen years.”

    Ouyang Feng and Hong Qigong were dumbstruck. Hong Qigong simply raised his eyebrows, but Ouyang Feng actually broke up in laughter, “Yao Xiong, that was a very good joke!”

    Huang Yaoshi did not say anything; he pointed his finger as if showing the way, then he exerted his strength to his feet, and flew back to the bamboo groove. Hong Qigong followed along, his left hand holding Guo Jing, his right hand Huang Rong. Ouyang Feng also pulled Ouyang Ke’s arm; together they used their lightness kungfu and not too long afterward arrived in front of Zhou Botong’s cave.

    When they were still quite a distance away Huang Yaoshi had noticed that the cave was empty. “Ah!” he uttered his surprise. With a body as light as a feather he leaped up to the sky; and several jumps later he had already arrived at the cave’s mouth. His left foot landed first, only to feel he stepped on an empty space. Suddenly meeting an accident he did not panic; he kicked his right foot to the air and jumped vertically up. Again he landed his left foot gently, but again he felt he was stepping on an empty air. This time he was not able to use anything as a stepping stone, so with the back of his hand he pulled the jade flute from his belt and in one fluid motion struck the flute to the cave wall. With one push his body flew out of the cave like a flying arrow.

    That vertical leap, pulling out the jade flute and flying backward outside the cave were done in a flash. Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng saw his wonderful skill and they cheered; only to hear a “Splotch!” sound. Huang Yaoshi’s both feet fell into a hole on the ground outside the cave.

    Huang Yaoshi felt his feet were stepping on something wet and soft. With a light kick once again his body flew up. While he was still on the air he saw Hong Qigong and the rest had arrived and they did not fall into any trap, so he landed gently on his daughter’s side. Suddenly a stinky stench attacked his nostrils; he looked down and to his dismay he saw his feet were covered with dung.

    Everybody was puzzled; with his high level of martial art skill, plus his intelligence, how could Huang Yaoshi fall into somebody else’s trap?

    Huang Yaoshi was furious; he took a tree branch to test the ground, poking to the east and striking to the west. To his surprise, only those three holes were there, the rest was just solid ground.

    Obviously Zhou Botong had expected him to come rushing into the cave, so he prepared the first hole. He had carefully calculated that with his level of lightness kungfu Huang Yaoshi would leap vertically up to avoid falling into this hole; therefore, he prepared the second hole. Again, he knew that this second hole would not trap Huang Yaoshi. So he cleverly placed the third hole, knowing Huang Yaoshi would leap backward, outside the cave; and filled this hole with dung.

    Huang Yaoshi carefully entered the cave, looked to all directions and saw nothing inside the cave except some clay jars and clay bowls. He vaguely saw several lines of characters written on the cave wall.

    Seeing Huang Yaoshi fell into a trap Ouyang Feng laughed in his heart. But now he saw Huang Yaoshi walk toward cave wall to take a look; he thought there was a slight possibility that the Nine Yin Manual was written on that wall; so he threw any cautions to the wind and hurriedly went forward to take a closer look. What he saw was several characters carved with a needle which read, “Old Heretic Huang, you have broken both of my legs and imprisoned me for fifteen years inside this cave. I should have broken both of your legs to vent my anger. But after some thoughts I decided to let it pass. I give you this pile of dung and a pot of stinky urine instead. Please, please …” The characters below those ‘please’ words were covered with a leaf.

    Huang Yaoshi casually stretched his hand to lift the leaf up, but the leaf was tied with a string. Without thinking he pulled the string only to hear some knocking noise above him. Realizing what had happened Huang Yaoshi quickly jumped to the left. Right next to him Ouyang Feng was also quick, seeing that Huang Yaoshi moved, he also jumped to the right. Who would have thought that a series of clanking noise was heard; a whole bunch of clay jars fell down from both sides of the cave wall. Both men were drenched in smelly urine!

    Hong Qigong burst in laughter, “How sweet! How sweet!” he shouted. Huang Yaoshi was fuming mad, shouting some cursing words. Ouyang Feng was very good at concealing his feelings; he merely smiled.

    Huang Rong dashed back to the house, taking some change of clothes for his father. She also brought his father’s robe for Ouyang Feng.

    Huang Yaoshi decided to take a look inside the cave one more time, careful not to trip on any more booby-trap. He took out the leaf and saw two lines of very fine characters, “… don’t pull the leaf. There is smelly urine above to drench you up. Absolutely, 100%! Don’t ever say that I haven’t warned you.”

    Huang Yaoshi was angry, but also amused. Suddenly he remembered that the urine was still a little bit warm; he turned his body and walked out the cave. “The Old Urchin has not left too long ago; we can still catch up with him.”

    Guo Jing was wary, “As soon as these two see each other they will certainly engage in a fierce battle,” he thought. But before he had any chance to voice his opinion Huang Yaoshi had already flown to the east.

    Everybody knew the pathways of the island were mysterious, nobody dared to be left behind, so they closely followed along. Not too far ahead they could see Zhou Botong was strolling leisurely. Huang Yaoshi exerted his strength to his feet and flew like an arrow leaving its bow; in a flash he had approached Zhou Botong. He stretched out his hand to grab Zhou Botong’s neck.

    Zhou Botong evaded to the left. Turning his body around he called out, “Wow! It’s the sweet smelling Old Heretic Huang!”

    In this one grab Huang Yaoshi had used the skill he painstakingly trained for decades; it was swift and fierce. He was mad because of the urine and dung, so he had used 100% of his strength in that one attack. Who would have thought that Zhou Botong was able to evade his attack casually, like he did not made too much effort at all. Huang Yaoshi’s heart turned cold; he stopped his attack. He calmed himself down and looked at Zhou Botong. To his surprise Zhou Botong’s hands were tied in front of his chest; but he was smiling happily, his face showed contentment.

    Guo Jing rushed forward and said, “Big Brother, Island Master Huang has become my father-in-law; now we belong to the same family.”

    Zhou Botong sighed, “What Father-in-law? Why didn’t you listen to me? Old Heretic Huang is wicked and weird; how can his daughter any better? You will suffer the consequences for the rest of your life. Good Brother, let me tell you this: No matter what happened, you cannot take the daughter of someone who loves to drench himself in urine everyday as your wife. It’s a good thing you haven’t bowed to the heaven and the earth to marry her; you can still slip away. Quickly you run away as far as you can, otherwise she’ll come looking for you …”

    He was still babbling endlessly when Huang Rong stepped forward and smiled, “Big Brother Zhou, look who’s coming behind you?”

    Zhou Botong turned his head, but of course he did not see anyone. Huang Rong raised the smelly change of clothes from his father and threw it toward his back. Zhou Botong heard the swishing sound and stepped sideways; “Splat!” that bundle of clothes fell to the ground dispersing a foul odor everywhere.

    Zhou Botong doubled with laughter. “Old Heretic Huang,” he said, “You have imprisoned me for fifteen years and broken both of my legs; yet I only let you to step on my dung and drenched you with my urine. Don’t you think that was a fair deal?”

    Huang Yaoshi pondered about it for a moment and felt Zhou Botong was right; so he did not give it another thought. “Why do you tie up your hands like that?” he asked.

    “I have my reasons, which I can’t tell you,” Zhou Botong said, repeatedly shaking his head. He looked so solemn.

    Actually when Zhou Botong was forced to endure suffering in that hole, several times he had a thought to come out and fight Huang Yaoshi. However, he realized that he was still not Huang Yaoshi’s match. Besides, if he got killed or heavily injured; who would defend the Nine Yin Manual entrusted to him by his martial brother? Therefore, he had to swallow his pride and endured everything patiently. Then Guo Jing came into the scene. Together they played four-hand mutual combat until one day he had an idea to fight as two Zhou Botongs against one Huang Yaoshi. He was confident that no matter how high Huang Yaoshi’s skill was, he would be able to exact a revenge for his fifteen years of suffering.

    After Guo Jing left he sat on the ground, and all kinds of memories came flooding back to his mind: dozens of years of gratitude, grudges, love and hate; he felt like a thick curtain was covering up his mind. Suddenly he heard from a distant the flute, zither, and whistle sounds battling each other. His spirit was stirred; he became agitated; wanted to dash out, and was having difficulty controlling his own emotion. He had been pondering his own question for a while, “My little brother’s martial art is still far below mine, but why is it that the Old Heretic Huang’s flute sound did not affect him one bit?” But after he befriended Guo Jing for many days he started to understand Guo Jing’s personality. That day, after thinking deeply for a moment it suddenly dawned on him; “That’s right! That’s right!” he exclaimed, “He is young, does not understand the complexity of man-woman relationship; does not know its pleasure and heartache. Moreover, he is simple-minded, not ambitious; he has a naïve personality and a pure heart. I, on the other hand, am old; but why do I still thinking about revenge? I am so narrow-minded. It is ridiculous, really!”

    Although belonged to Quan Zhen Sect, he had never become a Taoist Priest; still, the Taoist principles were deeply ingrained in his heart: ‘qing jing wu wei’ [peace and tranquility, no action - pacifism], lead a simple life and suppress ambition, all those Taoist teachings. It was like a light bulb suddenly turned on in his head. He let out a long breath, stood up and walked outside the cave. For the first time in so many years he realized that the sky was so blue, the clouds so white. His heart was clear and bright. The sufferings he experienced caused by Huang Yaoshi in the past 15 years simply became a small matter in his mind.

    Once outside he thought aloud, “Once I leave the Peach Blossom Island I am not coming back. If I don’t leave some souvenirs for the Old Heretic Huang, how would he remember me in the days to come?” Hence with much eagerness he dug some holes and filled them with his dung and found some jars and filled them with his urine. After working hard for half a day he finally left the cave.

    He only walked for several steps when suddenly remembered something, “The pathways of the Peach Blossom Island is strange, how would I know the right path to take? If I leave Brother Guo on this island, chances are more harm would come his way than not; I must take him with me. If the Old Heretic Huang tried to stop, ha … ha …, if the Old Heretic Huang wanted to fight, one Old Heretic Huang won’t be a match for two Old Urchins!” After thinking that he casually swung his hand and ‘Crack!’ a small tree by the pathway was broken in two. He was stunned! “How come I am so strong? This has nothing to do with the mutual hands combat technique.”

    He swung his hand several more times and ‘Crack! Crack! Crack!’ without too much effort he had broken seven, eight small trees along the way. He was horrified. “This … this is the energy cultivation from the Nine Yin Manual. I … I … when did I learn this?” All of a sudden his body was drenched in cold sweats. “Strange, really strange!” he muttered.

    Clearly he remembered his late martial brother’s death wish; that no one from Quan Zhen allowed to learn anything from the manual. Who would have thought that in order to teach Guo Jing he had to recite the text everyday, his hands moved to give a clearer explanation; unexpectedly the manual was ingrained in his mind. Even in his sleep he would dream about the manual; so unconsciously he cultivated his energy based on the text. Basically his martial art was already high; his understanding of martial arts theory was also profound, plus the Nine Yin Manual was created based on Taoist principle, which he had already learned all his life. Unwittingly the manual was interlinked with his own basic knowledge. He did not want to learn the martial art, but it was the martial art which came to him.

    He vented off his frustration by shouting loudly, “Bad! It’s really bad! This is called once the ghost inhabits your body, you cannot drive it out. I wanted to play a big joke on Brother Guo; who knew that by smashing a big rock the debris hurts your own foot.”

    He was depressed for half a day and kept knocking his own head. Afterward an idea came to his mind; he peeled off some tree bark and made a rope; then with his teeth he tied his own hands; muttering loudly, “From now on, if I cannot forget the manual completely, I must not resort to violence toward anybody. Even if the Old Heretic Huang chases me, I cannot fight him; so that I won’t disobey my martial brother’s death wish. Ay, Old Urchin, Old Urchin, you reap what you sow!”

    Of course Huang Yaoshi could not guess the reason, he only knew the Old Urchin was naughty and weird, so he simply said, “Old Urchin, this is Brother Ouyang, which I believe you have met, this is …” Before he could finished, Zhou Botong had walked around them all, sniffing here and there; and then he laughed, “This must be the Old Beggar Hong Qigong. I know. He is a good man. Heaven’s nets do not miss; my stinky urine only drenched two people, the Eastern Heretic and Western Poison. Ouyang Feng, that time you fought with me, this time I soaked you with my urine; we are even now; nobody suffers any loss.”

    Ouyang Feng merely smiled but did not say anything. He came close to Huang Yaoshi and whispered in his ear, “Yao Xiong, this man’s martial art is amazing; he’s already surpassed both you and me. I think it best not to provoke him.”

    Huang Yaoshi thought, “We haven’t seen each other for twenty years, how would you know my martial art is inferior to his?” To Zhou Botong he said, “Botong, I have asked you over and over, I want burn the Nine Yin Manual as a sacrifice in front of my late wife’s memorial. As soon as you hand it down to me, I am going to let you go. Where do you think you are going now?”

    “I am tired of living on this island,” Zhou Botong said, “I am going outside to take a stroll.”

    “Then where is the manual?” Huang Yaoshi held out his hand.

    “I have given that to you earlier,” Zhou Botong said.

    “Don’t talk nonsense,” Huang Yaoshi said, “When did you give that to me?”

    Zhou Botong smiled, “Guo Jing is your son-in-law, is he not? Then he belongs to you, does he not? I have passed on the Nine Yin Manual from top to bottom to him; isn’t that the same as giving the manual to you?”

    Guo Jing was surprised, panicky he called out, “Big Brother, this … this … you taught me the Nine Yin Manual?”

    Zhou Botong burst out in laughter, “So you think it was a fake?”

    Guo Jing was dumbstruck, he looked like a fool. Zhou Botong was so happy. It was exactly for this moment that he was willing to spend innumerable effort to get Guo Jing memorizing the Nine Yin Manual; he wanted to see Guo Jing’s expression when he found out that he did learn the Nine Yin Manual in spite of his refusal. Now that his goal was achieved, how could Zhou Botong be not happy as he was crazy?

    “The first volume is always in your hands, but where did you get the second volume from?” Huang Yaoshi asked.

    “Didn’t your good son-in-law deliver it personally to me?” Zhou Botong smiled mischievously.

    “I … I did not!” Guo Jing was taken aback.

    Huang Yaoshi was really indignant, he thought, “This kid Guo Jing dares to deceive me; that poor blind Mei Chaofeng is still desperately looking for that book.” He shot an angry glare toward Guo Jing, but then turned his head toward Zhou Botong, “I want the original manual.”

    “Brother,” Zhou Botong called Guo Jing, “Help me take the book from my pocket.” Guo Jing stepped forward and groping inside Zhou Botong’s pocket he took a book about half an inch thick. Zhou Botong held out his hand to receive the book, and said to Huang Yaoshi, “This is the first volume manual, the second volume is folded inside it. If you have a skill, come and get it.”

    “What kind of skill are you talking about?” Huang Yaoshi asked.

    Zhou Botong held the book tight in his hands, he leaned his head and said “Wait, let me think …” Half a day later he smiled and said, “Pasting skill!”

    “What?” Huang Yaoshi was puzzled.

    Zhou Botong lifted up his hands high in the air, and soon the book turned into a million pieces. A flurry of paper pieces flew from his hands like a flock of butterflies flying in all direction, carried by the sea breeze, floating to the east and scattered to the west. It was impossible to track them down.

    Huang Yaoshi was startled and angry at the same time; surprised that Zhou’s internal energy was so profound. In that short period of time the book has completely gone. Remembering his late wife Huang Yaoshi felt a stab of pain in his heart. “Old Urchin, you played trick on me! Don’t ever think of leaving this island alive!” he shouted angrily. Flying forward his palm got very close to Zhou Botong’s face.

    Zhou Botong moved his body a little bit, like a pendulum he swung to the left and to the right. With a swish, swish sound Huang Yaoshi’s palms danced in the air, very close to Zhou Botong’s body, but were not able to touch him at all. It was Huang Yaoshi’s specialty, the ‘luo ying shen jian zhang’ [fallen (flower) divine sword palm]; who would have thought that after about twenty stances the palm technique was useless against Zhou Botong.

    Huang Yaoshi was puzzled because Zhou Botong did not launch any counterattack at all; while he had used all his strength to compel Zhou Botong to withstand his attack. Suddenly he was alarmed, “I, Huang Yaoshi, how could I fight someone who has both his hands tied up like that?”

    Leaping back three steps he called out, “Old Urchin, your legs are healed; I have done something inappropriate to you. Quickly break the rope on your hands, let me fight your Nine Yin Manual martial art.”

    Zhou Botong looked dismayed, repeatedly he shook his head, “I don’t want to lie to you, but I have my own difficulty. This rope in my hand, whatever happens I can’t take it out.”

    “Then let me take it out for you,” Huang Yaoshi said, immediately move forward to touch his hands.

    “Aiyo! Help! Somebody help me!” Zhou Botong cried out and rolled around on the ground.

    Guo Jing was shocked. “Father-in-law!” he called out. He was about to dash forward to block Huang Yaoshi when Hong Qigong held him back. “Don’t act foolishly!” he hissed. Guo Jing halted and looked. Zhou Botong was rolling around on the ground; he was very agile. Huang Yaoshi grabbed and kicked but was unable to even touch his body.

    “Look closely to how his body moves,” Hong Qigong whispered.

    Only then did Guo Jing realize that Zhou Botong was moving according to the ‘she xing li fan’ [snake slithers, wild cat flips] from the Nine Yin Manual. He watched with a rapt attention. Every time he saw an exquisite move he would cheer, “Good!”

    Huang Yaoshi was getting angrier; his hands flew everywhere, resembling a hatchet or a knife hacking all over the place. Zhou Botong’s long sleeve and part of his robe have been cut by the strength of Huang Yaoshi’s hand. A moment later his long beard and long hair were also cut. Although he was not injured, Zhou Botong knew that if the fight was prolonged he might not be as lucky. Perhaps half a move later he would be dead or at least heavily injured.

    At that moment Huang Yaoshi’s left hand was sweeping horizontally, while his right hand slashing down diagonally; each palm contained three deathly variations within. Zhou Botong knew that no matter how quick he could move, it would be difficult to avoid this attack. He had no other choice but exerting his strength to both hands breaking the rope. As soon as his hands were free, his left hand parried the attack, while his right hand went to his own back and scratched, “Aiyo! The itch is unbearable,” he said.

    Huang Yaoshi was secretly alarmed when he saw Zhou Botong could act so casually, even to the point of playful, while they were fighting ferociously. Huang Yaoshi sent out three more fierce stances, all three were his best ones.

    “With one hand I can’t fight you,” Zhou Botong said, “Ay! But I can’t help it. No matter what, I can’t let my martial brother down.” He put all his strength in his right hand and parried the attack; while his left hand hung loosely on his side. His strength was still inferior to Huang Yaoshi’s pure internal energy; so as soon as two hands collided Zhou Botong was shaken; he staggered and pushed a few steps back.

    Huang Yaoshi flew forward with both palms surrounding Zhou Botong’s body. “Use both your hands! With one hand you are not my match,” he called out.

    “I can’t,” said Zhou Botong, “I have to use only one hand.”

    Huang Yaoshi was indignant, “All right then, try this!” Both of his palms struck forward with full strength. A loud bang was heard and Zhou Botong fell down to the ground. He sat still with both his eyes closed. Huang Yaoshi held his hands, only to see Zhou Botong coughed and spurted blood from his mouth; his face was paper-white.

    Everybody felt strange; if he really fought with Huang Yaoshi, even if he couldn’t win, certainly he wouldn’t suffer so badly. Why did he insist on using only one hand?

    Zhou Botong stood up slowly and said, “The Old Urchin has suffered the consequences of his own action. I had no intention, but had unexpectedly learned the martial arts from the Nine Yin Manual; hence violated my martial brother’s death wish. If I used both of my hands, Old Heretic Huang, you are not my match.”

    Huang Yaoshi was aware that what he said was the truth; he was silent. He realized he had no reason to imprison Zhou Botong for fifteen years on the island; he also had no reason to injure him just now. He took a jade box from his pocket, opened it and produced three blood-like scarlet pills; he gave the pills to Zhou Botong and said, “Botong, I am afraid there is no medicine under the heaven can surpass these Peach Blossom Island’s red pills. Take one right now, and then take the next two seven days apart; your internal injury won’t be a problem anymore. Let me take you out of this island.”

    Zhou Botong nodded, took the medicines and swallowed one; circulating his breath for a while he vomited some contusion blood. He said, “Old Heretic Huang, your red pill is very effective; no wonder you are called ‘Yaoshi’ [master pharmacist]. Eek! Strange! Very strange! My name is ‘Botong’, I wonder what that means?” After pondering that question for half a day he shook his head and said, “Old Heretic Huang, I must go now. Are you or aren’t you going to let me go?”

    “I do not dare,” Huang Yaoshi replied, “It’s up to you to stay or to go. Botong Xiong, after today if you ever have a desire to come here, I will welcome you wholeheartedly. Right now let me walk you to the boat which will take you back to the mainland.”

    Guo Jing squatted down to pick Zhou Botong up and carried him on his back; then he followed Huang Yaoshi walked to the seashore. Arriving at the marina he saw about six, seven boats, big and small.

    “Yao Xiong,” Ouyang Feng said, “You don’t need to send a boat to take Big Brother Zhou home. He can ride on Little Brother’s boat.”

    “In that case do what Feng Xiong’s heart desires,” Huang Yaoshi said. He made a hand signal to a deaf and mute servant and that servant went into a big boat nearby. When he reappeared he had a tray full of gold coins.

    “Botong,” Huang Yaoshi said, “Take this money and use it to play around. Your martial art is better than Old Heretic Huang’s. I admire you very much.”

    Zhou Botong’s eyes shone with a mischievous look on his face. He looked toward Ouyang Feng’s big boat and saw a white flag on the bow. On the flag was embroidered a strange looking snake, with two heads and their mouth open wide showing fork tongues on it. He was not happy at all.

    Ouyang Feng took a wooden whistle from his pocket, blew some notes; and before long there came a strange noise from the forest ahead. Two Peach Blossom Island’s servants led some White Camel Mountain’s snake shepherds came out from the forest, followed by row after row of snakes slithered on the plank and went into the boat’s hold.

    “I am not riding on Western Poison’s boat!” Zhou Botong cried out, “I am scared of snakes!”

    Huang Yaoshi smiled faintly, “That is all right too; you can ride on that boat.” He pointed to a boat nearby.

    Zhou Botong shook his head, “No! I don’t want that boat, I want THAT big boat.”

    Huang Yaoshi’s face changed a little bit. “Botong, that ship is broken, it is not fixed yet. You can’t have it.”

    Everybody could see that the boat’s tail was tall; the hull was painted blue and gold, very beautiful. It looked new and strong, why did he say it was broken?

    “Why can’t I ride on that boat?” Zhou Botong asked, “Old Heretic Huang, how come you are so stingy?”

    “This is a most ill-fated boat, that’s why it is always anchored here,” Huang Yaoshi explained. “Since when am I stingy? If you don’t believe me, I’ll have the boat burned down for you to see.” Making some hand signals four deaf and mute servants lighted some torch and rushed to the boat to burn it down.

    Suddenly Zhou Botong sat on the ground, flailing his hands and feet; pulling his hair and beard and bawling loudly. Seeing him acting like that everybody was startled. Guo Jing was the only one who knew his temper; he was fascinated. Zhou Botong pulled his beard and rolling around on the ground, “I want to ride the new boat, I want to ride the new boat.” Huang Rong quickly moved forward to stop the four servants.

    Hong Qigong smiled, “Yao Xiong,” he said, “For all my life the Old Beggar has been ill-fated. Let me accompany the Old Urchin riding this ill-fated boat. We can use poison to combat poison. Let us see whether the Old Beggar’s unlucky aura wins, or your ill-fated boat prevails.”

    “Qi Xiong, I thought you are going to stay on the island for several days,” Huang Yaoshi said, “Why such a hurry to leave?”

    “The world’s big beggars, medium-sized beggars, and little beggars, within a few days will gather together at Yueyang, in Hunan province. They will look up to the Old Beggar to appoint a new leader. If the Old Beggar meets a calamity and has to return to heaven before first appointed a successor, who would lead the world’s beggars? Therefore, the Old Beggar has to go, whether he wants it or not. Your brother truly appreciates Yao Xiong’s generosity. Whenever your daughter and son-in-law get married, I will come back to disturb the wedding.”

    Huang Yaoshi sighed, “Qi Xiong, you are truly an ardent man; you dedicate your life toiling for others, like a horse that never stops galloping everywhere.”

    Hong Qigong laughed, “The Old Beggar never ride a horse; my feet can’t be compared to a horse’s hoof. Aiyo! Something’s wrong! You are indirectly scolding me, saying that my feet are hoofs, wouldn’t that mean you are saying I am a horse?”

    Huang Rong laughed, “Shifu, you said it yourself, my father never scolded you.”

    “Of course, Shifu will always inferior to father,” Hong Qigong said, “Just you watch, I am going to take a Mistress Old Beggar, then we will have a baby girl beggar for you to look after.”

    Huang Rong clapped her hands, “That’s great! I will have a little beggar as my martial sister to play with. Won’t that be fun?”

    Ouyang Ke stole a glance toward her; under the bright sunlight she looked so beautiful, her cheeks pink like a spring flower, colorful as rosy-colored clouds at dawn; he couldn’t help but feeling crazy for her. However, from her his thought went to Guo Jing. His pulse quickened, knowing she had her eyes only for Guo Jing, his anger rose, he swore in his heart, “There will come a day when I will kill this stinky kid.”

    Hong Qigong held out his hand to help Zhou Botong, he said, “Botong, I will accompany you riding this new boat. Old Heretic Huang is so weird, we two boys better not mind him at all.”

    Zhou Botong was delighted, “Old Beggar, you are a very kind man, what do you say we become sworn brothers?”

    Hong Qigong had not answered when Guo Jing interrupted, “Big Brother Zhou, you and I have become sworn brothers so how could you take my master as your sworn brother also?”

    Zhou Botong laughed, “What’s the problem? If your father-in-law is kind enough and let me ride on this new boat, when my heart is happy I might take him as my sworn brother as well.”

    “What about me?” Huang Rong laughed.

    Zhou Botong squinted his eyes, “I am not too keen to take a baby doll; if I look at pretty women too much; they turn into trash.” Taking Hong Qigong’s arm he walked to the boat.

    Quickly Huang Yaoshi blocked their way, stretching both arms and said, “Old Huang does not dare to take advantage of others. Riding this boat will bring more harm than good. Gentlemen, you don’t need to prove your courage, it has been well known on the Central Plains.”

    Hong Qigong laughed heartily, “You have repeatedly warned us; even if the Old Beggar returns to heaven due to seasickness I will still appreciate Yao Xiong’s friendship.” Although he said those things jokingly, but in his heart he was quite wary seeing Huang Yaoshi had twice tried to stop them from boarding the boat. He knew something was wrong with that boat, but Zhou Botong was insistent on coming aboard. He saw with his own eyes how stubborn Zhou Botong was. If something really went wrong, Zhou Botong could not possibly face the danger alone, with his internal injury and all. That was the reason he made up his mind to come with Zhou Botong.

    Huang Yaoshi made a humph sound and said, “You two gentlemen are experts in martial art; I am sure you would be able to turn bad luck into good. This Old Huang here worries too much. You, the boy surnamed Guo, you are going with them.”

    Guo Jing was startled. When he became Huang Yaoshi’s son-in-law he was called ‘Jing’er’ but now suddenly Huang Yaoshi changed the way he called him; moreover, his expression was so stern. Looking at Huang Yaoshi he said, “Father-in-law …”

    “Who’s your Father-in-law?” Huang Yaoshi cut him off with a harsh voice, “You are a greedy lying boy! If you ever tread your foot on the Peach Blossom Island again even for half a step, don’t blame the Old Huang for being ruthless.” Reaching backward he grabbed a servant’s collar, shouted, “This is your example!” The deaf and mute servant’s tongue was cut early on, so only a low and deep neighing was heard from his throat; his body flew to the sea. His internal organs were crushed by Huang Yaoshi’s palm; he dropped to the sea and in an instant disappeared among the waves without any trace.

    The other deaf and mute servants were terribly terrified, they all knelt down at once. All of them were originally criminals; Huang Yaoshi had investigated their background carefully before capturing them one by one and took them to the island; cut their tongues and pierced their ears, making them his slaves. He once said, “The Old Huang is not a gentleman, Jianghu people call me the Eastern Heretic. Naturally I don’t like any gentlemen as my companions; I prefer wicked people to be my servants. The more wicked they are, the more I like them.” That one servant, although he deserved to be condemned, struck by his palm and thrown out to the sea without any reason, had shaken everybody’s heart. They could not help but sighing inwardly, “The Old Heretic Huang is really wicked.”

    Guo Jing was scared; he also knelt down on the ground.

    “What did he do to offend you?” Hong Qigong asked.

    Huang Yaoshi did not answer his question, instead, sternly he asked Guo Jing, “Did you or did you not give the second volume of the Nine Yin Manual to Zhou Botong?”

    “I did give something to Big Brother Zhou, but I really did not know if it was the manual,” Guo Jing said, “If I knew …”

    “What do you mean you didn’t know?” Zhou Botong interrupted. He was always ignorant of what was serious and what was not. The more he saw other people upset, the more he wanted to play practical jokes on them. Without waiting for Guo Jing to explain he said, “You said it yourself that you took that manual from Mei Chaofeng; said you were lucky the old man Huang Yaoshi didn’t know. You also said that after you master the manual, you will become number one expert of martial art in the world.”

    Guo Jing was stupefied. “Big Brother, I … when did I say that?” he said with a trembling voice.

    Zhou Botong’s eyes glittered, with a stern voice he said, “You certainly have said that.”

    The fact that Guo Jing was able to recite the book was well-known to those present; whether he knew it was the Nine Yin Manual or not, nobody cared. Now that Zhou Botong had confirmed it Huang Yaoshi was very, very angry. Why would he think Zhou Botong was only joking? He forgot that Zhou Botong was childish and always liked to crack a joke; while Guo Jing was naïve and unable to tell lies. He was so wild with rage that he was afraid he would rip Guo Jing apart, thus smearing his own reputation; so he raised his hand in respect of Zhou Botong, Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng, saying, “Please!” Pulling along Huang Rong’s hand he turned around and walked away.

    Huang Rong still wanted to have a few words with Guo Jing. “Brother Jing …” she called; but she was pulled by her father and in a blink of an eye they have traveled dozens of feet away, disappearing into the forest.

    Zhou Botong burst out in laughter, but stopped abruptly because his chest hurt. Finally he chuckled and said, “The Old Heretic Huang has fallen into my trap. I spoke nonsense to deceive him and he took it seriously. Amusing, amusing!”

    Hong Qigong was taken aback. “Then Jing’er really didn’t know beforehand?” he asked.

    Zhou Botong laughed, “Of course he didn’t know! He thought the Nine Yin martial arts are evil; if he knew, he wouldn’t want to learn with me. Brother, you have memorized the manual really well didn’t you? Even if you want to forget it, you can’t, can you?” He held his stomach and burst out into laughter again; didn’t care if it hurt his chest; so his expression was really awkward.

    Hong Qigong stomped his foot. “Ay! Old Urchin! Don’t you think this joke is too much? I am going to talk to Yao Xiong.” Moving his feet he dashed into the forest, but the pathways was confusing; he did not know which way Huang Yaoshi went. As for the deaf and mute servants, as soon as their master gone, they scampered away following him. Hong Qigong had no one to lead him the way, so he was compelled to come back. But suddenly he remembered that Ouyang Ke had the map of the Peach Blossom Island in details. “Ouyang Xianzhi, can I borrow the Peach Blossom Island map, please?” he asked urgently.

    Ouyang Ke shook his head, “Without Uncle Huang’s permission little nephew does not dare to let other people see it; Uncle Hong please don’t blame me.”

    “Humph!” Hong Qigong snorted. He said in his heart, “I am really stupid, how can I borrow the map from this kid? He earnestly wishes for the Old Heretic Huang to hate my dumb disciple.” While he was still staring at the forest suddenly he saw some white shadows coming out. Turned out they were Ouyang Feng’s 32 white clothed dancing girls.

    As they came close to Ouyang Feng, they bent their knees and one of them said, “Master Huang told us to go back with Master.”

    Ouyang Feng did not even look their way; he simply waved his hand telling them to board the boat. Toward Hong Qigong and Zhou Botong he said, “I am afraid Yao Xiong did put some booby-traps on board. Don’t you two gentlemen worry, Little Brother will follow closely on my boat. In case of emergency we can lend you a hand.”

    Zhou Botong angrily said, “Who wants your charity? I want to see what kind of gadgets the Old Heretic Huang put on his boat. If you follow along the danger won’t come; where is the fun part then? If you mess with me, the Old Urchin will drench you with urine one more time!”

    Ouyang Feng laughed, “Very well! In that case, till we meet again.” He cupped his fists and took his nephew boarding his own boat.

    Guo Jing was still staring blankly at where Huang Rong disappeared, lost in his thought. Zhou Botong laughed, “Brother, let us board the boat. I wonder if this ill-fated boat will swallow us three people alive” His left hand took Hong Qigong’s arm and his right hand pulled Guo Jing along, together they board the new boat.

    The boat came with about seven, eight sailors waiting to serve them; they were all mute. Zhou Botong laughed, “One day the Old Heretic Huang will be very angry that he cut his precious daughter’s tongue. Only then will I admire him to have guts.” Listening to this Guo Jing could not help but shivered. Zhou Botong saw him and laughed heartily, “Are you scared?” he asked; then made a hand signal to the sailor to start sailing. The sailors hoisted the anchor and raised the sail; under the southern wind they headed north.

    “Come,” Hong Qigong said, “Let us take a look of this boat and see what is so strange about it.” Three men walked the boat from stern to bow; from the deck to the bottom of the hold. The boat was painted in bright and clear paint; the hold contained supply of foods and drinks: water, white rice, wine, meat and vegetables in abundance. Nothing was out of ordinary.

    “The Old Heretic Huang deceived us!” Zhou Botong hatefully said, “Where is the strange thing on this boat he was talking about? He is such a liar!”

    Hong Qigong, however, was still in doubt. He leaped to the mast and with his strength tried to rock the mast and the sail, but again, he found nothing out of ordinary. He lifted up his eyes looking at a distance; he saw seagulls flying, the billows rolled and the horizon where the sea met the sky. The boat’s three sails were fully raised; they were heading north. He spread his collar and enjoyed the invigorating wind. Turning his head he saw Ouyang Feng’s boat following them approximately two li’s [about 1 km] behind.

    Hong Qigong leaped down the mast, made a hand signal to the sailor, told him to change course to the northwest. A moment later he looked again and saw that Ouyang Feng’s boat had also changed its direction to the northwest.

    “What does he follow us for?” Hong Qigong muttered under his breath, “Can he really have good intentions? The Old Venom shows kindness of heart, the sun may have to come out from the west.” He was afraid if Zhou Botong knew he would throw a fit of temper. He didn’t say anything, but signaling the sailor to change course to the east.

    The boat made an abrupt turn that the sail were almost touching the water and they slowed down. Approximately the time needed to drink a cup of tea later Ouyang Feng’s boat was also changing its direction to the east. “If you want to settle our score on the sea, that’s allright with me,” Hong Qigong thought.

    He left the deck to enter the cabin only to see Guo Jing looked depressed; he was quiet, lost in thought. Hong Qigong said, “Tu’er [disciple], let me teach you how a beggar begs for rice: if the master of the house did not give you anything, you hang around his door for three days and three nights, see if he still didn’t want to give you anything.”

    Zhou Botong laughed, “What if the master of the house owns a vicious dog? What if he told to dog to bite you because you don’t want to go? What would you do?” he asked.

    Hong Qigong laughed, “That case he is a heartless rich man. If you come again at night and steal his belonging, you are not violating the heaven’s law.”

    Zhou Botong turned to Guo Jing. “Brother, do you understand your Master’s speech? He taught you to be persistent in front of your father-in-law. If he still won’t give his daughter to you and beat you for no reason, then you can steal her at night,” he said, “Only if you really have to steal that treasure, you don’t have to do it yourself; all you need to do is just call out, ‘bao bei er [Treasure, precious], come!’ And she herself will come out and follow you.”

    Listening to him Guo Jing was unable to restrain a smile. He saw Zhou Botong pacing up and down the cabin, could not stay still even for a moment. Suddenly a thought came into his mind, “Big Brother, do you have any destination to go?” he asked.

    “I don’t have any,” replied Zhou Botong, “I will go where my heart tells me to. I have stayed on the Peach Blossom Island for too long, I felt cooped up.”

    “I have a favor I’d like to ask Big Brother,” Guo Jing said.

    Zhou Botong shook his head. “No, I am not going to the Peach Blossom Island to help you steal a wife, I don’t want to.”

    Guo Jing blushed, “No, not that,” he said, “I want to bother Big Brother to visit the Cloud Village in Yixing, by the Lake Tai.”

    “What for?” Zhou Botong asked.

    “The Cloud Village Master, Lu Chengfeng is a brave hero,” Guo Jing explained, “He was Father-in-law’s disciple. Because of the Twin Killers of the Dark Wind’s affair, Father-in-law has broken his legs so he became a cripple. I saw Big Brother’s legs recovered, so I want to ask Big Brother to teach him the technique to heal his legs.”

    “That’s easy,” Zhou Botong said, “Even if Old Heretic Huang breaks my legs again, I know how to heal myself. If you don’t believe me, go ahead, break my legs.” After saying that, he sat on a chair and stretched out his legs with a challenging look on his face.

    Guo Jing smiled, “I don’t need to try, I know Big Brother have this ability,” he said.

    While they were still talking suddenly a loud crashing was heard, the door burst open and a sailor came rushing in with a terror-stricken face. He could not speak, so he just gesticulated in panic. Three of them knew something was terribly wrong, so they dashed out of the cabin.

    Huang Rong wanted to have a word with Guo Jing when was pulled away by her father. She was really upset, so as soon as they arrived at their home she went straight to her room and locked the door, crying uncontrollably. In his anger Huang Yaoshi had expelled Guo Jing from the island; now that his anger had subsided he regretted his rash decision; realizing he had sent Guo Jing to his death. He wanted to comfort his daughter, but no matter how hard or how long he knocked on her door, she just simply turned a deaf ear to him. During supper he called for her, but she did not appear; he sent a servant with Huang Rong’s dinner, but she trashed the dinner to the ground, she even hit the servant a couple of times.

    “Father had said that if Brother Jing ever step his foot on this island again he would kill him. I want to go out and find him, but how can I leave Father alone here? He will definitely be grieved,” Huang Rong pondered left and right, but could not come out with any idea until her stomach hurt.

    Several months ago Huang Yaoshi scolded her and she ran away from the island; in her childish thinking she did not want to go back. Afterwards she met her father and saw that the number of white hair on his temple suddenly increased. It was only several months, but he looked ten years older than she remembered him. She felt really sorry, and promised in her heart never to leave him again. Who would have thought that now she was facing a difficult situation? She stayed on her bed all day, crying. She thought, “If Mother were still alive, she would take care of me; would she allow me to suffer like this?”

    Thinking about her mother she decided to get out of the room, she walked through the hall to the front door. Her house on the Peach Blossom Island had a front door that was always open, night and day; unless there was storm coming. Huang Rong went out to the yard. It was a starry sky; the air was heavy with flowers’ scent. “Brother Jing must be miles away by now, I wonder when we are going to see each other again,” she wondered in her heart. She heaved a deep sigh, wiped the tears from her eyes with the end of her long sleeve, and walked toward the flower bushes at the end of their yard. Entering the bushes and brushing away the leaves she arrived at her mother’s tomb.

    The exquisiteness of the coffin wood, the various plants and rare orchids, the different flowers that bloom at different seasons, everything was Huang Yaoshi’s personal choice. They glittered under the moonlight, each radiating its own unique scent. Huang Rong pushed the tombstone three times to the left and three times to the right; then exerting her strength she pushed it forward. The tombstone slowly moved to the side, revealing a long and narrow stonewalled tunnel. She went in; and after making three turns she arrived at another secret door. Beyond this door was where the coffin was placed. The room was bright from the oil lamp inside a precious stone container, illuminating Huang Rong’s mother’s memorial tablet.

    Alone in that small underground room, seeing the painting of her deceased mother made by her father’s own hand, Huang Rong’s heart was filled with a roller coaster emotion; she thought, “I have never seen Mother. I wonder after I die, will I meet her? Was she really that young and beautiful as in the picture? Where is she right now? Is she at the sky above, or in the earth below, or still in this room? I am going to stay here forever to accompany her.”

    Along the wall of this tomb there were precious jewels, antique collections, and paintings and calligraphy from famous artists; each worth a fortune. After his wife died, Huang Yaoshi roamed the sea and lakes to collect these precious articles. Whether it was inside the imperial palace, or inside the house of some rich government official, or in a robbers’ den high up on the mountain; as long as he knew there was a treasure, he would come and steal or take it by force. His martial art was high, he had keen eyes and sophisticated taste; hence he managed to collect quite a bit of treasures piling up inside his wife’s grave.

    Huang Rong could see the bright pearls, beautiful jade, emeralds and amethysts glimmering under the firelight; she thought, “These precious jewels don’t have any feeling, yet they will live for million of years. Today I am looking at them in here, but in the future my body will turn into dust while they will still be here. Is it true that among the living things, the smart and intelligent won’t have a long life? Is it because she was so smart that my mother died when she was only twenty?”

    Huang Rong stared at her mother’s picture for a moment, heaved a sigh, then blew out the light and walked toward her mother’s coffin’s side. She stroked the coffin lovingly and sat on the ground. Her heart was heavy from self-pity. She was leaning on the coffin, pretending she was cuddling by her mother’s side, relying on her for support. Earlier that day she experienced great joy and great anxiety; that night she was simply exhausted, so after a while she drifted off to sleep.

    She dreamt she was inside the Zhao Palace in Beijing, alone fighting a group of martial artists; but then the scenery changed, she was in the northern area, unexpectedly met Guo Jing there. She barely said a few words with him when suddenly her mother showed up. She just knew it was her mother even though she could not see her face clearly, tried as she might. Then her mother started to fly to the sky with her calling and pursuing on the ground. Her mother was flying higher and higher and she was so scared. And then out of the blue she heard her father’s voice calling her mother. At first it was a distant sound, then the voice getting nearer and clearer. Huang Rong awoke with a start but her father’s voice could still be heard, mumbling indistinctly in front of the curtain. Then she calmed herself down and realized that it was not a dream; her father was indeed inside the tomb, talking to her mother’s spirit.

    When she was little her father often took her here; he would tell her mother anything that happened outside, regardless of how trivial those matters were. In the past several years she did not go with her father as often yet it still did not surprise her to hear her father talking in front of the coffin. She was still upset with him, so she did not want to see him. She wanted to wait quietly until he left, but what she heard next surprised her.

    “I have found your heart’s desire,” he said, “I know you have suffered a lot that year you rewrote the Nine Yin Manual; I want to find it and burn it in your presence, so your spirit in heaven will be consoled. I have searched in vain for fifteen years, but today I have found it.”

    Huang Rong was surprised, “Where did Father get the Nine Yin Manual from?” she wondered.

    “I did not want to intentionally kill your son-in-law,” she heard her father continued. “But it was they who insisted to ride on that boat.”

    Huang Rong was puzzled, “Mother’s son-in-law? Is he talking about Brother Jing? He rode on that boat, then what?” She opened her ears wide and listened attentively.

    Huang Yaoshi recounted how miserable and lonely his life had become ever since his wife passed away and how bad he missed her. Huang Rong listened to him pouring out his heart and her own heart was filled with sorrow. “Brother Jing and I are merely teenagers and we love each other. I don’t think it is impossible to see each other in the future; but I cannot leave my father,” she thought.

    Once her mind was set, she continued listening to her father. “The Old Urchin has destroyed the entire Nine Yin Manual with the strength of his hands. I thought my hope of sacrificing the manual to you was shattered; who would have thought that perhaps by divine intervention he insisted on riding the boat I made for our future meeting?” he said.

    “Every time I wanted to play aboard that boat Father had always sternly prohibited me; how would he use the boat to meet Mother?” Huang Rong wondered in her heart.

    Huang Yaoshi loved his wife very much. Moreover, his wife died because she wanted to make him happy. Therefore, he wanted to commit suicide as a sacrifice to her. But he knew his martial art was profound, he would not die easily by hanging himself or simply drinking a poison. Plus, if he died on the island, he was sure his mute and deaf servants would mutilate his body. Hence he went mainland and kidnapped a highly skilled boat builder to build him this fancy boat.

    This boat’s keel was no different from a regular boat; except that the bottom of the boat was not nailed together with ordinary metal nails, but was put together by ropes and glue. Mooring on the marina it looked like an extremely magnificent and beautiful yacht; but as soon as it sailed to the sea, the waves would disintegrate the rope and glue, and the boat would certainly sink.

    Originally he intended to put his wife’s coffin on the boat, take the boat to the sea and while the waves rock the boat, he would play with his jade flute the [jade-colored tidal wave song]; together with his wife they would be buried thousands of feet under the sea. This way he would make a clean end to his life and not disgracing his reputation as a martial art master of his age. However, every time he wanted to go he could not bear to take their daughter along; and who would raise her up if he died? Finally he decided to build a tomb and placed his wife in it. He repainted the boat every year, so it always looked new. He was going to wait their daughter to grow up before he would take his last voyage.

    Of course Huang Rong did not know her father’s plan. But she kept listening anyway. “The Old Urchin was able to recite the Nine Yin Manual completely; that surnamed Guo kid could also recite it from memory. So, if I sink these two people to the sea, it would be like I am burning down two manuals for you. If your spirit in heaven knows this, you can then rest in peace. My only regret was that the Old Beggar Hong will deliver his life in vain; it is rather unfair to him. Within one day I have killed three martial arts masters for your sake. When we meet again later, you can certainly say that your husband has fulfilled his promise to you. Ha ... ha … !”

    Listening to this last part the hair on Huang Rong’s back stood up; her heart turned really cold. She did not completely understand what was going on, but knowing her father’s ability very well, she was sure that there must be something terribly wrong with that boat. She was anxious for the safety of Guo Jing three people on board. Her heart was filled with shock and sorrow at the same time. She wanted to stand up and beg her father to save them, but she was not able to neither stand nor speak; her legs were weak and her throat dry from fear. She only heard her father’s long and mournful laughter – sounded like a song or a cry, while he walked out of the tomb.

    Huang Rong tried to calm herself down and thought out loud, “I must go to rescue Brother Jing. If I can’t make it, I am going to die with him.” She knew her father’s strange temper well, he turned crazy because of his excessive love to his deceased wife; it would be useless to ask him for help. She dashed out of the tomb toward the seashore; jumped up the boat, woke up the deaf and mute servants in charge of the boat and immediately set sail.

    Suddenly she heard hoof beats coming her way, and at the same time she could hear her father’s jade flute in a distance. Huang Rong looked back; it was Guo Jing’s red horse, galloping under the moonlight. It had wandered aimlessly on the island, and at that particular night it ran toward the shore. Huang Rong thought, “Where can I find Brother Jing on this boundless sea? The little red horse has divine ability on dry land, but on the water it is completely useless.”

    Hong Qigong, Zhou Botong and Guo Jing dashed out of the cabin only to find their feet were submerged in water almost to their knees. They were extremely shocked. Immediately they jumped up to the mast; Hong Qigong even remembered to snatch a couple of deaf and mute sailors along. They looked down and saw the turbulent water was coming up fast. It all happened so fast that they were at loss of what to do.

    “Old Beggar,” Zhou Botong called, “Old Heretic Huang is so amazing! How did he build this boat?”

    “I don’t know!” replied Hong Qigong, “Jing’er, hold the mast tight, don’t let go …”

    Guo Jing was about to answer when suddenly a loud crack was heard; the boat was broken into two, and both halves slowly sank into the water. The two sailors were shocked that they lost their hold on the mast and fell down into the raging water below. Zhou Botong flexed his muscle and jumped into the water.

    “Old Urchin!” Hong Qigong called, “Do you know how to swim?”

    Zhou Botong’s head coming out from the water, “I guess I’ll have to try …” he laughed. These exchanges happened in the midst of blowing wind and they could not hear each other clearly.

    By this time the mast was leaning down far enough that very soon it will hit the water. Hong Qigong called out, “Jing’er, the mast is joined with the hull; let us break it free. Come on!” Two people gathered their strength and struck the mast near its center. The mast was made from solid wood, but how could it withstand the joined forces of Hong Qigong and Guo Jing? With several strikes, “Crack!” The mast gave up. Two people held on to it and together they fell into the sea below.

    They were already miles away from the Peach Blossom Island; looking at four directions all around there were great big waves as high as a mountain and no land was in sight. Hong Qigong was secretly very anxious. Drifting on the sea like this, without food or fresh water, if nobody was going to rescue them, they would certainly die in less than ten days no matter how high their martial art skill were. Hong Qigong tried to look for Ouyang Feng’s boat, but it was nowhere to be seen. He heard someone laughing hard toward the south of them, it was Zhou Botong.

    “Jing’er,” Hong Qigong said, “Let’s try coming to him.” With one hand holding the mast, the other hand rowed toward Zhou Botong. The waves were quite strong in that area, as they moved dozens of feet they were pushed back dozens of feet.

    “Old Urchin, we are coming!” Hong Qigong laughed. Due to his strong internal energy, his voice was heard amidst the sound of rushing waves around them. They heard Zhou Botong called out, “The Old Urchin has become a dog in the water; this is an old dog in salty soup!”

    Guo Jing was amused that in such a dangerous situation like this he still had a mood to goof around; truly he did not bear the title ‘the Old Urchin’ in vain.

    The sea was raging wild around them. No matter how hard they tried, they were still dozens of feet apart from each other. Only after working hard for a long time did they finally managed to gather together on the broken mast. As soon as Hong Qigong and Guo Jing saw Zhou Botong, they were unable to stifle their laughter; Zhou Botong used the sail rope to tie a piece of board to his feet, displaying his excellent lightness kungfu to tread the waves. Unfortunately the waves were too strong. Even though his body was going up and down with the waves, as if free and unrestrained, but actually it was very difficult to move forward. Zhou Botong played on the water enthusiastically, seemingly oblivious of the danger they were facing.

    Guo Jing looked around only to see their boat was totally gone; along with all the crews, they were buried under the sea. Suddenly he heard Zhou Botong cried in alarm, “Aiyo! This is serious! The Old Urchin might meet a cruel death.”

    Hong Qigong and Guo Jing heard his frightened voice, they asked, “What is it?”

    Zhou Botong pointed his finger away and said, “Sharks! A school of sharks!”

    Guo Jing grew up in the desert; he did not know how fierce a shark was. He turned around to see Hong Qigong’s face looked strange. He wondered what kind of monster a shark was, that his master and big brother Zhou who were used to face danger with smiles on their face looked so nervous.

    Hong Qigong sent his strength to his palm and broke the end of the mast; then he divided the broken pieces further into two halves. Suddenly he saw a shark head appeared among the white foam of the waves; its two rows of sharp white teeth glistening under the sunlight. It was only a moment, and then disappeared into the water. Hong Qigong threw the wooden stick to Guo Jing. “Aim for their heads!” he called out.

    Guo Jing groped his pocket and produced a dagger. “Disciple has a dagger!” he called back and threw the wooden stick toward Zhou Botong.

    By now there were four, five sharks circling around Zhou Botong; looked like they were just assessing the situation, so no shark had attacked yet. Zhou Botong bent his waist and struck; as a result a shark’s head split open. As soon as the other sharks smelt blood they all attacked their dead comrade.

    Guo Jing saw the water surface bubbled like boiling water; did not know how many thousands of sharks were there. He saw white teeth flashing and in a very short moment nothing was left of that dead shark. He was horrified. Suddenly he felt something bumped his feet. Nervously he kicked around, and a big shark jumped up the water toward him. With his left hand holding the mast he sent all his might to his right hand and with an unmatched accuracy his extremely sharp dagger made a hole on the shark’s head. Again the water boiled from a flock of sharks feasting on their dead comrade. Thousands of sharks moved and bite randomly in the water.

    Three men’s martial arts were superb; surrounded by thousands of sharks they moved to the west and dodged to the east. Every time their hands struck a shark was either dead or heavily injured; while their own bodies were not even scratched. As soon as a shark bleeds, it became the others’ food and in a flash it became a pile of bones sinking to the sea. These three people’s martial arts were profound and they have great courage; yet seeing this they could not help feeling scared. The sharks were uncountable; seemed like they were killing endlessly. They did not have time to think of anything else; they needed all their energy and concentration to fight and fight and fight …

    After a few hours of fighting they have killed more than two hundreds sharks, but the fog started rising from the water, the sun slowly fell to the western horizon. Zhou Botong called out, “Old Beggar, Brother Guo, once the sky is dark all three of us will go to the sharks’ tummy. Shall we make a bet? Who will be first to be eaten?”

    “Is the first to be eaten the winner or the loser?” Hong Qigong asked.

    “Certainly the winner,” Zhou Botong replied.

    “Aiyo, in that case I’d rather be the loser,” Hong Qigong said. With the back of his hand he launched the ‘divine dragon swings its tail’ and hit a big shark on its side. That big shark weight approximately 200 jins; but by Hong Qigong’s strength it flew to the air and rolled twice before it fell down to the water, creating a big splash everywhere. That shark went belly up, killed instantly.

    “Excellent palm technique!” Zhou Botong praised, “I’ll bow to you and take you as my master so you can teach me this ’18-Dragon Subduing Palms’. Only it’s too bad I won’t have time to learn. Old Beggar, do you want to compete with me?”

    “I am sorry I can’t accompany you right now,” Hong Qigong said.

    Zhou Botong laughed heartily, “Brother, are you scared?” he asked Guo Jing.

    In his heart Guo Jing was really scared, but seeing those two people were still able to chat and making jokes in life and death situation his spirit was lifted up. “I was scared, but not anymore,” he replied. Suddenly he saw a monstrous shark came charging his way. He leaned sideways then lifted his left hand high in the air as a bait. That big shark turned around and leaped out of the water to bite his hand. The dagger in Guo Jing’s right hand moved upward and stabbed underneath the shark’s mouth, but because the shark was moving forward the dagger made a long cut along the shark’s body. Blood came gushing out like a spring of water and the contents of its stomach spilled out.

    By that time Zhou Botong and Hong Qigong each had killed another shark. Zhou Botong had not recovered from Huang Yaoshi’s blow earlier; after fighting for a long time he started to feel a severe pain in his chest. He laughed out loud and said, “Old Beggar, Brother Guo, I am so sorry I can’t accompany you much longer, I have to be the first going into a shark’s belly. Ay! Too bad you two didn’t want to bet. I should’ve won!”

    Even though he was laughing, Guo Jing could hear the desperation in his voice. “All right!” he shouted, “I’ll bet with you!”

    “Now, at last I can die an interesting death!” Zhou Botong laughed. He turned around to avoid a converging attack of two sharks charging together; suddenly saw a high white sail far away. Under the dim light of dusk a big boat [translator’s note: actually it was a yacht, but I wonder if the ancient Chinese has a specific word for yacht?] was cutting the waves, coming their way.

    Hong Qigong also saw the boat; it was Ouyang Feng’s. They were exuberant knowing help is on the way. Guo Jing immediately came toward Zhou Botong to help him fight the sharks. A moment later the boat arrived; it lowered two small sampans to rescue the three people. Zhou Botong vomited some more blood, but he did not stop talking and laughing; pointing his finger to the sharks and cursing incessantly.

    Ouyang Feng and Ouyang Ke stood on the bow of the big boat to welcome them. As far as their eyes could see, the water was full with sharks’ fins; they were secretly alarmed.

    Zhou Botong was unwilling to admit inferiority, he said, “Old Poison, it was you who came and rescued us, I did not call you for help; so I don’t owe you anything.”

    “Naturally you don’t owe me anything,” Ouyang Feng replied, “Today I came across the three of you on a shark killing spree; Little Brother was fascinated.”

    Zhou Botong laughed, “You came across us and hindered us from playing inside the sharks’ belly; so I will call it even, we don’t owe anybody anything.”

    Ouyang Ke and a snake shepherd put some big chunks of beef on an iron hook as baits and in a short period of time had fished seven, eight big sharks.

    Hong Qigong pointed to the sharks and laughed, “Good, you can’t eat us, looks like we are going to eat you.”

    Ouyang Ke laughed, “Little Nephew has a way to avenge Uncle Hong.” Quickly he cut some short sticks, sharpening their both ends, then pried open the shark’s mouth with a spear and stuck the wooden stick in the shark’s mouth. Next, he kicked the shark back to the water.

    Zhou Botong laughed, “This way the shark won’t be able to eat anything forever; but I bet it will die within eight to ten days.”

    Guo Jing said in his heart, “Such an evil plan, he is the only one who can think of it. This gluttonous shark will be starved to death in the sea. That is so cruel.”

    Zhou Botong saw Guo Jing’s face showed a disgusted look, he laughed, “Brother, such a malicious method is not pleasing to the eye, is it? Well, this is called ‘a poisonous uncle results in a poisonous nephew’.”

    Hearing others cursing him as evil did not bother Western Poison Ouyang Feng at all; on the contrary, he was pleased. Listening Zhou Botong he showed a faint smile, and said, “Old Urchin, this small trick is nothing compared to what the Western Poison can do. You three people were already out of breath fighting this bunch of baby sharks. Even though they are many, to me they are nothing.” After saying that he stretched his right hand; facing the sea he moved his hand in a sweeping motion from left to right and said, “Even if there were ten times more sharks than these, I can annihilate them all without breaking a sweat.”

    “Ah!” Zhou Botong exclaimed, “The Western Poison blew his horn really loud! If you can prove your great prowess and really kill the sharks, the Old Urchin will kowtow to you and will call you ‘Grandfather’ three hundred times.”

    “I do not dare to accept that,” Ouyang Feng said, “If you don’t believe me, why don’t we make a bet?”

    “All right!” Zhou Botong almost shouted, “I’ll bet you my head!”

    Hong Qigong, on the other hand, was suspicious, “Even if his skill is as high as the sky, yet it is impossible to kill millions of sharks at once,” he thought, “I am afraid he has another evil scheme up in his sleeve.”

    “I don’t need your head,” Ouyang Feng said with a smile, “If I win, I want you to do something for me, and you must obey it. If I lose, I can’t decline whatever difficult matter you want me to do. What do you think?”

    “I don’t care, whatever you say!” Zhou Botong shouted.

    Ouyang Feng turned to Hong Qigong, “I am asking Qi Xiong to be our witness,” he said.

    Hong Qigong nodded, “Very well,” he said, “But what if after the winner assigns the loser something to do and he is not able to do it?”

    “Then the loser must jump to the sea to be eaten by the sharks,” Zhou Botong said.

    Again Ouyang Feng showed a faint smile, he did not say anything. He signaled a servant to bring in a small wine cup. Two of his right fingers pinched the neck of his strange looking snake on his staff, forced it to open its mouth and the venom from its teeth gushed out. Ouyang Feng held out the wine cup that the venom went into it, black and thick like China ink, filling almost half of the cup. As soon as this one snake ran out of venom he took the other one and did the same; filling the whole cup with snake’s venom. When he was done those two snakes wrapped around the staff quietly, no longer slithering up and down, liked they were dead-tired.

    Ouyang Feng’s servant fished another big shark and placed it on the deck. With his left hand Ouyang Feng gripped the shark’s upper jaw, while his right foot stepped on the lower jaw; prying the jaws open. That shark was about two zhang’s long [approximately 20 feet or 7 meters], but it could not resist its mouth being opened; revealing two rows of dagger-sharp teeth. Then he poured the cup of venom in his hand into the shark’s mouth, right at the gaping wound caused by the iron hook. With an abrupt movement his left hand lifted the shark on its belly and without much trouble swung it up. The 200 catties [about 100 kg.] shark flew to the air and with a loud splash fell into the sea.

    Zhou Botong laughed, “Aha! I understand now,” he said, “This is the old monk’s method of killing bedbugs [lice].”

    “Big Brother,” Guo Jing asked, “How did the old monk kill the bugs?”

    “There was once an old monk who hawked on a Bianliang [a city in Henan province] street market selling concoction to get rid of the bedbugs,” Zhou Botong told him, “He claimed his concoction to be very effective; once the bugs ate his product they would surely die; if not, he was going to reimburse the customer’s money tenfold. Of course with this kind of guarantee his business was brisk. One of his customers went back home and scattered the concoction on his bed. Heh, heh … that night the bedbugs still came up by the thousands, biting him half-dead. That customer was upset, early the next morning he went back to the market to find that old monk, wanted him to refund his money. That old monk said, ‘My concoction is really effective, if it did not kill your bugs, perhaps you did not use it correctly.’ The customer asked, ‘How do you use it?’”

    Speaking to this point he shook his head with a mischievous smile on his face; but did not continue. “Then how did he use it?” Guo Jing asked.

    With a straight face Zhou Botong said, “That old monk said, ‘You catch the bug, pry open its mouth and feed just a little bit of this concoction to its mouth. If it didn’t die, then you can come to the old monk again.’ The customer was mad, he said, ‘If I can catch the bug, I can pinch it dead with my fingers, why would I need your effective concoction?’ To which the old monk replied, ‘Of course, I have never said you can’t pinch it dead, have I?’”

    Guo Jing, Hong Qigong, Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew, along with everybody who listened to Zhou Botong were all burst in laugher. “My concoction is somewhat different than those of the old monk,” Ouyang Feng said with a smile.

    “I don’t see much difference,” Zhou Botong said.

    Ouyang Feng pointed his finger to the sea and said, “Well, just take a look.”

    The shark which was fed with the venom went belly up, of course; and seven, eight other sharks were having a feeding frenzy over it, that in a short time it became another pile of bones; sank to the bottom of the ocean. The strange thing was that the seven, eight sharks which ate their comrade’s flesh were also gone belly up not too long afterwards. Each dead shark was immediately eaten by another flock of sharks, which, in turn, also went belly up in the water. One shark killed ten others, ten sharks killed a hundred, a hundred killed a thousand; not too long the sea was full with dead sharks floating around. The remainder of the sharks were not too many, but they were still feeding on their dead comrades, so a while later the sea became calm, no more sharks left alive.

    Hong Qigong, Zhou Botong and Guo Jing saw this chilling scene their faces paled. Hong Qigong sighed and said, “Old poison, Old poison, your evil plan is truly evil; only a small amount of poison from your two snakes is extremely deathly.”

    Ouyang Feng chuckled and looked at Zhou Botong with a smug expression. Zhou Botong rubbed his hands and stomped his foot, pulling his beard and hair randomly. As far as everybody could see, the sea surface was full of dead sharks with their white belly upward, floating and fluctuating on the waves.

    “Looking at these many white bellies makes my tummy sick; thinking that these many sharks were killed by the Old Poison’s venom, also makes my tummy sick,” Zhou Botong said, “Old Poison, you need to watch out, once the ‘hai long wang’ [dragon king of the sea] found out, he is going to send his shrimp army and crab generals to deal with you.” Ouyang Feng simply smiled without saying anything.

    “Feng Xiong, little brother is unclear about something, I beg you to explain it to me,” Hong Qigong said.

    “I don’t dare,” Ouyang Feng replied.

    “It was only a small cup of venom, even if the poison was extremely deathly, how could it kill thousands of sharks?” Hong Qigong asked.

    Ouyang Feng laughed, “This type of venom is very special,” he explained, “As soon as it entered the blood, the blood became poisonous. If this blood enters another shark’s system, that second shark’s entire blood would also be poisonous. Just imagine the amount of venom increased a hundredfold. Each dead shark would multiply that amount another hundredfold; very soon you’ll have an infinite amount of venom to kill forever.”

    “That is called perpetual killing,” Hong Qigong commented.

    “Exactly,” Ouyang Feng replied. “Little brother’s title is ‘Western Poison’; if my skill in using poison is somewhat lacking, then I’m afraid I’m not worthy to hold that title.”

    While they were still talking the rest of the sharks were already dead. Other smaller fish were also gone; if not being eaten by the sharks, then they had already run away; so the sea was eerily calm.

    “Quickly sail away! Quickly sail away! The air here is too thick with poison,” Hong Qigong urged.

    Ouyang Feng gave his signal and the boat moved full speed forward; the triangle shaped sails were all raised up. With the wind coming from the south they were heading northwest.

    “The Old Poison really sells effective concoction to get rid of bedbugs,” Zhou Botong said. “What do you want me to do?”

    “I’d like to welcome the three of you in my cabin first,” Ouyang Feng said, “You need to change into dry clothes, eat something, and then take a rest. About the bet, it won’t be too late to talk about later.”

    Zhou Botong was really impatient, “That won’t do, that won’t do!” he called out, “Just say it! You won’t gain anything by waiting. If the Old Urchin dies of suffocation, then it will be your loss for not telling me what you want.”

    Ouyang Feng smiled, “In that case, Botong Xiong, please come with me.”

    End of Chapter 19
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    Last edited by foxs; 04-17-07 at 03:58 PM.

  5. #45
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 20 – The Altered Manual

    The burning mast separated two people. Ouyang Feng fetched his snake staff and jumped over the flaming mast. Hong Qigong immediately drew the bamboo stick from his waist and fended off the attack. They had been ferociously fighting barehanded before, so imagine how fierce the battle had become now that both were wielding weapons.

    Chapter 20 – The Altered Manual
    (Traslated by Foxs, Edited by Eliza Bennet)

    Hong Qigong and Guo Jing saw that Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew led Zhou Botong to a cabin in the back; while they were taken to a different cabin to change their clothes. Four white-dressed maidens served them. Hong Qigong laughed, “The Old Beggar has not had any luck to enjoy this kind of treatment,” he said. Taking out all his clothes a maiden dried him up with a clean towel.

    Guo Jing felt blood flowing up his neck and face and he did not dare to take his clothes off. Hong Qigong laughed, “What are you afraid of? They won’t eat you alive!” he said. Two maidens approached him to take his boot off and loosen up his belt. Guo Jing quickly took his boot and upper garment, then jump to the bed, hiding underneath a blanket, changing his own clothes behind the blanket. Hong Qigong burst out in laughter, those four maidens also giggled.

    Once they were finished, two other maidens entered the cabin carrying trays full of wine, dishes of meat and vegetables, and some white rice; saying, “Please two gentlemen eat what we prepared in a hurry.”

    Hong Qigong waved his hand, “Please all of you get out of here, every time the Old Beggar sees good-looking ladies I can’t get the food down to my tummy.” The maidens smiled and complied, closing the door on their way out.

    Hong Qigong took the wine and the dishes to his nose and sniffed at them, “Don’t eat or drink this,” he whispered, “The Old Poison is so crafty. Just eat the plain white rice.” He took the gourd on his back, pulled the plug and took two mouthfuls of wine, while busily eating three big bowls full of rice. Guo Jing followed his lead and dumped the dishes under the deck.

    “I wonder what would they want Big Brother Zhou to do?” with a low voice Guo Jing asked.

    “Can’t be anything good,” Hong Qigong replied, “This time the Old Urchin really got himself in trouble.”

    Suddenly the cabin door was pushed open and a maiden said, “Master Zhou asked Young Master Guo to come to the rear cabin. He has something to discuss with you.” Guo Jing looked at his master and walked out the cabin following the maiden; they walked alongside the port side of the boat toward the back. The maiden lightly knocked the cabin door and after waiting a moment, shoved the door open, announcing, “Young Master Guo has arrived.”

    Guo Jing entered the cabin and the door was closed behind him. There was no one inside the cabin. Guo Jing felt strange, but then the small door to his left was shoved open and Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew walked in.

    “Where is Big Brother Zhou?” Guo Jing asked.

    Ouyang Feng closed the door with the back of his hand, took two steps forward and grabbed Guo Jing’s wrist. His movement was very swift, besides, not in a million years would Guo Jing guess that Ouyang Feng would do that. He felt like his wrist was pinched by a pair of pliers; he could not move at all. Ouyang Ke pulled a steel-spined folding fan from his sleeve pocket and placed it on a vital acupoint on Guo Jing’s back. Guo Jing was dumbstruck; he could not guess what these uncle and nephew wanted from him.

    “The Old Urchin lost a bet to me, but when I asked him to do something for me he refused,” Ouyang Feng coldly said.

    “Humph?” Guo Jing was confused.

    “I told him to rewrite the Nine Yin Manual from memory for me to see, but unexpectedly he did not keep his word,” Ouyang Feng explained.

    “How could Big Brother Zhou give the manual to you?” Guo Jing thought; and again he asked, “Where is Big Brother Zhou?”

    “It was he who said that whoever does not keep his words must jump to the sea to be eaten by the sharks. Humph! Finally he made his mind and did what he said he would,” Ouyang Feng coldly said.

    Guo Jing was shocked. “He … he …” he stammered. He tried to pull his hand and dash to the door, but Ouyang Feng’s grip was very tight, forcing Guo Jing to stop. Ouyang Ke pushed his fan slightly harder on Guo Jing’s ‘zhi yang’ [lit. the most positive] acupoint.

    Ouyang Feng pointed to a table with a stack of paper and some ink on it and said, “Now in the whole wide world you are the only one who knows the manual’s full text. Quickly write it down for me.”

    Guo Jing shook his head. Ouyang Ke smiled and said, “The food and wine you and the Old Beggar ate just now was poisoned. If you don’t take my Uncle’s only antidote you will die within twelve hours, just like the sharks you saw earlier. If you comply, we will spare both your and your master’s lives.”

    Guo Jing was secretly startled, “If Master was not alert we would certainly fall into their trap.” He stared at Ouyang Feng and thought, “You are a great master of martial art, yet you commit this despicable act.”

    Seeing Guo Jing just stared at him without saying anything Ouyang Feng said, “You have memorized the manual in your heart anyway. You won’t lose anything by writing it down. What are you waiting for?”

    Guo Jing shivered from rage, “You have harmed my sworn brother’s life; there is hatred as deep as the ocean between you and I; if you want to kill me then go ahead. But if you think you can force me, dream on!”

    “Humph!” Ouyang Feng said, “Good kid, you have guts! You are not scared of death, but does your master’s life mean nothing to you?”

    Before Guo Jing could reply a loud bang was suddenly heard; the cabin door was shattered with wood fragments flying everywhere. Ouyang Feng turned his head only to see Hong Qigong with a couple of wooden barrels in his hands. Hong Qigong threw the water out, two deep green transparent water columns flew toward Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew. Ouyang Feng knew the fierceness of this water attack; he leaped to the left to elude while his left hand still holding Guo Jing’s wrist tight. The water hit the cabin’s wall and splashed to all direction. Ouyang Ke loudly called out in alarm because Hong Qigong had grabbed the back of his head.

    Hong Qigong laughed out loud, “Old Poison, you always want to kill me by any means possible, fortunately the Heaven won’t allow that to happen!”

    Ouyang Feng saw his nephew had fallen into Hong Qigong’s hand so he smiled and said, “Qi Xiong, are you going to challenge me again? It won’t be too late if we wait till we are ashore.”

    “I see you like my disciple very much that you won’t let his hand go,” Hong Qigong laughed.

    “I made a bet with the Old Urchin and I won, didn’t I?” Ouyang Feng asked, “You are our witness, are you not? Let me ask you this: The Old Urchin did not keep his word, did he?”

    Hong Qigong repeatedly nodded his head in answer to his questions, “That’s correct. Where is the Old Urchin?”

    Guo Jing was grieved, he shouted, “Big Brother Zhou was … he was forced to jump into the sea and die!”

    Hong Qigong was startled, with Ouyang Ke still in his grip he jumped out of the cabin, looked to all direction, but all he saw was the billows rolled, did not see even Zhou Botong’s shadow.

    Ouyang Feng with Guo Jing still in his grip also walked out to the deck. Loosening up his grip he said, “Guo Xianzhi, your skill is still very far from adequate. You let others grab your hand without you able to do anything. Go and learn ten more years from your master, then you can roam the Jianghu again.”

    Guo Jing was worried about Zhou Botong’s safety, so he ignored his derogatory remark and climbed the mast, looking at all directions.

    Hong Qigong lifted Ouyang Ke up and tossed him toward Ouyang Feng. He shouted, “Old Poison, you forced the Old Urchin to his death, the Quan Zhen people will deal with you. Your martial art may be profound, but I don’t believe you’ll survive the Quan Zhen Seven’s besiege.”

    Ouyang Ke did not wait until his body touched the deck, his right hand pushed the deck and he somersault to an upright position; secretly cursed, “Stinky beggar! By this time tomorrow you will crawl in front of me, begging me to save your life.”

    Listening to Hong Qigong’s remark Ouyang Feng simply smiled faintly, “I am afraid you won’t be able to witness this when it happens.”

    “Very well!” Hong Qigong said, “Until that time I am going to use my dog beating stick to beat some wet dogs.”

    Ouyang Feng raised his hands to salute then entered the cabin.

    After looking around for a while without seeing anything Guo Jing got back down to the deck and told his master how Ouyang Feng had forced him to rewrite the manual. Hong Qigong nodded without saying anything, he quietly pondered, “Once the Old Poison set his mind, he won’t easily let go. Before he gets hold of the manual he will entangle my disciple continually.”

    Guo Jing remembered Zhou Botong’s death, he cried mournfully. Hong Qigong was also grieving. He knew the boat was sailing fast to the west, so within two days they were going to reach land. He was afraid Ouyang Feng would poison their food, so he went to the kitchen and plundered some dishes and plenty of rice; and after eating it with Guo Jing he nodded his head and snored.

    Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew waited until the afternoon of the next day, practically sixteen, eighteen hours had passed, yet they have not heard Hong Qigong and his disciple made any noise. Ouyang Feng was afraid his poison was too strong for them and killed them. Killing Hong Qigong was not a big deal, but killing Guo Jing meant the Nine Yin Manual would be lost forever. Secretly he took a peek through a crack on the door, only to see two people were sitting comfortably and chatting amiably; Hong Qigong’s voice was loud and clear. Ouyang Feng was enraged, “Looked like the Old Beggar was alert. They aren’t poisoned at all.” His poison collection was vast, but in order to poison Hong Qigong without harming Guo Jing, he had to think of some better plan.

    Hong Qigong was telling Guo Jing the ins and outs of the Beggar Clan; that although they begged for a living, actually every member had the responsibility to uphold justice, to help those in distress, to follow their predecessors’ good deeds, not the bad ones. These facts were mostly hidden from the public eyes. He further talked about the election procedure of the Beggar Clan Leader when the time comes to find a successor. “It’s a pity you don’t like being a beggar,” he said, “Otherwise you have a perfect character to be a leader; there is no one inside the clan superior to you. I’d really like to bestow the ‘da gou bang’ [dog beating stick] to you.” While they were still chatting suddenly there came banging noise from outside, it sounded like a hatchet or a chisel hitting the wall.

    Hong Qigong jumped in alarm, “Not good! This stinky snake is going to sink the boat,” he cried out. Rushing toward the door he shouted to Guo Jing, “Quickly go to the small life boat at the back!” He was just finished shouting when with a loud crash a big hole appeared on the wooden partition, followed by loud hissing noise; it was not seawater came rushing in, but dozens of venomous snakes.

    “The Old Poison’s snake attack!” Hong Qigong mocked; his right hand swept, scattering dozens of steel needles. Dozens of snakes were nailed onto the wooden deck; with loud hissing noise their bodies coiled and were not able to move anymore.

    “Rong’er is very good at this scattering needles technique, yet compared to Master she still falls far short,” Guo Jing thought.

    By that time dozens more snakes coming through the hole in the wall. Hong Qigong kept shooting steel needles and more and more snakes were nailed to the floor. A wooden whistle sound was still heard outside, and more and more snakes were driven into the cabin.

    Hong Qigong shot more and more needles, “The Old Poison sends all these target for me to practice my martial art skill, truly it is a rare opportunity,” he said. But when he put his hand into his pocket to grab some more needles he was startled since only a few left. Secretly he was alarmed seeing the snakes kept coming continuously. He was thinking hard on what to do next when suddenly a loud crash was heard and the wall behind him fell down; a palm was swiftly moving toward his back.

    Guo Jing was standing beside his master, but suddenly heard the swift and fierce wind he turned around and using both hands he blocked the sneak attack. The incoming attack was so strong that he felt his stomach turned upside down and he almost passed out.

    Having his attack unexpectedly blocked Ouyang Feng uttered a cry of surprise. He stepped back a little bit and then horizontally hacked with the back of his hand.

    Guo Jing knew this attack would be hard to defend, so with his left palm he parried the attack, while his right hand launched a counterattack toward Ouyang Feng’s side, forcing him to withdraw. Ouyang Feng did not dare to take Guo Jing’s palm on his side, so he ducked while sending out a hand in chopping motion toward Guo Jing’s lower body.

    Guo Jing was aware that the situation was very critical. The snakes would keep coming in as long as Ouyang Feng could control the entrance; his master and he would be in grave danger. Therefore, he gritted his teeth and to the utmost of his ability using one hand to fend off the incoming attacks while with the other hand tried to send counterattacks. When his left defend his right hand attack, when his right hand void his left hand solid; following Zhou Botong’s technique of mutual hands combat.

    Ouyang Feng had never seen this mutual hands combat technique before, so he was confused for a moment, giving Guo Jing a chance to send several stances. Talking about true martial art skill, Ouyang Feng was still twice as superior to Guo Jing; only this mutual hands combat technique was so strange to him and it took him by surprise, so Guo Jing was able to gain an upper hand for a while. But the Western Poison Ouyang Feng had enjoyed his title for dozens of years; he was a great martial art master, so he was confused only for a short while but soon had thought of a method to deal with this strange technique. “Ugh!” with a loud grunt both his palms shot forward.

    Guo Jing would not be able to block this attack single handedly, he was forced to step back, but behind him a flock of snakes was heard hissing loudly.

    “Wonderful, wonderful!” Hong Qigong shouted loudly, “Old poison, you can’t even defeat my disciple; how can you flaunt yourself as a great hero?” With ‘fei long zai tian’ [the dragon flies to the sky] he leaped over both Ouyang Feng and Guo Jing’s heads, toward Ouyang Ke. With one kick he knocked Ouyang Ke down. Hong Qigong then used his elbow and struck Ouyang Ke somersaulting toward Ouyang Feng’s back. Ouyang Feng leaned sideways to avoid his nephew, and because of that Guo Jing was freed from his vicious attack.

    “Master’s martial art skill is in par with his, while his nephew’s is below mine; plus, he is wounded. So by two against two, we would certainly win,” Guo Jing thought. His spirit rose, and with renewed vigor his hands and feet attacked Ouyang Feng like a violent storm.

    While violently fighting the enemy Hong Qigong opened his eyes wide to all directions. He saw dozens of snakes were approaching Guo Jing’s back; ready to strike. Once Guo Jing got bitten he would certainly die. Hong Qigong anxiously called out, “Jing’er, get out of here, quick!” He increased the intensity of his attack toward Ouyang Feng; forcing him to withdraw from Guo Jing.

    Ouyang Feng faced attacks from both his front and rear; he felt quite strenuous. Hong Qigong’s attack had forced him to lean sideways, thus giving Guo Jing an opportunity to dash out of the cabin while Ouyang Feng and Hong Qigong were engaged in a fierce battle again.

    In the meantime hundreds of snakes crawling around the deck had surrounded the two of them. “Fighting with pets as your helper? You are shameless!” Hong Qigong mocked, but in his heart he was anxious, since the snakes were countless; they were everywhere. With the dog beating stick in his right hand he crushed dozens of snake’s heads; pulling Guo Jing’s hand they headed for the mast.
    Ouyang Feng was secretly alarmed, “Not good! If these two leap to the mast they will be unreachable for a while.” He flew to block them.

    Hong Qigong’s both palms made a ferocious chopping motion with a roaring gust of wind. Ouyang Feng’s fist swept horizontally to parry. Guo Jing stepped forward to help his master, but Hong Qigong called out, “Just go to the mast, quick!”

    “I want to kill his nephew to avenge Big Brother Zhou,” Guo Jing replied.

    “Snake! Snake!” Hong Qigong urgently warned him.

    Guo Jing saw vipers all around him slithering about; he did not dare to linger much longer. With the back of his hand he caught Ouyang Ke’s ‘fei yan yin suo’ [lit. flying swallow silver shuttle]; leaping dozens of feet high, his left hand grasped the mast. At that very moment he heard the wind of an incoming projectile, so he shot the ‘yin suo’ in his hand and with a loud clang, two projectiles met midair; both changed direction toward the side of the boat and fell down to the sea. Guo Jing moved his hands and feet and in a short while he had reached the middle of the mast.

    Ouyang Feng knew Hong Qigong also want to go up the mast so he intensified his attacks. Even though Hong Qigong was able to hold his ground steadily he could not move toward the mast.

    Guo Jing saw the snakes crowding around his master’s feet he was very anxious; with a loud shout he wrapped his legs around the mast and bent his body down. Hong Qigong understood his intention; his left foot kicked the deck, his right foot flew toward Ouyang Feng’s face while extending his dog beating stick toward Guo Jing. Guo Jing grabbed the end of his stick and flung it up. Hong Qigong’s body flew to the air. With a long laughter Hong Qigong’s left hand caught the mast above Guo Jing. This way these two were high in the air looking down to their opponents; thus occupying a superior position.

    Ouyang Feng knew that if he climbed the mast he would certainly be at a disadvantage, so he called out loudly, “Very well! We lost this time. Turn the rudder to the east!” With an abrupt turn the boat was sailing to the east.

    From high above the deck with their feet on the mast Hong Qigong and Guo Jing saw the snakes were very dense on the deck. Hong Qigong sat comfortably on the sail yardarm; his mouth loudly sang the ‘lian hua luo’ [falling lotus flower], the song beggars sang when begging for food. His face showed complacency, but actually his heart was very anxious. “How long can we stay on this mast?” he wondered, “Even if the Old Poison won’t chop it down we still can’t go down if he did not withdraw the snakes. The two of them can drink wine and sleep, but all the two of us can do up here is eating wind and urinate. That’s it!” As soon as he remembered urinating, he stood up, pulled his pants down and scattered his urine down to the snakes. “Jing’er,” he shouted, “Let those scoundrels drink your urine to their hearts’ content.”

    Guo Jing still had his childish character; he followed his master’s instruction while shouting happily, “Please! Be my guests!” Both master and disciple sent their urine down.

    “Get the snakes out of here! Quick!” Ouyang Feng barked while at the same time leaped several steps back. He moved so fast that Hong and Guo’s urine did not touch his body. Ouyang Ke, on the other hand, was startled to hear his uncle’s anxious call; some urine drops splashed on his face and neck. He was a neat and clean person, so naturally he was indignant, but suddenly remembered, “Our snakes fear urine!”

    Amidst the wooden whistle sound the snakes slowly flocked away, but dozens of them closest to the mast were already drenched in urine. These vipers were all hybridized from the snake valley in the western region where the Mount White Camel was; their toxicity was really fierce. Ouyang Feng had used big bamboo baskets hanging in between several hundreds pairs of camels to transport these vipers thousands of miles to the Central Plains with the intention of using them as weapons to dominate the Wulin world. Only the snakes were afraid of human’s excrements. As soon as they were wet they started to turn around and coil in confusion, biting each other so the snake shepherds were totally unable to control them.

    Hong Qigong and Guo Jing laughed very hard seeing this chaotic situation they have caused. Guo Jing thought, “If Big Brother Zhou saw this I am sure he would be very happy. Ay! A martial art expert of this age had to die in the sea. With their level of martial art skills Island Master Huang and the Old Poison were still drenched in his urine; while my master’s and my urine did not even touch the Old Poison.”

    About four hours later the sky gradually turned dark. The boat crew prepared some banquet tables on the deck; meat and wine flowed freely, the sweet smelling aroma drifted upward attacking Hong Qigong and Guo Jing’s nostrils. Ouyang Feng was really shrewd, how could a glutton like Hong Qigong endure this kind of torture? The gourd on Hong Qigong’s back was empty only a short while later.

    That night Hong Qigong and Guo Jing took turn for the night watch duty. On the deck below them the crew lighted up dozens of lanterns, while a flock of snakes staying guard around the mast. They really did not have any chance to break up this formidable defense; certainly they could not urinate all the time.

    Hong Qigong cursed Ouyang Feng’s ancestors up to 18 generations, with all the fabricated scandals he could think of, adding some spices to make the scandals more dramatic; but Ouyang Feng did not even go out of his cabin. Hong Qigong cursed until his lips were tired and finally he fell asleep.

    Early the next morning Ouyang Feng sent a servant to shout loudly under the mast, “Hong Bangzhu, Guo Xiaoye [Clan Leader Hong, Young Master Guo], Master Ouyang has prepared a superb wine and banquet for you to enjoy; please come down and enjoy it.”

    “You go and invite Ouyang Feng to come out, we will serve him our urine!” Hong Qigong shot back.

    Not long afterward the banquet table was ready under the mast. The foods were steaming hot, looked like they were fresh out from the kitchen. They prepared two chairs on each side of the table; it appeared they were waiting for Hong Qigong and Guo Jing to come down and enjoy their banquet.

    Several times Hong Qigong wanted to slide down the mast and plunder the food, but he knew they must be poisoned, so he had no choice but restrain himself. He was so upset and starting his ‘your mother is a b***ch’ and ‘you are a male dog with bird’s brain’ series of cursing.

    On the third day these two people were so hungry and thirsty that their heads started to spin. “If only my female disciple is here,” Hong Qigong sighed, “She is so smart that I am sure she will come out with something to counter the Old Poison’s tactic. All we, master and disciple, can do is just staring and swallow our own saliva.” Guo Jing also sighed.

    About noon that day the sun was shining very bright. Suddenly Guo Jing saw two white dots on the horizon. He thought they were a couple of white clouds, but the dots moved way too fast for a cloud. They flew closer and getting bigger and bigger, uttering a loud cry. Turned out they were two white eagles. Guo Jing was ecstatic; he formed a hook with his left fingers and put it in his mouth, whistling repeatedly.

    The eagles circled above the boat several times before diving down and perched on Guo Jing’s shoulders. They were indeed the pair of eagles Guo Jing had raised in the Mongolian desert. “Master, could it be Rong’er is sailing this way?” he happily asked.

    “That would be wonderful!” Hong Qigong replied, “Too bad these eagles are too small, won’t be able to carry us master and disciple out of here. We are stuck here, at loss of what to do. Quickly tell her to come over here and think of something.”

    Guo Jing took out his dagger and cut two pieces about five inches square from the sail and carved out two characters ‘you nan’ [lit. have trouble], and a picture of a gourd. [I don’t know how Guo Jing carve a piece of cloth with his dagger, but that’s what written] Then he strapped those pieces, one on each white eagle’s leg, and said, “Quickly fly back and get Miss Huang to come here.” The white eagles made some chirping sound, stretched their wings, and flew from Guo Jing’s shoulders. They circled the boat once then flew toward the west.

    About an hour after the white eagles left, Ouyang Feng again tried to entice Hong Qigong and Guo Jing to come down the mast by preparing another banquet table, loaded with food and wine. Hong Qigong was indignant, “The Old Beggar is a glutton and the Old Poison is using this dirty trick to torture me. I practice martial art my whole life, but I have to admit my spiritual strength is rather lacking. Jing’er, what do you say we go down and beat them up real good?”

    “The white eagles have already delivered our letter; I believe the situation will change very soon. Please be patient and wait a little bit longer,” Guo Jing replied.

    Hong Qigong smiled. A while later he asked, “Among the world’s bad aroma, what do you say is the worst?”

    “I don’t know. What is it?” Guo Jing replied.

    “There was one time I had to wander way up north. I was caught in a heavy snowstorm for eight days without any food; not even a squirrel could be found. I wanted to eat tree bark, yet I couldn’t find any either. Randomly I dug around the snow-covered ground and was lucky to find five living things, so I could extend my life another day. The next day I found a yellow wolf and was able to satisfy my hunger.”

    “What were those five living things?” Guo Jing asked.

    “They were earthworms, fat and juicy earthworms. I just swallow them alive, did not even dare to chew,” Hong Qigong replied.

    Guo Jing recalled how the slimy earthworms wiggle, he almost threw-up. Hong Qigong laughed heartily. He intentionally talked about the world’s dirtiest and smelliest things to battle the aroma from food and wine below them. He talked some more and cursed some more, before finally said, “Jing’er, the Old Beggar has eaten earthworms, but there is something even more disgusting than they that the Old Beggar would rather eat my own toes than eating that thing. Do you know what it is?”

    Guo Jing smiled, “I know! It’s dung!” he exclaimed.

    Hong Qigong shook his head, “No, it is dirtier that that.” He let Guo Jing made some more guesses before bursting out in laughter, “I’ll tell you what it is; the world’s dirtiest and most disgusting thing is the Western Poison Ouyang Feng!”

    “Right! Right!” Guo Jing also burst in laughter.

    After suffering the whole afternoon, that evening Ouyang Ke came out and stood amidst his flock of vipers. He smiled and said, “Uncle Hong, Brother Guo, my uncle wants to borrow the Nine Yin Manual just to take a look, nothing else.”

    Hong Qigong cursed under his breath, “Son of a b***ch, what a good intention he has!” In his anger suddenly an idea came into his head; but he kept a straight face and shouted loud and clear, “Little Rascal, the old man admits defeat to your dog-like uncle’s evil scheme. Quickly prepare some food and wine, we’ll talk again tomorrow.”

    Ouyang Ke was delighted; he knew Hong Qigong’s word was like a mountain, he certainly would live up to his promise, so he gave the command to withdraw the snakes immediately. Hong Qigong and Guo Jing slid down the mast and went into the cabin; where Ouyang Ke’s servants delivered all kind of food and wine. As soon as the door was closed Hong Qigong immediately drank half a pot of wine; ripping half a chicken and started to chew.

    “Are these food and wine free of poison?” Guo Jing asked with a low voice.

    “Stupid kid,” Hong Qigong said, “That bird brain wants you to write down the manual, he won’t harm your life just yet. Quickly eat as much as you can, we have things to discuss afterward.” Guo Jing silently agreed, in one breath he ate four big bowls of rice.

    After eating and drinking to his heart’s content Hong Qigong used the end of his sleeve to wipe his greasy mouth, then whispered in Guo Jing’s ear, “The Old Poison wants the ‘jiu yin zhen jing’ [Nine Yin Manual] from you, you write a ‘jiu yin jia jing’ [Nine Yin Altered Manual] for him.”

    Guo Jing was puzzled, “Nine Yin Altered Manual?” he asked in a low voice.

    [Translator’s note: jiu yin zhen jing – nine ‘yin’ (negative/female/moon – as opposed to ‘yang’ – positive/male/sun) divine/holy scripture; jiu yin jia jing – nine yin fake/imitation/not the real thing scripture. The term ‘Nine Yin Manual’ has been widely used, so let’s just use that; otherwise we’ll have to change every reference to it, not only in this novel, but in RoCH and HSDS as well]

    Hong Qigong smiled, “That’s right!” he said. “In this whole wide world, you are the only one who knows the Nine Yin Manual. Whatever you want to write, just write. Who is going to say that what you write is not the real manual? Intentionally you alter and mix up the sentences, let him use that to train himself in martial art. I am sure even if he practices for a hundred years he won’t master even one fart!”

    Guo Jing was delighted, he thought, “This is a really clever trick; the Old Poison will surely fall for it.” But then he remembered something, “Ouyang Feng’s martial art is profound; he is also crafty and vigilant, if disciple just scribbles some nonsense, he will find out eventually, then what?” he asked.

    “You have to write something that appeared right but actually wrong,” Hong Qigong explained, “Write three correct sentences then alter the fourth one. Add or subtract some numbers, for example, if the manual says you need to do it eight times, change it to six or perhaps ten. As smart as he is, he will never find it out. I am willing to spend seven days and seven nights without food or wine just to see him training from this fake manual.” Speaking to this point he could not restrain his smile.

    Guo Jing also laughed, “If he really practice according to the altered manual, not only he will waste his time and energy, but he could suffer some internal injury as well,” he said.

    “Now quickly think carefully how you are going to alter the manual; once he is suspicious, our plan will be foiled,” Hong Qigong said with a smile; then he added, “The content of the second volume had been read and rewritten by Huang Yaoshi’s wife, moreover, that little rascal had read it on the Peach Blossom Island; hence this part you can’t change too much, just add some incorrect words here and there; I am sure that little rascal won’t know the difference.”

    Guo Jing silently recited the manual in his head, trying to think which sentences he could alter, where he could insert some misleading sentences. He replaced hold with move, above with below, and other simple altering that did not require him to recompose the whole sentence; in short, he was following his master’s instruction to make subtle changes every where in the manual. For example, he changed the sentence ‘hand and mind toward the sky’ to ‘foot and buttock toward the sky’; or ‘feet firmly on the ground’ into ‘hands lightly moving on the ground’. On the internal energy cultivation he changed ‘concentrate ‘qi’ in the pubic region (dan tian)’ into ‘concentrate ‘qi’ in the chest and throat’.

    While thinking about all these changes he could not restrain from heaving a heavy sigh and said in his heart, “Playing practical jokes like this is Rong’er and Big Brother Zhou’s delight. It’s a pity that one is nowhere near, the other is already died. Someday I will see Rong’er again, but I will never be able to tell this story to Big Brother Zhou.”

    Early morning on the next day Hong Qigong called Ouyang Ke and proudly told him, “The Old Beggar’s martial art is already unique; I don’t need to see all kinds of Nine Yin Manual. As a matter of fact, even if you show the manual in front of my face I won’t even cast a glance to it. Only some bird brain whose martial art is useless would be dying to steal all kinds of gold and silver [play of words here: shen jing – divine scripture, shen jin – pure gold, shen yin – pure silver]. Tell your dog uncle that the manual will be written just for him. Tell him to shut himself up and train hard; and when he’s done, to come to the Old Beggar to test his newfound skill. The Manual naturally is a good thing, but I don’t want to look at it even with one eye. I want to see if with the Manual’s help he would be able to defeat the Old Beggar. I want to see whether after he has painstakingly practiced the martial arts from the manual he wouldn’t just ‘ban jin ba liang’ [the same, equal to] with the Old Beggar? I’ll say he’s just taking off his pants to fart; totally useless!”

    Ouyang Feng was actually standing behind his cabin door, so he heard everything, but he was delighted instead of getting angry. “It’s a very good thing the Old Beggar is very proud, he doesn’t mind letting me have the manual,” he thought, “Otherwise, even if I fight him, threaten him with snakes or poison, or I starve him to death, it would still be difficult to force him.”

    “Uncle Hong, you are wrong!” Ouyang Ke said, “My Uncle’s martial art has reached perfection. With Uncle Hong’s ability, you could not gain even half a move advantage; so why would Uncle want to learn the Nine Yin Manual? My Uncle once told Little Nephew that he is convinced the Nine Yin Manual had enjoyed undeserved reputation. Otherwise, when Wang Chongyang won the book, why didn’t he learn anything from it and demonstrate it in front of everybody? My Uncle wants to take a look at it to point out the errors and prove that the manual is actually a hoax. Wouldn’t you say that it will benefit the Wulin world tremendously?”

    Hong Qigong burst out in laughter, “You are blindly blowing your horn too hard!” he mocked. “Jing’er, go ahead and write the manual from your memory. If the Old Poison can point out any error in the Nine Yin Manual, the Old Beggar will kowtow to him.”

    Guo Jing said yes and came out. Ouyang Ke led him to the big cabin where there was a stack of paper and some ink stick; he even prepared the ink himself and respectfully waited on the side.

    Guo Jing’s school years were not too many, his handwriting was shoddy; oftentimes he had to think the characters he had to write; so he worked very slowly. More than once he did not know how to write certain character, so he had to ask Ouyang Ke to write it for him. Working until noon that day he barely finished the first half of the first volume.

    Ouyang Feng did not show himself at all, but every time Guo Jing finished writing a page Ouyang Ke would take that page and gave it to his uncle. Ouyang Feng looked at them carefully. Some sentences did not make any sense to him, but even though shoddy, the characters were clear. He thought those sentences must have very deep meaning behind them, so when he’s back to the west he would slowly digest the manual. He believed with his intelligence and ability he would eventually understand the manual thoroughly; and after a dozen of years or so he would master the entire martial arts from the manual. He could not help but feeling elated. He knew Guo Jing was dumb, he also noticed Guo Jing’s handwriting was so plain and naïve, almost child-like. He believed this kind of person would not be able to fabricate a complex manual such as this one. Besides, his nephew had told him that many characters Guo Jing knew the sounds, but did not know how to write, so his nephew had to teach him or write the characters himself, so without a doubt this was the real manual. How would he know that this dumb kid had conspired with his master to deliberately alter the manual and so deceive him? As for the confusing sentences, he blamed that on Guo Jing’s inability to remember the text correctly.

    Guo Jing did not stop writing even though the sky had turned dark; he had finished more than half of the second volume. Ouyang Feng did not allow him to return to his cabin for fear that Hong Qigong would influence him to change his mind and make things difficult for him. Even though he had already had most of the manual in his hands; he wanted to have the complete manual. So he arranged for a sumptuous meal and wine to be brought to Guo Jing, let Guo Jing continue to write without interruption.

    Hong Qigong waited until about the end of the eleventh hour, early twelfth hour [about 9 pm] but did not see Guo Jing came back. He felt queasy, afraid that Ouyang Feng had discovered their scheme and his dumb disciple might suffer the worst. He sneaked out of his cabin and quietly walked toward the main cabin. There were two snake shepherds stood guard in front of the main cabin. Hong Qigong sent his left palm forward creating a gust of wind making the sail rope moved. Those two snake shepherds heard the noise and looked around while Hong Qigong had already moved to the right. His movement was so quick that those two did not see anything; they thought it was a ghost or something. Very soon Hong Qigong was at the starboard of the main cabin.

    Hong Qigong could see a faint glow coming out of the main cabin’s window. He took a peek inside and saw Guo Jing was still crouching on the desk, writing. Two white-dressed maidens stood beside him, busily serving tea or lighting some incense or replenishing some papers or preparing some more ink. Guo Jing was well taken care of. Hong Qigong was relieved; but then his nostrils caught a scent of the wine. He fixed his gaze for a long time and saw in front of Guo Jing a cup of amber brown aged wine, the color is almost rouge, the sweet fragrant attacking his nose mercilessly.

    Hong Qigong secretly cursed, “The Old Poison is very stingy, just because my disciple writes for him he serves the best wine to entertain him, while for the Old Beggar he only serves insipid cheap wine.” He was the world’s number one glutton and drunkard; seeing his disciple with this kind of excellent wine, how could he restrain himself from wanting some of that wine? “The Old Poison must have stored the good wine in the boat’s hold downstairs; I am going to drink for his happiness, then replace the wine with my urine, let him taste the Old Beggar’s own brewed urine wine. Compared to what the Old Beggar and his disciple went through with the sharks, his drinking of some urine in his wine won’t be too bad, at least he won’t die because of it.”

    Having this thought he could not help but smile; stealing wine and food was the skill he most proud of. Once he spent three whole months inside the imperial palace in Lin An; he hid on a beam in the imperial kitchen, he had tasted practically every single food and wine that was supposed to be served to the emperor. The imperial palace was heavily guarded, yet he was able to come and go like there were no other people there. Stealing food and wine from a boat’s kitchen certainly would not give him any trouble.

    Immediately he looked for the steps that would lead him downstairs, and after making sure nobody was watching he carefully went downstairs, relying on his nose to find where the food supply was. The hold was pitch black, but Hong Qigong’s nose was able to smell food from a mile away. Slowly he walked along the wall, lighted his torch just to see six, seven wooden barrels piled up in the corner. Hong Qigong was delighted; he extinguished the fire after picking up a broken bowl he found laying around and put it back in his pocket. He walked groping around toward the barrel and tried to lift one up. The barrel was very heavy, it could contain anything.

    His left hand he found the plug, while his right hand placed the bowl under it. He was about to pull the plug when suddenly his sensitive ears heard some footsteps. It looked like there were two people walking toward the hold. Their steps were nimble, so Hong Qigong knew they were Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew since nobody on board had that kind of ability. He thought those two came to the boat hold late at night, they must have some evil intentions, like poisoning the food to harm others; so he shrunk his body and hid curled up among the barrels.

    He heard the door opened quietly, a flame flashed, and two people walked in; they stopped right in front of the barrels. Hong Qigong’s heart skipped a beat, “Are they going to poison the wine?” he wondered in his heart; but what he heard next turned his heart cold.

    “Have you placed oil, firewood and sulfur in each cabin?” he heard Ouyang Feng asked.

    Ouyang Ke laughed, “Everything is ready, as soon as we start the fire this boat will turn into ashes and the stinky Beggar will be scorched to death instantly.”

    “They are going to burn the boat?” Hong Qigong was shocked.

    “We must wait a little bit longer,” Ouyang Feng said, “As soon as that kid surnamed Guo falls asleep you go first to the life boat; just be really careful not to wake the Old Beggar up. I’ll come over here and light up the fire.”

    “What are we going to do with those maidservants and the snake shepherds?” Ouyang Ke asked.

    “The stinky Beggar is a great master of this age; it’s worthy of his reputation to sacrifice some people to accompany him in his death,” Ouyang Feng coldly said.

    While still talking their hands did not stay idle, they unplug the barrel and the smell of oil attacked Hong Qigong’s nose. Turned out the barrels were full of vegetable oils. Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew also took some sulfur from a stack of wooden boxes, some firewood and sacks of wood shavings from the shelves, and scattered them on the floor.

    Not too long afterward they have finished their job and turned around to go out when Ouyang Ke laughed and said, “Uncle, in less than 12 hours that kid surnamed Guo will be buried in the sea; the only person who knows the Nine Yin Manual will be just you, Senior.”

    “No, there will be two. Won’t I pass it on to you?” Ouyang Feng replied. Ouyang Ke was delighted; he pushed the door closed with the back of his hand.

    Hong Qigong was furious and shocked at the same time, he thought if there was no ghost or spirit telling him to steal some wine how would he found out these two people’s treacherous plan? If the boat was suddenly on fire, how would he escape the disaster? After could not hear the footsteps of those two anymore, he carefully sneaked out and went back to his own cabin. Guo Jing had already gone back and was sleeping soundly on the bed. He was about to wake him up and discuss what they were going to do when suddenly there was a slight rustling noise outside the door. He knew it must be Ouyang Feng trying to see if they were sound asleep, so he pretended to talk in his sleep, “Good wine! Good wine! I want ten more pots!”

    Ouyang Feng was startled, at first he thought the Old Beggar was still awake, drinking wine, but then Hong Qigong cried out loud again, “Old Poison, let us fight for another thousand stances … (giggling) … Good boy! That was awesome!”

    Standing outside the door Ouyang Feng listened to him speaking nonsense, he was confused, but then realized that Hong Qigong was talking in his sleep. “This stinky Beggar’s death is imminent, yet he still drinks and fights in his dream,” he thought.

    With his mouth Hong Qigong talked nonsense, but with his ears he listened attentively. Ouyang Feng’s lightness kungfu was superb, but Hong Qigong was still able to hear him walking toward the port side of the boat. Hong Qigong put his mouth on Guo Jing’s ear and lightly shook his shoulder, “Jing’er!” he whispered.

    “Mmm!” Guo Jing awoke.

    “Just follow my lead, don’t ask any question,” Hong Qigong said urgently, “Get out quietly, make sure nobody’s watching you.”

    Guo Jing rolled over and crawled quietly toward the door. Hong Qigong silently opened the door and tugging Guo Jing’s sleeve they moved toward the starboard. He was afraid they would be detected by Ouyang Feng; so instead of jumping out he climbed over the edge. With his left hand hanging on the edge his right hand pulled Guo Jing along; both of them hanging outside the boat’s side. Guo Jing felt strange, but did not dare to make any noise. Hong Qigong slowly released his hands from the edge and quietly crawled downward; keeping his eyes on Guo Jing for fear that the boat was too slippery for him, that if he should fall, he would surely make noise.

    The boat was smoothly painted, plus, it was wet. Secondly, they were going downward, where the boat was sloping toward the water; thirdly, the boat was moving above the waves that made the boat rocked; so climbing downward was truly not an easy matter. Luckily Guo Jing was trained by Ma Yu going up and down the cliff everyday in the desert; besides, his skill had been improved tremendously this past year or so. He would stick his fingers in between the wood plank, or grab the head of a nail, or find a crack somewhere; slowly but steadily going down.

    Half of Hong Qigong’s body was already under water. He moved toward the stern, with Guo Jing following close behind. His target was the small life boat tied on a rope behind the boat. “Get on that boat!” he told Guo Jing. He loosened up his grip and separated his body from the big boat.

    The big boat was traveling quite fast, so a second later Hong Qigong had grabbed the edge of the small boat. Swing his hands his body somersaulted and landed on the small boat without making any sound. When Guo Jing had followed his example he quietly said, “Cut off the rope.” Guo Jing took the dagger out and a moment later that small boat was floating freely on the ocean waves. Hong Qigong pulled the oar to give themselves some distance from the big boat. A moment later the big boat disappeared into the darkness.

    Suddenly a flame was seen on the big boat’s stern, it came from the torch in Ouyang Feng’s hand. Ouyang Feng was heard shouting in alarm because the small life boat was nowhere to be seen. He sounded shocked, but also angry and afraid at the same time. Hong Qigong concentrated his ‘qi’ in the ‘dan tian’ region and let out a long laugh.

    Out of nowhere another boat appeared, coming rapidly toward the starboard of the big boat. Hong Qigong wondered, “Uh, what boat is that?” Before he finished speaking a pair of white eagles came down from the sky, circling the big boat’s main sail. Someone dressed in white was seen leaving the incoming boat, leaping toward the big boat. Under the bright starlight above one could see a glimmer of golden hair band on her head. “Rong’er!” Guo Jing gasped.

    The person who was just leaping onto the big boat was indeed Huang Rong. Just before leaving the Peach Blossom Island she saw the little red horse came galloping from the forest, she thought, “This little red horse is useless on the sea, but those two condors would actually be able to help me find Brother Jing.” Therefore, she whistled loudly to call the white eagles.

    The eagles’ eyes are sharp, they can fly extremely fast. On this boundless sea they unexpectedly saw Guo Jing on the big boat. Huang Rong was alarmed, but also pleasantly surprised to find the ‘in danger’ message Guo Jing tied on the eagles’ leg; immediately she let the eagles soar to the sky and steered the boat following them. Eventually her boat caught up with the big boat, but she was a little bit too late, Hong Qigong and Guo Jing had already left the big boat.

    Huang Rong had never forgotten the ‘in danger’ message she got earlier, she was afraid she might be too late; hence as soon as the eagles circled above this boat, she ordered her crew to sail alongside the big boat. As soon as the distance was manageable with a butterfly steel projectile in her hand she leaped to the big boat, only to see Ouyang Ke was pacing around nervously, like an ant on a hot pot.

    “Where is Guo Jing?” Huang Rong shouted, “What did you do to him?”

    Ouyang Feng had lighted the fire in the hold and was going to escape using the small life boat when suddenly he saw the boat was gone. His perspiration came down his forehead like beads or pearl when he heard Hong Qigong’s loud and long laughter. He silently cursed his own stupidity because instead of harming others he had harmed himself; of course he was very anxious. But suddenly Huang Rong arrived on a boat, he rushed to grab this opportunity, “Quickly seize that boat!” he shouted.

    Who would have thought that the crews of Huang Rong’s boat were all deaf and mute servants from the island. As long as Huang Rong was on board, they followed her commands out of fear, but as soon as Huang Rong left the boat, immediately they turned the boat around, hoisted the sail and escaped as far as they could.

    Not long after Hong Qigong and Guo Jing saw Huang Rong jumped onto the big boat, the fire from the hold was starting to reach the deck. Guo Jing did not know what happened yet, he called out in alarm, “Fire! Fire!”

    “That’s right,” Hong Qigong said, “The Old Poison set the boat on fire to burn the two of us, master and disciple to death.”

    Guo Jing had a blank expression on his face, he busily said, “We must save Rong’er!”

    “Let’s go back to the boat!” Hong Qigong said. With all his might Guo Jing pulled the oar. That big boat was also changed its direction to approach the small life boat. The deck was full of male snake shepherds and female maidservants running around chaotically, shouting for help. Hong Qigong had to raise his voice to be heard, “Rong’er! Jing’er and I are here! Quickly swim over! Quick!”

    On the sea the mighty waves rolled, the night was dark, so it was very dangerous to swim; but Hong Qigong knew Huang Rong’s water skill was excellent and also it was a critical moment so he was compelled to take this risk.

    Huang Rong heard her master’s voice, she was delighted. No longer paying attention toward Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew she rushed to the boat’s side and jumped into the water below. But suddenly she felt something was holding her back. Huang Rong turned her head in great surprise to see her right wrist in Ouyang Feng’s hand. “Let me go!” she shouted, sending her left fist toward Ouyang Feng’s face; as a result, both of her wrists were in Ouyang Feng’s hands.

    Ouyang Feng saw the boat that brought Huang Rong had already gone far away, too far for them to pursue; while the big boat they were on was already ablazed; the main mast was burnt and was about to fall down; the deck was extremely chaotic, the boat would sink any minute. His only hope right now was the small life boat in Hong Qigong’s control; so he loudly shouted, “Stinky Beggar! Miss Huang is in my hand; do you see her?” He lifted Huang Rong high in the air.

    By that time the sea was bright red with the fire from the boat. Hong Qigong and Guo Jing could see her clearly. Hong Qigong was very indignant, “Again he is using a dirty trick to get this boat. Humph! I am going the get Rong’er back.”

    Guo Jing saw the boat was almost burnt down, “I am coming too!” he said.

    “No! You stay and guard this boat, don’t let the Old Poison take it away,” Hong Qigong said.

    “Yes!” Guo Jing said and exerted his strength to pull the oar. By that time the big boat was motionless on the sea surface, so with only several pulls they have come close to the big boat.

    Hong Qigong kicked the small boat and his body flew toward the big boat. Stretching his left hand out he grabbed the boat’s edge with his strong fingers; and then catapulted his body upward and somersaulted toward the deck.

    Ouyang Feng was still holding Huang Rong’s wrists; “Stinky Beggar, what do you want?” he said, smiling ferociously.

    Hong Qigong cursed him, “Come! Let us fight another one thousands stances.” ‘Swish, swish, swish!’ He sent three palm attacks toward Ouyang Feng’s face. Ouyang Feng was shrewd; he pushed Huang Rong’s body forward as a shield, forcing Hong Qigong to retract his attacks. Ouyang Feng had sealed Huang Rong’s acupoint, so she was paralyzed.

    Hong Qigong loudly shouted, “Old Poison, you are shameless! Quickly release her and let her go; you and I will fight here to decide victory or defeat.”

    How could Ouyang Feng release his prisoner so easily? But he saw his nephew was continuously pushed backward by the fire, he threw Huang Rong toward him and called out, “Go to the small boat first!”

    Ouyang Ke caught Huang Rong, then looked downward to see Guo Jing waiting on the small boat down below. He thought the small boat was really too small. If he jumped down carrying a person, he might cause the boat to turn upside down, so he found a thick rope. Tying it to the mast he used his right hand to slide down onto the small boat while holding Huang Rong with his left.

    Guo Jing was relieved to see Huang Rong on the small boat; he did not know that Huang Rong’s acupoint was sealed. His attention was focused on his master and Ouyang Feng fought a fierce battle on the blazing deck. He was so worried about his master’s safety that his gaze was fixed on the fight and he forgot to speak to Huang Rong.

    Both Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng demonstrated their excellence in martial arts; while leaping around to avoid falling wood and rope they attacked nd counterattacked each other. Hong Qigong had a slight advantage in that his body was still wet from swimming into the small boat earlier; while Ouyang Feng’s clothes and hair had caught a little bit of fire here and there.

    Those two people’s martial arts were in par to begin with, a slight advantage was enough for Hong Qigong to gain an upper hand. Ouyang Feng was forced to step back bit by bit until his back was very close to the cabin, while his clothes and beard started to catch fire. He wanted to jump into the sea, but Hong Qigong did not give him any slack. If he tried to jump and thus divert his attention from the fight, he might be seriously wounded or even worse, dead. Ouyang Feng became very anxious and it seemed like defeat was imminent.

    Hong Qigong also realized that he would certainly win this time, and that boost his confidence. But then another thought came into his mind, “If I forced him to enter the fire and die, that won’t do me any good. He has obtained the Nine Yin Altered Manual from Jing’er, he won’t die satisfied before he practice that manual. Why don’t I let him go this time?” Thereupon he laughed and said, “Old Poison, I let you go this time, quickly jump into the boat.”

    Ouyang Feng looked at him strangely, then turning his body he jumped into the sea. Hong Qigong was about to follow when suddenly Ouyang Feng flew back up. “Hold on! Now my body is also wet; we are on a level ground. Let us fight again to decide victory or defeat.” Holding onto the boat’s edge he swung his body up and landed on the deck.

    “Wonderful! Wonderful!” Hong Qigong said, “I have a satisfying fight today!” With him sending his fist forward, the two people were engaged in a fierce battle one more time.

    “Rong’er, do you see how fierce the Old Poison is?” Guo Jing asked. Huang Rong’s acupoint was still sealed, so of course she was not able to answer. “Do you think I should go up there and help Master to come down here? The boat is about to sink,” Guo Jing said again. Still no answer from Huang Rong. Guo Jing turned his head to see Ouyang Ke was hugging Huang Rong; he became angry and shouted, “Take your hands off!”

    It was with great difficulty that Ouyang Ke finally able to touch Huang Rong’s hands; how could he let go that easily? Smiling he said, “If you move, I am going to hack her brain out with my palm.”

    Guo Jing did not even think, he swept the oar in his hand horizontally. Ouyang Ke ducked to avoid this attack, but Guo Jing sent his palm with a whistling sound toward his head. Ouyang Ke was forced to let Huang Rong go, he swung his head backward to avoid this attack. Guo Jing’s fists moved simultaneously, one downward, the other upward, both aimed toward Ouyang Ke’s head.

    Ouyang Ke realized this small boat was not the best place to fight; while the enemy attacked fiercely. He stood up and sent a stance from his ‘ling she quan’ [spirit snake fist technique], his hand swept horizontally. Guo Jing extended his left arm to parry, but suddenly Ouyang Ke’s fist curved upward and turning into a palm slapped Guo Jing hard on his cheek.

    This hit was really heavy, Guo Jing’s head was spinning because of it; but he realized the danger he was in, so he opened his eyes and saw the second attack was coming. Ouyang Ke’s movement resembled a wine gourd with two successive bends. Guo Jing avoided this attack by throwing his head backward while sending his right arm forward to counterattack. But because his head was moving backward, this attack of his was not effective. Luckily he had learned the mutual hands combat technique from Zhou Botong, so both his left and right hands could move independently of each other. This time his left hand followed his right with a different stance coming toward the opponent. Ouyang Ke’s hand was still coming toward Guo Jing, hence Guo Jing’s arms were surrounding his hand. With a crack sound Ouyang Ke’s bone was broken.

    Actually Ouyang Ke’s martial art skill was not under Ma Yu, Wang Chuyi or Sha Tongtian. No matter which technique he used, he should be able to defeat Guo Jing in a fair battle. It was just that Guo Jing’s techniques were more bizarre than any other techniques he had seen that he fell under Guo Jing’s hands twice.

    Ouyang Ke fell onto the small boat’s deck. Guo Jing did not pursue his opponent; he quickly took Huang Rong’s yielding body and unsealed her acupoint. Lucky for him when Ouyang Feng sealed her acupoint he did not use too much energy; he was trying to conserve his energy because he anticipated Hong Qigong’s attack, otherwise Guo Jing would not be able to unseal the Western Poison’s sealed acupoint.

    Huang Rong came to her senses, “Quickly help Shifu!” she called out.

    Guo Jing lifted up his head to see his master and Ouyang Feng were engaged in a close hand-to-hand combat like they were dancing around amidst the blazing fire. The sound of the wind generated by their movements was intermingled with the sound of burning and cracking and falling debris all over them. Suddenly a loud crack was heard, the boat’s body broke; the stern was slowly sinking into the sea and vanished into the dark water. The bow was lighter, but slowly it sank nonetheless. Guo Jing took his oar and started paddling to get the small boat closer with the intention of helping his master.

    Hong Qigong’s feet got into the water first. His clothes had been dried out by the fire, while Ouyang Feng’s were still wet from the sea earlier; so this time the Western Poison gained an upper hand against the Northern Beggar. Hong Qigong did not want to surrender so easily, he fought with all his might. At that moment the main mast broke and fell down. Two people hurriedly jumped backwards so they were separated by a burning mast.

    Ouyang Feng fetched his snake staff and jumped over the burning mast. Hong Qigong immediately drew the bamboo stick from his waist and fended off the attack. They were fighting barehanded ferociously before, so imagine how fierce the battle had become now that both were wielding weapons.

    Guo Jing held the oar in his hands, ready to jump on board. He was very concerned about his master’s safety, yet watching two people’s wonderful weapon techniques he was carried away, clucking his tongue and praising unceasingly.

    There was a saying among the martial arts practitioners, “A hundred days to master a blade, a thousand days to master a spear, ten thousand days to master a sword,” showing that sword technique was the most difficult to learn. However, when the martial artists had reached perfection each would develop his/her own unique skill; then the difference between various weapons would be minuscule. Twenty years ago during the Sword Meet of Mount Hua both Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng had already admired each other’s martial arts very much. Even using swords it was very difficult for them to defeat the other. Now both did not use any sword anymore.

    Hong Qigong wield a bamboo stick which he carried anywhere he went, as a token of authority of his position as the Beggar Clan Leader. The bamboo was pliable but hard to break. Compared to a sword it was about one foot longer. His skill in external martial art was superb; he was able to impart an incredible strength to the flexible weapon in his hands, increasing its might tremendously.

    Ouyang Feng’s snake staff was also unique in that he combined the cudgel, stick, and spear techniques; the movements were complicated. The staff head was carved in the form of a human head; its mouth grinned ferociously, looked very scary. Two rows of sharp teeth inside its mouth were covered with poison. The head danced around like a ghost ready to strike its victim. On top of that, there was a secret button on the staff that when pressed the head would shoot some poison toward the enemy. If those weren’t enough, fiercer still were the two snakes wrapped around the staff. They were alive and able to make unpredictable moves; very difficult to guard against.

    Two people exchanged palms and weapons, unfolding their respective unique skill. Ouyang Feng had a slight advantage in term of weaponry, but Hong Qigong was the leader of beggars everywhere, and beggars were experts in catching snakes. His bamboo stick danced amidst the snake staff movements, parried every move that came his way but also took advantage of any opening in the opponent’s offensive line; striking the snake staff’s vital point. Ouyang Feng moved his staff very fast, to make it difficult for the opponent to have an accurate aim; he knew Hong Qigong meant to kill the snakes on his staff. He did not activate the secret device on his staff for fear that his reputation would be ruined.

    Hong Qigong still had a unique skill set belonging to the Beggar Clan, namely the ‘da gou bang’ [Dog Beating Stick technique]; its changes were subtle yet marvelous, a very sophisticated stick technique. However, Hong Qigong did not want to use this special skill of his unless in an emergency situation. He was planning on using it on the second Sword Meet of Mount Hua the following year; so he did not want to let his would-be-contender to have an advantage by watching his moves beforehand.

    Guo Jing was standing on the bow of his small boat; several times he wanted to jump on board to help his master, but those two combatants were fighting closely. He realized his own skill was too far below theirs; it would be very difficult to even get close to them. All he could do was staring blankly, unable to do anything.

    End of Chapter 20.
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    Last edited by foxs; 04-17-07 at 04:00 PM.

  6. #46
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 21 - The Thousand-Pound Rock

    They acted together and used the oak tree as the pivot to pull the crisscross shaped formation. The rope became taut and the rock was lifted slowly. The Sun was about to set and the sky was red, illuminating the surface of the water. The tide had already gone out and Ouyang Ke's body was in the mud with his eyes fixed onto the rock. It moved slowly and steadily with a creaking sound, causing him to be anxious yet happy.

    Chapter 21 - The Thousand-Pound Rock
    Translated by IcyFox

    Ouyang Feng felt his the surroundings become hotter and the deck of the boat was shaking trememdously and he knew the boat would sink any moment. But Hong Qigong was attacking more furiously and did not slacken his pace so if he did not use his special skills now he might not get out of this alive so he withdrew his Snake Rod with his right hand and kicked out heavily with his right leg.

    Hong Qigong used his bamboo rod to chase the Snake Rod while using his left hand to block the incoming kick but Ouyang Feng suddenly twisted his arms and punched towards Hong Qigong’s ‘Right Sun’ Accupoint. This [Agile Viper Boxing] was developed through Ouyang Feng’s own harsh training and was meant for use during the 2nd Hua Shan Tournament. He had not used this snake-like boxing skill even after exchanging 1000 strokes with Hong Qigong on Peach Blossom Island.

    A snake seems to be boneless and could turn in all directions at will, so the main point of this boxing skill is to be able to twist the arms unpredictably, so that when the opponent blocks the fists, the exponent would be able to throw out a punch from an unexpected angle at close proximity. Of course to expect the arms to move exactly like a snake would be unreasonable but in the eyes of the opponent, the movements of the arms greatly resemble snakes.

    Originally, with Ouyang Feng executing such a strange move in this critical moment, Hong Qigong would have found it hard to defend; even if he were not injured, he would also be in danger. However Ouyang Ke had already used it against Guo Jing before, and although he won, he actually gave Hong Qigong a chance to spot a flaw in the move.

    That day he did not attend the feast with Li Sheng and the of group beggars but was instead deeply thinking of how to counter the move. Now when Ouyang Feng finally used this move, he secretly rejoiced, extended his fingers to form a claw and caught hold of his fist. This was perfect as he managed to swiftly and accurately counter the special move of the [Agile Viper Boxing].

    It looked like it happened by chance, but in reality it was Hong Qigong who pondered over it for many days and nights, followed by long hours of practice which finally allowed him to deal with the entire [Agile Viper Boxing]. Although it had not been perfected yet, but it had the element of surprise, which managed to catch him off guard.

    Ouyang Feng originally expected Hong Qigong to be in great surprise and be rendered helpless, allowing him to seize the opportunity and move in for the kill, but unexpectedly it was he who ended up surprised himself and was forced to retreat several steps. Suddenly a cloud of fire decended upon him, immediately covering his whole body. Hong Qigong was also startled and leapt back and saw that it was actually a large sail which caught fire.

    With Ouyang Feng’s Wugong, even if that sail fell several times faster ot would not hit him. But now he suddenly saw the [Agile Viper Boxing] which he painstakingly created over many years unexpectedly being so carelessly neutralized, his mind was lost and he did not attempt to evade the burning sail. The sail with the mast weighed several hundred jin and Ouyang Feng was not able to lift the sail even after jumping twice.

    Although he was in great danger, he was still calm and he raised up the Snake Rod to lift the sail, but the Snake Rod was pinned under the mast and could not be lifted upright. In his heart sighed, "Forget it! I’ll return to heaven today!" Suddenly he felt the weight lifted and his head was no longer blocked by the sail and saw that Hong Qigong had raised the anchor, hooking it onto the sail and pulling the sail away. Actually Hong Qigong did not want to see him being burnt alive so he went forth to save him.

    Now Ouyang Feng’s clothes and brows were on fire and he immediately jumped up and rolled on the deck of the boat frantically attempting to put out the fire. Unfortunately bad things do not come singly and the boat suddenly lunged to one side, causing a huge chain to sweep right into him.

    Hong Qigong shouted, “Ah!” and dashed forward to grab the chain. The chain was already heated by the fire and caused a sizzling sound when it came into contact with his hand, scalding his palm. He let go immediately and threw it into the sea. He was just about to jump when he felt a slight numbness on his back.

    He stopped for a second and a thought flashed through his mind, “I saved West Poison’s life, can it be possible that he’s using his snake to poison me?” He turned around and saw that it was indeed a snake with fresh blood in its mouth. In his rage he threw 2 palms towards Ouyang Feng. Ouyang Feng stepped aside impassively and Hong Qigong’s palms hit a mast, splitting it into 2.

    Ouyang Feng was happy that his sneak attack worked but when he saw Hong Qigong lashing out crazily he became more serious and did not dare take the blows head-on, avoiding them instead. Guo Jing shouted, “Master! Climb aboard the small boat.” Hong Qigong suddenly felt dizzy and staggered.

    Ouyang Feng charged forward and hit out with his palms which landed right on Hong Qigong’s back. Ouyang Feng’s snake’s lethal poison was unmatched, but fortunately he already used up most of the poison when he made a bet with Zhou Bo Tong days ago, so the poison was not so lethal that day.

    So when Hong Qigong was bitten, he was not very severely poisoned and due to his high internal energy, the poison took some time to take effect. When he was hit by Ouyang Feng he was in a daze and he did not circulate his qi to protect himself, causing him to throw up blood and collapse.

    Since Hong Qigong was very highly-skilled, Ouyang Feng knew that this blow would not kill him, so when he recovered some time later, Ouyang Feng would be in trouble. He jumped over and raised his foot to strike his chest. Guo Jing had just climbed aboard from the small boat and saw that the situation was very urgent but he might not be able to save Hong Qigong in time, so he struck out with both palms using the [Double-Dragon Water Rationing] stance to attack Ouyang Feng’s waist.

    Although Ouyang Feng knew his martial arts were not weak, he did not think very highly of him and used his left hand to block the strike while his right foot slammed down. Guo Jing was shocked and did not care about his own safety and jumped up, hugging Ouyang Feng’s head, but by doing this he left his accupoints exposed and his side was swept at by Ouyang Feng.

    Although this counterattack was not very forceful, every of his strike was enough to kill the opponent, so if not for Guo Jing’s good internal strength, he would have suffered serious injuries. He felt a sharp pain followed by numbness in half his body, but he continued to cling on tenaciously to Ouyang Feng’s head.

    Ouyang Feng assumed that with his vicious strike, the opponent would retreat, but he did not expect the dumb kid to use such a move that would get them both injured. Thus he had to retract the foot which was halfway towards Hong Qigong to twist his waist around to attack Guo Jing. At such close proximity, he could not execute any of his refined Snake moves.

    For highly-skilled exponents, whenever they fight, they would not allow the opponent to get close to them even if they were targeting accupoints, so there was hardly any close-contact grappling involved. When it came to advanced martial arts, there were no moves for scuffling.

    Ouyang Feng felt his throat being gripped forcefully by Guo Jing and he struck out backwards, but Guo Jing managed to avoid the blows. He felt that it was becoming harder to breathe, and felt that the grip was becoming tighter, so he jabbed his elbow backwards. Guo Jing evaded right and had to release his left hand, but also used his legs to execute a Mongolian wrestling technique while his left hand slipped past Ouyang Feng’s shoulder.

    He slammed down forcefully on Ouyang Feng’s back, causing Ouyang Feng to suffer intense pain even with his good martial arts. This technique was called the [Camel’s Pull], and it was so effective that only a wrestling expert could deal with it. Ouyang Feng did not know wrestling, so he suffered the whole extent of the strike.

    Guo Jing was happy and his right hand released its grip and slipped upwards behind Ouyang Feng’s back. With a loud yell he pressed both palms down. In wrestling this move was called the [Mountain Breaking Move] and was used when the opponent had fallen, so that no matter how strong his shoulders were or how good his wrestling techniques were, there would be nothing much he could do as his shoulder would break if he tried to move.

    However Ouyang Feng’s martial arts were much better than the Mongolian wrestlers, so even with such a disadvantage he still managed to think of a way to turn defeat into victory. When Guo Jing’s hands came down, he used his Qinggong to duck aside and rolled away under Guo Jing’s waist.

    With his status as a highly skilled martial arts master, rolling under a junior’s waist was a great disgrace, but that did not bother him. He broke free from the [Mountain Breaking Move] and immediately threw out his fists to counterattack Guo Jing’s back. He did not expect that before his fists reached Guo Jing, his left leg was immobilized.

    Guo Jing knew he was no match for his opponent, but with such a close-combat situation and his wrestling background, coupled with the fact that he disregarded his safety, Ouyang Feng could not get any closer to his master to injure him. At this point the fires became fiercer and the planks listed, causing them to lose their balance and fall and their clothes caught fire.

    Huang Rong was anxious and worried sick as she saw Hong Qigong’s motionless body slumped on the side of the boat and she could not tell if he was dead or alive. Meanwhile Guo Jing and Ouyang Feng were still rolling and struggling about without showing signs of stopping. Their clothes were on fire and the situation was getting dangerous, so she lifted her oar and smashed it towards Ouyang Ke’s head.

    Although his right arm was broken, his martial arts were still good enough for him to evade the oar and he stretched out his left hand to grab Huang Rong’s bracelet. Huang Rong stomped her feet fiercely and the small boat almost capsized. Ouyang Ke could not swim and he was about to fall overboard, so he had to let go of Huang Rong. When the boat stabilized, Huang Rong took the opportunity to jump into the sea.

    She swam a few strokes and rushed towards the big boat. The boat was already half submerged in water and the deck was almost touching the water surface. Huang Rong climbed aboard to help Guo Jing and took out the ‘Moth-Eyebrow’ Spike from her waist. Guo Jing and Ouyang Feng were deadlocked into a bundle and rolling about. Ouyang Feng’s martial arts were better and he managed to pin Guo Jing underneath, but Guo Jing tenaciously held on to his shoulders, causing him to be unable to counterattack. Huang Rong fought through the smoke and went up to Ouyang Feng, piercing his back with the spike.

    Ouyang Feng was struggling madly with Guo Jing, but when he felt the prick, he was surprised and twisted around forcefully, causing Guo Jing to land on top. Huang Rong now wanted to poke Ouyang Feng’s head with the spike, but Ouyang Feng’s agility allowed him to evade her attacks and she finally pierced the spike into the deck.

    A gust of wind blew some thick black smoke over, causing her eyes to smart. Just as she was about to rub her eyes, she suddenly felt pain in her leg and she fell over. It was Ouyang Feng who kicked her. Huang Rong rolled over and jumped up, but her hair caught fire. She was about to attack him when Guo Jing shouted, “Save Master first!” Huang Rong agreed in her mind and ran towards Hong Qi Gong, grabbed him and jumped into the sea, extinguishing the fire on her body.

    Huang Rong placed Hong Qigong on her back, kicked her legs in the water and swam to the boat. Ouyang Ke stood at the side of the boat and raised the oar up high, shouting, “Put the old beggar down, I’ll only let you board alone!” Huang Rong said, “Fine! Let’s meet in the water!” She shook the boat violently. The boat rocked terribly and looked like it was about to capsize. Ouyang Ke became frantic and gripped the side of the boat tightly, saying, “Don’t… don’t shake, the boat is going to overturn!”

    Huang Rong laughed, saying, “Quickly pull my master up. And watch out; if you try any tricks, I’ll dunk you in the water for 6 hours.” Ouyang Ke had no choice but to comply and held on to Hong Qigong’s back, pulling him onboard.

    Huang Rong smiled and praised him, “From the first time I met you, this is the first good deed you’ve done.” Ouyang Ke’s heart stirred and wanted to speak, but could not open his mouth. Huang Rong was about to swim back to the large boat to help out in the fight when she suddenly heard a thunderous rumble – a huge wall of water loomed over her head.

    She was utterly shocked and quickly held her breath, waiting for the water to hit the boat, but when she looked again and touched the back of her wet hair, her jaw dropped. A whirpool had formed on the surface of the sea and the large burning boat had disappeared together with Guo Jing and Ouyang Feng.

    At this moment, her mind was completely blank and she completely did not feel anything or think of anything, and she became completely lost, not knowing where she was. Suddenly, the salty water filled her mouth and she found herself sinking into the water. She started and her senses were awoken as she swam upwards. When she broke through the surface, all she could see in all directions was the small boat; everything else had gone disappeared under the waves.

    Huang Rong dived into the water again and struggled to go deeper. Her swimming skills were fantastic and her strokes were powerful, but she could only swim along with the current. She covered the entire area to search for Guo Jing but he had disappeared without trace. Even Ouyang Feng could not be found – it seemed like they had gone down with the boat.

    After some time, she was completely exhausted, but she refused to give up, and swam about wildly in the sea. She could only hope Heaven would be merciful and let her bump into Guo Jing, but she was surrounded by mountains of waves and there was totally no trace of him. She had been swimming for over an hour now and she could not continue any longer, so she headed towards the small boat, intending to rest for a while before resuming the search.

    Ouyang Ke pulled her up. He saw that his uncle was missing and was also equally anxious, asking, “Have you seen my uncle?” Huang Rong was too exhausted and she suddenly see everything go black and she fainted. After some time, she slowly regained consciousness but felt like her body was afloat, like as though she was floating among the clouds while the sounds of the winds and waves beat against her ears. She sat upright and realised that the boat was just following the currents.

    Right now they did not know how far were they from the sunken boat and Guo Jing could not be found. Huang Rong suffered great sadness and fainted again. Ouyang Ke could only grip the sides of the small boat tightly as he feared that the next wave would send him tumbling out of the boat into the water.

    After another hour, Huang Rong awoke again and thought that since her Brother Jing was buried at the bottom of the sea, it was meaningless for her to live on. When she saw Ouyang Ke’s eyes tremble and his pale lips, she felt disgusted and thought, “How can I possibly die together with this beast?” She stood up and snapped, “Jump overboard!” Ouyang Ke was shocked and exclaimed, “What?” Huang Rong said, “You’re not jumping? Let me capsize the boat then we shall speak again.”

    She jumped towards the right, causing a reaction which resulted in the boat springing leftwards. She then jumped towards the left, and the boat rocked even more violently. When she heard Ouyang Ke’s frantic shouting, her sadness became joy and she jumped again.

    Ouyang Ke knew that if she jumped around a few more times, the boat would definitely capsize, and when he saw her jump again, he quickly jumped to the other side. They landed exactly at the same time and their forces cancelled out, causing the boat to momentarily dip deeper into the water.

    Huang Rong repeated this trick twice, but he managed to stop her. Huang Rong said, “Good! I’ll make a hole in the boat and see what you can do.” She took out the steel spike and jumped to the middle of the boat, but when she saw Hong Qigong lying down motionless at the bottom of the boat, she realised that she had completely forgotten about her master as she yearned for Guo Jing. She hurriedly bent down to place a finger at his nose, and she felt his faint breathing.

    She was relieved and supported Hong Qigong up. His eyes were tightly closed and his face was white as sheet, and his pulse was weak. Huang Rong became worried about her master and did not bother about Ouyang Ke, so she undid his shirt to check his injury.

    Suddenly the boat trembled violently and Ouyang Ke shouted out excitedly, “Land ahoy! Land ahoy!” Huang Rong lifted up her head and saw a dense cluster of trees in the distance. The boat had now stopped moving as it was grounded on a reef.

    They were still some distance from shore but they could see the sea bed; the depth was only up to their waist-level. Ouyang Ke jumped into the water and ran a few steps forward before turning back to look at Huang Rong, then he headed back. Huang Rong saw that Hong Qigong’s shoulder had a black handprint which seemed to be quite deep, so she could not help but think, “How could Western Poison’s palm strike be so powerful?”

    Just then she noticed 2 fine teeth marks on his shoulder. If she did not look carefully, she would have missed them. She pressed them lightly with her fingers and suddenly felt a sharp pain in her hand, so she hastily withdrew it and asked, “Master! How are you now?” Hong Qigong only moaned but did not answer her. Huang Rong said to Ouyang Ke, “Pass me the medicine.”

    Ouyang Ke threw up his hands impatiently and said, “The antidote is with my uncle.” Huang Rong said, “I don’t believe that.” Ouyang Ke said, “Search me.” He undid his outer gown and emptied his stuff onto his hand. Huang Rong saw that there was indeed no medicine and said, “Help me get Master ashore!”

    The 2 of them took each arm of Hong Qigong and placed them over their shoulders. Huang Rong stretched out her hand and held Ouyang Ke’s hand and allowed Hong Qigong to sit on their arms. They then proceeded to the shore. Huang Rong felt her master shiver unceasingly and felt extremely worried. Ouyang Ke on the other hand was rather pleased as he only only felt a warm and smooth hand tugging his, which was what he could only dream of previously. Unfortunately for him, it was not long before they reached the shore.

    Huang Rong bent down and placed Hong Qigong on the ground, saying, “Quick, get the boat ashore, don’t let the tide sweep it out to sea.” Ouyang Ke released his hand but stared blankly, vaguely hearing Huang Rong’s voice but not paying attention to what she was saying. Luckily Huang Rong did not know what he was thinking inside and only stared at him and repeated what she said. Ouyang Ke then dragged the boat up to shore and saw that Huang Rong had turned Hong Qigong over and let him lie on the grass so that she could give him first aid. He then thought, “Where on Earth are we?”

    He ran up a small hill and looked around, and could not help but be extremely surprised and pleased. In all directions were the vast sea, and they were on a remote island. The island was filled with lush greenery but there was no sign of human life. He was surprised as there was no sign of food or accomodation, so how could they survive? On the other hand, he was pleased because it seemed like he was fated to be on this deserted island with that angel-like beauty, and with the old beggar was seriously injured, he would not bother them. He thought, “With her staying here, this god-forsaken island is like a paradise; even if I had to die, I would die happy.”

    When he thought of this, he subconsciously waved his arms about but he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his right shoulder, causing him to remember that it was broken, so he broke off 2 branches and tore a strip of cloth and tied his arm into the splint. Huang Rong was at that time trying to suck out the poison from her master’s back. She did not know how else she could help him so she let him lie down on a rock in a cave and shouted over to Ouyang Ke, “Go look around and see if there’s any inn around here.”

    Ouyang Ke laughed, “This is an island, there’s absolutely no inn here. Let’s see if we’re lucky to find anyone else here.” Huang Rong was slightly shocked and said, “You go do that.” When Ouyang Ke heard her instruction, he was very excited and utilised his Qinggong and ran east, but all he saw were even more wild trees and found no traces of humans. Along the way he killed 2 wild hares and headed north before making his way back in a loop. He told Huang Rong, “It’s a deserted island.”

    That night Huang Rong did not dare sleep for fear of Ouyang Ke attacking them and also due to her anxiety over Hong Qigong. It was only at dawn the following morning did she catch a few hours of sleep. In her sleep she dreamt that Hong Qigong called her several times and she was jolted awake and asked, “Master, how are you?” Hong Qigong pointed at his mouth and moved his teeth. Huang Rong laughed and took out some of the unfinished rabbit meat from the previous night and fed him.

    Once he consumed the meat, he felt the Qi stirring within him and he sat upright to breathe properly. Huang Rong did not dare utter a word and only scrutinized his expression. But she saw the reddish tint on his face turn pale, then red again. This cycle repeated several times and soon his head was emitting steamy mist and his sweat decended like the rain, and his body was shivering terribly. Suddenly there was a flash of a shadow – Ouyang Ke was trying to get over.

    Huang Rong knew that her master was attempting to treat his injuries, which was a life-and-death situation, so if he forced his way in and distracted her master, nothing would save him then. So she softly snapped, “Get out now!” Ouyang Ke laughed, “Let’s discuss how we can survive here on this deserted island. The days would get longer from now, you know!” Hong Qigong blinked and asked, “Is this really a deserted island?” Huang Rong said, “Master, please concentrate, ignore him.” She turned to Ouyang Ke and said, “Come, let’s talk outside.” Ouyang Ke was elated and followed her out of the cave.

    The weather was good this day, but Huang Rong only saw the edge of the vast seas meet the sky, and apart from a few clouds, there was nothing else. She went to their landing ground and was suddenly shocked, and asked, “Where’s the boat?” Ouyang Ke said, “Huh, where is it? It must have been swept away by the currents! Ah, damn it!”

    Huang Rong saw his expression and deduced that it was he who pushed the boat out to sea so that she could not get away from here and felt that it was absolutely despicable. Since Guo Jing’s apparent death, she had no intention of living on. Besides, the small boat would not be able to make it across the fierce waves and the situation was bleak, but in that case she would not be able to get her master to safety.

    She stared at Ouyang Ke without any change in her expression, but in her heart she was actually thinking of how she could kill him and save her master at the same time. Huang Rong jumped onto a large rock and looked into the distance. Ouyang Ke thought, “If I don’t use this chance to get close to her now, then when?” He also leapt up the rock and waited her for her to sit down. After some time she was not angry and did not shift her position, so he moved closer and said, “Little sister, the 2 of us can live here till old and still live like the deities. I must have done something wonderful in my past life to deserve this!”
    Huang Rong laughed and said, “This island has 3 of us including Master, wouldn’t we be lonely?” Ouyang Ke felt that her tone was harmless and was ecstatic, saying, “With me by your side, why would it be lonely? Moreover, when we have children in future, it would be even less so.” Huang Rong laughed, “Who will have children? I wouldn’t.” Ouyang Ke laughed, “I’ll help you.” Saying that, he stretched out his hand to hug her. He then felt warmth in his palm and realised that Huang Rong had already held his hand. Ouyang Ke’s heart beat madly.

    Huang Rong slowly moved her hand up his arm, then said in a low voice, “Sister Mu Nianci’s chastity was destroyed by you, is it not?” Ouyang Ke laughed aloud, saying, “That girl did not want to submit to me. What kind of man am I, Gentleman Ouyang, to force her?” Huang Rong said, “So, it must be others who slandered her. Her lover had a big quarrel with her because of this.” Ouyang Ke said, “Her reputation suffered because of this, what a pity!”

    Huang Rong suddenly pointed to the sea and shouted, “Ah, what is that!” Ouyang Ke looked in that direction and was about to ask when he suddenly felt his wrist go stiff under her firm grip and his body went numb and he could not move. Huang Rong drew her spike and stabbed it towards his abdomen. Their distance was extremely small and Ouyang Ke was in a state of confusion, coupled with the fact that his arm was immobilized, how could he block it?

    Still, all his training under expert guidiance at White Camel Mountain was not wasted; he suddenly twisted his body and used his chest to smash towards Huang Rong’s back in a split second. Huang Rong evaded him and jumped off the rock, causing the spike to gash his leg, resulting in a deep wound that was almost 1 foot long.

    Ouyang Ke jumped off too and saw her spike. He stood there and grinned but he actually felt terrible pain. He bent down and saw his gown stained blood red and realised that he just escaped with his life, but still he was severely injured. Huang Rong said, “We were talking fine, why did you try to bump into me for no reason? I won’t bother about you now.” She then turned and left. Ouyang Ke was filled with love and hatred, shock and joy, and just stood rooted there silently.

    As Huang Rong went back to the cave, she blamed her poor skills for allowing her to waste such a good opportunity and let him escape. When she went inside, she saw Hong Qigong asleep and saw a pool of black blood on the ground, she started and asked, “Master, how are you? Are you better?” Hong Qigong said, “I want wine.” Huang Rong felt distressed; she did not know how to find wine on this deserted island. Yet she agreed and said, “I’ll try to get it. Master, your injury isn’t serious, right?” Her tears dropped as she said that.

    Despite having gone through so much, she had never cried. Now that her tears fell, she could not control herself and buried herself in Hong Qigong’s bosom and cried her heart out. Hong Qigong stroked her hair and patted her back, trying to console her. The old beggar roamed Jianghu for so many decades, but had never had to deal with a crying girl before, so he did not know what to do. He could only say, “Good girl, don’t cry, Master’s here for you. Please don’t cry. I don’t want the wine already.”

    Huang Rong stopped after a while and lifted her head. When she saw that Hong Qigong’s clothes were wet with her tears, she smiled and said, “I didn’t manage to kill that evil jerk, what a pity!” She then told the whole story to him. Hong Qigong was silent for a moment before saying, “Master is useless now. That jerk is better than you in martial arts. For now you can only pit your wits against him.” Huang Rong said, “Master, after resting a few days, you’d recover and then take his useless life with one palm, won’t that settle it?”

    Hong Qigong regretfully said, “I’ve been poisoned by the poisonous snake as well as Western Poison’s deadly palm. I’ve already used all my martial abilities to purge the poison but there is some left within me. Even if I survive, my martial arts would be affected. Your master is just another old man without any powerful skills.” Huang Rong quickly said, “No, no, Master, you won’t, you won’t!” Hong Qigong said, “I the old beggar have never taken this seriously, but now it has come to this, I can’t deny it.”

    He paused, then said gravely, “Child, Master hasn’t got a choice, but I have to request a huge favour from you – it’s extremely difficult to accomplish – will you accept?” Huang Rong hastily said, “Yes, yes! Master, tell me.” He sighed, then said, “Our time together as master and disciple is not long, I didn’t get to teach you much martial arts. Now that you’re also facing a strong opponent, I have no choice but to entrust a great burden to you, or I would not be at ease.”

    Huang Rong saw that usually he was carefree and easygoing but this time he was so hesitant, so she knew it must be some extremely important responsibility, so she said, “Master, please tell me. Your injuries are caused by you trying to help your disciple escape from Peach Blossom Island. Even if I died a horrible death, I would hardly be able to repay you. I’m just afraid I’m too young to carry out your instructions.” Hong Qigong happily said, “So you agree to it?” Huang Rong said, “Yes. Please say it.”

    Hong Qigong stood up unsteadily and cupped his hands, bowing to the north and said, “Ancestors, the Beggars’ Clan you founded has come to my hands. I am unfortunately incapable of bringing virtue to our clan. Today the matter is urgent and I have to pass on my responsibility. May Ancestors in Heaven bless us and help this child avoid trouble and also to bring our clan to greater heights.” When he finished, he bowed to the north. Huang Rong was shocked and curious when he said that.

    Hong Qigong said, “Child, kneel down.” Huang Rong knelt down and Hong Qigong took his green bamboo rod and raised it over his head. He saluted it and placed it in her hands. Huang Rong was extremely shocked and said, “Master, you want me to be the Beggars’ Clan… the Beggars’ Clan…” Hong Qigong said, “Exactly, I am the 18th generation Leader of the Beggars’ Clan, and you are hence the 19th Leader. Now let’s thank our ancestors.”

    At this stage Huang Rong did not dare to disobey and could only imitate Hong Qigong’s actions and bowed with both hands cupped. Hong Qigong suddenly coughed and spat out some phlegm which landed on Huang Rong’s clothes. Huang Rong was secretly sad and thought, “Master’s injuries are indeed serious – he doesn’t even have the strength to spit properly.” She pretended that nothing was amiss, however. He sighed, “When the Beggars pay obeisance to you in future, there will be a disgusting ritual. Ah, this will be hard on you.”

    Huang Rong smiled, thinking, “The beggars are filthy and rough, how could any of that be missing?” Hong Qigong drew a long breath. His face was pale but in his heart it was as though he has just put down a large rock and he was very pleased. Huang Rong helped him lie down. He said, “Now that you’re the Leader, I am an Elder in the Clan. Although the Elders are respected by the Leader, but when there’s something to be done the Leader has to give the order. This rule was laid down by our Ancestors, so you must follow it to the letter. When the Leader relays an order, all the beggars must obey you.”

    Huang Rong became depressed and worried, thinking, “On this deserted island, I don’t know how we can return to the Central Plains. Moreover Brother Jing is dead, and I have no desire to live, but suddenly Master wants me to be some whatever Clan Leader and command all the beggars under the sky, how on Earth am I going to do that?” But when she saw her master’s condition, she did not want to worry him further, so she could only agree to anything he proposed.

    Hong Qigong said, “On the 15th day of the 7th month of this year, the 4 Elders of our Clan will hold a gathering at the lakeside Cave-Courtyard of the Yue Yang City to hear my announcement for the new Leader. You only need to bring the bamboo rod there and they will understand my intention. Every matter within the Clan will be dealt with by the 4 Elders, so I can leave it to them. But I have to send you this adorable doll into the midst of the filthy beggars; this is really hard on you.”

    He then laughed heartily but because of his injury, he coughed before he finished laughing. Huang Rong massaged his back for a while before he stopped coughing. Hong Qigong sighed, “This old beggar is really useless now, ah, I don’t know when I’ll recover, so I have to rush into teaching you the [Dog Beating Skill].” Huang Rong was wondering why this rod skill had such a horrible name. She then thought that no matter how fierce a dog could be, she could kill it with one punch, so she saw no need to learn this skill, but her master was gravely serious, so she could only agree.

    Hong Qigong said, “Although you are now the Clan Leader, you don’t have to change your personality; if you want to be playful and mischevious, go ahead and be, we are all beggars, we have no restrictions and we do as we please. If this won’t do and that won’t do, we might as well be judges and ministers. If you do not think highly of the [Dog Beating Skill], just say it simply!”

    Huang Rong laughed, “Disciple is wondering what kind of dog could be so tenacious that it requires a specialised skill to handle it.” Hong Qigong said, “Now that you’re the head of all the beggars, you’ll have to act like one. With your rich dress and your rich girl’s attitude, the dog would be only too pleased to listen to you, why would you need to hit it? But if us beggars run into such dogs the it’s a different story. The old saying is: the poor not armed with rods get bullied by dogs. You have never been poor, you don’t know what it’s like to be one.”

    Huang Rong clapped and laughed, “Master, you’re wrong here!” Hong Qigong was perplexed and asked, “Why?” Huang Rong said, “On the 3rd month of this year, I escaped from Peach Blossom Island to play, and I disguised myself as a beggar. Whenever there are fierce dogs bothering me, all I have to do is give them a kick and they would scramble away.” Hong Qigong said, “Yup, if the dog is too fierce then you’d have to use a rod to hit it.”

    Huang Rong thought, “What dog could be so fierce?” Then she realised and shouted, “Ah, yeah, bad guys are dogs too!” Hong Qigong smiled and said, “You’re really clever. If…” He originally wanted to said that Guo Jing did not know, but his heart turned sour and he stopped.

    When Huang Rong heard him stop midway, she understood what he was thinking and felt bitterness in her heart and wanted to cry out loud, but now Hong Qigong needed her help and she seemed all grown-up while Hong Qigong seemed like a youth, so she controlled herself and only turned her head away. The tears, however, dropped like pearls.

    Hong Qigong was as sad as her, so he knew that consoling her was useless, so he talked about serious matters, saying, “The 36 moves of the [Dog Beating Skill] was created by our Ancestors and can only be passed down from one Clan Leader to the next without letting anyone else know about the skill. Our Clan’s 3rd Leader far surpassed future Leaders and so he greatly improved this skill. After hundreds of years, when our Clan faces any strong opposition, our Leader would personally come forward and use this skill to defeat our enemies.”
    Huang Rong started to pay attention and then sighed softly, asking, “Master, when you were fighting with Western Poison on the boat, why didn’t you use it?” Hong Qigong said, “This skill is very important in our clan, and even if I didn’t use it, he may not have won. Who’d know he could be so despicable as to poison me after I saved his life?” Huang Rong saw that he was becoming depressed, so she tried to distract him and said, “Master, please teach me so that I can kill him to avenge you.”

    Hong Qigong made a stone-faced laugh and picked up a piece of firewood and leaned against the rock wall. He recited the formula and executed the steps, thus passing down all 36 moves to her. He knew Huang Rong was extremely intelligent but was afraid that he would not live long, so he passed everything down to her in one shot. Although the name of the [Dog Beating Skill] was crude, the changes within were subtle and the techniques profound, and was one of the best martial arts skills ever created. It was thus that this skill was passed down like a precious heirloom.

    Although Huang Rong was very clever, she could only remember the general picture and had forgotten some of the finer details. How could she understand the skill in such a short time? After he was done, Hong Qigong took a deep breath amidst his sweat and said, “I didn’t teach well, but… that’s all I can do now.” With a groan he collapsed and fainted. Huang Rong was shocked and shouted, “Master! Master!” She hurriedly supported him up but felt that his limbs were cold and his breathing was weak; he seemed somewhat beyond hope.

    Huang Rong was severely tried for the past few days but now she could not cry. She listened to his heart beat and found it barely audible so she quickly massaged his chest to aid his breathing. Just at this critical moment, she heard noises behind her and a hand stretched out to reach for her wrist. She was concentrating fully on saving her master and did not even notice when Ouyang Ke entered the cave. Now she forgot that the person behind her was a vicious wolf and just said naturally, “Master may not make it, think of something to save him.”

    When Ouyang Ke heard her plead so sincerely, the tears welled up in her eyes and her face became pitiful, his heart shook. When he bent down to look at Hong Qigong, he saw that his face was white as sheet and his eyes were rolled up, he became more happy. The distance between Huang Rong and himself was less than 1 foot and he could even feel her breathing and smell her fragrance. A few strains of hair were caressing her face and his heart thumped madly until he could not restrain himself any longer, and he grabbed her waist.

    Huang Rong was taken aback and struck out with force and took the chance to jump away when he evaded her. Originally Ouyang Ke was afraid of Hong Qigong so he did not dare be disrespectful to Huang Rong, but now he saw that Hong Qigong was half dead, he did not worry anymore and laughed, “Good girl, I wouldn’t bother about other girls, but for such a beauty like yourself, I’ll make an exception; come kiss me.”

    He then moved menacingly towards her. Huang Rong was scared out of her wits and thought, “This situation is terrible. Looks like I’ll get killed here, though with indignation.” She then took out her needles. Ouyang Feng smiled and used his outer gown as a weapon and even advanced another 2 steps. Huang Rong waited for him to advance another step before crouching low and dodging to the left.
    Ouyang Ke followed her and Huang Rong waved her hand. He waved his long sleeve and blocked the spike and Huang Rong knew that she was like an arrow away from the bow and anxiously tried to run out. Still, Ouyang Ke was faster. Huang Rong heard the wind behind her back and knew he was attacking her back. She was wearing the soft armour so she was not afraid of that and furthermore she was prepared to die, but she wanted to injure him first, so she did not defend herself but returned a strike towards his chest.

    Ouyang Ke did not mean to injure her and his strike was only to tire her out, so he readily hit out towards her wrist, neutralizing her move. At the same time, he jumped to the entrance, effectively trapping her inside. But the entrance was narrow and he could hardly turn about, so with Huang Rong’s fierce onslaught coupled with her indifference to her defence, her power seemed to have increased tremendously. Although Ouyang Ke was better than her, he did not want to injure her, so he was at a disadvantage.

    In a brief moment they had exchanged 50-60 moves and Huang Rong was in danger. Her martial arts were taught to her by her father while Ouyang Ke’s was taught by his uncle. Huang Yaoshi’s and Ouyang Feng’s martial arts were about the same level, but Huang Rong was only around 15 while Ouyang Ke was almost 30, so the difference in their martial arts was worth almost 20 years’ worth of training. Moreover Huang Rong was not as hardworking as Ouyang Ke and although she learnt some skills from Hong Qigong before, she hardly practised them. Now even with Ouyang Ke’s injury, she was still unable to gain any advantage.

    Suddenly Huang Rong launched herself forward and pierced her spike towards him in a backstroke. Ouyang Ke blocked it away and Huang Rong followed up closely with a fierce stab towards his right shoulder. His shoulder was dislocated and he could not exert any strength there, so he tried to use his left hand to intercept that move but the spike made a semi-circle and changed directions midway, stabbing right into his injured shoulder. Huang Rong was elated but suddenly felt her hand go numb and had to drop the spike because her wrist accupoint had been hit.

    Ouyang Ke was swift and agile, and saw that she was about to escape, so he hit her ‘Xuan Zhong’ and ‘Zhong Tou’ Accupoints with his legs consecutively. Huang Rong was in midair when she was struck so she fell towards the ground. Ouyang Ke moved forward and threw his outer gown on the ground, laughing, “Ah, don’t hurt yourself.” Huang Rong spun the spike around and tried to jump up but her legs were numb and only managed to get a foot off the ground before falling again.

    Ouyang Ke came to help her up. Huang Rong used her only non-immobilized hand and punched him. But in the confusion, her punch lacked the strength and Ouyang Ke laughed, sealing her last accupoint. This time Huang Rong was totally immobilized and she inwardly regretted, “I did not stab myself just now, now I can’t even beg for death.” She was on fire inside and everything went dark and she fainted. Ouyang Ke smoothly consoled her, saying, “Don’t be afraid!” He stretched his hand out to hug her. Suddenly he heard a cold voice above his head, saying, “Do you wish to live or die?”

    Ouyang Ke was shocked and twisted his head around and saw Hong Qigong standing at the entrance looking at him with the side of his eye. He once heard his uncle mention the incident where Wang Chong Yang jumped out of his coffin and nearly killed him, so he immediately thought, “The old beggar pretended to be dead, I’m dead now!” He tasted Hong Qigong’s skills before and knew he did not even come close, so in his shock he knelt down and said, “I was just playing with Miss Huang. Uncle Hong, please don’t be angry.”

    Hong Qigong spat and shouted, “Scoundrel, aren’t you going to free her accupoints or do you need me to do it?” Ouyang Ke repeatedly agreed and hurriedly unblocked her accupoints. Hong Qigong said coldly, “Enter again and I’ll show no mercy. Scram!” Ouyang Ke darted out like a rabbit.

    Huang Rong awoke as though from a dream. Hong Qigong could not hold on any longer and collasped. Huang Rong was shocked and excited and quickly held him up and found his mouth filled with blood and three teeth fell out. Huang Rong was very sad as she thought, “Even with Master’s wonderful abilities, such a fall could actually break his teeth.”

    Hong Qigong took his teeth and laughed, “Teeth ah teeth, you don’t want to savour the exquisite food together with me anymore. I never expected you to leave before I do!” He was actually in a bad shape this time, with the snake poison in his body and with a palm strike by Ouyang Feng which almost shattered his spine, but fortunately with his high skills, he was spared from death, still, now he was as weak as someone without martial arts.

    When Huang Rong’s accupoints were blocked, Hong Qigong did not have the strength to unblock them for her and had to use his reputation to scare Ouyang Ke into doing it for him. He saw Huang Rong’s grave face and said, “Don’t worry. With this old beggar around, he wouldn’t dare disturb you.” Huang Rong asked, “When I’m inside the cave, that creep wouldn’t show up, but what about our food?” Though resourceful, she was flustered now and could not think straight.

    Hong Qigong asked, “You’re thinking of ways to obtain food right?” Huang Rong nodded. Hong Qigong said, “Support me to the beach to view the Sun.” Huang Rong complied immediately and said, “OK! Let’s go fishing.” She let him rest on her shoulder and they walked slowly to the beach.

    The weather was good on this day and the sea seemed endless, moving gently under the sea breeze. The Sun shone on her and their spirits were lifted. Ouyang Ke was also standing on the beach, but when he saw them coming, he retreated several zhang immediately and stopped to watch them only when they did not chase him.

    They both worried, “This slimy creature is really hard to shake off; he might discover our weakness sooner or later.” But now they could not care too much and Hong Qigong sat on a rock while Huang Rong broke off a tree branch and used it as a fishing rod. The fish population was thriving on this island because no one molested the fish, so within a short time, she caught 3 big fishes.

    Huang Rong used the same method of cooking chicken to cook the fish, allowing them to eat their fill. After resting for a while, Hong Qigong instructed Huang Rong to display the moves of the [Dog Beating Skill] and gave some pointers along the way. Huang Rong understood more of the finer profound changes of the skill. When evening came, she had practised till she was very hot and removed her outer coat and jumped into the sea to bathe. Suddenly she had a thought, “I heard that the Dragon Palace at the bottom of the sea has a very beautiful Dragon Princess, I wonder if Brother Jing had gone to the Dragon Palace?”

    She dreamily kicked in the water but felt a sharp pain in her foot and quickly retracted it but felt as though it was being grabbed by something and it could not go free. She played in the sea since young and was not even afraid of large oysters and was about to stretch out her hand to catch it but got a shock instead. The oyster was almost as big as a table; it was larger than any oyster she had seen at Peach Blossom Island. She stretched out both hands to pry it open.

    The oyster was incredibly strong and even with both hands she could not force it open. The oyster gripped her even tighter and her leg got even more painful. Huang Rong smacked through the water, hoping to grab it out of the water but she had not expected it to feel like it weighed around 200-300 jin. The oyster had been on the seabed for many years and had already become part of the reef, how would it be easy to move it?

    Huang Rong struggled a while more but felt her foot become even more painful, so she was worried and gulped down 2 mouthfuls of water and thought, “Although I have no wish to live, but if I leave Master alone here to be bullied by that scoundrel, I won’t die in peace.” She quickly grabbed a large stone and smashed it on the oyster, but because its shell was tough and she could not exert much strength in the water, she had to hit it repeatedly but it did not budge.
    As the oyster was attacked it tightened its grip further and Huang Rong swallowed the water again but she suddenly thought of something and quickly put the stone down and grabbed a handful of sand and threw it into the oyster. The oyster was indeed allergic to sand and hurriedly opened up, wanting to expel the sand. As soon as her leg was free, she wasted no time in swimming to the surface and heaved in the fresh air.

    Hong Qigong noticed that she was submerged for such a long time and became worried as he knew she must have met some trouble in the water and wanted to help her. He anxiously splashed around in the water for a brief moment before he saw Huang Rong surface and hailed her in his excitement. Huang Rong waved to her master and wanted to dive again. This time she was prepared and dived some distance away from the giant oyster and shook it, then used the reef as a pivot to lift it up.

    She dragged the oyster back to the shore. When the oyster left the water surface, it lost its bouyancy and became as heavy as a large rock and Huang Rong could not move it further. She then grabbed a large stone and struck the oyster to vent her anger. When she saw the deep wound the oyster had inflicted on her, she thought of her close brush with death and stopped hitting it.

    On this night the two of them made the oyster into a good meal and they felt that it tasted really good. The next day when Hong Qigong awoke, he felt that the great pain in his body was less intense. His stomach felt really comfortable and he uncontrollably sighed.

    Hong Qigong said, “After sleeping for a night, my injury seemed to have decreased by quite a bit.” Huang Rong was elated and exclaimed, “It must be the oyster meat which helped you.” Hong Qigong laughed, “The oyster meat didn’t help much, but because the food was delicious, it satisfied my mouth. After that my recovery follows automatically by a slight bit.”

    Huang Rong giggled and rushed out to the beach to find the remains of the oyster meat. In her eagerness, she forgot about Ouyang Ke. Just as she cut off 2 slices of the meat, she suddenly saw a figure which was moving closer to her. Huang Rong bent her waist and grabbed part of the oyster’s shell and threw it out and jumped away at the same time, reaching the water line.

    After observing Hong Qigong from a distance for a day, Ouyang Ke felt that he was becoming more suspicious as he could hardly walk, but Ouyang Ke did not dare go into the cave, so now he forced himself forward and said, “Sister, don’t go, I want to talk to you.” Huang Rong said, “I’m ignoring you, yet you disregard that, you’re really shameless.” She then made a face at him.

    Ouyang Ke saw her girlish attitude, causing his face to be deviod of colour and his heart to be itchy, so he advanced 2 steps and laughed, “It’s your fault; it’s because you’re so beautiful that you can’t get people to ignore you.” Huang Rong laughed, “I said I’m ignoring you and I mean it. It’s useless to sweet-talk me.” Ouyang Ke advanced yet another step and said, “I don’t believe you.”

    Huang Rong’s face became a shade darker and said, “Move another step forward and I’ll ask Master to club you.” Ouyang Ke said, “Forget it, can he even walk? I’ll go in and carry him out, OK?” Huang Rong got a shock inside and retreated 2 steps. Ouyang Ke grinned, “If you like to jump into the sea then go ahead. I’ll wait here for you. Let’s see who can last longer.”

    Huang Rong said, “Fine, you’re bullying me, I’ll ignore you forever.” She turned and ran, but tripped on a stone and fell down. Ouyang Ke sort of expected this so he laughed, “You’re really mischevious and naughty, but I love it.” He held his gown in his hand to catch any secret needles she might throw and walked towards her. Huang Rong shouted, “Don’t come over!” She struggled up but fell again after 3 steps.

    This time her fall was more serious and half her body was in the sea and she seemed to have fainted. Ouyang Ke thought, “This girl is very crafty, I won’t fall for her trick. With your skills, how did you fall without any apparent reason?” He stood there and observed her. After some time, he saw that she was still motionless and the tide was about to engulf her whole body.

    Ouyang Ke became worried and thought, “This time she has really fainted, if I don’t save her she might drown.” He ran forward and tried to pull her legs. When he tugged her legs, he got a shock as he felt that her body was stiff, so he quickly hugged her up but Huang Rong hugged his legs instead and called out, “Go down!” Ouyang Ke could not stand properly and the 2 of them went into the water together.

    In the water, despite his high skills, he could not use them and thought, “Even with such precautions, I fell for her trick, this time my life is lost!” Huang Rong originally wanted to dunk his head in the water to appease her anger. However as Ouyang Ke felt the water fill his mouth, he could not feel where his body was and struggled wildly, wanting to grab onto Huang Rong.

    However she had already expected that and swam around him, so how could he catch her? In the struggle, Ouyang Ke drank a few mouthfuls of water and his body sank deeper with his feet touching the seabed. Though his martial arts were good and he was quick-thinking, he was at a great disadvantage in the water and he felt his body float aimlessly in the water. He hurriedly grabbed a rock on the seabed and used his internal energy to hold his breath and looked around to find the direction to the shore. But the water was murky and he could not tell east from west.

    He walked around for a few steps and felt that walking upwards was a good idea, so he hit the rock and took large steps towards the shallower region. With the reef on the seabed, his movement was very difficult, but he used his internal energy to dash across in one go. Huang Rong saw that he did not surface for some time, so she quickly looked around and saw him walking in the water and was surprised. She swam behind him and used her spike to pierce towards him.

    Ouyang Ke felt the water flowing faster, so he quickly evaded and moved even faster. Now he felt the lack of air in his lungs and let go of the large stone he was carrying and tried to surface to breathe, and when he stuck his head out, he saw that he was already close to the shore. Huang Rong knew she could not stop him now so she sighed and dived again.

    Ouyang Ke did not die and crawled onto the beach completely drenched and his senses were blur. He threw up all the water he drank and felt his body go weak as if he suffered from some great illness. He was very angry and thought, “I’ll go kill that old beggar and see if that girl listens to me!”

    Although he had such thoughts, he was still wary of Hong Qigong and breathed for a few moments to get rid of his fatigue, so he broke off a tree branch and used it as a makeshift weapon then ran towards the cave.

    He avoided going in directly and tried to slip in at the side. He listened for a moment and did not pick up any movements in the room, so he looked in and saw Hong Qigong sitting down on the ground, meditating; his face showed no signs of any injury.

    Ouyang Ke thought, “I’ll test him to see if he can move.” He said in a loud voice, “Uncle Hong, this is bad, this is bad!” Hong Qigong opened his eyes and asked, “What?” Ouyang Ke pretended to be in a state of panic and said, “Sister Huang tried to catch a rabbit but fell into a deep valley and is injured. She can’t climb out now!”

    Hong Qigong was shocked and said, “Quickly save her!” Ouyang Ke was excited and thought, “If he could walk, why doesn’t he come out and save her?” He walked in and laughed, “She tried ways and means to take my life, why should I help her? You go save her.”

    Hong Qigong observed his expression and knew that he was faking it, and thought, “This scum has discovered that I’d lost my martial arts, I’m in danger!” In this situation, he could only try to bring him down as well, and secretly channeled all his strength to his arm, and waited for him to come before he would strike. However when he did that, he felt a sharp pain near his heart and his body felt like it was about to collaspe apart, but when he saw Ouyang Ke’s perverted smile, he gave a long sigh and waited for death.

    Huang Rong saw Ouyang Ke hit the shore and got worried, thinking, “At this point the scoundrel would be prepared against me; it would be harder to scheme against him now.” She swam outwards and headed left. After a while she saw the lush foliage and felt that this beach was different.

    She then thought of Peach Blossom Island and became sad, but then she thought, “If I can find a safe place here for us to hide for a while, that scoundrel might not find us.” It was not a fantastic plan, but it was better than their situation now and he might not actually find them, giving her master time to recover.

    Thus she went ashore but she did not dare explore too deep as she was afraid of bumping into Ouyang Ke so she stuck close to the sea, thinking, “If I wasn’t too playful in the past and mastered Father’s Five-Element skills, then I’d be able to handle that scoundrel. Hai, no, Father gave him the map to Peach Blossom Island and he’d surely be able to understand it.”

    She was so absorbed in her thinking when she tripped on a tree vine and stumbled, and above her was some rustling noise followed by the mud and small pebbles raining on her. She dashed aside but hit a tree behind, so a few of the pebbles hit her head. Fortunately she was wearing the Soft Armour, so she was not really hurt. She looked up and was shocked; her heart banged rapidly.

    She saw a sheer cliff face with a gigantic rock at the edge of the cliff. Half the rock was sticking out and any slight disturbance could bring the rock crashing down. The top of the cliff had many think vines winding about and the very vine she tripped on just now was connected up to the rock. If she snapped a vine connected directly to the thousand-pound rock, this rock would have smacked right into her, turning her into mincemeat.

    The rock vibrated but was not dislodged. Huang Rong became extremely careful and watched where she was going, jumping now and stopping then. She moved back several dozen metres and became curious. She knew that if she could pull the rock down with just an arm but no one ever came here; there was not even a bird in sight and the rock had been here for hundreds of years.

    The cliffs surrounded this place and even the sea breeze could not get through, and it seemed like this rock had already vibrated in the wind for the hundreds of years. Huang Rong went back to find her master but along the way she suddenly had this idea, “Heaven wants this scoundrel dead and has presented such a wonderful opportunity; how could I be so dense?” She became excited and sommersaulted twice.

    She hurriedly returned to the cliff and carefully examined the place and saw that the trees reached up to the sky and if one wanted to avoid it, one could only jump 4-5 feet away at most, so if that rock came crashing down, even birds and squirrels might not evade it.
    She took her spike out and cautiously walked to the base of the cliff and noted the 7 or 8 vines directly connected to the rock so that she would not touch them, then she cut off the remaining vines. When she cut a vine she held her breath as she was afraid that one small mistake and it would be her who would be flattened.

    When she finished, she was drenched in sweat and felt that it was more tiring than a fierce battle. She then connected the cut vines together and placed a few heaps of dry grass as markings then memorized the route she took before going back and she hummed a few tunes along the way, feeling proud of herself.

    When she got near the cave she still did not see Ouyang Ke’s shadow and suddenly heard a perverted laugh coming from inside followed by someone saying, “You claim to be among the best martial artists, yet today you are in Grandfather’s power, how do you feel? OK, on account that you’re an elder, I’ll let you have a 3-move advantage, how’s that? You can display each and every one of the [Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms]!” Huang Rong softly exclaimed, “Ah!” She saw that the situation was threatening and shouted, “Father, you’re here? Ah, Uncle Ouyang, you’re here too!”

    Ouyang Ke had already assessed Hong Qigong’s abilities and was about to strike when he heard Huang Rong shout, so he was happy and thought, “How is it Uncle and Old Heretic Huang are here?” Then he thought, “It must be that girl shouting rubbish to save that old beggar. Fine, since that old beggar is under my control anyway I might as well go take a look.” He then exited the cave.

    He saw Huang Rong waving towards the beach and shouting, “Father! Father!” Ouyang Ke looked out but of course he did not see Huang Yaoshi. He laughed, “Sister, you want to trick me out to play, how could I refuse?” Huang Rong laughed and said, “Who’s lying?” She then ran to the beach. Ouyang Ke laughed, “This time I’m prepared, you want to drag me into the sea again, let’s try it.”

    He then chased her. His Qinggong was good and he was catching up fast. Huang Rong inwardly exclaimed, “This is bad! I might get caught even before reaching that cave.” She ran another few dozen metres and Ouyang Ke was almost reaching her. Huang Rong broke left and left the beach. Ouyang Ke had learnt his lesson and did not dare go near, so he laughed, “OK, let’s play hide-and-seek.”

    Though he did not stop, he was prepared for any trick she might play. Huang Rong stopped and laughed, “There’s a large worm in front, if you chase again it’ll eat you in one gulp.” Ouyang Ke laughed, “I’m a worm too and I’m going to eat you!” He pounced forward but Huang Rong just laughed and ran ahead.

    The 2 came close to the cliff wall soon enough. Huang Rong ran even faster and shouted, “Come on!” Just as she was about to reach the wall, she saw 2 figures on the beach. At this time she was really curious but did not have the luxury to stop, so she looked at the piles of grass carefully then ran all the way to the cliff’s base.

    Ouyang Ke laughed, “Where’s the worm?” He also ran faster and reached the cliff wall like an arrow. The spot where Huang Rong landed was already cleared of vines, but Ouyang Ke naturally did not suspect any trap and stepped right into it, wrenching the rock out of its place. The vines snapped and Ouyang Ke felt a great pressure descending on him. He looked up and it scared the living daylights out of him and saw a mountain of a rock smashing down towards him.

    Although the rock was very high up, the gust of wind was so strong that he could hardly breathe, so he hastily jumped backwards, but he smacked right into a tree with such a great force that the tree cracked and the splinters pierced him. At this point he only fled for his life and ignored the pain, so he jumped away, but only managed to jump 3 feet.

    Now he was shocked into a daze but suddenly felt as though someone jolted him awake, dragging him several feet away; but it was too late, and with a thunderous rumble the dust flew everywhere and then he fainted.

    Huang Rong saw that her plan worked, so she was really happy and did not expect the deafening rumble which seemed to shove her aside. Her head was hit by the countless grains of dirt and dust. She bent over and held her head for a moment before opening her eyes, and she saw 2 shadows through the dust.

    When the dust settled, she rubbed her eyes and saw that it was actually West Poison Ouyang Feng and the other was none other than the one she so deeply missed – Guo Jing. Huang Rong exclaimed and jumped for joy. Guo Jing had also never expected to meet her here, so he rushed forward and hugged her. In their excitement, they had forgotten that their enemy was just close by.

    The other day when Guo Jing and Ouyang Feng were fighting on the junk, they both could not gain any advantage and at the same time the junk was sinking, so it took them down. In the deep sea the water pressure was very high and they felt the water forcing its way into their ears and noses, causing great pain, so they had to stop their struggle and cover their ears and noses.

    The bottom of the sea had a swift undercurrent moving in a different direction from the surface current, so before they knew it they were swept some distance away. When Guo Jing managed to get up to the surface to breathe it was already dark and the boat seemed very far away. Guo Jing shouted; and at that very moment Huang Rong was looking for him, but they were so far away, how could they meet?

    Guo Jing shouted again but felt a tug on his leg, followed by another head hitting the surface – it was Ouyang Feng. He was also at a disadvantage in the water, so although he was a martial arts master, he struggled wildly in the water and then refused to release Guo Jing’s leg.

    Guo Jing struggled harder but his other leg was grabbed too. They wrestled for a brief moment before submerging again. When they hit the surface, Guo Jing shouted, “Let my legs go, I won’t desert you.” Ouyang Feng also knew that this would kill them both, so he released the legs and grabbed his shoulder.

    Guo Jing also supported him, allowing them to float. At this time, they saw a large wooden board float by and hit Guo Jing. Ouyang Feng shouted, “Careful!” Guo Jing grabbed it, shouting, “Catch it, don’t let go!”

    They looked around but did not see any boats. Ouyang Feng’s Snake Staff was lost and he worried, “If we meet any sharks, we can only hit them wildly like Zhou Botong. At that time I saved him, but who’ll save me now?” They floated for some time and saw many fishes swimming by, so they had to depend on the fishes for survival.

    As the ancient saying goes, “Helping each other on the same boat ( 同舟共济 )”, these two men who fought a bitter battle just a while ago could share the same raft. For several days they fortunately did not meet any danger. This time the current brought them to the island where Hong Qigong and Huang Rong was, and only 2 days after they arrived.

    When they hit the shore they lay down for some time when they suddenly heard someone laughing, so Ouyang Feng jumped up and followed the laughter, and so coincidentally met Ouyang Ke who had just fallen into the trap. Ouyang Feng tried to rush forward to save him. He managed to pull him several feet away but Ouyang Ke’s legs were crushed and he fainted from the pain.

    Ouyang Feng was suspicious and looked around but did not find any more danger, so he went to check on his nephew. He felt that he was still breathing so he tried to push the rock, but it did not budge an inch. He then knelt down and tried again with both hands and grunted. Though his strength was tremendous, how could he move a thousand-pound rock?

    He bent down and Ouyang Ke opened his eyes and shouted, “Uncle!” Ouyang Feng said, “You’ll have to bear with it for a while.” He hugged him up and pulled him, but Ouyang Ke screamed and fainted again. The rock had pinned his legs underneath, so this pull would only worsen his pain but not free him.

    Ouyang Feng was startled. Guo Jing held Huang Rong’s hand and asked, “Where’s master?” Huang Rong pointed, saying, “Over there.” Guo Jing heard that his master was alright and was elated, wanting her to lead him there but heard Ouyang Ke’s scream, so he could not bear it and said to Ouyang Feng, “I’ll help you.” Huang Rong tugged his sleeve, saying, “Let’s go see master, ignore this bad guy!”

    Ouyang Feng did not know that this was a trap set up by her as he saw the rock tumble down and it was impossible for anyone to lift it up the cliff, but when he heard Huang Rong stop Guo Jing, his anger flared up and then he heard that Hong Qigong was here, so he was startled, thinking, “That beggar took one of my palms and was also poisoned by my snake, yet he’s not dead; but even then he should be 90% dead, why should I fear him?”

    He saw Guo Jing and Huang Rong about to leave so he knelt down again and pretended to push the rock and waited for them to turn away before saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll save you. For now just concentrate on circulating your Qi to protect your heart and take it that those legs are not yours.” He then followed them and saw them holding each other’s waist and talked romantically, he was flabbergasted and thought, “If I don’t torture you till you’re worse off than dead, I’m not West Poison.”

    Huang Rong took Guo Jing to the cave opening. Guo Jing launched himself in and shouted, “Master!” He then saw that Hong Qigong’s eyes were closed and there were no blood in his face. He had been insulted by Ouyang Ke and his injury relapsed. Huang Rong quickly undid his outer gown while Guo Jing massaged his limbs.

    Hong Qigong opened his eyes and saw Guo Jing so he was naturally very happy and smiled, saying in a low voice, “Jing’er, you’re here too!” Guo Jing was about to reply when a rough voice cut in from behind, “Old beggar, so am I.” Guo Jing turned around to block the entrance. Huang Rong snatched her master’s bamboo stick and stood beside Guo Jing.

    Ouyang Feng laughed, “Old beggar, come out, if not I’m going in.” Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at each other, thinking, “Even if it costs our lives, we must not let him molest Master.” Ouyang Feng laughed and stepped in. Guo Jing stepped forward to block.

    Ouyang Feng moved aside to evade his palm strike and went to his right, then a bamoo stick flew over and made a circle yet seemed to aim for 3 separate spots at the same time, making it difficult to deal with. He waved his left hand up and swept his leg to force his opponent away. He did not expect Huang Rong’s stick to hit the centre of the circle.

    Ouyang Feng was surprised and jumped back, looking carefully. Huang Rong was using the [Dog Beating Skill] and managed to force her stronger opponent backwards, so she was feeling proud. Ouyang Feng did not expect this girl to learn the old beggar’s wonderful rod skill. He snorted and advanced again to hit her bamboo stick. Huang Rong executed the stick skill she just learnt and poked, hit, circled and flew around, and although she could not injure him, she managed to evade 7-8 of his moves continuously.

    Guo Jing was shocked and happy and kept cheering, “Good Rong’er, good rod skill!” He then attacked with a fist and palm from the side. Ouyang Feng shouted in anger and knelt down launching both palms out. Even before the palms came the palm wind caused the dust to fly. Guo Jing saw that the strikes were very powerful and was afraid that Huang Rong might get injured if she took the strike, so he hurriedly pushed her aside and they managed to evade the strike together.

    Ouyang Feng stepped 2 steps forward and struck out with both palms again. His attack was terribly strong and fought to a draw with Hong Qigong on Peach Blossom Island a few days ago. Guo Jing and Huang Rong were far from his match and were forced to retreat step by step. Ouyang Feng rushed into the cave and flipped his palm, hitting the stone wall and causing bits of stone to drop off. He brought the other palm up above Hong Qigong’s head and held it there to observe him.

    Huang Rong said, “My master saved your life, yet you want to hurt him, aren’t you ashamed?” Ouyang Feng pushed Hong Qigong’s chest slightly and felt his chest muscle contract, showing that his martial abilities were really lost, so he was secretly happy and lifted him up, saying, “If you rescue my nephew, I’ll spare the beggar’s life.”

    Huang Rong said, “Heaven released the rock to pin him down, you saw that yourself, who could save him? Try any more tricks and Heaven will crush you with a rock too.” Guo Jing saw that Ouyang Feng had raised Hong Qigong higher and prepared to throw him down but doubted that he would really do it. Still he was worried and quickly said, “Put him down and we’ll go save your nephew.”

    Ouyang Feng missed his nephew and was very eager to rush down but he kept his face impassive and put Hong Qigong down very slowly.

    Huang Rong said, “Helping him is not difficult, but let’s make an agreement.” Ouyang Feng said, “What do you want?” Huang Rong said, “After we save your nephew, you must not harm the 3 of us while we’re here on this island.” Ouyang Feng thought, “My nephew and I are afraid of water, if we want to get back I may need to depend on this 3 people.” He nodded his head, saying, “OK, I’ll not kill the 3 of you now, but I can’t promise you anything after we leave this island.”

    Huang Rong said, “When the time comes, even if you leave us alone we’ll come after you. Another thing is that my father had betrothed me to him, and you saw that for yourself. If your nephew bothers me again, you’re worse than a pig or dog.” Ouyang Feng spat, saying, “OK, that only applies on this island too, once we leave, we’ll see then.”

    Huang Rong smiled, saying, “Finally, although we’ll try our best to help you, we’re not the gods, if fate has decreed that your nephew must die, you can’t blame us.” Ouyang Feng said, “If my nephew dies, you 2 can forget about living. Little girl, shut up and go save my nephew.” He then ran to where the rock was.

    Guo Jing was about to follow when Huang Rong said, “Brother Jing, later when he uses his strength to push the rock, you can strike his back when he least expects it.” Guo Jing said, “We must honour our word, let’s save his nephew first then try to avenge Master.” Huang Rong sighed and knew that it was useless to get him to backstab someone.

    For the past 2 days she had thought that he had died in the sea, now that she was with him again her heart exploded with happiness, so even if Guo Jing made any unreasonable demands, she would just listen to him, moreover his actions were of an honourable gentleman’s so she smiled gently and said, “OK, you’re a saint, I’ll listen to you.”

    They ran to the cliff and heard Ouyang Ke groaning in the distance. Ouyang Feng shouted, “Hurry up!” They went over and stood beside him and the 3 pairs of hands pressed the rock together. Ouyang Feng said, “Up!” and they pushed at the same time. The rock moved an inch before slamming down again. Ouyang Ke screamed and his eyes rolled up.
    Ouyang Feng was shocked and immediately supported him, but felt that his breathing was weak, and to bear with the pain he bit through his tounge, filling his mouth with blood. Even with Ouyang Feng’s outstanding martial arts, he was powerless to move the rock. Now he had made it worse for his nephew and also burried his shoe in the sand.

    Ouyang Feng bent down to pick his shoe and was shocked again – the tide was rising slowly and was already reaching the rock. Ouyang Feng said urgently, “Little girl, if you want your master to live, you’d better save my nephew faster.”

    Huang Rong was already thinking, but this rock was enormous and there was no one else to help him, how could they move it away? She had come up with more than 10 ideas in a flash, but none worked, then when she heard Ouyang Feng, she said, “If Master weren’t injured, we could easily move this rock with his tremendous strength. Now…” She threw up her hands to indicate that it was useless.

    Though this sentence was said out of anger, Ouyang Feng thought, “Maybe it’s really fate; if the old beggar wasn’t injured, with his chivalrous nature, he’d definitely help. Who knew that when I injured him, it was as good as killing my own nephew?” Although Ouyang Ke was his nephew, he actually had an affair with his sister-in-law and he was in fact his son.

    Ouyang Feng was usually cold-hearted, but now he felt regretful. He turned his head and saw the water rising in by another few feet. Ouyang Ke yelled, “Uncle, kill me with one strike! I… I can’t take it anymore!” Ouyang Feng took out a sharp knife and gritted his teeth, saying, “You bear with it for a while, even without your legs you can still live.” He went forth with the intention of severing his nephews legs.

    Ouyang Feng exclaimed, “No, no, Uncle, just stab me to death!” Ouyang Feng said angrily, “With so many years under my guidiance, how could you be so useless?” Ouyang Ke hugged his chest and tried to bear with the pain, not daring to say another word. Ouyang Feng saw that the rock pinned him up to the waist, even if he amputated his legs, he may not live, so he hesitated.

    Huang Rong saw that the uncle and nephew had nothing to say and were both looking dejected, so her heart went soft and she thought of how her father moved the rocks on Reach Blossom Island, she exclaimed, “Wait! I’ve got a way, but I’m not sure if it works.” Ouyang Feng was elated and said, “Good lady, just say it!”

    Huang Rong was thinking, “Now that you want to save your nephew, you’re not calling me names anymore but ‘Good Lady’!” She smiled and said, “OK, you must listen to me now. Let’s cut some tree bark and make a rope strong enough to lift this rock.” Ouyang Feng said, “Who’s going to pull the rope?” Huang Rong said, “Pull like a sail…” Ouyang Feng immediately understood and said, “Yes, yes, just like that!”

    Guo Jing heard Huang Rong talk about using tree bark but did not question her; instead he just pulled out his dagger and began cutting off some tree bark. Ouyang Feng and Huang Rong followed his lead and within a short time, they had cut many strips of tree bark. Ouyang Feng was cutting the bark when he looked at his nephew and suddenly exclaimed, “Don’t cut anymore!” Huang Rong curiously asked, “What? Why not?”

    Ouyang Feng pointed at his nephew and Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked over. They saw the tide rising faster and had already submerged half his body. He would be drowned even before they had gathered enough material. Ouyang Ke was motionless in the water. Huang Rong said, “Don’t fret. Just cut!”

    Although Ouyang Feng was a monster, he meekly obeyed her. Huang Rong jumped down the tree and ran to Ouyang Ke and used several big stones to support him. This way his nose was still above the water.

    Ouyang Ke said in a low voice, “Miss Huang, thanks. Even if I can’t live, I’ll die contented knowing that you tried to save me.” Huang Rong felt apologetic and said, “Don’t thank me. Do you know that I was the one who laid this trap?” Ouyang Ke said, “Don’t speak so loudly, if my uncle hears it, he won’t let you off. I knew long ago; to die in your hands would leave me with no regrets.”

    Huang Rong sighed and thought, “Although this person is irksome, he treats me nicely.” She returned to the tree and began binding the bark. She joined three together to form a thin rope and then 6 ropes together to form a thick rope and again joined several thick ropes together to form a massive rope. Ouyang Feng continuously cut the tree bark while Huang Rong unceasingly connected the ropes.

    Although they were fast, the tide was faster and even before the massive rope was half-complete, the water had risen up to Ouyang Ke’s mouth, and soon only his nose was left sticking out. Ouyang Feng jumped down and said, “You can go. I want to speak with my nephew. You have tried your best and I appreciate it.” His voice was heavy and seemed resigned to the situation.

    Guo Jing saw that it was hopeless and went off together with Huang Rong. They walked several metres and Huang Rong whispered, “Let’s go behind the rock and listen to what he says.” Guo Jing said, “This doesn’t concern us. Besides, he’d discover us.” Huang Rong said, “Once his nephew dies, he’ll try to harm Master, so we must keep ourselves informed to be prepared. If we’re found out, we’ll just say that we’ve come to send his nephew off.”

    Guo Jing nodded. They turned around the corner and went behind the trees, stealthily creeping back behind the rock. They heard Ouyang feng say, “Go in peace, I know what you’re thinking, you want Old Heretic Huang to marry his daughter to you, but I fear I can’t grant your wish.”

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong were startled, thinking, “He’s about to die, why did Ouyang Feng say that?” As they heard more, they became more angry. Ouyang Feng was actually saying, “I’ll go kill that girl and bury her with you. Everyone dies; if you can’t live with her then you can die with her and have no regrets.”

    Ouyang Ke’s mouth was beneath the water and he could not speak. Huang Rong took Guo Jing’s hand and they left stealthily. After the corner, Guo Jing angrily said, “Let’s confront that old poisonous thing.” Huang Rong said, “With him we must compare wits, not strength.” Guo Jing asked, “How?” Huang Rong said, “I’m thinking.”

    As they walked near the canyon, she saw some reeds. Huang Rong thought of something and said, “If he weren’t so evil, I could save his nephew.” Guo Jing quickly asked, “How?” Huang Rong took out her knife and cut a hollow reed and put it to her mouth, breathing through it for a while. Guo Jing laughed, “Ah, this is really a good idea. How did you think of that? Should we save him?”

    Huang Rong pouted, “Of course not. That old poisonous thing wants to kill me, just let him do it, hmm, I’m not scared.” But when she thought of Ouyang Feng’s cruel methods, she could not help but gasp. His martial arts were much stronger than his nephew’s and he was much more cunning. If they fell into his trap, it would not be good. Guo Jing remained silent.

    Huang Rong tugged his hand, saying gently, “Don’t tell me you want me to save that scumbag? You’re worried for me, right? This 2 scumbags may not treat us well.” Guo Jing said, “You’re right, but I’m worried about you and Master. Since that old poisonous thing is a head of a sect, what he says has some credibility.” Huang Rong said, “OK, let’s save him then talk; we’ll plan as we go along.”

    They turned back and saw Ouyang Feng standing in the water, supporting his nephew. He saw the duo coming and his eyes glinted and it was obvious he wanted to kill them. He said roughly, “I told you to leave, why did you return?” Huang Rong sat down on a stone and laughed, “I came to see if he’s dead yet.” Ouyang Feng snapped, “So what if he’s dead, so what if he’s alive?”

    Huang Rong said, “If he’s dead then there’s no use now!” Ouyang Feng jumped out of the water, hastily saying, “Good… good lady, he’s not dead yet, you must have a way. Say it… say it quick.” Huang Rong threw the ‘straw’ over and said, “Put it in his mouth and he won’t die.” Ouyang Feng was happy and jumped into the water and stuffed the thing into his nephew’s mouth.

    The water had already covered his nose and he was exhaling the last bit of air but his ears could still hear their conversation, so when the ‘straw’ reached his mouth, he breathed hard and felt comfortable and he momentarily forgot about the pain in his legs. Ouyang Feng said, “Quick, hurry, let’s connect the ropes.”

    Huang Rong laughed, “Uncle Ouyang, you want me dead to accompany your nephew, right?” Ouyang Feng started and thought, “How did she hear what I said?” Huang Rong laughed, “If you kill me and then you meet some trouble later, who’s going to help you?” Now that Ouyang Feng was depending on her, he could only pretend not to hear her and went to work on the tree bark.

    They worked for more than 2 hours and made an enormously thick rope nearly 100 metres long; the sea level was already up to half the rock. Ouyang Ke’s head was a few feet under the water and only the tip of the ‘straw’ was exposed. Ouyang Feng was still worried and occasionally stretched his hand under water to check on him.

    After another hour, the water receded and Ouyang Ke’s head was slowly surfacing. Huang Rong measured the ropes’ length and shouted, “Enough, now I need 4 massive poles for the ‘masts’.” Ouyang Feng was doubtful, he knew that on this deserted island, even a knife was hard to find, not to mention an axe sturdy enough for their task. He asked, “How do we get that?” Huang Rong said, “Don’t worry, just find the wood first.”

    Ouyang Feng was afraid she would throw a tantrum and refuse to help him, so he did not ask further but ran around looking for trees with thick trunks. He crouched down and gathered his strength and launched his palms at each of the trees. The trees fell after a few strikes. Guo Jing and Huang Rong witnessed this powerful display of internal strength and shuddered. Ouyang Feng found a long and flat rock and he used that to cut away the tree leaves.

    Now Guo Jing and Huang Rong tied the rope round 3 of the thick tree trunks and looped the rope around the large rock before tying the end to the final tree trunk. That trunk was a centuries-old oak tree and even 3-4 people were not enough to circle the tree. Huang Rong said, “I guess this tree can handle the rock, right?” Ouyang Feng nodded.

    Huang Rong tld them to connect one more thick rope and they currounded the 4 tree trunks around the rock, forming a ‘#’ shape and looped the rope round the top. Ouyang Feng praised her, “Good lady, you’re really smart, just like your father.” Huang Rong laughed, “But how can I be compared to your nephew? Let’s start!”

    They acted together and used the oak tree as the pivot to pull the ‘#’-shape formation. The rope became taut and the rock was lifted slowly. The Sun was about to set and the sky was red, illuminating the golden surface of the water.

    The tide had already gone out and Ouyang Ke’s body was in the mud and his eyes were fixed onto the rock. It moved slowly and steadily with a creaking sound, causing him to be anxious yet happy. Though the rope had made one complete turn around its loop, the rock had only moved an inch and it was already causing great strain on the pivot.

    Although Ouyang Feng did not believe in divine intervention, he was silently praying throughout the process. Suddenly the rope snapped and the rock slammed down onto Ouyang Ke again, and he tried to scream but no sound came out. The rope flew up and hit Huang Rong, throwing her off her feet. Guo Jing quickly helped her up.

    At this stage Ouyang Feng lost all hope while Huang Rong could hardly smile. Guo Jing said, “We can join them back and add another rope and try again.” Ouyang Feng shook his head, “That’d be harder, the 3 of us aren’t enough.” Guo Jing mumbled to himself, “If only someone would help us.” Ouyang Feng got angry and snapped, “Obviously!” He knew Guo Jing had good intentions, but in his depression he vented his frustrations on him.

    Huang Rong thought for a while then jumped up, clapping and laughing, “Yes, yes, there’s someone who can help us.” Guo Jing asked, “Who might that be?” Huang Rong said, “Hmmm, it’s just that Brother Ouyang would have to bear with more discomfort and wait for the tide to come in again before he can be set free.” Ouyang Feng and Guo Jing both looked at her thinking, “Are you thinking that when the tide comes in, someone will come to our aid?”

    Huang Rong laughed, “We’re all tired and hungry; let’s find some food.” Ouyang Feng said, “Miss, you said someone will help us, please explain.” Huang Rong said, “At this time tomorrow, Brother Ouyang will be free. For now I can’t reveal the secret.” Ouyang Feng saw that she had great confidence in herself and his doubt decreased. But he was still skeptical so he simply accompanied his nephew.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong caught a few wild hares and cooked one for the uncle and nephew, then they shared the rest with Hong Qigong.

    When Guo Jing learnt that the trap was laid by her, he was surprised and happy. They knew that now Ouyang Feng was with his nephew and would not bother them, so they only lit a fire at the cave entrance to prevent any wild animals from coming in, and they slept very well. The next morning, Guo Jing saw a shadow at the entrance so he quickly jumped up. He saw Ouyang Feng standing there saying, “Is Miss Huang awake?”

    Huang Rong was already awake but she pretended to be soundly asleep. Guo Jing whispered, “Not yet. What is it?” Ouyang Feng said, “When she wakes up, invite her to save him.” Guo Jing said, “OK.” Hong Qigong said, “I let her drink the ‘100-Day-Drunken-Stupor’ Wine as well as hit her Sleeping Accupoint. Within 3 months, it’s hard to wake her.”

    Ouyang Feng started and Hong Qigong laughed heartily. Ouyang Feng realised that he was joking and became angry. Huang Rong sat up and laughed, “If we don’t tease the Old Poison now, when will we get to do that?” She then combed her hair and washed her face extremely slowly and then went to fish and catch rabbits for breakfast. Ouyang Feng paced up and down several times just like a pan of ants of fire. Guo Jing said, “Rong’er, when the water rises, will there really be someone to save him?”

    Huang Rong said, “What do you think?” Guo Jing shook his head, saying, “I don’t really think so.” Huang Rong laughed, “Me neither.” Guo Jing was startled, “So you lied to him?” Huang Rong said, “Not really, when the tide rises, I’d have a way to save him.” Guo Jing knew that she was very intelligent and resourceful so he did not question further. They then went to play around the flowers.

    Huang Rong had no companions since young and always played on the beach at Peach Blossom Island by herself. Now that she had Guo Jing with her, she was extremely happy. They played and laughed endlessly on the beach. Huang Rong said, “Brother Jing, your hair is terribly messy, let me help you comb your hair.”

    They sat together on a rock. Huang Rong took out a small golden-jade comb and combed his hair finely, then sighed, “Why don’t we think of a way to get rid of those 2 poisonous creatures and then we’ll live here together with Master and not leave this place, what do you think?” Guo Jing said, “I was thinking of my 6 masters.” Huang Rong said, “Hmmm, and Father too.”

    After a while she said, “I wonder how’s Sister Mu doing now. Master has also asked me to be the Leader of the Beggars’ Clan, so I’m starting to miss those beggars too.” Guo Jing laughed, “Looks like we have to think of a way to get back.” Huang Rong finished with his hair and tied it up. Guo Jing said, “The way you comb my hair reminds me of my mother.”

    Huang Rong laughed, “You can call me Mother.” Guo Jing smiled without replying. Huang Rong tickled him and asked, “Aren’t you going to say it?” Guo Jing laughed and jumped up, messing his hair again. Huang Rong laughed, “Fine if you won’t say it. You think no one will call me ‘Mother’ in future? Sit down.”

    Guo Jing sat down and Huang Rong wiped his sweat away and kissed his forehead lightly. She thought of the previous day’s fight with Ouyang Feng and remembered that Guo Jing praised her [Dog Beating Skill], so she wanted to teach it to him. Huang Rong saw that his martial arts improved a lot and was actually more excited about that than her own skills.

    Since she was Huang Yaoshi’s daughter, she had access to all the wonderful martial arts skills from young so she did not really pay attention to other wonderful skills; just like a rich man’s son would not bother about gold or silver. But she thought, “This skill is meant exclusively for the Beggars’ Clan Leader, so I can’t teach him” She asked, “Brother Jing, do you want to be the Beggars’ Clan Leader?”

    Guo Jing said, “Master wants you to be the Clan Leader, why do you ask me?” Huang Rong said, “I’m a young girl, I don’t resemble the Beggars’ Clan Leader. Why don’t I give up this appointment to you? With your commanding appearance the beggars will listen to you. Besides, when you become the Leader, this marvelous skill will be yours.” Guo Jing said, “No, no. I can’t be the Leader. I’m not intelligent enough even to handle small matters, not to mention important matters.”

    Huang Rong thought he was right – though Hong Qigong had no choice but to make her succeed him during this crisis, but he must have known that despite being young, she was very intelligent and probably no less capable than the 4 Elders and he also did not give her permission to give this responsibility to someone else; not every silly boy who knew the [Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms] and [Dog Beating Skill] could become the Leader. So she laughed, “OK, fine, but I’m afraid you can’t learn this skill, then.”

    Guo Jing said, “There’s no difference between you and me knowing it.” Huang Rong heard that this sentence came from his heart so she was touched and said, “When Master recovers I’ll return the appointment to him. Then… then…” She wanted to say “Then we can get married” but somehow the words could not come out of her mouth. She asked, “Brother Jing, do you know where are babies from?”

    Guo Jing said, “I know.” Huang Rong said, “Where?” Guo Jing said, “When people get married, they have babies.” Huang Rong said, “Yes I know that too. But why will married people have babies?” Guo Jing said. “This I don’t know.” Huang Rong said, “Me neither. I asked Father, but he said they crawl out from nests.”

    Guo Jing was about to ask more but they suddenly heard a sharp voice saying, “Making babies? You’ll know when you grow up. The tide is rising already!” Huang Rong gasped and jumped up; she had not expected Ouyang Feng to be listening to them. Although she did not understand male-female relationships, she knew that saying such stuff is embarassing, so her face turned red and they quickly ran to the cliff.

    Ouyang ke had been under the rock for 24 hours and had been suffering much. Ouyang Feng kept a straight face and said, “Miss Huang, you said that someone would come to help when the tide rises, this is not a joke.” Huang Rong said, “My father knows the changes of the Five Elements, so his daughter would of course know a bit, although I can’t compare with him, I can still predict a bit of the future.”

    Ouyang Feng knew about her father’s abilities, so he said, “Your father is coming? Splendid.” Huang Rong paused, then said, “Such a small matter wouldn’t need my father’s presence. Moreover, if my father knows that you hurt my master, he won’t let you off. Including the 2 of us, how can you win? So what are you happy about?” Ouyang Feng could not argue and remained silent sullenly.

    Huang Rong said to Guo Jing, “Brother Jing, go get some tree branches. The more the better.” Guo Jing agreed and went. Huang Rong mended the rope which snapped the previous day with more bark. Ouyang Feng kept asking who was coming but she just hummed some tunes without replying.

    Ouyang Feng was dissatisfied but when he saw Huang Rong’s relaxed expression, he kept up his hopes and went to help Guo Jing. He saw Guo Jing execute the [Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palms] and only needed a few strikes to bring down a sturdy tree. He thought, “His martial arts are good. Coupled with the [Nine Yin Manual], he spells disaster for me.”

    He decided that he had to extract his nephew dead or alive. He crouched down between 2 trees and then sent out his palms simultaneously and each palm hit a tree, causing them to break. Guo Jing was awed and said, “Uncle Ouyang, I wonder when I can reach your standard.” Ouyang Feng did not reply but thought, “In your next life.”

    They carried all the wood to the cliff. Ouyang Feng looked out into the sea but did not even see the smallest speck of a sampan. Huang Rong asked, “What are you looking for? No one’s coming.” Ouyang Feng was surprised and angry, raising his voice, “No one?” Huang Rong said, “This is a deserted island, no one will come here.” Ouyang Feng was flabbergasted and could not speak, only waiting to kill someone.

    Huang Rong did not look at him directly but turned to Guo Jing, saying, “Brother Jing, what’s the most you can lift?” Guo Jing said, “Around 200kg.” Huang Rong said, “Hmmm, how about a 600kg rock?” Guo Jing said, “I think not.” Huang Rong said, “How about a 600kg rock in the water?”

    Ouyang Feng realised it and yelled happily, “Yes, yes, it’s correct!” Guo Jing however had yet to understand it. Ouyang Feng said, “When the tide rises, it half-submerges this rock, causing it to be lighter, let’s do it again and it’ll definitely work.”

    Huang Rong coldly said, “Yeah, but the trees will be half-submerged too, how are you going to work underwater?” Ouyang Feng bit his teeth and said, “Leave that to fate.” Huang Rong said, “Hmmm, it doesn’t have to be so difficult. Go tie the branches to the the rock.”

    When she said that, Guo Jing understood too and cheered, working together with Ouyang Feng and began tying several large branches around the rock. Ouyang Feng was afraid that the bouyancy would not be enough , so he tied 7-8 large pieces of wood together then helped Guo Jing connect the rope that snapped the previous day. Huang Rong stood aside and smiled, watching them work. Within 2 hours, it was all ready and they only lacked the tide.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong went to accompany their master. In the afternoon, the tide started to rise and Ouyang Feng ran up to inform them and the 3 of them went down together. After some time, the tide had reached its highest and they stood in the water and looped the rope around the oak tree again. They then operated the ‘#’-shape mechanism again.

    This time with the pieces of wood tied to the rock, the bouyancy was very high and it seemed like there were many strong men helping to lift the rock. The 3 of them did not need much effort to move the rock. After turning a few rounds of rope round the coil, Ouyang Feng held his breath and hugged his nephew up to the surface of the water.

    Guo Jing saw that they were successful and could not help but cheer. Huang Rong too clapped continuously and actually forgot that it was she who laid the trap.

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    Last edited by foxs; 04-17-07 at 04:04 PM.

  7. #47
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 22 – Wandering on a shark's back

    Huang Rong sat steadily on the branch and called out, “Fire away!” Aiming toward the raft, Guo Jing released his grip and Huang Rong’s body flew into the sky. She somersaulted twice in the air and plunged into the water.

    Chapter 22 – Wandering on a shark's back

    Part 1 Translated by Williamlcb and Foxs, edited by Eliza Bennet

    Huang Rong saw Ouyang Feng carry his mud-drenched nephew to the shore, his face was beaming happily from ear to ear but never uttering any word reflecting his thankfulness to Guo Jing and herself. She pulled the sleeve of Guo Jing’s clothes and they returned to the cave together.

    Guo Jing saw that Huang Rong had a worried expression on her face and asked her, “What are you thinking about?” Huang Rong replied, “I am thinking about three very difficult things.” Guo Jing replied, “You are an intelligent person who always has a way to solve problems.” Huang Rong gave a very light laugh; but a moment later her eyebrows were creased again.

    Hong Qigong then opened his mouth to speak, “The first matter really does not matter much. The second and third matters actually cause people to be at a loss of what to do.”

    Guo Jing then said, “Wow! You really are amazing! How would you know about the three matters that she is thinking about?”

    Hong Qigong replied, “I simply guessed her thoughts. The first matter is how to cure my injury. There is no doctor, medicine and a person with good internal energy here to help me. The Old Beggar can always accept my fate with resignation. Whether I live or die in not of the most important matter now. The second matter is how to defend ourselves from the poisonous hand of Ouyang Feng. This person’s martial art is really solid. The two of you are definitely not his match. The third matter is how we can return to the mainland. Rong’er, am I right or wrong?”

    Huang Rong replied, “Yes, at present the most pressing matter is to think of a way to discourage the Old Poison from acting so ruthlessly.”

    Hong Qigong said, “In short, we must have a battle of wits with him. The Old Poison may be cunning but he is completely conceited; so conceited that it won’t be difficult to fool him. However, after he has been tricked, he will immediately adapt from the changes followed by a very severe counterattack.”

    Two people gave a deep thought. Huang Rong started to think that the enemy’s skill is difficult to differentiate against her father’s and teacher’s. Even if her father were there, he would not necessarily defeat him; how she could she fight him? It seemed like if they could not take his life in one stroke, it would only make him committing more evil deeds.

    Hong Qigong suddenly felt pin in his chest and coughed loudly. Huang Rong immediately helped him to lie down. Suddenly a shadow was blocking the sunlight at the mouth of the cave. She raised her head up to see Ouyang Feng carrying his nephew making a hissing sound saying, “Get out all of you! Let me have this cave for my nephew to heal his injury!”

    Guo Jing was very angry; he jumped out and said, “This place belongs to my master!”

    Ouyang Feng coldly replied, “Even if the Jade Emperor lives here, he must go away!”

    Guo Jing furiously tried to answer him, but Huang Rong pulled Guo Jing’s sleeve. She stooped down to help Hong Qigong up and left the cave.

    While passing by Ouyang Feng’s side, Hong Qigong opened his eyes and said with a mocking smile, “Impressive power! Very deathly!”

    Ouyang Feng’s face turned red. He could have Hong Qigong died violently with just a stroke of his palm, but for some reason he was overwhelmed by Hong Qigong’s righteous air. He shivered and did not answer this insult. He turned his head to avoid Hong Qigong’s penetrating gaze and said, “Come back and deliver us something to eat! If you two small creatures mess with the food, just watch out for your three lives.”

    The three of them went down the hill. Guo Jing cursed incessantly, while Huang Rong was deep in thoughts and did not say anything. Guo Jing said, “Master please rest here while I go and look for a suitable place to rest.”

    Huang Rong helped Hong Qigong to sit down properly by a big pine tree when she spotted two squirrels hurriedly climbing up the tree trunk then immediately climbing back down again only a few feet from her; watching the two people with their small round eyes. Huang Rong was fascinated; she picked a pine cone and held it out. One of the squirrels came near to sniff at the cone, and used its front paws to slowly pull the cone away. The other squirrel boldly climbed Hong Qigong’s sleeve. Huang Rong sighed and said, “Nobody has been here before. Look at the two squirrels, not afraid of humans at all.”

    As the squirrels heard Huang Rong’s voice they scurried up the tree. Huang Rong looked up the tree and saw dense leaves growing from the branches of the pine tree. The leaves formed a canopy and the top of the tree was full with green cane. Huang Rong suddenly got an idea and called out, “Brother Jing, no need to look anymore. Let’s go on top of the tree.”

    Guo Jing stopped and looked up the pine tree. The tree is indeed a wonderful place as a shelter. Two people folded some branches and made a platform. Then with each of them on either side, they propped Hong Qigong in between and shouted, “Heave!” they flew up and put Hong Qigong safely on the platform they just made.

    Huang Rong laughed and said, “We are living on branches like birds. Let them live in caves like beasts.”

    Guo Jing then said, “Rong’er, do you want to send them food or not?”

    Huang Rong said, “Since I cannot think of any wonderful plan and defeat the Old Poison at the moment, I think we’d better comply with his request.” Guo Jing grumbled incessantly.

    Two people went behind the mountain and managed to catch a wild goat. They then made a fire to roast the goat. The roasted goat was then ripped into two. Huang Rong took a piece of the meat and threw it to the ground and said, “Urinate on top of the meat!”

    Guo Jiang laughed, “They will find out.”

    Huang Rong said, “Don’t you bother about that; just do it.”

    Guo Jing blushed and said, “I can’t do it!”

    Huang Rong asked, “Why?”

    Guo Jing mumbled, “I cannot urinate with you beside me.” Huang Rong burst out in laughter.

    From the top of the tree Hong Qigong called out, “Throw the meat up! I will urinate on it myself!” Guo Jing took the meat, laughed and leaped up to the platform so that Hong Qigong can urinate on that mutton. Hong Qigong urinated a lot on the mutton. He laughed out loud and carried the mutton to the cave.

    Huang Rong called out, “No! Take this one.”

    Guo Jing scratched his head and said, “This is the clean one.”

    Huang Rong said, “That’s right. We are going to give them the clean mutton.”

    Guo Jing was confused, but he usually listened to whatever Huang Rong said. He turned around and took the clean mutton. Huang Rong took the urine-soaked meat and put it back on the fire while she went out to pick edible wild fruits. Hong Qigong did not understand Huang Rong’s plan and was upset. He drooled over the mutton, but the only one left was the one smeared with his own urine. He has no choice but to be patient.

    The roasted mutton released a very good aroma. Inside his cave Ouyang Feng had smelled the wonderful aroma of the meat. Without waiting for Guo Jing to arrive he went out the cave and snatched the meat while his face was showing how pleased he was at the moment. But then a thought came into his mind. “Where is the other half?” he asked. Guo Jing pointed his finger backward.

    Ouyang Feng walked in big strides towards the pine tree. He snatched the mutton smeared with urine and threw the clean mutton on the ground while laughing coldly before turning around to leave.

    Guo Jing knew that at this moment he must not reveal anything suspicious from his face. However, it was not in his nature to pretend; he was forced to turn around and did not dare to look at Ouyang Feng. He waited for Ouyang Feng to be far away before rushing to Huang Rong. He laughed and said, “How did you know that he will come and exchange the meat?”

    Huang Rong smiled and said, “According to the military tactic, void is actually solid, while solid is actually void. The Old Poison knew that we will be applying some kind of trick on the food and does not want to be tricked. As a result, I just let him to trick himself.” Guo Jing listened to all of this in awe while tearing the clean mutton into smaller pieces before taking it up to the pavilion. The three of them ate the mutton.

    While all of them were eating happily, Guo Jing suddenly said, “Rong’er, you really came up with a wonderful ruse just now. Nevertheless, it was still a dangerous one.”

    Huang Rong immediately asked, “Why?”

    Guo Jing then replied, “If the Old Poison did not come and exchange the mutton, wouldn’t we be eating the mutton covered with master’s urine?”

    Huang Rong who was sitting on a branch while listening to Guo Jing’s words laughed loudly until her waist bended and she tumbled down the tree. She then leaped up the tree again unharmed and said, “Very, very dangerous indeed.”

    Hong Qigong sighed and said, “Dumb child, if he did not come to exchange the mutton, can’t you just not eat the tainted mutton?”

    Guo Jing was startled at the truth of the statement and gave a loud laugh before falling down from the tree as well.

    Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew ate the mutton, they thought the wild goat had urine smell, but they did not suspect anything. In fact, they still praised Huang Rong’s wonderful skill in roasting the mutton that she gave the meat a salty taste. Not long after that, the sky was turning dark. It was at this moment that Ouyang Ke’s wound started to ache, causing him to groan loudly.

    Ouyang Feng walked out towards the pine tree and called out, “Come down little girl!”

    Huang Rong was startled because she did not expect Ouyang Feng to come that soon. She asked, “What is it?”

    Ouyang Feng answered, “My nephew needs tea and water. Quickly go and serve him now.” The three people on the tree listened to everything and could not help but felt very angry. Ouyang Feng shouted angrily, “Hurry up! What are you waiting for?”

    Guo Jing whispered, “Let us fight him.”

    Hong Qigong added, “The two of you quickly run towards the back of the mountain. Don’t you worry about me.”

    Huang Rong had already calculated properly on the two choices that they have now. Whether they flee or duel with Ouyang Feng, their master’s life would be lost. The only thing that can be done now is to compromise for the sake of their master’s safety. She leaped down the tree and said, “Alright, let me go and have a look at his wound.”

    Ouyang Feng sneered and said, “The boy surnamed Guo, come down and follow me. Are you still soundly asleep? I have a good idea.” Guo Jing swallowed his anger and leaped down from the tree.

    Ouyang Feng said, “Go get 100 lumbers for me by the night fall. If you are short by one lumber, I will break one of your legs. If you are short two lumbers, I will break both of your legs.”

    Huang Rong asked, “What do you want to do with the lumbers? Besides, how are we going to see where we are going in the dark?”

    Ouyang Feng cursed her, “You talk too much girl! What does this have to do with you? Quickly go and attend to my nephew. If there is something amiss or wrong, all of you will suffer the consequences!”

    Huang Rong gave Guo Jing a hand signal telling him not to make things worse. Guo Jing saw Ouyang Feng and Huang Rong’s shadows disappeared in the darkness. He was so angry that tears flowed down from his eyes.

    Hong Qigong suddenly said, “When I was young, my grandpa, my father and I were slaves of the Jins. What is this hardship compared to what we went through?”

    Guo Jing was startled, he came to his senses, “Turned out benevolent master was once a slave, but later on he mastered a matchless martial art. I feel wronged today; can’t I just endure it patiently?” Guo Jing then leaped down from the tree and lighted a fire using a tree branch before heading towards the back of the mountain. He launched the 18-Dragon Subduing Palms, hacking down trees as big as a rice bowl cup in diameter. He was fully aware that Huang Rong would be able to escape from harm, just as the other day when she was surrounded by a whole bunch of criminals at Zhao palace. No matter how difficult the situation somehow she managed to escape unharmed. Therefore, he concentrated his attention and energy to cut down the trees.

    But launching the 18-Dragon Subduing Palms took a lot of his energy. After a while he started to feel strained and numb. In less than an hour Guo Jing managed to knock down twenty one pine trees. While knocking down the twenty-second tree, Guo Jing‘s arm was already sore and tired. When he launched the Seeing Dragon in the Field, his palms were uneven; the branches and leaves were shaken, the trunk swayed but did not break; while he felt his chest tightened. Turned out the energy did not flow to his palm, but went up in reverse to his chest. His master had repeatedly warned him against this condition; the 18-Dragon Subduing Palms carried a tremendous force, but if his own strength was not enough, he would suffer tremendous self-inflicted injury. He was shocked; immediately sat down and focused his attention to control his breathing. After about an hour he struck that tree again; but he felt his body was worn out, his arms and legs were weak.

    Guo Jing knew that if he forced himself to exert more strength, not only it would still be difficult to accomplish his task, but he would suffer internal injury as well. In this desolate island there was no saber or hatchet, how would he be able to chop down more trees?

    Part 2 – Translated by Foxs, Edited by Eliza Bennet

    He noticed that out of the hundred lumbers needed he was still about seventy, eighty lumbers short; while his pair of legs was about ready to give up. He thought aloud, “His nephews legs are crushed; he must have hated me to his guts. Even if I manage to give him a hundred lumbers tonight, tomorrow night he will require a thousand. When will it end? We can’t fight him, and on this desolate island nobody would help us.” Having thought this he heaved a long sigh, “We are stuck here on this desolate island, who in the world would come to rescue us? Benevolent master Hong has lost his martial art, whether he will live or die is difficult to tell. Rong’er’s father despised me. All Quan Zhen Seven Masters and six benevolent masters are not the Western Poison’s match. If only … if only my sworn brother Zhou Botong were here … but he had killed himself by jumping into the sea early on.” As soon as Zhou Botong came into his mind, he hated Ouyang Feng even more; thinking that this old sworn brother of his, who was skilled in the Nine Yin Manual and had created the mutual hands combat technique, was forced to his death by Ouyang Feng.

    “Ah! Nine Yin Manual! Mutual hands combat technique?” these several words flashed through his mind just like seeing a bright star on the horizon in a dark and endless night. “My martial art may not be enough to fight the Western Poison, but the Nine Yin Manual contains the most wonderful secrets of the martial art world; plus the mutual hands combat technique will double my skill. If both Rong’er and I train hard day and night, then we can fight the Old Poison with everything we have. Only regardless of which martial art we use, we still need to fight him for a whole day and night; then how can this be good?”

    He stood in the forest thinking deeply; suddenly thought, “Why don’t I go and ask Shifu? His martial art might be gone, but his knowledge is not; he should be able to give me clear directions.” He went back to the tree right away, then explained to Hong Qigong every single one of his thought.

    “Read the Nine Yin Manual slowly for me to hear,” Hong Qigong suggested, “Let us see if there is a marvelous martial art you can learn in a short period of time. Guo Jing immediately recited the Manual sentence by sentence. When Hong Qigong heard Guo Jing recited, ‘One knew that by sitting down and pondering deeply one can accomplish virtue; but unknowingly to attain excellence one requires flexibility, as well as clear and bright understanding. The body is cultivated two-folds; namely movement and stillness. Being attacked but stay still.’ he suddenly stood up, “Ah!” he exclaimed.

    “What is it?” Guo Jing worriedly asked. Hong Qigong did not answer. He thought those sentences over for a while and then said, “Repeat the last part you were reading a moment ago.”

    Guo Jing was delighted, he thought, “Shifu must have found some methods to fight the Old Poison in the last part.” Right away he re-read those sentences slowly.

    Hong Qigong nodded his head and said, “That’s true. Carry on.” Guo Jing continued reciting the Manual from memory. Toward the end he recited, “Mo han si ge er, pin te huo ji en, jin qie hu si, ge shan ni ke …”

    Hong Qigong was baffled, “What are you saying?”

    Guo Jing answered, “Big Brother Zhou told me to memorize those sentences.”

    Hong Qigong creased his brows, “What do they mean?” he asked.

    “I don’t know,” Guo Jing replied, “Big Brother Zhou himself did not understand.”

    “Carry on, then,” Hong Qigong said.

    Guo Jing continued, “Bie er fa si, ge luo wu li …” until he came to the end; reciting all kinds of these tongue-twisting sentences.

    “Hmm,” Hong Qigong said, “Turned out the Manual also contains some incantations to catch the ghosts.” He wanted to add, “Crafty priest, cheating people with cheap tricks,” but remembering the Manual contained an extensive profound mystery, this mumbo-jumbo must have had a deep meaning; he simply did not understand it for the time being. Hence, the words were about to leave his lips, but he swallowed them back.

    After half a day Hong Qigong shook his head, “Jing’er,” he said, “There are many marvelous martial arts in the Manual, but none of them can be mastered in one whole day and night.”

    Guo Jing was disappointed. Hong Qigong continued, “Quickly go and build a raft from those twenty lumbers, then go away as far as you can. Rong’er and I will stay here and devise a plan to deal with the Old Poison.”

    “No,” Guo Jing hastily said, “How can I leave you, Senior?”

    Hong Qigong sighed, “The Western Poison is scared of the Old Heretic Huang, he won’t harm Rong’er. In any case The Old Beggar is invalid. You quickly go!”

    Guo Jing burst out in grieve and indignation; he raised his hand and struck the tree trunk with his palm.

    This strike was extremely heavy, the sound echoed on the mountain and valley. Hong Qigong was startled, he quickly asked, “Jing’er, the palm you launched, what technique did you use?”

    “Why?” Guo Jing was perplexed.

    “You hit so hard, but the trunk did not even shake,” Hong Qigong said.

    Guo Jing was very embarrassed, “I used up all my strength striking trees, my hands are so sore; I don’t have any more strength left,” he said.

    “No, no,” Hong Qigong shook his head, “Your palm strike technique was a little strange. Strike again!”

    Raising his hand he struck the tree with his palm. The sound shook the forest, but the tree did not budge. Suddenly it dawned on him. “That was the seventy-two stances Vacant Fist Big Brother Zhou taught disciple.”

    “Vacant Fist? I have never heard of it,” Hong Qigong mused.

    “That’s right,” Guo Jing said, “Big Brother Zhou was held prisoner on the Peach Blossom Island. He had nothing to do, so he invented this technique. He taught me these sixteen-character secret of the technique: ‘kong meng dong song, feng tong rong meng, chong qiong zhong nong, tong yong gong chong’ [empty and hazy like a loose cave, the wind blow carrying a dream, playing around in power or exhaustion, a child can use a worm as a weapon]”

    Hong Qigong laughed, “What kind of empty hole?” he asked. [Play of words here, Hong Qigong said ‘tong nong ku long’ which rhymes with whatever Guo Jing was saying. I can’t translate it properly.]

    Guo Jing explained, “Each one of these sixteen characters has their own meaning. The word ‘song’ [loose] means the fist must be devoid of strength; ‘chong’ [worm] means the body must be flexible like a worm; ‘meng’ [hazy] means the fist movement must be obscure, must not be too clear. Disciple will play it out for you to watch, what do you think?”

    “The night is so dark, I can’t see anything,” Hong Qigong said, “Why don’t you explain it to me? This is an excellent martial art, I don’t have to see in order to understand it.”

    Guo Jing explained from the first stance, ‘kong wan cheng fan’ [empty bowl filled with rice], to the second stance, ‘kong wu zhu ren’ [empty house occupied with people], with all variations therein, including how to send out the force, to Hong Qigong.

    By nature Zhou Botong was mischievous, he gave each and every stance a funny name. Hong Qigong only heard up to the eighteenth stance, his heart was already filled with admiration. He cut Guo Jing off, “You don’t need to continue, I have found a way to fight the Western Poison.”

    “With Vacant Fist?” Guo Jing asked, “I am afraid the disciple’s skill is insufficient.”

    “I know that,” Hong Qigong said, “But we are in a desperate situation, we have to take a risk. Do you still have the dagger given by Qiu Chuji on you?” A cold light flashed in the dark night; Guo Jing took out his dagger. Hong Qigong said, “With the Vacant Fist technique, use this dagger to cut down some trees.” Guo Jing held his dagger by the hilt, the thin blade was only about one foot long. He was doubtful and did not say anything.

    Hong Qigong said, “The 18-Dragon Subduing Palms I passed on to you is the pinnacle of the external type of martial art; that Vacant Fist is a very profound inner type of martial art. Your dagger can cut through metal and carve jade; what would be the problem of cutting tree trunk? The important thing is, your hand strength must follow the ‘kong’ [empty] and ‘song’ [loose] principles.”

    Guo Jing pondered about it for half a day. Hong Qigong also gave him some more directions. Finally he understood. He jumped down the tree and went to find a medium size pine tree. With the Vacant Fist method of exerting energy, as if with force and without force, he lightly struck the trunk and sure enough the dagger went through the tree trunk. He exerted his strength and cut around the trunk; that tree fell down immediately. Guo Jing was ecstatic, with the same method he cut dozens on trees one after another. Looked like before daybreak he would be able to cut down a hundred lumbers.

    While he was cutting trees, suddenly he heard Hong Qigong called out, “Jing’er, come up here.”

    Guo Jing leaped up to the platform. “It really worked,” he said, “I did not even use too much energy.”

    “Certainly we can’t waste our energy, can we?” Hong Qigong said.

    “That’s right! That’s right!” Guo Jing exclaimed, “Now I understand the ‘kong meng dong song’ principle. Big Brother Zhou had explained it to me, but I did not understand it.”

    “This martial art is more than enough to cut down trees,” Hong Qigong said, “But it is still far from adequate to fight the Western Poison. You must train in the Nine Yin Manual again, only then will you have a chance to defeat him. Let us think of some way to buy some time.” Speaking about plan and strategy, Guo Jing could only stay silent, letting his master to think.

    After a long time, Hong Qigong shook his head and said, “I can’t think of anything good. Let us wait till tomorrow, perhaps Rong’er can come up with some clever ideas. Jing’er, listening to you reciting the Nine Yin Manual I had a thought; I believe I am not wrong. Help me get down this tree, I am going to practice my martial art.”

    Guo Jing was shocked. “Your injury is not healed yet, how can you train?” he asked.

    Hong Qigong answered, “The Manual said, ‘The body is cultivated two-folds; namely movement and stillness. Being attacked but stay still.’ These sentences had opened my eyes. Let us go down.”

    Guo Jing did not understand the meaning of these sentences, but he did not dare to defy his master; hence he propped his master’s body and gently jumped down the tree.

    Hong Qigong calmed himself down, then opened up his arms and launched a palm strike. In the darkness Guo Jing saw his master’s body was staggering forward like he was falling down. Guo Jing rushed forward to help, but Hong Qigong had already steadied himself. His breathing was heavy, but he said, “I am alright.”

    A moment later he launched a left palm strike. Guo Jing saw him staggering along, his feet stumbled; he appeared to be extremely exhausted. Guo Jing fought hard the urge to rush forward and help his master; who would have thought that the more Hong Qigong practiced, the stronger he became. Initially he had to catch his breath for every single stance he launched, but afterwards he was able to launch several stances in succession; his footsteps were getting steadier as well. It was a tremendous improvement. Hong Qigong launched the whole set of ’18-dragon subduing fist’, followed by a set of ‘fu hu quan’ [crouching tiger fist].

    Guo Jing waited until he finished, then he shouted happily, “You are healed!”

    “Help me back up,” Hong Qigong said.

    Guo Jing wrapped his arm around his master’s waist and jumped up to the platform. His delight was unspeakable, he mumbled repeatedly, “Very good! Very good!”

    Hong Qigong sighed and said, “Not so good, this martial art is only good to behold, it’s actually useless.” Guo Jing did not understand, Hong Qigong explained, “After suffering an injury, all I did was resting, trying to recuperate. It never occurred to me that my martial art is of the external type; the more I move the better. It’s too bad I realized it way too late; now although my life will be spared, but my martial art will be very difficult to be restored.”

    Guo Jing wanted to utter some words of comfort, but he did not know what to say; so after a while he simply said, “I’ll go down and chop some more trees.”

    “Jing’er,” Hong Qigong suddenly said, “I think I have an idea to intimidate the Old Poison. See if you agree with me.” And then he explained his idea. Guo Jing was delighted, “Splendid! Splendid!” he exclaimed; and immediately jumped down the tree to make preparations.

    Early in the morning the next day, Ouyang Feng came under the tree. He counted the lumber Guo Jing chopped down and found only ninety of them. He coldly laughed and shouted, “Little bastard [the same ‘za zhong’ as in Ode to Gallantry]! Quickly roll down here! Where are the other ten?”

    Huang Rong had spent the entire night by Ouyang Ke’s side, tending his injury. Listening to his pitiful groaning she felt sorry for him. That morning Ouyang Feng left the cave, she followed behind. Hearing his loud shouts she was worried for Guo Jing.

    Ouyang Feng waited for a moment, but nothing was heard from the tree above, except some gust of winds coming out from the distant hill. It sounded like somebody was practicing martial art. Hastily he followed the source of the sound. When he turned on the hillside, what he saw surprised him. Hong Qigong was sparring with Guo Jing; palms and kicks flew toward each other, they were engaged in a tight fight.

    Huang Rong saw her master not only was able to walk unaided, but it looked like his skill was restored as well; she was pleasantly surprised. She heard him shouted, “Jing’er, careful with this next stance!” and he launched a palm strike.

    Guo Jing raised his palm to parry, but before their palms met his body flew backward and ‘bang!’ he hit a pine tree. That tree was not too big, but it was about the mouth of a bowl in diameter; ‘crack!’ it snapped by the strength of Hong Qigong’s push and fell to the ground.

    This strike was nothing but ordinary, but it was enough to stun Ouyang Feng. Huang Rong praised, “Shifu, that was a great ‘pi kong zhang’ [hacking empty air palm technique]!”

    “Jing’er, guard your body well, don’t let my palm strength injure you!” Hong Qigong called out.

    “Disciple understands,” Guo Jing replied. He was just closing his mouth when Hong Qigong’s palm arrived. ‘Crack!’ again Guo Jing was sent flying and bumping into a tree. Strike after strike came one after another; in a short period of time Hong Qigong had used the ‘pi kong zhang’ to send Guo Jing flying and snapping ten big trees down.

    “We have ten trees already!” Huang Rong called out.

    Guo Jing was gasping for breath. “Disciple is exhausted,” he said.

    Hong Qigong held his palm and laughed, “This Nine Yin Manual is really wonderful. My injury was that heavy; I couldn’t even exert any strength, yet I achieve success just by one morning exercise.”

    Ouyang Feng was suspicious; he stooped down to examine the broken tree trunks, but what he saw stunned him even more. Apart from the core of the trunk, the outer ring was exceptionally smooth, even smoother than it would be if the trunk was sawed. He thought, “Could it be that the martial art in the Manual is this marvelous? It looks like the Old Beggar’s martial art has been completely restored. How can I fight them if the three of them gang up against me? It’s been this far, I’d better start training myself on the martial art from that manual.” He cast a glance toward those three and flew back to the cave in a hurry. Immediately he fetch the book Guo Jing wrote, unwrapped layer upon layer of oil paper bundle and straightaway buried his head in the book, diligently studying the Manual.

    Hong Qigong and Guo Jing waited until they could not see Ouyang Feng’s shadow anymore before both of them burst out in laughter. Huang Rong was delighted, “Shifu, this Manual is truly wonderful,” she said.

    Hong Qigong laughed without giving her any response. Guo Jing rushed to her and said, “Rong’er, we were only pretending.”

    Then he told her everything they had thought and done. It turned out that Guo Jing had used his dagger to cut around the trunks, leaving the center part intact. Actually Hong Qigong’s palm did not carry any strength at all; every time Guo Jing got hit, he used his own strength to fly backwards and bump into a tree, breaking it down. Ouyang Feng did not know that with the Vacant Fist energy, the dagger was capable of cutting deep into the bough; naturally he did not suspect that the cut was made by the dagger.

    Huang Rong was laughing hard, but upon hearing Guo Jing’s story she was silent for half a day with a deep frown on her face. Hong Qigong smiled and said, “The Old Beggar is once again capable of walking on my own feet, it was truly a blessing from Heaven. I don’t care if it was a true martial art or a fake one. Rong’er, you are afraid the Western Poison will see through this deception, aren’t you?” Huang Rong nodded. “The Old Poison has good eyesight,” Hong Qigong continued, “How can we fool him that easily? But life is full of uncertainties, right now it is useless to worry over nothing. Hear me now: Jing’er had recited the contents of the manual to me. There is a section which was called ‘yi jin duan gu pian’ [changing muscle forging bones] or something; I think it was very interesting. While we don’t have anything else to do, why don’t we practice it?”

    These words were said with gentleness and indifference, but Huang Rong was aware of the urgency of the situation. What their master had said was very reasonable; therefore, she said, “Very well, Shifu, please teach us.”

    Hong Qigong asked Guo Jing to recite the ‘yi jin duan gu pian’ twice, and then based on that he taught the two on how to practice it. He himself went out hunting or fishing, lighted the fire and cooked their meals. Several times Guo Jing and Huang Rong offered their help, but every time he shooed them away.

    Quickly seven days had passed; Guo and Huang had made some progress in term of their energy cultivation. Inside his cave Ouyang Feng was also painstakingly studying his Manual, putting all his effort in doing so. Toward the evening of the eighth day Hong Qigong smiled and said, “Rong’er, how was your Master’s roasted wild goat?”

    Huang Rong smiled but did not say anything, she simply shook her head. Hong Qigong laughed, “I can’t eat it myself. You two have finished the first part of your lesson; today you must rest your muscle and bones, otherwise your ‘qi’ will be obstructed and you will suffer injury. Alright, Rong’er, you prepare our meal tonight, Jing’er and I will go and build a raft.”

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong were astonished, “Building a raft?”

    “That’s right,” Hong Qigong said, “Do you want to accompany the Old Poison on this desolate island forever?”

    Guo and Huang were delighted, they both voiced their agreement, and start to work immediately.

    The hundred lumbers Guo Jing cut down the other day were piled neatly on the side. They cut the tree bark and wove them into ropes and tied the lumber together to make the raft. When Guo Jing used his strength to pull the rope, it snapped and broke. He thought the rope was not made strong enough. He tried pulling another rope, but as soon as he exerted a little strength, it also broke easily. Guo Jing was baffled, he stared blankly at the rope and did not know what to do.

    From the other side of the hill Huang Rong came shouting with a wild goat in her hands. When going out to hunt for the goat she carried some pebbles to shoot the goat with; who would have thought that with only several jumps she had already overtook the goat. She turned around and grabbed the wild goat. Her body movement was so swift that she surprised even herself.

    Hong Qigong smiled, “So the Nine Yin Manual is truly a wonderful manual; no wonder countless heroes and warriors were willing to risk their lives for it.”

    Huang Rong was delighted, “Shifu, do you think we can beat the Old Poison now?” she asked.

    Hong Qigong shook his head, “Not yet, it is still far from that,” he replied, “You have to train for another eight to ten years. His Toad Stance is not a small matter; no martial art can break it except Wang Chongyang’s Solitary Yang Finger”

    Huang Rong pouted and said, “Then even if we train for another eight to ten years we may still won’t be able to defeat him.”

    “That’s hard to say,” Hong Qigong concurred, “Perhaps the martial art in that book is fiercer than I thought.”

    “Rong’er, please be patient,” Guo Jing said, “There is nothing wrong with learning a new skill.”

    A few more days passed, Guo Jing and Huang Rong had finished the second part of the Changing Muscle Forging Bones. The raft was also ready. The three of them wove a sail from tree barks; they also prepared some fresh water and food on the raft. All along Ouyang Feng was indifferent to what they were doing; he simply watched their activities with a cold look.

    One evening everything was ready, they planned on sailing the next day. Just before bed that night Huang Rong asked, “Do we have to say goodbye to them?”

    “Not only that, we must make a ten year agreement with them,” Guo Jing answered, “They have bullied us so bad, how can we forget it?”

    Huang Rong clapped her hands, “Absolutely! I pray to the Heaven to bless those two thieves that they can go back to the mainland, and also to give the Old Poison ten more years of life. Otherwise, to restore Shifu’s martial art quickly, so that in one or two years we can look for him; that would be even better.”

    The next day before the crack of dawn Hong Qigong awoke; indistinctly he heard some noise from the shore. He quickly called, “Jing’er, did you hear that noise from the beach?”

    Guo Jing got up immediately and jumped down the tree. Once he saw what happened on the beach he could not stop cursing; immediately he rushed forward to pursue. By this time Huang Rong was also awoke and ran after him, calling out, “Brother Jing, what’s the matter?”

    Guo Jing shouted from a distant, “Those two wicked thieves stole our raft.” Hearing this Huang Rong was shocked.

    By the time they got to the beach Ouyang Feng had already carried his nephew on the raft, raised the sail and had already several ‘zhang’s away from land. Guo Jing was furious, he was about to jump into the ocean to pursue, but Huang Rong pulled his sleeve and said, “They are already too far.”

    Ouyang Feng laughed a big laugh, “Many thanks for the raft!” he shouted.

    Guo Jing stomped his feet in rage, furiously he kicked a red sandalwood tree nearby. Suddenly Huang Rong got an idea, “I got it!” she called out. She took a big rock then placed it on the tree branch. She wanted to use the tree as a slingshot. “Pull this tree,” she said, “We will hurl the rock out.”

    Guo Jing was delighted. He braced his legs on the tree root and pulled the trunk backward with all his might. Sandalwood tree was strong but pliable; it bent almost completely down but did not break. Guo Jing let his hands go and with a whooshing sound the big rock flew to the sea and fell by the raft’s side, creating a ‘zhang’ high big splash.

    “Pity!” Huang Rong called out. She took another rock, aimed carefully and let go. This time the rock hit the raft right on, but the raft construction was too good, it did not break. Two people launched three more rocks, but all of them fell into the water.

    Seeing all their rocks missed their target, Huang Rong got a crazy idea. “Quick, use me as the cannonball!” she shouted. Guo Jing was startled, unclear of what she meant. Huang Rong explained, “Hurl me into the sea, I’ll deal with them.”

    Guo Jing knew her water skill was excellent, her lightness kungfu was excellent too; he saw no danger in complying with her request. He drew his dagger out and put it in her hand. “Be careful,” he said. He pulled the tree one more time. Huang Rong sat steadily on the branch and called out, “Fire away!”

    Guo Jing released his grip and Huang Rong’s body flew to the sky. She somersaulted twice in the air and plunged into the water several ‘zhang’s away from the raft. It was a beautiful scene to behold. Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew were dazzled; they did not know what she was going to do.

    Huang Rong went deep into the water. She did not emerge from the water, but swam underwater toward the raft instead. Once she saw a black shadow overhead she knew she had arrived at the bottom of the raft. Ouyang Feng randomly hit the water with the oar, but he could not hit her at all.

    Huang Rong held up her dagger, ready to sever the rope tying up the wooden raft; but suddenly she came up with a bright idea. She reduced the strength of her hand only cutting lightly on the ropes, leaving a third part intact; so that the raft would not be disintegrated until the rough waves of the open sea hit it. She turned around and dove away, emerged to the surface about dozen of ‘zhang’s away; she gasped for breath, pretending she could not catch the raft. Ouyang Feng laughed wildly and hoisted the sail. Not too long afterwards the raft had traveled far away.

    While waiting for her to arrive at the beach Hong Qigong and Guo Jing were cursing incessantly; but they saw Huang Rong’s smug expression and were puzzled. After hearing what happened they were delighted to no end. “Even though we are sending these two wicked men to the bottom of the ocean, we will have to start work from the beginning again,” Huang Rong said.

    Three people ate their meals with high spirit then they cut some lumbers again and built another raft. Several days later they were ready, and when the southeast wind blew, they hoisted the tree bark sail, left the island heading to the west. Huang Rong gazed her eyes toward the island, which was getting smaller and smaller, she sighed and said, “Our lives were almost gone on that island; but leaving it today, my heart is filled with sadness.”

    “We can always revisit the island in the future,” Guo Jing said.

    Huang Rong clapped her hands, “Good! We must come back. When that time comes, you can’t go back on your words. But first, let us give this small island a good name. Shifu, what do you think?”

    “You crushed that little bastard’s legs with a big rock on that island,” Hong Qigong said, “Let us call it ‘ya gui dao’ [crushing ghost island]. What do you say?”

    Huang Rong shook her head. “That is not very elegant,” she said.

    “If you want elegance, why did you ask the Old Beggar in the first place?” Hong Qigong said, “If you ask me, the Old Poison ate my urine on the island, I’ll say we call it ‘chi sui dao’ [eat urine island].”

    Huang Rong smiled while waving her hand; she leaned her head sideways to think. She saw a cluster of red clouds on the horizon, like bright luster of gems glamorously hovering over the island. “Let’s call it ‘ming xia dao’ [bright red cloud island]!” she called out.

    “Not good, not good!” Hong Qigong countered, “That was too elegant.”

    Guo Jing listened to master and disciple arguing, he smiled and did not say anything. He did not care whether the island had an elegant name or a vulgar name; but deep down in his heart he thought ‘ya gui’ or ‘chi sui’ were more interesting than ‘ming xia’.

    Carried by the blowing wind they sailed for two days, the wind did not change its course. Toward the evening of the third day Hong Qigong and Huang Rong were asleep while Guo Jing was in charge of the rudder for the night. Amidst the ocean breeze and rolling waves suddenly he heard somebody shout, “Help! Help!” twice. The voice sounded like a clashing cymbals, it could be heard clearly amidst the screaming wind and waves.

    Hong Qigong sat up and said in a low voice, “That’s the Old Poison.” They heard the shout one more time. Huang Rong grabbed Hong Qigong’s arm, “It’s a ghost, it’s a ghost!” she said with a trembling voice.

    It was the end of the sixth month, the night was dark and moonless; there were only several stars scattered sparsely on the dark night. The sea was pitch-black; a scream in the middle of the night would make anybody terrified to the bone.

    “Is that the Old Poison?” Hong Qigong called out. His internal energy was lost, so his voice did not travel too far. Guo Jing gathered the ‘qi’ on his ‘dan tian’ and called out, “Is that Uncle Ouyang?”

    From a distant they heard Ouyang Feng answered, “It is me, Ouyang Feng. Help!”

    Huang Rong was still terrified, “It doesn’t matter whether it is a man or a ghost, let us just leave, quick!”

    “Help him,” Hong Qigong suddenly said.

    “No, no!” Huang Rong quickly answered, “I am scared.”

    “It’s not a ghost,” Hong Qigong said.

    “Even if it is a man we still don’t have to help,” Huang Rong said.

    “Helping others in distress is one of our Beggar Clan’s rules,” Hong Qigong said, “You and I are two generations of the Clan Leader; we can’t abandon the honorable customs handed down from the previous generations’ leaders.”

    “The Beggar Clan’s custom is not right,” Huang Rong countered, “Clearly Ouyang Feng is a scoundrel, when he becomes a ghost, he will still be a scoundrel ghost. It doesn’t matter if it is a man or a ghost, we should not help.”

    “It is the Clan’s regulation, we can’t change it,” Hong Qigong said.

    In her heart Huang Rong was very angry. They heard Ouyang Feng’s voice in the distant again, “Qi Xiong [Brother Qi], are you really ‘jian si bu jiu’ [seeing death, do not help]?”

    Huang Rong said, “I got it! Brother Jing, wait until you can see Ouyang Feng clearly, then strike him dead with your stick. You are not a Beggar Clan’s member, you don’t have to observe this unreasonable rule.”

    Hong Qigong was angry, “Taking advantage of somebody else’s precarious condition; is that the righteous way of the warrior?”

    Huang Rong did not have any choice, helplessly she watched Guo Jing steer the raft toward the voice. In the deep dark of the night they vaguely saw two men on the water rocked by the wave; next to their heads was a lumber. It looked like after their raft broke Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew had clung onto that piece of lumber until now.

    “Let him make an oath never to harm anybody else, then we will rescue him,” Huang Rong said.

    Hong Qigong sighed, “You don’t know the Old Poison’s character; he would rather die than surrender. He won’t make this kind of promise. Jing’er, rescue them.”

    Guo Jing bent down and grabbed Ouyang Ke’s collar, lifting him up to the raft. Hong Qigong was eager to help and he forgot his martial art was gone. He held out his hand and Ouyang Feng took it. He wanted to borrow the strength and leap to the raft. But because of his pull Hong Qigong unexpectedly fell into the sea with a splash. Guo Jing and Huang Rong were shocked; they jumped into the sea immediately and saved Hong Qigong. Huang Rong angrily scolded Ouyang Feng, “My Shifu has a good heart rescuing you; how could you drag him into the sea instead?”

    Ouyang Feng knew Hong Qigong had lost his martial art; otherwise, how could this simple pull make a martial art expert fall into the sea? But he had been immersed in the water for several days, he was extremely weary. He did not dare to look up, he lowered his head and said, “I … I did not mean to. Qi Xiong, please don’t blame your brother.”

    Hong Qigong laughed heartily, “Well said, well said. Only the Old Beggar’s real skill is known to you now,” he said.

    “Good Miss,” Ouyang Feng said, “Could you spare something for us to eat? We have been hungry for several days.”

    Huang Rong replied, “We have food and water on this raft enough only for three people. I can give you some, but then what do we eat?”

    “Very well,” Ouyang Feng said, “Please give a little bit of food to my nephew then, his legs are heavily injured, he won’t survive without food.”

    “In that case let’s make a deal,” Huang Rong said, “Your viper hurt my Shifu; he has not recovered until now. Give him the antidote.”

    Ouyang Feng groped his pocket and produced two vials, handed them over to her and said, “Miss, please take a look; the vials were drowned in the water, the antidote has been washed out clean!”

    Huang Rong took the vials, she shook them and sniffed them; the vials were really filled with seawater. “In this case, tell us prescription of the antidote, as soon as we are ashore we can brew some.”

    “If I want to swindle you, I can always give you any prescription, you won’t know if it is genuine or fake; but how can Ouyang Feng be this kind of person?” Ouyang Feng said, “Let me tell you the truth: my vipers are the most poisonous in the world, nothing can match its lethality; if one is bitten, although one won’t immediately die due to one’s excellence in martial art, within eight times eight, sixty-four days half of one’s body will be paralyzed and one will be invalid for the rest of one’s life. I have no problem giving you the antidote prescription, but not only the ingredients are hard to find, it also requires processing of three successive winters and summers. By the time the antidote is ready, I am afraid it would be much too late. I have told you the truth, if you still want to take my life it is entirely up to you.”

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing listened to him, they secretly admired him; they thought, “Although this man is evil and cruel, he did not lost his dignity as a grand master of his martial art school in a matter of life and death.”

    “Rong’er,” Hong Qigong also said, “He is telling the truth. A man’s life has been decided by fate; the Old Beggar has nothing to be worried about. You give them something to eat.”

    Huang Rong’s heart was secretly crushed, she knew her master would not recover from his injury. Silently she took a roasted wild goat leg and tossed it toward Ouyang Feng. Ouyang Feng tore some meat for his nephew first before he took a big bite and chewed the meat.

    Huang Rong coldly said, “Uncle Ouyang, you have injured my master, in the second Sword Meet of Mount Hua you will be the winner among the heroes. Let me congratulate you first.”

    “That is not necessarily true,” Ouyang Feng replied, “There is at least one person in this whole wide world who can heal Qi Xiong’s injury.”

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong jumped in shock so that the raft was leaning to one side. They both asked in unison, “Is that true?”

    While biting the mutton leg Ouyang Feng said, “Only it is very difficult to ask this person to help. Your Shifu also knows about it.”

    Two people’s eyes turned to their master. Hong Qigong smiled, “You know it is difficult, why did you say it?”

    Huang Rong pulled her master’s sleeve, asking for explanation, “Shifu, tell us. Even if it is difficult, we still have to try. I will ask my father to help, surely he’ll find a way.” Ouyang Feng softly snorted. “What are you snorting about?” Huang Rong said. Ouyang Feng did not answer.

    Hong Qigong said, “He was laughing at you to think your father is all powerful. But that person is really not a small matter, how could your father make that person help?”

    Huang Rong was astonished, “That person! Who is that person?”

    Hong Qigong continued, “Let’s not talk about that person’s high level of martial art skill, even if he is so weak that he can’t even kill a chicken, the Old Beggar will never harm others to benefit my own self.”

    Huang Rong hesitantly said, “High level of martial art skill? Ah! I know. He is the Southern Emperor, Emperor Duan. Shifu, let’s ask him to heal your injury, how does that harm others to benefit yourself?”

    “Go sleep! Don’t ask anymore questions. I prohibit you from bringing this matter up anymore. Understand?” Hong Qigong said. Huang Rong did not dare to say anything; she was afraid Ouyang Feng might steal their food, so she leaned against the food bucket and sleep.

    Waking early the next morning Huang Rong looked at Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew, she jumped in fright, because the complexions of those two were very pale, their whole bodies swollen from being under seawater these past several days.

    The raft was sailing until about ninth hour [3-5pm] when they saw a dark line in the distant. It appeared to be land. Guo Jing was the first to jump up and shout in delight. A time needed to eat a bowl of rice later they could see clearer, it was indeed land. The sea was calm, the sun was shining brightly, scorching those people, making them miserable. Ouyang Feng suddenly stood up; he swayed his body a little bit and stretched out his hands, grabbing both Guo Jing and Huang Rong. With the tip of his foot he also kicked and sealed Hong Qigong’s acupoint.

    Guo and Huang were taken up by surprise, their vital acupoints were sealed; immediately half of their bodies were numb. Startled they asked, “What are you doing?” Ouyang Feng grinned evilly, but did not say anything.

    Hong Qigong sighed, “The Old Poison is very conceited; he is not willing to accept other’s mercy. We have saved his life; if he did not kill his saviors, how can his heart be at peace? Ay, I can only blame my own benevolence of heart, rescuing others in the middle of the night, forgetting this fact, that now I endanger the lives of these two weary kids.”

    “You knew it very well,” Ouyang Feng said, “Also the Nine Yin Manual is in my hand, if I leave a copy in this boy surnamed Guo’s mind, I will only invite infinite misfortune for myself.”

    Hearing him mentioning the Nine Yin Manual Hong Qigong’s heart was stirred; with a loud voice he recited, “Nu er qi liu, ha gua er, ning xie qi qia, ping dao er …”

    Ouyang Feng was startled; he recognized the sentence to be the one among hundreds of difficult sentences he did not know the meaning of. Listening to Hong Qigong recited it, he thought Hong Qigong understood the meaning, he thought, “There are many strange sentences in the manual, there must be a key to unlock its secret. If I kill these three, I am afraid there is nobody else in this world who understands it; then my taking possession of the manual will be in vain.” Therefore, he asked, “What does it mean?”

    Hong Qigong replied, “Hun hua cha cha, xue gen xu bat u, mi er mi er …” Even though he had listened to Guo Jing reciting the strange sentences of the manual, how could he memorize everything? He was just talking nonsense, but his face showed a deep veneration.

    Ouyang Feng actually thought the sentences carried a very profound meaning, he focused his attention and thought deeply. Hong Qigong shouted, “Jing’er, now!”

    Guo Jing pulled back his left hand, sent out his right palm while his left leg flew forward simultaneously. Actually when Ouyang Feng sent out his kick and launched a surprise attack, his vital acupoint was grabbed and he was unable to move, but Hong Qigong had talked nonsense and confused Ouyang Feng, causing him to lose his concentration and thus slightly loosen his grip. Guo Jing grabbed this opportunity to free himself and launched a counterattack. Guo Jing had trained the Changing Muscle Forging Bones to the second stage, although he did not learn any new fist of kick techniques, his original strength was actually increased by at least 20%. This one pull, one palm and one kick were executed without any extraordinary move, but the force within his attack was unexpectedly very strong.

    Ouyang Feng was taken by surprise; besides, the raft was narrow, there was no space to withdraw; he was forced to raise his hand to fend off, but his grip on Huang Rong did not loosen up.

    Guo Jing’s fist and palm went out one after another, attacking the enemy like a violent storm. He was well aware that on this narrow raft if he ever let Ouyang Feng attack with his Toad Stance, then all three of them would be dead without any burial grounds. This flurry of attacks forced Ouyang Feng to withdraw half a step.

    Huang Rong leaned sideways slightly, baring her shoulder to bump Ouyang Feng’s body. Ouyang Feng was secretly amused, he thought, “This little girl wants to bump me, just how much skill does she think she has? Don’t blame me if I bump you clear to the ocean.” He had just finished his thought when Huang Rong’s shoulder arrived. Ouyang Feng did not evade nor tried to parry, he appeared not to pay any attention; but suddenly he felt pricking pain on his chest. Out of pain he realized immediately that she was wearing the Peach Blossom Island’s treasure, the ‘ruan wei jia’ [soft hedgehog armor]. By now he was already at the edge of the raft, so he could not go back even for half a step. Her armor was full of sharp needles, which he could not deal with. Hence, hastily his left hand let go of her vital acupoint and flung her to the side.

    Huang Rong did not have any space to set her foot on, she was going to fall into the water. Guo Jing reached behind his back and grabbed her, while his left hand was still attacking the enemy. Huang Rong drew out her dagger and rushed forward to attack.

    Ouyang Feng stood by the edge of the raft, the water kept splashing his legs; but no matter how hard Guo Jing and Huang Rong attacked, they were not able to force him to fall into the water.

    Hong Qigong and Ouyang Ke were unable to move, both of them helplessly watch the ferocious fight. Their hearts were thumping madly, watching the evenly matched fight, where the difference between life and death was just as narrow as a strand of hair’s width. They were both bitterly wishing they could help their side.

    Ouyang Feng’s martial art was actually far above Guo and Huang’s combined power, but he was immersed in the water for several days; almost half of his strength was gone. Although Huang Rong’s martial art was not too high she was wearing the soft hedgehog armor, plus her hand was holding a sharp dagger. These two offensive and defensive weapons were enough to give Ouyang Feng some headache. On top of that, Guo Jing’s 18-Dragon Subduing Palms, his 72 stances of Vacant Fist, Mutual Hands Combat Technique, as well as recently trained Changing Muscles Forging Bones from the Nine Yin Manual combined together had made him a formidable opponent. These three people were engaged in a close fight on the raft.

    After a while Ouyang Feng’s palm was getting stronger; Guo and Huang started to fall under his attack. Hong Qigong was very anxious watching this fierce battle. Amidst the dancing palm shadow Ouyang Feng’s left leg kicked out with a strong gust of wind. Huang Rong did not dare to parry and was forced to somersault and she fell into the water.

    Suddenly facing a strong enemy alone Guo Jing was feeling strained. Luckily after falling into the water on the left side of the raft, Huang Rong swam across the bottom of the raft and rebounded from the right side and swept her dagger toward Ouyang Feng’s chest. Now Ouyang Feng had to face enemies on both sides.

    While fighting courageously, Huang Rong secretly thought of plans to overcome this situation, “If this fight continues, our martial arts are still inferior to his, in the end we will fall under his hands. The only way to defeat him is under water.” As soon as this thought entered her mind, she swept her dagger out and cut the sail rope; the sail immediately fell down, the raft now carried by the waves, no longer moved forward. Huang Rong drew back two steps, wrapped the rope several times on Hong Qigong’s body, and then again several turns on a lumber from the raft, making two tight knots.

    As Huang Rong left the battle, Guo Jing was not able to withstand the enemy much longer. He managed to block three successive stances, but the fourth stance forced him to step backward. Ouyang Feng did not want to let him go, his palms continuously attacked. Guo Jing was forced to step backward again, with ‘yu yue yu yuan’ [fish jumping out of the abyss] he managed to block another stance, but for the next stance he was forced to move backward again that his left foot stepped on an empty air. In this critical time he did not getting nervous, his right foot immediately flew forward to block the enemy from attacking further. As a result, ‘spash!’ he also fell into the water.

    The raft was being rocked hard; Huang Rong took this opportunity to also leap onto the sea. Two people pushed and pulled the raft, trying to overturn it. They knew Ouyang Ke would be drowning to his death; also, in the water Ouyang Feng was not their match. Hong Qigong’s body was tied to the raft. These two people took a risk by dealing with the Western Poison first before trying to save their master.

    Ouyang Feng understood their intention very well; he raised his foot on Hong Qigong’s head and loudly shouted, “Two kids, listen to me! If you rock the raft one more time, I will kick immediately!”

    Huang Rong understood her first plan was foiled; she proceeded with her second plan: she took a deep breath and dove underneath the raft, cutting the ropes with her dagger. She knew they were not too far from the land; after drowning Ouyang Feng, uncle and nephew, she thought they could ride on lumbers and came ashore without too much problem.

    ‘Crack! Crack!’ the wooden raft was broken into two halves. Ouyang Ke was on the left half, while Ouyang Feng and Hong Qigong were on the right half. Inwardly Ouyang Feng was anxious; quickly he stretched his hand to grab his nephew; then he stooped looking into the water, ready to strike Huang Rong if she cut another rope.

    From under the water Huang Rong could see Ouyang Feng’s shadow clearly. Knowing his next attack would be very fierce, she did not dare to cut another rope. Both sides were in deadlock for a long time. Huang Rong swam several ‘zhang’s away and took another deep breath, then dove right back in, waiting for an opportunity to launch her attack.

    With concentrated attention both sides were waiting for an opportunity. For a moment the sea turned very calm. The sun was shining brightly over their heads. The ocean seemed so calm and peaceful; but on this half wooden raft, one above and one below, there was a very thick murderous intention.

    Huang Rong thought, “If this half raft is cut into two, the waves would certainly turn it over.” While Ouyang Feng thought, “As soon as she pokes her head out, I am going to slap the water. The vibration should be enough to scatter her brain out. Once this little girl is gone, the little thief surnamed Guo should not post any problem to me.” Two people waited without blinking their eyes, both were itchy to strike.

    Suddenly Ouyang Ke pointed to the left and called out, “A boat! A boat!”

    Hong Qigong and Guo Jing turned their heads and saw a big boat with a dragon ship head, its sail was fully raised, it approached riding the wind and breaking the waves. A moment later Ouyang Ke saw someone standing on the bow; he had a big stature and was wearing a scarlet kassaya, it looked like he was Monk Lingzi. As the boat got closer, he saw more clearly, and it was indeed Monk Lingzi. Hastily he told his uncle.

    Ouyang Feng concentrates his ‘qi’ on his ‘dan tian’ and loudly called out, “Friends, here, come quickly!”

    Under the water Huang Rong did not know what was happening; Guo Jing knew they were in more trouble; he went underwater and pulled Huang Rong’s arm, signaling her that more enemies were coming. Huang Rong was not very clear on his intention, but she was aware something was not right, so she signaled back to Guo Jing to block Ouyang Feng’s palm, while she would sever the rope.

    Guo Jing realized his own skill was inferior to the enemy by a long shot; now that he was underwater while the enemy was above the water, the difference was farther away. He knew blocking Ouyang Feng’s palm meant endangering his own life, but it was a critical time, he had no other alternative. Hence he exerted all his strength to his palms and suddenly jumped upward.

    “Ugh!” Ouyang Feng grunted, his palms struck to the water; while Guo Jing’s palms were coming up from below. Two forces collided on the surface of the sea, creating a big splash. The raft was lifted several feet upward, and ‘crack! crack!’ the half raft was broken into two parts; it looked like Huang Rong managed to cut the rope just in time.

    In the meantime the big boat was already dozens of ‘zhang’s away from the raft. After cutting the rope, immediately Huang Rong dove underwater. She was about to come up and stab Ouyang Feng when she saw Guo Jing was motionless, slowly sinking down. She was alarmed and quickly swam near and pulled his arm. She swam away for several ‘zhang’s before coming up to the surface. Guo Jing’s eyes were tightly shut, his face blue and his lips colorless; he was unconscious.

    The boat lowered a small rescue boat with several sailors rowing the oars; they took Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew, as well as Hong Qigong aboard. Huang Rong called three times, “Brother Jing!” but Guo Jing did not wake up. She thought although the boat is full of the enemies, but she had no other alternative; she held on to Guo Jing’s head and swam toward the small boat.

    The sailors pulled Guo Jing aboard and held out their hands to draw her, but Huang Rong’s left hand pressed on the boat’s edge and leaped up like a flying fish from the water to the boat, scaring the sailors.

    When his palms collided with Ouyang Feng’s, Guo Jing felt a tremendous force surging through his body and he passed out immediately. He awakened and felt he was leaning on Huang Rong’s bosom, and was aware that they were on a small boat. He circulated his breathing and found out that he was not internally injured; he raised his brows and smiled to Huang Rong.

    Huang Rong smiled back at him and her anxiety and fear were gone in an instant; at last she had an opportunity to see what kind of boat was coming to rescue them. But once she looked up, she was groaning inwardly; she saw on the bow of the big boat stood seven, eight men, tall and short. They were precisely the Wulin characters she met several months earlier at the Zhao Palace in Yanjing. The one short and stout with bright eyes was ‘qian shou ren tu’ [thousand-hand man slaughterer] Peng Lianhu, the one with a bald, shiny head was ‘gui men long wang’ [dragon king of Guimen (lit. ghost gate) Note to final editor: the earlier chapter has ‘Dragon King of Demonic Group’] Sha Tongtian, the one with three tumors on his head sticking out like horns was ‘san tou jiao’ [three-headed scaly dragon] Hou Tonghai, the one with ruddy face and white hair was ‘shen xian lao guai’ [ginseng immortal old freak] Liang Ziweng, the one wearing scarlet kassaya was the Tibetan monk ‘da shou yin’ [big hand print] Venerable Lingzhi. There were several others that she did not know. She thought, “Recently Brother Jing’s martial arts and mine have enjoyed a tremendous improvement. If we have to fight with Peng Lianhu and the others one to one, I might not win, but Brother Jing will definitely score victory. But there is the Old Poison standing nearby, plus these many people are gathered together. It will be very difficult for us to escape danger today.”

    The people on the big boat were surprised to hear Ouyang Feng’s shouts from the raft. Now they saw Guo Jing and the others, they were even more surprised. Ouyang Feng was holding his nephew; Guo Jing and Huang Rong carried Hong Qigong, five people in two groups jumped up one after another from the small rescue boat to the big boat.

    Soon a man was coming out the cabin to welcome them; he wore an embroidered colored robe. As soon as he saw Guo Jing, both men were stunned. That man wore a neat beard on his chin, he had a handsome face; it was none other than the Sixth Prince of the Great Jin, Wanyan Honglie.

    After escaping from the Liu family ancestral hall in Baoying, Wanyan Honglie was afraid Guo Jing might pursue him to the north, hence he did not dare to go home. He came across Peng Lianhu, Sha Tongtian and the others and decided to go down south to steal the book left behind by Yue Wumu (the Wumu Legacy). At that time the Mongolian army had dispatched a large scale military expedition against the Jins; the capital, Yanjing, had been besieged for several months, the sixteen prefectures surrounding it had fallen under Mongolian invasion. As the days past, the situation of the Jin was getting more and more critical. Wanyan Honglie was very worried about the fate of his country; he saw with his own eyes that the Mongolians were very swift and fierce. Although the Jin army was ten times in terms of number, each time they met, the Jins were routed left and right. Wanyan Honglie painstakingly pondered any idea to rebuild his country’s lofty aspirations, and came to the conclusion that what he needed right at that time was the Wumu Legacy. He thought that as long as this book on military strategy was in his possession, he would be able to build a divine and invincible army; just like Yue Fei’s own army. Even though Mongolian army was strong, they would flee just at the sight of his army.

    Presently he led this expedition going south, trying to track the whereabouts of the Legacy; only he feared the Southern Song would uncover his intention and be on guard against the intruders. Therefore, he decided to go by the sea; hoping nobody would know his itinerary and he could land at the Zhejiang coast undetected and quietly enter Lin’an to steal the book.

    Actually before departing he was looking for Ouyang Ke; he knew he was a martial art expert and would become a highly useful companion, but after a long time did not have any news about him, he decided to leave without waiting for this man. This time suddenly they met quite by accident on the sea, not only Ouyang Ke, but also Guo Jing at his side, he could not help but secretly feeling anxious; he was afraid his big secret mission had been compromised.

    Seeing the enemy who killed his father, Guo Jing was seething with anger; he did not care if he was being surrounded by powerful enemies, he looked at Wanyan Honglie with blazing gaze.

    Just then someone else was coming out of the cabin, but only half step through the door he immediately shrunk back in. Huang Rong’s sharp eyes saw that man looked like Yang Kang.

    In the meantime Ouyang Ke introduced his uncle to the prince, “Uncle, this is the Sixth Prince of the Great Jin who loves people of high skill.” Ouyang Feng cupped his fists in front of his chest.

    Wanyan Honglie did not know that Ouyang Feng had a very big name in the martial art realms; he saw Ouyang Feng showed an arrogant expression, but for Ouyang Ke’s sake he returned the respect.

    As Peng Lianhu, Sha Tongtian and the others heard his name, they bowed and sang their praises, “For a long time Mr. Ouyang is the Mount Tai and the Big Dipper [meaning ‘ultimate’] of the Wulin world; today we are fortunate to finally meet you.” Ouyang Feng slightly bowed, returning their respect half-heartedly.

    The ‘da shou yin’ Venerable Lingzhi came from Tibet, he did not know the Western Poison’s reputation; he merely put his palms together without saying anything.

    Wanyan Honglie knew that Sha Tongtian and the others were conceited men, they always looked down towards others; but he noticed they were very respectful toward Ouyang Feng almost to the point of fear and heaped him with flattering words, and their faces looked very unusual. Wanyan Honglie realized that this swollen man with disheveled hair and bare feet was not an ordinary person; immediately he treated Ouyang Feng with respect and uttered some polite words.

    Among these people, Liang Ziweng was the only one with different feeling. Guo Jing had drunk the valuable blood of his precious viper; now that they saw each other, how could he not feel angry? But he noticed that the person he was most afraid of, Hong Qigong, was with Guo Jing. So even though he was very angry, he managed to keep a smiling face. He went forward and bowed respectfully, “The little Liang Ziweng greets Clan Leader Hong, wishing you, Senior well.”

    His speech had startled everybody else; they have heard the stellar reputation of the Western Poison and the Northern Beggar for a long time, but they have never met them in person. Who would have expected that two of the biggest names of the martial art world actually made their appearance at the same time? They were about to rush forward and pay their respects when Hong Qigong laughed big and said, “The Old Beggar is having a very bad luck, a vicious dog has bitten me half dead and half alive, what are you paying respect for? It’s better for you to bring me something to eat.”

    Everybody was startled, they thought, “This Hong Qigong only laying down motionless, turned out he is severely injured. We don’t have anything to fear, then.” They looked at Ouyang Feng, wanted to see what he was going to do.

    Early on Ouyang Feng had cooked up a plan on how to get rid of these three people: Hong Qigong must be eliminated first to avoid his own lowly behavior to be publicly known; next, he would force Guo Jing to explain the difficult sentences from the manual, and then he would execute him. As for Huang Rong, although his nephew loved her, if he left her alive, she would bring enormous disaster in the future. However, if he personally killed her, Huang Yaoshi would not let him have a single moment of peace. Therefore, he wanted to borrow someone else’s hand to have her killed thus shifting the blame from his own shoulders. Presently these three were aboard the boat, thus he was not afraid they would fly to the sky to escape. He stepped forward and said to Wanyan Honglie, “These three people are very crafty; they are also highly skilled in martial arts. I beseech the Prince to assign some people to guard them well.”

    Liang Ziweng was very pleased; he leaned to the left and squeezed through Sha Tongtian to grab Guo Jing’s hand. Guo Jing turned his wrist over and slapped Liang Ziweng’s shoulder. It was the ‘seeing dragon in the field’; a swift and heavy stance; even though Liang Ziweng’s martial art skill was high, unexpectedly he was forced to stagger back two steps.

    Peng Lianhu and Liang Ziweng were continually in competition to win favor in the presence of Wanyan Honglie. They always wanted to outdo the other; their faces were different from their hearts. Seeing Liang Ziweng stumble, Peng Lianhu was secretly very pleased. He stepped forward to surround Hong Qigong and the others; but he waited for Liang Ziweng to fall flat before making any action.

    When Liang Ziweng squeezed through Sha Tongtian’s side to pull Guo Jing away; he was prepared against Guo Jing’s single stance of the Proud Dragon Repents; he knew he would not be able to block it head on, hence the sideways attack. Who would have thought that in less than a month the Proud Dragon Repents was not the only one Guo Jing knew? Seeing Guo Jing did not pursue, he jumped up and attacked with his fists, launching his lifelong trained martial art, the ‘liao dong ye hu quan fa’ [wild fox from Liaodong fist technique]; determined to take Guo Jing’s life, both for embarrassing him just now, also for killing his precious snake in the past.

    One time Liang Ziweng went to pick ginseng on Mount Changbai [located in Jilin province]; he saw a hound was fighting with a wild fox on the snow. The fox was very cunning, it leaped to the east and hopped to the west, very quick and agile. Although the hound’s claws and teeth were sharp, after battling for a long time it had not scored victory yet. Liang Ziweng noticed the ability of the fox to jump very high; he got a sudden inspiration. He abandoned his intention to pick ginseng and decided to stay inside a thatched hut on the deep snowy mountain, painstakingly pondering martial art moves for several months. As a result, the ‘wild fox fist technique’ was born.

    The technique incorporates four fundamental principles, namely ‘ling’ [alert/quick], ‘shan’ [dodge], ‘pu’ [pounce], and ‘die’ [tumble]. This technique had come in handy in dealing with powerful enemies of his. First of all, he did not give the enemy any opportunity to catch him as he was very quick to retreat, as he was able to hasten to the left and escape to the right; and then struck back as opportunity arose.

    This time he did not dare to underestimate his opponent anymore and launched this fist technique right away. His attacks were lightning fast as he threw everything he got on Guo Jing. The fist technique was weird, Guo Jing had never seen anything like it before. He thought, “In Rong’er’s ‘luo ying shen jian zhang’ [falling leaves divine sword palm technique] there are many trick moves; out of five attacks only one is real; or perhaps one out of eight. But seems like this old man’s fists are all empty strikes. I wonder what kind of strange technique is this?” However, he still remembered Hong Qigong’s advice that regardless of the technique his opponent was using, all he needed to do was to keep fighting using the 18-Dragon Subduing Palms.

    After watching these two men fighting for a while, everybody started to silently shake their heads, thinking, “The Old Freak Liang can be considered a grand master of martial art; how come in fighting this new born kid he keeps moving around and does not dare to attack head on?”

    Several moves later Guo Jing’s palm strength started to push him back step by step; looked like very soon he would fall into the ocean. Realizing his ‘wild fox fist’ would not help him scoring the victory, Liang Ziweng was thinking of using a different set of fist technique; but it was too late. Guo Jing’s palms had enveloped him completely, did not give him any chance to counterattack.

    Amidst the strong gusts of wind Hong Qigong’s voice was heard, “Attack the lower part!”

    Guo Jing immediately launched the stance ‘zhan long zai ye’ [exhausted battling dragon] and his left arm swept away. Liang Ziweng cried out in alarm and tumbled down over the edge of the boat.

    Everybody was stunned and rushed forward to the edge to watch, only to hear somebody on the sea laugh a long laugh. Suddenly Liang Ziweng’s body flew back up and with a loud grunt he fell straight back to the deck, unconscious.

    What had just happened confounded everybody on board. Could it be that the sea water bounced his body back up? Everybody crowded by the edge of the boat, looking down to the sea below, only to see an old man with white beard and white hair rushing to the east and dashing to the west on the surface of the sea with an unusual speed. They strained their eyes to see more clearly; turned out that man was riding on the back of a huge shark, with a speed not inferior to those riding on horseback galloping on dry land.

    Guo Jing was pleasantly surprised, with a loud voice he shouted, “Big Brother Zhou, I am here!” That shark rider was indeed the Old Urchin Zhou Botong.

    Zhou Botong heard Guo Jing’s shout; he cheered in delight and hit the shark head near its right eye with his fist; the shark turned left immediately, coming near by the boat’s side.

    “Is that Brother Guo?” Zhou Botong called out, “How are you? There is a whale ahead. I have been chasing it for a whole day and night. I want to continue chasing it. See you later!”

    “Big Brother! Come here, quick!” Guo Jing anxiously called, “There are so many bad people in here want to bully your little brother!”

    Zhou Botong was angry, “Is that so?” His right hand held on something inside the shark’s mouth and pulled, while his left hand dangled on the ledge of the big boat. Both man and shark suddenly flew up and above everybody’s head, and landed on the deck. He roared, “Who dares to bully my little brother?”

    Every single one of the people aboard had an extensive knowledge of Jianghu matters, but this white bearded old man who suddenly appeared in a most bizarre way caused everybody to be stupefied. Even Hong Qigong and Ouyang Feng were dumbstruck.

    Zhou Botong saw Huang Rong; he felt strange. “How come you are also here?” he asked.

    Huang Rong smiled, “Why not?” she replied, “I figured out you will come back today, that’s why I am waiting for you here. Quickly teach me how to ride a shark.”

    Zhou Botong laughed, “Very well, I’ll teach you.”

    Huang Rong replied, “But first you have to help us get rid of these bad people, and then you can teach me.”

    Zhou Botong swept his gaze across the people on the deck and he said to Ouyang Feng, “I knew other people won’t dare to act so savagely, turned out it is really you.”

    Ouyang Feng coldly replied, “A man who did not keep his word, even if he is alive in this world, he will be the laughingstock of all the warriors of the world.”

    “Totally correct,” Zhou Botong said, “A man of integrity certainly won’t cause trouble; but whoever speaks and whoever farts has to be distinguished clearly; otherwise other people who hear it might not know if the sound comes out from above or from below. I am indeed looking for you to settle an old score, so it’s nothing better than to see you here. Old Beggar, you are our witness; stand up and give us your judgment.”

    Hong Qigong was lying on the deck, he smiled slightly. Huang Rong said, “The Old Poison was almost dead nine times, and my Shifu was kind enough to rescue him every single time; but who would have thought that he has a heart of a wolf and the lungs of a dog, repaying kindness with evil, he injured my Shifu and sealed his acupoints.”

    Actually, overall Hong Qigong only saved Ouyang Feng’s life three times, but Huang Rong intentionally exaggerated that number three times. Ouyang Feng knew this, but he did not want to argue; he only looked at her with blazing eyes.

    Zhou Botong stooped down trying to unseal Hong Qigong’s ‘qu xhi’ [song reservoir] and ‘yong quan’ [bubbling spring] acupoints by rubbing them. “Old Urchin, it’s useless,” Hong Qigong said.

    Turned out the acupoint sealing method Ouyang Feng used was somewhat unusual, other than himself and Huang Yaoshi, there was nobody else in this whole wide world who would be able to unseal it. Ouyang Feng was so smug, “Old Urchin, unseal his acupoints if you have the ability,” he challenged.

    Even though Huang Rong could not unseal them, but she was familiar with the sealing method; she made a flat lip and said, “What’s so strange about that? Without too much effort my father can unseal this ‘tou gu da xue fa’ [penetrating bone acupoint sealing technique].”

    Hearing her mentioning the correct name of his acupoint sealing technique, Ouyang Feng was amazed that this little girl knowledge was as deep as a bottomless abyss, even encompassing acupoint sealing techniques. However, he did not pay any attention to her; turning to Zhou Botong he asked, “You have lost our bet; why are you talking like breaking a smelly wind?”

    Zhou Botong covered up his nose and called out, “Break wind? Smell bad, smell bad! But let me ask you this: what did we bet on?”

    “Everybody here, except this surnamed Guo kid and this little girl, is a well-known warrior. I’ll tell what had happened and ask these gentlemen to be our judge,” Ouyang Feng replied.

    “Well said, well said,” Peng Lianhu said, “Mr. Ouyang, please tell us.”

    “This gentleman here is the Quan Zhen Sect’s Zhou Botong, Master Zhou, known in the Jianghu world as the Old Urchin. In term of seniority he held a very high position, even Qiu Chuji, Wang Chuyi, and the other Quan Zhen Seven Masters are his martial nephews.

    For the last dozen of years or so, Zhou Botong was detained on the Peach Blossom Island, before then his martial art skill was still obscure; except for some mischievous troubles, he had never accomplished anything worth mentioning, therefore, his reputation did not spread loud and wide in the Jianghu world. However, everybody had seen that he was riding a shark, a feat not easily accomplished by any of them. Turned out he was the martial uncle of the Quan Zhen Seven Masters, no wonder he was this good. As a result everybody talked among themselves in low voice.

    Peng Lianhu remembered their appointment on the eighth month’s mid-autumn festival in Jiaxing; if the Quan Zhen Seven Masters had this strange man as their helper, they would not be easy to deal with. He could not help but feeling anxious.

    Ouyang Feng continued, “This Zhou Xiong was stranded on the sea among a flock of sharks, and I rescued him out. I said this flock of sharks was nothing; without to much effort I can kill every single one of them. Zhou Xiong did not believe me, thus the two of us made a bet. Zhou Xiong, wasn’t what I said true?”

    Zhou Botong nodded his head repeatedly, “It was absolutely true. Betting on what, you need to explain to everybody,” he said.

    “Exactly!” Ouyang Feng said, “I said that if I lost, I will do whatever you want me to do. If I am not willing to do it, then I must jump into the sea to become fish food. You have said the same thing, is that correct?”

    Zhou Botong nodded his head again, “Right, right, that was absolutely correct; and then what happened?” he asked.

    “What do you mean ‘what happened’? You have lost!” Ouyang Feng said.

    This time Zhou Botong shook his head repeatedly, “Not true, not true!” he said, “It was you who have lost, not me.”

    Ouyang Feng was angry, “A real man can distinguish between right and wrong; how can you deny your own words? If I lost, how come you were willing to plunge into the sea to kill yourself?”

    Zhou Botong sighed, “That’s true. Originally I also said that the Old Urchin’s fortune was bad so I lost to you; who would have thought that as I went down into the water the Heaven sent something we can regard as a coincidence. Only then did I know that the Old Poison had lost, the Old Urchin had won.”

    Together Ouyang Feng, Hong Qigong and Huang Rong asked, “What coincidence?”

    Zhou Botong stooped down and with his left hand, grabbed a piece of stick stuck inside the shark’s mouth. He lifted the shark and said, “I met my riding animal. Old Poison, take a look; it was your precious nephew who stuck this wooden stick inside its mouth, wasn’t it?”

    It was indeed Ouyang Ke who concocted this wicked plan to prop-up a wooden stick inside the shark’s mouth, so that it would not be able to eat and eventually die of starvation. This, Ouyang Feng had seen with his own eyes. Right now he saw a huge shark with a wooden stick in its mouth; he also saw the wound caused by the hook on the shark’s mouth. Without any doubt this was the very same shark they returned to the sea that day. “So what?” he asked.

    Zhou Botong clapped his hands and laughed, “That means you lost! Our bet was you killed every single one of the sharks, but this good fellow was bestowed a good fortune by your nephew, it could not eat the dead sharks, hence could not eat the poison. It was the only shark left alive. So how can’t you say the Old Urchin has won?” He burst out in laughter. Ouyang Feng’s countenance changed, he could not say anything.

    Guo Jing delightedly asked, “Big Brother, where were you these past few days? I was so miserable thinking about you.”

    Zhou Botong laughed, “I am playing and having fun. Not long after I jumped into the sea, I saw this fellow grasping for breath on the surface, it seemed to be in agony. I said, ‘Old Shark, oh Old Shark, looks like today you and I share the same fate!’ And then I jumped suddenly on the shark’s back. It furiously went down under the water, I had to hold my breath, my both hands holding tightly to its neck and my feet randomly kicked its belly. With great difficulty it went back up to the surface. Without giving me a chance to take two mouthfuls of breathe this fellow dove back underwater. The two of us fought for half a day and finally he became obedient and was willing to listen to what I say; I want it go to the east, it went to the east, I want it to head north, he wouldn’t dare of going south.” While saying those words he gently patted the shark’s head, looking so pleased.

    Among those who were present, Huang Rong was the only one who admired and envied him. Her eyes shone and she asked, “I have played in the sea for many years, why hadn’t I thought of this trick? I was so stupid!”

    “Look at its mouth full of teeth, they are as sharp as knives,” Zhou Botong said, “If there is no stick in its mouth, do you dare to ride it?”

    “You spent the last few days riding on the back of the fish?” Huang Rong asked.

    “Certainly,” Zhou Botong replied, “The two of us have a pretty good skill of catching fish. As soon as we saw a fish, we chased it; I sent a fist or a palm to kill it. Out of ten fish, I only ate one and this fellow ate the other nine.”

    Huang Rong traced the shark’s belly and asked, “You dumped dead fish into its belly? It did not need its teeth to eat?”

    “Oh, he is a good eater,” Zhou Botong answered, “There was a time the two of us chasing an extremely big cuttlefish …”

    Two people, one old the other young, were having an animated discussion, totally ignoring everybody else on board the ship. Ouyang Feng groaned inwardly, silently thinking of some ideas to deal with this situation. Suddenly Zhou Botong turned to him and said, “Hey, Old Poison, do you admit defeat?”

    Ouyang Feng was the one making the speech earlier; how could he swallow his own words in front of these many people? He was obliged to say, “So what if I lost? Do you think there is anything I can’t do?”

    “Hmm,” Zhou Botong said, “I must think of a difficult thing for you to do. Very well, you scolded me just now that I was farting; I want you to fart immediately! Let everybody smell.”

    Hearing Zhou Botong only asked Ouyang Feng to break wind for no reason at all Huang Rong was annoyed. Breaking wind at will was naturally not easy for an average person, but with a strong internal energy, it was not difficult to circulate the breathing to the whole body, hence it was an extremely trivial thing to do. She was afraid of Ouyang Feng’s craftiness and of his venomous snake staff; she was afraid he would grab this opportunity and gently broke wind, hence put it all behind without too much trouble. Therefore, hastily she said, “Not good, not good! First you want to tell him to unseal my Shifu’s acupoints, then we can talk again.”

    “Look!” Zhou Botong said, “Even a young miss is afraid of your smelly fart. Alright, I’ll let you go this time. I am not going to ask you to do a difficult thing anyway; quickly tend to the Old Beggar’s injury. The Old Beggar’s skill is not under yours; if not of your sneakiness, no way you would be able to injure him. After he is healed, the two of you can fight again. That time let the Old Urchin be the judge.”

    Ouyang Feng knew Hong Qigong’s injury was incurable; he was not afraid of future retaliation. But he was afraid Zhou Botong would come up with a more difficult and strange request. Under the eyes of numerous people he felt really awkward; he did not want to comply, yet he was too proud to deny. Without saying anything he bent down and exerted his strength to his palm and unsealed Hong Qigong’s acupoints. Huang Rong and Guo Jing rushed forward to help their master standing up.

    Zhou Botong again swept his gaze to the people on the deck, he said, “The Old Urchin is most afraid to smell the urine taste of the sheep eaten by barbarians. Quickly let down a small boat to send us four people ashore.”

    Ever since he saw the fight between Zhou Botong and Huang Yaoshi, Ouyang Feng knew that this man’s martial art was really strange. If for any reason they had to fight, he was certain he would not be defeated, but scoring a victory was not guaranteed either. Therefore, he decided to endure patiently for the time being. He wanted to wait until he had mastered the Nine Yin Manual, then he would come and settle the account with Zhou Botong. Besides, he had an excuse of losing the bet earlier. When all was said and done, it would be better off to send this annoying plague away anyway, so he made up his mind and said, “ Very well, your luck was very good! Since you won the bet, let it be as you said.” Turning his head to Wanyan Honglie he said, “Prince, please let down a boat to take this four people ashore.”

    Wanyan Hongli hesitated, he thought, “I am afraid as soon as they are ashore, these four people will leak my secret mission to the south.”

    All along the Venerable Lingzhi was watching with his cold eyes; earlier he had seen Ouyang Feng’s unkempt appearance and already his heart was filled with contempt. He thought that this chicken-half-drown-in-soup did not dare to defy even for half a word of whatever Zhou Botong told him to do; most likely he had been enjoying an unearned reputation. Even if his martial art was excellent, he would not be necessarily more skillful than the rest of the people on board. Noticing Wanyan Honglie had a slight hesitation, he moved forward two steps and said, “If we are on the raft, then whatever Mr. Ouyang wishes we must comply, how can other people dare to speak too much? But we are on the boat, we have to listen to the Prince’s instruction.”

    Listening to this, everybody’s heart was stirred and they turned their gaze toward Ouyang Feng to see what he was going to do. Coldly Ouyang Feng looked up and down Venerable Lingzhi, sizing him up. He raised his head to the sky and wryly said, “This Great Monk deliberately wants to make things difficult for this old man?”

    Venerable Lingzhi replied, “I don’t dare. The lowly monk lived at the edge of Tibet; friendless and ignorant. Today was the very first time I heard Mr. Ouyang’s honorable name. I don’t have anything to do with you whatsoever …”

    Before he could finish, Ouyang Feng had moved forward one step; his left hand swiftly made a false move, his right hand deftly grab Venerable Lingzhi’s tall and grand stature. With a little effort he turned the monk around and held him upside down. It had happened so fast; all the others saw was Venerable Lingzhi’s red kassaya sway and then loosely flutter in midair; nobody saw clearly what kind of technique Ouyang Feng used.

    Venerable Lingzhi was a head taller than everybody else, but Ouyang Feng was able to grab his neck like holding a slice of fat meat. Even if Ouyang Feng stretched out his arm completely upward, he would not necessarily be able to lift Lingzhi’s feet off the ground; but when Ouyang Feng turned his body upside down, the top of Lingzhi’s head was actually about four feet above the deck.

    Venerable Lingzhi’s legs were kicking randomly in the air, his mouth let out roaring curses. Everybody had seen Venerable Lingzhi fought Wang Chuyi at the Zhao Palace the other day; they knew his skill was not a trivial matter. But how could he be turned upside down by Ouyang Feng, his arms flailing weakly on the sides of his ears, like those arms were broken and he did not have any strength to struggle free?

    With his eyes still looking upward, Ouyang Feng dryly said, “Today was the first time you heard my name; therefore, you look down upon the old man, don’t you?”

    Venerable Lingzhi was both scared and angry. He tried to exert his energy several times, trying to struggle free, but no matter what, he was not able to escape. Peng Lianhu and the others saw what happened, their countenances changed of amazement.

    Ouyang Feng continued, “You look down upon the old man, that’s alright. But I don’t want to stoop down to your low level in front of the Honorable Prince. You want to detain the Old Urchin, Master Zhou, the Nine-fingered Divine Beggar, Master Hong. Heh, heh … do you think you can rely on your magical skill to match them? You are both friendless and unlearned; no wonder you don’t know much and have not had enough lessons to teach you manners. Old Urchin, take this!”

    Again, nobody saw Ouyang Feng’s hand move; he merely exert his strength to his palm and Venerable Lingzhi flew like a cloud from the port side to the starboard of the deck. As soon as he felt Ouyang Feng’s palm strength left his body and he was free, Lingzhi stretched his body like a carp trying to turn his body right side up. But suddenly he felt a shot of pain on his neck; he cried out in pain, and stretched out his left arm to attack, but again he felt his arm went numb and hung helplessly on the side of his head. Once again his body was suspended midair. Turned out Zhou Botong followed Ouyang Feng’s example and grabbed him by the neck.

    Wanyan Honglie understood Lingzhi’s precarious situation; he knew nobody could accuse Ouyang Feng of not giving forewarning. No one among his warriors had the ability to deal with Zhou Botong, this one man; hence he hastily said, “Mister Zhou, you don’t have to play anymore, Little Prince is sending out a boat to take the four of you ashore.”

    “Very good,” Zhou Botong said, “You can also try; take this!” Following Ouyang Feng’s example, he exerted his strength to his palm and sent Venerable Lingzhi flying toward the Prince.

    Of course Wanyan Honglie knew martial art, but his skill was limited to saber, spear and bow and arrow on a horseback. The flying plump monk from Zhou Botong’s hand carried a swift and strong force; how could he take it? Even if he didn’t die he would certainly suffer a heavy injury; so he hastily stepped aside to elude.

    Sha Tongtian knew the Prince was in danger and right away he stepped forward in front of the Prince, trying to protect him. He saw Venerable Lingzhi was coming fast; if he struck with his palm, he might injure the monk. Following Ouyang Feng and Zhou Botong’s example earlier, he wanted to grab the monk’s neck and turn him right side up, and then lay him down nicely.

    However, he had forgotten one important detail; namely, his martial art was way below of those two people. He saw Ouyang Feng and Zhou Botong seemingly without any effort grabbing and throwing Venerable Lingzhi’s heavy body. Hence he leaped up to intercept Lingzhi, stretching his hand to grab his neck. Unexpectedly as he touched Venerable Lingzhi’s neck he felt a burning sensation following a strong force attacking his hand and wrist. He knew if he did not ward off this attack his wrist would be broken immediately. In this critical time he quickly withdrew his right hand, while his left fist launched the ‘po jia zhui’ [splitting armor awl].

    What happened was when Venerable Lingzhi was thrown away back and forth between Ouyang Feng and Zhou Botong, his blood was flowing adversely, his head was dizzy while his heart was burning with anger. He heard Zhou Botong calling out someone else to take his body, all he knew was that person must be an enemy; hence when he was still airborne he had already exerted his strength in anger. As soon as Sha Tongtian’s hand bumped onto his neck his ‘da shou yin’ slapped out.

    In term of strength these two were in par with each other; Sha Tongtian had the advantage of standing upright, but Venerable Lingzhi had prepared his attack beforehand, and thus caught him off guard. Two equal forces collided, Sha Tongtian was pushed back three steps, but Venerable Lingzhi was also shaken from the collision that he fell flat on the deck. Immediately he stood up and saw that the person who attacked him was Sha Tongtian; he thought, “Even you, a stinky thief, want to take advantage of me!” With a loud roar he pounced forward.

    Peng Lianhu knew he misunderstood; hastily he blocked in between two people, calling out, “Reverend please don’t get angry, Brother Sha only has a good intention.”

    In the meantime the small boat had been lowered down. Zhou Botong grabbed the stick inside the shark’s mouth; he lifted and hurled the huge shark to the sea, simultaneously exerting his strength and broke the stick into two parts. While diving into the sea, that shark suddenly felt the stick in its mouth was broken, it was very happy. It dove deep into the water to hunt for some fish.

    Huang Rong smiled, “Brother Jing, later on the two of us and Big Brother Zhou can ride sharks together and then we can have a race.” Guo Jing did not answer, Zhou Botong clapped his hands and cheered, he said, “We can ask the Old Beggar to be our judge.”

    After seeing Zhou Botong and the others went out on the small boat, Wanyan Honglie started to think that with this kind of martial art, Ouyang Feng would provide a valuable assistance to his plan of stealing the book. He pulled Venerable Lingzhi’s hand and walked toward Ouyang Feng. “Everybody here is good friend, I hope Sir would not be offended, I am sure Reverend was not serious. I wish both gentlemen would give Little Prince face and consider everything as a joke,” he said.

    Ouyang Feng smiled and extended his hand. Venerable Lingzhi on the other hand, was still upset. He mused, “You only use the seizing technique [‘qin na’] and caught me off guard. I have trained painstakingly for dozens of years to develop my ‘da shou yin’ power; do you think I am inferior to you?” Hence he also stretched out his hand while sending his energy to his palm, with the intention of gripping hard Ouyang Feng’s palm. But he was just about to exert his strength when he suddenly jumped away. He felt like he was touching red-hot burning steel and his hand was so much in pain that he dropped it in a hurry. Ouyang Feng did not want to pursue, he simply smiled faintly. Venerable Lingzhi looked at his hand and did not see anything unusual, he thought, “Damn it, this old thief surely knows demonical tricks.”

    Ouyang Feng saw Liang Ziweng was still lying down on the deck, unmoving. He came to examine him. Ouyang Feng knew that Liang Ziweng was pushed to the sea by Guo Jing and later on intercepted by Zhou Botong, who sealed his acupoint and threw him back to the boat. Thereupon he unsealed Liang Ziweng acupoints. Automatically Ouyang Feng became the leader of this group of warriors.

    Wanyan Honglie immediately ordered a banquet to welcome Ouyang Feng uncle and nephew. While drinking wine Wanyan Honglie explained his plan to go to Lin’an and steal the ‘Wumu Legacy’ to Ouyang Feng; and at the same time asking Ouyang Feng’s willingness to help him. Actually Ouyang Feng had heard about this matter from his nephew; this time his heart was stirred, suddenly a thought came into his mind, “What kind of man do you think I, Ouyang Feng, am? How can I submit to you? But I heard not only Yue Fei’s military skill was divine, but his martial art skill was also superb. I heard the Yue Family’s martial art has been lost in the martial art world. Perhaps in his legacy there was a martial art manual besides the military strategy. I will agree to help him get the book then if I like what I see, can’t the Old Poison get what he wanted?”

    It was precisely: You cheat, I am crafty; everybody for himself. Wanyan Honglie wholeheartedly wanted the book to help him defeat the Great Song, but while the praying mantis was hunting for cicada, the yellow canary caught it from behind; Ouyang Feng had a different idea on top of his. Therefore, one man heaped flattering words, the other’s mouth was full of compliance. In addition, Liang Ziweng made an utmost effort to be a good host; the banquet table was overflowing with wine. The guests and the hosts were having a good time. Only Ouyang Ke was still in pain from his injury; he did not drink any wine, he only ate some dishes and then asked the crew to help him going to the rear cabin to take a rest.

    While they were eating and drinking in a lively manner, suddenly Ouyang Feng’s countenance changed. The cup stopped at his mouth, he did not drink. Everybody was startled; nobody knew what had offended him. Wanyan Hongli was about to ask when Ouyang Feng said, “Listen!”

    Everybody inclined their heads to listen, but other than the wind and the wave of the sea, they did not hear anything. A moment later Ouyang Feng asked again, “Do you hear it this time? It’s a flute sound.” Everybody listened attentively with rapt attention, now they could hear amidst the sound of the waves, there was a faint sound of bamboo flute, sometimes broken, sometimes continued. Nobody could hear it if Ouyang Feng did not point it out.

    Ouyang Feng walked to the bow; there he let out a long whistle, the sound traveled far away. By now everybody else had arrived at the bow. They saw on the distant a light boat with three green sails, cutting the waves and coming fast toward their boat. They were inwardly astonished, “Is the flute sound coming from that boat? It’s very far away, how can the sound travel here?”

    Ouyang Feng ordered the sailors to change the rudder to intercept that fast boat. Two boats gradually came closer to each other. On the bow of that fast boat stood a man wearing a dark green long robe, in his hand was indeed a flute. He called out loudly, “Feng Xiong, have you seen my daughter?”

    “Your daughter has a very strong temperament, how can I dare to provoke her?” Ouyang Feng replied.

    Two boats were several ‘zhang’s apart; nobody saw that man moved his body and jumped, yet they saw a blur shadow, and that man had already standing on the big boat’s deck.

    As Wanyan Honglie saw his marvelous skill, his desire to recruit warriors arose; he stepped forward to welcome the guest, saying, “What is your surname, Sir? I am very fortunate to receive your visit.” Considering his lofty position as a prince of the Great Jin, he was being unusually modest; but upon seeing he was wearing a Jin country official’s costume, that man only gave him a blank stare, apparently did not pay any attention to him.

    Seeing the prince did not get the attention he deserved Ouyang Feng said, “Yao Xiong, let me present to you the Sixth Prince of the Great Jin, Prince Zhao.” To Wanyan Honglie he said, “This is the Master of the Peach Blossom Island, the number one martial artist in the world, his knowledge is unparalleled.”

    Peng Lianhu and the others were so shocked that they involuntarily withdrew several steps back. They knew from the start that Huang Rong’s father was a very fierce devil; the Twin Killers of the Dark Wind were his renegade disciples, yet they were able to shake the Jianghu with their might, the face of the people of the Wulin world would change color whenever their names were mentioned. If the disciples were this fierce, how much more would be their master? This time he appeared to create trouble for sure, they thought; everybody remembered that they have offended his daughter. Therefore, everybody’s heart was filled with fear and nobody dared to make a sound.

    When his daughter ran away, Huang Yaoshi knew she must be looking for Guo Jing. Initially he was angry and ignored her. But a few days later he became worried, he was afraid she would find Guo Jing on the special ship he built and thus went down to the bottom of the sea together. He was worried to the death for his daughter, so he decided to go out to the sea and search for her.

    Knowing they were returning to the mainland, he decided to head to the west. But looking for a boat in a boundless sea was truly easier said than done. Even though Huang Yaoshi possessed an extraordinary intelligence, but after going back and forth searching he could not see even her shadow. That particular day backed by his strong internal energy he played his flute at the bow of his boat, with the hope that his daughter would hear and responded; unexpectedly it was Ouyang Feng whom he met.

    Huang Yaoshi and Peng Lianhu and the others did not know each other. Hearing Ouyang Feng say that this person was a prince of the Jin, he did not want to stay much longer; he cupped his fists across his chest and said to Ouyang Feng, “Brother needs to continue my search for my daughter; I apologize for not accompanying you much longer.” Then he turned around to leave.

    Venerable Lingzhi was just angered by Ouyang Feng and Zhou Botong, and now he saw another extremely arrogant and impolite person coming on board. He heard what Ouyang Feng had said, but he thought, “Could it be that there are so many highly skilled people in this world? Most likely these people knew some witchcraft and deceived others with their demonical ability. Let me try, perhaps I can deceive him as well.” Hence seeing Huang Yaoshi was about to leave with a loud voice he said, “Are you looking for a fifteen, sixteen years old young lady?”

    Huang Yaoshi paused and turned around with a happy expression on his face, “Yes Reverend, did you see her?”

    Venerable Lingzhi coldly replied, “I did see a young lady, but the one I saw was dead one, not a live one.”

    Huang Yaoshi’s heart turned cold, “What?” he quickly asked, his voice was trembling.

    Venerable Lingzhi replied, “About three days ago I saw a body of a young girl floating on the surface of the sea. She was wearing white clothes with a gold ring on her hair; originally her face must be so pretty. Ay! What a pity, what a pity! What a pity her body was swollen by the seawater.” What he described was exactly Huang Rong’s clothes and adornments, every single one was accurate.

    Huang Yaoshi’s mind was greatly troubled, his body shook, his face turned pale; a moment later he asked, “Are you telling me the truth?”

    Everybody else clearly saw Huang Rong boarded the small boat just a moment ago; now they heard how Venerable Lingzhi was deceiving this man, taking pleasure in other’s misfortune; but even as they saw Huang Yaoshi’s grieving face, nobody made any sound.

    Venerable Lingzhi coldly continued, “Beside that young lady’s body I saw three other corpses; one was of a young man with thick eyebrows and big eyes, the other one was an old beggar with a scarlet wine gourd on his back, and the last one was a white haired old man.” He was describing Guo Jing, Hong Qigong and Zhou Botong, three people.

    Reaching this point Huang Yaoshi’s doubt was completely gone; he squinted at Ouyang Feng, thinking, “You knew about my daughter so why you didn’t tell me earlier?”

    Ouyang Feng noticed his look and realized his grief has reached its peak so he started to have a murderous intent. Although he himself would not suffer a loss this oncoming force would not be easy to resist; hence he quickly said, “Brother had just come in on board this board today, and it was the first time I met all these people. When this Reverend saw some floating corpses, your daughter was not necessarily among them.” Sighing, he continued, “Your beloved is such a good girl; it is very regrettable if she really died in such a young age. If my nephew found out, he would die of heartbreak.” This speech had shifted the blame from his own shoulder, but clearly did not offend either side.

    Listening to Ouyang Feng Huang Yaoshi was completely in shock; his heart sank in an instant. He was of the kind who loved to vent his anger to others; otherwise when the Twin Killers of the Dark Wind stole his manual, why did he break Lu Chengfeng and his other innocent disciple’s legs and expelled them from his school?

    This time he felt his chest was icy-cold, but his blood was boiling hot, just like when his beloved wife died some years ago. His hands were trembling, his face turned from snow white to crimson red alternatively.

    Everybody was looking at him in silence; their hearts were filled with unspeakable fear. Even Ouyang Feng was anxious; he gathered his ‘qi’ in his ‘dan tian’, his whole body was alert, ready to take any attack. The entire deck was unusually quiet. Suddenly Huang Yaoshi let out a long laugh, it sounded like a never ending dragon roar.

    This latest development has taken everybody by surprise; they were startled. They saw him facing upward and laughing wildly, getting louder and louder. His laughter had caused a chill in the air; those who listened to it felt more and more miserable. Gradually the laughter turned into weeping, a very sad one. The people could not bear it any longer, they felt like they shared his grief and were about to shed tears too.

    Ouyang Feng was the only one who knew his temperament well, that he used to sing and cry without any specific reason; hence he did not feel too strange. But listening to him weeping so miserably he thought, “If he keeps crying like this, the Old Heretic Huang will inevitably injure himself. In the past Ruan Ji mourned the death of his mother and in doing so had vomited a lot of blood. The Old Heretic Huang could experience the same fate as that person from the past. It was a pity my iron zither was lost when my boat sank; otherwise I could have played it along and make his crying more interesting. This man has an unusual character once he unleashes his uncontrollable emotion he will most likely suffer a serious internal injury. When it’s time for the second Sword Meet of Mount Hua I will surely miss a worthy and formidable opponent. Ay! What a great loss! What a pity, what a pity!”

    After crying for a while Huang Yaoshi lifted his jade flute up and struck the edge of the boat while singing, “Why did God make someone’s life so short? Or someone die when all the hair in his head had turned white, while the other die because of disaster or child-birth. The previous calamity had not passed, the new one has come along. Morning had just blossomed, the evening had already come, the dew came with the dawn and evaporated immediately. The departed cannot be pursued, the emotion suddenly fails. The high heaven does not have stairs, to whom shall I pour my complain out?”

    ‘Crack!’ the jade flute was broken into two. Without turning his head Huang Yaoshi walked to the bow. Venerable Lingzhi dashed forward to block him off and coldly said, “You wept and you laughed like a madman, what do you think you are doing?”

    “Reverend, don’t …” Wanyan Honglie called out, but before he finished, Huang Yaoshi’s right hand stretched out and grabbed Venerable Lingzhi’s neck. Turning him midair until his feet were facing upward Huang Yaoshi threw him down until his fat bald head penetrated the deck straight to his shoulders.

    It turns out that in the martial art Venerable Lingzhi practiced, his neck was his weakest point. As soon as he made his move, highly skilled martial artists like Ouyang Feng, Zhou Botong and Huang Yaoshi could immediately see through this flaw and attack his weakest spot.

    Huang Yaoshi continued singing, “The sky eternal, the earth unchanging, how long will a man live? The past, the future, everything passed unawares; there is a time for everything.” A dark green shadow flashed, he had already moved to his own boat, turned the rudder and sailed away.

    The people on board was about to rescue Venerable Lingzhi who stayed motionless, they did not know if he was alive or dead, suddenly they heard a grunt and the deck floor opened, out came a young man. He was handsome, with red lips and white teeth, and a face like a crown jade; he was Wanyan Honglie’s son, Yang Kang, whose former name was Wanyan Kang.

    After having a disagreement with Mu Nianci he kept remembering Wanyan Honglie’s words, ‘unlimited riches and honor’; thereafter he contacted a Jin government office in the north to get information. Not long after he found his father king and thus accompanied him to the south. When Guo Jing and Huang Rong embarked, he caught a glimpse of them and immediately went hiding inside the cabin, did not dare to come out, only took a peek through a crack on the cabin’s door; hence he saw everything that happened on the deck clearly. When the people were eating and drinking he was still afraid Ouyang Feng was Guo Jing’s accomplice. He hid in the boat’s hold and eavesdropped at the conversation on the banquet table, trying to find out Ouyang Feng’s real intention. Only after Huang Yaoshi left he finally decided that he had nothing to worry about, so he opened the deck’s plank and came out.

    The fall of Venerable Lingzhi was truly heavy; fortunately due to his hard training his head was strong. He made a hole on the deck, but his head was not injured, it was only a little bit dizzy. He calmed himself down and pushed both hands on the deck to lift his own body up; then he leaped and stood up.

    The people saw the round hole on the deck; they could not be refrained from looking at each other in amazement. They felt funny, but felt it was inappropriate to laugh, so they kept their faces straight, but they looked very awkward.

    Wanyan Honglie broke the silence by saying, “Son, meet Mr Ouyang.”

    Yang Kang immediately knelt in front of Ouyang Feng and kowtowed to him four times. It was a very big honor, caused everybody to be surprised. Actually at the Zhao Palace Yang Kang had had a great admiration toward Venerable Lingzhi; but today he had seen Ouyang Feng, Zhou Botong and Huang Yaoshi, three people, one after another grabbed his neck and tossed him back and forth like he was just a baby. Only then did he realize there was a sky above the sky and there was another man above a man. He recalled the disgrace when he was held captive at the Cloud Village on Lake Tai, when he was scared of and lost his nerve to fight Guo Jing and Huang Rong at the Liu ancestral hall in Baoying; all because his skill was inferior to others. Presently there was a man with a very high skill in front of him, so he wanted to take him as his master. After paying Ouyang Feng a big respect he turned to Wanyan Honglie and said, “Father, your son wants to take this gentleman as my master.”

    Wanyan Honglie was delighted, quickly he stepped forward and bowed his respect to Ouyang Feng, saying, “My young child likes to learn martial arts, only he has not met a suitable master. If Sir do not relinquish this request and willing to bestow instructions, Little King father and son will be forever grateful.”

    Other people thought that being the young prince’s master was the wish of everybody; who would have thought that Ouyang Feng simply returned the greeting and said, “There is always a rule in the Old Man’s martial art school that our knowledge will be bestowed only to one disciple, and not to someone else. The Old Man has already taken my own nephew as my disciple, I can’t take another one. For this I beseech the Prince’s forgiveness.”

    Seeing Ouyang Feng did not grant his request Wanyan Honglie did not press. He ordered his men to prepare some more food and wine. Yang Kang on the other hand, was quite disappointed.

    Ouyang Feng smiled and said, “I don’t deserve to be the young prince’s master, but it’s not difficult for the Old Man to give you directions on martial arts. We will talk about it later.”

    Yang Kang had seen Ouyang Ke’s many concubines; they had received instructions in martial arts from him but because they were not his disciples their skills were nothing but ordinary. Listening to Ouyang Feng said it that way his heart was not in the least enthusiastic, but his mouth was obliged to utter some grateful words. He had never realized that Ouyang Feng’s skill was not to be compared with his nephew; receiving one or two instructions on martial arts from an expert of Ouyang Feng’s caliber would give him sufficient skill to boast his power and prestige among the heroes of the Wulin world.

    Ouyang Feng noticed his expression and realized his intention to give instructions was not very well received; so he never raised this matter anymore.

    During the banquet they were talking about Huang Yaoshi’s arrogance and rudeness; they praised Venerable Lingzhi for fooling him well. Hou Tonghai said, “This man’s martial art’s skill was truly high; turned out that stinky girl is his daughter, no wonder her way was somewhat crafty.” While saying that he turned his attention toward Venerable Lingzhi’s bald head. After staring for a while he turned his gaze toward Lingzhi’s fat neck, and then he bent his own right arm to grab his own neck. “Hey, hey,” he mocked and asked, “Shige [Older Martial Brother], those three were using a grabbing skill, what kind of technique was that?”

    “Don’t talk nonsense!” Sha Tongtian rebuked him.

    Venerable Lingzhi could not hold his patience anymore and he stretched out his left hand to grab the three horns on Hou Tonghai’s forehead. Hou Tonghai quickly shrank his body and slid under the table. Everybody was laughing and cheering.

    Hou Tonghai reappeared on his chair and said to Ouyang Feng, “Master Ouyang, your martial art skill is very high indeed! How about you teach me the skill to grab someone’s fat neck?” Ouyang Feng smiled but did not answer. Venerable Lingzhi looked at Hou Tonghai with glaring eyes.

    Hou Tonghai turned his head and asked again, “Shige, that Huang Yaoshi was crying and singing, what did he say?”

    Sha Tongtian glowered at him, did not know how to answer; “Who cares about the jabbering of a madman?” he said.

    Yang Kang explained, “What he sang was a poem written by Cao Zijian of the Three Kingdoms period. That Cao Zijian composed two stanzas of lamentation because of his daughter’s death. In the poem he said how some people live until the hair on their heads had turned completely white, while some children died prematurely. He questioned why God was so unfair? He hated the fact the Heaven was so high without stairs that he could not ascend to His throne to cry out his complain. He finally said that his grieve was so deep that the day he would follow her to the grave would not be far away.”

    The warriors immediately heaped him with praise, they said, “The Young Prince is truly a scholar, highly educated. We are rough men, how would we know?”

    Huang Yaoshi’s heart was filled with grieve and indignation. He pointed his finger to the sky and scolding the earth, cursing ghosts and blaming divine beings for treating him unjustly, for all his sorrows and unfair fate. He commanded his boat toward the mainland. Once he was ashore his anger flamed again. He looked up to the sky and shouted, “Who killed my Rong’er? Who killed my Rong’er?”

    Suddenly a thought came into his mind, “It’s that boy surnamed Guo. That’s right, it was him. If not for him, how could Rong’er come aboard that boat? But this boy died alongside Rong’er; whom should I lash my anger on?”

    As soon as he had this thought, he remembered Guo Jing’s masters, the Six Freaks of Jiangnan. “These six are most guilty of killing my Rong’er! If they didn’t teach that surnamed Guo kid, how could he meet Rong’er? I won’t be appeased before I cut their arms and legs one by one.”

    As his anger increased, his sorrow decreased somewhat. He arrived at a small town and stopped for some food; still thinking deeply about how he would pursue the Six Freaks of Jiangnan. “The Six Freaks’ martial art skills are not high, but their reputations are not low. Perhaps they have something that set them above everybody else; perhaps they only use deceit. If I pay a visit to their residence and inquire, chances are I am not going to find them. I must go in the middle of the night breaking into their houses; and then I will wipe them and their whole families clean, young and old alike.” Hence he took big strides walking north toward Jiaxing.

    End of Chapter 22
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    Last edited by foxs; 04-17-07 at 04:06 PM.

  8. #48
    Registered User JamesG's Avatar
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    Oct 2004
    Lethbridge AB


    A nudge to bring this back to where people can find it.

  9. #49
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 23 – Big Trouble in the Imperial Palace

    Thanks James. I forgot to do this ..

    While they talked they arrived at the Broken Bridge by the West Lake. Because it was summer what they saw was lotus under the bridge. Huang Rong saw a neat little wine shop by the lakeside. “Let’s drink a cup of wine and enjoy the lotus,” she said. “Very good,” Guo Jing agreed.

    Chapter 23 – Big Trouble in the Imperial Palace

    Translated by Danshu, Bluebook & Foxs, Edited by Eliza Bennet

    Part 1 Translated by Danshu
    Hong Qigong, Zhou Botong, Huang Rong, and Guo Jing took a small boat towards the west. Guo Jing sat rowing at the stern, while Huang Rong continuously pestered Zhou Botong with questions about riding sharks on the sea. Zhou Botong would think of ways to catch sharks in order to amuse Huang Rong. Guo Jing, seeing his master’s pale complexion, asked “Master, what are you thinking about?” Hong Qigong did not reply, he just panted hoarsely again and again. The strike he received from Ouyang Feng had penetrated to the bone; although the vital point had already been released, the internal injury had actually worsened. Huang Rong fed him nine of her nine ‘flower jade dew’ pills. Although the pain lessened somewhat, the asthma was still just as bad. Old Urchin, completely disregarding the suffering of others, continued to make a racket, shouting that they must catch the fish. Huang Rong knew his behavior was inappropriate, and tried to signal him with her eyes that he should be quite so as not to disturb Hong Qigong. Zhou Botong, not in the least understanding, simply continued to cause trouble. Huang Rong knit her brows and said: “You want to catch sharks, but you don’t have any bait to attract them with, so what are you going on about?”

    The Old Urchin never acts like a respected senior. When juniors drink and swear in front of him, he’s never offended in the least. He suddenly said: “Got it! Brother Guo, I’ll hold your hands while you dip the lower half of your body into the sea.” Guo Jing respected his sworn brother; even though he did not know his intention, he immediately agreed. Huang Rong immediately called out: “Big brother Jing! Don’t listen to him! He wants to use you as bait in order to catch sharks.” Zhou Botong clapped his hands and shouted delightedly: “Exactly! When a shark comes, I’ll immediately beat it and pull it up! Otherwise, you hold my hands, and I’ll attract the shark.” Huang Rong replied: “You two deliberately cause so much trouble on this small boat; if it capsizes, we’ll only have you to blame!” Zhou Botong replied: “If this boat capsizes, that will be great! We can all play in the ocean!” Huang Rong replied: “Then what about our master? Do you want him to live or not?”

    Zhou Botong held his head, at a loss for words. After a short time, he mentioned it was strange that Hong Qigong should be injured by Ouyang Feng’s attack. Huang Rong shouted: “If you talk nonsense again, we three will not speak with you for three days and three nights!” Zhou Botong stuck out his tongue and did not dare to say another word. He grabbed an oar to help Guo Jing with the rowing.

    Although the land appeared to be close by, it was already dusk by the time they finally disembarked. That night the four of them slept on the sandy beach. The next morning, Hong Qigong’s illness had worsened considerably, and Guo Jing’s tears began to flow. Hong Qigong said with a smile: “Even if I were to live for another hundred years, I’d still have to die in the end. Good child, I only have one wish left. Using this old beggar’s last breath, I would ask that the three of you do something for me.” Huang Rong replied tearfully: “Master, please speak.” Zhou Botong interrupted: “That old poison I am always seeking is an eyesore. Now my senior is on the point of death; for the sake of old poison you have already played dead once before. For a person to die twice, wouldn’t you say that is delightful? Old Beggar, you go right ahead and die, don’t worry about anything, I will go and kill him in order to get revenge for you.” Hong Qigong replied with a smile: “Avenging a grievance still cannot be considered a final wish; what I want is to eat a bowl of minced five-treasure mandarin duck from the Imperial Palace kitchen.” Out of the three of them, who would have thought that his final wish was to eat a bowl of food? Huang Rong replied: “Master, that’s easy; here is not far from Lin An, I’ll steal several large pots from the Imperial Palace so that you can eat to your heart’s content.” Zhou Botong interrupted again: “I also want to eat.” Huang Rong gave him a displeased look and replied: “You also understand how to differentiate between good and bad food?” Hong Qigong said: “This minced five-treasure mandarin duck is hard to come by. Back in the day I hid in the Imperial Palace for three months, and only managed to try a tiny bit. Just recalling the flavour is enough to make one drool.” Zhou Botong said: “I have an idea, we’ll grab the old emperor’s chef, and make him prepare it.” Huang Rong replied: “Old Urchin, this idea is not bad.” Zhou Botong, hearing Huang Rong supporting him, was very pleased with himself.

    Hong Qigong, shaking his head in disapproval, replied: “No way, to make this flavourful mince five-treasure mandarin duck, the kitchen implements, charcoal fire, and dishes all must form a complete set. If even one is missing, the taste will be off. We still need to go to the Imperial Palace.” Seeing that the three still had some scruples, he said “It will be really excellent, if we go, you will all gain valuable experience.” Immediately Guo Jing carried Hong Qigong on his back and set off towards the north. Upon reaching a small town, Huang Rong exchanged some of her jewellery and purchased a small mule cart in order to let Hong Qigong relax and recover from his wound. Eventually they passed the Qiangtang river, and arrived at the outskirts of Lin An, seeing nothing but the vast misty sunset, and hearing the intermittent cawing of a crow. By nightfall they still had not reached the city, and were forced to seek lodgings for the night. Looking around, they saw only a small village of several households by the riverbank. Huang Rong called out: “This village is good, we can rest here.” Zhou Botong replied sullenly: “What’s so good about it?” Huang Rong replied: “You look, doesn’t this scenery look sort of like a painting?” Zhou Botong replied: “How does it resemble a painting then?” Huang Rong stared blankly, having difficulty coming up with a response. Zhou Botong said: “This painting must be very ugly, what scenery would it have if similar to Old Urchin’s painting, I’m afraid it must be inferior.” Huang Rong said with a smile: “Want Heaven to create a landscape, just like Old Urchin’s random scribbling of a painting, Heaven also has this ability.” Zhou Botong, extremely pleased with himself, replied: “Are you certain? If you don’t believe, then I’ll make a painting right now, and you can call Heaven to look.” Huang Rong replied: “Of course I believe it, you already said this place is not good, so don’t rest here, us three won’t leave.” Zhou Botong replied: “The three of you won’t go, why on earth would I want to go?” In the midst of this chatter, they arrived at the village. The village center looked very desolate and dilapidated, with only a wine shop banner hanging off a pole at the eastern corner of the village, looking approximately like the village inn. The three people arrived in front of the inn, and saw two desks under the eaves, on top of which lay an extremely thick lair of dust. Zhou Botong yelled “Hey!” loudly several times, and a young girl of indeterminate age with dishevelled hair and clothing came out from the inner hall. She opened her eyes and gave the three a blank, lifeless stare. Huang Rong ordered wine and food, but the girl just shook her head continuously. Zhou Botong said: “Here you have neither wine nor food, what kind of shop are you running?” The girl shook her head and replied: “I don’t know.” Zhou Botong replied: “Ai, you really are a silly girl.” The girl grinned and laughed, saying: “That’s right, I’m called Silly Girl.” The three of them laughed and understood. Huang Rong went to take a look at the inner hall and the kitchen, finding it full of dust and cobwebs, with a few pots and other old stuff. On the bed was a torn mat. One couldn’t help but feel sympathy and sorrow. She returned outside and inquired: “Is it just you living here?” Silly Girl smiled and nodded. Huang Rong asked again: “What about your mother?” Silly Girl replied: “Dead!” and wiped her hands across her eyes in imitation of somebody grieving. Huang Rong asked again: “What about your father?” Silly Girl shook her head, indicating she didn’t know. They saw her face and hands were filthy, with long fingernails filled up with black crud. Who knows how long it had been since she had washed her face and hands. Huang Rong said sadly: “Even if she were to cook, we wouldn’t be able to eat it.” She asked: “Do you have any rice?” Silly Girl smiled and nodded, producing half a jar of unpolished rice. Huang Rong immediately washed the rice and began preparing the meal. Guo Jing returned to the west side of the village and bought two fish and a chicken. By the time everything was prepared, it was already dark. Huang Rong brought out the food and placed it on one of the tables, and searched for an oil lamp, but Silly Girl again shook her head, indicating there was none.

    1. says the girl was about seventeen, eighteen years of age; probably danshu’s source is the third edition. Zhou Botong called her ‘sha gu niang’ [sha – silly/dumb, ‘gu niang’ – miss]; she called herself ‘sha gu’ – the character ‘gu’ here is the same as in the ‘gu niang’; also in the way Yang Guo called Xiao Longnu, ‘gu gu’ [translated as ‘auntie’, lit. paternal aunt]. From now on I am going to simply use ‘Shagu’ to refer to this girl.
    2. Other than spelling errors and names to make them more consistent with the rest of the novel, I did not make any changes. I will let our editor to decide the final structure.

    Part 2 Translated by Foxs

    Huang Rong took some firewood and lighted a fire in the furnace; then tried to find some bowls and chopsticks in the cupboard. She opened the cupboard’s door and a foul stench attacked her nostrils. She took a lighted wood and saw there were about seven, eight tattered bowls. Inside and around the bowls were dozens of died insects off all kinds. Guo Jing helped her fetch the bowls.

    “Wash them thoroughly then get some tree branches to use as chopsticks,” Huang Rong said. Guo Jing mumbled his compliance and took the bowls outside.

    Huang Rong stretched her hand to pick the last bowl, and immediately she felt a difference. This bowl was cold, colder than regular porcelain bowls; she tried to pick it up, but the bowl did not budge, liked it was nailed to the cupboard. Huang Rong was astonished. She was afraid she might break the bowl, so she did not dare to use too much strength. She tried it one more time, the bowl still refused to move. “Could it be that it has been too long that the dirt made the bowl stuck to the cupboard?” she wondered in her heart. She took a closer look and saw the bowl was covered with layers of rust; turned out it was an iron bowl.

    Huang Rong let out a soft laugh, she thought, “I have seen rice bowl made of gold, silver and jade; but I have never even heard of rice bowl made of iron.” She exerted her strength and lifted the bowl up, but still the bowl did not move. She was more surprised, she thought that with her strength, even if the bowl was nailed down to the shelf, the shelf would be cracked. Then she had another thought, “Could it be that the shelf is also made of iron?” She stretched her middle finger to tap the shelf, she heard a metallic sound; the shelf was indeed made of iron.

    Her curiosity was piqued and she tried lifting the bowl again but the bowl was still motionless. She tried turning the bowl to the left, still she did not perceive any movement; she tried turning it to the right, and felt some looseness. She tried turning it harder, the bowl moved. Suddenly she heard a cracking sound, the cupboard opened to both sides, revealing a dark hole behind it. An even fouler stench came out of the hole; making her almost threw up.

    Huang Rong let out an “Ah!” and quickly leaped to the side. Guo Jing and Zhou Botong heard her cry and immediately came in to see the dark hole.

    Huang Rong thought out loud, “Is it possible that this is a clandestine inn? That Shagu could be just pretending to be insane.” She handed over the lighted branch to Guo Jing, then walked to Shagu, trying to grab her hand. Shagu waved her hand trying to avoid her grab, and counterattacked by sending her palm toward Huang Rong’s shoulder. Even though Huang Rong had guessed she did not have a good intention, but she had never expected this incoming palm carried a powerful technique. She could not help but feeling slightly startled. Her left hand formed a hook and her right hand grabbed forward, she launched two strikes in succession.

    Ever since she mastered the ‘yi jin duan gu bian’ [chapter on changing muscle forging bone] from the Nine Yin Manual, her speed and strength increased tremendously. With a loud slap Shagu cried out for her right arm was hit, but her attack did not slow down; she counterattacked with two stances one after another. After several more stances Huang Rong was secretly astonished; Shagu’s movements were actually the Peach Blossom Island’s basic skill of ‘bi bo zhang fa’ [jade-green waves palm technique]. Although it was somewhat shallow, but it was actually the foundation of all Peach Blossom Island’s martial arts; every disciple had to learn it. Huang Rong intensified her attacks in an attempt to identify Shagu’s martial art school. But Shagu came and went and was able to resist her for six, seven stances.

    The situation was almost like when Guo Jing fought Liang Ziweng with only one stance, namely The Proud Dragon Repents; but actually her strength was greatly inferior to Guo Jing; moreover, her palm technique was so straightforward and did not have the simplest variation. It was beyond everybody’s expectation that in this remote village there was a clandestine wine shop with a filthy and poor girl who could fight Huang Rong for more than ten stances.

    Zhou Botong found all these things were very amusing; he saw the gust of wind from Huang Rong’s palm was swift and fierce, while Shagu repeatedly cried out, “Aiyo!” while resisting Huang Rong’s attack; Zhou Botong shouted, “Hey! Rong’er, don’t harm her life; let me fight her.” Ever since he heard Hong Qigong and Guo Jing were calling her ‘Rong’er’ along the way, while Rong’er herself did not seem to mind, he thought he did not need to be polite by calling her ‘Huang guniang’ or ‘Huang xiaojie’ [both mean Miss (or Lady) Huang].

    Guo Jing was afraid Shagu had other companions waiting in the dark ready to ambush; he stayed closed to Hong Qigong and did not dare to leave.

    Several moves later Shagu’s left shoulder was hit, which made her left arm limp; she was unable to move. If Huang Rong wanted to injure her, all she needed to do was continue her attack; but she showed mercy and called out, “Quickly kneel down, I’ll spare your life.”

    Part 3 – Translated by Bluebook and Foxs

    “You kneel down too!” replied Shagu as she sent out two palms, the 'jade-green wave' palm technique, toward Huang Rong. However, only the first two stances were executed repeatedly and the technique was clumsy.

    This incomplete 'jade-green wave' palm attack lacked sending power but is continuous like a wave flowing in water, truly the martial art style of the Peach Blossom Island. Huang Rong suspicion of Shagu’s martial art root became deeper. She called out “how did you learn the ‘jade-green wave’ palms? Who is your master?”

    Shagu responded with a smile “You can’t hit me no more, ha … ha …”

    Huang Rong raised her left hand, sent on her right hand to the side, feigned an attack with her left elbow, and slanted her right shoulder forward. These four moves were fake attacks. Huang Rong followed with the fifth move sending both hands curving inward. This fifth attack was still false; the next move, a kick, however, was real. Shagu was unable to stand still. She fell to the ground and called out, “You used a trick, that does not count, let’s fight again,” as she was crawling up.

    Huang Rong would not allow her to stand up, she pounced and push her down, tearing her clothes down and bind her hands behind her back. “My palm technique is clearly better than yours,” she said.

    Shagu turned around and shouted in dissent, “You tricked me, unacceptable, you tricked me, unacceptable!”

    Guo Jing saw that Huang Rong was able to control Shagu, he walked out from the inn and jumped on the roof. He looked around for any trace of people but found none. He went back down and walked around the building and noticed that this desolate inn was a standalone building; a few ‘zhang’s apart from other houses in the area, There were no other people hiding around, now at last he felt relieved.

    When he walked inside the inn, he saw Huang Rong held a dagger in front of Shagu’s eyes, threatening her, “Who taught you martial arts? Quickly tell me or else I will kill you”. While saying that she made two stabbing moves with the dagger.

    With the light from the candle, Shagu’s smile can be seen. But looking at her expression, it was not like either she was brave or mad; it was more like a stupid smile, completely oblivious of the danger, like she was thinking Huang Rong and she were just playing around. Huang Rong asked her again, Shagu laughed and said, “You kill me, I also will kill you!”

    Huang Rong raised her eyebrow and said “This stupid girl is not telling us anything, we should take a look inside the room, Big Brother Zhou, please take care of master and keep an eye on this girl, Brother Jing, let’s go in.”

    Zhou Botong shook his hands and said, “No, I am going in with you.”

    Huang Rong told him, “I don’t want you to come in with me.”

    Although Zhou Botong was a Senior with higher level of martial arts, for some reason he did not dare to defy Huang Rong’s order, he could only beg, “Good Miss, next time I won’t argue with you.”

    Huang Rong smiled slightly and nodded her head. Zhou Botong was very happy; he found two pine branches, lighted them up and fumigated the dark hole for a long time. The fumigated hole emitted a very foul odor. Huang Rong picked up a pinewood torch and threw it into the hole. There was a clatter as the torch hit the far side wall and fell to the ground. Turned out the hole was not deep at all.

    With the light from the torch she looked inside. The room was quiet; there was no trace of people. At that moment, Zhou Botong became impatient and sneaked pass Huang Rong inside the room. Huang Rong followed Zhou Botong cautiously. The size of the room was not large. In fact, it was quite small. Zhou Botong cried out “We are fooled, we are fooled, this is no good!”

    Huang Rong then let out an “ah!” sound as she spotted a skeleton of a dead person lying on the ground. The skeleton lied upward and the clothes had already decayed. Two rows of ribs of the skeleton were broken. There was another skeleton on the east corner of the room. This skeleton lied on top of an iron chest. There was a long blade penetrating the skeleton in between the ribs and pierced through the iron chest’s lid.

    Zhou Botong saw the room was small and dirty. He thought those two dead corpses were not that interesting. While Huang Rong carefully examined the two skeletons, Zhou Botong got really impatient and wanted to interrupt her inspection, only to fear that Huang Rong might get angry. He did not dare to say anything and behaved normally, while, inside, his mind was going crazy. He tried asking her, “Rong’er, Good Miss, I can go out now, can't I?”

    Huang Rong said “Fine, you can go, get Brother Jing for me.”

    Zhou Botong happily ran out and said to Guo Jing, “Come in quickly, it’s very interesting here,” He was afraid Huang Rong might call him back to accompany him, so he found a ‘scapegoat’. Guo Jing went in.

    Huang Rong raised her torch to show Guo Jing the skeletons and asked, “How do you think these two people died?”

    Guo Jing pointed to the skeleton on the iron chest; “Looks like this person died while trying to open the iron tank, died of sneak attack in one stab, while another person had two rows of ribs shattered, so he probably was attacked by a palm of great internal strength.”

    Huang Rong said, “I think so too, but there are some things I don’t quite understand.”

    Guo Jing replied, “What things?”

    “Shagu obviously used the peach blossoming island’s technique ‘jade-green wave’ palm, although she only knew six, seven moves and was not proficient, her technique was good and correct,” said Huang Rong, “The two dead people here, I wonder what is their relation to Shagu.”

    Guo Jing responded, “I will ask the girl”. Oftentimes he was called ‘stupid kid’ by others so he was not willing to call that girl ‘Shagu’ [meaning stupid aunt].

    “I think that girl is truly retarded, it would be difficult to get any information from her, perhaps we can investigate on our own with the small evidences we have here,” Huang Rong suggested. She lifted her torch and slowly examined the skeleton and noticed a shiny object by the iron chest. She picked it up and looked carefully. It was a gold emblem. In the middle, there is a marking of a gate engraved into the gold. On the backside of the emblem, there are several engraved characters that read ‘by royal decree bestowed to loyal martial art master responsible to defend the state, special guard Shi Yanming’.

    Huang Rong said, “If this emblem is his, this government officer’s rank was not low.”

    Guo Jing replied, “A high-ranking official died in here, this is strange.”

    Huang Rong checked the skeleton on the ground again and she noticed something sticking out around the rib area. She used the torch end to push on it. The object fell, dispersing the dust and revealing a sheet made of iron. She called out in a shocked low voice and picked up the object.

    Part 4 – Translated by Foxs

    Guo Jing also saw the object in her hand, “Ah!” he also exclaimed.

    “Do you recognize this?” Huang Rong asked.

    “Certainly,” Guo Jing replied, “This is the iron ‘ba gua’ [Eight Diagram] of Village Master Lu of the Cloud Village.”

    “It is an iron ‘ba gua’ alright, but it doesn’t necessarily belong to Martial Brother Lu,” Huang Rong said.

    “That’s right!” Guo Jing said, “Certainly not. These two men’s clothes and flesh have been decomposed clean; they have been here for at least ten years.”

    Huang Rong was silent for half a day; suddenly a thought came into her heart. She pulled out the blade stuck on the iron chest’s lid and brought it close to the fire; she saw a character ‘Qu’ was engraved on the blade. She could not help blurting, “The one lying on the ground was my martial brother, Qu Shige [older martial brother Qu].”

    “Ah!” Guo Jing exclaimed in surprise.

    “Martial Brother Lu said that Martial Brother Lu was still alive, who would have thought he had already died in this place … Brother Jing, look at his legs bones,” Huang Rong said.

    Guo Jing stooped down and looked, “Both of his legs were broken. Ah, it was your father who broke them,” he said.

    Huang Rong nodded her head. “He was indeed Qu Lingfeng. My father once said that among his disciples, Martial Brother Qu had the strongest martial art, he was also my father’s favorite …” Speaking to this point she suddenly dashed out the room. Guo Jing followed.

    Huang Rong quickly went over to Shagu and asked, “Your surname is Qu, isn’t it?” Shagu giggled but did not answer.

    Guo Jing gently asked, “Miss, what is your surname?”

    “Surname? (Giggle) Surname!” Shagu said.

    Two people wanted to ask further, but Zhou Botong had already called out, “I am starving! I am starving!”

    “Right!” Huang Rong said, “We need to eat first.” She untied Shagu and invited her to eat together. Shagu was not bashful; she smiled, held out her hands to take the bowl and ate.

    Huang Rong told Hong Qigong everything she found in the secret room. Hong Qigong also thought it was peculiar, “It seems like that government officer surnamed Shi had killed your Martial Brother Qu; who would have thought your Martial Brother Qu had not breathed his last, he threw the blade and killed him.”

    “Most probably so,” Huang Rong concurred. She took the blade and the iron ‘ba gua’ and showed them to Shagu. “Whose are these?” she asked.

    Shagu’s countenance suddenly changed, she leaned her head sideways to think; looked like she recalled something, but after a while her face turned indifferent. She shook her head and took the blade, not willing to let it go.

    “Apparently she has seen this blade before,” Huang Rong said, “But it must be a long time ago and she can’t remember it anymore.”

    After eating she took care of Hong Qigong and let him sleep; then Guo Jing and she went back to the room to take a further look. They thought they key to this mystery must be hidden inside the iron chest; therefore, they removed the skeleton crouching on top of the chest and opened the lid up. Turned out the lid could be easily opened since it was unlocked. Under the torch light their eyes were dazzled by the gleaming of a chest full of pearl, jade, and all kinds of treasures and antiques.

    Guo Jing only felt surprised, but Huang Rong knew each article was a very rare and precious treasure. Her father’s collection was not as extensive as the content of this chest. She grabbed a handful of pearls and let her finger loosened; the pearl made nice clinking sounds as they fell back into the chest and hit the other pearls and jades. She sighed, “There must be history behind all these treasures; if father were here he would be tell us the origin of each.” She took them one by one and explained what it was to Guo Jing; this one was a jade bracelet, this one rhino skin case, that one was cornelian cup, that one was emerald dish, and so on.

    Guo Jing grew up in the desert; not only he had never seen this kind of treasures, he had never even heard of them; he thought, “People spent so much effort to collect these gadgets, don’t know what they are going to do with them?”

    While speaking Huang Rong continued to grope around in the box, and her hand touched a piece of hard board; she knew there must be another layer underneath. She moved the jewelry aside and saw rings around the board; she inserted her little fingers inside the rings and lifted the board up. Underneath were a bunch of greenish copper colored antiques. She had heard her father illustrated to her some antique copperwares, and she recognized some to be ‘long wen ding’ [imperial culture tripod], ‘shang yi’ [an article from the Shang Dynasty (16th to 11th century BC)], ‘zhou pan’ [plate from Zhou Dynasty (1027BC)], ‘zhou dun’ [an article from Zhou Dynasty], ‘zhou ju lei’ [tableware from Zhou Dynasty] and such. In the end she had to admit she did not know much about these articles. If the pearls and jades were considered treasures worth a fortune, then these bronze antiques were priceless.

    The more Huang Rong looked at them, the more marveled she became. She lifted another board underneath the antiques and discovered rolls and rolls of paintings. She asked for Guo Jing’s help and together they opened up the paintings one by one. She was shocked! The first painting was Wu Daozi’s ‘song zi tian wang tu’ [send off a child heavenward]. The next painting was Han Ganhua’s ‘mu ma tu’ [herding horse]; the other was Southern Tang Dynasty’s Li Houzhu’s ‘lin quan du zhui ren wu’ [crossing the forest spring]. Altogether there were more than twenty scrolls and not even a single one of them did not originate from the pen of a famous artist. Several scrolls were calligraphy and paintings from Hui Zong; several others were from the penmanship of contemporary artists, but each one of them was of the most exquisite and highest quality art. Among them were the handiworks of imperial court’s artist Liang Kai’s unique two-rolls splashing ink characters, with a very vivid image; a part of it reminded her of Zhou Botong.

    Huang Rong only looked at about half of them and did not feel like continuing; she returned everything into the chest, closed the lid and sat on top of the chest, hugging her knees. She thought, “Father had amassed all kinds of treasures all his life, but the value of his collection maybe only one tenth of the content of this chest; how did Martial Brother Qu have this kind of ability to obtain these many rare and priceless treasures?” No matter how hard she racked her brain she could not think of any good explanation.

    Every time Huang Rong was thinking hard, Guo Jing had never dared to disturb her train of thoughts. He stayed quiet until he heard Zhou Botong called out from outside, “Hey! Get out of there quick; we need to visit the old emperor’s house for some ‘yuan yang wu zhen kuai’ [minced five-treasure mandarin duck]!”

    “Tonight?” Guo Jing asked.

    Hong Qigong replied, “The earlier the better. I am afraid I can’t hold on much longer.”

    “Shifu, don’t listen to the Old Urchin speaking a whole bunch of nonsense,” Huang Rong said, “We can’t go tonight; we will enter the city gate early morning tomorrow. If the Old Urchin has anymore weird ideas, we won’t let him come to the palace with us.”

    “Humph!” Zhou Botong snorted, “Once again I am to be blamed.” He sulked and refused to talk.

    That night four people slept on the straw beds strewn on the ground. Early the next morning Huang Rong and Guo Jing prepared some breakfast; four people plus Shagu ate together. Huang Rong turned the iron bowl and closed the cabinet walls; and then put all chipped bowls and broken utensils back inside the cabinet. Shagu was indifferent to what was going on around her; she held the handle of the blade in her hand and played with it.

    Huang Rong took a small ingot of silver from her pocket and gave it to her; Shagu took it and casually tossed in on the table. “If you are hungry you can take the money to buy rice and meat,” Huang Rong said. It was hard to say if Shagu understood, since she only giggled foolishly.

    Huang Rong felt sadness creeping into her heart; knowing this girl must have had some relation with Qi Lingfeng, if not his family member then she must be his disciple. Her six, seven stances of ‘bi bo zhang fa’ [jade-green waves palm technique] definitely came from Qu Lingfeng, even though she learned it carelessly. What Huang Rong did not know was whether she was retarded since birth, or did she experience some horrifying experience which gave her a shock and damaged her brain. She wanted to find some information in the village, but Zhou Botong kept urging them to move forward. Thereupon four people and one cart went straight entering the city of Lin’an.

    Lin’an was originally the world’s most bustling city. When the Song government moved south it was established as the new capital. All kinds of people converged into the city, and it became increasingly flourishing.

    Four people entering the city via the east gate and went straight to the front of ‘li cheng men’ [beautiful portal gate] of the imperial palace. Hong Qigong stayed inside the cart, while Zhou Botong and the others looked around. They saw the golden nails on scarlet doors, painted beams and engraved railings, and copper tiles covering the roof; with sculptures of flying dragon and phoenix all in magnificent splendor, dazzling their eyes.

    “Interesting!” Zhou Botong called out loudly; he took a step to enter in.

    The palace guards stationed in front of the gate had noticed these three people, one old and two young, with a mule cart making noise in front of the imperial palace gate; four guards with axes in their hands had already stepped forward with a menacing look on their faces.

    Zhou Botong loved to make disturbance very much; seeing the guards with their distinctive armor, tall and powerfully built, he was itchy to have an interesting fight.

    “Quickly go!” Huang Rong called out.

    Zhou Botong stared at her. “What are you afraid of? Do you think these babies can eat the Old Urchin?” he asked.

    Huang Rong quickly said, “Brother Jing, let’s go and play someplace else. The Old Urchin is not obedient, we’ll just ignore him.” She lashed her whip and the cart sped along to the west. Guo Jing followed behind. Zhou Botong was afraid he would be left behind while they were going someplace more interesting; he ignored the guards and ran to catch up. The guards thought they were simple villagers looking around the city; they laughed out loud but did not pursue.

    Huang Rong drove the cart to a desolate place. Seeing nobody chased them, they stopped at last.

    “Why didn’t we break into the palace? Can those wine bags and rice sacks stop us?” Zhou Botong asked.

    “Certainly breaking in is not difficult, but let me ask you: are we here to fight or to go to the kitchen and steal some food?” Huang Rong said, “If you break in, the palace will be chaotic; do you think the chef will nicely make some ‘yuan yang wu zhen kuai’ for Shifu to eat?”

    “Fighting and capturing people is the guards’ business, it has nothing to do with the chef,” Zhou Botong reasoned. Actually what he said did make some sense so that Huang Rong momentarily was at a loss; but she did not want to yield to him, so she argued, “The imperial chef can both prepare food and capture people.”

    Zhou Botong stared but did not know how to respond. Half a day later he conceded, “Fine, just consider I was wrong.”

    “What do you mean ‘consider’? You were wrong from the start,” Huang Rong said.

    “Fine, fine,” Zhou Botong said, “Don’t consider anything, don’t consider anything.” Turning his head to Guo Jing he said, “Brother, all women in the world are very ferocious; that’s why the Old Urchin said don’t take a wife.”

    Huang Rong laughed, “Brother Jing is a good man, others won’t be ferocious toward him.”

    “Are you saying I am not a good man?” Zhou Botong asked.

    Huang Rong smiled, “Are you? You don’t want to take a wife, but other people don’t like the way you handle anything, only creating trouble and disturbance. Tell me, why don’t you want to take a wife?”

    Zhou Botong leaned his head sideways to think, unable to answer. His face turned red, and then white; seemed like his mind was heavy with anxieties. Huang Rong very seldom saw him this serious; she was astonished.

    “Let’s find an inn to stay; we’ll come back to the palace tonight,” Guo Jing said.

    “That’s right!” Huang Rong agreed, “Shifu, as soon as we find an inn, I am going to prepare a couple of simple dish to be your appetizers; we will have a feast later on tonight.”

    Hong Qigong was delighted, he cheered repeatedly.

    Four people stayed at the Jin Hua hotel on the street west of the imperial palace. True to her words, Huang Rong prepared three dishes and a soup for Hong Qigong to eat. The aroma spread around the inn that the guests inquired with the innkeeper which famous chef cooked this kind of fine cuisine.

    Zhou Botong was still mad at Huang Rong’s words that he could not find a wife; he sulked and did not want to eat. Three people knew his childish behavior; they only laughed and did not give him any attention.

    After eating Hong Qigong laid down to rest. Guo Jing asked Zhou Botong to go out and play, but in his anger he ignored Guo Jing. Huang Rong chuckled, “Then you’d better look after my Shifu nicely; when I return, I will buy some fun things for you to play with.”

    “You are not lying?” Zhou Botong delightfully asked.

    Huang Rong smiled, “’yi yan ji chu, si ma nan zhui’ [lit. when a word already leaves, it is difficult for four horses to chase].”

    During the spring when Huang Rong left home to go north, she visited Hangzhou for one day; but this city was too close to the Peach Blossom Island. She was afraid her father might find her here, hence she did not dare to stay too long, and so her visit was a quick one. This time the day was long and nothing burdened her mind. Hand in hand with Guo Jing they went to the West Lake (xi hu).

    She noticed Guo Jing’s countenance was dark, she knew he worried about their master’s injury. “Shifu said there is one person in this world who can heal his injury,” Huang Rong said, “Only he did not allow me to ask. From the way he talked, it must be that Emperor Duan; but we don’t know where he is. We must find a way to ask him to treat and heal Shifu.”

    “That’s great,” Guo Jing happily said, “Rong’er, do you think we can ask him?”

    Huang Rong replied, “I am still thinking of how we can ask. During our meal today I tried to fish out some information from Shifu’s mouth. He was just about to say; too bad he realized it and stopped talking immediately. Eventually I must find this information from him.” Guo Jing knew her ability very well, he was greatly relieved.

    While talking they arrived at the Broken Bridge by the lakeside. That ‘duan qiao can xue’ [the broken bridge where people can see the remnant of the snow] was one of the West Lake’s famous scenery; only it was summer so what they saw was the lotus under the bridge. Huang Rong saw a neat little wine shop by the lakeside. “Let’s drink a cup of wine while enjoying the lotus,” she said.

    “Very good,” Guo Jing agreed. Two people went in and sat down. The shopkeeper delivered some wine and dishes of meat which tasted very good. Two people drank wine while enjoying the scenery; they were in a good mood.

    Huang Rong saw a screen by the eastern window, covered with jade-green muslin. Obviously the shop owner regarded the screen as a very precious object. Her curiosity was piqued; she went over to take a closer look. Turned out underneath the muslin there was a poem inscribed on the screen; it was the ‘feng ru song’ [wind entering the pine], which read:

    ‘Spring time is always spent wasting money, drinking daily by the lakeside. Riding a buckskin horse along the road toward the West Lake, proudly passing in front of a tavern. Singing and dancing amidst the sweet fragrance of red apricots, swinging in the shadow of green willows. Warm wind embraced ten ‘li’s of beautiful women and sky, crushed flowers adorned the side of their temples. Picturesque boats carrying incense going back and forth are like smoke covering the water. Comeback tomorrow carrying the remnant of drunkenness, coming to seek the fancy golden inlaid on the pathway.’

    Part 6 (Translated by Bluebook & Foxs)

    Huang Rong said, “This poem is a good one”.

    Guo Jing asked her to explain the meaning of the poem. The more he listened, the more upset he became, said, “This is the capital of the Great Song Dynasty, these government officials spend their days drinking wine and enjoying flowers, don’t they care nor even pay attention to the affair of the country?”

    Huang Rong replied, “Exactly, these people talk shamelessly!”

    Suddenly someone behind them said, “Humph! What do you two know enough to talk nonsense here?”

    They turned around and saw a man dressed as a scholar, roughly 40 years of age, sneering at them. Guo Jing greeted the scholar by cupping his hand and said, “Junior does not understand and would like to ask Mister for advice.”

    That man replied, “This is the most splendid work of Yu Guobao in the year of Chun Xi. That year Emperor Gao Zong Tai Shang came to drink wine, he saw the work and praised it greatly. That very same day the emperor granted Yu Guobao a government position. This is a scholar’s lifelong dream; and the two of you absurdly ridicule it!”

    “So because the Emperor saw this screen that the innkeeper covers it with a jade-green muslin?” Huang Rong asked.

    That man coldly laughed and said, “How can it be so? Look at the sentence ‘Comeback tomorrow carrying the remnant of drunkenness’ on the screen. Do you see that this one sentence has two corrected characters?”

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing examined closer and found the character ‘fu’ [carrying up or supporting somebody up] was formerly ‘xie’ [bringing/carrying along], and the character ‘zui’ [drunkenness] was actually ‘jiu’ [wine].

    The man then said, “Yu Gaobao originally intended to write ‘Comeback tomorrow bringing the remnant of the wine’. The Tai Shang Emperor smiled and said, ‘Although this phrase is good, it is rather simple-minded’. Hence he took a brush to correct these two characters. That was truly heaven sent wisdom and farsightedness, purifying iron into gold.” He swayed his head and sighed as if he was enjoying incessantly.

    Guo Jing listened and became angry. He loudly yelled, “This emperor Gao Zong put Qin Gui in an important position, to harm and kill Master Yue [General Yue Fei]!” His leg flew and kicked the screen, smashing it. He grabbed backward to catch the scholar and push him forward. With a splashing sound the wine spilled everywhere; that man, head up feet down, sank into the wine vat.

    Huang Rong loudly applauded and laughed, “I too will make correction on these two sentences; they are, ‘Today standing upright spoiling the wine, the gentleman sank into the vat drunk.”

    The scholar emerged from the wine jar, as wine was dripping from his head, he said, “The oblique tone of ‘drunk’ does not rhyme well.”

    Huang Rong replied, “‘Wind entering the pine’ does not rhyme well. My poem ‘Man entering the jar’ rhymes better!” She extended her hand and firmly pressed his head down inside the wine jar, then flipped the table over, causing a disorderly burst. Both the customers and the wine shop keeper scrambled out the shop. Guo Jing and Huang Rong rose up; they pounded and smashed all the wine vats, pots and cauldrons. Finally using the ’18-Dragon Subduing Palms’ Guo Jing exerted all his strength to strike the main pillar of the inn, causing the roof to collapse. For a brief moment, a large restaurant transformed into a ruin made of wood, hardly resembling anything.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong laughed loudly. Holding each other’s hand, they walked to the north. Nobody knew where did these couple of mad young man and young woman come from; who dared to pursue?

    Guo Jing laughed, “That was a good beating, all the bad air in my chest went away completely.”

    Huang Rong happily replied, “Whenever we see anything unsightly, we will break it.”

    Guo Jing replied, “Good!”

    Since leaving the Peach Blossom Island, two people went through many unfavorable situations. Although they were reunited, their teacher suffered a serious and difficult to heal injury, making their hearts constantly heavy. This time unexpectedly they had a chance to break up a restaurant; it had helped to vent their frustration. The couple leisurely walked along the lakeshore and saw poems everywhere: on the rocks, on the trees, on the pavilions and on the walls. They were either leisure travelers bidding their farewell, or young men expressing their love.

    Guo Jing did not understand the poems, but when he saw the words ‘wind’, ‘flower’, ‘snow’ and ‘moon’ he sighed and said, “Even if we have a thousand pairs of fists, we can’t break them all. Rong’er, you have learned literature and art, what are all these for?”

    Huang Rong smiled, “There were some good ones among these poems,” she said.

    Guo Jing shook his head, “I still think fists and kicks are more useful,” he said.

    While walking and talking they reached the ‘fei lai feng’ [flew in peak]. There was a pavilion built on that peak. Above the gateway there were three characters ‘cui wei ting’ [jade-green small pavilion] in Han Shizong’s handwriting. Guo Jing knew Han Shizong’s reputation; seeing the handwriting of the general who resisted the Jin army he was delighted. He quickly walked into the pavilion. There was a stone monument inside the pavilion, with a poem engraved on it:

    ‘With the passing years dust has settled on the battle uniforms, especially seeking some fragrant jade-green wine, not enough to only see good mountain and good river, taking advantage of the bright moon light the return of horse hoofs.’

    This seemed to be the handwriting of Han Shizhong as well.

    “This is a good poem,” Guo Jing praised. Actually, he did not know a good poem from the bad, but he thought this poem was Han Shizhong’s, also it contained words like ‘zheng yi’ [battle uniforms] and ‘ma ti’ [horse hoofs]; so it must be good.

    Huang Rong said, “That was Master Yue, Yue Fei’s work.”

    Guo Jing was surprised; he asked, “How do you know?”

    Huang Rong replied, “I listened to father’s story. In the winter of the eleventh year of Shaoxing, Master Yue died under the hand of Qin Gui. In the spring of the following year, remembering him Han Shizhong built this pavilion and engraved this poem as a memorial. Unfortunately, Qin Gui was highly influential during that period, so he could not openly commensurate Master Yue.”

    Remembering the previous dynasty’s general Guo Jing stretched out his hand and ran his finger along the inscription on the stone. While he was lost in thought suddenly Huang Rong pulled his sleeve and jumped toward the bushes behind the pavilion, pressing his head down. As they were crouching, they heard footsteps of people entering the pavilion. A moment later they heard someone said, “Han Shizhong was naturally a hero. His lady, Liang Hongyu, although came from prostitution, had helped her husband achieve victory by beating drums during the battle. She could be considered a heroine.”

    Guo Jing found this voice to be somewhat familiar but could not remember who it was. Again another man said, “Yue Fei and Han Shizhong were heroes, but the emperor wanted their deaths and stripped their military leadership. Both Han and Yue must follow the order; obviously the emperor held the power that even heroes like them cannot defy.”

    Guo Jing listened to the accent and recognized this person as Yang Kang. Guo Jing was unconsciously startled; thinking what was Yang Kang doing here? While still surprised, another broken cymbal-like voice confounded him even more. It was the Western Poison Ouyang Feng. He heard Ouyang Feng said, “Correct, with muddle-headed ruler in reign just like the previous dynasty; it doesn’t matter how great a hero is, he is useless.”

    The first person then said, “But if a wise ruler is on the throne, a great hero like Mr. Ouyang could greatly help him unfold his aspiration.”

    Listening to these two speaking suddenly Guo Jing remembered that the other one was the enemy who killed his father, the Sixth Prince of the Great Jin, Wanyan Honglie. Even though he had seen Wanyan Honglie’s face before, but it was not often he heard his voice, therefore, he was unable to remember for a moment.

    The three people talking and laughing, then they left the pavilion. Guo Jing waited until they were gone far then he asked no one in particular, “What do they do in Lin’an? How come Brother Kang is with them?”

    “Humph,” Huang Rong snorted, “Early on I have seen this brother of yours is not a good thing. You still said that he is a descendant of a hero. You have been deceived. Now you understand his real intention. If he is really a good man, how could he fool around with those two scoundrels?”

    Guo Jing was very much bewildered, “I don’t understand,” he said. Thereupon Huang Rong told him everything she heard at the Fragrant Snow Hall of the Zhao Palace. She said, “Wanyan Honglie gathered Peng Lianhu and the other fellows, his intention is to steal the Master Yue Wumu’s Legacy. They suddenly came over here so perhaps this Legacy is in Lin’an. If they succeed then our Great Song’s common people will suffer great calamity.”

    Guo Jing shivered with fear, “We simply cannot let them succeed,” he said.

    Huang Rong said, “The problem is that the Western Poison is traveling with them.”

    “Are you scared?” Guo Jing asked.

    “Aren’t you?” Huang Rong asked back.

    Guo Jing replied, “Naturally I am scared of the Western Poison, but this is not a small matter; we … even if we are scared we simply cannot overlook it.”

    Huang Rong smiled, “If you must take care of it, then naturally I will follow you.”

    “Very well,” Guo Jing said, “Let’s go after them.”

    Part 7 – Translated by Foxs

    Leaving the pavilion they did not see tracks of Wanyan Honglie’s three people group and were forced to look around the city randomly. Hangzhou was a big city, how could they find what they were looking for in a short period of time? After walking for half a day the sky was turning dark; two people arrived in front of the ‘wu lin yuan’ [martial art garden] at Zhong Wazi [lit. the middle of a tile, I think it is a place]. Huang Rong saw a shop that hung a lot of masks in the entrance, with their features drawn vividly. She was amused and remembered her promise to buy something fun for Zhou Botong; thereupon she spent five silver coins and bought ‘zhong kui’ [I think it’s the king of ghosts], ‘pan guan’ [the judge of hell], ‘zao jun’ [kitchen god], ‘tu di’ [earth god], ‘shen bing’ [soldier of heaven] and other ghosts/supernatural beings, more than a dozen masks.

    While the shopkeeper was wrapping the masks with paper, there came the sweet smelling fragrance of food and wine from a restaurant next door. Two people had been walking for half a day and by that time they were already starving. “What restaurant is that?” Huang Rong asked.

    The shopkeeper smiled and said, “Turned out you two are new to the capital, no wonder you don’t know. This ‘san yuan lou’ [three-primary tavern; ‘lou’ refers to the second floor of a building or a multi-story building] is very well-known in our Lin’an. The wine, the food and the utensils are number one under the heaven. You two cannot not go and try it.”

    Huang Rong’s heart was moved by what he said; she took the masks and then pulled Guo Jing to the front of ‘san yuan lou’. They saw the building was decorated with colorful paints and a row of red and green fence. Underneath the second floor roof hung flower-patterned lanterns. The interior was inlaid with luxuriant wood; the pavilion looked elegant and unconventional. It was truly an exquisite tavern.

    As two people walked in, they were welcomed by the waiter with a face full of smiles and were led through a corridor to a chamber already set with bowls and chopsticks. Huang Rong immediately placed her order and the waiter left to prepare the food.

    Under the candlelight Guo Jing saw in the nearby porch more than a dozen of women [‘ji4 nu3’ – courtesan (courtesy of Ren Wo Xing), lit. ‘prostitute’ or ‘hooker’] with heavy makeup sitting in a row. He wondered who they were; he was about to ask when suddenly from the next door chamber he heard Wanyan Honglie’s voice called out, “That’s fine! Let’s have somebody sing to accompany us drinking the wine.”

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at each other, they thought, “Just like the saying goes, ‘wearing out the iron shoes to look around, finding the result without any effort’.”

    A call was heard, and a woman gracefully stood up and walked toward the next door chamber with a pair of ivory planks in her hand. A short moment later the woman started to sing. Huang Rong inclined her ears to listen to her song:

    “The southeast appears victorious, the rivers and lakes (Jianghu) convene, Qiantang River always flourishes from the ancient times. The bridge looks like a painting of smoking willow; the wind blow the wine shop sign and the jade-green curtain, amidst a hundred thousand people. Cloudy trees wind around the sandy dike, angry waves roll up like frosty snow, the sky and the moat around the city are boundless. Rows of pearls line up in the market, the homes compete with each other to show their extravagance. The clear water lake surrounded by three autumn cassia buds and ten ‘li’s of lotuses. Along the clear alleys the water chestnut songs floating through the night, enticing old gentlemen to the lotus-like dolls. A thousand riders gather around the ivory tower, intoxicated by the sound of flute and drum, enjoying the rosy-cloud smoke. A particular day to paint fine scenery, as the phoenix returns to the pond of praise.”

    Guo Jing did not understand the yada, yada, yada of her singing, but he did enjoy the gentle tapping of her ivory planks and the melodious flute sound.

    As the song finished, both Wanyan Honglie and Yang Kang exclaimed their praise, “You sing very well!”

    The woman repeatedly expressed her gratitude, and jubilantly went out with the musicians, wishing Wanyan Honglie many enjoyments.

    Wanyan Honglie said, “Son, do you know that this Liu Yong [eternal willow – I think it is a person’s name] poem ‘wang hai chao’ [gazing the ocean tide] has a close relationship with our Great Jin?”

    “Your child does not know,” Yang Kang replied, “Would Father please explain?”

    Listening to him calling Wanyan Honglie ‘father’ [tie tie – daddy/papa] in an affectionate tone Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at each other. Guo Jing was angry and broken hearted; he wished he could go over and clutch him, asking for explanation.

    He heard Wanyan Honglie replied, “During the prosperous years of our Great Jin, the Jin’s Lord Liang saw this poem by Liu Yong, which praised the beauty of the West Lake’s scenery. Thereupon he sent an emissary to go down south and at the same time dispatching a famous painter to paint the scenery around the City of Lin’an. The painter inserted the Jin Lord image in the painting, sitting on a horseback standing on the peak of Wu Shan [Hill Wu]. The Jin Lord wrote this poem on the painting, ‘Ten thousands of ‘li’s riding on a chariot, how can there be another border to the Jiangnan? Dispatching soldiers by the million to the West Lake, on a horseback standing on Wu Shan’s first peak!’”

    “What a grand and heroic spirit!” Yang Kang praised.

    Guo Jing was so angry hearing him that he clenched his fist so hard that his knuckles made cracking sounds.

    Wanyan Honglie sighed, “Jin’s Lord Liang’s desire to dispatch soldiers to the south and on a horseback standing on Wu Shan did not come true, but his heroic spirit to cross the river is actually inherited by us, his descendants. Once he inscribed this poem on a folding fan: ‘With a great fan in the hand, bringing cool breeze all over the world.’ That’s the kind of ambition he had!”

    Yang Kang repeated that poem, “With a great fan in the hand, bringing cool breeze all over the world.” He sounded like he was really impressed by it.

    Ouyang Feng let out some laughter and said, “Someday Prince’s dream of having a great authority and standing on Wu Shan will come true.”

    [Translator’s note: the words ‘great fan’ in the poem, the original text was ‘da bing’; ‘bing’ can be translated ‘handle’ or ‘hilt’ – referring to the handle of the fan, but can also translated to ‘authority’. Ouyang Feng was referring to the other meaning of the word.]

    Wanyan Honglie quietly said, “Do hope Sir’s words will come true. There are too many ears and eyes around here, let us just drink some wine.” And so three people changed the topic of their conversation immediately; they talked about the sceneries, what they saw and heard, about local conditions and social customs.

    Huang Rong whispered into Guo Jing’s ear, “They are having a good time drinking wine, I don’t want them to have a good time.” Two people slipped away from their chamber and went to the backyard. Huang Rong took out her flint and ignited the firewood in the shed and spread the fire around.

    In a short moment the flame arose and the people shouted in confusions, “Fire!” Then they heard copper gongs were struck noisily.

    “Quick, we must go to the front, otherwise we’ll lose track of them again,” Huang Rong said.

    Guo Jing was full of hatred, “Tonight I must kill that traitor Wanyan Honglie!” he said.

    Huang Rong said, “First we must take Shifu to the palace to eat, afterwards we entreat the Old Urchin to face the Western Poison; only then can we deal with the other two traitors.”

    “That’s right,” Guo Jing said.

    Amidst the commotion two people walked to the front of the restaurant, just as Wanyan Honglie, Ouyang Feng and Yang Kang three people emerged from the building. Guo Jing and Huang Rong followed them from a distance, along the streets and alleys towards the west market; entering Hotel Guan Gai. Two people waited outside the hotel for a long time without seeing Wanyan Honglie and the others coming back outside, so they concluded that they must be staying in this hotel.

    “Let’s return to our place; we fetch the Old Urchin and come back here to deal with them,” Huang Rong said. They went back to Hotel Jin Hua immediately.

    Approaching the hotel they heard Zhou Botong’s voice shouting in loud clamor. Guo Jing was scared, he thought his Shifu’s injury was getting worse; he rushed forward anxiously only to see Zhou Botong was squatting on the ground, squabbling with about six, seven boys. Turned out he was betting against these kids in front of the hotel’s gate and he lost; he argued with the kids, but the kids argued back, hence it was so noisy.

    Seeing Huang Rong was back, he was afraid she would scold him; he turned around and went back into the hotel. Huang Rong smiled, she took the masks out. Zhou Botong was delighted, squealing again and again; he put on the mask and become the judge of hell, and then turned into a little demon.

    Huang Rong expressed their desire to take him to help them fight the Western Poison. Zhou Botong readily agreed. “Don’t worry,” he said, “My two hands can use two different fist techniques to fight him.”

    Huang Rong remembered the other day on the Peach Blossom Island Zhou Botong was afraid he might involuntarily use the martial art from the Nine Yin Manual; he tied his own hands and as a result was injured by her father. “The Western Poison is very bad,” she said, “You can’t be considered disobeying your martial brother’s death wish if you injure him with the martial art from the Manual.”

    Zhou Botong stared hard at her. “No, I can’t do it” he said, “I have trained hard, I don’t need to use the technique from the Manual.”

    By that time Hong Qigong’s heart was already inside the imperial palace’s kitchen. With a great difficulty he waited until the second hour that night; Guo Jing carried Hong Qigong on his back, four people walked on roofs toward the imperial palace. The palace was taller than everybody else’s houses, the roof glittered with gold inlaid, very easy to identify; so before long quietly, without making any noise four people had leaped over the palace’s wall.

    The security inside the palace was tight, with guards patrolling everywhere; but with the kind of lightness kungfu Zhou, Guo and Huang possess, how could they let themselves to be caught by the guards? Hong Qigong knew where the kitchen was; with a low voice he showed the way. In a short moment they had arrived at the imperial kitchen, located behind the ‘liu bu shan’ [six ministry hill]. The kitchen was to the east of ‘jia ming dian’ [fine bright hall], where the imperial meals were being prepared. These places were adjacent to the imperial sleeping chamber and the imperial personal office; all around were tightly guarded with alarms everywhere. But by then the emperor had already gone to bed, the imperial kitchen staff had been adjourned. Four people arrived at the well-lit kitchen, with several young court eunuchs slumbered inside.

    Guo Jing helped Hong Qigong sitting on the beam while Huang Rong and Zhou Botong looked for cooked meals in the kitchen cabinets; very soon four people started chewing.

    Zhou Botong shook his head, “Old Beggar, how can the food here be compared to Rong’er’s culinary skill? I don’t understand why you earnestly desired to come here.”

    Hong Qigong replied, “I wanted to eat the ‘yuan yang wu zhen kuai’ [mandarin duck five treasured mince meat]. I don’t know where the chef is. Tomorrow we shall catch him and tell him to prepare something to your taste.”

    “I don’t believe his culinary skill is superior to Rong’er,” Zhou Botong said.

    Huang Rong smiled, she knew he wanted to thank her for the masks, that was why he praised her repeatedly.

    “I want to stay here and wait for the chef,” Hong Qigong said, “Since you are bored, why don’t you and Jing’er go out the palace and let Rong’er stay here to accompany me. Tomorrow night you can come back here again.”

    Zhou Botong put on the city god mask and laughed, “No,” he said, “I want to accompany you in here. Tomorrow I am going to wear this mask to scare the old emperor. Brother Guo, Rong’er, you keep your eyes on the Old Poison, don’t let him steal the Yue Fei’s legacy.”

    “What the Old Urchin said was very reasonable,” Hong Qigong said, “Go quickly, just be careful.” Two people gave their promise.

    “Don’t fight the Old Poison tonight, look for me tomorrow,” Zhou Botong said.

    “We can’t beat him, naturally we won’t fight,” Huang Rong said. Along with Guo Jing she slipped away from the imperial kitchen, with the intention of going back to Hotel Guan Gai to watch Wanyan Honglie and the others’ activity.

    They tiptoed in the dark through two halls. Suddenly they felt a cool breeze and faintly heard the sound of water. In the stillness of the night they could also smell a faint delicate fragrance, deep from the palace courtyard. Unexpectedly they saw a wooded hill place inside the palace.

    Huang Rong sniffed at this fragrance; she knew there must be a flower garden nearby. She thought in the imperial palace garden there must be many wonderful flowers and excellent plants. While she was there, certainly she could not pass this rare opportunity to take a look. Therefore, she pulled Guo Jing’s hand; following the flower fragrance they looked for the garden.

    Gradually the sound of water intensified. Two people walked around flower-strewn path and saw pine and bamboo trees covering the deep blue sky above; with beautiful hills quietly stood on the background. Huang Rong was secretly impressed of this place. Even though the arrangement was inferior to the Peach Blossom Island, the flowers and trees were exquisitely beautiful.

    They walked several ‘zhang’s further and saw a sheet of water like a silver waterfall coming out from the side of a hill; the water came down to a pond, and in turn, a stream of water coming out of the pond so that it would not overflow. There were countless red lotuses strewn across the surface of the pond. Right in front of the pond there was a hall dense with flowers; just above the entrance was written ‘cui han tang’ [jade-green cold hall] three characters.

    Huang Rong walked to the front of the hall. She saw under the porch were some the steps going up surrounded with all kinds of flowers: ‘mo li’ [jasmine], ‘su xin’ [fragrant vegetable], ‘she xiang teng’ [musk deer fragrant rattan], ‘shu jin’ [vermillion hibiscus], ‘yu gui’ [jade cassia], ‘hong jiao’ [red banana]; all kinds of fragrant plants that bloom in summer. Towards the back of the hall orchids and other scented plants were hung. The sweet smelling incense was burning, filling the hall and attacking their nostrils.

    On the table inside the hall there were several bowls of lotus root, sweet melon, loquat, and all kinds of wild fruits from the forest. Several round fans were strewn on the chairs. Looked like this hall was where the emperor enjoyed the cool evening breeze before going to bed.

    Guo Jing sighed, “This emperor really knows how to enjoy life,” he said.

    Huang Rong laughed, “You can be one now,” she said, pulling Guo Jing to sit on a couch. She offered the bowl of fruits and knelt down. “Long live master, please enjoy some fresh fruits,” she said.

    Guo Jing smiled and picked up a loquat, “Please rise,” he said.

    Huang Rong laughed, “Emperor never says ‘please’, that is too polite,” she said.

    While two people were talking and laughing in low voice suddenly they heard someone shout out from a distant, “Who’s there?” They were startled and leaped out, hiding behind a fake hill. They heard some heavy footsteps; two men came loudly shouting to see. Guo Jing and Huang Rong listened to these people and knew their martial art skills were low and there was nothing to worry about. The guards brandished their sabers, rushing toward the front of the hall. They looked around but did not see anything out of ordinary.

    “You saw a ghost,” one guard said, laughing.

    The other one was also laughing, “I am seeing things these past few days,” he said. They walked away talking and laughing.

    Huang Rong was amused inwardly, she pulled Guo Jing’s hand to go out, but suddenly heard those two guards grunts, ‘hey, hey’. Although the noise was deep and muffled, they knew it was the sound of one’s exhaling because their acupoints were sealed. Guo Jing and Huang Rong both thought, “Is it Big Brother Zhou who got bored and came out to play?”

    They heard someone speak in a low voice, “According to the imperial palace map, the building next to the waterfall is the ‘cui han tang’; we are going there.” This voice belonged to Wanyan Honglie.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong were very shocked; they grabbed each other’s hand and hid even deeper behind the fake hill, did not dare to make any noise. Under the glimmering sparse starlight they saw shadows moving in front of the hall; they vaguely recognized that other than Wanyan Honglie there were Ouyang Feng, Peng Lianhu, Sha Tongtian, Venerable Lingzhi, Liang Ziweng and Hou Tonghai.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong were puzzled, “What are these people doing in the imperial palace?” they thought, “Could it be they also want to steal some food from the imperial kitchen?”

    They heard Wanyan Honglie spoke again, still in low voice, “Little Prince had carefully examined the secret letter Yue Fei left behind; also examined the documents from two dynasties’ emperors Gao Zong and Xiao Zong. I concluded that the Wumu Legacy is hidden fifteen steps east of the ‘cui han tang’.”

    Everybody’s eyes automatically followed the direction of his hand; fifteen steps east of the hall was the waterfall, nothing else. Wanyan Honglie said, “How the book could be hidden in the waterfall, Little Prince found it hard to guess, but according to the documents, this is the correct place.”

    Sha Tongtian was known as the ‘gui men long wang’ [dragon king of Gui Men (demon sect/devil’s gate)]; his water skill was excellent. “I’ll go to take a look at the waterfall,” he said. Without waiting further he stepped forward and jumped into the water. Not long afterward he reemerged from the water. Everybody rushed forward to welcome him, only to listen to him saying, “The Prince can really see clearly; behind the waterfall there is a cave with closed iron door.”

    Wanyan Honglie was ecstatic, “The Wumu Legacy must be inside the cave,” he said, “I am afraid I’ll have to inconvenience gentlemen to open that iron gate.”

    Everybody unsheathed their precious sabers and sharp blades, complying with his request, everybody wanted to render meritorious service; they raced to the waterfall. Ouyang Feng only laughed coldly, he merely stood by Wanyan Honglie’s side; he felt his reputation was different, he was not willing to fetch the book together with the others.

    Sha Tongtian was the first to duck under the water stream; suddenly a gust of wind assaulting his face. He just came in to take a look and saw nothing; how could he guess an enemy would suddenly attack him? Hurriedly he avoided the attack, but his left wrist was suddenly grabbed by the enemy and he was pushed hard. Against its master’s wish his body flew out and hit Liang Ziweng hard. Luckily both men’s martial art skills were quite high and they were not injured.

    Everybody was taken by surprise. In the meantime Sha Tongtian had entered the waterfall again; this time he was ready, he lifted both palms in front of his face, and sure enough, from behind the waterfall a fist came flying out. He used his left hand to parry while launched a counterattack with his right. All this time he has not seen clearly who the enemy was.

    Liang Ziweng had also jumped into the waterfall. Suddenly a stick came sweeping close to the ground. Liang Ziweng tried to evade, but he was too late; the lower part of his leg were squarely hit, he could not maintain his stand and fell backward. His chest was hit by the waterfall, while his leg was again hit by the stick; against its master’s wish his body fell outside the waterfall.

    By this time Sha Tongtian was also pushed outside the waterfall by a swift and fierce palm. Three-headed dragon Hou Tonghai did not think about what kind of martial art skill his martial brother had, and what kind of skill he had; if his martial brother was easily defeated, how could he hope to achieve success? Relying on his superb water skill, his ability to open his eyes and see underwater, he charged into the waterfall.

    Looking at the adverse situation Peng Lianhu rushed forward to join the battle, but suddenly a dark and rather shiny shadow flew above his head. ‘Bang!’ that shadow fell to the ground; and then he heard Hou Tonghai cried out loudly out of pain. Quickly Peng Lianhu came over and said in a low voice, “Hou Xiong [brother Hou], be quiet! What happened?”

    “His granny!” Hou Tonghai cursed, “My butts are broken into four pieces from the fall.”

    Peng Lianhu was confounded and amused at the same time, “Is there such a thing?” he whispered. He stretched his hand to trace Hou Tonghai’s buttocks, seemingly to see if they were still two pieces; but he saw nothing was injured. He knew something was amiss, so he did not want to rashly face the danger. “Who’s inside?” he asked.

    From pain Hou Tonghai became angry, “How would I know?” he snapped, “As soon as I went in I was thrown back outside. That bastard scoundrel!”

    Under the star light they saw Venerable Lingzhi’s red robe fluttered; he entered the waterfall in big strides. Amidst the gurgling water they could hear his loud shouts in Tibetan; looked like he was fighting an intense battle with the man inside.

    Everybody looked at each other in surprise. Sha Tongtian and Liang Ziweng were thrown outside; but in the darkness they vaguely saw behind the curtain of water there were one man and one woman. The man was barehanded, and the woman had a stick in her hand. By this time they heard Venerable Lingzhi’s loud roar; it looked like he had suffered hardship as well.

    Wanyan Honglie knitted his brows, “Why is this Venerable so reckless? He called out earth shatteringly loud; if the palace guards hear and come over, how can we get the book?” he said.

    He had just finished speaking when they saw Venerable Lingzhi’s red kasaya fly out from the waterfall and float on the red lotus pond, followed by two clanking noise; two copper cymbals that he used as weapons also flew out of the waterfall. Peng Lianhu was afraid the cymbals would make loud noise if they fell to the ground, thus alerting the palace guards; so he stretched out his hands and caught the cymbals. They heard from the waterfall loud shouts, which nobody could understand, of Tibetan curse words; followed by a huge body flying out of the water.

    Luckily Venerable Lingzhi’s martial art was different from Hou Tonghai’s; he fell backward, but was able to land steadily, his buttocks were not injured at all. He cursed aloud, “It’s the boy and the girl we met at the boat.”

    When Guo Jing and Huang Rong were hiding behind the fake hill, they heard Wanyan Honglie’s order to the people to come into the cave and steal the book. They thought if the Wumu Legacy were obtained by him, the Jin army could follow Yue Wumu’s military strategy to invade the south; then it would be disastrous. They realized that Ouyang Feng was around and that they were not his match, but if they did not bravely step forward, how could they bear it if the common people of the world suffer a disaster?

    At first Huang Rong wanted to find a way to scare these people away, but Guo Jing saw the situation was critical; they did not have time to hesitate. Immediately he pulled Huang Rong’s hand and slipped behind the waterfall. They were hoping for an opportunity to set up an ambush and attack Ouyang Feng by surprise. Luckily the waterfall’s rumbling noise was so loud that nobody noticed their movements.

    Two people did all they can to repel Sha Tongtian and the others. They were pleasantly surprised with the result; did not expect the Manual’s ‘changing muscles forging bones’ to be that marvelous. Huang Rong’s ‘dog-beating stick’ had infinite variations, almost fantastical, that even men of Sha Tongtian and Venerable Lingzhi’s caliber were thrown into confusion and helplessness. Guo Jing would take advantage of the situation to send out his palm, as a result they managed to throw everybody out of the waterfall.

    Guo Jing and Huang Rong knew that as Sha Tongtian and the others were defeated, Ouyang Feng would go into action; and that they absolutely could not fight against him. “Let us get out of here quick!” Huang Rong said, “We have to raise the alarm, let the palace guards come over and prevent these people to act further.”

    “That’s right!” Guo Jing said, “You go out and raise the alarm. I am staying here to guard.”

    “You must not fight the Old Poison,” Huang Rong said.

    “Yes. Now go! Go!” Guo Jing said.

    Huang Rong just about to go out through the hole behind the waterfall when suddenly they heard a loud grunt; a great burst of energy came through the waterfall from the outside. Two people did not dare to block, they leaped sideways to evade. With a loud sound the Ouyang Feng’s Toad Stance energy penetrated the waterfall and hit the iron gate. The water splashed everywhere, the momentum was astonishing.

    Although Huang Rong managed to leap sideways, but her back was still hit by the Toad Stance’s lateral force; she felt her blood was rushing and her vision blurred. She tried to focus her attention and then dashing outside and shouted at the top of her lungs, “Seize the assassin! Seize the assassin!” She ran away while repeatedly shouting.

    As she shouted, the palace guards all around ‘cui han tang’ were startled awake; immediately there came shouting everywhere, raising the alarm. Huang Rong jumped up the roof, picked up the roof tiles and ‘Bing! Bing! Bang! Bang!” threw the tiles randomly.

    “Kill this little girl first, then we’ll talk,” Peng Lianhu cursed. Launching his lightness kungfu he gave a chase. Liang Ziweng jumped to the left, trying to surround her.

    Wanyan Honglie was still calm, he said to Yang Kang, “Kang’er, go with Mr. Ouyang to get the book.”

    By that time Ouyang Feng had already squatted on the ground in front of the waterfall. With another grunt he sent another burst of energy and the double iron gate on the cave mouth flew in. He was about to enter the cave when suddenly from the side a shadow came attacking. Before the person even arrived, his palm had already come; launching the dangerous stance of ‘fei long zai tian’ [dragon flies to the sky]. Although in that dark cave he could not clearly see that person’s appearance, as soon as he saw the stance he knew it must be Guo Jing. He was delighted, “That Nine Yin Manual is exceptionally difficult to understand, I only understand two out of ten sentences. If I can capture this kid today, I can force him to explain it.” He leaned sideways to evade the attack then swiftly stretched out his hand trying to snatch Guo Jing’s back.

    Guo Jing determined that no matter what he had to do guard the entrance, he could not let the enemy enter. As long as he could hold for a moment, the palace guards would come over; although this group of traitors’ martial arts was high, eventually they have to run away. He was slightly puzzled to see Ouyang Feng did not try to kill him but just want to capture him. His left hand swept the attacking hand away and his right hand counterattacked with the Vacant Fist technique. Even though in term of strength this technique was inferior to the 18-Dragon Subduing Palms, using Vacant Fist his palms were floating with tricky movements.

    “Good!” Ouyang Feng exclaimed. He dropped his shoulder and withdrew his hand; trying to catch Guo Jing’s right arm. His hand did not carry the gust of wind that came with his swift and ferocious force.

    When he was on the desolate island Ouyang Feng studied the Manual Guo Jing wrote, the more he practiced it the more he felt something was wrong. It never crossed his mind that the Manual in his hand was scrambled to the point of intelligible; he thought that the Manual carried a very deep and profound meaning, which could not be deciphered in a short period of time. Later on he heard Hong Qigong mumbling some gibberish on the raft; he thought that was the key to understanding the Manual. Every time he met Guo Jing he noticed that his martial art was always progressing, he was startled yet delighted at the same time: startled that if this kid’s skill made this kind of advancement, then the power contained in the Manual was truly something to be feared; delighted because the Manual was in his hand; by strengthening his own background, his advancement in the future would be limitless.

    Previously on the raft he fought a life and death battle against two enemies; this time he felt that he had gained an upper hand, he wanted to fight leisurely. He thought he would be able to tear apart the manual by watching Guo Jing’s every single move. He did not care whether the Wumu Legacy could be stolen or not; in his heart the only important matter right now was the martial art in the Manual.

    By now the light from the lanterns all around had made the ‘cui han tang’ bright as daylight as more and more palace guards arrived. Wanyan Honglie saw Ouyang Feng and Yang Kang had entered the water curtain for a very long time without coming back out, while the palace guards had gathered around them. He was getting increasingly anxious; fortunately the guards’ attention was absorbed by Peng Lianhu and Liang Ziweng on the roof chasing after Huang Rong, oblivious that there was a bigger fight going on inside the waterfall. He realized, however, that sooner or later the guards’ would detect their presence there. He stomped his feet and waved his hands incessantly, while urgently called out, “Quick! Quick!”

    “Don’t worry Prince, little monk will go in again,” Venerable Lingzhi said. Shaking his left palm in front of his body he entered the waterfall again. By now the light outside had penetrated the water curtain. He was able to see Ouyang Feng exchanged stances against Guo Jing in front of the cave entrance; while Yang Kang on the side was trying to get into the cave. But how could he pass through these two people’s ferocious gust of winds from their palms?

    Venerable Lingzhi watched for several stances and he could not endure it anymore; he thought presently the situation was very urgent, but this Ouyang Feng was leisurely sparring martial art in here with this kid; truly he was a bastard. “Mr. Ouyang, let me help you!” he shouted.

    “Don’t go near me!” Ouyang Feng replied.

    Venerable Lingzhi thought, “In a situation like this you still flaunt yourself as a hero; displaying your reputation as a grandmaster of a martial art school?” He bent his knees and attacked Guo Jing’s left side; his ‘da shou yin’ [big hand stamp/imprint] slapped Guo Jing’s ‘tai yang’ [sun] acupoint.

    Ouyang Feng was angry; his right hand stretched out to grab the back of Lingzhi’s neck and flung him out. As his neck was grabbed, Venerable Lingzhi was very angry, he shouted a series of most obscene cuss words he could think of; unfortunately he was using Tibetan, so naturally Ouyang Feng did not understand a word he was saying. All he heard was “Ba ni mi hong …” half a sentence because water started to get into his mouth that his curse was drown. What happened was: he fell backward with his face facing the sky, so when he fell into the pond water started filling up his mouth.

    Wanyan Honglie saw Venerable Lingzhi came out and fell like he was mounting the clouds and riding the mist, and then he heard a loud clamoring noise as the big flower pot in front of the ‘cui han tang’ was crushed; he groaned inwardly. He also saw the palace guards came in succession, busily he tucked his robe and went inside the waterfall.

    Although he had learned martial arts, his skill was only so-so; as soon as he was inside the waterfall he stepped on slippery floor and fell down. Yang Kang rushed forward to hold him up. It took a while for Wanyan Honglie to scan the cave, looking at what was going on. “Mr. Ouyang, can you expel this youngster?” he called out. He knew that no matter how he begged or entreated, Ouyang Feng might not necessarily pay any attention to him; hence he resorted to subtlety by asking if Ouyang Feng was capable of expelling Guo Jing. It was called ‘dispatching a general is not as good as inciting a general’.

    Sure enough, as soon as Ouyang Feng heard that, he replied, “Why not?” He squatted and produced a loud grunt, sending his Toad Stance energy forward through his palms. This one push was backed by his lifelong cultivation of energy, even if Hong Qigong or Huang Yaoshi were here, they would not be able to resist this attack head on, how could Guo Jing block?

    Ouyang Feng had just exchanged some stances with Guo Jing, compelling him to use the Vacant Fist technique. He noticed that Guo Jing’s movement was subtle with marvelous variations, in his heart he was secretly pleased, thinking this must be the Nine Yin Manual’s martial art. He wanted to watch Guo Jing to use up this technique so that he could steal as much as he could. Unfortunately Wanyan Honglie barged in and questioned his ability. He still thought that Guo Jing would be useful, and he knew the ferociousness of his own strength, therefore, voluntarily he withdrew his push.

    Unexpectedly Guo Jing had determined to guard the Wumu Legacy with his life, he knew that if he evade to the side, the cave entrance would be defenseless and the Wumu Legacy would fall into the enemy’s hand. Although there were numerous palace guards outside, how could they defend against Ouyang Feng and the others? He knew this incoming force was ferocious, he could not block, and he could not evade; so his feet kicked and he jumped about four feet upward to escape the attack and then landed back in front of the entrance. He heard a loud noise behind his back, sand and rocks fell down since Ouyang Feng’s force hit the cave wall.

    “Good!” Ouyang Feng called out, and with an exceptional speed sent out the second attack. The previous force had not diminished when the next force had arrived.

    Guo Jing felt a sudden gust of wind blowing to his upper body, he groaned inwardly; and launched both of his palms forward using the ‘zhen jing bai li’ [shocking a hundred ‘li’s] immediately. It was one of the most powerful moves of the 18-Dragon Subduing Palms. This time he blocked hard with hard. In an instant both of them stayed motionless. Guo Jing realized his strength was not a match of the enemy’s, he knew he would suffer defeat, but there was no other way.

    Wanyan Honglie saw these two men were fighting, leaping and eluding, one rose up the other fell down; and suddenly they were stiff like corpses, not even a finger was stirred, they did not even seem to breathe; he was greatly astonished. A short moment later sweats started to drip from Guo Jing’s body. Ouyang Feng knew that if this fight continued his opponent would suffer serious injury; he had a mind of yielding for half a stance, but as soon as he let down his power his chest tightened because the opponent’s power come pressing in. If not of his profound strength he would certainly be injured.

    Ouyang Feng was startled; he had never expected that in such a young age Guo Jing’s strength could be so fierce. He took a deep breath and counterattacked immediately, pushing the incoming force back out. If only he added a little bit strength to his push, he would be able to overthrow Guo Jing easily. But this time both parties palm strength was equal; if he wanted to score victory he would have to inflict heavy injury to his opponent. It would not be difficult if he really wanted to kill Guo Jing, but this kid was the key to understanding the Manual; how could he destroy his own resource? Therefore, he wanted to wait for Guo Jing’s strength to be depleted and then he would capture him.

    Not too long afterwards it became obvious that as one’s strength declined, the other’s increased; but Wanyan Honglie and Yang Kang who watched from the side did not know how much longer this condition would last; they became very anxious. Actually two people were in this deadlock for only a short time, but because the light from the outside was getting brighter and the noise getting louder, in Wanyan Honglie and Yang Kang’s mind they have been motionless for a very long time.

    Suddenly a loud noise was heard, two palace guards came barging into the waterfall. Yang Kang swiftly pounced forward. With ‘ta, ta’ sound both of his hands penetrated the guards body. It was the deathly ‘jiu yin bai zhua gong’ [nine yin white claw power]. A whiff of reeking blood smell attacked everybody’s nostrils; those guards died instantly. Yang Kang then drew a dagger from his boot and jumped to stab Guo Jing’s waist.

    Guo Jing was resisting Ouyang Feng’s palm with all his strength; how could he avoid this incoming stab? He knew if he moved even a little bit he would die violently under the Western Poison’s Toad Stance; therefore, even when he knew the dagger would penetrate his body soon, he was forced to ignore it. Suddenly he felt a severe pain on his waist; his breath was immediately shut. Instinctively he swung his fist and hit Yang Kang’s hand.

    By this time the martial art levels between these two was very far apart; Guo Jing’s fist struck Yang Kang’s bone like it was about to crack. Hastily Yang Kang withdrew his hand that the dagger only went halfway into Guo Jing’s waist.

    Right at that moment the Toad Stance’s force came surging into Guo Jing’s chest. He made a noiseless grunt, bent his body and tumbled down.

    Realizing that in the end he still inflicted injury, Ouyang Feng waved his hand and shook his head. “What a pity! What a pity!” he called out. He was dejected but knew that this kid could not be revived, so there was no reason why he should linger around; he had to get the Wumu Legacy. He stared at Yang Kang angrily, he thought, “This kid has spoiled my big business.” He turned around and entered the cave in big strides. Wanyan Honglie and Yang Kang followed behind.

    By that time there were a lot of palace guards gathered around the place. Without turning his body Ouyang Feng grabbed backward and one by one he flung the guards away, until finally no guard was able to enter the cave anymore.

    Yang Kang lighted up his torch to see the cave situation; he saw thick dust everywhere, a sign that nobody had ever entered in for a very long time. There was a stone table in the middle of the cave, and a stone box on top of it, measuring about two feet square. The box was sealed closed. Other that this, no other object could be seen inside the cave. Yang Kang brought his torch closer to take a look. The writing on the seal looked very old, the characters were not recognizable.

    “The book must be inside this box,” Wanyan Honglie called out.

    Yang Kang was delighted, he held out his hand to take the box. Ouyang Feng’s left arm gently pushed his shoulder away. Yang Kang staggered back several steps before he fell down. He was startled, but saw Ouyang Feng took the box.

    “Great work accomplished, everybody draws back!” Wanyan Honglie called out.

    With Ouyang Feng on the front leading the way, three people went out the cave. Yang Kang saw Guo Jing with his body full of blood was lying motionless among several guards on the cave entrance; he felt a slight remorse and muttered under his breath, “You don’t know good from bad, always meddle in other people’s business. You can’t blame me in spite of our sworn brotherhood.” Remembering his dagger was still in Guo Jing’s body he stooped down to pick it up, but then suddenly a shadow appeared from outside. “Brother Jing, where are you?” the shadow called out.

    Yang Kang recognized Huang Rong’s voice; he was startled and without taking his dagger out he jumped over Guo Jing’s body and ran outside the water curtain to follow Ouyang Feng and the others.

    Previously Huang Rong was rushing to the east and running to the west with Peng Lianhu and Liang Ziweng chasing after her on the rooftop. Not long afterwards the palace guards started to gather around the area. Peng and Liang were scared, they did not dare to chase Huang Rong much longer and so they went back to join Sha Tongtian and the others waiting for Wanyan Honglie by the waterfall side. They killed several other guards outside the cave until Ouyang Feng went out.

    Huang Rong was concerned about Guo Jing, she went back inside the cave and called out several times without answer. She started to get nervous, so she lighted up her flint only to see Guo Jing with his body soaked in blood was lying next to her own foot. Huang Rong was scared to death, her hands trembled, her flint fell down and the fire went out.

    Outside the cave the guards were still shouting loudly, calling each other to capture the assassin. More than a dozen guards were grabbed and tossed away by Ouyang Feng with broken necks; nobody dare to even go near them anymore. But palace guards carried a heavy responsibility; presently there was an assassin in the palace, if they did not shout loudly and appear bold by not running away, how could they show their loyalties?

    Huang Rong stooped down to hold Guo Jing, she felt his hand was still warm, she felt relieved. She called out several times without getting any answer; she decided to carry him on her back and quietly slipped away from the waterfall toward the back of the fake hill.

    By that time the area around the ‘cui han tang’ was bright as daylight from the lanterns. Guards from other parts of the palace had heard the news and came over in abundance. Even though Huang Rong’s movement was quick it was impossible to avoid being seen by several guards. They shouted loudly and came to chase her. Huang Rong silently cursed, “You are a bunch of scumbags, you don’t pursue after the bad people but chase after the good people.”

    She gritted her teeth and flew away. Several guards with higher martial arts managed to get close to her, forcing her to launch several steel needles. “Aiyo!” she heard several guards cry out and fell down. The rest of the guards did not dare to pursue and could only helplessly look at her leaping over the palace wall and disappear without a trace.

    These people were so noisy that the whole palace was frightened; in the dark of the night nobody knew if it was a coup, somebody was trying to usurp the emperor’s throne, or some government officers incited a rebellion. The palace guards, the imperial army, all armed force personnel were alarmed; but not a single high-ranking military officer knew what was going on for sure. They were confused for the rest of the night. Came daybreak the cavalry was dispatched; the city was turned upside down in search of ‘the rebels’ or ‘the assassin’. Quite a number of people were arrested. Unfortunately later investigation proved that these people were nothing but petty thieves and local ruffians. The officials were forced to fabricate oral confession and randomly executed some people in order to appease the throne and to assure their own safety and position.

    After leaving the palace that night, Huang Rong ran without looking where she was heading. She randomly picked her way and only slowed down after seeing nobody was pursuing them. She entered a small alley and stretched her finger to feel Guo Jing’s breath. She was relieved to find Guo Jing was still breathing, only her flint was lost in the palace so that in the darkness she could not examine where the injury was. She knew if she waited for the dawn, it would be more difficult to find a shelter inside the city wall with this kind of bloody person with her; hence she decided to leave the city that very same night, heading toward Shagu’s wine shop.

    Huang Rong’s martial art skill was high, but after running fast for half the night, carrying Guo Jing on her back with a nervous heart, as she shoved open the door of Shagu’s shop, she was out of breath; her body felt weak. She sat down to calm herself down, catching her breath; then found a piece of firewood and lighted it to look at Guo Jing’s face and examine his wound. She was shocked even more than when they were still at the palace.

    Guo Jing’s eyes were tightly shut, his face was white as a sheet; he looked more dead than alive. Huang Rong had seen him injured several times before, but never seen him in this kind of critical condition. She felt like her own heart was about to jump out of her throat. She stood lost in thought with a torch in her hand; suddenly a hand stretched out from the side and touched the torch. Huang Rong slowly turned her head and saw that it was Shagu. Huang Rong sucked a deep breath; now that there was someone beside her, she felt somewhat better. She remembered she was going to examine Guo Jing’s injury. Under the bright light of the torch she could see a blackish object protruding from Guo Jing’s waist; it looked like an ebony hilt of a dagger. She lowered her head to look closer and found out that it was indeed a dagger with the blade stuck inside Guo Jing’s left waist.

    At this time Huang Rong’s panic had reached its limit, her mind turned calm instead. She gently tore the clothes around his waist, exposing bare skin and muscle; only to see blood coagulated around the blade, which penetrated the muscle several ‘cun’ deep [1 cun is approximately 1 inch]. She was afraid if she pulled the dagger Guo Jing would die immediately, but if she waited too long it would be also more difficult to save his life. Biting her lips she stretched out her hand to grab the dagger’s hilt, but then suddenly doubt came creeping into her heart; she withdrew her hand. This happened several times; she just could not make up her mind.

    Shagu became impatient; the fourth time Huang Rong withdrew her hand she suddenly stretched out her hand, grabbed the hilt and pulled the dagger out abruptly. Guo Jing and Huang Rong both shouted in shock; but Shagu thought it was really fun, she happily laughed out loud.

    Huang Rong saw blood gushing out from Guo Jing’s wound like a spring, while Shagu was still laughing foolishly; from shock she became angry, her palm struck backward, sending Shagu rolling down on the floor. And immediately she stooped down to press the wound with a handkerchief.

    When Shagu fell down, she brought the torch with her; the fire was extinguished and the room became pitch-black. Shagu was angry, she jumped out and kicked Huang Rong on her leg. Huang Rong did not evade the kick. Shagu was afraid Huang Rong would retaliate; she jumped back immediately after kicking. But after a while she heard Huang Rong was sobbing softly. She was surprised. Busily she re-lighted the torch and came asking, “Did I hurt you bad?”

    Actually when the dagger was pulled out, the pain was so severe that it woke Guo Jing up. Under the torch light he saw Huang Rong was kneeling beside him. “Master Yue’s book … was it … was it stolen?” he quickly asked.

    Huang Rong was delighted to hear him speak. Knowing he was very concerned about this matter she felt like it was not the right time to add to his anxiety. “Don’t worry,” she said, “Those traitors were not able to get their hands on the book …” She wanted to ask how he was feeling but her hands were actually warm from his blood.

    “Why are you crying?” Guo Jing asked with a low voice.

    Huang Rong forced a smile and said, “I am not crying.”

    Shagu suddenly opened her mouth, “She is too, isn’t she? Look, there are still tears on her face.”

    “Rong’er, don’t worry,” Guo Jing said, “There is a section about injury treatment in the Nine Yin Manual. I won’t die.”

    Hearing this Huang Rong was like someone in the dark suddenly saw a beacon of light; her eyes shone brightly, her delight was unspeakable, nothing could dampen her spirit. She wanted to ask the details but was afraid she would make him weary. She turned around to hold Shagu’s hand. “Sister, did I hurt you just now?” she asked, with smile on her face.

    Shagu’s mind was still set on seeing her cry, she ignored her question and asked, “You are crying, don’t you admit it?”

    Huang Rong smiled, “Fine, I was crying. But you were not, you are a good girl.” Shagu was delighted to hear her praise.

    Guo Jing slowly circulated his ‘qi’; the pain was unbearable. By this time Huang Rong had cleared her mind. She took out a steel needle and punctured the acupoints around his left waist, both to slow down the flow of blood, also to reduce the pain. Then she washed up his wound clean, applied some medicine and re-wrapped the wound with clean cloth. She also gave him a ‘nine flowered jade dew pill’ to help stop the pain.

    Guo Jing said, “Although this dagger went in pretty deep, but … but luckily it did not hit any vital organs, it … it won’t be life-threatening. I suffer more dangerous injury from the Old Poison’s Toad Stance; fortunately it seemed like he did not use all his strength, so looks like I may be healed; only I will have to make you suffer for seven days and seven nights.”

    Huang Rong sighed. “You know that even if I have to suffer seventy years for you, I will still be willing,” she said.

    Guo Jing felt sweetness creep into his heart, at the same time he also felt dizzy. After waiting for a moment his mind cleared up a little bit; he said, “It was a pity when Shifu was injured I missed several days of opportunity to treat him. Otherwise even though the snake venom was fierce, it won’t be too hard for him to fully recover. He won’t be … he won’t be disabled like he is today.”

    Huang replied, “When we were on that island, even if we could heal Shifu’s injury, would the Old Poison uncle and nephew let us? Please don’t think that way. Just tell me your method and set my mind at ease.”

    “First we must find a peace and quiet place,” Guo Jing said, “Then following the Manual’s instruction we circulate our ‘qi’ together. Each of us will hold the other’s palm. Using your internal energy you are helping me healing my injury.” Speaking to this point he closed his eyes to catch his breath before continuing, “The only difficulty is that for seven whole days and nights our palms cannot be separated even for a second. Your breathing will be closely linked to mine. We can talk to each other, but definitely we can’t have a third person interrupting us even for a half sentence. Also, we must not walk away even for half a step. If there is someone else disturbing us, we may …”

    Huang Rong realized this kind of treatment was similar with meditation to cultivate someone’s martial art. Before reaching satisfactory result one could not experience any external intervention. Otherwise, the mind would be either disturbed with bad thoughts or would be out of control. Unavoidably the result would be fire deviation; not only the whole energy cultivation would be wasted, in the least the person would suffered injury, at the most, dead. That was the reason warriors who cultivate internal energy would always find a secluded and inhabited mountain or field; or closing their doors without coming out; or have a skilled and powerful master or friend protecting on the sideline to avoid their training going astray.

    She thought, “In this short moment it’s difficult to find a peace and quiet place; while I am the only one who can help him treating his injury. It’s impossible to rely on this Shagu to guard against external disturbance; she could come and create and endless disturbance herself. If only Big Brother Zhou came back. But then I don’t think he will be able to set his mind to guard us for seven days and seven nights; success won’t be guaranteed, messed up things will be more likely. So what should I do?”

    She mused over this matter for a long time; then she glanced over to the bowl in the cabinet. An idea came into her mind, “I got it. We can hide inside this secret room. In the past Mei Chaofeng practiced martial art without anybody protecting her. Didn’t she hide herself up in a cave?”

    It was now dawn; Shagu went to the kitchen and cooked some rice porridge for these two people to eat. “Brother Jing,” Huang Rong said, “Wait here for a moment, I am going to buy some food, and then we can start your treatment immediately.”

    She thought presently the weather was blisteringly hot, if she cooked some rice and dishes, they would definitely rot if left in the room for seven days and nights; thereupon she went to the village market to buy a picul [approximately 50 kg or 100 lbs] of watermelon.

    The farmer who sold the watermelon brought everything back to Shagu’s inn and heaped them on the ground. After receiving the money, on the way out he said, “Our Ox Village’s watermelon is sweet and crispy; once Miss taste it you will agree with me.”

    Hearing the three characters ‘niu jia cun’ [ox village], Huang Rong’s heart skipped a beat. “Turned out this is the Ox Village,” she said in her heart, “This is Brother Jing’s hometown.” She was afraid if Guo Jing found out his mind would be disturbed; therefore, she replied perfunctorily.

    She waited until that villager went out to go into the inner chamber to take a look. Guo Jing was asleep; blood no longer seeped out through the cotton cloth wrapped around his waist. Huang Rong opened up the cabinet and turned the iron bowl to open the secret chamber door; and then she brought the watermelons one by one inside. At last the only thing remained outside was Shagu. Huang Rong repeatedly warned Shagu not to tell anybody they would be staying inside the chamber; that no matter what kind of earth shattering things happened, she was not supposed to call out from outside.

    Shagu did not understand her intention, but seeing Huang Rong’s serious expression, she said she understood; repeatedly nodded her head to give her promise. “You want to eat watermelon inside; you don’t want anybody to know. After you finish eating watermelon, you will come back out again. Shagu will not tell.”

    Huang Rong was happy, “Shagu won’t tell, Shagu is a good girl,” she said, “If Shagu tell, Shagu is a bad girl.”

    “Shagu won’t tell, Shagu is a good girl,” Shagu repeatedly said.

    Huang Rong fed Guo Jing another big bowl of rice porridge, she also ate one bowl; and then she helped him entering the secret chamber. When she was closing the door from inside, she saw Shagu’s simple expression showing a smile. Shagu said, “Shagu won’t tell.”

    Suddenly Huang Rong’s heart was moved, “This girl is so dumb; what if every time she meet someone she say, ‘Those two eat watermelon inside the cabinet, Shagu won’t tell.’? The only way to ensure our safety is to kill her.”

    She grew up under her father’s way of life; benevolence and justice, differences between good and evil don’t matter to them. Although she knew this Shagu had a very close relationship with Qu Lingfeng, right at that moment she presented a danger to Guo Jing’s life. Even if there were a dozen more Shagus, she would kill them all.

    She took the dagger that was in Guo Jing’s waist and walked out to leave the room.

    End of Chapter 23.
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    Last edited by foxs; 04-17-07 at 04:08 PM.

  10. #50
    Registered User JamesG's Avatar
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    Oct 2004
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    Nudge nudge.

  11. #51
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 24 – Healing in the Secret Room

    Shagu walked over to Liang Ziweng and said, “You hit my nose, I must hit your nose. You hit me once; I must pay you back three times.” Her fist went straight to his nose.

    Chapter 24 – Healing in the Secret Room
    (Translated by Foxs, Edited by Eliza Bennet)

    Huang Rong had just walked two steps when she turned her head and saw Guo Jing’s suspicious look, as if he could see the murderous look on her own face; she thought, “I don’t have any problem killing Shagu, but later on Jing Gege might ask me about it.” She further thought, “He might not ask me about it; he might not even raise this matter, ever. But in his heart he might harbor hatred to me, that won’t be good. All right, we’ll just have to take this big risk.” She closed the door immediately and looked around the room carefully.

    On the western corner near the roof of that small room there was a small ventilation window about one foot square, where the sunlight entered the room through a sheet of clamshell curtain. By this light they were able to see everything inside the room. The ventilation hole was dusty. Huang Rong took out her dagger and cleaned up the ventilation hole. The bad smell in the room still lingered, but they seemed unable to think about it. In light of the life and death experience they faced earlier, the smelly and dusty room felt like paradise to them.

    Guo Jing leaned on the wall; he smiled slightly and said, “There is no better place for us to treat my injury than in this room. Only we are accompanied by two dead people. Are you afraid?”

    In her heart Huang Rong was actually scared, but she determined not to think about it. She said with a smile, “One was my Shige [martial brother], he certainly won’t harm me; the other was a rice bucket government official. Alive he wouldn’t scare me, become a ghost he could scare me even less by becoming a ghost.”

    Immediately she kicked two sets of skeletons towards the northern corner of the room. She took the straw mat of the watermelon and spread it out on the ground; then she piled up the several dozens of watermelon around it within arms reach. “What do you think?” she asked.

    “Very good,” Guo Jing replied, “Now we can start.”

    Huang Rong helped him to sit on the straw; she also sat cross-legged on his left. When she lifted her head, she saw a small hole eyelet the size of a coin on the wall right in front of her. She looked through it and to her delight she saw a mirror on which she could see the entire room outside. Apparently the people who built this secret room had planned it thoroughly; so when they were hiding inside this room from the enemies, they could still observe the activity outside through the mirror. Only it had been a long time and the mirror was covered with thick dust. She took out a handkerchief and wrapped her index finger with it; then she poked inside the hole to clean the mirror.

    She saw Shagu was sitting on the ground throwing pebbles around, her mouth humming some tune, but Huang Rong could not hear clearly what she was singing. Huang Rong pressed her ear to the hole to listen; turned out Shagu was humming a lullaby, “Swing, swing, swing; swing to the grandmother’s bridge; grandmother calls me the precious baby …”

    At first Huang Rong felt funny, but then the more she listened, the more she felt the touching emotion that song brought. Her heart overflowed with tender affection. She could not help but think: Could it be this song was the one her mother sang to her when she was little …? “If my mother did not die, would she sing like this to me?” Thinking of this her eyes turned moist.

    Guo Jing saw her sad expression and said, “What are you thinking? My injury is not that bad, don’t feel so sad.”

    Huang Rong put out her hand to wipe her tears and said, “Quickly teach me the internal energy cultivation technique.” Thereupon Guo Jing started to slowly recite the ‘treating injury’ chapter of the Nine Yin Manual.

    There was a saying among the martial art practitioners, ‘learn how to take a beating first before learning how to beat someone,’ So the most basic lesson in martial art was how to take a beating without getting seriously injured. When the martial art became more profound, the practitioner must learn how to protect their own body and defend their own lives, sealing acupoints to treat an injury, setting up broken bones and curing poison wound, and all kinds of advance techniques. Better techniques would result in better skill; it did not matter if one’s martial art skill was unmatched, there would come a day when he would fall. The ‘treating injury’ of the Nine Yin Manual explained how a highly skilled martial artist would use his own internal energy to treat the injury, how to circulate the energy in internal injury treatment. As for the broken bones or weapon-inflicted wounds or other external injury treatment, it was assumed that the person who practiced the Manual did not need further instructions.

    Huang Rong needed to listen only once and she would remember forever. There were several unclear passages in the Manual, which they needed to discuss in detail. One had a strong foundation in Quanzhen Sect’s internal energy cultivation, the other had an extraordinary intelligence; with some deliberations they were able to understand almost everything. And so Huang Rong held out her right hand, clasping Guo Jing’s left, they started to train diligently according to the technique from the Manual.

    After training for four hours they took a short break. Huang Rong’s left hand grabbed a knife and cut a watermelon, which she divided into parts and fed some to Guo Jing, all the while their hands were clasping each other. Training for several hours more, the tightness in Guo Jing’s chest gradually lessened, the warm energy from Huang Rong’s palm slowly dispersed into his body’s hundreds of bones, the soreness on his waist was indeed gradually reduced. He thought the technique contained in this Manual was truly incomparable; he did not dare to be negligent and proceeded diligently.

    When the time came for them to take the third break, the light streaming from the ventilation window gradually dimmed. It was near dusk. Not only did Guo Jing feel his chest a lot less constricted, but Huang Rong also felt invigorated. Two people chatted before continuing their training. Suddenly they heard footsteps running quickly and stop in front of the inn then several people came in.

    An insolent voice shouted, “Quickly get some dishes out, your masters here are starving!”

    They recognized that the voice belonged to San Tou Jiao [Three-headed Scaly Dragon] Hou Tonghai. Guo Jing and Huang Rong looked at each other in surprise. Huang Rong quickly looked into the small hole and to her surprised she saw on the mirror not only Hou Tonghai, but Wanyan Honglie, Ouyang Feng, Yang Kang, Peng Lianhu and the others. Huang Rong did not know where Shagu went to play.

    Hou Tonghai slapped the table and made quite a racket, but nobody came out. Liang Ziweng went out and walked around the building. He frowned and said, “Nobody lives here.” Hou Tonghai volunteered to go to the village and buy some wine and dishes.

    Ouyang Feng found a spot protected from the blowing wind and spread some straw; then he carried his nephew and gently placed him on the straw, let him calmly lie down to heal from his broken legs.

    Peng Lianhu said with a laugh, “Those palace guards, although they are useless, they are everywhere like a ghost haunting us, so for the whole day we did not have time to even stop and eat. Wangye [Prince, lit. king master], you are a northerner, yet you know that by the Qiantang River there is a desolate village and led all of us here. Truly nothing is hidden from your knowledgeable mind.”

    Although he heard the flattering tone in Peng Lianhu’s voice, Wanyan Honglie’s face did not show the slightest satisfaction. He merely sighed softly and said, “I came to this place nineteen years ago.” Everybody could see that his expression had changed. They felt a little strange, but of course nobody knew he was thinking about how Bai Xirou saved his life in this village. The desolate village still existed, but that gentle lady with a hairpin in her head, wearing green robe, the one fed him warm chicken soup, was no longer in this world.

    Meanwhile Hou Tonghai had returned from the village with wine and food. Peng Lianhu poured wine for everybody and said to Wanyan Honglie, “Wangye, today you succeeded in attaining the marvelous military strategy book, the sign that the Great Jin’s prestige will soon inspire the world, your army will dominate tens of thousands of lands. Let us all congratulate you!” He raised his cup and gulped his wine.

    His voice was loud and clear. Guo Jing on the other side of the wall could still hear him clearly; he was shocked, “Yue Yeye’s [Master Yue, lit. grandfather Yue] Legacy has fallen into his hand!” he bitterly thought. As soon as his mind was anxious, the flow of energy in his chest reversed. Huang Rong could feel her palm shaking; she knew he heard everything and it had affected his ‘dan tian’ [pubic region]. If it was not controlled quickly his life might be in danger. Busily she pressed her mouth to his ear and whispered, “If he can steal the book, can’t we do the same? As long as your Er Shifu [Second Master], ‘Miao Shou Shu Sheng’ [Magic Hands Scholar] makes his move, he can easily steal even ten books.”

    Guo Jing thought she was right, immediately he closed his eyes and his mind, no longer listened to the conversation behind the wall. Huang Rong looked into the hole again, and she saw Wanyan Honglie raise the cup and drank the wine; and then with a delight he said, “In this battle everybody has worked hard to help; Mr. Ouyang rendered the most service. If he did not get rid of that kid surnamed Guo, we would have to spend a lot more effort.”

    Ouyang Feng let out a dry laugh; it sounded like a broken cymbal. As Guo Jing heard his laughter, his heart was shaken yet again. Huang Rong secretly thought, “Heaven bless us, let this Old Poison not pluck his devilish zither here; otherwise Jing Gege’s life will be difficult to retain.”

    She heard Ouyang Feng say, “This place is so remote. Song’s army would not find us here. I wonder what kind of thing this Yue Fei Yishu [Legacy, something left behind] is; let us all take a look.”

    He took the stone box from his bosom and placed it on the table. His thought was that if Wumu’s Legacy contained an exquisite martial art method, then without regard of everybody else he would take it for himself. However, if the book only contained marching technique and military strategy, it would be useless to him; then he would gladly let others enjoy it, he would let Wanyan Honglie take it.

    In the meantime everybody was gazing at the stone box. Huang Rong thought, “What can I do to destroy the book? It would be better than let it fall into the hands of these traitors.” She heard Wanyan Honglie say, “Xiao Wang [lit. little king] has performed a comprehensive analysis on Yue Fei’s riddle in the form of a poem; I also studied carefully the official history record of all previous dynasties on the construction of the imperial palace. I believed this book was concealed fifteen steps east of the ‘cui han tang’ [green-jade cold hall]. Today my deduction was proved to be correct. I believe nobody in the Song Dynasty knew that in their palace was hidden such a treasure. The commotion we made last night, I don’t think anybody knew what that commotion was all about.” He sounded very proud of himself. Everybody immediately seized the opportunity to heap praises on him.

    Wanyan Honglie twirled his moustache and laughed. “Kang’er,” he said, “Go ahead, open the box.”

    Yang Kang responded and stepped forward. First he removed the seal then he lifted the lid. Everybody’s eyes were on the box. Suddenly their countenances changed; they were confounded, nobody made any sound. The box was completely empty, not only there wasn’t any military strategy book, not even a sheet of blank paper was to be found inside.

    Although Huang Rong could not see the box, judging from everybody’s expression, she could deduce that the box was empty. She was delighted and also found it amusing.

    Wanyan Honglie was very disappointed. He held on the table to sit down. His hand propped his cheek and he was thinking deeply. “My thousands of calculations, tens of thousands of iterations, all point out that Yue Fei’s Legacy is in this box. How can suddenly not even a trace of it is in the box?” he thought. Suddenly he had an idea, his face lighted up. He took the stone box and brought it outside toward the well then with all his might he smashed the box against the flagstone. ‘Bang!’ the box broke into pieces.

    As Huang Rong heard that broken stone sound she immediately thought, “Ah, there is a secret compartment in the box.” She was anxious to see if the Legacy was inside the secret compartment, but no matter what, she could not go out. After a moment however, she saw Wanyan Honglie dejectedly return to the room and sit down.

    “I knew there was a secret compartment in that box; who would have thought it was also empty,” Wanyan Honglie said.

    One after another everybody tried to offer their opinions. Huang Rong was amused listening to their wild imaginations, one was more weird than the other; she immediately told Guo Jing. As he learned that the Wumu’s Legacy had not been stolen, Guo Jing was greatly comforted. Huang Rong deliberated further, “These traitors will not possibly give up just like that; they must be thinking of going back to the palace tonight.” She was thinking of her Shifu who was still inside the palace; she was afraid he might be implicated. There was Zhou Botong to protect him, but Huang Rong could not help but feel worried; since the Old Urchin behaved like a madman, he could not properly take care of important matters.

    Sure enough, she heard Ouyang Feng say, “That’s not a big deal. We’ll go back to the palace tonight and search some more.”

    “We can’t go tonight,” Wanyan Honglie objected, “We made quite a disturbance last night, that I am sure they will strictly guard the palace tonight.”

    “We can’t avoid the guards,” Ouyang Feng said, “But why worry over it? Wangye and Xiao Wangye [Young Prince] do not need to go. You and my nephew may stay here to take some rest.”

    Wanyan Honglie cupped his fists in front of his chest. “Then I will bother Mister to work for me. Xiao Wang will wait for your good news with a peaceful heart.” Straightaway everybody spread some straw in the room and lay down to sleep.

    After they slept for more than two hours Ouyang Feng woke everybody up and they went to the city once again.

    Wanyan Honglie tossed and turned without being able to get some sleep. Around midnight he could hear the sound of the rising tide on the river. He could also hear a dog barking at the other end of the village; the dog kept barking intermittently throughout the night, as if it was weeping. In the quiet night it brought sorrow to the heart, adding to the anxiety he already felt inside.

    After a long while suddenly there were footsteps outside the door, there was someone coming in. Wanyan Honglie quickly sat up and drew his sword. Yang Kang had early on jumped behind the door to set an ambush. Under the moonlight they saw a woman with disheveled hair, humming a children’s song, shoved the door and came in. She was none other than Shagu. She had just got back from playing in the woods all day. She thought little of seeing people sleeping in her room; she kept walking toward the pile of firewood, lied down next to it, and not too long afterwards she was snoring.

    As Yang Kang saw it was only a stupid country girl, he smiled and went back to sleep. Wanyan Honglie’s mind, however, was filled with thoughts of past and present; he could not sleep for a long time. He got up, took a candle from his backpack and lit it; and then he took a book and started flipping the pages over.

    Huang Rong saw the bright light through the small hole; she took a peek and saw a moth circling the candle, then suddenly it threw itself to the fire, its wings were immediately scorched and it fell on the table. Wanyan Honglie took the moth up. He could not help but feel distressed. He thought, “If my Madame Bao were here, she would certainly take care of you.” From his bosom he took out a small silver knife and a small medicine bottle; and he stroked those objects affectionately.

    Huang Rong lightly tapped Guo Jing’s shoulder and moved aside so Guo Jing could take a look through the small hole. As Guo Jing saw with his own eyes, he was enraged. He vaguely recognized the silver knife and medicine bottle belonged to Yang Kang’s mother, Bao Xiruo. He saw her using these items at the Zhao Palace when she was tending a wounded little rabbit. He heard Wanyan Honglie softly murmur, “Nineteen years ago, in this very village, I met you for the first time … Ay! I wonder what happened to your former residence …” While saying that he rose up, took the candle along and went out the door.

    Guo Jing was startled, “Could it be that this is my parents’ hometown, the Ox Village?” he wondered. He pressed his mouth to Huang Rong’s ear to inquire. Huang Rong nodded. Guo Jing’s blood surged up, his body shook.

    Huang Rong’s right palm was holding Guo Jing’s left palm; she realized his breathing flow was excited because his mind was agitated, which was very dangerous. Immediately she stretched out her left palm to grab Guo Jing’s right palm and together they synchronized their energy so Guo Jing slowly focused his own breathing.

    After a long time they saw a moving light and they heard Wanyan Honglie heaved a long sigh while he came back to the room. By this time Guo Jing had been able to control his emotions, but his left palm still held Huang Rong’s right palm. He looked through the small hole again and saw that Wanyan Honglie was holding several small pieces of broken bricks and tiles, sitting in daze by the candle light.

    Guo Jing thought, “This traitor is less than ten steps away from me. All I need to do is throw the dagger to him and I will be able to take his life.”

    His right hand drew the golden blade Genghis Khan gave him and he whispered to Huang Rong, “Turn the door open.”

    “Don’t!” Huang Rong hastily said, “Killing him is easy, but then our hiding place will be discovered.”

    With a trembling voice Guo Jing said, “Six more days and nights I don’t know where he will be.”

    Huang Rong knew it would not be easy to persuade him, so she whispered in his ear, “Your mother and Rong’er want you alive.”

    Guo Jing’s heart shivered with cold; he nodded. He put the golden blade back to its sheath on his waist and again looked out through the small hole. He saw Wanyan Honglie sprawled on the table, asleep. Suddenly he saw somebody got up from the straw. This person’s face was illuminated by the candle light, but in the mirror it was not clear whose face it was. Guo Jing only saw he quietly stood up and walked over to Wanyan Honglie. He took the silver knife and the small medicine bottle from the table, looked at them for a while then gently put them back down on the table. He then turned his head around and Guo Jing saw that it was Yang Kang.

    Guo Jing said in his heart, “That’s right, you must avenge your parents. This is a very good opportunity. With a stab of the dagger the enemy, with whom you cannot live together under the same sky, will certainly lose his life. You won’t have the same opportunity once the Old Poison and the others come back.”

    His heart was very anxious, he was hoping Yang Kang would immediately make his move. But after putting down the silver knife and the medicine bottle, Yang Kang blew the candle light then for a moment the room looked dark to him, and then he saw Yang Kang took out his long robe and gently draped it over Wanyan Honglie’s shoulders to protect him from the cold night.

    Guo Jing was very angry, he turned his head around, not willing to look outside anymore. He did not understand how Yang Kang could treat the enemy who killed his parents with such a loving and tender care. Huang Rong comforted him by saying, “Do not be impatient. After your injury is healed, even if this traitor runs away into the horizon we will catch him. He is not the Old Poison, don’t you think killing him is easy?” Guo Jing nodded and went back into circulating his internal energy.

    Soon the dawn arrived, from the village came the noise of roosters crowing and all kinds of morning clatters. Inside their bodies the ‘qi’ had been circulating seven times, they felt relieved and comfortable. Huang Rong raised her index finger up and said with a smile, “One day has passed!”

    “And it was very dangerous!” Guo Jing replied in low voice, “If not for you, I could not keep my mind peaceful and steady, I nearly made things worse.”

    “There are six more days and six more nights,” Huang Rong said, “You promised to listen to what I say.”

    Guo Jing laughed, “When did I ever not listen to what you say?” he said.

    Huang Rong leaned her head to the side and said, “Hmm, let me think.”

    At this moment a single ray of sunlight came slanting down the ventilation window; her white skin and beautiful rosy cheeks looked like red clouds at dawn. Guo Jing suddenly felt her palm was exceptionally warm and soft. Something stirred in his chest, hastily he chased that thought away, but already his face blushed all over. Ever since they had been together Guo Jing never had this kind of feeling toward her; he could not help but be shocked and he silently rebuked himself.

    Huang Rong saw him blushing; she felt strange. “Jing Gege,” she asked, “What happened?”

    With a low voice Guo Jing replied, “I have been bad. I suddenly thought of … thought of …”

    “What is it?” Huang Rong asked.

    “I am not thinking about it anymore,” Guo Jing answered.

    “Then what did you think of?” Huang Rong pressed.

    Unable to dodge away Guo Jing confessed, “I was thinking of hugging you, kissing you.”

    Huang Rong felt warm and sweet all of a sudden, her face also blushed, she looked shy and even lovelier.

    Seeing her lowering her head without saying anything Guo Jing asked, “Rong’er, are you angry? I was as bad as Ouyang Ke to have such a bad thought.”

    Huang Rong gave him one of her captivating smiles, “I am not angry,” she said with a tender voice, “I was thinking in the future you will hug me and kiss me, for I will certainly be your wife.” Guo Jing was very happy, he stammered but could not say anything.

    “You wanted to hug and kiss me, was it bad?” Huang Rong asked.

    Guo Jing was about to reply, but suddenly from outside the door came the noise of rushing footsteps; two men burst into the inn. He heard Hou Tonghai’s voice say, “His granny, I told you earlier that there are ghosts in the world, but Shige [Martial (older) Brother] did not believe me.” He was so agitated that he could not say clearly what was in his raging mind. Then Sha Tongtian’s voice replied, “What ghost? I told you, we met a martial art master.”

    Huang Rong looked out through the hole and saw that Hou Tonghai’s face was full of blood, while Sha Tongtian’s clothes were ripped into pieces. It seemed like these two martial brothers had been in an extremely difficult situation.

    Wanyan Honglie and Yang Kang were confounded to see their conditions; they busily inquired. Hou Tonghai replied, “We were very unfortunate; we met a ghost at the imperial palace last night. Damn it! Old Hou’s ears were cut off by the ghost.”

    Wanyan Honglie did indeed see that both sides of his face were covered with blood and looked somewhat unusual; it turned out, his ears were missing. Wanyan Honglie was astonished.

    Sha Tongtian scolded, “Still talking strange ghost story; haven’t you disgraced us enough?”

    Hou Tonghai was afraid of his Shige, but he still tried to argue, “I saw it clearly, his eyes were blue, he was the red bearded judge of hell, pouncing over me with a scary ‘Wah! Wah!’ voice! All I did was to turn my head around and he grabbed my neck and my ears were gone. This judge of hell looked exactly like the one in the temple, how could it not be him?”

    Sha Tongtian only fought the judge for three stances and his clothes were ripped into pieces. That judge was definitely a highly skilled martial artist, not some strange ghost; only Sha Tongtian did not have any clue on how did he have the appearance of a judge of hell.

    Four people offered their guesses, they even asked Ouyang Ke who was lying down because of his injury, but nobody came out with a plausible answer.

    While they were still talking, Lingzhi Shangren [lit. upper/above person, a respectful term to address a Buddhist monk], Peng Lianhu and Liang Ziweng had also arrived one after another. Lingzhi Shangren’s hands were bound by iron chain behind his back, Peng Lianhu’s cheeks were swollen red and blue, Liang Ziweng’s condition was the funniest; the white hair on his head were pulled clean so that he looked like a Buddhist monk. Standing and talking opposite to Sha Tongtian, they looked alike, their bald heads shining, reflecting the light.

    It turned out those three entered the imperial palace and spread out in order to find the Wumu’s Legacy; all of them had met some ghosts. Only each met different ghost; one met with a ‘wu chang gui’ [the ghost supposed to take soul after death], the other ‘huang ling guan’ [yellow spirit officer], and the last was ‘tu di pu sa’ [earth god].

    Liang Ziweng stroked his own bad head and opened his mouth to curse using all dirty words he knew, including some ‘mother-in-law of the earth grew some fungi’. Peng Lianhu endured silently and did not say a single word, he worked hard trying to take the iron chain from Lingzhi Shangren’s hands. The chain went deep into the flesh, with hooks on either end connected tightly to each other. Peng Lianhu had to exert a lot of strength until his hands were bruised and bloody before he could untie the chain.

    Everybody looked at each other in blank dismay; nobody made any sound. They knew in their hearts that last night they met a highly skilled martial artist and were greatly insulted, so they all felt ashamed. Hou Tonghai still believed it was a ghost, and nobody bothered to argue with him.

    After a long time Wanyan Honglie opened his mouth, “I wonder why Mr. Ouyang has not come back yet. Perhaps he also met a ghost.”

    “Mr. Ouyang’s martial art skill is unmatched,” Yang Kang said, “Even if he met a ghost, he won’t suffer defeat.” Peng Lianhu and the others were indifferent.

    Huang Rong saw everything; how these people met extremely difficult situations and were talking about ghosts. She was very pleased, she thought, “The masks I bought for Zhou Dage [Big Brother] have unexpectedly boosted his power and prestige; it was truly beyond my expectation. I wonder if he met and fought the Old Poison yet.” At that moment she felt Guo Jing’s internal energy starting to flow into her palm, so she went back to join him immediately.

    Peng Lianhu and the others had been busy all night, they were starving. Working hand in hand they started chopping firewood, buying rice and vegetables, and preparing their food. When the food was ready Hou Tonghai went to the cupboard to get some bowls. He saw the iron bowl and tried to take it, naturally it would not budge. He felt strange and shouted, “A ghost!” He pulled the bowl with all his strength, but of course the bowl did not move.

    Huang Rong heard his voice and was shocked; she knew their hiding place must not be seen by them. Not to mention the fact that they would not necessarily win if a fight broke, but if they moved even so slightly, Guo Jing’s life would be in danger; that must not happen. Inside the secret room she was frightened and did not know what to do. Outside the room Sha Tongtian heard his martial brother’s shout and reprimanded him not to make such a big thing over nothing.

    Hou Tonghai was not angry, he said, “All right, then come and take this bowl out.” Sha Tongtian held out his hand to pick the bowl, but the bowl stayed. “Ah!” he exclaimed.

    Peng Lianhu heard him and came over. “Sha Xiong [Brother Sha],” he said, “There must be a secret mechanism connected to it. Try turning it to the left or right.”

    Huang Rong saw the situation was pressing, she knew they were forced to stake it all. She handed the dagger over to Guo Jing and held out her hand to take the bamboo stick given by Hong Qigong. Inwardly she was sorrowful to think their lives would end this way. In the last moment she turned her head and saw the skeletons at the corner of the room. Suddenly an idea came to her mind; hurriedly she took the skulls and made an effort to lift a big watermelon, then she placed the skulls on the watermelon.

    With some creaking noise the iron door revolved, revealing a hole behind it. Huang Rong placed the watermelon on top of her head and spread out her long hair over her face. As Sha Tongtian opened the door, he saw inside the cabinet there was a monster with two heads, letting out a scary ‘Wah! Wah!’ sound. The monster’s two heads were skulls, side by side on top of a blue and green striped sphere, with a cluster of long black beard underneath it.

    Everybody had suffered a lot the previous night, they were still shaken; and now they suddenly saw a ghost inside the cabinet, they were really scared. Hou Tonghai screamed and ran away. Without thinking everybody else followed. The only one left was Ouyang Ke. Since his legs were broken he was lying on a straw bed and was unable to run.

    Huang Rong heaved a long sigh; busily she closed the cabinet door. She could not help but smile, considering they had barely escaped trouble for the moment; for she knew those traitors were Jianghu’s top veterans, surely they would come back. They were running away because they were frightened by the Old Urchin; otherwise, how could she fool them so easily? Once they calmed themselves down, they would come back and would not be scared away so easily.

    Huang Rong’s dimples had not disappeared, she was still undecided on the next course of action to take, when she heard a noise from the door, someone was coming. Huang Rong grabbed a steel butterfly tightly in her hand, while the bamboo stick was close by her side. As soon as the door was opened, she would throw the projectile first and talk about it later. But after waiting for a moment she heard a beautiful voice calling out, “Innkeeper! Innkeeper!”

    Huang Rong was really surprised to hear this call. Busily she looked out through the small hole and saw a lady wearing embroidered gown sitting in the inn. Her clothes and adornments were gorgeous; indicating she came from a wealthy family. She was sitting with her back facing the mirror, so Huang Rong could not see her face.

    That lady waited for half a day, and then she called out again, “Innkeeper! Innkeeper!”

    Huang Rong thought, “This voice sounds familiar, tender yet strong; she sounds like the Cheng Da Xiaojie [Eldest Miss Cheng] of Baoying.” At that moment the lady turned around and who was it but the Cheng Da Xiaojie, Cheng Yaojia? Huang Rong was pleasantly surprised, “Why does she come this place?”

    Shagu was not awakened by the commotion made by Hou Tonghai and the others. But now she had enough sleep, so she crawled up from the straw bed.

    “Innkeeper,” Cheng Yaojia said, “Would you please prepare some food for me? I would be much obliged.”

    Shagu shook her head, meaning she did not have any food. But suddenly she sniffed around and smelled cooked rice. She rushed to open the lid and saw the pot was full of plain white rice, the one Peng Lianhu and the others had prepared. Shagu was delighted; without wondering where the food came from she took two bowls and gave one to Cheng Yaojia, while she gobbled the other.

    Cheng Yaojia saw there was no dish, only plain rice, she ate a few bites, then put the bowl down. Shagu ate three full bowls quickly, then she patted her belly, looked satisfied.

    “Miss,” Cheng Yaojia said, “May I ask you a question? Do you know how far the Ox Village is from this place?”

    “Ox Village?” Shagu said, “This is Ox Village. How far it is from this place, I don’t know.”

    Cheng Yaojia blushed. She lowered her head and played with the end of her belt. After half a day she said, “It turned out this is the Ox Village. Then I am wondering if you knew someone. I wonder if you knew … you knew … someone …”

    Shagu did not wait for her to finish, she shook her head impatiently and then rushed out the door. Huang Rong wondered in her heart, “Who is she looking for at the Ox Village? Ah, that’s right! She is the disciple of Sun Bu’er. Most likely she received an order from her Master and Martial Uncles to find Qiu Chuji’s disciple, Yang Kang.”

    Huang Rong saw Cheng Yaojia was sitting up straight, her clothes were proper; she was gently stroking the pearl head ornament by her temple, her face blushing, with a slight smile on the corner of her lips, did not know what she was thinking.

    Huang Rong thought it was interesting. Suddenly she heard footsteps, someone was coming in from outside. This person was tall and handsome, his steps lively; as soon as he came in he also called out for the innkeeper. Huang Rong thought, “Coincidentally the people I know in this world have all gathered together in this Cow Village. The fengshui [lit. wind and water – geomancy, but since the term ‘fengshui’ is already well-known, I decided to keep it as is] of Jing Gege’s Ox Village must be very good; if not for the wealth then for the person.” Turned out the incoming person was the Young Master of the Cloud Village, Lu Guanying. As he saw Cheng Yaojia, he was startled then he called again, “Innkeeper!”

    As Cheng Yaojia saw this young man, she felt shy and hurriedly turned her body around. Lu Guanying also felt strange, “How come there is a beautiful young girl sitting alone in this place?” he thought. He walked around the kitchen and did not see anybody else. He was very hungry, while there was rice in the pot, so he turned to Cheng Yaojia and said, “Xiao Ren [lit. little/lowly person – the term he used to refer himself] is very hungry, I wish Miss would give me a bowl to eat.”

    Cheng Yaojia hung her head lower and smiled slightly, she said, “The rice is not mine. Xiang Gong [honorable master], please help yourself.”

    Lu Guanying ate two bowls full, then he cupped his fists to express his gratitude; he said, “Xiao Ren wishes to ask Miss about a certain place. I wonder how far is the Ox Village from this place? ”

    Cheng Yaojia and Huang Rong were both delighted. “Ha, it turns out he is also looking for the Ox Village,” they both thought. Cheng Yaojia stood up to return his respects and said, “This is the Ox Village.”

    Lu Guanying was delighted, “That’s wonderful!” he said, “Xiao Ren also wonders if Miss knew about a certain man.”

    Cheng Yaojia was about to say that she was not a local when suddenly she changed her mind, “I wonder who is he looking for?” she thought.

    Lu Guanying said, “I am looking for a gentleman surnamed Guo, Master Guo Jing. I was wondering where he lives… Is he home right now?”

    Cheng Yaojia and Huang Rong were startled. “Why does he look for him?”

    Cheng Yaojia was dumbstruck; she hung her head low and blushed to her ears. Looking at her expression Huang Rong had guessed with 80% certainty, “It turns out this Miss secretly fell in love with Jing Gege because he saved her in Baoying.” First of all Huang Rong was still very young, secondly she was an open-minded person, thirdly she believed in her heart that Guo Jing would not have a different mind; therefore, her heart was free from jealousy. On the contrary, she was really glad to find that others liked Guo Jing.

    Huang Rong’s speculation was right on target. When Cheng Yaojia was held captive by Ouyang Ke, it was true that it was the Beggar Clan’s Li Sheng and his men who helped her; but they were not Ouyang Ke’s match. If Guo Jing and Huang Rong did not go into action, she would have suffered disgrace. She saw Guo Jing was still young. Not only his skill was superb, but also his manner was sincere. A strand of love thread unexpectedly floated from her and stuck on Guo Jing.

    She was the young lady of a very rich family; she had never left home before, and she had reached the age where she started to have interest in the opposite sex. As she saw an attractive young man she unexpectedly fell in love.

    Even after Guo Jing left, he was always in this Cheng Da Xiaojie’s mind. Thinking left and right she mustered up enough courage and left home in the middle of the night. She was a pugilist, but had never left home; she did not have the slightest idea about the way of the Jianghu people. She happened to hear Guo Jing was from the Ox Village of Lin’an prefecture, thereupon she asked around the way to the Ox Village.

    Her appearance was elegant and her bearing was noble; along the way bad people did not dare to bully her. At the previous village she was told that the Ox Village was near; but when she suddenly heard Shagu say this was the Ox Village she had no idea what to do next. She had come thousands of ‘li’s to find Guo Jing, but now she was hoping Guo Jing would not be home. Her thought was, “I will go secretly to his home in the evening, take one look at him, and then go home. I can’t let him know I came for him; I would die of embarrassment if he finds out.”

    Right at that moment Lu Guanying arrived and inquired about Guo Jing. Cheng Yaojia was afraid he had found out her heart’s contents. She was at a lost for a moment then decided she would stand up and leave. But suddenly from outside the door an ugly face appeared then vanished. Cheng Yaojia was startled; she drew back two steps. That ugly face reappeared and called out, “Double-headed ghost! Come out in the sun if you have the ability. San Tou Jiao Master Hou challenges you to fight. I have one more head than you do. Under the bright sun, Master Hou does not fear you!” His meaning was clear: as soon as it was dark, Master Hou would candidly admit defeat although he had more heads. Lu and Cheng two people obviously did not understand.

    “Humph!” Huang Rong snorted. “All right, finally they come back,” she murmured. She believed Lu’s and Cheng’s martial art skills were not too high, it would be difficult for them to fight Peng Lianhu and the others. If she and Guo Jing wanted to help, all they did would be delivering two more lives. The best way would be telling them to get out of the way quickly. But how could she let them know? She went over other possibilities, but after thinking back and forth she still could not produce any good idea. All they had was each other and their courage.

    When Peng Lianhu and the others saw the double-headed ghost, they all thought it was the same expert, dressed as a ghost, who humiliated them the previous night. Therefore, they all ran away as far as possible from the village. Nobody dared to come back, with the exception of Hou Tonghai. He was a simple man, and actually believed it was a real ghost. He felt the blazing sun on his head, hurting his scalp. While everybody else had disappeared, he cursed, “Ghosts will meet their dooms under the sun. They did not know that, yet they dare to roam the Jianghu. I, Lao Hou [the Old Hou], am not afraid. I am going back to face the ghost. Let them respect me.”

    Thereupon he came back in big strides to the inn albeit with trepidation in his heart. When he stuck his head on the door, he saw Cheng Yaojia and Lu Guanying sat in the middle of the room. “Not good!” he said to himself, “The double-headed ghost has transformed itself into a man and a woman. Old Hou, oh, Old Hou, you have to be very careful.”

    Lu Guanying and Cheng Yaojia heard his challenge, but they did not understand the reason. They looked at each other and decided he was a mad man; hence they ignored him.

    Hou Tonghai kept cursing, but the ghost did not come out to fight. He believed the ghost was afraid of the sun. But to barge in and capture the ghost inside, the Old Hou did not have any nerve. They were in a stalemate situation for half a day. He was waiting for the two ghosts to transform themselves to other forms, who would have thought that the ghosts did not show any activities at all. Suddenly he remembered an old saying that ghosts were afraid of filthy things. So he left at once to find some dung.

    There were several outhouses in the village; there was one big one next to the inn. In his effort to capture the ghost he was not afraid of filth, so he took out his outer garment and scooped out a large bundle of dung, then he returned to the inn. He saw Lu and Cheng two people were still sitting in the inn. The secret weapon in his hands boosted his courage considerably. He called out loudly, “All right, daring ghost! Master Hou wants you to return to your original form.” With a three-pronged fork in his left hand and the bundle of dung in his right hand, he boldly entered the room.

    As Lu and Cheng two people saw this lunatic come back, they were slightly startled. But before the man arrived they had already caught the bad smell he was bringing. Hou Tonghai pondered, “I heard people say that men are more vicious than women, but female ghost is more dangerous than the male one.” Therefore, he lifted the bundle and threw it toward Cheng Yaojia.

    Cheng Yaojia called out in alarm; she moved sideways to evade. Lu Guanying had already lifted up a long bench to strike the bundle. It fell to the ground and broke, dung flew everywhere, bad smell attacked their nostrils making them want to throw up.

    Hou Tonghai shouted loudly, “Double-headed ghost, quickly go back to your original form.” Lifting his fork he attacked Cheng Yaojia ferociously. He was simple-minded, but his martial art skill was not bad. His fork attack was both rapid and fierce.

    Lu and Cheng two people were alarmed; they both thought, “This man is obviously a Wulin expert; he is by no means a lunatic.”

    Lu Guanying saw Cheng Yaojia as a lady from a renowned family, she looked so frail and tender that a whiff of wind might blow her away. He was afraid this mad man might hurt her, so he lifted the long bench to parry the three-pronged steel fork. “Who are you, Sir?” he asked. Hou Tonghai ignored his question and stabbed him three times with his fork. Lu Guanying kept using the bench as his weapon and repeatedly asked his name.

    Hou Tonghai noticed that although the ghost’s martial art skill was not weak, but actually it was entirely different from the mysteriously appearing and disappearing ghost of last night. He concluded it was the result of his dung attack earlier. He was very smug and called out, “You, the enchanting ghost, want to know my name so that you can put a curse on me, don’t you? Your master won’t fall into your trick.”

    Initially he called himself ‘Master Hou’, but now that he got a sudden inspiration he omitted the word ‘Hou’ and only used the word ‘Master’ to avoid the ghost from throwing up a curse on him. The steel rings on his fork made a ding-dong noise as he intensified his attack.

    Lu Guanying’s martial art was inferior to his opponent to begin with; and now he was using a bench as a weapon. He wanted to draw the saber on his waist but did not have any chance to do so. He was forced to step back so that after a while his back was already against the wall, covering the small hole through which Huang Rong was looking out.

    Hou Tonghai stabbed with his steel fork, Lu Guanying hastily moved sideways to evade. ‘Bang!’ the fork pricked the wall, less than a foot away from Huang Rong’s hole. Before he pulled his fork back, the bench in Lu Guanying’s hand struck vertically toward the top of his head. Hou Tonghai’s foot flew to kick Lu Guanying’s hand, while his left fist attacked Lu Guanying’s face. The bench fell from Lu Guanying’s hands, while he was forced to duck to avoid the blow. Meanwhile Hou Tonghai had withdrawn his steel fork from the wall.

    Cheng Yaojia saw the critical situation; she jumped forward and pulled the saber from Lu Guanying’s waist, then handed it over to him. “Many thanks!” Lu Guanying said. He had never imagined that in this critical moment this polite and charming girl would have the courage to enter such a fierce battle and draw the saber to help him.

    He saw a bright flickering light from the steel fork coming into his chest; immediately his saber went up horizontally in front of his chest and ‘clang!’ sparks flew everywhere. The steel fork was forced sideways, but he felt a chest pain. It seemed like this lunatic’s strength was not small; but with a saber in his hand he was greatly encouraged.

    After exchanging several stances both men’s feet had stepped over the dung and brought it everywhere they treaded. In the beginning Hou Tonghai was fighting with trepidation; he always thought about darting out the door to escape, he did not dare to use all his strength. But the longer they fought, he saw the ghost was unable to defeat him; obviously his enchantment was restrained by the dung. He became bolder and his attacks became fiercer. In the end Lu Guanying was having a hard time blocking his attacks.

    At first Cheng Yaojia was afraid of the dung on the ground; she stood up in a corner watching the fight. But then she saw this handsome young man would lose his life under the lunatic’s steel fork; she hesitated for a moment, finally she made up her mind and drew a sword from her bundle. She called out to Lu Guanying, “Xiang Gong, I … I am going to help you. Please pardon me.” Her manner was truly thorough; she was apologizing before helping someone to fight. Her sword flashed toward Hou Tonghai’s chest.

    She was the Qing Jing San Ren [Sage of Tranquility], Sun Bu’er’s disciple; naturally she was well-versed in the Quanzhen Sect’s sword technique. Hou Tonghai had anticipated her move; he thought that the double-headed ghost had transformed itself into two, and the female ghost would attack him soon as an evil spirit, so he was not surprised. But Lu Guanying was pleasantly surprised. He saw her movement was quick, her sword technique exquisite; his heart was full of admiration. His own saber was starting to be chaotic, he was sweating profusely; now suddenly someone came to help, his spirit rose.

    At first Hou Tonghai was quite worried by the female ghost’s fierceness, but after a few stances he noticed that although her sword technique was proficient, but her strength was just ordinary; moreover, she looked nervous. Probably she had not been a ghost for long, she had not reached the ‘old ghost’ level yet. Thereupon he gradually felt relieved. His three-pronged fork created strong gusts of wind. One against two, he still was able to attack more than his opponents.

    Watching from the other room Huang Rong was very anxious; she knew Lu and Cheng two people would eventually fall under their enemy. She wanted to lend them a hand, but she must not leave Guo Jing even for half a step. Otherwise, with her intelligence and abundant experience it would be very easy for her to play tricks on this Three-headed Scaly Dragon.

    She heard Lu Guanying call out, “Miss, go away, you don’t have to entangle yourself with him.”

    Cheng Yaojia knew he was worried that she might be injured and wanted to fight this mad man alone; she was very grateful, but she also knew fighting alone he would not be able to resist the enemy. She shook her head, unwilling to draw back.

    Lu Guanying fought furiously, he shouted to Hou Tonghai, “As a real man you are making things difficult for a young girl, what kind of hero are you? Just deal with me, a man surnamed Lu, and let this Miss go.”

    Although Hou Tonghai was muddle-headed, he knew by now that these two were not ghosts; but seeing Cheng Yaojia was beautiful, while he had gained an upper hand, how could he let her go? With laughter he said, “I want to capture the male ghost, I also want to take the female ghost.” His steel fork went straight horizontally with a violent thrust; he was being 30% lenient toward Cheng Yaojia, otherwise he would have already stabbed her.

    “Miss, quickly go!” Lu Guanying anxiously said, “The man surnamed Lu is grateful or your kindness.”

    “Xiang Gong’s honorable surname is Lu, isn’t it?” in a low voice Cheng Yaojia asked.

    “Exactly,” Lu Guanying replied, “Miss, what is your name? What school do you belong to?”

    “My Shifu’s surname is Sun, people call her the Sage of Tranquility,” Cheng Yaojia said, “I … I …” She was going to say her name, but suddenly felt shy and closed her mouth.

    “Miss, I’ll block him, you run quickly,” Lu Guanying said, “As long as the man surnamed Lu is still alive, I will look for you. I thank you for your help today.”

    Cheng Yaojia was blushing, she stammered, “I … I don’t … Xiang Gong …” Turning her head to Hou Tonghai she said, “Hey, mad man! Don’t you dare injuring this Xiang Gong. My Shifu is the Sun Zhenren [lit. true/real person, a respectful term to address a Taoist priest] from Quanzhen Sect. She will arrive shortly.”

    The names of Quanzhen Seven Masters were well-known throughout the world. That day Hou Tonghai had seen it with his own eyes when the Tie Jiao Xian [Iron Feet Immortal], Yuyang [jade-sun] Zi, Wang Chuyi intimidated the group of pugilists at the Zhao Palace. Now hearing what Cheng Da Xiaojie said, he was somewhat afraid. But after a slight shock he cursed, “Even if the Quanzhen Seven Masters come together, your master here will butcher them all one by one!”

    Suddenly from outside the door came someone’s clear voice saying, “Who in here doesn’t want to live by speaking nonsense?”

    Three people were engaged in a fierce battle, but as they heard this voice they all leaped backward. Lu Guanying was afraid Hou Tonghai would launch a sneak attack, he pulled Cheng Yaojia behind him and stood wielding his saber in front of her; only then he did raise his head to take a look.

    He saw a young Taoist priest standing at the doorstep, wearing a feather robe and a star crown, his face handsome and his eyes bright, he was holding a Taoist whisk in his hand. “Who said he wants to butcher the Quanzhen Seven Masters?” he coldly asked.

    With the fork in his right hand Hou Tonghai inserted his left hand to his waist; with glaring eyes he said loudly, “It’s me, your master. So what?”

    “All right,” the young priest said, “Go ahead and try.” Swaying his body forward he swept the whisk toward Hou Tonghai’s face.

    By now Guo Jing had finished one round of exercise; hearing the clamor of battle outside he looked out through the small hole. Huang Rong asked, “Is this young priest also one of the Quanzhen Seven Masters?”

    Guo Jing recognized the young priest as Yin Zhiping, Qiu Chuji’s disciple. Two years ago he received an order from his master to deliver a letter to the Jiangnan Six Heroes and had a martial art contest with Guo Jing at night, in which Guo Jing was defeated. Quietly Guo Jing told Huang Rong everything.

    Huang Rong saw he had exchanged a few stances with Hou Tonghai; she shook her head and said, “He won’t defeat the Three-Headed Scaly Dragon.”

    Yin Zhiping slightly fell under Hou Tonghai’s attacks; with a saber in his hand Lu Guanying immediately stepped forward to help him. Compared to the time he fought Guo Jing at night, he had made some progress; but fighting side by side with Lu Guanying they only managed to face Hou Tonghai evenly.

    Just a moment ago Cheng Yaojia’s left hand was grabbed by Lu Guanying for a short moment, yet her heart was still pitter-pattering madly. Three people were fighting furiously right next to her, but she was actually daydreaming, gently stroking her hand. Suddenly she was awakened with a startled from her daze-like condition by a clanking noise and Lu Guanying’s urgent voice, “Miss, watch out!”

    It turned out that Hou Tonghai noticed her condition and thrust his fork to her; Lu Guanying busily fended off the attack while shouting to her. Cheng Yaojia’s face turned completely red; she gathered her thoughts and entered the battle.

    Cheng Yaojia’s martial art skill was not too high, but with one against three Hou Tonghai had a hard time blocking the enemies. He brandished his fork ferociously, trying to open up an opportunity to escape and find some help, but Yin Zhiping’s whisk was dancing around in front of his face, making his vision blurry. He was negligent for a split second and Lu Guanying’s saber cut his leg.

    “Your eighteen ancestors be damned!” Hou Tonghai cursed. But because of this wound he gradually became sluggish. He thrust the steel fork forward, Yin Zhiping parried with his whisk, and the whisk coiled around it. They both pulled their respective weapons back in a tug-of-war game, but because Hou Tonghai was stronger, Yin Zhiping was forced to let his whisk go.

    Cheng Yaojia thrust her sword with ‘dou yao xing he’ [fighting and shaking star and river] and stabbed his right shoulder. Hou Tonghai could not hold his steel fork, it fell to the ground. Yin Zhiping took this opportunity to sweep his leg and Hou Tonghai tumbled to the ground. Lu Guanying immediately pounced on him; taking the leather belt on his waist he bound Hou Tonghai’s hands behind his back.

    Yin Zhiping laughed and said, “You can’t even defeat the Quanzhen Seven Masters’ disciple; how would you butcher the Quanzhen Seven Masters?” Hou Tonghai opened his mouth and shouted cursing words, said that it was three against one, that it was not a real hero’s deed. Yin Zhiping tore up a piece of his clothes and stuffed it into his mouth. Hou Tonghai’s face looked so angry, but he could not say anything.

    Yin Zhiping bowed to Cheng Yaojia, “Shijie [Elder Martial Sister] is the disciple of Sun Shishu [Martial (younger) Uncle Sun]? You little brother Yin Zhiping greets you.”

    Cheng Yaojia hurriedly returned his bow and said, “I don’t deserve it. I wonder Shixiong [Martial Brother – ‘xiong’ is brother in a general term] which Shibo’s [Martial (older) Uncle] disciple? Little sister pays my respect to Yin Shixiong.”

    “Little brother is a disciple of Changchun [perpetual/eternal spring],” Yin Zhiping replied.

    Since taking apprenticeship under her master, Cheng Yaojia had never left her house, so among the Quanzhen Seven Masters, she had never met six of them. However, her master had taught her about all of her martial uncles, and that Changchun Zi, Qiu Shibo was the most heroic and possessed the highest martial art skill. Learning that Yin Zhiping was Qiu Chuji’s disciple she regarded him with respect; lowering her head she said, “Yin Shixiong is my older martial brother. I am surnamed Cheng. Just call me Shimei [younger martial sister].”

    Yin Zhiping had been under his master tutelage for quite a long time, he had also inherited his master’s broad-minded and heroic disposition. He saw this martial sister as girlish and shy, she did not look like a heroic person at all; he was secretly amused. He chatted with her about their school for a while then he turned toward Lu Guanying to introduce himself. Lu Guanying introduced himself, but did not mention his father’s name or his title.

    Yin Zhiping turned his attention to Hou Tonghai. “This lunatic’s martial art is actually very good; I wonder where he came from. We must not release him,” he said.

    Lu Guanying said, “Let little brother hack my saber and finish him off.” He was the leader of a band of robbers at the Lake Tai, so killing was not a big deal to him. Cheng Yaojia, on the other hand, was tender-hearted. “Ah! Don’t kill him!” she said.

    Yin Zhiping smiled, “It’s all right not to kill him,” he said, “Cheng Shimei, have you been here long?”

    Cheng Yaojia blushed. “Little sister has just arrived,” she said.

    Yin Zhiping looked at the couple and thought, “Looks like these two are in love with one another; I must not interfere. I’ll just talk for a while and then I’ll go.” He said, “I received an order from Shifu to go to the Ox Village to find someone and convey a message to him. Little brother must take my leave; we’ll meet again later.” He cupped his hands and turned around to leave.

    Cheng Yaojia’s blush had not faded, but hearing him, it seemed like a layer of redness crept back onto her face. Hanging her head low she asked timidly, “Yin Shixiong, whom are you seeking?”

    Yin Zhiping hesitated slightly, he thought, “Cheng Shimei is my school’s disciple, this surnamed Lu fellow is her travel companion, so he is not an outsider. I think there is no harm in telling them.” Thereupon he said, “I am looking for a friend by the surname of Guo.”

    At his words, four people at either sides of the wall were stunned. Lu Guanying asked, “Could it be that friend has a single character ‘Jing’ as his name?”

    “That’s right,” Yin Zhiping said, “Brother Lu also know this Guo friend?” he asked.

    Lu Guanying replied, “The one Little brother is looking for is exactly this Guo Shishu [martial uncle].”

    Yin Zhiping and Cheng Yaojia were both surprised, “You call him Shishu?”

    “My father is of the same generation as he is,” Lu Guanying said, “That’s why Little Brother calls him Shishu.” Lu Chengfeng and Huang Rong were of the same generation; Guo Jing and Huang Rong were engaged to each other. Therefore, Lu Guanying referred to Guo Jing as martial uncle.

    Cheng Yaojia did not say anything, but her heart was troubled. Yin Zhiping busily asked, “Have you seen him? Where is he?”

    “Little Brother had just arrived. I was about to inquire when this lunatic attacked without any reason,” Lu Guanying replied.

    “Good!” Yin Zhiping said, “Then let us look for him together.” Three people went out the door together.

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing looked at each other with bitter smiles on their faces. “They will come back,” Guo Jing said, “Rong’er, open the door and call them.”

    Huang Rong sighed and said, “How can I do that? These people are looking for you, must be over some important matters. You are still trying to heal your injury, how can your attention be diverted?”

    “That’s right,” Guo Jing agreed, “Must be a very important matter. Can you think of something?”

    Huang Rong said, “I will not open the door even if the sky is falling”

    Sure enough, not too long afterwards, Yin Zhiping three people came back to the inn. Lu Guanying said, “Even in his hometown nobody can shed a light on his whereabouts. This is not good.”

    Yin Zhiping said, “I wonder over what important matter do Brother Lu try to find him; may we know?”

    Initially Lu Guanying was unwilling to say, but after seeing Cheng Yaojia’s hopeful look, for some unknown reason he found it hard to resist. He said, “It is a long story. Let Little Brother sweep the filth from the floor first, then I will relate the story to you two.” There was no broom or dustpan in this inn, so Yin and Lu two people had to use tree branches to clean up the filth, only then did they sat down to talk.

    Lu Guanying was about to speak when Cheng Yaojia suddenly said, “Wait a minute!” She went to Hou Tonghai, cut two pieces of her clothes and stopped his ears. “We can’t let him listen,” she said with a low voice.

    Lu Guanying praised her, “Miss is very careful. We don’t know where this lunatic came from, we must not let him listen to what we are discussing.”

    On the other side of the wall Huang Rong laughed in her heart, “We are eavesdropping in here, so it is difficult for you to find out; but inside there is Ouyang Ke lying down and listening, and nobody notices. Yet you are still talking about carefulness?”

    Cheng Da Xiaojie had never roamed Jianghu before, Yin Zhiping took after his master’s broadmindedness, plus he was still young and inexperienced; Lu Guanying was the leader of Lake Tai’s robbers, he used to give orders and was not used to pay attention to the details. Thereupon three people talked about important matters without carefully investigating their surroundings.

    Cheng Yaojia stooped down and saw that Hou Tonghai’s ears were cut off; she was only startled for moment before stuffing the pieces of cloth into his ears. She smiled slightly and to Lu Guanying said, “Now you can talk.”

    Lu Guanying reluctantly said, “Ay! I don’t know where to start. I am looking for Guo Shishu. Reasonably speaking I should not look for him, but I cannot but look for him.”

    “This is so strange,” Yin Zhiping commented.

    “That’s true,” Lu Guanying continued, “I am looking for Guo Shishu not because of him, but because of his six masters.”

    Yin Zhiping slapped the table and shouted, “The Six Freaks of Jiangnan?”

    “Exactly,” Lu Guanying replied.

    “Aha!” Yin Zhiping exclaimed, “I think Lu Xiong came to this place over the same matter as Little Brother did. Why don’t we write down a name and let Cheng Shimei decide whether we are thinking of the same thing or not.”

    Before Lu Guanying could answer, Cheng Yaojia had already smiled and said, “That’s good. You two turn your backs and write.”

    Yin Zhiping and Lu Guanying both picked a twig and wrote down something on the ground. Yin Zhiping said with a smile, “Cheng Shimei, see if what we wrote down are the same or not?”

    Cheng Yaojia looked at their writing and in a low voice said, “Yin Shixiong, your guess was wrong. The two of you did not write the same thing.”

    “Ah!” Yin Zhiping exclaimed and stood up.

    Cheng Yaojia smiled and said, “You wrote ‘Huang Yaoshi’ three characters, he actually drew a peach blossom.”

    Huang Rong was shocked, “Both of them are looking for Jing Gege in relation to my father?” she thought. She heard Lu Guanying say, “What Yin Shixiong wrote is the grandmaster of my school, Little Brother did not dare to write down his name.”

    Yin Zhiping was startled, “Your grandmaster? Hmm, looks like what we wrote down are the same after all. Isn’t Huang Yaoshi the Master of the Peach Blossom Island?”

    “Oh! So that’s how it is,” Cheng Yaojia said.

    Yin Zhiping said, “Since Lu Xiong is a Peach Blossom Island’s disciple, then the reason you are looking for the Six Freaks of Jiangnan is certainly not in their favor.”

    “That’s not true,” Lu Guanying said.

    Yin Zhiping noticed Lu Guanying spoke with reluctance, he was unhappy, he said, “Since Lu Xiong does not regard Little Brother as your friend, then it’s useless for us to talk much longer. I’ll take my leave now.” He stood up and turned around to leave.

    Lu Guanying busily said, “Yin Shixiong, wait! Little Brother has a difficulty and I wish for Shixiong’s help.”

    Yin Zhiping just loved it when others came to him for help, he happily said, “All right, then talk to me.”

    Lu Guanying said, “Yin Shixiong, you are a disciple of the Quanzhen Sect. If you know someone is in danger, you will certainly forewarn that person to guard against the danger, since that is part of your duty as a chivalrous person. But what if your own superior wanted to harm innocent people; would you still warn those innocent people to guard against your superior?”

    Yin Zhiping slapped his thigh and exclaimed, “That’s right! I know you are a Peach Blossom Island disciple; so you must have a great difficulty in this matter. All right, let us see what I can do.”

    Lu Guanying said, “In this matter, if Little Brother does not do anything, I am not doing my duty in upholding righteousness; but if I do something, I am betraying my own school. Even though Little Brother wishes to ask Shixiong’s help, in all honesty, I cannot open my mouth.”

    Yin Zhiping had more or less guessed what he wanted, but since he was not willing to say it out loud, Yin Zhiping did not quite know what to do. He lifted his hand to scratch his head, his face looked awkward.

    Cheng Yaojia remembered something: when a girl was too shy to say her heart’s content, usually the mother or her sisters would ask her questions, and determine what she really wanted by her nodding or shaking her head. Although it was not the best method, it usually would reveal the content of the girl’s heart in the end. For instance the mother would ask, “Child, are you in love with Zhang San’ge [Third Brother surnamed Zhang]?” The girl would shake her head. “Is it Li Silang [Fourth lad of Li family]?” The girl would shake her head again. “Then it must be the Wang family’s cousin.” The girl would hang her head low without saying anything; that meant the guess was correct. Thereupon Cheng Yaojia said to Yin Zhiping, “Yin Shige [martial brother Yin], you ask Lu Dage [big brother Lu] questions. If it is correct, he will nod, if wrong, he will shake his head. That way he won’t say anything to betray his own school.”

    Yin Zhiping was delighted, “Shimei, that is a wonderful idea. Lu Xiong, let me tell you first about my business. My Shifu, Changchun Zhenren, happened to hear that the Master of the Peach Blossom Island hates the Six Freaks of Jiangnan to his bones and that he is going to wipe out the entire six families from the face of the earth. My Shifu immediately set out to Jiaxing to deliver the warning, but the Six Freaks were actually not home; they were traveling somewhere. Thereupon my Shifu visited the six families one by one and told them to escape, so when the Island Master Huang arrived, he did not find a single person. He was livid and leashed out his anger to the air; then he went north. I don’t know what happened afterwards. Do you know this matter?”

    Lu Guanying nodded. Yin Zhiping continued, “I think the Island Master Huang is pursuing the Six Freaks to the north. Initially there was a friction between my Shifu and the Six Freaks, but first of all this friction has been taken care off, secondly my Shifu greatly admires the Six Freaks’ chivalrous deeds in helping others in distress; and finally my Shifu thinks this matter is not Six Freaks’ fault at all. It just so happened that the Quanzhen Seven Masters were having a meeting in Jiangnan, hence they spread out to find the Six Freaks, to warn them against this danger. It would be best if they could just go into hiding to faraway place so that your Grandmaster won’t be able to find them. Don’t you agree that we are doing the right thing?”

    Lu Guanying repeatedly nodded his head.

    Huang Rong was puzzled, “Jing Gege had already fulfilled his promise to come to the Peach Blossom Island; why would Father still want to settle the debt with the Six Freaks?” She did not know that her father heard Lingzhi Shangren’s lie and believed that his daughter had died on the sea; therefore, in his grief he wanted to vent his anger on the Six Freaks.

    She heard Yin Zhiping continue, “Since he could not find the Six Freaks, my Shifu then remembered the Six Freaks’ disciple, Guo Jing. He is a native of the Ox Village in the Lin’an prefecture, and most likely had returned to his hometown; thereupon my Shifu sent Little Brother to find him here. Chances are he would know his six masters’ whereabouts. Did you come to this place also over this business?”

    Lu Guanying again nodded his head. Yin Zhiping said, “Who would have thought that Guo Xiong had not come home yet. My Shifu is very fond of the Six Freaks, but since he could not find them, he did not know what else he could do. But since that’s the case, apparently the Island Master Huang might not be able to find them either. Lu Xiong wanted to ask for my help, is it concerning this matter also?”

    Lu Guanying nodded. Yin Zhiping said, “Whatever order Lu Xiong might have, please tell me. Little Brother will do my best to fulfill your wish.”

    Lu Guanying did not open his mouth, but his face looked quite awkward. Cheng Yaojia said with a smile, “Yin Shige, you forgot that Lu Xiang Gong cannot open his mouth to speak frankly.”

    Yin Zhiping smiled, “That’s right,” he said, “Lu Xiong, do you want me to wait for Guo Xiong in this place?” Lu Guanying shook his head.

    “Do you want Little Brother to quickly find the Six Freaks and Guo Xiong then?” Yin Zhiping asked. Again Lu Guanying shook his head.

    “Ah, I get it,” Yin Zhiping said, “Lu Xiong wants Little Brother to spread the news in the Jianghu. Those Six Freaks are natives of Jiangnan, once the word is out, sooner or later they will hear it.”

    Lu Guanying still shook his head. Yin Zhiping presented seven, eight more guesses, but Lu Guanying kept shaking his head. Cheng Yaojia also asked him twice, but none of her guesses was correct either. Not only Yin Zhiping was confounded, Huang Rong at the adjacent room was also confounded. Three people were in a deadlock situation for half a day. Finally Yin Zhiping laughed and said, “Cheng Shimei, you can slowly talk with him, I cannot play this riddle game anymore. I am going out for a walk, I will be back in a couple of hours.” With that he went out the door and left.

    Other than Hou Tonghai, Lu and Cheng two people were left alone. Cheng Yaojia hung her head low, she saw Lu Guanying still had not made any move. She stole a glance toward him right when Lu Guanying was also looking at her. Their eyes met and both hurriedly glanced away. Cheng Yaojia blushed even redder and hung her head even lower so that her chin touched her chest. Her hands played with the silk sashes at the end of her sword’s hilt.

    Lu Guanying slowly stood up and walked to the nearby stove, above which there was a Kitchen God idol. He stood in front of the Kitchen God idol and said, “Zao Wangye [Kitchen God, Master, lit. kitchen stove king master] Xiao Ren [little/lowly person] has a burden in my heart, but I cannot reveal it to anybody else. So I am going to bare it all to you, hoping that with your divine power you will bless this matter.”

    Cheng Yaojia silently praised him, “A smart man.” She raised her head to listen carefully.

    Lu Guanying said, “Xiao Ren is Lu Guanying, the son of the Village Master Lu of Cloud Village by the Lake Tai. My father’s name is Chengfeng; he is a disciple of the Island Master Huang of the Peach Blossom Island. A few days ago my Grandmaster came to the village, he said he wanted to kill the Six Freaks of Jiangnan and their entire families. He ordered my father and my Shibo [martial (older) uncle] Mei Chaofeng to help find the Six Freaks’ whereabouts. Mei Shibo has a deep enmity with the Six Freaks, so she accepted this order with gladness. Not so with my father; he knew the Six Freaks of Jiangnan as patriots and chivalrous heroes, so killing them would not be righteous. Moreover, my father has become friends with the Six Freaks’s disciple, Guo Shishu [martial (younger) uncle Guo]; therefore, he could not ignore this matter. My father has received an order from my Grandmaster, he was in a very difficult position. He had a mind to dispatch Xiao Ren to deliver a warning to the Six Freaks of Jiangnan, telling them to go hiding and save their own lives, but he could not possibly betray his own master. That night my father looked up to the sky and heaved a deep sigh, softly talking to himself, revealing his concerns. Xiao Ren was nearby and heard everything. Being a filial person I share my father’s sorrow. Eventually my Grandmaster left and Xiao Ren left that very same night trying to find the Six Freaks and deliver the warning.”

    Huang Rong and Cheng Yaojia both thought, “It turned out he copied his father’s method of telling others without betraying his own school.”

    They heard Lu Guanying continue, “Six Freaks were nowhere to be found, I remember their disciple, Guo Shishu, but he is also nowhere to be found. Guo Shishu is my Grandmaster’s son-in-law …”

    “Ah!” Cheng Yaojia could not help but to exclaim softly, then hastily covered her mouth with her hand. Initially she was attracted to Guo Jing and thought she was in love with him. She did not realize it was only a young girl’s infatuation and not a true love. Today she met Lu Guanying, who looked distinguished, handsome and elegant; in all respects he looked superior to Guo Jing. When she heard that Guo Jing was Huang Yaoshi’s son-in-law she was shocked, but not at all felt sad or heartbroken; on the contrary, she felt relieved. She also recalled at Baoying she saw Guo Jing and Huang Rong were very close to each other. All of a sudden anything did not matter to her anymore. Unconsciously the heart of this young woman had already gone to somebody else.

    Lu Guanying heard her soft exclamation; he wanted to turn around and look at her face, but he forced himself to bear it. He thought, “If I acknowledge someone is listening on the side, I must stop talking altogether. That day when Father talked to the heaven, never once he looked at my direction. Right now I am talking to the Kitchen God; if she is listening, that means she is eavesdropping, I have nothing to do with it.” Thereupon he continued, “I am hoping that when I find Guo Shishu he and Huang Shigu [martial aunt] would beseech the Grandmaster. My Grandmaster is hot-tempered, but he loves his daughter and son-in-law, so it is possible that he would not kill his son-in-law’s six masters. However, from the way my father talked, it sounds like Guo Shishu and Huang Shigu had encountered some calamities; whatever it is, it was not convenient for me to inquire from my father.”

    Listening to this point Huang Rong thought, “Did father know that Jing Gege is suffering a serious injury? No, he simply cannot know about it. Most probably he heard that we were stranded on that deserted island.”

    Meanwhile Lu Guanying continued, “Yin Shixiong is straightforward and just, Miss Cheng is intelligent and friendly …”

    (Listening to him praising her in her face, Cheng Yaojia was happy and shy at the same time)

    “… but what’s in my heart is like a fantasy, they cannot possibly guess it. I am thinking that the Six Freaks of Jiangnan are well-known heroes and real men; although their martial art skills are inferior to my Grandmaster, but isn’t asking them to run away from danger the same as accusing them of afraid of death? They will certainly not do such a cowardly act. I am afraid if they hear the news instead of running away they will go and find the Grandmaster! Therefore, instead of helping them I would be bringing them to the disaster.”

    Huang Rong secretly nodded; she thought Lu Guanying was worthy to be the leader of the Lake Tai’s heroes; he had a profound understanding of the way of the Jianghu people. She heard him continue, “I also think that the Quanzhen Seven Masters are chivalrous people with flourishing name and prestige, their martial art skills are also high. If Yin Shixiong and Miss Cheng are willing to earnestly ask their masters to be the mediator, Grandmaster would most likely give them face. I don’t think there is an irreconcilable deep animosity between Grandmaster and the Six Freaks of Jiangnan; most likely the Six Freaks had said or done something that was offensive to the Grandmaster. What they need is a reputable character to act as the mediator and surely forgiveness is not impossible. Kitchen God, Master, Xiao Ren’s difficulty is that I have an idea in vain, since I cannot reveal it to anybody. I am asking you to handle this business for me.” Having finished speaking, he repeatedly bowed to pay his respect to the Kitchen God.

    As he finished speaking Cheng Yaojia hastily turned around to find Yin Zhiping; but as she walked to the door she heard Lu Guanying say something else, “Kitchen God, if the Quanzhen Seven Masters are willing to mediate, they will render an enormously good deed. But when the Seven talk to my Grandmaster, I wish they will be courteous and respectful and not offend my Grandmaster in any way. Otherwise when one wave has not yet subsided, another wave arises, then all efforts will be wasted. This is all I have to say to you.”

    Cheng Yaojia smiled and said in her heart, “You are done talking, now it’s my turn to take care of your business.” Then she left the inn to look for Yin Zhiping. But after going around the village she had not seen his neither his shadow nor his tracks.

    She was about to turn around and came back when suddenly she heard Yin Zhiping call her in a subdued voice, “Cheng Shimei!” He beckoned to her from the corner of a wall.

    “Ah! Here you are,” Cheng Yaojia happily said.

    Yin Zhiping made a hand signal, telling her to be quiet; he pointed to the west and walked toward her. In a low voice he told her, “There are some suspicious looking people snooping around over there, they all carry weapons with them.”

    Cheng Yaojia’s mind was occupied with what Lu Guanying had just said, she said, “I think they are just passers-by.”

    Yin Zhiping’s face actually looked serious, with a low voice he said, “Those people’s movements were agile, their martial art skills must be very high. We must be very careful.” Actually he saw Peng Lianhu and the others. They waited for Hou Tonghai for a long time and he did not come back. They thought he must be in some danger; but all of them remembered the expert who pretended to be the ghost the previous night in the imperial palace, who would dare to go and rescue him? All of a sudden they spotted Yin Zhiping, so they withdrew and hid themselves. Yin Zhiping waited for a while, but did not see any activity ahead, so he went over to take a look, but these people had already gone without a trace. Thereupon Cheng Yaojia told him everything she heard from Lu Guanying.

    Yin Zhiping smiled and said, “So that’s what he was thinking about. How could anybody guess it? Cheng Shimei, you go and ask Sun Shishu’s [martial uncle] help, I’ll go and tell Shifu. As long as the Quanzhen Seven Masters are willing to act, what matter under the sky they cannot solve?”

    “But we have to be careful not to mess this thing up,” Cheng Yaojia said. Then she relayed what Lu Guanying said just before she left the inn.

    “Humph,” Yin Zhiping sneered, “Who is Huang Yaoshi anyway? Is he stronger than the Quanzhen Seven Masters?”

    Cheng Yaojia was about to remind him not to be too arrogant, but seeing his stern expression she swallowed back the word that was on her lips. Two people went back to the inn together.

    Lu Guanying said, “Little Brother will have to take my leave. Whenever you pass through the Lake Tai area, please pay me a visit at the Cloud Village for a few days.” Cheng Yaojia was crushed to see him leave so soon, but how could she dare to reveal her deepest feelings?

    Yin Zhiping turned around to face the Kitchen God idol and said, “Kitchen God, Master, Quanzhen Sect is most willing to help other people in distress. Whenever there is any injustice in the Jianghu and the Quanzhen disciples find out about it, there is no way we will not interfere.”

    Lu Guanying knew these words were directed to him, thereupon he also said, “Kitchen God, Master, I pray that you will give your blessing so that this matter will be resolved in peace. Disciple is forever grateful towards all these gentlemen who spend their energy to help.”

    Yin Zhiping said, “Kitchen God, Master, please do not worry; the Quanzhen Seven Masters’ power is shaking the world. As long as they are willing to act, there is nothing in this world they cannot deal with.”

    Lu Guanying was startled, he thought, “How can my Grandmaster be convinced if the Quanzhen Seven Masters rely on power?” He busily said, “Kitchen God, Master, you know that my Grandmaster comes and goes as he wishes, he never pays attention to other people. Others speak as friends to him, he would certainly listen, but he loathes it if others try to speak reason with him!”

    “Ha, ha …” Yin Zhiping said, “Kitchen God, Master, how can the Quanzhen Seven Masters be afraid of others? Originally this matter had nothing to do with us, my Shifu only sent me to deliver the warning. But if anybody provokes us the Quanzhen disciples, I don’t care whether he is Yellow Yaoshi [surname ‘huang’ literal translation is ‘Yellow’] or Hei Yaoshi [Black Yaoshi], the Quanzhen Sect will definitely teach him a lesson.”

    Lu Guanying felt anger rising on his chest, he said, “Kitchen God, Master, what disciple had just said, please just consider it a talk in my sleep. If anybody belittles us, we don’t want to accept anybody’s favor anymore.” These two were talking to each other, but they were facing the Kitchen God idol. One spoke and the other responded, gradually this exchange of words became hotter and hotter.

    Cheng Yaojia wanted to interfere, but those two men were young and hot-tempered, neither was willing to yield even for half a word. Finally Yin Zhiping said, “Kitchen God, Master, the Quanzhen Sect’s martial art is the purest of orthodox skill, while others’ are heretical skill, even if they are good, how can they be measured up against the Quanzhen Sect?”

    Lu Guanying responded, “Kitchen God, Master, I have heard for a long time the reputation of Quanzhen Sect’s martial art; certainly there are many martial art experts within the Quanzhen Sect. But this doesn’t mean that there are no arrogant blabbermouths among the disciples.”

    Yin Zhiping was angry, his palm struck and the corner of the kitchen stove collapsed. He stared hard and shouted loudly, “Good kid, you curse people!”

    ‘Bang!’ Lu Guanying also struck the other corner and it fell to the ground. He shouted, “How do I dare to curse you? I am cursing those condescending conceited disciples.”

    Yin Zhiping had seen Lu Guanying’s martial art skill just now; he knew it was still inferior to his, so his confidence was boosted and with a cold laugh he said, “Fine! Let us try, we’ll see who is conceited in the end.”

    Lu Guanying knew perfectly well that he was not Yin Zhiping’s match, but he hated it when others insulted his school. He was like one riding on a tiger’s back, he could not continue riding, yet it is difficult to back down. He drew his saber, made a gesture of respect with his left hand and said, “Little Brother is ready to receive Quanzhen Sect’s excellent stances.”

    Cheng Yaojia was very anxious, tears streaming down from her eyes. She wanted to throw herself in between these two men, but each time did not have the courage to do so. She saw Yin Zhiping sweep his whisk away and step forward to launch his attack and straightaway two people fight ferociously.

    Lu Guanying did not expect victory; he merely hoped he would avoid an embarrassing defeat. Immediately he launched the ‘luo han dao fa’ [Buddhist arhat’s saber technique] he learned from Reverend Kumu [Dead Wood], creating a tight defense around him.

    Yin Zhiping assumed offensive position immediately, and to his surprise he found the opponent’s saber power to be quite strong. He realized he had recklessly underestimated his opponent when his left arm was almost chopped down. His heart shivered and he hastily concentrated his attention to face the attack and respond accordingly; launching his school’s special teaching of calming his mind and spirit, slow step but quick hand movements. Only by doing this did he gradually gain the upper hand.

    For the last several months Lu Guanying had received his father’s instructions so that he enjoyed progress by leaps and bounds, but the days of his training were too short to be compared to Yin Zhiping who was a main disciple of Changchun.

    Huang Rong was watching this fight through the small mirror; she saw Yin Zhiping gradually take the lead, she cursed in her heart, “This ‘xiao za mao’ [lit. little mixed-up hair – a derogatory term to Taoist priest] was scolding my father. If Jing Gege was not injured, I would certainly teach you some lessons on the heretical Peach Blossom Island’s martial art. Aiyo! Not good!”

    She saw Lu Guanying’s saber strike down with a familiar stance, Yin Zhiping intercepted it with his whisk and diverted the saber away; then turning his hand over his finger moved with an exceptional speed toward the crook of Lu Guanying’s elbow. Lu Guanying felt his arm go numb and his saber fell down to the ground. Without showing any mercy Yin Zhiping swept his whisk toward Lu Guanying’s face while loudly shouted, “This is Quanzhen Sect’s martial art, remember it well!” His whisk was made of horse’s tail mixed with strands of silver threads; once Lu Guanying’s face got hit, it would certainly be slashed with countless cuts.

    Lu Guanying understood the danger, he quickly ducked and the whisk followed by sweeping downward. Suddenly a tender voice was shouting, “Yin Shige!” Cheng Yaojia thrust her sword to block the whisk. Lu Guanying took that opportunity to leap back and pick his saber from the ground.

    Yin Zhiping coldly laughed, “Good! Cheng Shimei, you are helping an outsider. Come! You two lovers can fight me together.”

    “You … you …” Cheng Yaojia stammered.

    ‘Swish! Swish! Swish!’ Ying Zhiping swept his whisk three times, forcing her to move her hands and feet in a disorderly manner. Lu Guanying saw her precarious situation he raised his saber and joined the fight two against one. But Cheng Yaojia did not want to fight her martial brother, so she jumped back.

    “Come!” Yin Zhiping said, “He cannot fight me alone. Otherwise, in a while you will come and help him anyway.”

    Huang Rong watched these three people fighting each other in amusement; she was wondering how this matter could be resolved when suddenly she heard some noise from the door. She saw Peng Lianhu, Sha Tongtian, along with Wanyan Honglie, Yang Kang, and the others came in together.

    It turned out they had been waiting for Hou Tonghai for a long time and he did not come back. Sha Tongtian was concerned over his martial brother, so gathering his courage he quietly came over to take a look. He saw inside the inn two people were fighting; their martial art skills were only average. He waited for a long time but did not see anybody else. He was afraid to come in alone, so he went back and summoned the others, taking them back to the inn.

    Yin and Lu two people saw these people came in; they leaped back and stopped fighting. They asked these newcomers, but Sha Tongtian swayed and stepped forward with arms open wide, grabbing both men’s wrists. Meanwhile Peng Lianhu stooped down and untied Hou Tonghai’s hands.

    Hou Tonghai had been suffering for half a day; he was really angry. Without taking out the cloths in his mouth he roared and threw himself at Cheng Yaojia, attacking her with his palms. Cheng Yaojia evaded by moving backward in a circle. Hou Tonghai’s face was purple from the bruise; his fists went straight up and down fiercely attacking Cheng Yaojia.

    “Hold on!” Peng Lianhu repeatedly said, “Let’s talk first.” But Hou Tonghai’s mouth and ears were stopped with cloths, how could he have heard anything?

    The acupoint on Lu Guanying’s wrist was grabbed by Sha Tongtian; he felt half of his body went numb, he could not move. But seeing Cheng Yaojia in danger and Hou Tonghai was like a mad tiger; he struggled hard and without knowing where the strength came from, he shook Sha Tongtian’s grab loose and fiercely threw himself toward Hou Tonghai.

    Before he reached his target Peng Lianhu swept his leg and sent him tumbling down and immediately Peng Lianhu pounced on him. He grabbed Lu Guanying by the back of his neck and lifted him up; “Who are you?” he asked, “Where is that fellow who played ghost?”

    Suddenly the door creaked and it opened slowly. Everybody turned their head at once, but nobody came in. Peng Lianhu and the others could not help but feel shivers of fear in their hearts; suddenly a female head with disheveled hair sticking out was at the door. Liang Ziweng and Lingzhi Shangren jumped up in fright; they even shouted, “Not good! A female ghost!”

    Peng Lianhu saw clearly that she was just an ordinary country girl; “Come in!” he shouted.

    Shagu walked in with a giggle, sticking out her tongue she said, “Ah, so many people!”

    Liang Ziweng was the one shouted, “Female Ghost!” earlier, now he saw she was just a poor peasant girl with tattered clothes and silly demeanor; out of shame he became angry. He jumped forward and shouted, “Who are you?” Stretching out his hand he grabbed her arm. Who would have thought that Shagu withdrew her arm and flipped her hand, then her palm struck with the Peach Blossom Island’s ‘bi bo zhang fa’ [jade-green wave palm technique]. Although her skill was not refined, the stance was subtle and wonderful. Liang Ziweng did not guard against her counterattack at all. ‘Slap!’ Shagu’s palm hit the back of his hand, hard.

    Liang Ziweng was stunned and angry at the same time. “Good!” he called out, “You are playing dumb!” He rushed forward with both fists straight up. Shagu stepped back to evade, suddenly she pointed toward his shiny bald head and burst out in laughter.

    This laughter caught everybody by surprise; Liang Ziweng was stunned and he stopped dead on his tracks for a few seconds; only then he ferociously resumed his attack. Shagu raised her hands to block, but she staggered back. She knew she was not his match, so she turned around, trying to run away. But Liang Ziweng would not let her escape, he stretched his left leg backward to block her, while his elbow struck backward, followed by his fist. Shagu’s nose was hit hard until she felt her head spinning. She cried out, “Sister who eats the watermelon, come out quickly! Help me! Somebody is hitting me!”

    Huang Rong was startled, she thought, “Not killing this dumb girl was a big mistake; she is bound to bring us disaster.” Suddenly she heard a soft ‘humph’ sound. It was so soft, almost inaudible, but Huang Rong’s heart jumped in delight. “Father is here!” she thought. Hastily she looked through the small hole and saw Huang Yaoshi wearing a human-skin mask, standing on the doorstep.

    Nobody saw him come, as if he had just arrived, but also as if he had been there before everybody else came. He stood motionless like a log of wood, without showing the least bit of emotion on his face. Everybody who saw him could not help but shudder. He did not have a green face nor did he have fierce teeth; he did not even look loathsome or ugly, but in all honesty nobody could say that his face belonged to a living person.

    Shagu only exchanged three stances with Liang Ziweng but Huang Yaoshi could immediately tell that she was using the martial art of his school. With a heart full of questions he asked, “Miss, who is your master? Where is he?”

    Shagu simply shook her head. She stared at him blankly. Suddenly she clapped her hands and laughed. Huang Yaoshi frowned; he knew she must have had some relation with his disciples. If not their disciple, then she must be their family or relative. He was very fond and tended to be over-protective toward his disciples; in no way would he allow anybody to bully them. Mei Chaofeng was a renegade disciple of his; she had committed a great crime against her master. Yet when she was defeated by Guo Jing Huang Yaoshi would still help her; much less Shagu who was a naïve and child-like young girl. Thereupon he said, “Dumb kid, others hit you, why don’t you hit back?”

    The other day on the boat, when Huang Yaoshi was looking for his daughter, he did not wear any mask, so his appearance was not the same as today; nobody recognized him. But as soon as he opened his mouth, Wanyan Honglie, Yang Kang and Peng Lianhu, three people remembered his voice and vaguely guessed his identity. Peng Lianhu knew this evil man must not have good things in his mind; he also guessed that the ghost of the imperial palace last night might be this man. He knew there was no way he could fight this man, so while there was an opportunity, he was thinking of launching the thirty-sixth stance, namely: run away.

    Shagu said, “I can’t hit him?”

    “Who says you cannot hit him?” Huang Yaoshi said, “He hit your nose, you must hit his nose. He hit you once, you must pay him back three times.”

    Shagu laughed. “All right!” she said. Without thinking that Liang Ziweng’s skill was way above hers she walked over to him and said, “You hit my nose, I must hit your nose. You hit me once, I must pay you back three times.” Her fist went straight up to his nose.

    Liang Ziweng raised up his hand to block, suddenly the ‘qu chi’ [crooked reservoir] acupoint on the bent of his arm was numb. His hand was already half way up but could not go further. ‘Bang!’ his nose was squarely hit by Shagu’s fist.

    “Two!” Shagu called out and sent out another fist.

    Liang Ziweng bent his knees, keeping his back straight; left hand straight out with one of the highest ‘qin na’ [grab and capture] techniques. He was sure he could turn Shagu’s arm over and divert the attack; who would have thought that as his fingers touched Shagu’s arm, the ‘bi ru’ [arm scholar] acupoint on his arm was numb and he was unable to divert Shagu’s hand. ‘Bang!’ for the second time his nose was hit by Shagu’s fist. It was such a violent blow that his head was thrown backward and he staggered, almost fell down. Liang Ziweng was really angry.

    Other people were astounded, but they did not see anything unusual. Peng Lianhu was an expert in secret projectile usage; he was the only one who noticed something. Each time Liang Ziweng blocked the attack, both times Peng Lianhu heard a very light swishing noise of secret projectiles. He knew Huang Yaoshi had launched some kind of tiny metal needles toward Liang Ziweng’s acupoints. Only he did not see Huang Yaoshi’s arm move, so he did not know how Huang Yaoshi did it.

    Actually Huang Yaoshi was flicking his finger inside his sleeve and sent the needles piercing through the fabric toward the enemy. Invisible and almost inaudible, the needles suddenly arrived; how could the enemy evade this kind of attack?

    “Three!” Shagu called out. Both of Liang Ziweng’s arms did not obey their master’s order. His eyes saw the fist coming straight toward his face; he did not have any choice but step backward to evade. Who would have thought that as he was about to step back the ‘bai hai’ [white ocean] acupoint on the inside of his right leg suddenly turned numb. His shock had not subsided when a spark fluttered in the air and he felt tears brimming in his eyes.

    It turned out when his nose was hit the tears acupoint was also hit. He had always regarded defeat in martial art contests as nothing; but if tears streaming down his face, his lifelong reputation would be ruined. Hastily he lifted up his sleeve to wipe the tears away, but his arm did not follow his order. Two big drops of tears finally came down his cheeks.

    Shagu saw his tears and busily said, “Please don’t cry! Don’t be afraid, I won’t hit you anymore.”

    Compared to the three blows on his nose, those three comforting sentences were more difficult for Liang Ziweng to bear. In his resentment, ‘Wah!’ he vomited a mouthful of fresh blood. He looked up to Huang Yaoshi and said, “Who are you Sire? You secretly harmed people; what kind of hero are you?”

    With a cold laugh Huang Yaoshi replied, “Are you worthy to ask my name?” Suddenly he raised his voice up, “Everybody roll out of my presence!”

    Everybody standing on the side had early on felt their four limbs and hundreds of bones uncomfortable; nobody had the guts to fight, they just stood in that inn without knowing what to do. When they heard his shout, it was as if the had just received pardon on their lives. Peng Lianhu was the first one wanted to go out, but only after two steps he saw that Huang Yaoshi was standing on the doorstep, not allowing anybody to pass through; hence he stopped dead on his tracks.

    Huang Yaoshi sneered, “I told you to go, but you don’t go. Do you want me to slaughter all of you one by one?”

    Peng Lianhu had heard about Huang Yaoshi’s strange temperament; he would do what he said. Therefore, Peng Lianghu turned to the rest of them and said, “This Senior Master told us to leave. Let’s just leave.”

    By this time Hou Tonghai had pulled the cloth away from his mouth. He dashed toward Huang Yaoshi and glared at him menacingly. “Let me pass!” he shouted.

    Huang Yaoshi did not pay him any attention; “You are not worthy to make me move aside,” he said flatly, “If you want to live, crawl out underneath my legs.”

    Everybody looked at each other in blank dismay; it was clear from their faces that they were angry. They thought that even though Huang Yaoshi might be highly skilled, there were currently many skilled pugilists gathered in that room; if they joined forces and staked it all, they might not necessarily lose.

    Hou Tonghai roared and pounced on Huang Yaoshi, but with a cold laugh Huang Yaoshi moved his left hand and Hou Tonghai was lifted up high in the air; and then his right hand pulled Hou Tonghai’s left arm. ‘Crack!’ Hou Tonghai’s arm, flesh and bones, was severed from his body. Huang Yaoshi cast the severed arm and the man to the ground. He raised his head up looking at the sky, seemingly indifferent to his surrounding. Hou Tonghai passed out from severe pain; blood rushed forth like a fountain from the wound on his arm.

    Everybody’s face changed color. Huang Yaoshi slowly turned his head; his eyes swept through everybody’s face one by one. Sha Tongtian, Peng Lianhu and the others were used to killing people without batting their eyelids; but seeing Huang Yaoshi’s gaze on them, they shuddered in fear involuntarily, their hair standing on its end, goose bumps appeared on their skins.

    Suddenly Huang Yaoshi roared, “Are you going to crawl out or not?”

    Merely his voice was enough to scare the hell out of them; nobody thought about joining forces and attacking him altogether. Peng Lianhu hung his head low and was the first to crawl out underneath his legs. Sha Tongtian released Yin and Lu two people; carrying his martial brother in his arms he followed. Yang Kang helped Wanyan Honglie, and finally Liang Ziweng and Lingzhi Shangren; one by one they crawled out underneath Huang Yaoshi’s crotch. Once they were out of the door, they scurried away like a frightened cat. Who dared to turn around and look back?

    End of Chapter 24
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    Last edited by foxs; 04-17-07 at 04:10 PM.

  12. #52
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 25 – Desolated Inn in the Village

    Huang Yaoshi was silent, thinking about his daughter but hiding his sadness. Lu Guanyin and Cheng Yaojia stole glances at Huang Yaoshi and looked at each other, feeling happy but awkward. Their faces and ears were red.

    Chapter 25 – Desolated Inn in the Village
    Part 1 – Translated by Sunnysnow

    Huang Yaoshi laughed and said, “Guan Yin and this lady, stay.” Lu Guanyin was aware that his grand-teacher had arrived earlier but when he saw Huang Yaoshi with his mask on, he was afraid that the former would not be willing to remove his identity and thus, didn’t dare to address him properly. He decided to bow politely four times so as to greet Huang Yaoshi.

    When Yin Zhiping saw how formidable Huang Yaoshi looked, he knew that his was of high status and bowed while saying, “Quanzhen Sect’s Eternal Spring’s disciple, Yin Zhiping greets senior.”

    Huang Yaoshi retorted, “Everyone has gotten lost and I did not ask you to stay on. Why are you still here? Are you tired of living?”

    Yin Zhiping was taken aback, “Disciple is a student of Eternal Spring of Quanzhen Sect. I am not a criminal.”

    Huang Yaoshi answered, “So what if you’re from Quanzhen Sect?” With that, he grabbed a corner of the table and removed a piece of wood before flinging it effortlessly at Yin Zhiping. Yin Zhiping quickly used his whisk to raise some dusts to block the attack but the small piece of wood seemed to be made out of metal and he felt a strong force charge towards him. He could not defend the force and the piece of wood and whisk slapped onto his cheek. Yin Zhiping felt a strong pain and there seemed to be some stuff in his mouth. He hurriedly spitted it out onto his palm before realizing that it was a few of his teeth, which laid on his bloody palm. He was shocked and frightened and didn’t dare to make any sound.

    Huang Yaoshi continued coldly, “I am the so-called Huang Yaoshi, Hei Yaoshi. What does Quanzhen Sect want so show me?” With these words, Yin Zhiping and Cheng Yaojia were taken aback.

    Lu Guanyin was also shaken and thought to himself, “Grand-teacher must have heard me quarrel with that little Taoist quarrel just now. If he heard what I said to Prince Zao, then…then…I think father will also…” before breaking into cold sweat. Yin Zhiping rubbed his cheek and said, “You are a senior in the Wulin World but why do you behave so shrewdly? The 6 freaks of Jiangnan are heroic people, why must you force to them the corner? If not for my teacher spreading the news, won’t the 6 of them be killed by you already?”

    Huang Yaoshi was furious, “No wonder I couldn’t find them. So it’s a bunch of rascals poking their noses into this matter.”

    Yin Zhiping was agitated and shouted, “If you want to kill me, then do so. I’m not afraid of you.”

    Huang Yaoshi replied coldly, “Didn’t you have fun scolding me behind my back?”

    Yin Zhiping spared no thought for his life and shouted, “I’ll scold in front of you as well. You demon, you weirdo!”

    Ever since Huang Yaoshi became famous, no one, no matter good or bad, would dare to be offensive in front of him. He had never met someone as straightforward and disrespectful as Yin Zhiping. The latter had seen how cruelly he dealt with Hou Tonghai just now and yet, was still not afraid to offend him. Huang Yaoshi was surprised and thought that the little Taoist had backbone and was bold, like him was he was young. Huang Yaoshi could not help but compare Yin Zhiping to his younger self while he stepped forward and said in a cold voice, “If you dare, scold some more.”

    Yin Zhiping said, “I’m not scared of you and yes I want to scold you demonic weirdo.”

    Lu Guanyin thought secretly, “Oh no, the little Taoist is not going to be able to escape death.” He yelled out, “Bold Bastard! You dare offend my grand-teacher?” With that, he raised his saber and made an attack for his shoulder. Lu Guanyin was actually secretly trying to help Yin Zhiping. He was sure that his Huang Yaoshi would show him no mercy after all the insults. If Huang Yaoshi attacked, even ten Yin Zhipings would not be able to escape alive. Lu Guanyin hoped that if he injured Yin Zhiping, his grand-teacher’s anger would subside somewhat and let that little Taoist off.

    Yin Zhiping evaded the attack with two steps and frowned angrily before shouting, “I don’t want to live after today so I’m going to scold until I’m happy.” Lu Guanyin was bent on injuring him so as to save his life and thus, made another attack with his saber. At the same moment, Cheng Yaojia unsheathed her sword and called out, “I’m also a disciple of Quanzhen sect. If you want to kill, then kill both of us!”

    Yin Zhiping did not expect this and shouted, “Good, Apprentice Sister Cheng!” Both of them stood shoulder-to-shoulder and stared at Huang Yaoshi. Lu Guanyin could not attack anymore.

    Huang Yaoshi laughed out, “Good, you have guts, have backbone. I, Huang Yaoshi am in fact a heretic demon, you didn’t scold wrongly. Your teacher is my junior, how can I fight with a little Taoist then? Go then!” He suddenly stretched out his arm and grabbed Yin Zhiping’s chest before flinging him outside. Yin Zhiping couldn’t control himself and flew out of the door. He thought that he would fall badly but who would have thought that both his feet landed on the ground and he was still standing normally. He thought that Huang Yaoshi must have grabbed him and dropped him gently onto the ground. Yin Zhiping dazed for a second before thinking, “Close Shave!” No matter how brave he was, he did not dare go back into the inn to scold Huang Yaoshi. He stroked his swollen cheek and turned to leave.

    Cheng Yaojia sheathed her sword and made to leave when Huang Yaoshi said, “Wait.”

    He stretched out his hand to remove his mask and asked, “Are you willing to be his wife?” while pointing at Lu Guanyin. Cheng Yaojia was shocked but her snow-white skin to turn red slowly.

    Huang Yaoshi said, “Your apprentice brother scolded right. I am a heretic weirdo. Who doesn’t know about Eastern Heretic Huang Yaoshi, the owner of Peach Blossom Island? The thing Old Heretic Huang hates most this life is rules and conventions, especially saints and whatnots. These are just things to cheat dumb people. It’s such a joke that people have been blindly abiding to these rules and conventions for generations! I, Huang Yaoshi don’t believe in these nonsensical teachings. Everyone say I’m heretic, humph! At least a heretic is better than those jerks who talk about morals and principals but caused the deaths of so many!” Cheng Yaojia was silent but her heart beat wildly. She did not know how he was going to deal with her.

    But she only heard him say, “Tell me properly. Do you want to marry my grand-disciple? I like people who are straightforward and have backbone. That little Taoist scolded me behind my back. If he didn’t dare do that in front of me and kneeled down to beg me just now, do you think I would have killed him? Humph, you dared to help that little Taoist even though you knew it was dangerous, so it shows that your character is good and compatible with my Grand-disciple. Hurry up and answer me!”

    Cheng Yaojia was willing with all her heart but she didn’t even dare tell people like her parents, what more an outsider? Furthermore, Lu Guanyin was standing beside him. Huang Yaoshi saw that her pretty face was as red as a rose while Lu Guanyin also lowered his head and suddenly thought of his daughter. He let out a sigh and said, “If both of you love each other, I will give my blessings. Ah, even parents can’t decide the marriage for their children for them. “

    He knew that if he had agreed to his daughter and Guo Jing’s marriage, his beloved daughter would not have died in the deep sea and was vexed. He raised his voice, “Guanyin, stop beating around the bush, do you want her to be your wife or not?”

    Lu Guanyin was stunned and answered hurriedly, “Grand-teacher, Grand-disciple’s afraid that I am not good enough for…” Huang Yaoshi cut in, “Good enough! You are my grand-disciple, you are good enough even for a princess!”

    Lu Guanyin saw Huang Yaoshi’s eagerness and knew that if continued hesitating, the situation would turn worse. He answered hurriedly, “Grand-disciple is willing.” Huang Yaoshi smiled and said, “Good. What about you Miss?”

    Cheng Yaojia felt a sweet sensation in her heart when she heard Lu Guanyin’s words, when she heard Huang Yaoshi’s question, she lowered her head and said softly, “I need father to help me decide.”

    Huang Yaoshi replied, “What parent’s decision? All nonsensical rubbish, I want to be the one to make the decision! If your father is unwilling, ask him to come and duel with me.”

    Cheng Yaojia smiled, “Father only knows how to calculate accounts and do calligraphy, he doesn’t know any martial arts.” Huang Yaoshi thought for a while, “Then we’ll compete using calculation! Humph, talking about calculations, who on earth can win me? Hurry up, are you willing or not?

    Cheng Yaojia kept quiet and Huang Yaoshi said, “Alright, so you aren’t willing then, it’s up to you. We keep to our words and Old Heretic Huang never allows anyone to regret their decisions.” Cheng Yaojia stole a glance at Lu Guanyin and saw that his expression had turned anxious. She thought to herself, “Father dotes on me the most. If I ask Auntie to talk to father and you ask someone to seek my hand, father will agree. Why are you so anxious?”

    Huang Yaoshi stood up and shouted, “Guanyin, follow me to look for the 6 freaks of Jiangnan! If you ever speak to this lady again, I’ll cut off both of your tongues,”

    Lu Guanyin was shocked and knew that his grand-teacher was capable of such acts. He walked in front of Cheng Yaojia and cupped his palms into a greeting posture before saying, “Miss, Lu Guanyin is lowly skilled in martial arts and is untalented and uneducated. I live a wandering life and am not good enough for you. But I think it is fate that we should meet today…”

    Cheng Yaojia answered softly, “Mister doesn’t have to be humble. I…I…am not…” and she kept silent. Lu Guanyin’s heart skipped a beat and he thought to make her answer by nodding or shaking her head, “Miss, if you do not find me up to par with you, please shake your head.” After he said this, he heart pumped frantically as he looked at her delicate face, worried that she would shake her head.

    After a while, Cheng Yaojia still kept still and did not even more a finger. Lu Guanyin was delighted and said, “Since Miss is willing to marry me, please nod you head.” But Cheng Yaojia still did not move. Lu Guanyin ws anxious and Huang Yaoshi was exasperated and said, “You don’t shake and you don’t nod. What does that mean?”

    Cheng Yaojia said softly, “If I don’t shake my head, it…it…means that I nod my head…” These words were mumbled so softly such that only Huang Yaoshi, who had a high level of internal energy and sharp ears, could hear it. Had it been a few years earlier, he would not be able to hear anything but just see her lips moving slightly.

    Huang Yaoshi laughed loudly, “Wang Chongyang has all along been a heroic and brave man. Who would have thought that his disciple would be so wishy-washy? That’s just so funny. Alright, I will see through your marriage today.” The couple was taken aback and stared at Huang Yaoshi speechlessly, who continued asking, “Where is that silly lady? I want to ask her who her teacher is.” When the three of them were talking in the inn, Sha Gu had disappeared somewhere.

    Huang Yaoshi continues, “Anyway, there’s no rush to find her now. Guanyin, you will marry Miss Cheng here then.” Lu Guanyin replied, “Grand-disciple is very grateful for grand-teacher’s love but to marry here is somehow too plain…” Huang Yaoshi retorted, “You are a disciple of the Peach Blossom Island, do you want to abide to conventions as well? Come come, stand side by side both of you, and bow to the sky!” His tone was stern and serious and they did not dare disobey him. Cheng Yaojia had reached this stage and knew that she could not do anything but carry on the rituals with Lu Guanyin. Huang Yaoshi continued, “Bow to the earth!…Bow to your grand-teacher ah…good, good, happiness, happiness! Bow to each other!”

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing watched Huang Yaoshi orchestrate the show and were surprised but delighted as well. They found it very funny while Huang Yaoshi continued, “Excellent! Guanyin, go and get a candle for your nuptial night.” Lu Guanyin was stunned and said, “Grand-teacher!” Huang Yaoshi replied, “Why? After completing the ceremony, isn’t it time for your nuptial night? You and your wife are pugilists, so you don’t need a glamorous room with beautiful blankets right? Can’t you also have your nuptial night in this broken inn?” Lu Guanyin didn’t dare answer back but he was excited and delighted at the same time. He followed his grand-teacher’s instructions and went to the village to get a pair of red candles, some wine and chicken, and prepared a meal with Cheng Yaojia in the kitchen before serving it to their grand-teacher.

    After that, Huang Yaoshi was silent and raised his head, thinking about his daughter but hiding his sadness. Huang Rong saw his expressions and knew that he was thinking about her. She felt terrible and wanted to shout out but was afraid that once her father discovered her, would bring her back to Peach Blossom Island. Even if he did not kill Guo Jing, Guo Jing would not be able to survive. When she thought about this, she took back her hand from the door. Lu Guanyin and Cheng Yaojia stole glances at Huang Yaoshi and looked at each other, while feeling happy but awkward. Their faces and ears were both red and they did not dare to make a sound. Ouyang Ke was lying amongst the straws and wood and listened attentively. Although he was starving, he did not dare to make any noise.

    Part 2 – Translated by Foxs, edited by Eliza Bennet

    The sky gradually turned dark. Cheng Yaojia’s heart was thumping louder and louder. She heard Huang Yaoshi talking to himself, “Why hasn’t that Silly Girl come back? Humph, that bunch of traitors better not give her any trouble.” Turning his head to Lu Guanying he said, “Tonight is your wedding night; why don’t you light some candles?”

    “Yes!” Lu Guanying replied. He took a flint and lighted the candles. Under the bright candlelight he saw that Cheng Da Xiaojie’s [Eldest Miss Cheng] hair on her temples were like a cloud of mist, her cheeks were as white as snow, her face showed a bashful and surprised feeling; it was truly hard to describe with words. Outside the door the insects were buzzing, the evening breeze swayed the bamboo trees; he felt like it was a dream!

    Huang Yaoshi took a wooden bench and placed it on the doorstep, then he laid down on it. Soon afterwards he was snoring lightly; looked like he was sound asleep. Lu and Cheng couple still did not dare to move. After a long time the red candle burned out, the flame died down and the room became dark.

    Lu and Cheng couple spoke to each other in low voices. Huang Rong leaned her head sideways trying to listen, but she could not hear what they were talking about. Suddenly she felt Guo Jing’s body tremble, his breathing has quickened. Apparently his internal energy flow had reached a branched passage, so she busily helped him to overcome this obstacle. After his breathing turned normal she turned her attention to the room one more time. She saw the moonlight slanted down from the broken window outside. Lu and Cheng couple was still sitting side by side on the bench. She heard Cheng Yaojia speak in low voice, “Do you know what day is today?”

    “Today is our happiest day,” Lu Guanying replied.

    “That goes without saying,” Cheng Yaojia said, “Today is the second day of the seventh month, my third [maternal] aunt’s birthday.”

    Lu Guanying smiled, “Ah, you must have many relatives,” he said, “It must be difficult to remember all those birthdays.”

    Huang Rong thought, “Your wife belongs to a big clan in Baoying; her maternal aunts’, her paternal aunts’, her nephews’ and nieces’ birthdays will come and go; but can they be compared to you, the Great Leader Lu of the Lake Tai’s stronghold?” Suddenly she recalled something, “Today is the second day of the seventh month, Jing Gege will need until the seventh to recover. The Beggar Clan’s general assembly is on the fifteenth at Yueyang City. We have a very tight schedule.”

    Suddenly there was a long whistle outside, followed by a loud laughter, shaking the roof tiles; it was precisely Zhou Botong’s voice. He called out, “Old Poison, you have been chasing me from Lin’an to Jiaxing and from Jiaxing back to Lin’an, one day and one night, throughout you can’t overtake the Old Urchin. Victory or defeat between us two has already been decided. What else do you want to compete in?”

    Huang Rong was startled, “From Lin’an to Jiaxing and back is more than five hundred ‘li’s; these two men’s feet are truly fast.”

    Ouyang Feng’s voice was heard replying, “Even if you run to the end of the earth I will still chase you.”

    Zhou Botong laughed, “We won’t eat, we won’t sleep, we won’t even urinate or defecate; let’s see who can run the longest. Do you dare to compete with me?”

    “Why not?” Ouyang Feng replied, “I want to see who will drop dead of exhaustion first!”

    “Old Poison,” Zhou Botong said, “You won’t be able to compete with me in not urinating and not defecating.”

    They both stopped talking and let out a long laugh instead, but the laughter seemed to come from more than a dozen of ‘zhang’s away already. Lu Guanying and Cheng Yaojia did not know what kind of people these men were, who swiftly came and went in the middle of the night. They looked at each other in astonishment; then hand in hand they walked to the door to take a look.

    Huang Rong thought, “If these two are competing their feet power, then father will surely want to watch.” Sure enough, she heard Lu Guanying’s surprised voice, “Ah, where is Grandmaster?”

    “Look over there,” Cheng Yaojia said, “There are three shadows; the last one looks like your Grandmaster.”

    “That’s right,” Lu Guanying said, “Ah, they are that far already. I wonder what kind of experts those two are. Too bad we did not have any chance to meet them.”

    Huang Rong thought, “The Old Urchin is all right, but you’d better not meet the Old Poison.”

    As Huang Yaoshi left, Lu and Cheng two people thought that they were alone in that inn; their hearts started to get devious. Lu Guanying circled his arm around his newly-wed wife’s waist and asked in a low voice, “Meizi [Little sister – term of endearment], what is your given name?”

    Cheng Yaojia said with a chuckle, “I won’t say it, you guess.”

    Lu Guanying smiled, “If not Xiao Mao [kitten], then it must be Xiao Gou [puppy].”

    Cheng Yaojia laughed, “Neither. It’s Mu Da Zhong [mother big bug].”

    “Ah,” Lu Guanying laughed, “Then I must catch you.”

    Cheng Yaojia wriggled and leaped over the table. Lu Guanying laughed and chased her. One ran, the other chased, they were both laughing and giggling, running around the inn. The starlight was dim, Huang Rong was unable to see these two clearly, but she could hear their laughter clearly. Suddenly Guo Jing whispered in her ear, “Do you think he can catch Cheng Da Xiaojie?”

    With a light chuckle Huang Rong replied, “Certainly.”

    Guo Jing asked again, “After he catches her, then what happen?”

    Huang Rong’s heart skipped a beat; she did not know the answer. She heard Lu Guanying had succeeded in catching Cheng Yaojia, the couple then sat on the bench, hugging each other and talking in low voices.

    Huang Rong’s right hand was holding Guo Jing’s left. She felt his palm was getting hotter and hotter, while his body trembled faster and faster. She was frightened, busily asked, “Jing Gege, what happened?”

    After Guo Jing suffered a heavy injury, his internal strength considerably decreased, practicing this Nine Yin energy cultivation method required a clean heart, free from any devilish thought. Right now he heard that Lu and Cheng couple was talking and laughing intimately; at the same time right next to him was his own beloved beautiful girl. Gradually he lost control, his blood warmed up to the point of boiling. He turned around and stretched out his right hand to embrace her shoulder. But as she heard his rushed breathing and felt his burning hot palm, Huang Rong was frightened and busily said, “Jing Gege, be careful, quickly calm your heart.”

    Guo Jing’s heart was shaken, anxiously he said, “I can’t. Rong’er, I … I …” He wanted to stand up.

    Huang Rong was very anxious, “You must not move!” she said.

    Forcing himself Guo Jing sat down; he tried hard to control his breathing, but his chest felt like it will almost burst open. “Rong’er, help me,” he begged. Once again he wanted to stand up.

    “Sit down!” Huang Rong shouted, “If you don’t, I’ll seal your acupoint.”

    “Right,” Guo Jing said, “Quick! I can’t take it anymore.”

    Huang Rong realized that if his acupoint was sealed, his internal energy flow would be blocked, then their two days of effort would be wasted and they would have to start from the beginning again. But his condition was critical, as soon as he stood up, his life would be in danger. So gritting her teeth her left arm made a circle with the ‘lan hua fu xue shou’ [orchid brushing acupoint technique] and struck the ‘zhang men’ [sealing gate] acupoint on the eleventh rib on his left chest.

    Her finger was right on target, but unexpectedly Guo Jing’s internal strength was so profound that as soon as his body met an external force, the muscle automatically contracted and caused her finger to slip. Huang Rong successively struck twice, both times missed. She was about to strike for the third time when suddenly he grabbed her left wrist.

    It was almost dawn. Huang Rong saw his eyes were bloodshot like they were on fire, she was shocked; but she felt that he was pulling her hand while his mouth was mumbling indistinctly, as if he was loosing his mind. In desperation Huang Rong moved her elbow and ferociously bumped her shoulder against his arm. As the thorns on the soft hedgehog armor pricked his arm, Guo Jing felt a shot of pain and was startled. Right at that moment they heard the rooster crow in the village. It was like a strike of lightning clearing out Guo Jing’s mind. Slowly he put Huang Rong’s wrist down; his face showed great embarrassment.

    Huang Rong saw sweats dripping from his forehead; his face was pale and he looked so weary. But she knew the critical moment had passed. She said happily, “Jing Gege, we have passed two days and two nights.”

    ‘Slap!’ Guo Jing slapped his own face and said, “Very dangerous!” He raised his hand to slap again. Huang Rong smiled and grabbed his hand. “That was nothing,” she said, “You remember the Old Urchin? With that kind of skill he still could not bear to listen to my father’s flute; much less you, who are seriously injured.”

    In their excitement as Guo Jing was battling his own mind, they forgot to lower their voices. All Lu Guanying and Cheng Yaojia cared for was each other, so naturally they were oblivious of everything else. But lying down in the room Ouyang Ke was fully awake, with his keen hearing he heard everything, he could even vaguely recognize Huang Rong’s voice. He was surprised yet happy. He tried to listen carefully, but no more sound was to be heard. Both of his legs were broken, he was unable to walk, but by using hands as his feet he could stand upside down and he came out of his hiding.

    Lu Guanying and his newly-wed wife were sitting side-by-side on the bench, with his left hand wrapped around her shoulder. Suddenly they heard rustling noise from the firewood. Turning their heads around they saw a man standing on his hands come out from the inner room. They were startled and quickly drew their weapons out.

    Ouyang Ke’s injury was heavy, plus he had not had anything to eat for quite a long time, hence he was weak; suddenly seeing the bright flickering light of the blade he felt dizzy and fell down on the ground. Lu Guanying saw his sickly complexion; he rushed forward to help him sit on the bench with his back leaning against the table.

    “Ah!” Cheng Yaojia called out in alarm, recognizing this man as the lecherous person who captured her at Baoying.

    Lu Guanying saw her frightened expression, he said comfortingly, “Don’t be afraid, his legs are broken.”

    “He is a bad man,” Cheng Yaojia said, “I know him.”

    “Ah!” Lu Guanying exclaimed.

    Ouyang Ke slowly woke up. “Give me a bowl of rice, please,” he said, “I am starving.”

    Cheng Yaojia saw his deep cheeks, his eyes dull; he was not the same arrogant man who hurled insults to her. She was tenderhearted, plus she was a newly-wed, her heart was filled with happiness; thereupon she went to the kitchen and fetch a bowl of rice for Ouyang Ke.

    Ouyang Ke ate one bowl, he asked for another bowl. After eating two big bowls of rice his strength returned. He looked at Cheng Da Xiaojie and his lewdness also returned. But he still remembered Huang Rong. “Where is Miss Huang?” he asked.

    “Which Miss Huang?” Lu Guanying asked.

    “The Peach Blossom Island’s Huang Yaoshi’s daughter,” Ouyang Ke replied.

    “You know my Huang Shigu [martial (paternal) aunt]?” Lu Guanying asked. “I heard she has passed away.”

    Ouyang Ke laughed. “Don’t lie to me,” he said, “Obviously I had just heard her voice.” His left hand pushed the table, his body flipped and he walked around the room with his hands. He recalled that Huang Rong’s voice came from the east side, but there was only a wall without any door on the east side. He considered carefully and came to the conclusion that there must be a secret in the cabinet. Immediately he pulled a table toward the cabinet, flipped his body over to sit on the table, and opened the cabinet door. Convinced that the secret passage must be inside, he was disappointed to see inside the cabinet was very dirty, unbearably filthy. He looked over carefully and saw some handprints on the dust covered iron bowl. His heart was stirred. Stretching out his arm he grabbed the bowl and tried to lift it up, but the bowl did not budge. He turned it around and with some creaking noise the secret door inside the cabinet slowly opened, revealing Huang Rong and Guo Jing two people sitting cross-legged inside the secret room.

    He was delighted to see Huang Rong, but was scared and jealous to see Guo Jing by her side. After staring at them for half a day he finally asked, “Meizi, are you training martial art in here?”

    Huang Rong had seen him through the small hole moving the table to the cabinet. She was sure they would be discovered soon, so she started thinking of ways to kill him. When the door started to move she whispered in Guo Jing’s ear, “I’ll lure him close, you finish him off with a Dragon Subduing Palm.”

    Guo Jing said, “I don’t have any strength in my palm.”

    Huang Rong was about to say something else, but Ouyang Ke had already seen them. She thought, “How can I deceive him so that he will go far away and let us pass these five days and five nights in peace?”

    Initially Ouyang Ke was rather afraid of Guo Jing, but seeing his thin and pale complexion he remembered his uncle said that in the imperial palace he had injured him severely with the Toad Stance; if Guo Jing did not die, then his injury must be extremely heavy. Looking at their expression he knew that his guess was 70, 80% correct. He wanted to try again, so he said, “Meizi, why don’t you come out? It’s too stuffy and tight to hide in there.” He held out his hand to pull Huang Rong’s sleeve.

    Huang Rong raised her bamboo stick and with a ‘bang da gou tou’ [stick hits dog’s head] she struck the top of his head. Her movement was very fierce; it was one of the deadliest stances of the Dog Beating Stick Technique. The stick carried a strong gust of wind, the oncoming force was swift and violent. Ouyang Ke hastily moved to the left to evade, but her stick suddenly swept horizontally. Ouyang Ke was startled, he somersaulted over the table and fell behind the table.

    If Huang Rong could pursue, she would take advantage of this favorable situation and launch the ‘fan jie gou tun’ [flipping up and cutting the dog’s butt]; certainly she would be able to harm his life. But she was sitting cross-legged and must not move, so she cried out inwardly, “What a pity!”

    Lu Guanying and Cheng Yaojia were shocked to suddenly see there were people inside the cabinet. By the time they saw clearly it was Guo Jing and Huang Rong, Ouyang Ke and Huang Rong had started fighting.

    As Ouyang Ke fell down, his hands pushed the ground and he leaped back to the table and sat back down. He used the ‘qin na’ [grab and capture] technique trying to catch Huang Rong’s hand across the secret room’s door. Huang Rong’s Dog Beating Stick Technique was marvelous, but she could not move; besides, she had to take Guo Jing’s internal energy situation into consideration so that she could not use too much strength of her own. Ouyang Ke’s martial art skill was actually several times better than hers, so after more than a dozen moves she fell into a desperately dangerous situation.

    Lu Guanying husband and wife drew out their saber and sword and attacked from both sides. Ouyang Ke let out a long laugh and ferociously launched a palm strike hacking toward Guo Jing’s face. At this moment Guo Jing was unable to exert any strength, so he simply closed his eyes waiting for death.

    Huang Rong was shocked; she lifted up her stick to block. Ouyang Ke flipped his palm over and grabbed the end of the stick, pulling it out from Huang Rong’s hand. Huang Rong could not match his strength; her body staggered forward. She was afraid her palm would be separated from Guo Jing’s palm, so she let the stick go. Immediately she reached into her pocket and threw a steel needle out.

    Those two were only several feet away from each other. By the time Ouyang Ke saw the flashing light, the steel needle was already in front of his face. Busily he bent his waist and threw his head backward, almost reclined on the table, thus evading the needle.

    Lu Guanying saw his condition as if he was a sacrificial meat on the table, his saber chopped down toward Ouyang Ke’s neck. Ouyang Ke rolled to the right and with a ‘crack!’ sound his saber hacked the tabletop. Right at that moment he heard swishing noise of a steel needle above him and suddenly felt his back numb; one side of his body was paralyzed. He wanted to move aside, but his right arm had already been grabbed by the enemy from behind.

    Cheng Yaojia was shocked and rushed forward trying to help. Ouyang Ke laughed and said, “That’s wonderful!” His hand moved so swiftly and grabbed the front upper part of Cheng Yaojia’s gown. Cheng Yaojia hastily hacked her sword down to cut his hand, while trying to leap backward at the same time. ‘Rip!’ Her gown was torn by his hand. She was so scared that the sword almost fell from her hand; her face turned deathly pale and she did not dare to rush forward anymore.

    Ouyang Ke sat at the corner of the table. He turned his head around and saw the door to the secret room was already closed. Recalling his dangerous encounter with steel needles earlier he shuddered in fear. “This little girl is really not easy to fight,” he thought, “Aha! I got it! I am going to play around with this Cheng Da Xiaojie, let that kid surnamed Guo and the little girl hear it. Their concentration will be broken and thus their energy cultivation will be disrupted. I want to see whether by that time she won’t listen to me nicely.” Thinking to this point he was very happy. He further considered, “This Huang family’s little girl is like an angel, nevertheless I have to make her willing to follow me for the rest of her life. It won’t be as much fun if I use force. I think it will be wonderful. Just marvelous beyond words!” So he turned to Cheng Yaojia and said, “Hey, Cheng Da Xiaojie, do you want him to live or to die?”

    Cheng Yaojia saw her husband was in the hands of the enemy; she could not make any rash move. Hastily she said, “He has never wronged you, nor did he have any enmity with you. Please release him. You were very hungry a while ago. Didn’t I give you some food to eat?”

    Ouyang Ke laughed. “How can two bowls of rice pay the price of a life? Hey, hey, you’ve never imagined that one day you Quanzhen Sect people will ask someone else’s help, have you?”

    Cheng Yaojia said, “He … he is the Peach Blossom Island’s disciple; don’t hurt him.”

    Ouyang Ke laughed, “Who told him to chop me with a saber? If I wasn’t quick enough to evade, do you think my head will still be perched on my neck? Don’t you use the Peach Blossom Island to scare me, Huang Yaoshi is my father-in-law.”

    Cheng Yaojia did not know whether he was lying or was telling the truth; she hastily said, “Then he is your junior. Just let him go, let him apologize to you later.”

    “Ha … ha …” Ouyang Ke laughed, “How can there be such an easy thing in this world? You want me to release him? That’s easy, but you must do what I tell you to do.”

    Cheng Yaojia saw the lewdness in his face, she knew he must have malicious intentions; hence she lowered her head but did not say anything.

    “Look at me!” Ouyang Ke roared. ‘Crack!’ his palm hacked down and cut the corner of the table; making a neat cut as if the table was cut by an axe or a saber. Cheng Yaojia was stunned, she thought, “Even my Shifu does not have this kind of ability.” Ouyang Ke had been training martial art under his uncle’s tutelage since he was little; no wonder his skill surpassed Sun Bu’er who started to learn martial art in her adulthood.

    Seeing the frightened look on her face Ouyang Ke was immensely puffed up. “You must do whatever I tell you to do,” he said, “Otherwise I’ll do this to his neck.” Then he made a hacking move. Cheng Yaojia broke in cold sweats and called out in alarm.

    “Will you do it?” Ouyang Ke asked. Cheng Yaojia reluctantly nodded her head. Ouyang Ke said with a smile, “Good! That’s my good girl. Now go and close the door.” Cheng Yaojia hesitated; she did not move.

    “You are not listening!” Ouyang Ke was angry. Cheng Yaojia trembled in fear; she did not have any choice but stand up and close the door.

    Ouyang Ke said with a smile, “You two got married last night, I heard it clearly from the other room. It was your wedding night, but you did not take your clothes off. There is no such thing in this world. You don’t know how to be a bride, so I am going to teach you. Now take your clothes off. All of them. If you leave even half a strand of silk, I am going to send your husband returning to heaven, and then you will become a young widow!”

    Lu Guanying could not move his body, but he could hear clearly. He was so angry that he felt his eyes were about to pop out of their sockets. He wanted to tell his wife to run away and forget about him, but his lips were unable to move.

    When Ouyang Ke grabbed Lu Guanying, Huang Rong quickly closed the door to the secret room. She took her dagger out, waiting for his second attack. Suddenly she heard him ordering Cheng Yaojia to take her clothes off; she was angry, but at the same time found it amusing. She was still childish so even though she hated Ouyang Ke’s despicable behavior, she also wanted to know whether this girlish and bashful Cheng Da Xiaojie would follow his order or not.

    “What’s the big deal about taking off all your clothes?” Ouyang Ke said with a laugh, “Did you wear anything when you came out of your mother’s belly? Do you want your pride or his life?”

    Cheng Yaojia hesitated a moment, then with a sad voice said, “Just kill him!”

    Ouyang Ke did not expect she would say such thing; he was slightly startled, but then he saw she lifted her sword horizontally across her own neck. Hastily he waved his hand, sending out a ‘tou gu ding’ [bone penetrating nail]. ‘Clank!’ her sword fell down to the ground.

    Cheng Yaojia was about to stoop down to pick her sword up when suddenly she heard someone knocking the door, “Innkeeper, innkeeper!” someone called out. It was a woman’s voice. Cheng Yaojia was delighted, “Someone’s coming, things may change,” she thought. She busily bent down to pick her sword and leaped to open the door.

    There was a young woman wearing white standing outside the door, with a white cloth on her head and a dagger on her waist. Her face was thin and pallid, but it was obvious that she was a beautiful woman. Cheng Yaojia did not care what kind of person she was, she already considered her to be her liberator. “Please come in Miss,” she quickly said.

    That woman saw her exquisite clothes and adornment, her sweet and pretty face, also a sword in her hand; never in her wildest dream would she expect a desolate inn in this rural village like this would have this kind of innkeeper. She was dumbstruck. “I have two coffins outside, may I bring them in?” she asked.

    If it were an ordinary house, the coffins may never enter in; but an inn was different. Besides, Cheng Yaojia was hoping she would come in quickly. She would not care if it was a hundred or even a thousand coffins, let alone only two coffins. She busily said, “Wonderful, wonderful!”

    That young woman was taken aback, she thought, “What’s so wonderful about coffins going into an inn?” She beckoned outside and eight porters carrying two black coffins came into the inn.

    That young woman turned her head and was surprised to see Ouyang Ke. With a ‘qiang lang’ sound she unsheathed the dagger on her waist.

    Ouyang Ke laughed a big laugh and said, “The heaven has destined us to be together. You can run away, but you cannot escape your fate. It has delivered us good fortune, so we commit a great sin if we do not enjoy this blessing.”

    This young woman was precisely Mu Nianci who was once captured by Ouyang Ke. After she broke off with Yang Kang at Baoying she cut her hair in grief, completely discouraged. Then she remembered there was one thing on earth she had to take care, thereupon she rushed back to the capital to fetch Yang Tiexin’s, husband and wife, bodies and brought them to the south. She wanted to bury her adopted father and mother at their hometown, the Ox Village of Lin’an; and then she was going to leave home and become a Buddhist nun.

    At that time the Mongolian army was launching a large scale attack against the capital, they laid siege around the city. As a single woman traveling with two coffins in the turmoil and chaos of war, she experienced untold hardships, until finally she arrived at her adopted parents’ hometown. She had left home since she was five years old, and had never been to the Ox Village before. As she saw Shagu’s inn she was thinking of stopping by for some food and directions; who would have thought that she came across Ouyang Ke here.

    At this time she did not know whether this beautiful woman wearing exquisite gown was her captor’s accomplice or not; when Cheng Yaojia was taken prisoner by Ouyang Ke, Mu Nianci was already hidden away inside the empty coffin. These two women had never met each other, so Mu Nianci thought Cheng Yaojia was one of Ouyang Ke’s concubines. She chopped her dagger toward Cheng Yaojia, then darting toward the door trying to escape. She heard the rustling noise of a clothes, someone was leaping over her head. Mu Nianci lifted her dagger up, Ouyang Ke’s body was still midair, his right hand’s index finger and thumb pinched the back of her dagger and pulled it away, while his left hand grabbed her wrist. Mu Nianci was forced to let her dagger go; her body leaped up and two people fell together on the doorway, halfway above the coffin.

    “Aiyo!” the four porters cried out in alarm. The coffin fell to the ground, pinching five, six of the porters’ eight feet.

    Ouyang Ke’s left hand embraced Mu Nianci in his bosom, while his right hand stabbed the dagger randomly toward the back of those four porters. The porters screamed in terror and scrambled anxiously over the coffin to run away. The other four porters also dropped their coffin and ran outside the inn; without asking for their money.

    Lu Guanying tumbled down as he was free from the enemy’s hand. Cheng Yaojia rushed over to help him up. She was totally ignorant of what was going on around her; her mind was set on how to get away from the enemy. With Mu Nianci in his left hand Ouyang Ke pushed the coffin with his right hand, and leaped back to the table. He snatched Cheng Yaojia’s belt and very soon she was also embraced at the crook of his right arm. Ouyang Ke sealed both women’s acupoints and sat on a bench. He laughed and called out, “Huang Meizi, you have to come over here too!”

    While he was feeling smug, a shadow flashed in from outside; a young gentleman came in. It was Yang Kang. After he went out from underneath Huang Yaoshi’s legs along with Wanyan Honglie, Peng Lianhu and the others, they ran away out of the Ox Village. Everybody was angry at the humiliation they had just received; they hung their heads low and nobody said anything. Yang Kang thought if he wanted to seek revenge, he must find Ouyang Feng first, who had not returned from stealing the book in the imperial palace. Thereupon he asked Wanyan Honglie’s permission and went back alone, waiting in the forest just outside the village.

    That night Zhou Botong, Ouyang Feng and Huang Yaoshi three people came and go in a flash. With Yang Kang’s current skill level, he could not even see them clearly. Early the next morning he saw Mu Nianci bringing the coffins into the village. His heart pounded from excitement and he followed behind her quietly. He saw her enter the inn, and then saw the porters running away, he felt strange, so he peeked through a crack on the door and did not see Huang Yaoshi inside; but he saw Mu Nianci was embraced by Ouyang Ke in a frivolous way.

    Ouyang Ke saw him come in, he called out, “Xiao Wangye [Young Prince], you came back!” Yang Kang nodded. Ouyang Ke saw his face looked unusual, he tried to console him, “In the past Han Xin had also received humiliation by crawling underneath someone else’s crotch. But a real great man can be bent and can be stretched. It was nothing. Just wait for my uncle, then you can extract your revenge.”

    Again Yang Kang nodded his head. His gaze was fixed on Mu Nianci.

    Ouyang Ke smiled and said, “Young Prince, what do you think of my two beautiful women?” Yang Kang nodded again. Ouyang Ke was not present when Mu Nianci and Yang Kang were jousting to find a spouse on the street of the capital; therefore, he did not know that these two had a deep relationship between them.

    At first Yang Kang did not think much of Mu Nianci, and then afterwards he saw how much she was passionately devoted to him; his heart could not help but be moved by her love, hence he promised to marry her. Right now he saw Ouyang Ke was hugging her, his heart swelled with hatred, but he maintained his composure.

    “There was a wedding in here last night,” Ouyang Ke said with a smile, “There is some wine and chicken in the kitchen. Xiao Wangye, I’d like to bother you to fetch the food, I want to drink with you several cups. I am going to tell these two beautiful women to strip and dance to accompany your drinking.”

    “Nothing better than that,” Yang Kang replied with a smile.

    To suddenly seeing Yang Kang, Mu Nianci was pleasantly surprised. But when Yang Kang did not pay her any attention, she was mad. Now she saw his frivolous expression as he was going to join Ouyang Ke in humiliating her, her heart turned icy cold. She was determined that as soon as her hands and feet were free, she would cut her own throat in the presence of this heartless fellow; and then she would forever be free from the anxieties of the world.

    She saw him turned around to go to the kitchen. He fetched the food and drink, then sat alongside Ouyang Ke. Ouyang Ke poured two cups of wine and held them up in front of Mu and Cheng two women’s mouths and said with a smile, “Drink this wine first, it will help to make your dancing more interesting.” The two women were very angry, but since their acupoints were sealed, they were unable to turn their heads away from the wine cups on their lips. Ouyang Ke managed to pour half a cup into their mouths.

    “Mr. Ouyang,” Yang Kang said, “I admire your martial art skill very much. Let me toast you one cup before we enjoy the dancing.”

    Ouyang Ke took the cup Yang Kang handed over; he drank it in one gulp, then casually he released the two women’s acupoints, but he placed his hands on the acupoints on their backs. He smiled and said, “If you listen nicely to what I say, not only you won’t get hurt, but I will make you happy!” He turned to Yang Kang and said, “Xiao Wangye, which one of these young girls do you like? I’ll let you choose first!”

    Yang Kang slightly smiled and said, “Thank you very much!”

    Mu Nianci pointed toward the two coffins on the doorsteps and imposingly said, “Yang Kang! Do you know whose coffins are those?”

    Yang Kang turned his head and saw on the first coffin there was a red piece of paper with this line of characters on it: ‘da song yi shi yang tie xin ling jiu’ [the bier of Yang Tiexin, a chivalrous warrior of the Great Song Dynasty]. His heart turned cold, but his face did not show anything. He said, “Mr. Ouyang, can you hold them closely for me? I want to see which one has the smaller feet. I am going to choose her.”

    Ouyang Ke laughed and said, “Xiao Wangye is truly smart! I think this one’s feet are smaller.” While saying that he rubbed Cheng Yaojia’s chin before continuing, “I have a special skill. I only need to look at a girl’s face to know what her body looks like, from top to bottom.”

    Yang Kang laughed, “Amazing! I am impressed! What if I bow to you and take you as my master? Then you’ll teach me this special trick.” While saying that he bent down under the table.

    Mu and Cheng both women had decided that as soon as he touched their feet, they would kick his ‘tai yang’ [sun] acupoint on his temple. Yang Kang smiled and said, “Mr. Ouyang, drink another cup of wine, then I’ll tell you if your guess is correct.”

    “All right!” Ouyang Ke laughed, taking the cup with both hands. Yang Kang glanced upward from underneath the table, he saw Ouyang Ke was drinking the wine with his head thrown backward; suddenly he took a broken spearhead from his bosom. He sent all his strength to his arm, from his arm to his wrist, lunged it forward and ‘Stab!’ the spearhead went five, six inches deep into Ouyang Ke’s abdomen. Immediately he somersaulted backward behind the table.

    It was such a sudden change that Huang Rong, Mu Nianci, Lu Guanying and Cheng Yaojia were all startled. They only knew something changed, but nobody saw what happened under the table. Ouyang Ke raised his arms and pushed Mu and Cheng two women, they fell under the bench; and then he threw the wine cup in his hand out. Yang Kang ducked to evade and ‘crash!’ that cup hit the ground and turned into thousands pieces; indicating the power behind that throw must be astonishing.

    Yang Kang rolled on the ground, trying to escape to the door. Unfortunately the door was blocked by the coffins. He turned his head to see Ouyang Ke was standing on his hands on the bench, his body bent forward, his face looked like he was smiling yet he was not smiling, his eyes were staring at him with a weird expression. Yang Kang shuddered involuntarily. He wanted very bad to run away, but because of Ouyang Ke’s stare, his body stiffened like a corpse, he could not move.

    Ouyang Ke looked upward with a laughter and said, “I, the one surnamed Ouyang, have been roaming the world for half of my lifetime; unexpectedly I have to die under this kid’s hands. One thing I don’t understand, Xiao Wangye, why did you kill me?”

    Yang Kang moved his legs and leaped up; he wanted to escape outside the door before answering his question. While his body was still midair, suddenly he felt a gust of wind behind his back; the back of his neck was grabbed by a steel-hook hand. He was unable to continue his leap and was forced to land on the coffin, along with Ouyang Ke next to him.

    Ouyang Ke said, “You are not willing to talk, do you want me to die with my eyes open?”

    The acupoint on the back of Yang Kang’s neck was grabbed by Ouyang Ke; he could not move his limbs. He knew he would not escape alive, he laughed coldly and said, “All right, I’ll tell you. Do you know who she is?” While saying that he pointed his finger toward Mu Nianci.

    Ouyang Ke turned his head and saw Mu Nianci with a dagger in her hand, ready to pounce forward to help, but she was afraid she might hurt Yang Kang; her expression was full or concerns, exactly like what Cheng Yaojia showed toward Lu Guanying. Suddenly it dawned on Ouyang Ke. He laughed and said, “She … she …” his words were cut short by coughing.

    Yang Kang said, “She is my fiancée; twice you have bullied her. How can I let you go?”

    Ouyang Ke said with a smile, “So that’s how it is. We are going to hell together!” Raising his hand high his palm was ready to strike the top of Yang Kang’s head.

    Mu Nianci cried out in alarm, she rushed forward to save him, but it was too late. Yang Kang closed his eyes ready to die; he waited for Ouyang Ke’s palm to strike down; who would have thought that after waiting for a while there was nothing moving above his head. He opened his eyes and saw Ouyang Ke was still smiling with his hand still high in the air, but his left hand, which grabbed Yang Kang’s neck, was actually relaxed. Hastily Yang Kang struggled free and leaped away. Ouyang Ke tumbled down on top of the coffin, his breathing had ceased.

    After staring blankly for half a day, Yang Kang and Mu Nianci rushed to each other and held each other’s hands. They had countless words to say to each other, but neither one knew where to start. They both looked at Ouyang Ke’s body and still felt fear in their hearts.

    Cheng Yaojia helped Lu Guanying up and unsealed his acupoints. Lu Guanying knew that Yang Kang was a Jin’s envoy. Even though he killed Ouyang Ke, thus Lu Guanying was indebted to him, he could not make an enemy his friend, so he simply cupped his fists in respect, then without saying anything he took Cheng Yaojia’s hand and they both went away. These two people had just undergone a thrilling experience, escaping a life and death situation; they completely forgot about seeing Guo Jing and Huang Rong earlier.

    Huang Rong was very happy to see Yang Kang and Mu Nianci were back together; she also appreciated the fact that Yang Kang saved Mu Nianci from a possible disaster. Guo Jing also hoped that his sworn brother would change for the good. He exchanged a glance with Huang Rong, both of them broke into smiles.

    They heard Mu Nianci say, “I have brought back your father and mother’s bodies.”

    Yang Kang said, “Actually it was my responsibility. I have bothered Meizi so much.”

    Mu Nianci did not want to bring up past events; she simply discussed with him how to bury Yang Tiexin husband and wife. Yang Kang pulled the broken spearhead from Ouyang Ke’s abdomen and said, “We have to bury him quickly. If his uncle finds out, even if the world is big, there will be no place for us to hide.” Two people immediately buried Ouyang Ke’s body in the backyard of the inn; and then went to the village to hire some people to help them carry the coffins and buried them in the backyard of Yang family’s former home. Yang Tiexin had left his home for a long time that everybody who knew him had died. Nobody asked them anything.

    By the time they finished burying their dead, the sky had already turned dark. That night Mu Nianci slept at a villager’s house, while Yang Kang spent the night in the inn.

    Early morning the following day Mu Nianci went back to the inn, she was going to ask him what he wanted to do next. She saw him pacing back and forth in the inn, stomping his feet and complaining bitterly. She asked him what happened and Yang Kang said, “I was so muddle-headed to let those two people leave yesterday. I should have killed them to close their mouths. Now that they are gone, where can we find them?”

    “Why?” Mu Nianci was surprised.

    Yang Kang said, “If this fact that I killed Ouyang Ke ever leaks out, won’t that be a disaster?”

    Mu Nianci knitted her brows in displeasure. “A real man is not afraid to take responsibility of his actions,” she said, “If you are afraid, you shouldn’t have killed him yesterday.”

    Yang Kang did not say anything, he was busy thinking how to pursue and kill Lu and Cheng two people to close their mouths.

    Mu Nianci said, “Even though his uncle is very fierce, we can run away to some far away place, he won’t be able to find us.”

    Yang Kang said, “Meizi [sister/beloved], I have another thought: his uncle’s martial art is unparalleled, I want to take him as my master.”

    “Ah!” Mu Nianci exclaimed.

    “I have had this thought for a while,” Yang Kang continued, “But they follow a very strict rule: they only take one disciple per generation. Now that this man is dead, his uncle might take me as his disciple!” He sounded very proud of himself.

    Hearing his words and looking at his expression, Mu Nianci’s heart turned cold. With a trembling voice she said, “It turns out the reason you killed him yesterday was not to rescue me at all, but you have another agenda in your mind.”

    Yang Kang laughed and said, “You are overly skeptical; for you, even if my body is crushed to dust and my bones smashed up to pieces, I am most willing.”

    “Let’s talk about that later,” Mu Nianci said, “Right now, what are you going to do? Are you willing to be a loyal patriot for the Great Song; or do you still want to seek unlimited riches and honor, acknowledging an enemy as your father?”

    Looking at her beautiful face and smart appearance Yang Kang was silently full of admiration, but listening to her talk exposing the content of his heart he was not pleased at all. “Riches and honor? Humph,” he said, “What riches and honor do I have? The Great Jin’s capital has fallen to the Mongolian army. The Jins were defeated every time they went out to battle. The fall of Jin country is the present disaster we are facing.”

    The more Mu Nianci listened to him, the more displeased she became. “The defeat of the Jins is precisely what we are earnestly wished for,” she said with a stern voice, “Yet you actually feel sorry for them. Humph, what if the fall of Jin country is the present disaster? Is the Jin country your country? This … this …”

    “Why are we talking about other people’s business?” Yang Kang cut her off, “I have been bitterly missing you since you left me.” Slowly he went over to grab her right hand. Mu Nianci could hear the tenderness in his voice, her heart softened; she let him pull her hand gently, without struggling she followed him, her face was slightly blushing.

    Yang Kang’s left arm was about to embrace her shoulder when suddenly they heard bird cries high in the air; it was very loud and clear. They looked up and saw a pair of big white eagles spreading their wings flying across the sky. Yang Kang had seen this pair of eagles that day when Wanyan Honglie led a team of soldiers to pursue and kill Tuolei, and he knew that later on Huang Rong took the eagles away. “How did the white eagles come to this place?” he thought. He pulled Mu Nianci’s hand and hurriedly walked outside. He saw the pair of eagles fly in circles overhead, while a young girl was sitting on a steed’s back by the big tree outside; she was looking at a distance. That young girl was wearing a pair of leather boots, with a horse whip in her hand. She was wearing Mongolian attire, with a long bow on her back and a quiver full of arrows hanging on her waist.

    The eagles circled overhead for a while, then they flew along the road. A moment later they flew back. And then sound of hoof beats was heard coming from the road, a number of horse riders came speeding by.

    Yang Kang thought, “Apparently this pair of eagles is to lead the way so that these people can meet with this Mongolian girl.” He saw dust rose on the road and three riders were coming fast toward them. A swishing sound was heard, an arrow shot out to the air, coming this direction. The Mongolian girl extracted a long arrow from her quiver, drew her bow and shot the arrow to the air. As the three riders heard the arrow, they called out in delight, and rushed their horses even faster.

    That young girl urged her steed forward to approach the riders. As they were about three ‘zhang’s apart from each other, the girl and one of the rider shouted and jumped from their saddles toward each other; their hands met in the air and together they landed on the ground.

    Yang Kang was secretly startled, “The Mongolians are very proficient in riding and shooting techniques; even a young girl has this kind of ability. Is it a wonder that the Jins are defeated?”

    Inside the secret room Guo Jing and Huang Rong also heard the birds’ cry and the hoof beats coming near. After a moment they also heard several people talking and walking toward the inn. Guo Jing was pleasantly surprised, “How did she come over here? This is wonderful!” he thought.

    Turned out the Mongolian girl was his fiancée, Huazheng; and the other three were Tuolei, Jebeh and Borchu. Huang Rong did not understand one word of Huazheng’s babbling of talking and laughing in Mongolians; while Guo Jing’s face turned green one moment and white another moment. His delight was replaced with anxiety. “My heart has already had Rong’er, so I can’t marry her. But she has looked for me here. How can I break my promise? What should I do?” he thought in his heart.

    With a low voice Huang Rong asked, “Jing Gege, who is this girl? What are they saying? Aren’t you feeling well?”

    Several times Guo Jing had meant to tell Huang Rong everything once and for all, but always each time the words were already on his lips, each time he swallowed them back. Now that Huang Rong asked him, he could not hide anymore. “She is the Mongolian’s Great Khan, Genghis Khan’s daughter. She is my fiancée.”

    Huang Rong was shocked; tears started welling up her eyes. “You … you have a fiancée?” she asked, “Why have you never told me?”

    That day when Qiu Chuji and the Six Freaks of Jiangnan discussed Guo Jing’s engagement in the inn at the capital, the Six Freaks of Jiangnan did mention that Genghis Khan had betrothed his beloved daughter to Guo Jing, but at that time Huang Rong had not arrived outside the window yet; therefore, she had not heard about it and all this time she was not aware about this engagement.

    Guo Jing said, “Now and then I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid you won’t be happy. Sometimes I did not remember this matter.”

    “She is your fiancée, how can you not remember?” Huang Rong asked.

    Guo Jing was at a loss. “I don’t know,” he said, “In my heart I always regard her as my sister; we are like brother and sister. I don’t even want to marry her.”

    Huang Rong raised her eyebrows in delight, “Why?” she asked.

    Guo Jing replied, “The Great Khan decided this matter for me. At that time I was not unhappy, but I was not happy either. I only thought that the Great Khan’s decision must be right. But now, Rong’er, how can I leave you to marry another?”

    “What should we do then?” Huang Rong asked.

    “I don’t know,” Guo Jing replied.

    Huang Rong sighed and said, “As long as in your heart you are forever good to me, I don’t care if you marry her.” But a moment later she said, “However, if you marry her, I won’t like another woman to be with you all day. Perhaps one day I won’t be able to control my temper and make a hole in her chest with a sword, and then you will hate me. Enough talking about this, why don’t you listen to them and tell me what they say.”

    Guo Jing pressed his ear to the small hole and heard Tuolei and Huazheng talk about what happened after they parted. It turned out that after Huang Rong and Guo Jing went down to the sea, the white eagles flew around in the wind and the rain looking for their masters. There was no place on the ocean for them to set their feet on, so they had to fly back to the mainland. They remembered their old home in the north, hence they flew to find their other master.

    Huazheng was astonished to see the white eagles came back. She saw a piece of cloth tied on the eagle’s foot, with some Chinese characters carved on it. She took the cloth to some Han people in the army to translate. Turned out they were the ‘in danger’ two characters. Huazheng was concerned, so she went south immediately to investigate. By this time Genghis Khan was busy supervising the military expedition against the Jins; day after day the Mongolians engaged the Jins in fierce battles both inside and outside the Great Wall, so nobody stopped her when she expressed her intention to go to the south.

    The eagles understood their master’s intention, they flew ahead several hundred ‘li’s to look for Guo Jing, and went back every night. In so doing they arrived at Lin’an. Guo Jing had not been found, they came across Tuolei instead.

    Tuolei was sent by his ‘fu wang’ [father king] on a diplomatic mission to Lin’an, to solicit cooperation from the Song Dynasty for a converging attack against the Jin country. But the Song ministers and officials were enjoying peace and prosperity in the southeast; they also were afraid of the Jin’s army. They were thanking the heaven and the earth that the Jins did not attack them; how could they dare to pull a tiger’s whisker? Therefore, they were very indifferent toward Tuolei; they placed him in the guest house and did not pay any attention to him anymore. Fortunately Wanyan Kang was captured by Lu, father and son, at Lake Tai; otherwise the Songs would have received the Jins’ order and have Tuolei killed.

    Later on came the news that the Mongolian army was moving fast and the Jin’s capital of Yanjing fell. The ministers of the Song Dynasty changed their attitude immediately; now they treated Tuolei as the Fourth Prince this and the Fourth Prince that, flattered him to no end. They went as far as agreeing immediately to form an alliance to attack the Jins; they thought if they could seize the opportunity to defeat their enemy without to much effort, then why not?

    Tuolei was not happy, but he still agreed to sign the bilateral agreement with the Southern Song Dynasty to attack the Jins. That day he returned to the north, the Songs ministers respectfully sent him off outside the city gate. Tuolei did not feel like performing perfunctory propriety, so he simply slapped his horse and left.

    Just outside Lin’an he saw the white eagles; he thought Guo Jing must be around, who would have thought that it was his own sister. Huazheng asked, “Did you see Guo Jing Anda [Mongolian for ‘sworn brother’]?” Before Tuolei could answer they heard clamoring noise outside the door; the sound of armors and horses. It turned out it was the Song Dynasty’s escort finally caught up with the Mongolian envoys.

    Yang Kang was standing quietly at the door; he saw the Song troops were carrying a banner with these large characters written on it: ‘Respectfully sending off the Mongolian Fourth Prince to return to the north.’ He was unable to restrain having a disquieting thought, an extreme regret in his heart. Just dozens of days ago he was also a prince, an honorable envoy; today he was alone in the world and nobody paid him any attention. He had tasted riches and honor all his life, so it would be very difficult for him to throw away everything he held dear.

    Mu Nianci watched him with a cold eye; she noticed his unusual expression. Although she did not know what he was thinking, but remembering that he had never forgotten the glory and splendor of being a part of the enemy, she was unable to restrain from feeling hurt.

    The captain of the Song escort team went into the inn and respectfully appeared before Tuolei. He spoke with Tuolei for a moment before going back out and bark his order, “Go to every house and find out if there is someone surnamed Guo, Guo Jing, Guo Guanren [Master Guo – lit. government official] living in this village. If he doesn’t, ask where did he move to?”

    The soldiers complied with one voice and immediately spread out. Not too long afterwards from the village noises were heard of chicken scrambling and dogs running, men crying out and women screaming; for the soldiers did not find the information they were looking for, so they helped themselves to plunder sheep and other belongings. How else would they punish the villagers for not giving out the information they wanted?

    Yang Kang’s heart was stirred, “If the troops can seize this opportunity to plunder, why can’t I seize this opportunity to befriend this Mongolians?” he thought, “I will accompany them returning to the north and kill him along the way; that won’t be difficult. The Mongolian Great Khan will think it is the work of a Song man; hence the alliance between the Mongolia and the Song Dynasty will be broken. It will be a great advantage to the Jins.” Once his mind was decided he told Mu Nianci, “Wait here for a moment.” And in big strides he entered the inn.

    The captain tried to stop him with a loud shout; holding up his hand in front of Yang Kang. Yang Kang lifted up his left arm and tossed the captain away. The captain fell backward and for half a day did not crawl back up.

    Tuolei and Huazheng were startled. By that time, Yang Kang had already arrived at the center of the room. He took the broken spearhead from his bosom and lifted it high above his head; respectfully placed that spearhead on the table, and then he knelt down in front of the table, wailing loudly, “Guo Jing, oh, Brother Guo, you died a miserable death. I surely must avenge your death, Guo Jing, oh, Brother Guo.”

    Tuolei brother and sister did not speak Chinese, but they heard him keep calling Guo Jing’s name, they were astonished. By that time the captain was crawling up with great difficulty, hastily they told him to inquire.

    Yang Kang was crying and talking, tears streaming down his cheeks, in between sobs he said, “I am Guo Jing’s sworn brother, somebody killed Guo Dage [big brother] with this spearhead. That bastard is a Song Dynasty military officer; I think he received the Prime Minister Shi Miyuan’s inciting.”

    As Tuolei and Huazheng, brother and sister, heard the captain translate what Yang Kang had said into Mongolian, it was as if they were struck by a thunder; they were speechless. Jebeh and Borchu remembered their deep friendship with Guo Jing; the four of them wept and beat their chests. Yang Kang also brought up the fact that Guo Jing routed the Jin army at Baoying to save Tuolei and the others; hence Tuolei’s suspicion was gone. They asked Yang Kang how Guo Jing died and who killed him. Yang Kang told them the killer was a Great Song’s officer by the name of Duan Tiande, and that he knew this person’s whereabouts, and that he was gong to find him to seek revenge; it was a pity that Yang Kang was unable to do it without help, he was afraid this task would not be easy to accomplish. The story just flowed out of Yang Kang’s mouth like it was a true story.

    In the other room Guo Jing heard everything clearly and he was frustrated. As Huazheng heard this story, she drew the dagger on her waist and was about to slash her own neck to commit suicide; but then she changed her mind and hacked the dagger into a table nearby. “I am not a human if I can’t extract revenge for Guo Jing Anda!” she made a vow.

    Yang Kang was very happy to see that his plan was halfway successful; he lowered his head and cried some more. Suddenly he saw the bamboo stick that Ouyang Ke snatched from Huang Rong’s hand lying on the ground. It was deep green and clear like crystal, truly an unusual object; he knew it was an extraordinary stick, so he walked over and picked it up. Huang Rong was groaning inwardly, but she had no choice but to let him take it.

    The troops came and delivered food and wine, but Tuolei and the others did not have any appetite. They urged Yang Kang to lead them to find Guo Jing’s killer. Yang Kang nodded his head in compliance; he took the bamboo stick in his hand and walked to the door. He turned his head and called Mu Nianci to join them. Mu Nianci shook her head slightly. Yang Kang did not want to miss this good opportunity, their own personal affair could wait, so he went out the inn alone. Everybody else followed him.

    Guo Jing said with a low voice, “Didn’t he kill Duan Tiande at the Cloud Village a long time ago?”

    Huang Rong shook her head, “I don’t understand it myself. Wasn’t it he who stab you with a dagger? This man is very sly, his thoughts are unpredictable.”

    Suddenly outside the door there was someone reciting loudly, “Roaming to and fro, free without limitation; heart is free from greed, glorious body is free from disgrace! … Ah! Miss Mu, why are you here?” It was the Changchun Zi [Eternal Spring] Qiu Chuji.

    Before Mu Nianci could reply, Yang Kang happened to be walking out of the inn. He saw his Shifu and his heart started thumping madly; this time they came face to face, there was no place he could hide, he had no choice but to kneel down and kowtow.

    Next to Qiu Chuji stood several people; they were Danyang Zi [Scarlet Sun] Ma Yu, Yuyang Zi [Jade Sun] Wang Chuyi, Qing Jing San Ren [Sage of Tranquility] Sun Bu’er, as well as Qiu Chuji’s disciple, Yin Zhiping. The previous day Yin Zhiping was beaten by Huang Yaoshi and he fell down and half the teeth in his mouth came off. Hastily he went to Lin’an to give report to his Shifu. Qiu Chuji was startled and angry; he wanted to go immediately to find Huang Yaoshi. Ma Yu strongly advised against his intention. Qiu Chuji said, “The Old Heretic Huang shared the same honor as our deceased master. Among us seven brothers and sister, only Wang Shi Di [younger martial brother] has seen his face at Mount Hua. Xiao Di [little younger brother] always admire him and wanted to see him long ago, I don’t want to fight with him; why did Da Shige [first martial (older) brother] prevent me?”

    Ma Yu said, “I heard Huang Yaoshi’s temperament is strange, while your own temperament is brash and explosive; if you two meet, chances are that we won’t have an amiable situation. He spared Zhiping’s life, that means he is being lenient to us.” However, Qiu Chuji was adamant in going, and Ma Yu did not have any way to persuade him not to. As it turned out, all Quanzhen Seven Masters happened to be in the vicinity of Lin’an; thereupon they were summoned and the next day they went to the Ox Village together.

    All Quanzhen Seven Masters gathered together carried a strong power, but they fully realized Huang Yaoshi’s ability, at the same time it was not clear whether he was a friend or a foe, therefore, they did not dare to be careless or indiscreet. Ma Yu, Qiu Chuji, Wang Chuyi, Sun Bu’er and Yin Zhiping, five people went into the village; while Tan Chuduan, Liu Chuxuan and Hao Datong waited outside the village, ready to help. Who would have thought that they did not see Huang Yaoshi, but saw Mu Nianci and Yang Kang instead.

    Qiu Chuji only snorted seeing Yang Kang kowtow, and did not pay him any attention. Yin Zhiping said, “Shifu, the Master of the Peach Blossom Island bullied disciple in this inn.” Initially he referred to Huang Yaoshi as the Old Heretic Huang [Huang Laoxie], but after being scolded by Ma Yu and the others he changed the way he called him.

    In a loud and clear voice Qiu Chuji called out, “Quanzhen disciples Ma Yu and the others pay their respect to the Peach Blossom Island’s Huang Daozhu [Island Master Huang].”

    “There is no one inside,” Yang Kang said.

    Qiu Chuji stomped his foot and said, “What a pity, what a pity we can’t see him!” Turning his head to Yang Kang he asked, “What are you doing here?”

    Yang Kang was already scared to see his master and martial uncles, so he did not know what to say.

    Huazheng had stared hard at Ma Yu for half a day, finally she rushed forward and called out, “Ah, you are the one who helped me capturing the eagles; you are the three-hair-bun Uncle. Look, those little eaglets have grown this big.” She let out a loud whistle and the pair of eagles came down and perched on her left and right shoulders.

    Ma Yu showed a faint smile, he nodded his head and said, “Are you going south to play?”

    Huazheng cried and said, “Daozhang [Taoist Priest], somebody killed Guo Jing Anda. Please avenge his death.”

    Ma Yu jumped in fright; he translated what he just heard into Chinese. Qiu Chuji and Wang Chuyi were shocked; busily they asked further information. Huazheng pointed her finger toward Yang Kang and said, “He saw it with his own eyes; ask him what happened.”

    As Yang Kang found out that Huazheng knew his Da Shibo [first martial (older) uncle], he was afraid that if they talked too much their suspicion would be aroused; and then his plan to swindle these Mongolians without any effort would be thwarted. However, he could not talk irresponsibly toward his master and martial uncles, so he told Tuolei and Huazheng, “You go ahead and wait for me for a moment, I need to talk to these priests and then I’ll come along immediately.” Tuolei listened to the captain’s translation, he nodded his head, then led everybody to leave the village and going to the north.

    “Who killed Guo Jing?” Qiu Chuji asked with a stern voice, “Tell us, quick!”

    Yang Kang considered his answer carefully, he thought, “Guo Jing was clearly killed by me; whom should I accuse?” He was undecided for a moment before he remembered, “I’d better mention someone with a high level of martial art; let Shifu find him and thus delivering his own life, then I won’t have any more problem in the future.” Thereupon with hatred in his voice he said, “It was the Peach Blossom Island’s Huang Daozhu.”

    The Quanzhen Seven Masters had known early on that Huang Yaoshi wanted to pursue and kill the Six Freaks of Jiangnan, so it made perfect sense if Guo Jing died under his hands; they did not have the least bit of suspicion. Qiu Chuji cursed the Old Heretic Huang as the most evil person, and he vowed not to rest before dealing with him. Ma Yu and Wang Chuyi were very depressed, so they could not say anything.

    Suddenly from a distant came the voice of laughter, followed by someone whose voice was like a broken cymbal, finally there was someone shouting in a soft voice; although the sound was low, it was heard clearly. Three different voices went around the outskirt of the village; and then suddenly it was as if they came from a faraway place.

    Ma Yu was pleasantly surprised, “That laughter sounds like Zhou Shishu; he is still alive!” He heard three whistles from the east side of the village, going farther and farther away.

    “Three Shige already give chase,” Sun Bu’er said.

    Wang Chuyi said, “Listen to that broken cymbal sound and that soft shout; it seems like they are chasing Zhou Shishu.”

    Ma Yu was worried, “Those two people’s martial art skills are not below Zhou Shishu’s; I wonder which experts are they? Zhou Shishu is facing two enemies, I am afraid …” He shook his head.

    All Quanzhen four masters leaned their heads to listen for half a day, until the sounds were gone. They knew those people had already several ‘li’s away, so it was useless to pursue them.

    Sun Bu’er said, “If Tan Shige and the others manage to catch up and render their assistance, Zhou Shishu does not have to worry.”

    “I am afraid they cannot overtake them,” Qiu Chuji said, “It would be best if Zhou Shishu knew we are here and run to this village.”

    Huang Rong found their reckless surmise ridiculous to hear, she thought, “My father and the Old Poison are competing leg strength with the Old Urchin; they are not fighting. If they were, and you – a bunch of stinky ox noses [derogatory term for Taoist priest] – want to help, do you think you are my father’s and the Old Poison’s match?” She had just heard how Qiu Chuji was cursing her father, she was not happy; while she did not mind too much that Yang Kang brought a false charge against her father as Guo Jing’s killer, because Guo Jing was in good condition and was sitting right next to her.

    Ma Yu waved his hand and everybody went into the inn to sit down. Qiu Chuji said, “Hey, are you now called Wanyan Kang, or is it Yang Kang?”

    Yang Kang saw his master’s eyes were glittering brightly, looking at him with a penetrating gaze, his face looked grim; he knew if he gave one bad answer, it would be difficult for him to keep his life. He busily said, “If not because of Shifu, Ma Shibo and Wang Shishu giving me directions, disciple still would have been in the dark today, regarding an enemy for a father; so naturally disciple’s surname is Yang. Last night disciple and Sister Mu here have just buried my deceased father and mother.”

    Hearing him saying so, Qiu Chuji was delighted; he nodded and his face turned softer. At first Wang Chuyi reprimanded Yang Kang for jousting against Mu Nianci but not wanting to marry her; but now he saw these two people together he thought the two of them had sorted things out, his indignation toward Yang Kang vanished.

    Yang Kang took out the broken spearhead with which he killed Ouyang Ke and said, “This is what’s left of my deceased father’s belongings; disciple always keep it with me.”

    Qiu Chuji took the spearhead and caressed it gently; his heart was filled with sorrow. He heaved a sigh and said, “Nineteen years ago, I came across your father and your Uncle Guo. Very quickly more than a dozen years have passed, two old friends have come back to the yellow earth. The two of them are dead, leaving me suffering on this earth. I was powerless to save your parents’ lives; it has been my life-long regret.”

    In the other room Guo Jing heard Qiu Chuji fondly remember his own father, he was grieved. “Qiu Daozhang [Taoist Priest] still remembers his friendship with my father, but I have never seen my father’s face. Brother Yang was able to meet with his father, he is luckier than I am.”

    Qiu Chuji then asked how Huang Yaoshi killed Guo Jing, and Yang Kang opened his mouth making up some stories. Qiu, Ma and Wang three people had known Guo Jing for a long time; they sighed incessantly. After talking for a while Yang Kang remembered he had to see Tuolei and Huazheng, his heart was restless.

    Wang Chuyi looked at him, and then looked at Mu Nianci, “Have you two married?” he asked.

    “Not yet,” Yang Kang replied.

    “You’d better get married soon,” Wang Chuyi said, “Qiu Shige, why don’t you make the decision for them? How do you think we should handle this matter?”

    Huang Rong and Guo Jing looked at each other, they both thought, “Are we going to witness another wedding tonight?” Huang Rong further thought, “Mu Jiejie [older sister] is hot-tempered, she is a lot different than that Cheng Da Xiaojie. Perhaps before she agrees to get married she would challenge that kid surnamed Yang for a martial art contest. Now that would be interesting to watch.”

    She heard Yang Kang delightfully reply, “I rely on Shifu to make the decision.” But with a clear voice Mu Nianci said, “I have one condition you must fulfill; otherwise I won’t comply.”

    Qiu Chuji showed a faint smile listening to her; he said, “All right, what is it? Miss, please say it.”

    Mu Nianci said, “My adoptive father was killed by that traitor Wanyan Honglie. Before we can get married, he has to avenge his father’s death first.”

    Qiu Chuji clapped his hands and called out, “Hear, hear! Miss Mu has just said what’s in this Old Priest’s heart. Kang’er, don’t you agree?”

    Yang Kang was very hesitant; he pondered deeply how to answer. Suddenly from outside the door a rough throaty voice like a mute’s hissing was heard, singing the ‘lian hua luo’ [fallen lotus flower], and then a high-pitched throaty voice called out, “Master, Lady, be merciful, spare this beggar some money.”

    Mu Nianci thought this voice was somewhat familiar, she turned her head and saw that two beggars stood at the doorstep; one fat, the other short and thin, so small that the fat one looked three times as big as he was. These two’s postures were so unusual that even though it had been many years, Mu Nianci still remembered that when she was only thirteen she had tended their injuries. Hong Qigong was pleased that she had a good heart, for this reason he passed on some martial art to her for three days. She was about to go out and greet them, but ever since those two beggars enter the room, their eyes had never left the bamboo stick in Yang Kang’s hand. They looked at each other and nodded their heads, then they walked toward Yang Kang, cupped their hands in front of their chests and bowed respectfully.

    Ma Yu and the others noticed the two beggars’ steps and body movement, they knew these beggars were not weak; they also noticed that each beggar carried eight coarse sacks on their backs; therefore, these two were the Eight-Bag Disciple of the Beggars Clan. Their positions were very high, but they were this respectful toward Yang Kang; Ma Yu and the others did not understand.

    The thin beggar said, “I heard the brethrens say that some people in Lin’an City saw the Clan Leader’s Stick. We went everywhere to investigate, and are fortunate to see it here. I wonder where did the Clan Leader go begging?”

    Although Yang Kang took the bamboo stick, actually he did not know the stick’s origin. Listening to this beggar’s words he did not know how to respond, so he simply uttered an ‘Hmm.’ There was a custom in the Beggars Clan that seeing the Dog Beating Stick was the same as seeing the Clan Leader himself; so even though Yang Kang did not pay any attention to them, they still looked respectful and cautious.

    The fat beggar said, “The assembly at Yuezhou is getting closer; from the east Elders Lu and Jian have headed west seven days ago.”

    Yang Kang become more and more confused, he uttered another ‘Hmm.’ The thin beggar continued, “In order to look for the Clan Leader’s Stick, disciples have been delayed for several days; so we must hurry along immediately. If Your Excellency decides to leave today, let disciples accompany and take care of you along the way.”

    Yang Kang was inwardly excited, he had been trying to find a way to leave his Shifu; without caring what the beggars said, he wanted to grab this opportunity. Thereupon he prostrated himself in front of Ma Yu, Qiu Chuji and the others and said, “Disciple has some important matter to attend, I cannot accompany Shifu much longer. Please forgive me for taking my leave.”

    Ma Yu and the others thought that Yang Kang must have some important connection with the Beggar Clan. The Beggar Clan was the largest organization in the world. The Clan Leader Hong Qigong was a martial art expert who shared the same reputation with their deceased master, Wang Zhenren; therefore, clearly they could not detain Yang Kang. Out of respect to the two beggars, they felt it was inappropriate to ask more questions, so they simply paid their respects according to the Jianghu custom.

    The two beggars had always admired the Quanzhen Seven Masters; knowing they were Yang Kang’s masters, they were more modest, kept referring themselves as ‘wan bei’ [juniors]. Mu Nianci talked about past events, the two beggars became more affectionate. Since she already had some connection with the Beggar Clan, she was also invited to the Yuezhou assembly. Mu Nianci wanted very much to travel with Yang Kang, so she immediately nodded her head.

    Qiu Chuji was originally very angry with Yang Kang and wanted to cripple him to take his martial art skill away, but remembering the deceased Yang Tiexin he did not have the heart to do so. Now, first, he saw that Yang Kang treated Mu Nianci in an intimate manner, that simple ‘joust to find a spouse’ affair turned out good after all; second, Yang Kang seemed to learn good lesson from life experiences, he was willing to forfeit riches and honor, took the surname Yang as his own, so Qiu Chuji’s loving care in teaching and giving him guidance was not in vain; third, these two high-level Beggar Clan disciple seemed to respect him very much, it certainly would bring glory and honor to the Quanzhen Sect. Therefore, the fury in his heart was replaced immediately into delight. He gently twirled the end of his long moustache and watched Yang and Mu two people’s backs with a smile on his face.

    That very evening Ma Yu and the others slept in the inn, waiting for Tan Chuduan three people to return. But all day the next day they did not hear anything about them; four people started to get anxious. Near midnight they heard a long whistle from outside the village. “Hao Shige came back!” Sun Bu’er said. Ma Yu returned the call with a low whistle. Not too long afterwards a shadow flashed by the door and Hao Datong flew in.

    Huang Rong had never seen this person, she pressed her eye into the small hole to take a look. It was the fifth day of the seventh month, the crescent moon shone its light through the window opening. Under the moonlight she saw this man was big and tall, his appearance looked like that of a government official. His Taoist robe had short sleeves, stopped at the elbow; it looked different than the ones Ma Yu and the others wore. Turned out before he became a priest he was a head of Shandong’s Ninghai sub-prefecture’s rich family; highly educated, even managed to sell his divination skill. Later on he bowed to Wang Chongyang at the ‘yan xia dong’ [smoky red clouds cave] and took him as his master. Wang Chongyang took out his own robe, cut the sleeves and gave the robe to Hao Datong; saying, “Don’t worry that it is without sleeves, you will complete it yourself.”

    The word ‘xiu’ [sleeve] was similar to the word ‘shou’ [to teach/to instruct/to award/to give]; the meaning was, no matter how much the master gives instructions, there will always be more to learn; whether the disciple enlightened or not, it depends on his own comprehension. He remembered his Master’s kindness very well, so afterwards he always wore the half-sleeved Taoist robe.

    Qiu Chuji was the most impatient, “How is Zhou Shishu?” he asked, “Is he playing around with others, or is he fighting them?”

    Hao Datong shook his head. “I am ashamed,” he said, “Xiao Di’s [little brother] skill is superficial, I only managed to pursue them for seven, eight ‘li’s before Zhou Shishu’s and the others’ shadows disappeared. Tan Shige and Liu Shige were still ahead of Xiao Di. Xiao Di was powerless; I tried to look for them one whole day and one whole night but did not have the slightest clue on where they were.”

    Ma Yu nodded his head, “Hao Shidi [younger martial brother] is tired. Sit down and take some rest.” Hao Datong sat cross-legged. He circulated his ‘qi’ around his body one time, then he said, “On my way back at the ‘zhou wang miao’ [Temple of King Zhou (dynasty)] Xiao Di saw six people. Their appearance matches Qiu Shige’s description of the Six Freaks of Jiangnan. Thus Xiao Di came over to talk with them, and indeed it was them.”

    Qiu Chuji was delighted, “The Six Freaks are very bold,” he said, “They unexpectedly went to the Peach Blossom Island. No wonder we could not find them.”

    Hao Datong said, “The head of the Six Freaks, Ke Zhen’e, Ke Daxia [great hero Ke] said that they had an agreement to see Huang Yaoshi, therefore, they went to the Peach Blossom Island to keep their promise; who would have thought that Huang Yaoshi was not on the island. They heard Xiao Di mention Qiu Shixiong and the others are here, they said they are going to pay us a visit a little later.”

    Guo Jing heard that his six masters were well, his heart was greatly comforted. By this time he had trained for five days and five nights, most of his injury has been healed.

    Toward the ninth hour [3-5pm] of the sixth day, from the east of the village came a long whistle. “Liu Shidi came back,” Qiu Chuji said. A short moment later they saw Liu Chuxuan, accompanied by an old man with white hair and white beard, walking toward the inn. That old man was wearing a yellow short robe, a pair of shoes made of coarse cloth on his feet, and a huge rush-leaf fan in his hand. He was talking and smiling while entering the inn. When he saw the Quanzhen Five Masters he simply nodded his head slightly, as if he did not regard them too highly.

    Liu Chuxuan said, “This is ‘tie zhang shui shang piao’ [iron palm floating above the water], Qiu Lao Qian Bei [Senior Qiu]. It is truly our good fortune to see him today.”

    Huang Rong heard this and almost burst out in laughter, she lightly bumped Guo Jing with her elbow. Guo Jing also thought it was funny. Both were thinking, “I want to see how else this old scoundrel will swindle people.”

    Ma Yu, Qiu Chuji and the others had heard Qiu Qianren’s fame for a long time, they had a profound respect toward him, so they talked to him with utmost respect and caution. But Qiu Qianren kept bragging unguardedly. After talking for a while Qiu Chuji asked if he saw their Shishu Zhou Botong. Qiu Qianren replied, “The Old Urchin? He was killed by Huang Yaoshi.”

    Everybody was shocked. Liu Chuxuan said, “How can it be? Just the day before yesterday Wan bei [junior] saw Zhou Shishu; only he ran so very fast that I could not overtake him.” Qiu Qianren was confounded, he simply smiled without saying anything; his mind churning to find a good answer.
    Qiu Chuji interrupted, “Liu Shidi, did you have a good look, the two people who chased Shishu are what kind of people?”

    Liu Chuxuan said, “One was wearing a white robe, the other a dark green long gown. They ran really fast. Indistinctly I saw the one wearing green had a very queer facial appearance, almost like a corpse’s face.”

    Qiu Qianren had seen Huang Yaoshi at the Cloud Village, he quickly opened his mouth, “That’s right! The one that killed the Old Urchin was this green-long-gown-wearing Huang Yaoshi. Other than him, who has the ability to do so? I was about to rush forward but I was one step too late. Ay! The Old Urchin died a miserable death.”

    Tie Zhang Shui Shang Piao Qiu Qinren had a resounding reputation throughout the Wulin world; he was a senior with a high level of martial art skill. How would the Quanzhen Six Masters know that he was a blabbering mouth? Immediately they felt exceptional grief and indignation. Qiu Chuji slapped the tabletop so hard producing an earth-shattering noise; again he scolded Huang Yaoshi as a dog with head drenched in blood.

    Huang Rong at the other room was very angry. She did not blame Qiu Qianren from spreading false rumor about her father, but she did blame Qiu Chuji for scolding her father repeatedly.

    Liu Chuxuan said, “Tan Shige’s footwork is faster than mine, perhaps he saw how Shishu was killed.”

    Sun Bu’er said, “Tan Shige has not come back till now, perhaps he also suffered harm under the old thief’s hand …” Speaking to this point her face turned miserable, she stopped talking immediately.

    Qiu Chuji drew his sword and called out, “Let us go quickly to rescue and avenge people!”

    Qiu Qianren was afraid they might meet Zhou Botong, he quickly said, “Huang Yaoshi is aware that you are all gathered here, he could look for you anytime. This Old Heretic Huang is so evil, the Old Man here cannot allow him to continue like this. I am going to find him; you wait for my good news in here.”

    Everybody revered him as the senior, it would be inappropriate to defy his word; also they were afraid they would miss Huang Yaoshi if they were out looking for him, it would certainly be better to wait here for the enemy to find them and conserve their energy at the same time. Thereupon they bowed to express their gratitude and sent Qiu Qianren off to the door.

    Qiu Qianren stepped over the doorstep and turned around to wave his hand, “You don’t have to send me off too far. Although that Old Heretic Huang is fierce, I have a way to deal with him. Watch this!” He drew the shining sharp sword from his waist and aimed it towards his own abdomen. “Hey!” with a grunt he thrust the sword in.

    Everybody called out in alarm; they saw more than half of the three feet sword went into his stomach. Qiu Qianren smiled and said, “Any sharp weapon in the world won’t injure me. Please don’t panic. If I can’t find the Old Heretic Huang and he comes to find you here, don’t fight him, avoid getting injured. Just wait for me to deal with him.”

    Qiu Chuji said, “The enmity of Shishu, it is impossible for the disciples not to avenge it.”

    Qiu Qianren sighed and said, “That’s fine too, this is fate. If you want to seek revenge, there is one thing you must remember.”

    Ma Yu said, “Please give us your direction, Senior.”

    Qiu Qianren’s face turned serious, he said, “As soon as you see the Old Heretic Huang, kill him immediately. Don’t bother talking to him; otherwise, this enmity will forever be difficult to avenge. Important! Very important!” As he finished speaking he turned around with the sword still stuck in his abdomen.

    Everybody looked at each other in amazement. Ma Yu and the others had vast experience, yet they had never heard of a sharp sword entering the abdomen and nothing happening; they thought this man’s skill must have reached a level beyond measure. They did not know that it was another trick of Qiu Qianren: that sword was actually consisted of three sections, as soon as a light force was applied to the tip of the blade the first and second sections would automatically retract into the third section, the sword edge went through a seam in the waistband, hence for the spectator at a distance it looked like the sharp edge was entering the body. He had been hired by Wanyan Honglie to incite enmities among the Jiangnan heroes and warriors, so that when the Jin army attacked to the south they would not be united to fight the invaders.

    For the rest of the day the Quanzhen Six Masters were restless; they could not drink tea or eat their rice, they stayed awake until the midnight of the seventh day. They heard some faint whistles come from the north of the village, two people, on in front of the other, came swiftly to the outside of the inn. Ma Yu, all six people were originally sitting cross-legged on the straw training their breathing exercises, because Yin Zhiping’s skill was lower, he was sleeping. Hearing this noise they all jumped up immediately.

    “The enemy is pursuing Tan Shidi,” Ma Yu said, “All Shidis, be careful!”

    Tonight was Guo Jing’s last night to train and heal is injury. During these past seven days and nights not only his i