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Thread: Legend of the White Haired Demoness - Unabridged

  1. #1
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Legend of the White Haired Demoness - Unabridged

    Folks, this is the collection of the Legend of the White Haired Demoness, as translated by Faerie Queenie and yours truly. I am thinking of updating the earlier chapters, where FaQ left in summary form, later. As of now, I keep everything as is.

    About the title, here is an excerpt from Faerie Queenie:

    Lastly, I would like to make a note about the title of my translation. The common translated title of the book is 'The Legend of the White Haired Maiden' (or as T.V serials and movies would translate in hopes of playing up the romance element: 'Romance of the White Haired Maiden' or 'The Bride with White Hair'). But I feel that none of these titles can truly capture the themes of the novel. Firstly, the title 'Legend of the White Haired Maiden' leaves out the word 'Mo' (demonic) which exists in the original Chinese title. This is particularly important as 'Bai Fa' is in large part a tragedy about the character Yu Luo Sha. It is important to recognize the stigmatism that she receives and to tease out the irony in such labels as 'good' and 'evil.' As Liang points out in his introductory poem: Who is really the demonic one? He asks the readers to judge for themselves. Therefore, in my translation, I've opted for the title Legend of the White Haired Demoness in order to remain closer to the novel's original title and intent.
    which I agree wholeheartedly.

    As usual, please do not post any comments in this thread.

    The following is the shortcut to individual chapter:

    Chapter 1
    Chapter 2
    Chapter 3
    Chapter 4
    Chapter 5
    Chapter 6
    Chapter 7
    Chapter 8
    Chapter 9
    Chapter 10
    Chapter 11
    Chapter 12
    Chapter 13
    Chapter 14
    Chapter 15
    Chapter 16
    Chapter 17
    Chapter 18
    Chapter 19
    Chapter 20
    Chapter 21
    Chapter 22
    Chapter 23
    Chapter 24
    Chapter 25
    Chapter 26
    Chapter 27
    Chapter 28
    Chapter 29
    Chapter 30
    Chapter 31
    Chapter 32
    Last edited by foxs; 06-10-10 at 08:07 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006


    (Translated by Faerie Queene)

    A solitary sword emerges from the West, amongst thousands of adjacent crags, the demonic shadow roams freely; they say that the mirror of clarity reflects not the stand, the Bodhi is achieved not by the tree[1], the conclusion arises from the heart, how is one to judge? Those who are demonic are not so? Those who are not demonic are indeed so? Let time be the judge! Let us now digress, and converse about the young and the heroic, while we are gathered together here.

    Amongst tumultuous wars of leaden clouds and thunderous storms, exquisite elegance springs forth from the wintry frost. Pity the beauty of an era, a cloud of white hair hanging above her youthful face, still the sole vow that lasts a century does not yet disappoint the heart’s promise. The short shovel cultivates the flower, while long poems accompany the wine. Memories of poems and swords are renewed by the mind year after year. On the summit of Tian Shan, watching the dance of dragons and serpents[2] appear under the pen, the ink is tossed towards the Southern Seas.

    (Written under the form of Qin Yuan Chun[3])
    It was a chilly autumn during the ninth month of the lunar year. Over the Northern grass plains trekked an assembly of people and their horses. They travailed along the undulating roads of the Dai Ba Mountains near the Chuan-Shaan[4] border. A few robust and steely looking martial art fighters were leading the crowd. In the midst of the crowd was a mule carriage with an open front. Looking through the open front and inside the carriage, a gentleman who looked to be approaching his sixties can be observed. He was draped with a leather cape and possessed a manner that is both elegant and poised. A youngster with brows shaped like swords and eyes as fierce as a tiger rode on top of a tall horse that was trotting beside the mule carriage. The charms tied to his sword emanating noises as they clanged against the sword sheath.

    The gentleman sitting within the carriage was the currently retired Supreme Commander of Yun Nan and Gui Zhou Provinces[5]. His name was Zhuo Zhong Lian and even though he resided in a high governmental position, his character was as his name would suggest still relatively honest and scrupulous. Yet the common saying phrases it well, “Three years residing in the scrupulous office reaps tens of thousands in gold and silver.” Besides, Zhuo was the Supreme Commander, he need not be a particularly avaricious corruptor and already the discounts given to him on his daily expenses and the presents delivered to him by his attendants will naturally amount to substantial proportions. Therefore even though he has already resigned his position to return to his native homeland, he had to hire a number of famous escorts to protect him along the way.

    However, the youngster with the pronounced eyebrows and fierce eyes was not a bodyguard. His participation in this trip was a result of something else. Zhuo Zhong Lian originated from Northern-Shaan[6] area and was borne of a wealthy family that had served the government for generations. Yet although the Zhuo family was abundant in their wealth, they were not abundant in successors and many generations of their lineage were succeeded by only one male descendant. Zhuo Zhong Lian had only one son and one grandson. His son was named Zhuo Ji Xian, and he worked as a governmental official within the imperial city, residing in the position of the Vice-Minister of the Department of Revenue. Zhuo Zhong Lian’s grandson Zhuo Yi Hang had accompanied his father to the imperial capital from a very young age. By now, he should be around eighteen or nineteen years of age. Zhuo Yi Hang has always been a very intelligent kid, far excelling his peers and hence his grandfather particularly misses him. Thus when he retired his position to return home, he simultaneously sent a letter to his son asking him to also send Zhuo Yi Hang back to his ancestral home. Never would he have guessed that not only did his grandson not arrive, but instead a Geng Shao Nan would come in his place bearing with him a letter from Zhuo’s son. The letter said that Zhuo’s grandson was currently in the midst of his studies, preparing to write his exams and therefore could not return with his grandfather at present. This Geng Shao Nan was his grandson’s classmate and was well versed in martial arts. Coincidently, he also had something to attend to in Shaan Xi area, therefore Zhuo Ji Xian asked Zhuo Zhong Lian to kindly bring him along with him, benefiting both sides in the process.

    When Zhuo Zhong Lian engaged in casual conversation with Geng Shao Nan, he discovered that he was not at all well versed or well acquainted with the literary arts. Zhuo thought to himself that a scholar who practices martial arts is unlikely to be very skilled. Thus he silently mused to himself that this Geng Shao Nan must be one of those youngsters who are of average potential, unable to excel in his studies and yet also failing to excel in his sword skills. But surprisingly, the famous escorts that Zhuo had hired for the trip treated this youngster with supreme respect and courtesy, leaving Zhuo Zhong Lian in a state of puzzled mystification.

    It was the forty-third year of the Ming Emperor Wan Li’s[7] reign and the Manchurians were uprising in the Northeast sphere, often invading into the country. Shen Zong[8] had already increased the amount of “military support[9],” a total sum that was now approaching more than half of what the annual taxes yielded and a sum that was being completely sustained by the farmers’ taxes. Furthermore, upon the emancipated soil of the Northwest plains, the inhabitants were burdened by poverty and bandits ran rampant. Therefore even though Zhuo Zong Lian already had a crowd of famous bodyguards as well as his own trusted troops accompanying him on this trip, he couldn’t help but be in a constant state of fear and paranoia.

    That day they had just past through the Ba Yu Pass when suddenly a pair of extremely fast horses trampled by them. The countenance of the bodyguards who were leading the crowd all underwent a change of colour.

    In a flash, Geng Shao Nan had already rushed to the front with his horse asking in a soft voice, “What is it?” The old head escort replied, “It was the Xi Chuan Twin Terrors.” Geng Shao Nan acknowledges, “Oh, so it’s the Pang brothers. They’ve spent a few years’ time on their iron-palms, we should be on our guards.”

    The Twin Terrors’ pair of swift horses rushed past the crowd without even looking back. The old head escort said, “It doesn’t look like they’re preparing to commit a crime.” Geng Shao Nan smiled and pulled on his reins to halt his horse, waiting as the mule coach approached, and said to Zhuo Zhong Lian in an offhanded manner, “Please be at ease old master. There is nothing to be alarmed of. It was merely two small crooks.” After a while, behind them approached three more riders with rapid horses, kicking up clouds of dust as they soared past the Zhuo crowd without even batting an eye at the trunks of luggage belonging to the Zhuo family. The old escort wondered, “Why would all 3 faction-leaders of the Dragon-gate clan all take action simultaneously? Can it be that within the Underground world[10], there arose some kind of emergency or important incident?” Geng Shao Nan said arrogantly, “Who cares about the so-called Underground world? If they dare to approach us and stir trouble, I need not budge the weapon in my hand as just this single arrow[11] is already enough to send them crawling back to where they came from.” The various bodyguards all grudgingly mumbled amongst each other while continuing to heap words of exaltation upon Geng Shao Nan. However, Zhuo Zhong Lian observing Geng Shao Nan’s arrogant demeanour became secretly very displeased as he thought to himself this youngster was simply too conceited.

    The group continued their journey towards the west, and by the time the sun was starting to set they have almost arrived near the Qiang Ling town’s Qi Pan Pass. The mountain passageways were narrow and cramped as the Qi Pan Pass was Chuan-Shaan’s hazardous area. It reclines against the mountains and faces the river, the two cliffs reaching heights of over 1000 feet[12]. Below, the river currents were constrained by the walls of the mountain crags as it is compressed into a fast rapid that spans a width of about 50 or 60 feet. Once the rapids gushes out of the valley, its force resembles the galloping stampede of a million horses, and its spray becomes a misty haze of vapour. Once the crowd of people exited out of the mountain’s entrance, they saw that slowly trotting about half a mile in front of them was a white horse. The person sitting on top of the horse was dressed in white, which when contrasting against the whiteness of the horse further accentuates his elegant serenity. Zhuo Zhong Lian remarks, “That person looks liked a scholar. He seems to be travelling by himself – that is much too dangerous. Why don’t we run forward and offer to have him join us?” Geng Shao Nan shook his head, when suddenly the sounds of bell chimes rang crisply in the air as a horde of six or seven fast horses came rushing up from behind them, speeding past Zhuo’s vehicle. The youngster walking ahead on the white horse had almost arrived at the opening of the mountain’s narrow entrance. The old escort said with alarm, “Hey! Quick! Get out of the way! They’re going to crash into you!” However, before he could finish his words, another huge gust of dirt and dust erupted from the mountain entranceway as another crowd of about 10 or so strong horses were rushing towards Zhuo Zhong Lian’s direction. The two crowds of horses were both stampeding towards the youngster who was being flanked in the middle. There was no doubt that they were going to be crashing into each other. Zhuo Zhong Lian opened his mouth to scream although no sound could come out, when suddenly the youngster also gave out a loud shout and the white horse jumped up high into the air. With the speed of a shooting comet, the youngster and his horse actually leapt over a fast rapid that spanned fifty or sixty feet, flying over the face of the river to land on the adjacent valley facing them. The riding skills of the two groups of horsemen were indeed extremely excellent as in the midst of their fast galloping, they suddenly halted their horses with force. The two groups of horsemen then mingled together to form one group and turned the heads of their horses around to block off the entranceway of the mountain.

    Geng Shao Nan charged forward on his horse and brought his hands together to form a fist, addressing the man, “I’d like to ask you fellows to please step out of our way.” The man with a very long and lustrous beard shouts back, “And why should we move out of your way? A corrupt official’s dishonest money should be made available to anyone.” Geng Shao Nan replies, “But he is not a corrupt official.” Another ruffian shouts, “For us to move out of your way is not a problem. Just leave behind the trunks and you can go!” Geng Shao Nan did not even bother with uttering a single word in reply but instead brought the metal bow down from his back and shot out a succession of bullets, shooting down the people who came forward. The man with the lustrous beard just released a loud laugh. Geng Shao Nan exchanged the bullets for allows, and with a loud whoosh, shot an arrow towards the bandit’s black flag, snapping the handle into two pieces. Seeing this, the man with the long beard underwent a change of colour. He immediately charged forward a few dozen feet and shouted loudly, “Do you know what the rules of the Underground world are?” Geng Shao Nan did not reply and instead starts to shoot his bullets with the speed of a shooting star, and with the force of ice pellets they were hurtled towards the direction of the man.

    The man with the beautiful beard moved with the speed of the soaring wind as he took out a thick copper sabre and started waving it around, blocking and deflecting the fleeting bullets that were speeding towards him, causing the bullets to ricochet off the blade and bounce off into all directions as if it was raining a storm of bullets. Geng Shao Nan gradually accelerated the speed of which he fired his bullets, as each bullet flashed by at a speed swifter than the last. The man with the beard was finding himself to be in an increasingly disadvantageous situation as he was gradually becoming inept at warding off the bullets. Amongst the crowd of bandits was a man with thick eyebrows and big eyes who sarcastically shouted, “Now allow us to return the favour!” as he also took out an arrow and discharged a few crossballs of blue flames, shooting them towards Geng Shao Nan in a crisscross fashion. Geng Shao Nan had only a solitary bow which could not be use for two purposes, thus even though he was able to strike down the “Blazing Serpent Arrow” flying towards him, he was unable to impede the arrows from impacting upon the luggage of the Zhuo family. A “poom” sound could be heard as the thick sackcloth bag that was lying on top of the vehicle actually caught on fire and a cluster of silver nuggets came pouring out as the bag tore open. The man with the long beard shook his head and surprisingly, a look of disappointment came over his face. Geng Shao Nan executed his divine shooting skill called the “Hurricane from Eight Directions” where the bullets were catapulted at such an intense and tight speed that they were like a string of pearls, arriving one after another. Eventually, the man with the beard was unable to withstand the bullets anymore and a popping sound was heard as a bullet impacted against a joint on his left hand. Moving with the speed of a shooting star, the man stepped out of the circle of fighters and suddenly forming his fists in an act of reverence he said, “Wu tang sect’s divine shooting skills is most definitely a remarkable skill. My brothers and I were blind, please forgive us for daring to be a nuisance to you.” The man who fired the Blazing Serpent Arrow jumped up onto his horse and loudly exclaimed, “Please give our regards to Priest Purple Sun, and please tell him that ‘the Fire-Spirit Monkey’ and ‘Mountain-Roaming Tiger’ thanks elder him for not killing us many years ago.” After saying this, he gave out a whistle and his companions picked up their wounded members and then retreated out of the valley.

    Geng Shao Nan put down his arrow and released a loud laugh when suddenly somebody said from behind him, “A very excellent shooting skill indeed!” Geng Shao Nan whipped his head around and discovered with surprise that it was the youngster with the white horse who had addressed him. During the chaos of the fight, nobody had noticed exactly when the youngster had jumped from the adjacent valley back to this valley. Geng Shao Nan replied, “It’s mere child’s play. I’m afraid it will only be the laughing stock of the elite class.” The youngster with the white horse laughed and said, “Elite? I am no elite class. Luckily this horse of mine can still be of some use, otherwise it would have been impossible for me to escape the danger.” Zhuo Zhong Lian got off the horse cart and took a long and careful better look at the youngster. He noticed that there was no luggage whatsoever on his horse and the youngster’s manner of speech indicates that he has been well educated. From head to toe, this youngster very obviously looks the part of a young scholar. Therefore, Zhuo asked, “May I ask whether you are engaged in an educational retreat? Please allow me to utter a word of caution though – in these times travelling long distances is much too risky.” The youngster bowed and replied, “Elder, I am a student from the Yan-An City[13], currently I am hastening home to take my examinations. Please forgive me for being rude, but may I ask how I should address elder you?” Zhuo Zhong Lian smiles slightly and told him his name. Alarmed, the youngster exclaims, “Elder Zhuo?! But you are the revered inhabitant of our town! Please excuse my poor manners!” The youngster then revealed to Zhuo his name – it was Wang Zhao Xi.

    The two fell into easy conversation, getting along very well. Wang Zhao Xi then says, “Since I am travelling alone by myself, I was hoping elder you would be so kind as to allow me to trail along with your party, under your guardianship. Geng Shao Nan quickly winked his eyes at Zhuo a few times, but Zhuo Zhong Lian was old and had a compassionate heart thus he immediately replied, “Travelling together can in no way cause any detriment to us, you need not express any gratitude.” Geng Shao Nan said coldly, “I find it strange for you to be riding such a powerful steed considering the fact that you are a scholar. That’s really quite remarkable.” Wang Zhao Xi replied, “This horse is of Turkestan breed and is named “Radiating Lion of the Night” and even though it is tough and sturdy, yet it is still relatively gentle.” The Northwest area was famous for their powerful horses and it is well known that even the common inhabitant is infused with great riding skills. Therefore although Zhuo Zhong Lian felt this horse to be extraordinary to the point of disbelief, yet he nevertheless did not question nor suspect anything.

    All throughout the trip, the group of famous escorts that were hired by the Zhuo family had stayed close to the mule coach, guarding over it. But at this time, they suddenly gathered around Geng Shao Nan and waited until Zhuo Zhong Lian finished his words before they started bowing down to Geng Shao Nan. The old head escort was particularly respectful as he kneels down on one knee and gave a bow of respect before saying, “Please forgive this useless old man for being so blind. I had already guessed that Hero Geng you are a grand master, but I never knew that Hero Geng you are actually a prized disciple of the Wu Tang sect. Hero Geng, will you be so kind as to allow this old bag of useless bones to treat you a meal?” Hearing the old escort’s words, Zhuo Zhong Lian was baffled.

    Geng Shao Nan smiles and helped the old head escort up on his feet before saying, “It’s all my fault. I started the fight and since the fight has been started, I might as well finish it. My mission on this trip is not to escort the trunks, I just wanted to do a favour for a friend and to help him I would gladly run the risk of having knives pierce both sides of my chest. Old escort, there’s no need for alarm.” Upon hearing this, Zhuo Zhong Lian became even more perplexed.

    Geng Shao Nan was not a scholar. He was actually a second-generation disciple of the Wu Tang Sect. The Wu Tang sect’s status of power was immense and they were analogous to the big dipper of the martial arts world. The head master of the Wu Tang sect was the Taoist Priest Zi Yang (Purple Sun). He has four apprentice brothers: Taoist Priest Huang Ye (Yellow Leaf), Priest Bai Shi (White Stone), Priest Hong Yun (Red Cloud), and Qing Suo (Green Palm). As a group, they were known as the “Five Elders of Wu Tang,” and the disciples under their sect reaches hundreds in numbers. Geng Shao Nan was the head disciple of Taoist Priest White Stone, and among the second-generation disciples he was an outstanding figure.

    The man with the lustrous beard who had just blocked their way and started a fight with them was called Zhuo Tong, also known as “Mountain-Roaming Tiger.” The man with the bushy eyebrows and big eyes was known as “Fire-Spirit Monkey,” his real name was Zhu Bao Chun. They were both bandits of the Chuan-Shaan area, and in terms of martial arts, they were above the likes of the Xi Chuan Twin Terrors. The Wu Tang sect was famed for being the divine centre of the martial arts world, therefore the sect established two rules: one being that all disciples must not become thieves or robbers. The second rule being that all disciples should not become escorts or bodyguards. Geng Shao Nan was a Wu Tang disciple, and a Wu Tang disciple escorting a big official with their luggage is not something that is commonly seen. The old head escort showered Geng Shao Nan with such praises because he was first of all afraid that the Fire Spirit Monkey and this group would come back to seek revenge and secondly, he was not sure what Geng Shao Nan’s purpose for coming on this trip was.

    It was only at this moment that Zhuo Zhong Lian realized this Geng Shao Nan was a skilled martial artist. He couldn’t understand why his grandson would make acquaintances with such an unusual person, so he could only express his gratitude to him once again. Geng Shao Nan’s face clearly expressed his pleasure and satisfaction at hearing these words and this attitude towards Zhuo Zhong Lian was somewhat haughty and arrogant. While Zhuo Zhong Lian continued to inquire about Geng’s relationship with his grandson, Geng would only change the topic or laugh, ignoring Zhuo’s questions.

    The white horse youngster Wang Zhao Xi was extremely quiet and reserved, but during the journey he was very respectful and courteous towards Zhuo Zhong Lian and Geng Shao Nan. After two days, they had just past Qiang Ning and were approaching the Yang Ping Pass. All along the journey, there consistently appeared suspicious looking people appearing in crowds, horseback, as well as mule coaches. With just a glance and the old head escort knew that these were secret scouts from the underground world that were being sent over to keep an eye on them. Therefore during the last two days the escorts were all particularly fretful and anxious, yet luckily nothing happened. After they had passed the Yang-Ping Pass, those suspicious looking people suddenly disappeared without a trace. That night as they arrived in Dai An Yi, Zhuo Zhong Lian said, “Tomorrow after we pass Ding Jun Mountain, the road ahead of us will be levelled and smooth.” Hearing this, the escorts all breathed a sigh of relief yet Geng Shao Nan became particularly uneasy, a completely different attitude compared to the cool composure and nonchalance that he bore throughout the journey.

    The crowd of people all went to the town’s most luxurious inn to spend the night. Suddenly, the white horse youngster Wang Zhao Xi turned to Zhuo Zhong Lian, gave a low bow with his hands folded in front of him and said in a clear voice, “Elder, I am much indebted to you for taking care of me during these past few days and I don’t want to conceal the truth from you anymore. I am currently being pursued by some very powerful enemies. If I can pass this night in peace, everything will be fine. But if there are indeed any traces of disturbances tonight, please do not be alarmed elder. As long as you hang up the lanterns that has the title Supreme Commander of the Yun Gui provinces emblazoned on it, and you should be not disturbed.” Zhuo Zhong Lian almost jumped out of his seat when he heard this and suddenly remembered the old escort’s repeated warnings. He told Zhuo that along their journey, he should only pretend to be a businessman of some kind but must never reveal that he is a government official for the reason that the Underground bandits enjoys robbing retired officials the most. Zhuo had always thought that this youngster was just an ordinary scholar, how could he have known that this scholar was also part of the Jianghu crowd? This youngster was neither a friend nor family member of his and he couldn’t understand what this scholar wanted with him. As Zhuo was fidgeting and faltering, Geng Shao Nan batted his eyes and rushed to say, “Since this is the case, why don’t we share each other’s dilemma and help each other through this predicament. Tonight if we support each other we will survive, but if we separate from each other we will both be exterminated. Master, you must listen and act accordingly to Wang Zhao Xi’s words. Let’s make a pact that tonight we should work as a team and help each other through tonight’s threats.”

    Wang Zhao Xi smiles slightly and said, “Certainly.” He took over the inn’s banquet hall and sat down at a purple sandalwood table before telling the innkeeper to bring him two jugs of aged Hua Diao wine. Two oil wick candles burned brightly on the table, illuminating Wang Zhao Xi as he tossed his saddle and stirrups to the corner of a wall and then turned to Geng Shao Nan to say, “Take your crowd and hide within the two rooms behind me. If I don’t tell you to, do not come out.” The old escort and Geng Shao Nan had always thought this youngster’s appearance to be very unusual, and yet little could they have guessed that he would also turn out to be so knowledgeable and experienced. They became even more mystified by him.

    The wind howls wildly while the stars and constellations shifts and realigns as the night gradually deepens and all becomes quieter, stiller. The solitary figure of Wang Zhao Xi sits within the room, concentrating all this attention to the entranceway, not moving, not stirring. Nobody from Zhuo’s group, including Zhuo Zhong Lian himself dared to go to sleep. The old escort asked, “Is he really going to sit like that until the morning?” Geng Shao Nan suddenly hisses, “Shut up! Someone’s coming.”

    Continuing to sit upright, Wang Zhao Xi lifts up the wine jug and says loudly, “Welcome. You have all travelled far.” Four burly men stepped in through the front entrance. The one leading the crowd had sharp piercing eyes with a nonchalant gaze that projects the impression of cool indifference. He said with authoritative command. “Kid, stay out of any business that doesn’t concern you. Now Scram!” Wang Zhao Xi smiles and says, “What’s wrong?” The face of the steely man clouded over and just when his anger was about to erupt, he suddenly saw the Supreme Commander’s lanterns hanging above. Shocked he said, “What are you here for? Are you not …” Wang Zhao Xi continued to say, “I’m here to escort a patron. Can I ask you to please take pity on the fact that this is my first escorting trip and spare us? Please don’t make me lose my job brothers, why don’t you guys go somewhere else to make a fortune?” The burly man released an angry “humph” and shouted, “You’ve taken us for the wrong kind of people” and with a flex of his arms, he charged into the direction of the bedrooms.

    Zhuo Zhong Lian was hiding within the room and could barely croak out the words, “that man is an Imperial bodyguard!” Imperial bodyguards were actually special agents that worked for the imperial palace[14]. The burly man’s name was Shi Hao and he was a commander of the Imperial bodyguards. When Zhuo Zhong Lian was still residing in the position of the Supreme Commander over the Yun and Gui provinces, an official under his command had committed a felony, the imperial palace sent out imperial bodyguards to transport the offender back to the capital. It was Shi Hao who was in charge of the mission at that time, which was why Zhuo knew who he was.

    Words are often slower than actions, for in a moment’s time Shi Hao has already dashed like a shooting arrow into the bedroom. Geng Shao Nan came out and blocked the way with his right arm shouting, “Who are you? How dare you disturb the revered official?” As their two arms impacted against each other, both sides were knocked back a few steps. Zhuo Zhong Lian quickly sputtered out the words, “Commander Shi, it is I, the revered Emperor’s unworthy servant. Has the Emperor brought an imperial edict detailing an order for his humble servant?” The Ming era was known for their Emperors’ tendency to inflict brutal torture and vindictive punishment on their officials. Often, they would over a very small offence use the method of “execution through measured lacerations[15]” to execute their officials. Although Zhuo Zhong Lian had just resigned his position, yet he is still worried that the Emperor would for some reason want to bring him back to the capital in order to convict him. He was so terrified that even his voice was trembling. Shi Hao concentrated his gaze and seemed to vaguely recognize Zhuo Zhong Lian, therefore he said, “So it is indeed our revered officer who rests here. Your humble servant I am in the midst of chasing after a dangerous criminal, please excuse me if I have disturbed you master.” He then smiled and continued, “Our revered Emperor misses you very much. He constantly mentions your name, saying how revered officer you are a very good official.” Only upon hearing this could Zhuo Zhong Lian’s terrified spirits settle down a little, as he hurriedly bowed and invited Shi Hao to sit down and take a drink. Shi Hao said, “Master Zhuo you are much too kind, I am not worthy. Besides, your humble servant I have a mission to complete so I dare not stay too long. Please excuse us for our bad manners Master.” Upon saying this, he signalled to the other three imperial bodyguards and retreated out of the room. Before he left, he took a good long look at Geng Shao Nan and Wang Zhao Xi, and said with a loud snicker, “Master Zhuo, these two bodyguards that you have hired are indeed very tough!”

    After Shi Hao left, Geng Shao Nan noticed that had Shi Hao left behind on the floor a number of footprints that were half an inch deep. Geng Shao Nan coldly snickered, “That lowly servant really likes to show off. How could he possibly compare with Brother Wang’s ability to put on appearances and conceal his true abilities?” Zhuo Zhong Lian calls from inside his room, “Come inside quickly lad!”

    Zhuo Zhong Lian was an experienced veteran in the sphere of governmental politics and as soon as his terror passed, he immediately realized that if the imperial bodyguards had pursued an offender from the imperial palace to here, this white horse youngster must be some kind of violent criminal. Zhuo realizes now that he’s been used as a shield by this youngster and if the Emperor was to find out about this in the future, his whole family will be in great trouble. Therefore, at this point he could no longer care about what degree or level their friendship was at, but quickly called in Geng Shao Nan and softly whispered this to him. Geng Shao Nan gave out a cold laugh and said, “This I had already realized” and before Zhuo Zhong Lian could go on any further, Geng had already rushed outside.

    Within the empty room the candles flickered around, casting shadows around the room. Wang Zhao Xi was sitting there, drinking cup after cup of wine. Geng Shao Nan’s face clouded over, as he suddenly laughed sarcastically, “Brother you really are an experienced professional of Jianghu world, your brother I can’t tell you how much admiration I have for you.” Wang Zhao Xi replied, “Brother Geng, please do not be angry. I really had no other choice.” Geng Shao Nan’s eyes flashed briefly as he suddenly struck out with his arms while saying in a low voice, “How dare you mess around with a Wu Tang disciple?” Wang Zhao Xi’s leans his shoulder slightly to the side as Geng Shao Nan reaches out his hand to impact on Wang’s chest. Wang Zhao Xi smiles slightly as his muscles immediately contracts causing Geng Shao Nan’s palm to suddenly slip over to one side. Wang Zhao Xi was still sitting calmly in his chair as if nothing had happened at all. Geng Shao Nan couldn’t help himself from becoming extremely alarmed. He had just executed one stance from the Wu Tang sect’s thirty-six formations of the grappling technique. Not only does this stance embody incredible force, but it can also be divided into two different uses by using the left hand to grasp opponents in a dead lock and then using the right hand to seal opponents’ acupoint. Wang Zhao Xi was sitting on the chair and it was unlikely that there could have been a way for him to escape. Yet how could anybody have guessed that as Geng Shao Nan’s left hand approached him, Wang’s elbow sweep it away and with the speed of lightning he dismantled Geng’s formation of the grappling technique. Wang’s right hand followed to lift up Geng Shao Nan’s right elbow, before saying in a soft whisper, “Brother Geng, let us stop fighting for the time being. A powerful opponent had already arrived. Remember: if we support each other we can survive, but if we separate from each other we will both be exterminated.” Geng Shao Nan concentrated his attention and heard that there were indeed traces of whistling sounds coming from afar. Geng’s face underwent a change of colour as he hissed, “What is this monkey business? One group just left and already another group is coming again?” Wang Zhao Xi smiled and said, “This group really will be bandits. I don’t want to conceal anything from you, the five most powerful clans of bandits in the Chuan-Shaan area will be coming here tonight.” Geng Shao Nan said angrily, “Elder Zhuo does not have much money. There’s no need for you to create such a spectacle and play the undercover agent.” Wang Zhao Xi laughed, “you think I’m a spy? They want to rob me, and not your elder Zhuo. But who knows? Maybe after they rob me they may rob you too just for the sake of it.” Geng Shao Nan could not decide whether he should believe him or not as he was thinking to himself: you have absolutely no luggage whatsoever and there’s nothing in your bare hands. What can they possibly rob from you? Wang Zhao Xi again spoke in a soft voice, “Hurry and returned to the bedrooms, immediately take down the Supreme Commander lanterns and maybe this incident won’t impinge upon your group.” Geng Shao Nan hesitated for a moment before Wang Zhao Xi stood up and whispered a few words in Geng’s ears. After hearing this, Geng automatically nodded his head and hurriedly retreated.

    After a while, the whistling noises came closer and closer. Wang Zhao Xi opened the front doors and more than ten men immediately rushed into the room. The room suddenly filled up with a crowd of tall and sturdy men. Geng Shao Nan snuck a peak and found that the three faction leaders of the Dragon-Gate Clan were also within the crowd. The old head escort was scared beyond words, his face and lips completely drained of colour as he whispered, “Sh*it! Those are the three most dangerous groups of bandits. Aside from the Dragon-Gate clan, there’s also the Fang Brothers from Dai Ba Mountain’s Black Tiger Rock and the Mai Trio from the Ding Jun Mountain!” Geng Shao Nan said dryly, “There’s still two more groups that has yet to come. Just wait around and you’ll see.”

    The head leader of Ding Jun Mountain’s Mai Trio was a man named Mai Feng Chun. He swept his eyes around the room and then cackled, “You really have a way. Now where did you hide the treasures? Did you hide them in the crooked official’s luggage? Get it out right now!” Wang Zhao Xi said loudly, “Now old bandit Mai, you’re considered a veteran in the Jianghu world, yet can you really not figure out where I put the treasures? I see you’re really not much despite whatever your fame may say about you. You need not fight and already you’ve lost a stance.” After saying this, Wang rips out into loud laughter.

    Tu Jing Xiong, the head faction-leader of the Dragon Gate Clan laughed loudly and raised a thumb in praise before saying, “My boy, you really are something. Take it out so we can all have a look and then we can be good friends.” Wang Zhao Xi slowly stood up and lifted onto the table the horse saddle that was resting along the wall corner. Rattling sounds emanated from the wooden table. Wang took out a sword and lightly swiped the saddle with it. The horse saddle was originally a very ordinary black saddle, anybody laying eyes on it would have thought that it was just a lacquer wood saddle. Who would have guessed that with that one swipe of a sword, the glow of gold would suddenly come pouring out from within? Hidden within the black metal exterior was actually hard, solid gold. On the very top of the pile was about ten round emerald-coloured diamonds commonly known as “Cats Eye.” The heap of treasures emanated a strange and beautiful glow. The Mai brothers looked at each other and couldn’t utter a single sound.

    All experienced bandits of the Underground world were known to be have the ability of ascertaining the amount of treasures hidden within a piece of luggage with just one look, and never would their guess misfire on them. The Chuan-Shaan area’s five major clans of bandits had already followed Wang Zhao Xi for several days and they observed how the dust flew out wildly wherever his horse trod, clearly indicating that it must be the result of a small but heavy cargo of treasures that Wang was carrying. Yet nobody could figure out exactly where he was hiding it because no one would have guessed that it was actually hidden within the horse saddle.

    Wang Zhao Xi laughs loudly and lifting up a stirrup, he says loudly, “We are all in the same business. I don’t want to make any enemies. Please take this stirrup as my small gift to the brothers of the Chuan-Shaan area.” The fighters of the Underground world all turned to look at each other as Mai Feng Chun growled, “You are something kid. This time we admit to defeat. Let’s go guys!” They turned around and left without taking the stirrup.

    Geng Shao Nan was watching all of this from within the room. When he heard Mai Feng Chun’s words, he let out a sigh of relief. Just as he watched Mai Feng Chun step out of the door, a strange cackling laughter coming from outside suddenly pierced the air. A shadow flashed by briefly and suddenly a pudgy old man appeared in the middle of the room, smoking on a long pipe that is releasing a trail of green smoke into the air. In a very strange voice he said, “What’s this? I haven’t even come yet and already you’re splitting the money?” Mai Feng Chun replied “Brother Shao, we’ve been defeated.” The pudgy old man pointed with his pipe and said, “Who said we were defeated? I knew all along that there was something inside his saddle. I heard everything you guys just said. I’m not a beggar, you think you can get rid of us by giving us that stirrup as if we were a charity case?! In your dreams kid!”

    From within the room Geng Shao Nan was able to observe everything very clearly. Even though he has never met this pudgy old man before, yet he could tell from his fierce intenseness that this man was the Southern Shaan area’s famed bandit[16] Shao Xuan Yang. His pipe was a very rare and unorthodox weapon. Not only can it seal a person’s pressure points but it can also serve as a Five-Element Sword. Nevertheless, Shao Xuan Yang was still considered as a famed figure within the JiangHu world. Who knew that he would also be such a shameless scoundrel?

    Wang Zhao Xi smiles lightly and said, “Old Shao, you’re considered as my elder and to present this horse saddle as a gift to you really shouldn’t be much of a problem. But unfortunately I have a friend here who won’t let me do that.” Shao Xuan Yang said, “Who is your friend? Ask him to come out and let us meet his acquaintance.” Before he could even finish his sentence, a person rushed out from the room and said, “Wu Tang’s Geng Shao Nan is please to meet the acquaintance of elders.”

    Shao Xuan Yang’s eyes slid over to look at Geng Shao Nan and said, “You’re from the Wu Tang sect? It’s a pleasure to meet you!” Shao Xuan Yang then approached Geng Shao Nan while reaching out with his hands to greet him. He suddenly tugged on Geng’s hands using only three fingers to lock Geng Shao Nan’s hand in a deadly grasp. This was an extremely deadly move that has the power to separate tendons and crush bones. Geng Shao Nan pushed upwards with his palm, and with a twist of his wrist he executed one stance in the Wu Tang sect’s palm formations called the “Three rings covering the Moon” to dismantle Shao Xuan Yang’s move. Shao Xuan Yang’s left hand suddenly pushed on Geng’s shoulders and said, “Excellent!” Geng Shao Nan took a step back and with a pat to his Elixir Field[17], his energy pulsed through in all directions as he wrapped his arms and lifted up his elbows, executing the stance, “Fisherman spreading his nets” blocking off Shao Xuan Yang’s grappling technique. Shao Xuan Yang laughed loudly and said, “You are indeed a Wu Tang disciple!”

    Geng Shao Nan had to perform two famed stances of the Wu Tang sect in order to momentarily subjugate Shao Xuan Yang. However, in terms of martial arts Shao Xuan Yang was actually more skilled than Geng Shao Nan. It was just that at this time, the Wu Tang sect was considered as the central divinity of the martial arts world, its eminence spreading afar and there was nobody within the Underground world that did not take heed of their power. Shao Xuan Yang jumped back a step and said, “I don’t understand why you would also want to a share of this muddy mess?” Geng Shao Nan replied, “ I don’t know what you’re referring to. This young man and I belong to the same team. The gold means nothing, but Wu Tang sect’s name absolutely cannot be dishonoured.” Shao Xuan Yang dryly laughed twice and said, “Wu Tang’s disciples cannot take the job of an escort, and they are not allowed to become bandits. How is it that you ended up on the same side as him?” Geng Shao Nan replied, “All business of the JiangHu world can be anybody’s business. You’re ganging up upon a man to rob him. I’m acting out because I detest the way you act!” Shao Xuan Yang laughed and said, “Did your ShiFu tell you to come here and stick your nose into other people’s business? Why did he only send you?” Geng Shao Nan said, “If I happen to encounter injustice, I will naturally act out in order to help. Why would I need my teacher’s permission?” Wang Zhao Xi hastily batted his eyes at Geng Shao Nan before Geng finally understood and quickly added, “All second generation disciples of the Wu Tang sect have gathered here in Shaan-Xi, we were hoping to get the chance to meet such famed figures of the martial arts world such as yourself.” Shao Xuan Yang was alarmed, he originally thought that if Geng Shao Nan was by himself, he would just finish him off and thus eradicate all evidence right now and start worrying about the consequences later. But now hearing that the second generation of the Wu Tang disciples had all gathered together here, he imagined that there must be a big crowd of people. No matter how steely Shao Xuan Yang’s guts may be, he would never dare meddle with the heroes of Wu Tang. Therefore, he quickly retracted his pipe and said with a big smile, “There’s no need to be so upset. Since this man is your friend, how can we not do you this favour?”

    Geng Shao Nan’s expression visibly relaxed as he unconsciously used his sleeve to wipe the sweat off from his forehead. After exchanging only two stances with this man, Geng already knew that he could not defeat him. It was only through using the prominent fame of the Wu Tang sect was Geng able to scare this man off. However, he was not completely lying when he said that the Wu Tang disciples had all planned to gather together here, as the Taoist Priest Purple Sun had indeed sent four disciples to Shaan-Xi area to complete various missions and including him there would be five people. The only problem was, they did not intend to meet up together.

    Shao Xuan Yang caught Geng in the act of wiping his forehead with his sleeve and immediately stopped in his tracks as his eyes flared up. Wang Zhao Xi silently uttered a cry of dismay to himself. Shao Xuan Yang suddenly released three loud laughs and said loudly, “Brother Gui, you have come just at the right time. Listen to this kid’s words and tell me, do you think he’s lying?” Suddenly a gust of strong wind came into the room and left the room’s candles flickering wildly, threatening to be extinguished. A tall and sturdy red-faced old man suddenly appeared outside, descending from above and loudly laughed, “There are indeed four men who were captured by somebody else. Since others have the guts to mess with Wu Tang, why can’t we? This kid’s here by himself, if we kill him all we need to do is to just throw him out to the crowd of hungry wolves in the mountains. Even if the Wu Tang Five Elders come and find his corpse, this murder will still not be linked to us. There would be someone else to take the blame for us.” Geng Shao Nan couldn’t stop himself from being secretly alarmed as judging from this old man’s appearance, he must be Eastern Chuan[18]’s famed bandit the Eagle Clawed King, Gui You Zhang. But how did he know that Wu Tang’s four men had arrived here and who could have had the ability to capture them all?

    Shao Xuan Yang was simultaneously alarmed as he exclaims with bewilderment, “Brother Gui, are you saying that it was the Demoness’s work? Is this also her territory as well?” Gui You Zhang replied, “What are you being so chicken for? We are the clan of bandits that rules over the Chuan-Shaan area. How can we allow not only a youngster, but a young girl to squash us?” Even though he was speaking, his movements were not at all impeded and with a slight twitch of his shoulder he extended his hands that were as large as a quill-fan to execute a deadly grasp. Geng Shao Nan observed how red his palms were and dared not intercept this move. He moved back a step and kicked off with his right feet aiming for the “white-cloth” acupoint on Gui’s legs. Gui You Zhang emanated a strange cackle and dashed off to the side before extending the five fingers on his right hand that now glinted menacingly like hooks, grasping in the direction of Geng Shao Nan’s ankle.

    Geng Shao Nan’s body flitted to a side, yet Gui You Zhang’s pair of large hands continues to execute his moves one after the other. Geng Shao Nan can only continually retreat, silently cursing Wang Zhao Xi for not lending out a helping hand. The force of power that emanated from Gui You Zhang’s palms were extremely forceful and Geng Shao Nan had already been forced into the corner of the wall with no place to go. Just as Gui You Zhang was about to execute his final obliterating move on Geng, Wang Zhao Xi’s voice was suddenly heard as he coldly remarks, “If you guys want my horse saddle, that’s not a problem. But have you men asked for Yu Luo Cha’s[19] permission yet?” Shao Xuan Yang, the Feng Brothers and the Mai Trio presently had Wang surrounded, but when they heard these words, they suddenly became terrified. Shao Xuan Yang jumped out of the circle and approached Wang asking, “What do you mean by Yu Luo Cha?” Wang Zhao Xi replies, “The clans of the underground world would rather rob a thousand families rather than steal somebody else’s small gift. This pile of treasures is somebody else’s present to Yu Luo Cha. Do you really want one Black societal clan to demolish another clan?” Shao Xuan Yang’s face blanched a pale white as he shrilly shouts, “Brother! Stop now!” With a twist of his body, Gui You Zhang had returned to the centre and angrily shouted, “Kid, do you think you can scare us by bringing out Yu Luo Cha’s name?” Wang Zhao Xi replied, “Who’s scaring you?” and flipped over the horse saddle. Etched on the back were the words, “Presented to Madam Lian Ni Shang with our utmost respects.” Wang Zhao Xi said, “You all know that I didn’t etch these words onto the saddle just now.” Shao Xuan Yang pulled Gui You Zhang to the side and whispered, “Brother Gui, it’s safer to believe rather than to question his words. Your worthless brother I would like to make a suggestion, why don’t we just let the kid go?” Gui You Zhang gave out a snort of disgust and thought silently to himself for a while. The Mai trio and Dragon-Gate’s three faction leaders all gathered around Gui You Zhang as well. Only the Feng brothers were left in the middle of the room to watch over Wang.

    Geng Shao Nan was standing amongst the middle of the room, shocked and baffled. He thought to himself silently, “Who is Yu Luo Cha? I’ve never heard this name before, why would this clan of bandits be so terrified of her?”

    After a while, Gui You Zhang suddenly lifted his hand and with a flash of his eyes, he said with hard determination, “So what if it is Yu Luo Cha’s? Even if it is Yu Luo Cha’s, we will still take it!” Shao Xuan Yang jumped up and stuttered, “Brother … Brother …” Gui You Zhang brought his hand down on the sandalwood table, chipping off the corner of the table and said loudly, “During the last year we have taken enough of this little doll’s crap. We might as well take this opportunity to go out to have a good battle with her.” Shao Xuan Yang stepped back and trembled, “But … But …” Gui You Zhang severed reprimanded him, “And you call yourself a man? Look at how terrified you look. They say she’s powerful, but we’ve only heard of her powers and have never witnessed them with our own eyes. Hey! If you guys have any guts, then follow me. Today I am determined to take this kid’s horse saddle.” The Mai Trio and the Dragon-Gate’s three Faction leaders all stepped back and did not dare to stir. Only the Feng brothers said, “We are willing to follow Brother Gui’s commands.” Gui You Zhang diverted his eyes to Shao Xuan Yang and bitterly said, “I can’t believe that a few decades of brotherhood bond can only be this strong. Fine! Forget that we’ve ever met!” Shao Xuan Yang smiled sadly, “If Brother you are determined to go, your unworthy brother can only listen to you and be at your command.” Gui You Zhang unleashed a lion-like roar and extended his grasp towards Wang despite the table situated between them. Wang Zhao Xi’s body flitted to one side, escaping his attack. The Feng brothers flanked him from the left and right sides, yet Wang Zhao Xi’s body glides around as he executes the stance “Left-Right Extending the bow” and blocked off the Feng brothers. Gui You Zhang flicked his wrist and raised his middle and index fingers to suddenly strike out at Wang Zhao Xi’s eyes. Wang Zhao Xi warded off the stab with a “Phoenix Dipping her Head” and jumped off to a side, laughing coldly, “Old Gui, you’ve fallen into my “attack hindrance” trap! If you want to take the saddle you better hurry up and take it now, otherwise it’ll be too late! Listen! What sound do you hear outside?” Gui You Zhang concentrated his attention to the noises of the time gong clanging five times, announcing the time. The long night passes by quickly. It was already the fifth hour. Wang Zhao Xi laughed and said, “Do you hear the time? It’s Five! Yu Luo Cha will be here momentarily. Old Gui, if you don’t stop now you’ll die without even a decent burial spot!” Gui You Zhang angrily shouted, “You’re just trying to kill more time. Let me send you to hell first!” and with a forceful palm, he brought it down upon Wang’s head.

    Wang Zhao Xi moved with the speed of thunder while laughing heartily all the while, and with two sweeping movements he extinguished the oil-wick lamp that was lighting up the room. The room suddenly becomes a mass of darkness. Geng Shao Nan backed up and hugged the walls, not daring to even breathe. Even though the large crowd of bandits far outnumbered Wang and Geng, yet during this moment of darkness nobody dared to move. Gui You Zhang listened silently, concentrating, and just at the moment when he decided to attack he suddenly heard a sound of crystal clear laughter. The laughter originally sounded very far, but in the split of a second it has already arrived outside the door. Suddenly everyone’s eyes lighted up as a troop of beautiful young women entered in the room. There were four girls leading the pack, each carrying lanterns made of jade coloured silk. There were four more girls standing at the rear of the crowd, four girls in total were on the left and four stood on the right side, surrounding a girl in the middle. This young girl was as beautiful as a heavenly immortal, wearing an almond coloured dress with a white sash tied to her waist. Her expression invoked the aura of the autumn springs, her eyebrows were so long and elegant, they extended into her hairline. Bearing an astounding smile, she entered into the room one step at a time. The clan of bandits within the room all froze over as if they had suddenly been transformed into wooden dolls, a few of them changed the colour of aged dust, shrinking against one side not daring to move a single muscle.

    Wang Zhao Xi exclaimed with delight, “Heroine Lian, my father delivers his utmost respects, asking that elder you are well.” The young girl nods her head slightly and replied, “That is kind of him.” Wang Zhao Xi said, “Father told me to bring this horse saddle to you, but they …” The young girl lowered her brow as she smiled and said, “I already knew about the purpose of your trip. Are these men interested in the horse saddle?” She surveyed the room with the eye of a phoenix, Shao Xuan Yang hurriedly exclaimed, “I didn’t know this saddle belonged to you elder.” Geng Shao Nan laughed to himself silently, thinking that judging from looks this girl was merely around twenty years of age whereas Shao Xuan Yang was already an old man. He found it pure ludicrousness to see Shao actually call a young girl “elder”.

    The young girl raised her eyebrows and said with a chilling laugh, “Those who didn’t know cannot be blamed. Leave this mountain now.” She paused for a while before saying with a laugh, “Old Gui, you’re here as well? I still haven’t received any tributes from you this month. Have you forgotten about it?” Gui You Zhang slowed his breathing and calmed down a little before suddenly shrieking out, “Yu Luo Cha, others may be scared of you. But I’m not. This isn’t your territory! That horse saddle is mine! What are you going to do about it?” With the speed of an arrow, he rushed towards her. The young girl whom they called Yu Luo Cha calmly asked, “Is there anybody else who wants a share of this horse saddle?” The Mai Trio and the three faction leaders from the Dragon-Gate clan all shrivelled up against a corner and stammered, “We dare not!” Shao Xuan Yang was as pale as a ghost and just stood there trembling, unable to utter a single sound. The Fang brothers were standing behind Gui You Zhang, they remained silent. Yu Luo Cha gave out a long laugh and said, “Old Gui, Who needs you to be afraid of me?” Gui You Zhang had just arrived in front of Yu Luo Cha as he extended those quill-fan sized hands of his into a grasp. Yu Luo Cha did not even seem to acknowledge his presence, and by the time Gui You Zhang clamped down she had already disappeared. Before Gui You Zhang can even begin to retreat, it had already become too late. A searing pain erupted in his back and he fell to the floor. The Fang brothers weren’t even able to register anything before Yu Luo Cha also sent out a palm to each one of them. They fell to the floor, rolling back and forth, screaming wildly in pain.

    Yu Luo Cha had consecutively executed three deadly moves with the speed of a lighting bolt. Yet despite having just sent three powerful bandits sprawling across the floor, she remains composed and unruffled, smiling all the while as if nothing had happened. All of the bandits in the room were dumbfounded into a complete state of respect and submission. Yu Luo Cha turns to the Mai Trio and the faction leaders of the Dragon-Gate Clan saying, “This has nothing to do with all of you. Now get up!” Shao Xuan Yang continues to beg for mercy, but Yu Luo Cha only continues to wear her chilling smile and does not reply.

    Among the three people lying on the floor, Gui Yao Zhang’s martial arts was the most proficient. Therefore when he was hit, he generated his inner energy to withstand the pain, which was why initially he wasn’t shrieking in pain like the Fang brothers. But little did he know that as soon as he started generating his inner energies, it was like millions of poisonous snakes were coursing through his body and biting chunks out of his flesh. All his vital organs were shaken up and traumatized. Even though he wanted to scream out in pain, he couldn’t. The bystanders watched how emissions of heat waves started to radiate from the top of his head and sweat beads the size of beans emanated one drop after another. The muscles of his face were severely contorting with pain, completely warping his face. It was indeed a most excruciating method of torment.

    The Fang brothers pleaded, “We beg of you elder. Please have mercy on us and kill us quickly!” Gui You Zhang’s widened his eyes in agreement although he wasn’t unable to utter a single sound. Yu Luo Cha smiles and said, “Fang brothers, since you guys were just accomplices, I can therefore lighten your sentence and relieve you of your suffering.” She jumped up and with a flex of her slender legs unleashed a flying kick to each man. They both screamed out in pain and then laid unmoving on the ground. Geng Shao Nan was horrified. He couldn’t believe that such a beautiful young girl could actually turn out to be such a cruel killer.

    After Yu Luo Cha had finished off the Fang brothers, she turned to Shao Xuan Yang and beckoned with her hands saying, “Come over here!” Shao Xuan Yang held on to the wall for support with both his hands and approached Yu Luo Cha one step at time, his body trembling all over during every step of the way. Yu Lou Sha says to him gently, “You and Old Gui have been friends for more than ten years now and are as close as brothers right?” Shao Xuan Yang’s heart was pounding so hard he thought it was going to burst as he hurriedly said, “Heroine! You are a most fair judge. You must know that this has nothing to do with me.” Yu Luo Cha’s face suddenly clouded over as she said in a severe tone, “And you call yourself an experienced veteran bandit. You don’t even know about the taboos of being a bandit! And you have absolutely no observational ability. I can’t believe you still hang around the Underground world and dare to crown yourself ruler and lord. Look at him, he’s a solitary youngster carrying a bunch of precious jewels, do you think he would dare to do such a thing if he did not have a powerful backup? I’ll be honest with you, if he didn’t offer these jewels to me as a gift, even I wouldn’t dare rob him. How much do you know about his background? You don’t even check him out carefully and already you listen to other people’s commands to gather around together and rob him en masse? You are absolutely blind!” As Shao Xuan Yang listened Yu Luo Cha’s scolding words become more and more severe and her attitude becoming more and more angry, his heart actually became more and more calm. After she finished her angry lecture, he had already completely calmed down. He knows what Yu Luo Cha’s temper was like, if she treats you in a sweet and gentle manner after something significant has happened, her next step would undoubtedly be to execute some kind of malicious and lethal move. But if she very severely lectures you, then she most likely won’t do much to you. After she finishes scolding him, Shao Xuan Yang spreads open his left and right arms and slapped himself hard twice before saying loudly, “I am blind! I have no right to be a bandit anymore. I await elder’s lecture and reprimanding.” Yu Lou Sha crossly says, “Since you admit to your wrong doings, I will relieve you of your punishments. Come over here now and kill your brother.” Shao Xuan Yang’s face paled. Gui You Zhang was nevertheless his good brother for many years, how could he possibly execute the act? Gui You Zhang was still rolling around on the floor, gradually rolling over to Shao Xuan Yang’s side. There was a painful look in his pleading eyes that seems to be begging Shao to kill him off right away.

    Geng Shao Nan couldn’t stand it anymore as he suddenly stepped out and said in a loud voice, “Gui You Zhang is indeed a malevolent villain, you can kill him and nobody would say that you are doing the wrong thing because you would only be eradicating a bully in the Underground world. But telling the brothers to kill each other – that is not the style of the good orthodox sects.” Yu Luo Cha’s face suddenly changed colour as she continued to smile and say, “Which sect are you from?” Geng Shao Nan said arrogantly, “I am the second generation disciple of the Wu Tang sect!” Yu Luo Cha said, “Oh … so it’s the Wu Tang sect. A honour indeed.” An expression like the waves of the autumn springs passed over her face as she suddenly said, “Shao Xuan Yang, I was just testing the nature of your conscience and character. Though you are part of Gui You Zhang’s group, yet you’re not as riotous and unruly as he is. When I told you to kill him, you didn’t just follow my orders and killed a friend in order to protect yourself. Alright, because of these two things, I will spare you from any punishment” and in the space between uttering these words, she kicked out with her slim legs and with a light tap, ended Gui You Zhang’s life.

    During the midst of Yu Luo Cha’s light conversation and dazzling smiles, she had already annihilated three powerful bandits. She signalled with her hands and said, “All of you, go and wait for me at the Ding Jun mountain.” With a smile she pointed to Geng Shao Nan and said, “Where are you going? Wanted to go back and protect your Master Zhuo? Take your Master Zhuo and his luggage, then follow me to the mountain as well.”

    Geng Shao Nan was taken back as he thought to himself, who does this Yu Luo Cha think she is? How dare she hassle our Wu Tang sect as well? It should be known that the Wu Tang sect was claimed as the centre divinity of the martial arts world therefore many disciples within the sect would undoubtedly cultivate a very arrogant and haughty attitude, especially Geng Shao Nan. But observing at how incredibly vicious Yu Luo Cha’s methods were, he was afraid that he would not be her match. Yet though he knew that he must obey her orders, he wasn’t able to forsake his pride. Just as he was hesitating, he suddenly saw Wang Zhao Xi gave him a look as he said, “Brother Geng also holds Heroine Lian you in extreme reverence. All along the journey he said to me that he hopes he could get the chance to show reverence to senior you!” Geng Shao Nan knew that Wang Zhao Xi was worried that he will act impetuously and thus get himself into great trouble, which was why he was trying to say a few good words on his behalf. Though Geng was displeased about this, yet he was nevertheless grateful for Wang’s efforts as he thought to himself: a true man should not allow himself to fall into an evident trap. I’ll follow her for now and see what she dares to do. If I don’t give her some face this time, she might then rob the Zhuo family and I would then have done a disservice to my fellow martial art brother. Fighting with her will at least allow me to pay back tonight’s humiliation.

    Geng Shao Nan then returned to the bedroom and told Zhuo Zhong Lian about Yu Luo Cha’s orders. The old head escort had been observing through the crack in the door all along, scared out of his wits. While still shaking, he hurriedly tried to convince Zhuo Zhong Lian to abide by her words. Zhuo Zhong Lian was a relatively forgiving and magnanimous person, therefore he only sighed and said “as long as she spares our lives, then let them take these materialistic things.”

    After a whole night of commotion, traces of the dawn’s early morning rays were already beginning to appear in the skies. Yu Luo Cha along with the eight young girls commanded the crowd of bandits to bring the Zhuo family’s luggage up to Ding Jun Mountain, a branch belonging to the Dai Ba Mountain. The watch stations on the mountain were all equipped with tight security. All along the trail, from the foot of the mountain to the very peak, Yu Luo Cha’s female bandits were there to welcome them. Women of the South typically carries a sort of masculine flair to them and after being trained by Yu Luo Cha, they even more greatly exemplified an ideal balance between masculine toughness and curvaceous femininity. They truly epitomized a powerful and orderly Female Troop. Wang Zhao Xi couldn’t help himself from being truly impressed by them as he thought to himself, “these women are much more stronger than my father’s troops.”

    As they arrived at the mountain fortress, Yu Luo Cha commanded her servants to direct the Zhuo family to the biggest guest room and bring their luggage towards the back of the fortress. Wang Zhao Xi was shown to another guest inn. After Yu Luo Cha left, Geng Shao Nan asked the head escort softly, “Old escort, you have been an escort within the Southwest area for a long time, exactly who is this Yu Luo Cha?” The old escort replied, “This Yu Luo Cha is a female bandit that has become a powerful figure during the last two years. Her name is Lian Ni Shang. Nobody knows about her history, where she came from and where she learned her incredible martial art skills. Legend has it that she made her first appearance two years ago and used her two palms and the solitary sword in her hand to consecutively beat 18 powerful bandits. When she was battling these bandits, Li Er Fu, the famed fighter of the Western Shaan area was there watching the fight and he said afterwards that Yu Luo Cha’s sword and palm skills belonged to a completely different realm than the style of the other major sects. The mystifying and malicious nature of her skills was nothing like he has ever seen before. He also said that within ten years, the world’s number one fighter would have to give way to this young doll.” Geng Shao Nan gave a snort of disgust and the old escort immediately stopped talking as he realized that his words were out of place. During the last ten years, everybody knew that it was Wu Tang’s sect’s Purple Sun Taoist Priest who was the number one fighter in the martial arts world. If Li Er Fu’s words were correct, then that would mean that Wu Tang’s leader status within the martial arts world would be unstable? Thus the old escort nervously laughed and immediately said, “Though old hero Li is a much respected and famed figure with worldly experience, but it is obvious that he has exaggerated Yu Luo Cha’s abilities. Your Wu Tang sect’s Nine Palace Heavenly Palms and the 72 styles of the Sequential Chain-linking Swords are the epitome of the authentic and orthodox martial arts. How can these debauched and unorthodox palm or sword tricks ever compare?” Hearing these words Geng Shao Nan finally gave out a laugh of relief, his discontent having been greatly mitigated.

    Geng Shao Nan and the rest of his group remained in their rooms for the whole day, nobody daring to take a single unauthorized step. When night came around, two female bandits suddenly came in and said, “Our fortress master would like to invite Master Zhuo and Hero Geng to come and attend the banquet.”

    The mountain fortress was brightly lit and there were two tables filled with food and drinks. Aside from the young girl called Yu Luo Cha who was sitting uprightly and looking as beautiful as the heavenly immortals, the rest of the guests were all rough and masculine looking men, all were great bandits of the Underground world. The bandits that the Zhuo crowd encountered along the road such as the “Xi-Chuan Two Terrors”, “Mountain Roaming Tiger” Zhuo Tong and “Fire Spirit Monkey” Zhu Bao Chun were also included in the feast. Around the tables stood 12 young female attendants pouring wine, presenting the dishes and keeping watch – they were all female bandits that belonged to the fortress. Amongst the crowd of coarse and burly men there interspersed smartly groomed, elegant and tidy females. The two genders facing and contrasting against each other presented an amusing sight indeed. The Underground bandits were all as still as winter cicadas, acting terrified and nervous like a timid girl. Whereas the group of young women were all brave, self-assured, distinguished and outstanding. As they surveyed the crowd of bandits with an amused smile playing around their lips, it further brought out their noble beauty. Geng Shao Nan thought to himself: the women were commanding, the men were effeminate. This was indeed the strangest banquet in the world. Yet nevertheless, secretly within his heart he couldn’t help but be truly impressed by Yu Luo Cha.

    After three round of drinks, Yu Luo Cha stood up and made a sweeping motion with her hands before commanding, “bring out lord Wang’s presents!” Immediately female attendants brought up five basins made of gold, each one covered with a red cloth. Yu Luo Cha revealed the contents within the two basins on her left hand side. Zhuo Zhong Lian unleashed a scream of terror when he saw that sitting within the basins were two severed human heads, dripping with blood. Yu Luo Cha smiles slightly and turns to Wang Zhao Xi to say, “This is what your father wants.” Then she unveiled the remaining three basins to reveal that within them were also three bloody heads. Yu Luo Cha took out each one of the heads and displayed them around for all to see, smiling faintly once again and said, “These three people dared to show disrespect to lord Wang you, therefore I decided to take their heads and present them to you as a small gift. There was still one more accomplice who has been severely punished, I’m sure that he would not dare to bother young master you again.” Zhuo Zhong Lian having seen the last three decapitated heads became even more terrified as the three heads were actually last night’s three imperial bodyguards that were commanded by Shi Hao. Never could he have guessed that within the span of a night, they would have all have died under Yu Luo Cha’s hands.

    Wang Zhao Xi also stood up and with a bow he said, “I am most grateful for such valued gifts. However, at the present moment I have no intentions of returning home.” Yu Luo Cha replied, “I know that you must have other things to attend to and will have a long journey ahead of you. Naturally I would not bother you with such a small gift, I will command someone to deliver it to your father along with the alliance treaty,” Wang Zhao Xi expressed his gratitude in reply. Yu Luo Cha turned to the crowd of bandits and smiled, “You guys can be said to have become acquaintances through a good fight. Let me now resolve this conflict for you guys. His father is Northern Shaan’s Wang Jia Yin.” The crowd of bandits all gave out forced laughter and said, “Oh! Then it was truly stupid of us! It’s like the river that floods the Dragon-King’s temple[20]! We were fighting our own people! If we knew that this was Brother Wang, we most definitely would not have dared to trail and touch him!”

    Wang Jia Yin was actually the renowned head of the bandits in the Northern Shaan area. Under his command was a crowd of famed bandits, including Gao Ying Xiang, Wang Zuo Gua, Mountain-Soaring Tiger[21], Crimson Wolf and the likes. Although Wang’s power was securely backed up and his name was renowned and feared, yet he was never able to extend his power beyond Southern Shaan area. During the Ming dynasty’s Wan Li era of reign, there were thirteen major clans of bandits belonging to the Western Shaan area and they were all rivalling against each other. This Wang Jia Yin had quite ambitious goals and ideals, therefore after he became sworn brothers with Northern Shaan’s famed bandit Gao Ying Xiang, within ten years of time he has already become the master of bandits within the Northern Shaan area. He strategized to unite all the bandits within the whole Shaan area hoping that together, they can do something truly shocking. But the bandits of the Mid-Shaan and Southern Shaan areas would not listen to his commands. During the last two years Yu Luo Cha established her name amongst the bandits in the Southern Shaan area and two big rivals of Wang Jia Yin were also active in Southern Shaan. Therefore Wang Jia Yin gathered together valuable presents and told his son Wang Zhao Xi to personally travel to the Southern Shaan area to contact Yu Luo Cha. According to the rules of the Underground world, the boundaries of territories have to be strictly respected. Therefore Wang Zhao Xi must not take too many people along with him on this mission and could only travel into the dangerous zones by himself. Yet little could he have guessed that the imperial bodyguards dispersed throughout the various provinces were actually very competent, for as soon as Wang Zhao Xi took off they immediately sent out Shi Hao and his troop, these four skilled fighters to secretly trail after him. At the same time, the Chuan-Shaan area’s five major clans of bandits were all after the treasures Wang was carrying and therefore they also secretly trailed along.

    After Geng Shao Nan heard about Wang Zhao Xi’s background, he started to silently curse to himself: This scoundrel has actually set a meeting with Yu Luo Cha all along. How dare he use my Wu Tang sect’s great name to help him ward off the pursuers until Yu Luo Cha arrives? Now it’s caused both me and the Zhuo family to become this wench’s prisoners.

    Yu Luo Cha paused briefly before raising her cup of wine and saying, “From now on, the whole of the Underground clans will be like a big family. I have already made an alliance pact with Brother Wang. We hope that you can all join us, and from now on we will all look out for each other. If nobody has any objections to this, then empty your glasses with me” and with a big gulp, Yu Luo Cha emptied her whole glass. How could any of the bandits at the banquet dare not to follow her orders? They all got up and lifted their glasses to each other. Yu Luo Cha gave out a hearty laugh before gesturing to a female attendant and spoke a few words to her. The female bandit went inside and after a while she brought out four people. Geng Shao Nan was startled when he saw them, for the four men were his four fellow martial art brothers who were in the Shaan area to complete their missions as according to the command of their elder. Why would they suddenly appear here in the fortress? Can it really be as Gui You Zhang said, that they were abducted by Yu Luo Cha? Yet the situation does not seem to be so. Yu Luo Cha made a motion with her hands and a table set up with a whole feast was brought out from inside. Yu Luo Cha asked the four men to sit down then took up a cup of wine and approached Geng Shao Nan with a dazzling smile and graciously said, “Why don’t we go sit over at that table so that I can get a chance to make a closer acquaintance with Wu Tang sect’s distinguished masters?” A pang of fear suddenly struck Geng Shao Nan’s heart, yet he still couldn’t help but notice how charming her smile was. He thought to himself that considering Wu Tang sect’s great fame and status, it is only natural that everybody will respect and admire them. Although this female bandit was indeed cruel and vicious, yet undoubtedly she must hold our sect’s disciples in great respect and fear. Now she’s purposely venerating us in order to express her desire to make acquaintances with us. Having thought of this, he noticed how Yu Luo Cha’s smile was becoming sweeter and sweeter by the moment, and couldn’t stop himself from being completely dazzled and struck by it, increasingly believing that his predictions must be absolutely correct.

    Having sat awhile, Geng Shao Nan started to greet his fellow sect members, but he found them all to be extremely cautious. Not only did they not dare to freely converse, but there was even one or two who continued to wear a bitter and forced smile on their faces. Geng Shao Nan had absolutely no idea why they were acting so strange. After a while, Yu Luo Cha commanded another female bandit to come forward as she spoke a few words to her. Geng Shao Nan didn’t know what she was up to now and could therefore only hold his breath in anticipation. Yu Luo Cha after having toasted the crowd a few more times have already started to feel the effects of the alcohol. Her almond shaped face flushed a most beautiful shade, much resembling the clouds that are composed of the various hues of radiance, making her even more beautiful and stunning. Suddenly from the back of the fortress came noises of vehicles’ moving. A few dozen attendants brought out the Zhuo family’s carts of luggage then lined them all up. Yu Luo Cha suddenly got up and said in a clear voice, “Official Zhuo, I’d like to settle some scores with you.” Struck with terror, Zhuo Zhong Lian immediately sputtered out, “I would like to beg fortress master to please accept these meagre coins as my gift to you. There are still some humble property left in my family and we need not rely on this governmental salary.” Yu Luo Cha’s countenance clouded over as she loudly said, “I, Lian Ni Shang may be a bandit, but I have my own principles. You can ask the people here tonight whether Lian Ni Shang has ever taken anybody’s money without good reason. If they are good officials, I will never touch their money. But if they are corrupt officials? Ha! Then I’m afraid I’ll have to be a nuisance to them as not only will I take their money, but I will take their heads as well. Do you hear what I’m saying?” Zhuo Zhong Lian was so terrified that a sweat broke out all over a body that was already shaking uncontrollably as he thought to himself, “It’s over, it’s all over. I can’t believe that my old life would be ending here.”

    After Yu Luo Cha finished reprimanding Zhuo, she then slowly said, “Listen Zhuo Zhong Lian, you have been an official for more than ten years. During this time you have received a total of seventy-six thousand and seven hundred taels from your attendants and the various wealthy lords of different areas. This is considered as unmerited and unearned wealth, I will take it all away from you. As for the discounts you got from your daily expenses, they add up to thirty two thousand and five hundred taels. Although this sum is a result of the governmental regulations, yet it is still taken from the ordinary citizen, I will also be deducting his sum away from you and will return it to the common people on your behalf. Finally, you also have sixteen thousand and eight hundred taels remaining. This is your deserved earnings so I will return this to you. You have been an official for more than ten years now and have amassed an unmerited fortune of more than tens of thousands of taels. You can’t be considered as a just or honest official, yet you don’t necessarily qualify as a corrupt official. You can only be considered as a high official who conventionally follows the rules. I’ve finished with you now, do you think you’ve been wronged in any way?” Zhuo Zhong Lian was still shaken, but nevertheless, he was still very glad. Surprisingly, Yu Luo Cha was able to calculate the wealth of governmental officials with such an alarming accuracy that it was as if she was merely counting her own wealth. Nobody could figure out exactly where she could have procured this information. After Yu Luo Cha had finished taking care of business, she sat down next to Geng Shao Nan and flashed yet another dazzling smile, saying “My most respected senior of the Wu Tang sect, if this little girl did not handle that incident very well due to her young age and lack of experience, please do tell me.” Geng Shao Nan was indeed very impressed by her actions as he raised his thumb and said “No wonder Heroine Lian can command and dominate the Underground world. You are indeed very just – punishing and rewarding with impartial objectivity, it indeed gives everyone good cause for true respect.”

    Yu Luo Cha brought out a fresh round of warm wine and engaged in light conversation with Geng Shao Nan, her smile still as pretty was ever. By that time, Geng Shao Nan was already beginning to feel the effects of the wine, and he only felt that Yu Luo Cha seems to be exhaling gusts of sweet aroma, striking to the core of one’s heart. He couldn’t help but think to himself: this Yu Luo Cha is really very likeable, it’s too bad that despite being the beauty of her era, she is actually willing to become a bandit. If she could only change her ways and return to the good path, the number of young heroes and swordsmen who would fall under her charms would be un-calculable. His ears were warming up from the sweet wine as he suddenly asked, “Heroine Lian’s martial arts far exceeds the ability of the crowds, may I ask who your teacher is? If Geng Shao Nan can ever have the chance to exchange a few tips with heroine you, that would be most wonderful indeed. It is too bad that though red flowers and green leaves both originate from one class, yet a spoiled tangerine and fresh tangerine are nevertheless at two completely different poles, sweet and sour will always be different[22]. I’m afraid that there wouldn’t be such a chance in the future!” His words expressed two messages – one being his intentions of confessing admiration for Yu Luo Cha, and on another hand he was also expressing feelings of disappointment and pity by pointing to Yu Luo Cha as the “spoiled tangerine of the foreign land.” What was originally a pretty good idea suddenly turned incredibly and terribly bad. Upon hearing Geng’s offensive words, Wang Zhao Xi immediately spoke out saying, “Brother Geng must have drank too much. Don’t drink any more brother.” Geng Shao Nan shook his head, slightly swaggering and insisted, “I’m not drunk! Who said I was drunk?” Yu Luo Cha’s face had already undergone a change of colour, yet her smile continued to be as beautiful as the blooming flowers. She raises her cup and said, “Hero Geng’s words are too kind. I am a father-less and mother-less wild child, these few stances of unremarkable abilities is just something I learned by myself. How could it possibly compare with the disciples of the great famed sects and their orthodox martial arts?” She ran her exquisite hand lightly through her beautiful hair before continuing, “I would also like to find a chance to ask Hero Geng for some advice on martial arts, but there will be plenty of chances. There’s no need to be impatient Hero Geng.” After saying this, she sat down and swept her eyes over Geng Shao Nan, her smile becoming sweeter and sweeter by the moment. Goosebumps erupted all over Wang Zhao Xi’s body as he secret condemned Geng Shao Nan not only because he was such an idiot, but because he didn’t even realize that he was acting like such an idiot. Wang quickly stood up and said, “Thank you very much fortress master for this wonderful banquet. Brother Geng is drunk and I myself not being a very good drinker am also starting to feel its effects. We would like to retreat, please kindly excuse us fortress master.” Yu Luo Cha’s face clouded over with an expression of discontent as she said coldly, “You really are very kind towards him.” Wang Zhao Xi gathered his courage and softly replied, “Brother Geng and I are merely strangers, but along the trip he has helped me ward off a crowd of enemies and treated me as a friend. Therefore I also want to treat him as a friend.” Yu Luo Cha murmured an “oh” in acknowledgement and then waved her hands announcing, “The banquet is over” before whispering to Geng Shao Nan, “Tomorrow at sunrise, please meet me at canyon near the foot of the mountain. Hero Geng, I hope you will not forget this.” Geng Shao Nan’s face filled with delighted elation and his eyebrows were raised so high, they almost reached the top of his forehead as he excitingly repeats, “How can I possibly dare to forget fortress master’s orders?” Yu Luo Cha ordered her attendants to clear away the tables and to personally see Geng Shao Nan, Wang Zhao Xi and the other four Wu Tang disciples to their separate rooms. Therefore, although Wang Zhao Xi wanted to say a few more words to Geng in secret, he was in the end prevented.

    During daybreak of the second day, Geng Shao Nan was still not over the effects of the alcohol. A female attendant came to wake him up and said, “Hero Geng, our fortress master has a meeting with you.” Geng Shao Nan quickly got up and hastily cleaned himself up before following the female attendant down the mountain, entering into the narrow valley that lies at the bottom of the two peaks. He was surprised to see that his four fellow sect members were also waiting there. Wang Zhao Xi was sitting on one side and even Zhuo Zhong Lian was there, sitting on the top of a gigantic boulder and accompanied by two female attendants. Yu Luo Cha appeared from behind a cluster of rocks. She was wearing her dazzling smile again. Her hair was tied by golden rings and a long sword was tied to her waist, fully emphasizing her elegance that exceeds the mortal crowd. Observing such a strange situation, Geng Shao Nan was perplexed and baffled.

    Geng Shao Nan was full of questions as he had originally thought that Yu Luo Cha was intending to meet with him on a private basis, but never could he have guessed that she would ask a whole crowd to come as well. Yu Luo Cha approached with light steps, her clothes lightly billowing in the wind as she slowly said, “Good morning Hero Geng. Did you sleep very well last night?” The tone of her voice seemed to be incredibly concerned. Geng Shao Nan blushed and shyly said, “Yes.” Yu Luo Cha laughed and said, “I was so worried that you didn’t get a good night’s sleep last night, because tonight you won’t be getting a good sleep and so if you didn’t sleep well last night either, then you poor thing that would really be a shame.” Geng Shao Nan was confused as he thought to himself: how can she possibly ascertain whether I will be getting a good night’s sleep tonight? Isn’t this crazy talk?” Yu Luo Cha continued, “If you suffer some kind of serious injury or if you happen to somehow loose a body part, then how can you possibly sleep well tonight?” Geng Shao Nan gave a nervous chortle as he replied, “Just as the rains and storms are unpredictable, so will life’s calamities and providence come unannounced. If I really am destined for a sudden misfortune, what can I do about it? But that would only be so if fortress master you intend to give me a hard time, otherwise why would I suddenly experienced any calamities?” Yu Luo Cha suddenly replied, “You really are an easygoing and good-natured fellow. How could I possibly dare to give you a hard time? I was only hoping to pick up a few tips from you. I heard that Wu Tang sect has the world’s most powerful sword skill, I really hope I can have the opportunity to witness a bit of its brilliance with my own eyes.” Geng Shao Nan couldn’t help himself from flaring up in anger as he loudly shouted, “Oh! So fortress master wants to test my martial arts skills? Fine! A true man would rather die than yield. I’ll stake the chances and even if I have to sustain three slashes and six gougings, or even if you break every bone in my body and sever all of my limbs, I will never allow the name of my Wu Tang sect to lose its distinction!” Yu Luo Cha smiles gaily and said, “Alright, then you better pay attention because here I come.” Taking out her sword, she nimbly approaches. Geng Shao Nan noticed that her sword was approaching at an incredibly slow pace and her attitude was not at all serious. It was almost as if she was just goofing around. Geng Shao Nan could not be sure whether she really was serious or whether she was just playing around with him. Nevertheless, he raised his sword to counterattack. Surprisingly, with just a light twist of her wrist, the tip of Yu Luo Cha’s sword had already arrived at Geng Shao Nan’s throat, as she released a charming laugh and said, “I’m afraid that your stance isn’t good enough. Come, try again!” Instead of killing with the sword, Yu Luo Cha uses her cruel teasing insults to wound him instead. To Geng Shao Nan, that was even more tortuous than having to suffer a painful sword wound. With a twist of his body, Geng Shao Nan executed the three steps of the sequential chain-linking swords, the first stance being “Threading the Gold Needle” where the tip of the sword lightly pierces out and with a quick turn of the body, the stance suddenly turns into the “Sequential Slashing” stance to pierce towards the opponent’s throat and drape across the two arms, a movement that is as fast as the gusting wind. How could he have guessed that as soon as he executed these two stances, he would feel the cool and chilling air emanated from the cold metal of Yu Luo Cha’s sword arriving at the back of his heart? He did not even get the chance to execute the third successive stance. The three stances were unable to be carried out sequentially, therefore he could only suddenly change stances to hastily execute “Plucking the Scallion in Dry Land” in order to lift himself up from the ground. Suddenly the light breeze glided over the tip of his head as Yu Luo Cha’s sword grazed over it lightly, snipping off a strand of his hair. After Geng Shao Nan’s feet landed on the floor, Yu Luo Cha was already smiling sweetly saying, “I told you to pay attention, now why didn’t you listen to me?” as she hugs her sword and gestures with her hands saying, “So, Wu Tang’s other masters, are you just going to stand there and watch your fellow sect member make a fool of himself?” How could Geng Shao Nan’s four other martial art brothers possibly tolerate this ridicule any longer? Four swords appeared at the same time, grouping together to form a straight line to simultaneously execute their attack. Yu Luo Cha smiled and said, “That’s much better.” In the midst of all the swords’ reflection and under the surrounding attack of the Wu Tang’s five swords, swords were appearing from the north, south, east and west. Seeing that the situation was not optimistic for the Wu Tang disciples, Wang Zhao Xi immediately jumped up to say, “Heroine Lian, please have mercy!” However, before he could even finish these words, he heard a loud bang that resembles the sound of gold shattering and jade fracturing, followed by a series of anguished screams. The swords of the five Wu Tang disciples had all been broken. Geng Shao Nan had lost his left hand’s two fingers while the other four disciples had each lost one finger. Yu Luo Cha’s expression was as cold as the wintry frost as she fiercely says, “This is to show you that there will always be another level of heaven beyond this one, and to never think that you can depend solely on your sect’s fame! Geng Shao Nan, last night you were extremely offensive and I had originally intended to chop off your arm and take out your two eyes. But seeing that you still have a few ounces of manly courage, I’ll lessen your punishment by three ranks, now immediately get out of my sight!”

    Hearing Yu Luo Cha start her angry scolding, Wang Zhao Xi’s anxiety was immediately relieved. Wang jumped forward and saw that Geng Shao Nan’s face was as pale as a ghost. Geng remained silent and did not say a single word before he turned around and ran off. The other four Wu Tang disciples wrapped up their fists in an act of reverence and said, “Thank you fortress master for showing mercy. Such a kind act of grace, we will never dare to forget!” Yu Luo Cha just gave a cool sneer and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be waiting for you here when you come back and seek your revenge.” Wang Zhao Xi immediately flashed them a look with his eyes warning them to not say any more. Amongst them was a middle age man who seemed to be their leader, he suddenly turned towards to Wang Zhao Xi and raised his joined hands in an act of greeting before saying, “Young master Wang, thank you for taking care of our martial brother along the journey. It is too bad we were not able to encounter you earlier. I have a letter that is addressed to you from Master Meng, now I can finally transfer it to you.” The man took out a letter that was tightly sealed with hot wax. Wang Zhao Xi was suddenly taken back as he quickly took a sneak peak at Yu Luo Cha to observe her reaction. Yu Luo Cha said with curiosity, “They travelled thousands of miles to bring you this letter, the least you can do is to thank them.” Having observed that she did not at all seem angry or displeased, Wang Zhao Xi immediately took the letter and expressed his gratitude. The four Wu Tang disciples all wore a cold sneer on their faces, and without even bothering to reply to Wang’s expression of gratitude, they retreated immediately with quick steps. Wang Zhao Xi couldn’t help but feel sad and dejected within his heart as he felt that he has really done the Wu Tang sect a great disservice.

    After the last traces of the Wu Tang disciples had finally disappeared from view, Yu Luo Cha turned to Wang Zhao Xi and coolly said, “Brother Wang, I’m afraid that you’re reproaching me for being overly harsh on them.” Wang Zhao Xi replied, “I dare not” though inwardly he was indeed reprimanding her. Yu Luo Cha slowly said, “My temper is such that I can’t stand it when some people expect the right to dominate others based solely on their name and fame. Wu Tang sect may have many disciples, but there are numerous incompetent and unruly disciples in their sect. Many of them rely on their sect’s fame and develop such a haughty attitude that in their eyes, they belittle everything and everyone else. Amongst the Wu Tang five elders, aside for Taoist Priest Purple Sun, the other four people all have the bad habit of covering up their weaknesses and ineptness, therefore spoiling their disciples to be extremely egotistical and conceited. Even though they won’t commit any acts of vice, yet just their attitudes are repulsive to behold. Today I purposely made a fool of them in order to suppress their arrogance and teach them a lesson.” Wang Zhao Xi did not dare to say anything else. Yu Luo Cha paused a while before finally asking, “I’ve heard that the Martial art master Meng Can of the Imperial City is the sworn brother of your father, is that true?” Wang Zhao Xi replied, “He is also my father in law.” Yu Luo Cha said, “Oh! So they are also in-laws, that is indeed a very wonderful and beneficial thing. I once had the chance to meet young Miss Meng, her martial arts and character is of an extremely top grade. Has she married into your household yet?” Wang Zhao Xi blushed and replied, “Not yet. My father said that after I come to pay my respects to Heroine you, I was to immediately travel to the imperial city to bring Master Meng and his daughter home.” Yu Luo Cha replied, “Yes, you should bring them to your home. What’s so great about being a Martial arts instructor and serving the aristocrats? Oh. I’ve always been blunt with my words, please don’t mind me Brother Wang.” Wang Zhao Xi replies, “Not at all. My father also shares your sentiments.” Yu Luo Cha said, “If I didn’t see Master Meng’s letter, I’m afraid those four people will have to experience some more hardships. They were all dressed as fur merchants and caught the attention of Fire Spirit Monkey, Zhu Bao Chun’s men who then attempted to rob them along the journey. Actually, the Wu tang disciples only had to reveal their identity and they would have had no more problems. But they refused to do so and continued to show off instead, injuring Fire Spirit Monkey’s four men. I couldn’t stand their ways so I chased after them on horse by myself and then used my soft palms to obliterate rocks into dust in order to silence and intimidate them. Then I invited them to come up to the mountain and exchange tips on sword skills with me.” Wang Zhao Xi secretly gave out a cry of distress as he thought to himself: I’m afraid this method of “exchanging tips” will bring about a great storm of turmoil within the martial arts world in the future.”

    Wang Zhao Xi originally wanted to offer a few more words of warning but he was cut off as Yu Luo Cha suddenly said, “Hey! Where is that Official Zhuo?” She called out twice but having received no response, she started to search around. Zhuo Zhong Lian was forced by Yu Luo Cha to come here and witness the fight, but when he was watching the fight he became so terrified that he fainted amongst the cluster of stones.

    Such is: Smilingly conversing with gentle words amidst deadly execution, roadside lies a fainted Marquis of Jincheng[23].

    [1] Liang Yu Sheng is referring here to the famous parable spoken by the Buddhist monk Hui Neng who later became known as the liu zu (6th founder). The parable talks of how Hui Neng refuted a previous affirmation spoken by someone else by saying: There is no Bodhi-tree, or stand of a mirror bright, Originally all is void, where can the dust alight?

    [2] ‘Dragons and serpents’ is a term commonly used to reference a fine quality of Chinese Calligraphy where the words that arises from the pen would not only be as lithe as dragons and serpents, but there should also be a certain panache of grandiosity to it as well.

    [3] Qin Yuan Chun should be a structural form of which poems are composed in. It may have something to do with the number of words in each sentence/stanza.

    [4] Chuan-Shaan: Chuan is in reference to Si Chuan Province, Shaan is in reference to Shaan Xi. Sichuan (literally meaning four rivers) is located in the Southwest portion of China and is the province of where the Yangtze River and Three Gorges are located. Shaanxi province is located around the centre of China and includes most of the Yellow River as well as the Mountain Huashan. Chuan-Shaan are neighbouring provinces to each other.

    [5] Supreme Commander is a special duty assignment for a Minsiter or Vice-Minister of the Ministry of War and has jurisdiction and power over more than 1 province. Most books translate it as Governor General as it appeared that they had some power over the military forces in the province compared to a Governor. Yunan and Guizhou are both provinces next to each other.

    [6] The Northern area of Shaanxi province.

    [7] Emperor Wan-Li was also known as Shen-Zong, and reigned during the Ming dynasty from 1573-1619.

    [8] Shen Zong is another name of Emperor Wan Li.

    [9] The actual term in the novel is liao xiang, which was a term that was used specifically to reference the funds that was used to support military during their defense against the Manchurians.

    [10] The term used in the novel was actually Lu Lin which is usually in reference to the underworld fraternity of thieves, bandits, outlaws and smugglers. The term sometimes carries undertones of the bandits robbing for good and charitable causes. Lu Lin should be differentiated from the term Wu Lin which is usually translated as the martial arts world referring to the world of martial art sects and masters. Another commonly used term jiang hu is in reference to both the underground and martial arts world as well as other secret societies/associations/ clans etc.

    [11] The term used in the novel was dan gong which should and could very well be in reference to a slingshot. I decided to use arrow in the end but LYS could very possibly be referring to a slingshot-like weapon.

    [12] The term used in the novel was 100 Zhang, and each Zhang converts to roughly 10 feet.

    [13] The novel actually says Yan An Fu, where Fu during the Ming dynasty refers to a large city that was not governed by their province, but was rather directly governed by the governmental state. Such a term indicates that the city is relatively large and important in status, thus granting them the right to not be governed by their province, but rather like a province deals solely with the state government instead.

    [14] Imperial Bodyguards: the most prestigious and influential of the Imperial Guards during Ming dynasty, functioned as the personal bodyguard of the Emperor while also performing enforcer roles. Although their official job title was the Emperor’s bodyguards, but they actually served the dual role of being the Emperor’s secret spy force in charge of secret services and special operations. During the Ming dynasty, the Emperor set up a personal spy network in order to spy on government officials and weed out any disloyal officials. It turned out to be a force of brutality and corruption, a political tool for the spy force to gain political power.

    [15] Execution through measured lacerations: A very cruel and torturous method used during the ancient times to execute offenders. The executioner was to inflict a certain premeditated number of cuts or lacerations onto the offender's body before the man was to die. The criminal absolutely had to remain alive during this time until the executioner had finished inflicting the very last wound. Once the very last wound was inflicted, only then can the offender be killed with a clean thrust through the heart. Originally when this method was first used, the number of wounds that were to be inflicted was somewhere near 2000 in number. But since the number was simply too high and was unsustainable by the offender, the eventual number was reduced to around 500 or so lacerations.

    [16] To translate the term used in the book, it should really be ‘solitary footed bandit’ but ‘famed bandit’ was used here to avoid awkwardness and confusion. An endnote in another LYS book posits the term ‘single footed bandit’ as a reference to bandits who does a solo act, doing all their robbing by themselves only and not relying on others. It implies that the bandit must be very skilled and powerful in order for them to rely only on themselves.

    [17] Commonly known as Dantien which is usually conceived as serving as an energy reservoir or primary bio-energy warehouse of the human body. Located four fingers below the navel in the middle of the torso, this center have the ability to store vast amounts of energy (qi/chi).

    [18] The Eastern end of the Sichuan province.

    [19]The nickname of Lian Ni Chang. ("Luo Cha") is a certain class of supernatural beings (along with the Yecha/Yasha and Ashura) that functions as demonic servants of the underworld lords. According to mythology, the "LuoCha ghost" is commonly understood as being these supernatural beings that literally eats people. They are conceived as possessing supernatural speed regardless of whether they are in the air or on ground. The term Luo Cha in original Sanskrit is "Rasetsu," and the "female LuoCha" (LuoCha Nu) is known in Sanskrit as "Rasetsunyo." LuoCha are typically known as being hideous and horrific in appearance, they are very dark in skin colour, with green eyes and red hair. While, the female LuoCha are known to be extremely beautiful and captivating, they can be very deadly for the men who fall under their spells.
    The transformation of this figure in Buddhism is similarly complex. They were originally conceived as soldiers of the Underworld, then they gradually became to be known as "Niu Tuo, Ma Mian" (Ox head, horse face), who were messengers that came up to the living world to bring the dead souls into the Afterworld. In Liang YuSheng's other work, "Bing Pu Han Guan Jian," a character living in Nepal (hence, influences of Hinduism) mentioned to another character that the "LuoCha ghost" will come and "hook" a person's soul away, and drag it to the Underworld. Though presently, the common interpretation of Luo Cha are like Yecha, that they were beings who perform guardian roles for the Lord of the Underworld, while also acting as their punisher/enforcer.
    Further information about the Luo Cha beings can be found at the following Chinese site where the majority of the above information was procured from:

    The term "Yu" in Yu Luo Cha means "Jade" which is a reference to a woman's jade-like beauty.
    Thus Yu Luo Cha is a name that refers to someone who is as vicious and demonic as the Luosa demons, but who is also as beautiful as a piece of jade. Overall, the term Yu Luo Cha can be translated to Jade Rasetsu. [Note: this footnote was edited by Faerie Queenie during the posting of Chapter 9]

    [20] According to folklore and mythology, the King who ruled the seas were known as long wang (Dragon-King). Therefore the river that floods the temple that worships and pays reverence to their very own master is an analogy that is used to illustrate the idea of fighting your very own people.

    [21] Not to be confused with Mountain-Roaming Tiger Zhou Tong.

    [22] A spoiled tangerine and a fresh tangerine are nevertheless at two completely different poles, sweet and sour will always be different: In reference to a common saying that is linked to the story about a man who bought tangerines at the out of town marketplace having tasted one and found them to be very sweet. He then brought a whole barrel of tangerines back to his own native homeland (the distance between the two places should have been no larger than a river’s span). But when he got home, he found the tangerines to have become spoiled and no longer sweet, but instead was sour. When he return to the merchant who sold him the tangerines, the merchant then said that it had nothing to do with the quality of the tangerines themselves, but rather it was the climate and atmosphere of the buyer’s own hometown which caused the tangerine to change. Though the merchant’s words may have been dishonest, yet the idea behind the phrase is that often a person’s surrounding and background can have a significant effect on how they turn out. The very same thing being brought up in different surroundings will yield two completely different results. Hence Geng Shao Nan had insulted Yu Luo Sha without even realizing it when he likened Yu Luo Sha to the spoiled tangerine because she was part of the Underground world and not part of the Orthodox sects.

    [23] Should be in reference to Zhuo Zhong Lian.

  3. #3
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 2

    Chapter 2:
    Shocking the Imperial Capital
    Scandal of the Club Assaulting Case,
    Chaos in the palace,
    Chance Encounter With a Night Traveler
    (Translated by Faerie Queene and Foxs)

    Yu Luo Sa reproached, “Can’t believe he actually calls himself a commander of a province, the size of his guts is even smaller than a mustard seed” as she patted Zhuo Zhong Lian twice before he gradually awakened. Yu Luo Sa took out a command flag that represents a symbol of her domination and gave it to Zhuo Zhong Lian saying, “I scared away your bodyguards, now I’ll give a bodyguard back to you in return.” Zhuo Zhong Lian was still bewildered, causing Yu Luo Sa to scold impatiently, “Take this flag and display it on your vehicle. I guarantee you that within the Shaan Xi area, nobody would dare to touch a single hair on your body. It’s definitely much more useful than that so-called Wu Tang bodyguard.” Hearing this, Zhuo Zhong Lian became incredibly relieved and thankful as he immediately took the flag without any further hesitation. However, before he could even utter a word of gratitude Yu Luo Sa and Wang Zhao Xi had already disappeared.

    Wang Zhao Xi opened his future father-in-law’s letter and started reading it. The first part was pressing Wang Zhao Xi to expedite to the capital in order to conduct the marriage ceremonies. The second half of the letter was saying, “The martial art instructors within the capital city are all secretly engaged in tumultuous conflicts with each other. Particularly so is the situation within the imperial palace where the dangers are immense and incessant. I am highly anticipating my dear son-in-law’s swift arrival. This old man hopes to consult with you in regards to some matters.” Wang Zhao Xi’s father Wang Jia Yin was once an unsuccessful Xiu Cai[1] and more than twenty years ago he encountered Beijing’s famous martial arts instructor Meng Can with which he became sworn brothers with. They even went so far as to appoint the marriages vows of their unborn children, thus becoming in-laws in the process as well.

    When Wang Zhao Xi was seven years old, he followed his father back to Shaan Xi and thus the two families have not seen each other since then. Five or six years ago, Meng Can was appointed as the primary martial arts trainer within the Palace of Compassion and Celebration[2]. At around the same time, Wang Jia Yin also became the leading force of the Underground world in the Shaan Xi area. After Wang Jia Yin heard about the news about his in-law, he felt incredibly disappointed. Meng Can had always been a gutsy and noble hero, very much a respected figure within the JiangHu world. Wang Jin Yin could not understand why Meng Can would be willing to abide by the Emperor’s ordainment and accept a position within the palace. After Men Can became the primary martial arts trainer within the palace, each year there would be at least one or two times when Meng would solicit the help of a person from the JiangHu world to bring a letter to Wang Jia Yin. This time, Meng Can had enlisted the help of a Wu Tang disciple. Wang Zhao Xi had already found out more than ten days ago that his father-in-law had enlisted a Wu Tang disciple to bring a letter to him. He originally thought that this messenger was Geng Shao Nan which is why he purposely made acquaintances with him. Yet ironically, the messenger actually turned out to be Geng Shao Nan’s older martial arts brother.

    After Wang Zhao Xi finished reading the letter, he departed from Yu Luo Cha and hurriedly traveled to the capital city. After journeying for a few months, he finally arrived at the capital. By that time, spring was already starting to come around the corner. That day there happened to be a huge snowstorm blowing fiercely outside. Wang Zhao Xi entered the city from the Xuan-Wu[3] gates and immediately found the place to be swarming with hordes of people crowding around and running into each other in a state of turmoil. From afar, could be heard the sounds of someone shouting and clanging on a metal gong. Curious, Wang Zhao Xi began to enquire about what was happening. A person beside him asked, “You don’t know what happened sir? During the past few days within the city there’s been a huge incidence, a lot of governmental officials have been mixed up in the case. Today, even Zhuo Ji Xian, the Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Revenue was taken out to the Meridian Gate[4] and executed. As people would say, ‘Accompanying the Master is like accompanying a tiger,’ how true that is indeed. I hear that Zhuo Ji Xian is a good and honest official too.” Wang Zhao Xi was shocked when he heard this piece of news. That Vice-Minister Zhuo was Zhuo Zhong Lian’s son! Geng Shao Nan was asked by this Vice-Minister Zhuo to act as the bodyguard of Zhuo Zhong Lian. How is it that he was suddenly taken out to the Meridian Gate to be executed?

    Wang Zhao Xi was an incredibly quick-thinking youngster as he immediately went to a nearby restaurant and listened in on other people’s conversations. After just a short while he had already figured out the details of the case. Emperor Ming Shen Zong[5] Zhu Yi Jun had two sons, the older son Chang Luo was borne by the empress, the second son Chang Xun was borne by the favoured concubine, the Honoured Consort[6] Zheng. This Honoured Consort Zheng conspired to acquire the title of the “Crowned Prince”[7] for her own son, which was why Shen Zong continually hesitated to crowned a prince. Afterwards, the party of high officials requested to have Chang Luo established as the crowned prince and for Chang Xun to be established as the Prince of Luo Yang[8]. Chang Xun refused leave the imperial capital in order to accept this title and was repeatedly ushered by the high officials to embark on his journey out of the capital city.

    After Chang Xun had left the city for a year[9], there suddenly came someone who entered into the Palace of Compassion and Celebration wielding a stick made of Jujube wood to attack the imperial guards, and then entered straight into front palace hall before finally being captured by the guards. This incident was a famous case within history known as one of the “Ming dynasty’s Three Bizarre Incidents,” it was called the “The Case of the Clubbing Assault” and was an incident which caused great deal of turmoil to the whole capital, shaking up the whole nation.

    Although the crowned prince wasn’t hurt, yet the fact that someone would dare to enter the palace under broad daylight and attack an imperial guard is most definitely something that has never happened before. What was especially strange was that the offender who stole into the palace with the stick called himself the “Great Zheng Scoundrel” and his every gesture and word seemed to indicate insanity. Even when the Imperial Doctor treated him, he couldn’t be sure whether the offender could be diagnosed as being ill or not.

    A joint trial with considerations from the three provincial offices[10] was conducted, ordering the man to confess and reveal all conspirators. But the man continued to mutter a string of crazy babble, listing out a whole string of high officials and eunuchs’ names. Nobody could differentiate exactly which name was truly guilty and which ones were actually innocent, resulting to all the officials and eunuchs within the palace to hastily segregate into their own cliques as they all started to incriminate and point their fingers at each other. Emperor Shen Zong happened to be an incompetent and inept emperor without an ounce of decision-making ability. He would listen to the words of one official on one day, but would then follow the advice of an eunuch on another day, causing everyone in the palace to be in a state of paranoia and fear, where nobody felt safe as everyone was looking out only for themselves. Even Zhuo Ji Xian, an official who doesn’t usually stick his nose into things that doesn’t concern him was dragged into this muddled mess as well, and was taken out to the Meridian Gates to be executed without even getting so much as a court hearing.

    After Wang Zhao Xi had comprehended the details and background of the story, he silently commiserated to himself at how during these crazy times, the Manchurians were uprising in the Northeast while Japanese bandits were terrorizing in the Southeast. Yet during these tumultuous times, the emperor was incompetent and dim-witted, causing the whole imperial palace to be in a state of chaos and antagonism. The future of the Ming dynasty will most likely not last very long. But on the other hand, Wang thought to himself, that may indeed be a good thing. Since the Zhu family is so incompetent, then let my Wang family give it a try.

    Descending down the stairs of the restaurant Wang followed the directions on the map of the capital city that his father had given him and traveled all the way to Bai Zi HuTong[11]. He vaguely remembered the lanes of the Mengs’ household but never could he have guessed that as soon as he entered into the alleyway and lifted up his head he would be greeted with a startling site. The doors of the Meng’s household have been heavily locked up. Taped on the door in crisscross fashion were two barricade stamps that were sealed by the imperial bodyguards, while outside the door stood two tall and muscular watchmen who were most likely imperial guards. Wang Zhao Xi didn’t dare to stop or even pause slightly, but hastily sneaked out of the Hutong instead, his alarmed heart in a state of turmoil. He walked all the way to Bridge of Heaven[12] with what continued to be a very unsettled heartbeat and paid a visit to an old acquaintance of his father, another fairly well known martial arts master within the capital city called Liu Xi Ming.

    Luckily, he was easily found and as soon as Liu Xi Ming saw that it was Wang Zhao Xi, he was startled as he hurriedly ushered Wang in and immediately locked up the house. He dragged Wang into the inner rooms and said in a low voice, “You really are gutsy. Your father is a wanted criminal and your father-in-law has been seized and locked up in prison. Nobody even knows if he’s dead or alive now. If anyone knew about your identity, then what would you do?” Wang Zhao Xi flashed a quick smile and said, “All the attention of the palace has been centred on this strange incident. I doubt the imperial bodyguards will have time to bother with me. I was hoping to ask you uncle, my father-in-law is the Crowned Prince’s Primary Martial Arts Trainer, how did it come about that he would be taken into prison? Could it be that he has been dragged into this ‘Case of the Clubbing Assault’ as well?” Liu Xi Ming sighed and said, “I’m in a state of complete confusion as well. That Great Zheng Scoundrel was captured by your father-in-law himself. Even if they don’t reward your father-in-law, according to logic he shouldn’t be charged with any crimes. Who would have known that amidst the confusion they would seize him as well?” Wang Zhao Xi immediately began to analyze over the situation, remaining silent all the while.

    After two days, the guards that were watching over the Mengs’ household had already left. One night after Wang Zhao Xi finished his dinner, he immediately changed into a black coloured night-trekker’s outfit and then went to Liu Xi Ming to say, “Uncle, tonight I want to go to my father in law’s house and do some investigation.” Liu Xi Ming fearfully said, “Its not wise to do such a thing!” Wang Zhao Xi replied, “I can guarantee you that I won’t be causing you any trouble uncle.” Liu Xi Ming shook his head and sighed, figuring that since he couldn’t convince him, he might as well just let him go.

    The residential buildings in Beijing are typically very short in height. Even the large mansions will only span a large width and never be taller than three stories in height[13]. Wang Zhao Xi’s levitation skill was quite skillful, and with just a light jump he had already arrived at the top of the buildings. He took out two copper coins and inserted them between his index and middle finger. First, he tossed only one coin into the air, and then right away he flung out the second coin as well. As the two coins collided in the air, a clear ring emanated upon their impact.

    There was a title given for this action, it was called “Copper Water Beetle Messenger”[14] which was a messaging device commonly used amongst night-travelers. After the two coins impacted against each other in the air, they rolled into the courtyard. Wang Zhao Xi was hiding on the roof, not moving a single muscle. After a while, there indeed came out two guards dressed in black. They both took a look around and then one of them mumbled, “What noise was that? You don’t even see a shadow around here.” The other person said, “This is the exalted capital, nobody would be so gutsy as to stir any trouble. Commander Li was being much too cautious.” The two people looked around a little more, giving the impression of being very confused and dim-witted before returning inside. Wang Zhao Xi had been secretly fingering some darts as he originally intended to wait for the two men to jump up onto the roof before he would projected his darts to eradicate them. He silently thought to himself, “What idiots. They’re not even acquainted with the basic customs of the JiangHu world.”

    Wang’s silhouette flashed over the rooftop as he glided over the tiles, moving ahead of the two guards and entering into the garden. Then with a twist of his body, he sprung up onto the flight of stairs that led into the Study. This was the place where his father-in-law usually came to relax and rest. Observing that the door was left slightly ajar, Wang Zhao Xi looked inside and made sure that there was nobody inside the room before he stealthily entered. Little could he have guessed that as soon as he stepped foot inside, one side of the door would suddenly come crashing down followed directly by the sharp, glinting edge of a blade that came from behind the door, heading straight for the side of Wang Zhao Xi’s face and bringing along with it a cold breeze. Yet despite the eminent danger, the impressive Wang Zhao Xi did not panic but instead dived to the ground and with a quick roll, he then used his left hand to thrust the door board into the direction of the blade. As the blade entered into the door board, Wang Zhao Xi executed the “Carp Flexing Body” and with that twist, he was already standing upright, sword in his hands. A person’s laughter could be heard as a voice then said, “Little crook, you’ve swum straight into my trap!” Wang Zhao Xi flickered his long sword and was just about to execute his moves when suddenly the two side doors of the study flew open and projectiles pierced through the air, showering into the room. Wang Zhao Xi gracefully glided around as his long sword drew up a silver streak of radiance, lighting up in the darkness. In the midst of all the projectiles that were rapidly spraying into the room, Wang Zhao Xi swung out with his sword and pierced it towards the guard standing behind the door.

    The three guards who were keeping watch that night were actually very skilled veterans of the JiangHu world. They were ordered to capture anybody who dared to come snooping around here, which was why they purposely pretended to be incautious and careless in order to lure Wang inside and attacked him from three directions. Luckily Wang Zhao Xi was skilled in martial arts, otherwise he very likely would have fallen prey to the furtive attack.

    The guard hiding behind the door board seemed to be the leader, as by using just a solitary saber, he swiped, slashed, swung and sliced, emitting swooshing sounds in the wind. What he was executing was actually the skillful stances of 'Five Tigers Ravaging Door' Saber skill. Amongst the two other guards, one was using a Copper Spiked Club, the other was using a Seven-Joint Iron Whip, with every stance heading towards Wang Zhao Xi being vigorous and forceful. Wang Zhao Xi lashed out with his sword, exerting his full concentration in battle, swaying to the left and striking to the right, consecutively sweeping and soaring in one movement.

    After battling for a while, the guard who used the copper spiked club was wounded by Wang' sword and thus immediately jumped out of the combat sphere. Wang Zhao Xi's sword was laced with the chilling wind as he took full advantage of having prevailed over once stance to immediately execute an obliterating move to finish the man off. Little could he have guessed that the stances of the guard who practices the Ravaging Door Saber would be so lithe and swift, for he took advantage of Wang Zhao Xi diving forward with his body and sword to suddenly sweep his saber into Wang Zhao Xi's direction, executing the stance 'Phoenix Spreading her Wings' to fiercely slash at his opponent's upper body. Wang Zhao Xi was forced to abort his attack on the guard using the copper spiked club as he twisted his body around to redirect his sword, forcing the Ravaging Door Saber that was attacking to fly out the door. But after this brief hesitation the guard using the seven-joint iron whip had already rushed back towards Wang while the guard using the copper spiked club had re-entered the battle despite his injuries.

    Although Wang Zhao Xi was taking on three opponents by just his solitary self, yet he continued to remain calm and fearless. The cold beam from his long sword glinted menacingly as the vitality of his blade glistened like the rainbows. Wang Zhao Xi's father Wang Jia Yin was a skilled authority with the sword, having obtained the true legacy of the Shi family's Cloud-Chasing sword skill. Wang Zhao Xi was quite an impressive youngster trained in both the literary and martial arts, practiced in both external and internal skills. After battling for a while, the guard using the seven-joint iron whip sustained a wound from Wang's sword, causing him to scream out in pain. Wang Zhao Xi swept his sword around with the speed of gusting wind, constraining the guard with his every attack. The guard using the copper spiked club was already forced against the wall without even being aware of it, Wang Zhao Xi pierced out with his sword and the guard took another step back smacking right into the wall, no longer able to escape. Wang Zhao Xi's stances were as fast as lighting, and through one final stab with his sword, Wang nailed the guard onto the wall.

    Suddenly a huge 'poom' sound was heard as a large hole suddenly erupted in the wall! The guard's dead corpse fell into the large hole, causing Wang Zhao Xi's balance to falter as he staggered briefly and almost fell prey to the seven-joint iron whip's attack before he could hastily withdraw his sword and retreat. It was at this moment that from within the wall there sounded a strange holler as someone suddenly came scuttling out. Wang Zhao Xi hesitated briefly, not yet having differentiated whether it was a friend or foe when suddenly his eyes were greeted to a beautiful sight. From within the wall jumped out a young girl dressed in white, her clothes sashaying lightly in the breeze. In the midst of everyone's startled confusion, the girl gave a light twist of her body and rushed to the front doors, extending her sword sideways to block the entrance. She then quickly shouted, "Brother Min, attack the guard who's wielding the saber."

    The youngster who came out first started to attack wildly with his saber in a very idiotic and yet boorish manner. As the two sabers impacted, both parties felt their wrist to cramp with numbness. Wang Zhao Xi composed himself and then concentrated his attentions on the young girl while thinking to himself: could this be my fianc? He continued to closely examine her, vaguely recognizing her facial features. His heart was struck with a sudden pang of bitter jealousy as a most unpleasant and indescribable feeling washed over him. In a dazed state, he continued to watch the two people engage in battle while remaining completely absorbed in thought.

    The other guard having detected that the situation was looking increasingly disastrous immediately tried to escape with haste. The young girl who was standing by the doorway released a sweet sounding shout as with just a flick of her hands, three daggers were released consecutively, projecting out in three paths as it hurtled straight towards the top, middle and bottom directions. The guard gave out a scream of pain as his body was suddenly pierced with three holes. While the white clothed female was discharging her projectiles, she was simultaneously speaking in her lovely voice: "Hey, young man! Why are you just standing there and staring at me? Why not lend out a helping hand?"

    Wang Zhao Xi's face changed colours as he observed how the other youngster was continuing to struggle with the guard. He leapt forward and used his left elbow to knock him aside while saying, "Move away!" Startled, the youngster asked, "What are you doing?" Wang Zhao Xi was filled with feelings of anger and resentment that was looking for a channel to be released, therefore with a twist of his sword he exerted his full force. The guard with the saber was not an amateur, yet how could he possibly withstand the strength that comes from Wang's inner Qi? Only a fracturing sound could be heard as the 'Ravaging Door Saber' truly became 'ravaged,' as it splintered into pieces. With a writhe of the sword's blade, Wang Zhao Xi had already sliced the guard into two halves.

    Wang then returned his sword to its sheath and was just about to leave when he suddenly heard the young girl laugh charmingly and said: "Your sword skills are truly excellent! Only, it seems to be a little reckless and uncouth." Within his heart, Wang Zhao Xi was alarmed and secretly ashamed of his lack of sophistication and class. How could a person who holds the affairs of the world as his own personal vocation and duty allow himself to throw these silly tempers over something as petty as romance? This characterization of being 'reckless and uncouth' truly gave him ample cause to flush a shade of deep red. The young girl came forward and sincerely gave a low bow with her hands folded in front of her before saying, "Thank you hero for taking such a big risk for my father. May I ask how I should address you?'

    Wang Zhao Xi had separated from his fianc for more almost sixteen years now, and since Meng Can never did tell his daughter that he had ushered Wang Zhao Xi to come to Beijing and receive his bride, thus she never would have guessed that her fianc would travel a thousand miles to arrive at the capital. Therefore, even though she found this person somewhat familiar looking, yet she didn't feel it proper to mention anything about it. Wang Zhao Xi replied, "My unworthy name is Wang Ri Zhao[15]. May I ask whether young madam is Master Meng's treasured daughter, Meng Qiu Xia?" Meng Qiu Xia asked with curiosity, "How did you know my name?" Wang Zhao Xi asked instead, "And this young brother is?" The youngster gave a goofy smile and replied, "My name is Bai Min, and I am Master Meng's disciple. Brother Wang, your martial arts are truly excellent. You needed only one stance to beat that thug. Even though you slammed into me, yet I'm not at all angry with you." Wang Zhao Xi thought to himself: this youngster's name is 'Bai Min'[16], yet he is not at all alert or quick-witted."

    His heart filled with bitter jealousy, Wang Zhao Xi purposely refused to reveal his true identity and instead made up a whole past, insisting that Man Can had once performed a great act of goodwill towards him, which was why he risked his life tonight in order to investigate into this incident. Meng Can was indeed a very sociable person with many friends and acquaintances, thus Meng Qiu Xia will very naturally believe Wang's words as she once again she expresses her gratitude. Wang Zhao Xi suddenly asked, "How long have you hidden within that wall?" Bai Min replied, "From the day old master was arrested, it's been three days already." Wang Zhao Xi became increasingly uncomfortable as his face unconsciously blanched into an ashen colour of gray.

    Meng Qiu Xia concentrated her gaze on Wang Zhao Xi's expression, her beautiful eyes sparkling like the autumn springs. She asked with concern, "Brother Wang, are you tired? Why don't you rest for a moment?" Bai Min immediately said, "You must be tired from all that fighting. Let me go find you a jug of good wine to wake you up." Although Wang Zhao Xi was angry, yet he was also amused. The silly boy had already galloped down the stairs and dashed off to the wine cellar in search for some good aged wine.

    Wang Zhao Xi was left alone with his fianc within the study, remaining silent as they stared at each other. From outside the window, the pale moonlight shone into the room. Wang Zhao Xi's fluttering heartbeat was palpitating in irregular waves as Meng Qiu Xia lighted two candles, causing the wan glow cast from the candles to further accentuated her beauty. Wang Zhao Xi then said, "Miss Meng, forgive me for being too brash or forward, but I would like to inquire about the details and conditions concerning your father's arrest as well as his current situation in order that it may further aid me in rescuing him."

    A twinkle briefly sparkled in Meng Qiu Xia’s eyes, a pair of eyes that were filled with gratitude. Wang Zhao Xi lowered his head, not daring to look straight into her eyes. Meng Qiu Xia was nevertheless very poised and gracious as she openly said, “Two days after the occurrence of the Case of the Clubbing Assault, two very peculiar looking guests suddenly arrived at our household. They were talking to my father in this very room. I was hiding with Bai Min in one of the inner rooms, listening to their conversation. However, their voices gradually became softer and softer, until after a while we couldn’t even hear anything at all. Only intermittently was I able to hear bits and pieces of the conversation, as the guests were saying something along the lines of criminal, testimony, and conspiracy while my father continually repeated a few times, “I don’t know.” After a while, the guests left but father immediately told us to leave home right away. However, when he went stepped outside to take a look, he suddenly ran back into the study and pushed us into the secret compartment within the walls, while also throwing in two sacks of food. By the time we were able to properly conceal ourselves, the imperial bodyguards had arrived. Brother Min and I took turns going to sleeping, and only by listening to the words of the guards outside as they changed shifts were we able to realize that three days had already past. We were growing very impatient hiding inside the wall and were just about to force our way out when you came.” A suspicious thought filled Wang Zhao Xi’s head when he heard her admit that she was hiding within the secret compartment with Bai Min without a shred of unease or embarrassment. Meng Qiu Xia suddenly said, “I remember now. I remember hearing them mention the two names State Uncle[17] Zheng and Eunuch Wei.”

    Wang Zhao Xi had accompanied and assisted his father in dealing with all sorts of incidents and situations before, thus his examination skills and knowledge was all far above the likes of his peers. He lowered his head after hearing Meng Qiu Xia’s words, lost in deep thought. He remained in such a position for a while before he slowly said, “There must be a big conspiracy behind this Case of the Clubbing Assault. Someone must have paid off the offender in order to frame another group of people. Your father was the first person to come into contact with the offender, which was why he was dragged into the case. The mastermind behind the conspiracy must be worried that your father knows about the details or maybe they’re trying to investigate into what the offender might have said, which is why they took your father away. Judging from the situation, the mastermind must be a powerful force within the imperial palace, it may very well be this State Uncle Zheng or perhaps the Eunuch Wei. My guess is that your father is still alive.” Meng Qiu Xia asked, “How do you know?” Wang Zhao Xi smiled and replied, “Unless your father really does know something and confessed all that he knew, otherwise they will remain suspicious and would take their time to slowly interrogate him.” Meng Qiu Xia’s eyes lighted up as she said with awe, “Your perception and understanding of things is truly very lucid and thorough.” She became very impressed with the youngster in front of her as she thought to herself: I wonder what my fianc is like? If he could be anything like this youngster in front of me, then that would truly be wonderful. Coincidently, they both share the same surname of Wang. When she thought of this, a red blush passed over her face as she hurriedly lowered her graceful neck. Wang Zhao Xi was silently perplexed as he thought to himself: she was so sophisticated and extroverted just a short while ago, why is she suddenly displaying the shy behaviours of a stereotypical girl?

    Meng Qiu Xia was aware herself that her manners were very ungracious and out of character, thus she hurriedly calmed herself down and lifted her head. She was just about to say something when a whole patter of footsteps came from outside the door, signaling Bai Min’s return.

    Bringing with him two jugs of aged wine, Bai Min bounded up the stairs with joyful excitement, barging through the door and said, “Brother Wang, come and have a few sips of wine to energize yourself. You must be so tired from all that fighting.” But when he observed the spirited colours in Wang Zhao Xi’s expression, Bai Min’s expression changed from excitement to delight as he grinned and said: “Brother Wang, your energy really does revive very quickly. When I saw the colour of your face a while ago, I was so worried that you were sick!”

    Wang Zhao Xi was truly touched as he thought to himself: this kid was really foolish to the point of being adorable. Thinking over the fact that he has separated from his fianc for sixteen years now, he felt that he really couldn’t blame her even if she has fallen in love with someone else. Having thought of this point, a great weight was suddenly lifted off his chest, as he actually felt somewhat apologetic towards Bai Min.

    Meng Qiu Xia smiled and said, “This silly boy really does know how to act solicitously.” With a silly grin, Bai Min poured out three cups of wine and said: “Shi Mei, you should have a drink as well.” Meng Qiu Xia stepped out of the room and looked up to the sky for a while before returning and said: “We can’t just sit here and drink, the sun is rising and the guards will be changing shifts. We had better think of some plan.” Wang Zhao Xi pushed aside his cup of wine and said, “Let’s leave.”

    Wang Zhao Xi took both Meng and Bai to Liu Xi Ming’s abode. Liu Xi Ming’s could not fall asleep and waited up the whole night instead, anxious with anticipation. Wang Zhao Xi told Meng and Bai to wait in the yard as he took Liu Xi Ming into an inner room to converse in private. Wang Zhao Xi described to Liu the occurrences of the night and then added, “I would like to ask uncle Liu you to please conceal my identity for me. Miss Meng is not aware of the fact that I am her fianc, and I think it is better that she doesn’t know about this.” Liu stroked his beard with a faint smile while lifting up his head and asked, “Why?” Wang Zhao Xi blushed momentarily and quietly muttered, “I think it is better that she doesn’t know about this.” Liu Xi Ming smiled faintly and said, “It really isn’t easy trying to figure out what you youngsters are thinking. Fine, I will do as you say.” He then stepped out into the yard and arranged the accommodations for Meng Qiu Xia and Bai Min.

    After a few days, the tumultuous atmosphere gradually showed signs of subsiding. Liu Xi Ming was sociable and knew many people, thus through the an acquaintance that works within the palace, he was able to learn that Emperor Shen Zhong had not only ordered the two eunuchs Pang Bao and Liu Cheng to be executed, but has also promoted another eunuch called Wei Zhong Xian to the position of Supreme Head of the Eunuchs. Hearing this, Wang Zhao Xi’s immediately thought: this Wei Zhong Xian[18] must be that “Eunuch Wei.”

    Terribly concerned about her father, Meng Qiu Xia felt each passing day to last like a whole year. However, during the duration of these past few days she has already made close acquaintances with Wang Zhao Xi, more than once imploring him to try and come up with some plan. That night, Wang asked Meng Qiu Xia and Bai Min to come into his room as he suddenly asked, “Miss Meng, are you willing to undergo another huge risk?” Meng Qiu Xia replied with slight displeasure, “Brother Wang, what do you mean by these words? The fact that I have been unable to help my very own father has already made me feel incredibly ashamed and guilt-ridden. Would I ask Brother Wang you to take on the troubles of my very own family all by yourself?” Wang Zhao Xi laughed and said, “My words were out of place, I certainly deserve a good beating.” Bai Min also said, “Hurry and tell us your plans. No matter what risks are involved, include a share for me. I’m not much good for anything, but one thing that’s good thing about me is that I’m not afraid to die. If I can save ShiFu, I would gladly and without hesitation dive into boiling water and walk over burning coals.” Wang Zhao Xi looked at him and said, “Tonight I will be going into the imperial palace to investigate the situation. I’ve already discovered that the Honoured Consort Zheng lives in the Palace of Celestial Purity and have even obtained a map of the palace from Uncle Liu.” Bai Min slapped his hands and said, “That’s great!” Wang Zhao Xi immediately added, “But in order to steal into the palace at night, one’s levitations skills must be incredibly competent. I am very confident with Miss Meng’s levitation skills and martial arts.” This time, Bai Min was actually not at all dense as he immediately thought to himself that his levitation skills were indeed far behind that of his Shi Mei’s, if he went along not only would he be of no help, but he would undoubtedly also be a burden.” Therefore he said, “Since that is the case. I won’t go.” There were no other extraneous thoughts in his heart as he was saying these words, thus allowing his attitude to be perfectly straightforward and frank.

    That night after Wang and Meng heard the time-gong strike the third hour, they then changed into dark coloured night-traveler’s outfits and arrived outside the forbidden palace. Under the pale moon and sparsely dispersed stars, all was a mass of complete stillness. Meng Qiu Xia tapped her toes on the floor and was just about to leap over the walls when Wang Zhao Xi suddenly held her down and made a motion with his hands before crouching down to pick up two pieces of stone. He then threw the stones into the Imperial River that surrounded the palace. Two plunking sounds was heard and although the volume was quite light, yet it had already alerted the guards who were surveilling on the rooftops. Four shadows were seen to descend from the rooftop and run towards the bridge that extends over the imperial river. Words are often slower than actions, for in just that moment’s time the bodies of Wang Zhao Xi and Meng Qiu Xia had already soared high into the air, flying over the palace walls as if they were merely exchanging shifts with the guards.

    Wang Zhao Xi had already closely examined the map of the Imperial Palace, and taking Meng Qiu Xia they stole past the Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Perfect Harmony and Hall of Preserving Harmony, thus passing through the three Halls in order to enter the inner palace courtyard. The levitation skills of both people were of a high grade and therefore by the time the watch guards had return to their post, they had already entered into a small garden within the Palace of Celestial Purity.

    The surface area of the imperial palace was incredibly vast, as it could almost be characterized by the description of extending into the heavens and joining the clouds, while expanding into the infinite beyond. The three manmade lakes BeiHai[19], BaiHai and ShiChaHai were also considered as part of the palace’s property, where the flickering lights reflecting off the river’s surface can be seen shimmering from afar.

    Wang Zhao Xi and Meng Qiu Xia quickly hid in a dark corner when they suddenly observed the side doors at the corner of the garden to unexpectedly fly open as five or six guards accompanying a man concealed in a cloak entered in a very sneaky manner. The face of the mysterious person was completely obscured by the cloak’s hood. Wang Zhao Xi watched him enter into the palace and was just about to risk the danger of following him in order to investigate further when suddenly out of the corner of his eye, the shadow of a person was seen fleeting over the glazed tiles of the palace rooftop. Like a trail of smoke, the shadow entered into the palace rooms. Wang Zhao Xi was severely taken back. That person’s levitation skill was far above the caliber of his own. If that man was a guard within the palace, then without a doubt all chances of them being able to escape the palace alive tonight would be abolished.

    Meng Qiu Xia softly whispered, “If one does not venture into the tiger’s lair, how is one to capture the tiger’s cub?” Wang Zhao Xi replied, “Let us wait a little longer” and it was during this brief moment that they heard the alarmed cries of someone shouting, “There’s an assassin!” coming out from within the Palace of Celestial Purity. There were five or six guards keeping watching outside the palace, and they immediately dashed inside when they heard the cries. Wang Zhao Xi concentrated his attention on the very last guard that was about to enter into the palace before suddenly bounding up and with the speed of a lightning bolt, sealed the guard’s slumber acupoint in that brief split of a second. Wang immediately dragged him into a dark corner behind the fake mountain to take off the guard’s clothes and put them on himself before saying to Meng Qiu Xia, “Stay here and don’t run around. I’m going inside the palace to have a look.” He then jumped out into the open and took out his sword while screaming, “Catch the assassins!” before running inside the Palace of Celestial Purity.

    The fighting within the palace was just in the midst of becoming intense. Wang Zhao Xi only noticed that there was a tall and good-looking youngster warding off the attack of ten guards, branding a sword with a blade that glinted with cold beams. The light of the sword flashed menacingly as the slashing blade was emanating thunderous roars in the wind. When the momentum of the fight had increased to an intense pace, the flourishing sword further blazed with vivacious radiance, much like cold lightning that violently storms throughout the skies and pierces the eyes. The sword skill that was being executed by this person was the Wu Tang sect’s 72 styles of the Sequential Chain-linking Swords, yet the power of this person’s execution was at an incalculable number of levels above that likes of Geng Shao Nan. Wang Zhao Xi was awestruck with silent amazement, as he couldn’t believe that though this man was of such a young age, he could actually be so capable!

    There were many guards within the palace, and though the youngster was powerful, he was nevertheless being surrounded by more than 10 people and was thus gradually showing signs of being unable to withstand the impending attacks. Wang Zhao Xi was completely transfixed by the fight when he suddenly heard someone ask from behind him, “Hey! Why aren’t you fighting?” The person who spoke was a commander of the imperial bodyguards. It was already too late for Wang Zhao Xi to try and hide when he ran smacked into him. The guard having seen that he was looking at an unfamiliar face was even more startled than having discovered an assassin, as he loudly shouted, “Someone’s masquerading as an imperial guard!” while simultaneously bring down the iron ruler[20] in his hand. Wang Zhao Xi quickly executed a few slashes with his sword, and although he wounded the guard he had also caused himself to fall into the battle sphere.

    The tall and elegant youngster was the grandson of Zhuo Zhong Lian. His name was Zhuo Yi Hang. When Zhuo Yi Hang was seven years old, he had accompanied his father Zhuo Ji Xian to the imperial city. Coincidently Wu tang’s sect leader, the Taoist Priest Purple Sun had also arrived at the city to solicit alms. Purple Sun Priest was known as the world’s number one swordsman and was just in the midst of searching for a youngster with a solid background and foundation to inherit his legacy. That day, he arrived at the Zhuo mansion and found Zhuo Yi Hang to harbour an aura of strength and supremacy while the bone structure of his forehead was also illustriously distinguished, thus suddenly inspiring him to take a disciple. Zhuo Ji Xian was once positioned as an official in the HuBei area where he once had the opportunity to encounter Priest Purple Sun. He was thus very aware that Priest Purple Sun’s martial art skills were incredibly complex and mystifying, reaching the pinnacle of unfathomable heights. Zhuo Ji Xian also hoped that his son can indeed become a complete man who excels in both the literary and martial arts, therefore he immediately agreed to Purple Sun’s request.

    Taoist Priest Purple Sun brought Zhuo Yi Hang back with him to the mountains and taught him his martial arts with utmost devotion, as well as employing medicinal means to cultivate and advance his central energies while also training him in his physical stamina and endurance. Therefore over the course of twelve years Zhuo Yi Hang had finally understood the intricacies and essence of the 72 styles of the Sequential Chain-linking Swords and Nine Palace Heavenly Palms. Now, amoung the second-generation disciples, Zhuo Yi Hang’s abilities were ranked as being number one. In fact, his abilities were even stronger than some of his ShiFu’s martial art brothers.

    Throughout these twelve years, Priest Purple Sun will bring Zhuo back to the imperial capital once every three years, with each visit lasting a whole month. During the span of this month, Zhuo Yi Hang will stay at his home and pursue his literary studies. Zhuo Ji Xian will hire the most famous literary masters and scholars to explain and analyze over the intricacies and significances of the Analects and history books for Zhuo Yi Hang. Then after that one month’s duration, he will let Zhuo Yi Hang take all the books back to the mountain in order to read and study over. Because of all this, Zhuo Yi Hang was well trained in both his literary and martial arts, giving good cause for both his father and ShiFu to be very pleased.

    The year that Zhuo Yi Hang turned nineteen, Priest Purple Sun having seen that he had already completed his martial art studies and being aware that Zhuo Ji Xian was also desirous to see his son returned to the capital to write his civil examinations, he thus brought Zhuo Yi Hang back to his home while also bestowing him with a Ice Ray Sword. Before they departed from each other, Priest Purple Sun said, “I truly hope that you will not loose yourself in the sphere of officialdom and politics, the position of Wu Tang’s sect-leader will still be counting for you to fill in the future.” Zhuo Yi Hang having received his ShiFu’s commands then turned back towards his house. After departing for three years, Zhuo Yi Hang found that he had already grown more than a head taller than his father.

    The whole family was rejoicing over the reunion of father and son, yet who could have guessed that a storm of troubles would suddenly erupt out of nowhere and come blowing straight into their path? Father and son had reunited for not even three months when Zhuo Ji Xian became snared within the tumultuous wars of the “Case of the Clubbing Assault.” One day he left for the imperial palace to attend the daily conference that discusses over the state’s affairs, and was never able to return home again. Zhuo Yi Hang was incredibly devastated, but through his father’s governmental acquaintance he was able to discover that his father was framed by someone titled State Uncle Zheng, and that this State Uncle Zheng was acting out on the orders of his sister the Honoured Consort Zheng. In a fit of anger, Zhuo Yi Hang no longer cared about how the number of master fighters within the palace were as vast as the clouds, and actually went barging into the palace in the middle of the still night with just a sword to accompanying his solitary self.

    Returning to the present situation of Wang Zhao Xi who had just stepped into the combat ring -- Wang Zhao Xi immediately started to execute his Cloud-Chasing sword skill which was as swift and volatile as the wind, with every attack aiming for the weakest parts of his opponents’ body. After a while, he actually moved closer to Zhuo Yi Hang who had also sequentially executed a few stances to break out an opening, allowing him to bring Wang Zhao Xi near beside him. The two of them cooperated together, fighting back to back with their swords joined together, causing their overall force to increase dramatically. In the midst of their intense battle with the imperial guards, not only were they able to attack, but they were also able to defend and thus making it very clear that they will very soon be able to break out of their entrapment.

    At that moment, the bedroom door within the Palace of Celestial Purity suddenly opened as the Honoured Consort Zheng, her brother and the mystery man concealed in the cloak were all leaning against the doors as they observed the fight under the accompaniment of five or six guards. The Honoured Consort Zheng laughed and said, “Chang Xun, tell your men to flaunt a few moves. These useless guards can’t even capture a few petty thieves! If this isn’t taken care of quickly, then once the outer palaces becomes aware of this, there will be trouble.” The man wearing the cloak gave a wave with his hands and immediately two other guards rushed out and joined the battle. One of them was using twin hooked swords and was heading straight for Zhuo Yi Hang. The other one had absolutely nothing in his two bare hands, but relied solely on a pair of palms made out of flesh and blood as he forcefully attempted to snatch Wang Zhao Xi’s long sword. Wang Zhao Xi slashed out with his sword, but with a low squat the guard actually popped up to attack from the side. Wang Zhao Xi’s Cloud Chasing Sword skill excels in its agile speed, thus when he wasn’t able to wound with that one stab, he immediately changed his stances to cut off his opponent at the wrists and then directing the tip of his sword towards the opponent’s kneecaps. The guard exclaimed a “hey!” as he immediately retracted his hands in defence while also retreating a few steps.

    This man was a practitioner of the Eagle Claws, and was actually very skilled in this form of martial art that specializes in the art of using “Empty Hands to Grasp Sharp Blade.” Yet he was caught off guard with Wang Zhao Xi whose family legacy was a sword skill that was exceptionally agile and potent. Although the man had consecutively attacked a few times, yet his efforts remained to be futile.

    The guard on the other side who was using the hooks thought that by using the twin hooks he would be able to overpower any sabers and swords. Which was why the moment that he stepped forward, he immediately used the “Large Eagle Spreading its Wings” stance to bring the two hooks together, and then draw them out again in order to hook the long sword in Zhuo Yi Hang’s hands. Little could he have guessed that Zhuo Yi Hang’s sword skills would be even more ingenious, as with a flip of his sword, a wave of green light showered over the earth. Although Zhuo began to execute his move after the guard had executed his, yet it was Zhuo’s sword that reached its mark first. The pair of twin hooks was not even able to hook together yet and already Zhuo’s long sword and already used the “Tornado Tearing Through Leaves” stance to slash towards his opponent’s lower body, causing the man using the hooks to uncontrollably retreat a few steps. Seeing that his two prized martial art fighters fail in their attempts, Chang Xun couldn’t refrain from feeling quite disappointed.

    However, the martial art skills of these two guards were nevertheless much stronger than the other guards. Thus once they entered into the battle, their force when compounded with the other ten guards was able to force Zhuo and Wang to be tightly surrounded again, further delaying more time. Wang Zhao Xi couldn’t help himself from starting to feel uneasy and apprehensive. Suddenly he heard Meng Qiu Xia’s sharp screams coming from outside, followed by a number of cries screaming for guards to capture the female assassin. Wang Zhao Xi became even more anxious and impatient as he lashed out with his swords a few times and forcefully rushed forward trying to barge his way out, thus gradually separating from Zhuo Yi Hang. The guards immediately took advantage of the situation and intercepted between the two, thus separating them in the process.

    In the midst of his anxiety, Wang Zhao Xi’s sword stances became very unsystematic and chaotic, yet he continued to charge forward dynamically, killing two guards. However Wang’s shoulder suddenly burned with searing pain as he has also sustained a wound as well. Episodes upon episodes of danger followed one after the other in sequential fashion, with Wang being barely able to escape the danger each time. Wang hurriedly focused his attentions and refrained from any hasty actions. He flourished his sword around, with each stance being so tight that neither wind nor rain can infiltrate through, thus shrinking the size of the battle ring and allowing Wang to concentrate on defending while waiting for help.

    In the midst of this intense battle, the gate of the outer side garden in the Palace of Celestial Purity suddenly burst open as a troop of guards came running in. The face of the Honoured Consort Zheng immediately changed colours as she hastily dragged the man wearing the cloak inside. Words are often slower than actions, as the troop of guards had already arrived to the front of the palace. However, they did not participate in the fight. There was a man within the crowd of troops who loudly shouted, “Stop fighting! Search the palace!” The guards who were surrounding Zhuo and Wang were all so shocked that they immediately stopped fighting and jumped out of the combat circle. The Honoured Consort Zheng shrilly shrieked, “Crowned Prince, What am I being charged as guilty of?” The man who just uttered the command was actually the Crowned Prince as he retorted with a loud command, “Search the palace!” The guards that he brought with him immediately rushed towards the steps of the palace. With a toss of her hair, the Honoured Consort Zheng severely said, “If you don’t have our reverend Lord of Million Years’[21] holy permission, then I’d like to see who would dare to enter this place.” The guards stopped cold in their tracks, but the Crowned Prince just laughed coldly and said, “There’s already been someone who’s entered through these doors without any permission, we need not wait for our reverend emperor’s imperial edict. No matter what happens, I will take full responsibility for everything!” The guards gave a loud shout as they then charged into the palace. The Honoured Consort Zheng then shrieked, “Stop these rioters for me. I’m going to take him with me to the Lord of Million Years’ himself and reason with him. No matter what happens, I will take full responsibility for everything!” Like the ends of two sharp needles that were pointing towards each other, each guard had their own master, as in a flash of a moment a great carnage erupted.

    Zhuo Yi Hang’s body suddenly leapt forward as he consecutively branded his sword with the speed of wind while shouting, “Crowned Prince, I’ll capture the rebels for you!” All that can be seen is how Zhuo gave a twist of his body and attacked with his sword, barging through the crowd of fighters. The guards from the Palace of Celestial Purity were all engaged in battle and could in no way find the chance to stop him. The few guards who came out of the palace to obstruct him were all met with the force of Zhuo’s sword. Like the fury of raging winds, the execution of all his stances linked up with each other sequentially, causing the guards to fall and trip all over the place.

    The man with the cloak ran in front of the Honoured Consort Zheng and was just about to enter the inner palace when Zhuo Yi Hang with a tap of his toes, soared up high above the ground, shooting across the sky like a flying arrow. While being high in the air he suddenly dived down to seize the mystery man, clasping him by the cloak and then tugging him up to wield his body as a weapon. Like the wild dance of a tornado, Zhuo spun the man around in a full circle, and although there were still five or seven guards within the palace at that time, yet who would dare to approach him? At that moment, Wang Zhao Xi also came barging in with his sword while the Crowned Prince and his two guards had also arrived into the Palace Hall.

    Zhuo Yi Hang moved like the ferocious flurry of a tornado as he hurled the captured man to one side, where the Crowned Prince’s guards were already waiting to catch him. They took off the cloak’s hood to reveal the true identity of the man. The guards were all shocked as they blurted out, “It’s the second son of the Emperor!” The Crowned Prince laughed coldly and said, “Lock him up! Continue to search the palace!” Zhuo Yi Hang flex his two arms and with a loud bang, blew open the doors to Palace of Celestial Purity’s inner forum before darting inside.

    Actually, relying on his mother, Honoured Consort Zheng being the favorite concubine of his father the Emperor, the second prince, Chang Xun had always harbored ambitions to take over the throne; however, most of the high officials within the palace belonged to the Crown Prince’s clique, thereupon he was forced out of the capital to take the appointment as the Prince of Luoyang.

    In her heart, Honoured Consort Zheng was still dissatisfied; forming an alliance with the palace eunuch Wei Zhongxian, her older brother State Uncle Zheng, and a few court councilors, she came up with a malicious conspiracy. They incited a trusted aide, who was willing to take on the suicide mission, to disguise himself as a madman and ran into the palace during broad daylight and using a stick to force his way through the Palace of Celestial Purity. When he was captured, he deliberately uttered a string of crazy babble, listing a whole bunch of accomplices to purposely frame the officials who were supportive of the Crown Prince, as well as eradicating the two most powerful eunuchs within the palace, Pang Bao and Liu Cheng, and thus opening up a way for Wei Zhongxian to take control of the Eastern Coalition, and assumed the title ‘Zong Zhu’[22].

    [Book’s note: The Ming dynasty’s Division of Special Agents was separated into the “Eastern Coalition”, “Western Coalition” and “Imperial Bodyguards” three main groups. The East and West Coalitions were governed by the eunuchs, whilst the “imperial bodyguards” were governed by the Military officials. The Eastern Coalition’s chief manager was called the ‘Zong Zhu.’]

    In Luoyang, Chang Xun also hired some warriors who were willing to die for him, in his preparation to rebel. The “Case of the Clubbing Assault” was a success, it implication was far and wide. Honoured Consort Zheng thought that their plan had succeeded, and therefore secretly sent for her son to steal back into the capital. Unexpectedly, the Crown Prince Chang Luo was quite intelligent and had a bunch of loyal warriors under his command. Chang Xun’s plan of sneaking back into the capital was discovered by him, and thus this strange bloodbath drama deep within the palace ensued.

    After shaking the palace gate open, Zhuo Yihang rushed straight in. He saw Honoured Consort Zheng, her brother and a fair-skinned, chubby eunuch in the palace hall. Zhuo Yihang was of the firm opinion that Honoured Consort Zheng and her brother were the enemies who made false charge against his father; with a loud roar he swung his fist to strike.

    The eunuch was precisely Wei Zhongxian; scolding, he said, “You dare to rebel?” Waving his hand, four commanders[23] stepped out together to meet the enemy. With a shout Zhuo Yihang swept his palm, the first commander extended his arm to block. Although his body tottered slightly, he did not fall back. The second commander struck his palm backward, unexpectedly it was a skill from the Iron Pipa[24] Hands; like a storm he pounced directly to Zhuo Yihang’s face. The third commander spun his own body and used his own shoulder to strike forward; the reaction force from the impact caused him to tumble down on the floor, while Zhuo Yihang was also shaken that he staggered, almost losing his balance. Right this moment the fourth commander jumped up and executed a flying kick to Zhuo Yihang’s thigh, sending Zhuo Yihang to fly back more than 10 feet, but he managed not to fall down.

    These four commanders were all highly skilled martial artists within the Eastern Coalition, their martial art skills are far superior compared to the guards involved in the tangled battle outside. Although Zhuo Yihang was also a skilled martial artist, his experience and maturity were still lacking. With one against four, it was not surprising that he had to suffer a great disadvantage.

    Zhuo Yihang was greatly angered, turning around, he pulled cold-flickering sword. Wang Zhaoxi, the Crown Prince’s guards had also arrived inside the palace halls. The Crown Prince shouted, “Chang Xun left his post without permission, he conspires with others to rebel. Anyone who dares to defend him will also be arrested as well.” Before his voice vanished, he had entered the palace hall as well.

    Wei Zhongxian cupped his fist and called out, “I follow your orders!” Unexpectedly he ordered his four commanders to arrest the Honoured Consort and her brother. With a giggle he said, “Honoured Consort Zheng and her brother are conspirators in a rebellion. I am the witness.”

    The Crown Prince was startled; Wang Zhaoxi’s thought was wandering someplace else, with a sword in his hand he looked around.

    Such is: Massacre in the inner palace, creates great chaos. Under the glint of blades, bloodshed between the brothers.

    [1]The lowest degree conferred upon successful candidates under the former civil service examination system. Scholars who passed the first-grade government examination earns the title of “Xiu –Cai”.

    [2]Where the Crowned prince slept.

    [3]XuanWu is one of the four central districts in Beijing, located in the southwest corner.

    [4]Also known as the WuMen, spans 117 feet in height. Being one of the four gates located at each corner of the palace walls, the Meridian gate is located in the south.

    [5]Book’s footnote: also Emperor WanLi.

    [6]A highly honoured Imperial Concubine, generally the highest ranking female in the palace after the Empress.

    [7]The chosen successor to the throne. Most commonly the eldest son borne by the principal wife (Empress) though not necessarily the king’s first born son.

    [8]One of the ancient capitals, replaced Xi-An as the ancient capital in the Eastern Zhou dynasty, serving as the capital for 13 dynasties and 1592 years. Situated in the west of HeNan province, Luo Yang is also the starting point of "the Silk Road" while also bearing the title of the “Ancient Capital of Nine Dynasties.”

    [9]Book’s footnote: Also the time of Emperor WanLi’s forty-third year of reign.

    [10]Sometimes to try an imported case that involves a high ranked official, the emperor will order secretaries from three different departments/ministries to try it together.

    [11]HuTongs were ancient city alleys or lanes that can typically be found in Beijing. Many surrounded the forbidden city which formed its centre. Hutongs were typically passageways comprised of a few closely arranged houses surrounding a quadrangular courtyard.

    [12]Known as the “Tian Qiao,” was the bridge that spanned over the Dragon Beard Ditch, which emperors had to cross when they wanted to reach the temple of Heaven to perform their monthly rituals of worship, which is how the bridge got its name.

    [13]Book’s footnote: This was a result of a rule established by all past emperors that all residential buildings of peasants must not be taller than five flights of stairs in order that people within the palace can easily surveillance the whole city while never permitting the people in the city to observe into the palace.

    [14]The character translated as “water beetle” was “fu.” The character “fu” can mean both “water beetle” and “money.” What Liang is most likely doing here is punning off the words. As some water beetles like to glide across the water (some at very fast speeds) in search of food, resembling a messenger of sorts. Many will also be copper in colour, furthering their resemblance to the coins. Although there is also a water beetle called “Water Penny Beetle,” but since this beetle is most common in North America and not a glider, Liang most likely was not referring to this type.

    [15]Wang Ri Zhao: the words Ri and Zhao combine to form the word Zhao, which has the same sound and approximately the same form as the Zhao in Wang Zhao Xi's name. Thus Wang Zhao Xi roughly took apart a character in his real name to form this alias.

    [16]The "Min" in Bai Min's name forms part of the word Ji Min which approximately translates as alertness and quick thinking resourcefulness.

    [17]Known in Chinese as “guo jiu,” is in reference to the maternal uncle or brother-in-law of an emperor.

    [18]Considered as one of the most infamous figures in the Ming dynasty as well as the most famous eunuch in Chinese history.

    [19]The biggest lake in Beijing.

    [20]Ancient Chinese weapon mainly used for self protection.

    [21]Referring to the emperor.

    [22]Lit. ‘Ancestor Master’.

    [23]Orig. ‘Chun Tou’ (lit. father chief) [Book note: A sargeant/team leader of the Eastern Coalition Guards].

    [24]Chinese lute, with 4 strings, a large pear-shaped body and a fretted fingerboard.
    Last edited by foxs; 05-30-10 at 09:04 PM.

  4. #4
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 3

    Chapter 3
    Bloodbath between Brothers
    Swords Force Explodes Inner Palace
    Love and Hate unresolved
    Extraordinary Encounter in Ancient Cave

    (Translated by Faerie Queene and Foxs)

    Honoured Consort Zheng blurted out, Eunuch Wei, what is the meaning of this?

    Wei Zhong Xian pulled his face and rolled his eyes; he said quietly, You, your son and your brother are all conspiring to take over the throne, I, Wei Zhong Xian being a loyal servant of our lord, purposely pretended to join your group in order uncover your evil plans, did you think I would really rebel against the lord?

    Honoured Consort Zheng opened her mouth to shout curses. The Crown Prince Chang Luo was half believing half doubting, but then he thought to how this Eunuch had just taken over the East Coalition, regardless of whether his words were honest or not, as long as he was helping him now, that was all that matters. Thereupon he shouted his order for the Honoured Consort, State Uncle and the Second Prince Chang Xun to be tied up tightly. He was just about to retreat when Wang Zhao Xi was suddenly heard to shout, Uncle Meng, Im coming!

    The Crown Prince suddenly remembered and asked the Honoured Consort, You have abducted my primary martial arts trainer; where do you hide him?

    Wei Zhong Xian signaled with his eye, a commander of the Eastern Coalition abruptly raised an Eight-immortal Platform in the middle of the room, a dark hole appeared on the floor. Wang Zhao Xi ran in with the four guards, and after taking only a few steps, the sounds of shouting and weapons impacting against each other can be heard. From his treasure sack Wang Zhao Xi took out a flint and lighted a torch; following the four commanders of the Eastern Coalition he ran forward. When the commotion was in sight, he saw a tall and sturdy man, a locked wooden stock draped over his shoulder, his body spinning around like a whirlwind, brandishing the wooden stock as his weapon, was engaged in a fierce battle with two guards. This man was precisely his father-in-law, Meng Can.

    When Meng Can heard sounds of combat occurring outside, he immediately knew that something was happening, thus he used his inner strength to break the shackles binding his hand and then used the wooden stock as his weapon to fight the two guards of the Palace of Celestial Purity with everything he had. The two guards were both first-class fighters among the palace guards, while Meng Can was unable to free himself from the heavy chains on his feet, his movements were severely impended. In the intense battle, although Meng Can managed to inflict wound on the guards heads, yet he himself had to also sustain seven or eight cuts from their blades.

    As the four commanders rushed inside, the two guards were filled with relief and joy as they shouted, Hey, quickly come over and help us take care of this southern barbarian! To their surprise, however, as quick as they were talking, the four Eastern Coalition commanders, with two commanders taking care of one guard, they killed off the two watch guards in just a split of a second.

    With his sword in his hand Wang Zhao Xi immediately rushed ahead, but the first thing he saw was his father-in-law completely drenched in blood. He hurriedly ran forward to help him out of the cave while saying by Mengs ear, Father, it is your son-in-law. Meng Can replied, Wheres Xia er? Have you seen her? His trembling voice was very weak and he was uttering every word with extreme difficulty. Wang Zhao Xi replied, Xia mei is also outside. Hearing this, Meng Can was suddenly infused with strength as he clung onto Wangs shoulder as they walked out of the cave together.

    Within the palace, the Crown Prince Chang Luo was in the midst of conversing with Zhuo Yi Hang. Zhuo Yi Hangs grandfather was a Supreme Commander and his father a Vice-Minister, therefore once their names were mentioned the Crown Prince would naturally know who they were. The Crown Prince said, Your father was wrongfully accused, I will certainly clear his name for him. Meng Qiu Xia had already arrived in the inner palace and was standing by Zhuo Yi Hang when she suddenly saw Wang Zhao Xi come in supporting a person covered from head to toes with blood. She was extremely alarmed, but when she steadied her gaze and discovered that it was her own father, her distress at that moment was akin to having her soul suddenly flee her body and her spirit shattering into a million pieces. With tears spurting from her eyes, she immediately ran forward. Meng Can said, Crown Prince, please forgive me for not being able to serve you. With his left hand clinging onto his daughter and right hand clutching onto his son-in-law, Meng Can was about to say more when suddenly two imperial bodyguards came dashing in from outside the hall. With a strange sounding cry, one came from the left side while the other attacked on the right as they both simultaneously struck out at Wang Zhao Xi. With a twist of his body, Wang Zhao Xi extended out with his elbows to knock over one of the guards and then followed with his palm to force back the second guard. When he collected himself and took a look, he discovered that the guard was the man who had hunted after him when he was in the Shaan Xi area and who was later scared away by Yu Luo Cha. He was a commander of the imperial bodyguards, Shi Hao.

    Shi Hao had always been a very proud and arrogant person, thus having been forced back with just one strike of Wang Zhao Xis palm, he immediately flexed his shoulders to attack again. The Crown Prince shouted, Shi Hao! What do you think youre doing? Shi Hao replied, This man is a famed bandit in the Shaan Xi area! The Crown Prince said with surprise, What? He is a rebel? Shi Hao replied, When I saw him in the Shaan Xi area, he was pretending to be Commander Zhuos bodyguard. I was a blind fool and actually let him off the hook so easily. Little could I have known that Yu Luo Cha would later stand up for him and kill three of my guards.

    The Imperial Bodyguards were in charge of the external matters of the palace, while the imperial guards of the East and West Coalitions dealt solely with the internal affairs. They were all unconnected and independent from each other. Shi Haos group had entered from the Gate of Supreme Harmony after hearing about the news of an attack. The Imperial Bodyguards were directly under the command of the Emperor himself and thus if they really were to search and capture any rebels or rioters, even the Crown Prince himself can do nothing about it. The Crown Prince thus asked, Who is this Yu Luo Cha? Is this person a male or female bandit? Shi Hao replied, She is the present eras most powerful and deadly female bandit. If she could stand up for him, they must be related in some way. After saying this, Shi Hao looked as if he was preparing to attack again when Wang Zhao Xi suddenly laughed out loudly and said, Commander Zhuos grandson is right here, you can ask him yourself whether I am indeed his familys bodyguard? Zhuo Yi Hang looked over at Wang Zhao Xi and said with clear sincerity, Crown Prince, this Brother Wang is indeed my familys bodyguard. I brought him along with me into the palace tonight in order to help your highness in capturing the rioters. Shi Hao growled, Then why did Yu Lou Cha help you?

    Although Meng Can was severely wounded, yet his mind was still very alert and aware as he immediately bowed to the Crown Prince and said, This man is my own son-in-law, he came with my daughter here tonight in hope to rescue me. Id like to beseech you Commander Shi, please do not wrongfully accuse others. Meng Qiu Xia was standing beside her father at that moment, and although her fathers voice was very weak and fragile, yet his every word can still be heard very clearly. Her whole body suddenly became very hot, and though she wasnt even sure whether it was a result of her shyness or her happiness, yet her heart continued to flutter about uncontrollably.

    During the past few years, Meng Can had served as the martial arts trainer within the Palace of Compassion and Celebration and was on good terms with the Crown Prince. A few days ago, by risking his life he personally captured the offender of the Case of the Clubbing Assault. Currently, it was also because of the Crown Prince, that he was imprisoned and tortured to such a blood pulp by Honoured Consort Zhengs subordinates, giving cause for the Crown Prince to be quite apologetic. Listening to him, the Crown Prince hastily said, Commander Shi, Master Meng and Lord Zhuo most definitely wouldnt lie, let them go.

    Meng Can said, Since that Yu Luo Cha is the most malicious bandit, naturally she would place herself in opposition to the government officials. I am afraid she purposely drove a wedge between us.

    Shi Hao wanted to respect the Crown Princes orders and also because Meng Can was nevertheless considered as his elder, therefore although he still harbored suspicion in his heart, he could only retreat.

    The Crown Prince said, Master Meng has received such a serious injury, please follow me back to the palace to recuperate. Master Zhuo and this Wang Xiong, please also come together.

    Meng Can replied, I thank your highnesss concern, but your unworthy servant is afraid that he will not be able to serve you ever again. Please allow your humble servant to return home in order to prepare for his funeral.

    Looking at the condition of his injury, the Crown Prince knew that there was indeed no hope for him; besides, he had some other important business to attend anyway, hence he did not insist. He said, Very well, just use my carriage to go back home. He also ordered his men to fetch some metal-wound medicine from the palace and delivered it to their house.

    Along the way, Meng Qiu Xia attended to her father inside the carriage, but from time to time she would steal a glance toward Wang Zhao Xi. However, Wang Zhao Xi was deep in thought with knitted eyebrows.

    By the time they arrived home, the sky had turned pale. The Crown Princes attendants who escorted them home broke the seal on Meng familys home, left the metal-wound medicine, and returned to the palace. Wang Zhao Xi and Meng Qiu Xia helped Meng Can to his bed, applied the medicine and wrapped the wound. While they were busy, Zhuo Yi Hang also helped doing whatever he could.

    Meng Cans spirit seemed to improve somewhat, suddenly he opened his eyes wide and gasping for breath he said, Come in closer, I have a top secret matter I must tell you.

    Zhuo Yi Hang thought they were discussing some private matters therefore quietly began to step out. Suddenly Meng Can beckoned to him and asked, This gentleman, Zhuo Xiong, are you the honorable disciple of Priest Purple Sun? Wang Zhao Xi nodded. Meng Can said, Although this is the first time Zhuo Xiong and I meet, very soon we will part forever. In all honesty, your chivalry in protecting my humble son-in-law is unforgettable. I do not wish to conceal this matter from Zhuo Xiong, moreover, I am afraid in the future I will need Zhuo Xiong to lend a helping hand. Zhuo Yi Hang was already at the door, he walked back in.

    Wang Zhao Xi poured a cup of tea and let Meng Can drink it. He said, Wang Bobo, youd better recuperate well before we continue talking.

    Meng Cans eyes brightened, with urgency in his voice he said, If I dont speak now, it will be too late. Worthy Son-in-law, I am aware that for the last several years, you, father and son, are not happy with me.

    How can there be such thing? Wang Zhao Xi said.

    I will die very soon, Meng Can said, We must speak the truth. I know you, father and son, are not happy that I became a lowly slave of the imperial court, but do you know why I became the primary martial arts instructor in the Palace of Compassion and Celebration?

    Meng Cans expression was grave and solemn even though his body was trembling severely. Nobody dared to say anything. After a while, Meng Can said in a low voice, You should all know that I am good friends with JiBeis Hero Luo, Luo Jin Feng. Five years ago, Luo Jin Feng suddenly suffered a terrible death. Are you all aware of that? Wang Zhao Xi replied, Ive heard some JiangHu friends mention that incident. Meng Can then said, Luo Jin Feng was an extremely brave and righteous man, a true and loyal patriot of his country. Years ago, he journeyed outside the countrys borders and procured some secret information. He discovered that the Manchurians were conspiring to invade, continually sending undercover agents into our country to bribe a whole group of people to work for them and act as internal spies. Included within this group are high and powerful officials of the government as well as skilled fighters of the martial arts world. Luo Jin Feng was able to uncover the identities of two of these traitors, but he was never able to discover the actual name of the second person. With ardent fervour and anger filling their hearts, Zhuo Yi Hang and Wang Zhao Xi simultaneously asked, Who are these two people?

    Meng Can replied, One of them is Ying Xiu Yang from the borders of the Chuan area. Wang Zhao Xi murmured an Oh in acknowledgement. Meng Can then continued, Ying Xiu Yangs whereabouts have always been secretive and mysterious, but within these ten years nobody knows where he is or what he is doing. The other person is a skilled fighter within the palace, but we do not know whether he is an Imperial Bodyguard or a member of the East or West Coalitions. However, we do know that he would come into contact with high and respected officials, thus this mysterious person is even more important than Ying Xiu Yang. After Luo Jin Feng discovered this secret, he was murdered as soon as he stepped foot back into our country. But just before he died, he was able to tell me about this secret. For me to enter into the Palace of Compassion and Celebration as the primary martial arts trainer was also his suggestion. It was only at this time was Wang Zhao Xi finally able to understand why his father-in-law decided to enter the palace. It was because he was trying to investigate this incident.

    Meng Can sighed and continued, Its a shame. Ive been working in the palace for five years now, yet I havent been able to uncover even one or two traces. After resting for a while, he again continued, The secret wars occurring within the palace are dreadfully intense. Although the Crown Prince is more intelligent than his father, as well as harbouring the desire to rule the country in a just and proficient manner, yet Im afraid that in the end he wont be able to escape the furtive attacks. I dont want any of you to take a position within the palace, but I do hope that you can all remember the name Ying Xiu Yang.

    Meng Can was able to finish all his words in one sitting but his breathing has suddenly become very rushed and choked. Meng Qiu Xia lightly brushed his back for him as Meng Can suddenly asked, Wheres Bai Min? Meng Qiu Xia replied, Hes in Uncle Lius home. It was Wang gege who rescued us and took us over to the Lius residence. Wang Zhao Xi thought to himself: this Bai Min is obviously his favoured disciple, no wonder Qiu Xia and he are so close. Feeling the pangs of jealousy again, Wang Zhao Xi said, Uncle Meng, since you desire to see Brother Bai, then let me bring him here to you. Meng Can smiled bitterly and said, Theres no need. Its too late. Oh, Zhao Xi, why are you calling me uncle? After my death, you and Qiu Xia have to take good care of each other and remember to treat each other with love and respect. To be able to see the two of you here together now makes my heart feel incredibly relieved and happy very happy. His voice started to become disjointed and incoherent, gradually growing softer and softer. He was not able to finish all his words, as with a final jerk of his legs, his breathing stopped completely.

    With a hoarse scream, Meng Qiu Xia burst out into a desolate wail. Wang Zhao Xi knelt down in front of the body and paid his respects by knocking his head against the floor a few times before saying, I will ask Uncle Liu to help organize the funeral, and there will also be your Bai gege. Meng Qiu Xia said with tears in her eyes, What about you? Arent you going to help me as well? Why should we bother others? Wang Zhao Xi murmured, I I and though he wanted to say more, yet he nevertheless refrained from doing so. It was at this time that suddenly somebody started knocking from outside. Zhuo Yi Hang descended the stairs and opened the front doors to discover that it was the Crown Princes envoy.

    The Crown Prince had sent over an agent to inquire about Meng Can, and when he heard the news of his death he also felt incredibly remorseful and apologetic. Later, the agent returned again to deliver the Crown Princes invitation welcoming Zhuo Yi Hang to stay at the Palace of Compassion and Celebration as his guest. Zhuo Yi Hang took the invitation and asked the Crown Princes envoy to stay in the waiting room while he himself entered into the inner rooms to change his clothes and say his farewells to Wang Zhao Xi.

    Wang Zhao Xi had prepared a memorial tablet for his father-in-law, and with Zhuo Yi Hang they both arrived in front of it to pay their respects. After completing that, Wang suddenly pulled Zhuo into the inner rooms and softly whispered, Brother Zhuo, since the Crown Prince is asking you to enter the palace, he must be hoping to give you an important mission or position. But I would like to dissuade you from taking any governmental position. Zhuo Yi Hang replied, I am still in the position of a mourner. Why would I become a governmental official? According to the ancient customs of the families that served as governmental officials for many generations, when a family member is in mourning they must remain so for three years and within these three years and they must not take a governmental position, get married or engage in any pleasure.

    Wang Zhao Xi then asked, Brother Zhuo, are you going to be bringing your fathers honoured remains back to Shaan Xi to be buried? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, Yes, that is my intention. But the journey will be long, I wonder if I can safely bring my fathers remains back to my ancestral home? Wang Zhao Xi said, Based on Brother Zhuos abilities, you should be able to travel to anyplace with no problems. But I do want to warn you to take caution of one person. Zhuo Yi Hang asked, Who? Wang Zhao Xi replied, Yu Luo Cha! Zhuo Yi Hang asked with curiosity, Why? Wang Zhao Xi replied, Shes had a few run-ins with your Wu Tang sect. Zhuo Yi Hang asked, Why is it that Ive never heard anything about it before? Wang Zhao Xi replied, It is only a recent occurrence. He then related the incidents of Yu Luo Cha robbing his grandfather and ridiculing his martial arts brothers to Zhuo Yi Hang.

    Zhuo Yi Hang angrily condemned, A vicious and despicable wench indeed! Wang Zhao Xis eyebrows knitted together with displeasure. He couldnt have guessed that Zhuo Yi Hangs snobbish upper-class attitude would be so strong and would actually ruthlessly insult Yu Luo Cha with such a haughty attitude, using such words as wench. Wang, himself being the son of the Underground worlds famed Lord would naturally also feel offended by these words. Therefore he coldly remarked, The mercilessness of Yu Luo Chas actions are indeed rarely seen or heard of. However she is nevertheless a charismatic female who simultaneously exhibits the traits of a noble-spirited male. For centuries, there hasnt been such an extraordinary woman to appear within the martial arts world. Zhuo Yi Hang said dryly, Really? Then I hope I can have the chance to encounter her. Wang Zhao Xi was immediately alarmed as he thought to how Zhuo Yi Hang had nonetheless performed an act of goodwill towards him earlier, how could he possibly watch him walk into a death trap?

    Wang hurriedly said, Brother Zhuo, I believe it is wiser if you dont meddle with her. Your position and status is so exalted and important, if anything happened to you, that would only add to my sins. Although Zhuo Yi Hang was still disgruntled within his heart, yet on observing at how sincere and genuine Wangs manner was, he then conceded, Since that is the case, then I wont go and seek her out. Wang Zhao Xi said, Thats right. Although Brother Zhuo's martial arts may indeed by powerful, yet it will still be unwise to clash with her. Besides, Brother Zhuo if you wanted to return home, naturally you will go through Dai Tong, passing by Shan Xi and the Northern Shaan area. As long as you dont enter into the Southern Shaan area, then you can avoid encountering Yu Luo Cha. Zhuo Yi Hang thanked him for his concern and then signalled his intent to depart when Wang Zhao Xi suddenly whispered in his ear, Brother Zhuo, after you return home, if anything happens please go to the Yan An City to find your unworthy brother. You only need to state my worthless name and there would most definitely be friends of the JiangHu who would inform me. Zhuo Yi Hangs character had always been honest and straightforward, therefore at this moment he only felt this person to have a very mysterious background, yet never would he have imagined that Wang would actually turn out to be the son of a powerful Lord within the Underground world.

    Right now Zhuo Yi Hang only acknowledged, yet he did not even ask his address in Yan An City. The two of them waved their hands and said their goodbyes. Zhuo Yi Hang rode the Crown Princes carriage straight to the Palace. The attendant led him into a guesthouse to wait. A moment later, he returned and announced, The Crown Prince invites you to come.

    Following the attendant via a long and winding corridor, Zhuo Yi Hang was shown into a courtyard, which was encircled by white stone fences.

    There were several warriors demonstrating their skill in the courtyard. On the opposite site was a elaborately decorated pulpit, the Crown Prince was sitting on this elaborately decorated pulpit, drinking wine and watching the demonstration. The attendant led Zhuo Yi Hang toward this elaborately decorated pulpit. They performed obeisance, the Crown Prince granted them permission to stand, and ordered his attendants to fetch a stool and asked Zhuo Yi Hang to sit by his side.

    With a smile the Crown Prince said, With the commotion last night, the great undertaking has finally succeeded. Outside we have ministers of the palace courtyard, inside we have our family; in addition, we have a very brilliant ancestor. I am not worried that Father Emperor will not punish them. You have also toiled. Let us drink wine and watch the demonstration now.

    According to the feudal system reinstated by the Ming dynastys founding emperor Zhu YuanZhang, descendants of royal lineage were to only be honoured as a Lord of vassal state. To avoid these vassal state lords from rebelling, they establish very strict regulations such as the vassal state lords were not allowed back into the capital, lords were not allowed to correspond amongst each other, and they are also not allowed to interfere with the governmental politics. Once they disobey these rules, their ranks will be immediately taken away from them and they will be demoted to the level of an average peasant while being taken to Feng Yang Citys prison, forced to be incarcerated within its high walls forever.

    These strict regulations were decreed personally by the Crown Princes ancestor. Although Ming Shen Zong Zhu Yijun often indulges and spoils the Honoured Consort Zheng, mother and son, yet Chang Xun stealing back into the capital without permission this time was a direct violation of the ancestral rules. Although later investigation failed to indict him of rebellion, it was difficult for him to escape this great offense. Moreover, many high officials such as Gu Xiancheng, Shen Shihang, Wang Xijue, Wang Jiabing, and the others were also supportive of the Crown Prince, especially Gu Xiancheng, who, in the twenty-second year of the Emperor, resigned from his post and returned to his hometown over a sharp debate on the subject of the succession to the throne. Later on, he gave lectures at the Donglin Academy in Wuxi. For some time his fame spread out throughout the whole China, and he became a prominent component of the Donglin Academy. Although he was out of the political arena, his influence was still enormous. This Gu Xiancheng was a strong supporter of the Crown Prince. Therefore, although Ming Shen Zong was partial towards his second son, yet he couldnt afford to be reckless.

    At first, when Wei Zhong Xian observed how the Honoured Consort Zheng and her son are favored by the Emperor, he purposely sided with her, therefore joining together their forces and utilizing the other persons power to their own purposes. Through the Honoured Consorts help he was able to take over the Eastern Coalition, but after seeing that the situation had suddenly changed, he immediately joined the Crown Princes clique, and thus strengthening the Crown Prince's position. All these were told to Zhuo Yi Hang by the pompous Crown Prince.

    Hearing this, Zhuo Yi Hang was rather frightened, he thought: though the second prince may indeed be an incompetent disappointment, yet nevertheless he was still the brother of the Crown Prince, they really shouldnt be so mistrustful and guarded towards each other. And since his brother was conspiring a rebellion, to capture him is indeed understandable, but to take such pleasure in anothers pain is nevertheless not what a true gentleman should do. Unconsciously he recalled the 'Zheng Bo subdued Duan' chapter in the 'Zuozhuan'[1]; in which it was recorded that the two princes of the State of Zheng were just like the Crown Prince and the Second Prince of today. Because of power struggle, the older brother arrested the younger brother. The younger brother, Gong Shu Duan, had committed more outrages than the Second Prince Chang Xun, yet Zheng Zhuanggong was more magnanimous than the Crown Prince Chang Luo. Nevertheless, the Zuozhuan still satirize Zheng Bo for scheming against his own flesh and blood.

    Zhuo couldnt help from feeling a chill from the bottom of his heart as he also thought how despite the fact that Meng Can had died for the Crown Prince, yet after the Crown Prince heard of the news of Mengs death, he did not seem a bit saddened or apologetic, causing Zhuo Yi Hang to eliminate most of his intentions of joining the Crown Princes force of power.

    Seeing how Zhuo was looking as if he was lost in deep thought, the Crown Prince toasted him and said with a laugh, "Let's watch the amazing qinggong of our warriors!"

    Zhuo Yi Hang lifted up his head and saw four men in the courtyard, all with a long bamboo pole balanced upon their shoulders as on top of each bamboo sticks there stood a youngster who was holding onto the bamboo stick with the left hand, and was wielding their sword with their right hand. The men on the arena were running and dodging around, the youngsters on top of the poles performed all kinds of tricks, such as hanging-upside-down pearl, or wild goose wing stretching flat, or using their feet to hook the pole, or standing straight on top of the pole. Each posture was utterly splendid.

    Zhuo Yi Hang frequently watched street acrobatic show near the Heavenly Bridge; although this kind of acrobatic stunt was common, but none of the street performers was able to perform on the bamboo pole as nimbly as these people. Holding the poles with both hands, the four men, like butterflies flying in and out of the flowers, dodging to the left and slipping to the right, the bamboo poles were shaking endlessly, sometimes the poles bent so much as if they were about to break, yet the youngsters on the poles were laughing and enjoying themselves, they were as steady as Taishan.

    Good! Zhuo Yi Hang exclaimed.

    The Crown Prince smiled, Its nothing he said. Clapping his hands, the four men were still dodging to the left and slipping to the right, the four youngsters on the poles also moved their swords to the left and to the right, attacking each other. It was truly like watching dragons or serpents dancing in the air.

    Zhuo Yi Hang noticed that although those four youngsters were just swishing their swords around freely, without any established opponent or purposeful attack, yet their stances were not without organization or order; he could not refrain from applauding. These four youngsters qinggong had already reached excellence, definitely could not be compared to the acrobatic skill of street performers.

    The Crown Prince clapped his hands again, from among the crowd of warriors leaped out a man in his mid fifties sporting a goatee, his face of a red purplish color. He was also carrying a bamboo pole in his hands. Walking into the middle of the court he snapped the pole into two pieces, and stood the poles on the ground while he himself soared and each of his feet landed on the tip of the poles. His body swayed in the air and then stayed still.

    It should be known that to stand the bamboo pole was already a hard task, but to be able to balance on top of the poles was even more difficult. Thus the person must not only possess levitation skills of a very high grade, but the usage and dispersion of their strength must also be properly and exactly executed.

    As soon as he achieved a steady footing, the man called out, Come! The four men, still with bamboo poles on their shoulders, ran around him. The youngsters on the poles let out a shout, then all of them jumped down and swiftly attacked him with their swords!

    The mans body and hands were extremely vigorous and nimble, he stood absolutely still on the bamboo poles. One after another the four youngsters ran toward him. The man stretched out his hands; grabbing and flinging, he looked like a street performer throwing flying daggers. He grabbed the youngsters coming from his left and threw them to his right, and grabbed the ones coming from his right and threw them to his left. The grabbing and throwing were executed in an even more exquisite way. Those youngsters were thrown exactly onto the bamboo poles still balanced on the shoulders of the four men, just like the trapeze act of the circus; it was extremely good!

    The Crown Prince clapped his hands again, the performance halted. The four men lowered their bamboo poles, the four youngsters on the poles jumped down. The man with the goatee gave a slight smile and also jumped down to the floor, but the two poles of bamboo were still firmly rooted in the ground.

    Zhuo Yi Hang was able to discern with one look that the pole has become quite a portion shorter, thus arousing his attention. With a laugh, the man plucked the bamboo poles out of the ground, leaving behind two small holes on the ground. It should be understood that the poles were made of very weak material while the dirt ground was quite hard, the person must have concentrated his internal energies on the tip of his toes in order to drive the pole into the ground. Such a degree of internal energy is certainly far above the league of the amateurs!

    The Crown Prince called him over and introduced him to Zhuo Yi Hang, saying, This gentleman is the most skilled martial artist within the Western Coalition, currently Father Emperor bestowed him to me for my use. His name is Zheng Hong Tai. Mr. Zhuo is exceptionally skillful in martial arts, the two of you can be good friends.

    Zheng Hong Tai extended out his hands to shake Zhuo Yi Hangs hands. Zhuo Yi Hang suddenly felt that Zheng Hong Tai suddenly exerted his strength, his five fingers felt like an iron grip! Zhuo Yi Hang thought: he must be testing my strength. He relaxed his palms and Zheng Hong Tai suddenly felt as if his hand was holding a pile of cotton. Zhuo Yi Hangs hand slipped out of his grasp lie a slippery fish.

    Good! Zheng Hong Tai said, The internal energy cultivation of an orthodox school. Sire must be from either Wudang Pai or Songyang Pai.

    Zhuo Yi Hang was slightly startled that he was able to tell his martial art origin with just one stance. Thereupon he said, Priest Purple Sun of Wudang Pai is indeed my master.

    Aya! Zheng Hong Tai exclaimed, Turns out the brilliant disciple of the number one master in the world, no wonder you are this good. And thus both of them expressed their admiration toward each other.

    Having enough of the demonstration, the Crown Prince dismissed everybody, but he took Zhuo Yi Hang into his study.

    Since Emperor Shen Zong was already old, the Crown Prince was expected to ascend to the throne very shortly in the future which was why he was in desperate need to procure more talents to order to aid him in expanding his power. Seeing that Zhuo Yi Hang was not only skilled in both the literary and martial spheres, but was also the descendant of a family that has served the government for many generations, the Prince therefore highly valued Zhuo and expressed his wishes to establish him as a governmental official. But Zhuo Yi Hang used the excuse of how he was expected to remain in mourning for three years to decline the Princes offer.

    The Crown Prince said, "You don't have to be a government official in the court; you will not violate the filial piety by being a respected guest in my mansion."

    Zhuo Yi Hang said, "I must bring the remains of my father back to our hometown. Your humble servant's grandfather is old with nobody to attend to his need. I have to give him a full account of what had happened and be with him when he is returning to the heaven. Your humble servant has not entered your service, how can I seek to curry your favor in advance?"

    The Crown Prince sighed and said, "Mister has a genuine manner of filial piety; since the ancient times, people say that loyal officials often originated from filial sons, I won't insist. But please return to the capital as soon as you finish burying your esteemed fathers remains to let me have the opportunity to get to know a great person better. The circumstances surrounding a miscarriage of justice to your esteemed father must be cleared one of these days. Please stay in my palace for a few more days." The Crown Prince was asking earnestly, Zhuo Yi Hang naturally could not decline.

    Several days later, there was a major change in the court. In accordance to the ancestor's wish, Emperor Shen Zong had no choice but to ban the Honoured Consort to the deserted palace while the Second Prince Chang Xun was removed of his rank and imprisoned. The State Uncle Zheng was hung. The previous huge changes were immediately reversed, all the governmental officials who have been wrongfully accused also received their deserved recognition, clearing their names. Zhuo Yi Hangs father Zhuo Ji Xian was also honored as the Vice Instructor of the Crown Prince, giving cause for Zhuo Yi Hang to pay his respect and thank the Crown Prince for his grace; his heart was somewhat consoled that he was able to vent the depressed feeling of the last few days. Thus the Case of the Clubbing Assault had come to an end. It's just that the bandit who broke into the palace suddenly died in the prison without any clear reason.

    Emperor Shen Zong was confused, but he did not investigate in detail. Since he managed to rid of his major opponent, the Crown Prince was unwilling to be implicated further, so he also dropped the case. Henceforth while toying with the authority in the Palace, Wei Zhongxian also managed to befriend the Crown Prince; however, since he was afraid of the Crown Prince's astuteness, he was secretly plotting another sinister design. In the end it became the second major strange case within the Ming Dynasty, the 'Case of the Red Pill'. But we'll come back to it later, presently let's return to the story.

    After successfully exonerate his father's name by relying on the Crown Prince's influence, Zhuo Yi Hang asked for leave from the Crown Prince. He then traveled to the Meng familys abode to visit Wang Zhao Xi. To his surprise, Wang Zhao Xi and Meng Qiu Xia had already left. Disappointed, Zhuo Yi Hang returned to the palace and told the Crown Prince about this. The Crown Prince seemed very disappointed and upset over this as he immediately asked someone to record down Meng Cans bravery and to draw the pictures of both Mengs daughter and son-in-law so as to aid them in searching for them in the future. But in his heart Zhuo was thinking: when he died, you did not show the least bit of care, yet now you are deliberately putting on a performance in order to win other people over to your side.

    A few days later, Zhuo Yi Hang prepared his father's remain and officially asked for leave from the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince suddenly said, "Mr. Zhuo, there is somebody else who wants to come back with you."

    "Is there somebody from Your Highness' Palace who want to go Shaanxi?" Zhuo Yi Hang asked.

    "Exactly," the Crown Prince replied, "You are travelling to make funeral arrangement for your esteemed father across thousands of li to a faraway place, it would be better if you have someone to keep you company." Then he asked Zhuo Yi Hang to wait.

    A moment later someone walked out from inside, it was none other than Zheng Hong Tai, who did the demonstration the other day. Zheng Hong Tai laughed and said, "With the two of us traveling together, then no matter how powerful of a bandit we may encounter, we should be able to handle them.

    Zhuo Yi Hang had a sudden inspiration, What if we encountered Yu Luo Cha? he blurted.

    Zheng Hong Tai's face immediately changed color as he forced himself to smile and say, Yu Luo Cha and us are like river water does not interfere with well water, Zhuo Xiong need not worry.

    The two of them left the capital, they started at daybreak and did not stop until nightfall, conversing about martial arts all along the journey, enabling the time to pass quite easily. About twenty some days later, they were passing through Shanxi area and arriving at the borders of the Shaanxi territory. All along the journey, there continually appeared people who would greet Zheng Hong Tai.

    That particular day they arrived at Huayin, the West Mountain, Hua Shan (Mount Hua), was just ahead. Zhuo Yi Hang remembered there was a temple on the Geese Plummeting peak of Hua Shan, and within the temple was a Taoist priest called Zhen Qian, an old acquaintance of his ShiFus. ShiFu had once told him that when he returned to his ancestral home, he was to stop by and pay his respects to this Taoist priest, and thus he told Zheng Hong Tai about his intentions.

    Zheng Hong Tai said, Thats perfect, why dont we just stay here for a few days while I wait here for a few friends.

    During the early morning of the second day, Zhuo Yi Hang invited Zheng Hong Tai to ascend Hua Shan with him, but Zheng Hong Tai declined the offer by saying that he has to attend to other things for the time being. He instead ushered Zhuo to depart early so that he may also return promptly, therefore Zhuo Yi Hang was left to trek up Hua Shan all by himself. Hua Shan was celebrated as one of the five renowned mountains of China, it encompassed five peaks which included the Sun Facing Peak, Geese Plummeting peak, Lotus Flower Peak, Cloud Stand Peak and the Jade Maiden Peak. The five peaks gathered around each other, closely connected together as if one peak was growing out of the other. The form of the mountain takes the shape of a blooming flower that was emerging out of the clouds, creating an image that is both picturesque and overwhelming.

    Zhuo Yi Hang journeyed for quite a while before finally arriving at the Geese Plummeting Peak by noontime. The overcastting clouds enveloped over the top of the peak as the skies darkened and a heavy mist settled in. Zhuo Yi Hang was worried that a huge rainstorm would be coming this way but luckily, the temple was already within sight. He stepped inside to find that within the sparsely decorated temple, a few worshippers could actually still be found. Zhuo Yi Hang walked past the meditation hall and ascended the stairs to the main hall when he suddenly saw a young woman hastily rush by. The beauty of her face was as exquisite as the immortals from heaven and although Zhuo Yi Hang had merely caught that one glimpse of her colours that flitted by like the flight of a startled phoenix, yet already he felt as if his mind was being dazed and his soul was being extracted from him. Zhuo Yi Hang thought to himself: if the rainstorm begins just as she has descended halfway down the mountain, she will most definitely be caught in the storm. That would really be terrible.

    After Zhuo Yi Hang had arrived in the main hall, he presented his name and asked for permission to be received. Priest Zhen Qian was incredibly delighted to see him and invited him into the meditation room while telling a young apprentice to bring in Hua Shans famed tea. On behalf of his ShiFu, Zhuo Yi Hang paid his respects to Priest Zhen Qian. Zhen Qian replied, I havent seen your ShiFu for about ten years now. I never would have expected him to have produced such a wonderful disciple. After a brief pause, he continued to say, Your third martial arts uncle, Priest Red Cloud came here a month ago. Zhuo Yi Hang asked with curiosity, What did my third uncle come here for? Zhen Qian replied, I heard that within your Wu Tang sect, there were five second-generation disciples who all had a finger severed and then ridiculed by Yu Luo Cha. Now Red Cloud wants to find Yu Luo Cha to settle this score. I tried to persuade him again and again to not engage in these silly quarrels with youngsters. He left afterwards, so I wondered whether he really did go seek her out after all? Zhuo Yi Hang thought to himself: I keep hearing everyone speak of this Yu Luo Cha. I wonder exactly how fierce and vicious this demoness is?

    The two men conversed for a little while longer as flashes of thunder continued to spark outside, warning of rain. Zhen Qian said, Im afraid that there will be a huge storm coming. Why dont you rest here tonight? But Zhuo Yi Hang was concerned about Zheng Hong Tai and his fathers cremated remains, therefore he immediately replied, I still have a friend who is waiting for me. Descending the mountain should take less time, I think it is better that I immediately return right now. Zhen Qian thus sent his regards to Zhuos ShiFu before he personally showed him to the mountains exit.

    As Zhuo Yi Hang reached halfway down the mountain, the sound of thunder suddenly blasted out as dark clouds enveloped the sky and the raindrops threatened to descend.

    Zhuo Yi Hang looked around and suddenly discovered that halfway down the mountain was a huge cave. Found etched on the slab of the crag near the entrance of the cave were three large words reading Yellow Dragon Cave. Outside the cave was a grove of bamboo trees, a few old pine trees, as well as stone tables and stools. Zhuo imagined that this most likely was a result of the priests within the temples having discovered the scenery around the cave to be especially divine, therefore deciding to manage the property. The cave was perfect for being used as a place to momentarily escape the rain, thus Zhuo Yi Hang uttered, Just my lucky day, and dashed inside. As soon as he entered into the cave, the sound of thunder rang incessantly outside as a heavy rainfall started to pour down.

    The cave was deep and eerily silent as Zhuo Yi Hang walked towards the middle of the cave when suddenly a beautiful sight lighted up in front of his eyes. Lying on a stone bench within the cave was actually a young woman, a beauty whose exquisiteness can humiliate the flowers and triumph over snow. It was the same girl he saw within the temple. Watching her sleep with the sweetness of a HaiTang[2] in spring, her loveliness was made all the more charming. Zhuo Yi Hang belonged to a wealthy and illustrious family that stresses the importance of self-regulation in the act of abiding by ancient customs and manners, thus he almost didnt even dare to observe the girl directly. But seeing that she was in the midst of her sweet slumber, he didnt dare to wake her up either as he thought to himself: what if she wakes up and then misconstrues my intentions, thinking that Im one of those flirty coquets?

    Therefore he lightly stepped away from the girl, returning towards the entrance of the cave and sat down in silence to watch the great downpour occurring outside even though his heart was jumping around restlessly. He thought to how the beauty of that girl was something that can seldom be seen in this world, yet at the same time he did not dare to turn around to have another look.

    After sitting for a while, Zhuo Yi Hang suddenly felt that the chilly temperature of the cave to be bitingly cold. He thought to himself: I am a practitioner of martial arts and yet even I am feeling the nippy chill. How could the young girl inside the cave possibly withstand this temperature? Im afraid that she might get ill from this draft. Then he also thought: In a situation that leaves a solitary male and female alone together, I must try to avoid any misunderstandings and evade any improper allusions. Yet how can I possibly watch her fall ill from this cold? Matters of propriety are nevertheless still relatively minor issues, I would rather let her scold and reprimand me when she wakes up. Therefore he lightened his footsteps again and quietly approached the centre of the cave, took off his outer coat and gently placed it on her body before softly retreating again.

    He was only able to walk a few steps before he suddenly heard from behind him the sounds of the girl getting up. Zhuo Yi Hang didnt dare to turn around, but only heard the young girl rebuke in a severe tone, Whos there that dares to take advantage of me?

    Zhuo Yi Hang hurriedly stammered, Young Maam, please do not misinterpret my intentions. When I found how bitingly cold the cave was, I was worried that you would catch a cold which is the only reason why I would dare to be so audacious so as to add another garment to you. The young girl suddenly sighed and said, Please turn around. Zhuo Yi Hang was surprised and perplexed as he turned his head around, still not daring to look at her directly.

    The young girl returned the outer coat to Zhuo and said, I was watching you, and I saw what you just did. Mister, you are truly a sincere and genuine gentleman. Throughout my whole life I have never met anyone like you. Im afraid that had somebody else been in your place, they would have attempted to take advantage of me. Zhuo Yi Hangs face was burning from embarrassment as he thought to himself: why are the words of this girl so upfront and frank? The girl was heard again to say, I purposely yelled at you a while ago just to scare you. Please dont take notice of it. Zhuo Yi Hangs eyebrows knitted together with slight displeasure as he thought to himself: why are her emotions of delight and displeasure in such an unpredictable and antithetical manner? How can she treat the act of scolding others as a joke? Judging from his expression, the young woman was able to guess his emotions as she laughed and said, My nature is like this, which is there are so many people that are terrified of me. From now on, I will try to change my ways. Zhuo Yi Hang felt that her words were incredibly odd and nonsensical as he became even more confused while thinking to himself: If your nature is indeed like this, then why should you suddenly change it? What does the act of whether you will change or not have anything to do with me?

    The young girl having observed how he continually remained silent while his countenance communicated signs of displeasure immediately asked, Mister, are you still angry at me? Zhuo Yi Hang immediately answered, What do you mean by these words Maam? Why would I possibly be angry at you? The young girl said with joy, I knew that you wouldnt be angry at me. You are such a kind person. Since the day I was born, I have never encountered somebody whos taken care of me as you did. Zhuo Yi Hang asked, Where are your father and mother? The young girl replied, Before I could even understand a single thing, my father and mother had already died. Zhuo Yi Hang immediately said apologetically, Oh! Please forgive me for asking these insensitive questions, Im afraid that I have reminded you of your sorrows. With a sweep of her jade-like hands, the young girl suddenly started to grab onto his shoulder.

    With a flash of his body, Zhuo Yi Hang immediately dodged away. The young womans body tottered about as if she was going to fall when Zhuo Yi Hang used his fingers to hook onto his sash and with a quick flicker, he used his sash to knock against her slim waist, thus preventing her from falling down. The young woman steadied her balance before saying with embarrassment, The floors wet, my foot slipped. Had Mister not lend out a helping hand to steady me, I would have fallen down. She suddenly laughed and said, Actually my words were wrong, I should have said that you lend out a helping sash to steady me, not a hand. Zhuo Yi Hangs face blushed a colour of red, spreading all the way to his scarlet coloured ears. The young girl suddenly asked, Are you afraid of me too? Zhuo Yi Hang was puzzling over why this young girls words sounded so crazy and bizarre when he suddenly remembered: it must be because she doesnt have a father and mother, therefore causing her to feel deep unhappiness within her heart. No wonder she is acting like this. Therefore he said, I just find young Maam to be very pitiable. The young girl cut off his words as she asked with a slightly trembling voice, Pitiable? Zhuo Yi Hang continued to say, And also very admirable. Young Maam you were left by yourself to live in this world to the present day, and yet still you would ascend Hua Shan by your solitary self to light incenses in prayers. Had you not possessed great courage, it would not have been possible.

    The young girl lowered her graceful neck and said, Your words are so accurate. Why do you seem like such an old friend to me? Hey, whats your name? I forgot to ask you. Zhuo Yi Hang imparted his name to her before asking the girl her name in return. The young girl replied, My surname is Lian. But I dont have a name, why dont you give me a name? The rain outside was gradually ceasing as a waft of wind came blowing in, causing the ends of the young womans garments to dance lightly in the wind, her posture graceful and exquisite, causing Zhuo Yi Hang to suddenly remember the phrase, Skirt of the Rainbow, Garment made of Plumage[3] as he immediately blurted out, How about Ni Chang? Wouldnt that be nice? The young womans face suddenly underwent a change of colour as she angrily shouted, Who are you? Confess! Zhuo Yi Hang croaked with alarm, Im Zhuo Yi Hang remember? If Miss Lian does not like that name you don't need to use it, but theres really no need to be that angry. The young womans eyes flashed briefly as she studied Zhuo Yi Hang, the look in her eyes were like sharp blades that were piercing into him. After hearing his words, she remained silent for a while before saying, I lost my temper again, the name you gave me is very nice. From now on, Ill call myself Lian Ni Chang.

    Zhuo Yi Hang wiped the cold sweat from his forehead as he thought to himself: this young woman is truly very scary. Lian Ni Chang suddenly asked, It seems that Mister are very skilled in martial arts, may I ask why you came to Hua Shan? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, I merely learned a few measly tricks from the Wu Tang sect, in no way can I be said to deserve the praise of the two words very skilled. Currently, I am in the process of taking my fathers remains back to my ancestral home, and since I happened to past by Hua Shan, I thought I should pay a visit to the temples and light a stick of incense in prayers. Most likely our readers would have guessed by now that this young woman was Yu Luo Cha, Lian Ni Chang. Coincidently the name that Zhuo Yi Hang would come up with would actually turn out to be her original name. Yu Luo Cha was filled with suspicion, and when she tested him earlier, she already discovered that he was a skilled martial artist of the Wu Tang sect, his proficiency far above that of Geng Shao Nans. Even Taoist Priest Red Cloud would have to admit of being slightly below Zhuo in terms of martial arts proficiency. She had originally thought that he must be here to seek revenge, but little could she have guessed that he would not make any attempts to conceal his identity. Judging from his expression, he definitely didnt seem to be aware of the fact that she was Yu Luo Cha, causing her to be silent, losing all traces of her smile. It must be known that Yu Luo Cha had a merciless hand and had Zhuo Yi Hang harboured a single intention of concealing anything, then the result would have been terribly severe.

    With a dazzling smile, Yu Luo Cha said, I heard that Wu Tang sects sword skills were without a match in this world, how can they possibly be considered as measly tricks? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, The road to knowledge knows no end. There will always be another level of heaven beyond the one that we know of. Every sects martial arts has their own strengths, how could anything be said to be unmatched in the world? It only happens that Wu Tang and Shaolin are both sects with a long history, producing heroes and honourable men in every generation, thus causing the people of the martial arts world to generously heap on words of exalted praise. As for myself, my nature is much too slow and untalented, for even though I have a famed teacher, yet I excel in neither my literary nor martial arts studies, certainly not deserving to be even mentioned. By this time, Zhuo Yi Hang had already suspected that Yu Luo Cha knew martial arts which was why he took pains to speak in a particularly humble manner. Yu Luo Cha listened carefully and gave a slight nod of her head before suddenly rushing towards Zhuo Yi Hang and with a swipe of her sleeve that moved with the speed of lightning, she clasp down on Zhuo Yi Hangs wrist.

    Zhuo Yi Hang was incredibly alarmed as he thought to himself, how could it be that I wasnt able to evade that move? His face was red with embarrassment as he struggled to free himself. Yu Luo Cha purposely released his hand. Outside, the rain was starting to cease while traces of strange whistling sounds can be heard throughout the mountain. Yu Luo Cha then said, Oh! Im very scared. Whenever Im scared, I want to find somebody to stay with me. Are you going to leave me too? Zhuo Yi Hang couldnt be sure whether her actions were purposefully executed, and he couldnt figure out whether she knew martial arts or not. But observing her delicate and fragile appearance, he couldnt stop himself from saying, If Maam is scared, then let me accompany you home. Yu Luo Cha walked towards the caves entrance and looked towards the skies saying, The rain will be stopping soon and there will be someone waiting for me. Theres no need to bother you.

    After a while, the rain stopped and the clouds dispersed as Yu Luo Cha said, Alright, I have to go home now. Zhuo Yi Hang had originally wanted to ask her: You have no father and mother, who else would be in your home? But observing at how mysterious and secretive her words and actions were, for some reason, within his heart, Zhuo suddenly became a little afraid of her. Therefore he dared not ask about her history and background in such a bold manner but said instead, Since that is the case, I have to descend the mountain as well. Yu Luo Cha replied, Then go. As Zhuo Yi Hang reached the caves entrance, Yu Luo Cha suddenly called him back. Zhuo Yi Hang turned around with fright. Yu Luo Cha then said, I want to ask you to do one thing for me. Zhuo Yi Hang replied, Tell me what it is. If I can do, then I will. Yu Luo Cha said, I dont want you to tell anybody else that you've encountered me today. Zhuo Yi Hang smiled and said, This can be done easily. We are merely casual acquaintances, once our encounter is over, then it is over. Why would I talk about it? Yu Luo Chas eyes reddened as she suddenly asked, So in your heart, I dont even exist? Zhuo Yi Hang didnt know how to react as he could only say, I have to return to my ancestral home in the Northern Shaan area, we most likely wont have the chance to meet again in the future. But if we do see each other again, then I will definitely treat you as my good friend. Yu Luo Cha waved her hand and said, Fine, then leave. Zhuo Yi Hang immediately ran down the mountain and it was only when he reached a cavity in the mountain did he finally dare to turn his head around for a look. The faint silhouette of Lian Ni Chang standing in front of the crag can still be vaguely discerned.

    When Zhuo Yi Hang returned to the inn, Zheng Hong Tai asked, Youve been to Hua Shan to offer a stick of incense in worship right? Did you see Priest Zhen Qian? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, Yes. Zheng Hong Tai suddenly sighed, Its too bad that the Priest Zhen Qian never intrudes into other peoples affairs. Zhuo Yi Hang realized that there was another meaning behind Zhengs words, thus he asked, Is there something wrong Elder Zheng? Zheng Hong Tai seemed as if he wanted to say more, but in the end he refrained from doing so as he suddenly asked instead, On your journey up the Hua Shan, aside from Zhen Qian, did you happen to encounter any other people with notable abilities? A thought flashed across Zhuo Yi Hangs mind as he also simultaneously remembered Yu Luo Chas words and replied, No. Zheng Hong Tai did not persist with his question, but changed the subject and conversed with Zhuo about the affairs of the martial arts world instead. After they finished their dinner, they then separated to their respective bedrooms to rest.

    During the middle of the night, Zhuo Yi Hang was in the midst of slumber when he suddenly heard some whistling sounds to come from afar, causing him to immediately jump out of his bed. Someone was tapping lightly on his door as Zheng Hong Tais voice can be heard to say, Brother Zhuo, open the door. When Zhuo Yi Hang unlocked the door, Zheng Hong Tai entered and immediately started to light up an oil lamp before suddenly asking, Brother Zhuo, are you afraid of Yu Luo Cha? Zhuo Yi Hang asked with surprise, What? Zheng Hong Tai replied, I only want you answer my question honestly, are you scared of her? Zhuo Yi Hang then said, Ive never seen her before, why would I be afraid of her? Zheng Hong Tai exclaimed with joy, Thats great! Then since she robbed your grandfather and ridiculed your martial arts brothers, you must want to seek revenge right? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, Unless my ShiFu gives me the order, I dont want to purposely seek her out in revenge. Zheng Hong Tai said, But what if you happen to encounter her? Zhuo Yi Hang felt this was becoming stranger by the moment as he jumped up and said, Are you saying that Yu Luo Cha is here now?

    Such is: Like an illusion and like a dream, resembling rain and resembling cloud.

    [1]Mr. Zuo's commentary on Spring and Autumn, an early history attributed to famous blind historian Zuo Qiuming.

    [2]Flowering Chinese Crabapple

    [3]Translated from the phrase NiChang YuYi which forms Lian Ni Changs name. It was said that the Tang Emperor, Tang MingHuang (also known as Tang XuanZong) once had a dream that took him to the moon where immortals were dancing to divine melodies, their skirts and garments billowing within the breeze as they danced. When he awoke, he was inspired by this dream to have the NiChang YuYi song to be composed. It is also said that Tang MingHuangs favoured concubine, the Honoured Consort Yang YuHuan was famed for her superb dancing to this melody.
    Last edited by foxs; 06-02-10 at 03:54 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 4

    Chapter 4
    Seven Greats Formation Efforts Voided
    Great Villain Surrenders Life
    Thirty Years Love A Dream
    Stone Wall Yields Manual
    (Translated by Faerie Queene)

    Zheng Hong Tai snapped his fingers and said, Thats right. Shes here. A tremor jolted through Zhuo Yi Hangs whole body as an idea suddenly flashed through his head. Could it be that the Lian Ni Chang he encountered in the cave would actually turn out to be this Yu Luo Cha? But that couldnt possibly be, he thought, for Yu Luo Cha must be this incredibly vicious and hideous Demoness while Lian Ni Chang was an extremely enchanting and charming young girl. How can they possibly be confused with each other? Observing that Zhuo Yi Hangs head was lowered in deep thought, Zheng Hong Tai decided to purposely provoke him again by saying, Why is it that as soon as you hear Yu Luo Cha is around here, you would suddenly become so chicken? Zhuo Yi Hang retorted, Who said I was scared? Its true that there are some conflictive issues between the two of us, yet it is still not over very serious matters. Why should I make such a big deal over it and purposely seek her out in revenge? Zheng Hong Tai scolded, So youre not even going to do anything despite how she robbed your grandfather? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, My grandfather has already returned home safely. The little bit of money that was lost is not much of a big deal. Zheng Hong Tai persisted, But what about how she humiliated your martial art brothers? This is a matter that concerns the Wu Tang sects honour and reputation, are you just going to let that pass too? Zhuo Yi Hang countered back, Concerning matters of my sect, I will only listen to my ShiFus commands. Zheng Hong Tai shouted, Fine! Then even if Yu Luo Cha comes barging through our door, you wont need to concern yourself with it. Just let the fame and honour of the Wu Tang sect be disgraced and shamed through your own hands. Zhuo Yi Hang replied, But she hasnt come knocking on our door. Zheng Hong Tai then coldly stated, To tell you the truth, I will be dueling with her tomorrow night. Dont forget youre with me right now, can you really just ignore and stay detached from all this?

    Zhuo Yi Hangs eyebrows knitted together as he thought to himself how although Zheng Hong Tai and him cannot be considered as close acquaintances, yet they were nonetheless traveling companions. Furthermore, this Yu Luo Cha was indeed an adversary of their sect. Zheng Hong Tai criticizing and condemning him may not be much of big deal, yet if he didnt lend out a helping hand this time, acquaintances of the martial arts world might all think that he was indeed a coward that was too chicken to meddle with Yu Luo Cha. He then also thought: my third marital arts uncle also has intentions of seeking her out for a battle in order to settle their scores. So Im sure ShiFu wont reproach me even if I did lend out a helping hand to this Zheng Hong Tai to combat Yu Luo Cha. Thus, Zhuo Yi Hang said, Elder Zheng, since this Yu Luo Cha is causing you trouble, then I also want to have a look and see exactly what she is made of. But Im afraid that I am too young and incompetent to be of much help to you. Zheng Hong Tais eyebrows were raised towards his forehead, his expression filled with jubilation while he bellowed out with laughter and said, Youre much too humble! Now youre finally displaying the true colours of a gutsy man. Let me now introduce you to a few of my friends. Tomorrow night we will all combat the Demoness together. Zheng pulled Zhuo to his feet as they then jumped out the door and ran towards the wilderness.

    Under the wan moon and sparsely dispersed stars, there were traces of Will O Wisps glowering from afar. Suddenly a strange sounding cry was heard as Zheng Hong Tai immediately halted and clapped his hands together twice. From the untamed wilderness and amongst the uncultivated graves, a few people suddenly leapt out. Zhuo Yi Hang focused his eyes to discover that it was a cluster comprised of tall, short, old and young people, combining to form a group of four altogether. Zheng Hong Tai asked, I already know that the younger Brother Fan has an emergency and will not be able to make it. But is Brother Ying not coming as well? This wont work without him! One of the people responded, He is purposely calculating his time of arrival so that he may suddenly emerge tomorrow night to scare the Demoness.

    One by one, Zheng Hong Tai introduced each of the mysterious men to Zhuo Yi Hang. The first one was called Zhao Ting, and he was the famed fighter of the Song Yang Sect. The second person was called Fan Zhu and was renowned throughout the martial arts world for his Golden Steel Heavy Hands. The third man was a youngster around twenty six or seven years of age, and was known as the Jade Faced Demonic Fox. His name was Ling Xiao and though it may have only been a few years since he first made his appearance within the martial arts world, yet he has already established a reputation as a ferocious bandit. The fourth person was a Taoist Priest, known as the Green Pine Priest. The four men were all considered as established fighters within the martial arts world. Zhuo Yi Hang thought to himself: that Zhao Ting and Fan Zhu are still relatively acceptable and Im not familiar with Green Pine Priests past. However, this Jade Faced Demonic Fox was definitely not considered as a member of the orthodox sects. Why would Zheng Hong Tai be mixed up with such a motley crew of people?

    Zheng Hong Tai said, Brother Zhuo, tomorrow night we will be battling with the Demoness on top of Hua Shans highest peak. But let us now first practice the steps to our formation. Zhuo Yi Hang asked, What formation? Zheng Hong Tai replied, We had originally intended to meet up as a group of seven, but each of us is from a different school of training with our own unique and distinctive style of martial arts. We are planning to bring together our various skills when we battle Yu Luo Cha to complement and correspond with each other, thus facilitating and benefiting each other through the process. Because we are all trained in different martial arts, we must practice in advance in order to be perfectly coordinated with each other. Right now, amongst the men who are supposed to be here tonight there is one who will not be able to come here due to a sudden crisis. This is why we need Brother Zhuo you to join us in order to comprise the right number of fighters. Zhuo Yi Hang then said, But even including me you have only six people. Zheng Hong Tai replied, Our brother will show up here at exactly the right moment. This formation was conceptualized by him, therefore we need not wait for him. Zhuo Yi Hang thought to himself: Alright. I may as well see how they practice this formation.

    Zheng Hong Tai arranged them all into a circle with everyone facing the middle as he said, The essence of martial arts lies in the ability to time your attack so that it may be executed at exactly the right moment. For example, let's say that your stance was originally supposed to be very deadly and powerful, yet if you execute it too early your opponent might have the chance to counter that attack. However, if you execute your stance too late, the positions might have already changed and your opponent can take advantage of your slow execution to retaliate. This is what they mean by the phrase The difference of centimeters can lead to the discrepancy of a thousand miles. Although this theory may sound very simple and straightforward, yet to be able to actually implement it is not at all easy. If ones martial art abilities has not achieved a skillful level akin to the intensity emanating from the blue tip of a burning flame or if it has not transcended beyond the stages of divinity to extend into the pinnacle of sublimity and perfection, then how can it really be as easy as it sounds?

    Even though the seven of us can all be considered as first-rate fighters, yet Yu Luo Cha strikes with the speed of lightning so we must get enough practice in advance. Combining the powers of the seven of us, to win her may not be hard, but Im afraid that if we wanted to take her life it will still not be enough. That is why our Brother created this formation that is called the Seven Greats Exterminating the Demon Formation which requires three fighters to act as primary attackers while three fighters remain as defensive guards. One person will remain positioned in the center to act as the commander and orchestrate the formation from all sides. The attackers and guards can mutually interchange positions thus transforming and revolutionizing the arrangement to form a formation of unpredictable and unbelievable power. This alternating strategy of where three fighters attack while three fighters defend will cause the attacks to succeed each other like lapping waves. Plus, with somebody remaining in the center to issue instructions, the opponent will undoubtedly be forced to the point of where even the act of finding the time to gasp for help would prove to be a difficulty. Even if Yu Luo Cha can suddenly grow three heads and three pairs of arms, she most definitely wont be escaping this time.

    Right at this moment, our Brother is not here yet and so we are momentarily lacking a commander. But the six of us can first practice coordinating the configuration of our offensive attacks. Thus after he had finished relating the strategies of the attack, he signaled with a wave of his hands and they started to implement the moves of the formation. As the three attackers each executed a stance, the guards immediately advanced to replace their mark. The structure of the formation was radically fluctuating from a round shape into a square outline, where at one moment it will resemble the dead straight figure of a long snake while another minute it will suddenly transform into two dragons upsetting the seas. Although the attack may initially envelop from all four directions, yet it can suddenly change to flanking the opponent from the left and right sides. However, despite the radical shifts, the steps of the formation continues to remain in methodological and structured control while the power of the formations attack comes to resemble the astonishing force of the Yangtze Rivers rushing currents.

    Zhuo Yi Hang had always been smart and thus required not much time before he was able to comprehend the dynamics of the formation. He thought to himself: now the so called Brother hasnt even arrived yet and already the formation is so powerful. When he comes, that means that there will be someone to strategize in the middle. By that time, the formation can really be said to be the Heavens net and the Earths web, as even if one can grow wings they will never be able to escape. I wonder what scores of vengeance these people can possibly have with Yu Luo Cha that would make them to so determined to kill her?

    Having observed that everyone has familiarized themselves with the formation, Zheng Hong Tai ordered to halt the action before smiling and saying, Brother Zhuo, your Wu Tangs Sequential Chain-linking Swords when synchronized with Brother Zhaos Song Yang Sect Wind Dispersing Sword really causes this formation to be adorned with much colour. He then continued to talk about the various atrocities of Yu Luo Cha, which turned out to be the usual run of how she maliciously harms the people of the martial arts world. Zhuo Yi Hang was thinking to himself that since this Yu Luo Cha was indeed so brutal and inhuman, then it would be a good thing to eradicate her.

    The moon was slanting towards the West as the sparse stars were becoming increasingly pallid while Zheng Hong Tai said, Why dont we all go back now. Tomorrow at midnight, we will gather together again at the Jade Maiden peak of Hua Shan. But before he could even finish his words, not far from where they were standing a sound of chilling laughter suddenly rang through the air. With a commanding shout from Zheng Hong Tai, the six of them immediately dashed towards the direction of the laughter.

    The gust of icy wind came rushing by while the illumination of the Will O Wisps flickered and flared. The leaves descended within the sparsely populated forest and the inhabiting birds fled in startled flight. Yet not a human shadow was to be seen anywhere. The six of them arranged themselves in the formation in preparation for battle, yet nothing happened. Golden Steel Hands Fan Zhu asked with alarm, Could that have been Yu Luo Cha messing around with us? Priest Green Pine remarked, But it doesnt sound like a girls laughter. The Jade Faced Demonic Fox Ling Xiao asked, Could it have been a ghost? But even ghosts cant move that fast. The Song Yang swordsman Zhao Ting also asked, Could it be that we were merely imagining things? Zheng Hong Tai was secretly petrified even though he didnt utter a single word. Zhuo Yi Hang was thinking to himself: for what purpose could this person have come for? If this person turns out to be Yu Luo Chas helper, then were finished.

    When Zheng Hong Tai saw how the enthusiasm of everyone was dulled as their concentration was also shattered, immediately bellowed loudly, Regardless of whether that person was a friend or foe, if they dare to step foot into our Seven Greats Formation, then even if they dont die they will most definitely be severely injured. Whats there to be afraid of? Though in truth, he was terrified himself. As the six of them departed from each other, Zheng Hong Tai and Zhuo Yi Hang were both returning to the inn when Zheng Hong Tai sighed and said, If only your ShiFu was willing to grace us with his presence, this whole thing would be easily taken care of. Zhuo Yi Hang remarked, My ShiFu never interferes into other peoples business. Zheng Hong Tai said, Observing your sword skills a while ago, its exquisiteness and intricateness can without a doubt be readily observed. Tomorrow night you and the Song Yang swordsman have to cooperate together for we will be all be depending on the two of you. Zhuo Yi Hang noticed that Zheng Hong Tais manner seemed to be betraying his anxiety over the possibility that Zhuo would refuse to lend out a helping hand. Therefore Zhuo scowled with resentment, Since Ive made you a promise, despite how great Yu Luo Chas abilities may turn out to be, I most definitely wont retreat at the last minute. Zheng Hong Tai immediately assured, Brother, please do not misunderstand. Faced with a big fight, your brother I just cant help but feel anxious and worried.

    The two of them rested for a day, finished their dinner and then immediately ascended Hua Shan. The night was still in the dark forest as the mountain streams trickled down from the tall hills to reach fathomless depths. The crawling vines obscured the paths and the thatch grass grew to waist height, making the act of ascending the mountain ten times more difficult that it was during broad daylight. Luckily, both Zheng Hong Tai and Zhuo Yi Hang possessed supreme martial arts. By tugging on the vines and leaning against the coarse foliage, they arrived at the Jade Maiden Peak. By that time, the moon still has not fully risen yet.

    Priest Green Pine and the other four men were already waiting for them, the expressions on their faces betraying their nervous anxiety. They all stared at the moon that was slowly inching across the sky, as sweat erupted all over Zheng Hong Tais palms. Suddenly, he jumped up and shouted, Look at the moon! By then, the moon has already fully risen above their heads. However, all around them was still only silence. Priest Green Pine said, Yu Luo Cha still hasnt shown her face. Zhao Ting said, Yu Luo Cha will always keep her word. Im only worried that Brother Ying wont arrive here in time. Zheng Hong Tai retorted, Brother Ying most definitely will not miss our engagement. Hearing them continually repeat the name Brother Ying, Zhuo Yi Hang couldnt stop a certain idea from surfacing in his head. He was just about to say something when the mountain breeze suddenly carried the sound of a cold laughter towards them. Words are often slower than words, as a young girl dressed in white and looking very much like the Heavenly Immortal Ling Buo gradually came into sight. She then suddenly soared straight from the adjacent peak towards the Jade Maiden Peak. The six men all got up immediately. Zhuo Yi Hang was stunned speechless by what he saw.

    Even in his dreams Zhuo Yi Hang would not have dared to imagine that he would see what he now saw. This Yu Luo Cha actually turned out to be Liang Ni Chang, the same young girl that he had encountered yesterday within the Hua Shans Yellow Dragon Cave. At that moment, all kinds of eccentric thoughts and suspicions were flooding into his mind. Dazed and confused, he felt as if he was immersed in a dream. Could yesterdays frail and delicate young girl who impels others to take her under protection and shelter actually turn out to be the infamous Yu Luo Cha? The same Yu Luo Cha who kills others without batting an eye and where within the martial arts world, just a mention of her name is enough to cause others to completely abandon all traces of their courage? He remembered how he had promised her the day before that they can be friends, and if they ever reunite again he will treat her as a sister. He couldnt have predicted that over just a separation of a day, they will not only reunite together here, but would actually become fatal enemies.

    Originally, Yu Luo Cha was calm and composed, with her head lowered in a faint smile. But like the lapping waves of the autumn springs, her expression suddenly changed as her face blanched and an extreme sorrow filled her heart. Two drops of tears rushed out beyond her control. Zheng Hong Tai was standing in the front and could discern everything very clearly. Yu Luo Cha actually cries? That truly was even more unbelievable than witnessing the Tai Shan collapse and the Yellow River dry up! What made it even more unbelievable was that this wasnt just a rumour, but was something he was witnessing with his very own eyes!

    The Jade Faced Demonic Fox Ling Xiao was naturally born with a lewd disposition. Furthermore, he had never met Yu Luo Cha before and was therefore never afforded with the chance to encounter a taste of Yu Luo Chas deadliness. He only laughed and said smugly, Those who dont arrive at the Yellow River will never give up and those who dont see their coffin will never know to cry. Yu LuoCha, why dont you surrender like a nice little girl and we can perhaps let you off the hook. Yu LuoChas face changed colours and a slight smile suddenly appeared on her face as she said, Thank you for your heartfelt concern. Zheng Hong Tai quickly blurted out, Yu Luo Cha, you have to respect the rules and honour of the JiangHu. Its still not time yet and were still waiting for all our people to arrive so dont you dare to make a move yet!

    But before Zheng Hong Tai could even finish his words, the Jade Faced Demonic Fox Ling Xiao suddenly flew up more than ten feet into the air, clutching his abdomen while screaming out in pain. Yu Luo Chas specialty projectiles the Immobilizing Needles had already ripped through the air. She first feigned an attack towards Ling Xiaos San-Tai acupoint located on the waist area. Because Ling Xiaos levitation skills were incredibly apt, when he observed the slight quiver of Yu Luo Chas slender hands, he immediately jumped out of the way. But he couldnt have anticipated that it would be so impossible to differentiate between the feigned and authentic attacks of Yu Luo Chas projectiles. She had already predicted that he would jump to evade and therefore with a flick of her two fingers, the sharp needles immediately pierced into the bubbling springs acupoint located on his heel. Immediately a pain that was both aching and excruciating seared through him as his tears poured out and spilled over like the waters of a bubbling spring. Priest Green Pine immediately extracted the needles from him and massaged his wound for a while before Ling Xiao felt better.

    Yu Luo Cha laughed coldly and said, And I thought that he was supposed to be some kind of tenacious and hardboiled man that never cries. Who would have guessed that he would turn out to be such a useless sac of puss? The Jade Faced Demonic Fox Ling Xiao was completely mortified and no longer dared to say anything else while Yu Luo Cha continued, Did you know that I was merely mourning for all of you at your funeral wake? Its a pity that the new friend I had just made will also end up selecting the path of death for himself. Zhuo Yi Hang knew that Yu Luo Cha was referring to him, as he was also commiserating within his heart. He thought: I also pity the fact that despite being the peerless Beauty of your era, you would actually be willing to become a bandit. The Seven Greats Formation is so incredibly lethal, regardless of how great your martial arts may be, today you would also be ushered onto this path of death.

    Seeing how Zhuo Yi Hangs eyebrows were knitted closely together, Yu Luo Cha gazed at him intently with an expression that appears to be brimming with emotion while also being completely void of feeling. Her voice was filled with hatred as she uttered, You you before her voice started choking up, disabling her from continuing on. Zheng Hong Tai and Priest Green Pine knew that Yu Luo Chas happiness and sorrows have always unpredictable and erratic. Thus even though they didnt know who she was referring to, they didnt find her behaviour to be particularly unusual. On the other hand, the other three people were all confused and bewildered.

    The Song Yang Swordsman Zhao Ting hurriedly nudged Zheng Hong Tai, trying to prompt him to prepare the initiation of the formation incase Yu Luo Cha would suddenly attack unexpectedly. Zheng Hong Tai was just about to reassure him that Yu Luo Cha will never attack anybody surreptitiously, but he wasnt aware that Yu Luo Cha was becoming increasingly filled with hatred the more she thought about this. She was angry over how Zhuo Yi Hang had purposely deceived her the other day when he was obviously determined to be her enemy from the very beginning. When she saw how everyone was preparing to situate themselves into the formation, she suddenly ripped out into a long and icy laugh. The cold blade of a glinting sword was already within her hands. She shouted, Fine! Its midnight now! Im not going to wait any longer! and with a slight stir of her body, she flashed by like a spark of lighting. With a swipe of her sword she headed straight towards Zheng Hong Tai. Zheng Hong Tais weapon was the Sun and Moon Wheels and by using his Sun Wheel to lock and his Moon Wheel to thrust out, he initiated the Seven Greats Formation.

    Priest Green Pines sabre[1] attacked from the left side as Ling Xiao slanted his Scholars brush[2] in attempts to seal off Yu Luo Chas Guan Yuan acupoint. As Yu Luo Cha flitted by Ling Xiao, the three rear guards advanced in criss-cross fashion and substituted the empty place. Yu Luo Cha suddenly flipped her body over as the tip of her sword glided past Zhao Tings shoulder just when the Golden Steel Hands Fan Zhu extended his hands into the grappling technique to clamp down on her. Yet he was unable to grasp her as she darted past and like a soaring bird plunged straight towards Zhuo Yi Hang. Zhuo Yi Hang hastily executed the sequential linking sword skills defence technique Jade Band Clasping Waist, to ignite with his sword a blaze of light. This was a stance that garnered one the capability to simultaneously defend and attack at the same time. The air was immediately filled with a frosty and chilling current as a streak of silver headed straight towards Yu Luo Chas face.

    Using the stance Plucking the Stallion in Dry Land, Zhuo Yi Hang hastily leapt into the air as the tip of Yu Luo Chas sword glazed over the bottom of his feet. This was in reality a result of Yu Luo Cha purposely holding back on her attack, otherwise Zhuo Yi Hang would most definitely have been hurt. In just a blink of an eye, Yu Luo Cha had already struck out to attack all six skilled fighters, forcing Zheng Hong Tai to shout loudly, Pay attention! and the formation immediately transformed to trap Yu Luo Cha within the core of the configuration.

    Yu Luo Chas every stance was deadly, while the speed and potency of her attacks were all something that has never been seen before. She continued to execute one obliterating stance after another, but because the six fighters were corresponding their attacks with each other, they were thus able to closely seal off the combat circle while defending and rescuing each other. Thus even though Yu Luo Cha continued to attack successively, she was still unable to escape out of the formations containment.

    Attacking while wedged within the middle of the formation was Zhuo Yi Hang, though for some reason he just couldnt bring himself to fall into annihilation mode. Using the 72 hands of the Sequential Linking Swords, he was only concerned with protecting himself but did not exert much effort towards his attacks. As for Yu Luo Cha, although she did indeed feel extremely hateful towards Zhuo, yet for some reason whenever she struck out towards him, she would always try to not aim for his vital areas.

    Like tidal waves, the six fighters advanced and retreated, moving back and forth while constricting the size of the circle, forcing the fervor of the formation to heat up and become increasingly intense. Yu Luo Chas prior decision to withhold her attack on Zhuo Yi Hang by not using her most powerful moves to obliterate him had actually in result caused her to be continually placed in situations of danger. She was enraged and thus with a determined grind of her exquisite teeth, she thought to herself: Since you are being this way, theres no need for me to be concerned about you any longer. The force of her swords attack immediately transformed as it suddenly struck out without a single intention of holding back. It was at this moment when a strange howl was suddenly heard from the top of the peak as an emaciated old man suddenly jumped down from the cliff to bellow loudly, Yu Luo Cha! How dare you not keep your word of honour?

    With a signal from Zheng Hong Tai, and the six people receded like the tidal waves as Yu Luo Cha also retracted her sword and jumped out of the combat ring before stating clearly, How can you say that I didnt keep my word? It was you who messed up on the time. The old man tilted his head towards the sky to discover that at that moment, the moon had just rotated past the center of the sky. He cackled loudly and said, Ive already been waiting a long time for you, but you werent even able to break out of the entrapment guarded by my six brothers, what chance do you have if I join them too? Zhuo Yi Hang thought: this person was truly a cunning and sneaky crook. He was here all along, waiting and observing the battle and then coming out only when he knew that everything would be perfectly secure.

    Yu Luo Cha suddenly laughed coldly and said, Old Crook Ying, did you really think that nobody would ever discover that it was you who murdered Hero Luo Jin Feng? Are these small crooks following you out of their own will or were they all deluded by you? Upon hearing this, both the Priest Green Pine and the Song Yang Swordsman Zhao Ting were immediately shocked to the core. But the emaciated old man hurriedly shrieked, Dont fall prey to the wenchs strategies! Shes just trying to incite disharmony and tension amongst us. The acquaintances of the underground world in the Chuan-Shaan area have already had enough of her bullying. She was also the one who injured the head escort of the Song Yang sect and the disciples of the Wu Tang sect. This woman is the public enemy of the whole martial arts world. If we dont eradicate her right now, the consequences will soon be irreparable!

    The old man lifted his tassel whip and Zheng Hong Tai immediately changed the composition of the formation to once again enclose Yu Luo Cha within the center. The Seven Greats Formation has finally gathered the proper number of fighters, with the emaciated old man standing within the center to orchestrate the movements. Attached to a shaft, his tassel whip was suddenly wielded as a five-element sword that also has the dual function of sealing off acupoints, comprising a truly mystical and unbelievable attack. Her attention now fully concentrated on combating her opponents, Yu Luo Cha could no longer divide her attention to retort.

    Priest Green Pine and Zhao Ting were both acquainted with Luo Jin Feng in the past. After hearing Yu Luo Chas words, suspicions started to surface within them. But when they thought to how deadly Yu Luo Chas ways can be, they were also petrified within their hearts. Their situation right now was akin to riding on top of a tiger[3], they had no other choice but to fight. The variations of the formation were unpredictable and each one of the seven first-rate fighters were performing their specialty skills, forcing an aromatic sweat to erupt all over Yu Luo Chas body.

    Yu Luo Cha had always been proud and arrogant, therefore she originally thought that even if the seven of them combined their efforts to attack simultaneously, she could still manage to not lose. But to her surprise, they actually came up with some kind of peculiar formation to attack. The pace of the fighting got increasingly faster, the movements were becoming increasingly risky, and the situation grew to be increasingly dangerous. She knew that it would be very difficult for her to escape this time. But she has also observed that amongst the seven people, there was only Zhuo Yi Hang who hasnt exerted full force, nor has he thrown all his efforts into the battle. With a few quick swipes of her sword, she deflected the weapons that were coming towards her and waited for the moment when Zhuo Yi Hangs sword would strike towards her. Using her inner energies and her sword as a guide, she drew Zhuo Yi Hang towards her and flitted past him, whispering lightly by his ears, Are you truly content to help the villain succeed in his schemes? A suspicion suddenly struck Zhuo Yi Hang before the emaciated old man quickly swept his metal like tassel whip to swiftly disband for him Yu Luo Chas attack.

    Yu Luo Cha wasnt sure whether Zhuo Yi Hang heard her, but she did observe that he has visibly decelerated his attack while his footwork has also become lethargic. Considering Yu Luo Chas abilities, she was experienced enough to take full advantage of the fact that the formation has not yet been restored to full force by striking out with her sword to wound the Golden Steel Hands Fan Zhu. With a coil of his tassel whip, the emaciated old man immediately sealed off Yu Luo Chas escape route as Zheng Hong Tai gave a lock and thrust with his two wheels to replace the vacant spot, further tightening the circle. Even though Fan Zhu was injured, but with a thunderous roar of fury he continued to barge forward.

    The emaciated old man grew suspicious having noticed the hesitation in Zhuo Yi Hangs attack when he had just previously witnessed himself the brilliance of Zhuos sword skills. He was just about to question him when Zhuo Yi Hang drew a few stances with his sword to ward off Yu Luo Chas attack and then suddenly whispering by the emaciated old mans ear, Elder Ying Xiu Yang! At the time when the emaciated old man suddenly heard Zhuo call out his name, he was engaged in intense battle and very instinctively responded to Zhuo Yi Hangs call. He thought that because Zhuo was one of Zheng Hong Tais men and has never met him before, he was thus hereby addressing him by his full name in order to express his respect. He was just about to remind him to pay attention to his attack when Zhuo Yi Hang unexpectedly turned around to attack him instead.

    Ying Xiu Yang was quite taken back as he immediately dodged with his body and screamed, Have you lost your mind? Zhuo Yi Hang was wielding his sword with the swiftness of wind as he shouted loudly, Im going to kill you first, traitor! A tremor jolted through Ying Xiu Yangs body as his metal-like tassel whip coiled towards Zhuo Yi Hang. Yu Luo Cha shouted in a severe tone, So youre really the fool thats conspiring with the Manchurians! Her sword suddenly pierced out with a force that extended like a rainbow. Zheng Hong Tai and Zhao Ting hurriedly approached to help Ying Xiu Yang ward off the attack while the two Scholars Brushes of the Jade Faced Demonic Fox Ling Xiao immediately advanced to seal the Zhi-Tang acupoint located on Zhuo Yi Hangs back. Zhuo Yi Hang flipped his sword around to thus engage into an intense battle with Ling Xiao.

    The formation had now lost all sense of control and organization. The situation was completely turned around as Yu Luo Cha and Zhuo Yi Hang joined their powers and fought back to back, combatting the six fighters comprising of Ying Xiu Yang and Zheng Hong Tai. Zheng Hong Tai yelled loudly, Zhuo Yi Hang, you are the descendant of a respected officials family, how can you turn around to help a bandit? How are you going to face the Crown Prince again? Yu Luo Cha laughed and said, You yourself call Ying Xiu Yang brother. While one of you is running around outside the countrys borders, the other one stays behind to act as a contact within the palace. Since hes conspiring with the Manchurians, you undoubtedly cant be free from any blame. With a thrust of her esteemed sword, cold lightning shot out and the shadow of Yu Luo Cha suddenly erupted in every direction and on every side. Zhuo Yi Hangs stances were linked with each other sequentially and under the cover of the light showered from Yu Luo Chas sword, he forcefully attacked with every stance.

    Due to his injuries, after battling a while the Golden Steel Hands Fan Zhu was about to forfeit when Yu Luo Cha suddenly sliced off four of his fingers with one swipe of her sword, leaving him howling in pain. He hastily tried to retreat but Yu Luo Cha immediately lurched high into the air and twisted full circle while carrying a sword in her right hand. Then with a brush of her sword, the weapons of Zheng Hong Tai and the others all flew out of their hands. Her left hand then grasped down like a wild eagle that was preying upon a rabbit as she quickly swiped up Fan Zhu, while laughing and saying, Im afraid your Golden Steel hands cant compare with mine. Finally, with a fling of her hands, the body of Fan Zhu was actually tossed right over the cliff, falling from the highest peak of Hua Shan all the way down towards the bottom. Amongst the howling wind and the angry shouts, his terrified and fatalistic screams can still be faintly discerned. Even though the weather was not cold, Zheng Hong Tai and his crew were still trembling uncontrollably.

    Yu Luo Cha struck towards the East and slashed towards the West, she swung towards the left and swiped towards the right, while stroking towards the front, she also stabbed towards the back. Every stance executed was deadly and fatal. On top of all this, there was also Zhuo Yi Hangs 72 Styles of the Wu Tang Sequential Linking Swords that was striking out even in the midst of its retreat, each stance supporting and supported by the subsequent stance and thus also comprising a very powerful attack as well. Although Ying Xiu Yang and his men were all first rate fighters, yet at this moment they only had the ability to defend and not to retaliate. Just when the outcome of the battle was gradually becoming obvious, Yu Luo Cha suddenly shouted, Theres going to be a huge bloodshed here today! Green Pine and Song Yang Swordsman, since the two of you were originally considered as decent people, let me warn you: if you dont know enough to retreat right now, then be prepared to be exterminated as well! This warning from Yu Luo Cha was equivalent to having a path to survival being pointed out to them. Priest Green Pine and Zhao Ting immediately picked up their weapons and jumped out of the combat ring before expressing their gratitude and hurriedly scurrying down the mountain. Ying Xiu Yangs face was a ghostly white while Zheng Hong Tai was trembling from the bottom of his heart and the pits of his stomach. Each stance that Yu Luo Cha was executing grew to be faster than the previous one, and just when Ying Xiu Yang was falling backwards he simultaneously gave a wave of his hands and five little daggers were released, charging towards Yu Luo Cha with the speed of lightning.

    Yu Luo Cha laughed loudly and said, What are these pieces of scrap metal good for? With a sweep of her long sword, the advance of the five little daggers were all halted and immediately deflected back towards Ying Xiu Yang. But though Ying Xiu Yang appeared to be attacking, he was in actuality using this attack as a shield. After he released the little daggers, he immediately wrapped his outer garments around his body and actually rolled downwards from the highest peak of Hua Shan.

    Zheng Hong Tai retracted his two wheels and immediately jumped up more than ten feet into the air in his attempts to escape by following after Ying Xiu Yangs footsteps. Yu Luo Cha shouted, Where do you think youre going? On the other side was the Jade Faced Demonic Fox Ling Xiao who also feigned an attack before his silhouette flitted by and darted in the opposite direction of Zheng. In terms of martial art skills, the Jade Faced Demonic Fox was below the likes of Zheng Hong Tai. However, in terms of levitation skills he was above Zheng Hong Tai. Because Yu Luo Cha was a skilled expert, she was able to discern all this with just a single glance. Furthermore, she was also displeased with the lewd attittude that the Jade Faced Demonic Fox had taken towards her earlier, therefore Yu Luo Cha immediately decided to chase after him. With a wave of her jade hands, three long Immobilizing Needles were projected, every one of them piercing through Ling Xiaos acupoints. Ling Xiao howled out in pain as he tottered about and was just about to fall down when Yu Luo Cha added another slash with her sword and then with a flying kick, drove his corpse over the cliffs. Zhuo Yi Hang shouted, Miss Lian, its more important to capture Zheng Hong Tai! Yu Luo Cha was suddenly reminded, but by the time she grabbed her sword and chased after him Zheng Hong Tai had already rolled to the bottom of the mountain. From afar, only a black spot could be seen.

    Yu Luo Cha immediately shouted, Lets go! when suddenly a voice from halfway down the mountain said, There's no need to worry, I've already captured him for you! Although no figure could be seen, yet a voice can still be heard with utmost clarity. Yu Luo Cha was taken back as this practice of internal energy cultivation was called Transmitting Sounds Through the Impenetrable and was indeed a truly extraordinary skill. It should be understood that if one was to direct his voice from the top of the mountain towards the bottom, the people situated near the bottom would still be able to hear the voice very clearly. However, to project ones voice from low places to higher places, the people situated on the higher altitude would have a very hard time discerning what was being said. This mysterious persons voice was not particularly vociferous or forceful, but was instead as calm and composed as if the person was merely speaking casually to somebody who was situated right beside them near the middle of the mountain. Furthermore, every word was heard with precise clarity forcing Yu Luo Cha to have no choice but to be secretly impressed.

    When she converged her gaze, she was suddenly greeted with a glimpse of a silhouette that flashed by with the speed of a shooting comet. The person had arrived with the termination of his voice. It was a young man around thirty years of age with large ears and a square face. He was clutching a person under his arms, a person whom he let go of as soon as he got to the mountains highest peak. Of course the person this man was carrying would turn out to be Zheng Hong Tai. The man looked over at Yu Luo Cha and asked, Are you Yu Luo Cha? Who is this other person? Even though Lian Ni Chang had made herself famous within the martial arts world by using the title of Yu Luo Cha, yet she really doesnt like it when people calls her Yu Luo Cha to her face. She laughed coldly and said, And what if I am?

    Zhuo Yi Hang replied with courteous respect, Your humble brother am Wu Tangs sect-leader Taoist Priest Purple Suns disciple. My name is Zhuo Yi Hang, may I be bold enough to inquire about your name and sect? The person replied, My unworthy name is Yue Ming Ke, but let us first take care of business before we disclose our personal background. What do you guys propose we should do with this person? Yu Luo Cha said, Since he was captured by you, then its up to you to decide. Yue Ming Ke smiled and said, We need not follow the rules of the Black societal clans. I dont know much about this person, is he a co-conspirator of Bandit Ying? Yu Luo Cha was becoming increasingly unhappy, for even though she was indeed a female bandit, yet she really doesnt like it when people label her as a female bandit. But by openly disclosing that she was speaking in accordance to the rules of the black societal clans, Yue Ming Ke really was touching on her deepest insecurities.

    Zhuo Yi Hang replied, Yes, he is now the Crown Princes attendant. However, before he was working as the most skilled fighter within the Western Coalition! After studying Zhuo Yi Hang for while, Yue Ming Ke suddenly laughed and said, So Brother Zhuo, you were the person that was meeting with them last night in the wilderness, no wonder youre so acquainted with their background. Zhuo Yi Hangs faced turned red for now he realized that Yue Ming Ke was the mysterious person who emitted the chilling laughter last night in the wilderness. He then said, Your unworthy brother got involved with the wrong kind of people. I am truly filled with tremendous shame. Since that Ying Xiu Yang was secretly conspiring with the Manchurians, then Zheng Hong Tai must also be the Manchurians spy as well. Zheng Hong Tai was rolling around on the ground until Yu Luo Cha suddenly issued a kick towards him. Because Zheng Hong Tai knew that he was not going to be escaping this time, he was therefore trying to bite through his tongue in an attempt to commit suicide. But Yu Luo Cha was well experienced with the JiangHus ways and therefore with a hook of the tip of her shoe, she immediately shattered his lower jaw. His mouth then dropped open. No longer was he able to close his mouth.

    Yu Luo Cha then ignored Zheng Hong Tai for the time being and turned towards Zhuo Yi Hang to ask instead, How did you know that Ying Xiu Yang was conspiring with the Manchurians? Doubts and suspicions caused Zhuo Yi Hang to hesitate as he dared not answer immediately. Yu Luo Cha nevertheless continued, I have always suspected that he was conspiring with the Manchurians, which was why within the last two years, I had already paid a visit to his lair three times, forcing him to have no choice but to link up with his helpers to meet with me here on the peak of Hua Shan for a duel. Hmph! But I never would have expected you to also belong to his group as well. The soulful expression in Yue Ming Kes imposing eyes studied Zhuo Yi Hang as well. Zhuo Yi Hang thought to himself: this was really turning out to be a huge misunderstanding. But though this Yu Luo Chas ways were deadly and merciless, yet at least she can still differentiate between black and white to understand what is wrong and what is right. Not to mention the valorous sense of strength that she exudes. This young man Yue Ming Ke was similarly courageous, striking and spirited, possessing of a righteous demeanour and emanating a powerful aura demanding of respect. He most definitely must be an extraordinary person. Since they now harbour suspicions towards me and coincidently already know about some of the details to this incident, I may as well just tell them about everything. Therefore, he related to them the secret that the martial arts instructor Meng Can revealed to him in his last words and also detailed how he ended up with Zheng Hong Tai as a travelling companion. It was only after hearing this explanation did Yu Luo Cha finally flash a relieved smile as she said, I knew you werent that kind of person, otherwise I would have taken your life from the very beginning.

    After Yu Luo Cha had clarified everything with Zhuo Yi Hang, she then turned to Zheng Hong Tai with a dazzling smile and said, So? Not feeling very well are you? Would you like me to make it better for you? Her voice was incredibly soft and gentle, sounding as if she was extremely concerned. Zheng Hong Tais eyes rolled towards the back of his head as he fainted with fear. Yu Luo Cha lifted her leg and gave a light tap at a certain spot on Zhengs back. Zheng Hong Tai really couldnt withstand this attack as he only felt as if there were thousands and millions of sharp needles that were stabbing into his five solid and six hollow organs[4]. He wanted to commit suicide by biting off his tongue, but was unable to close his mouth. Yu Luo Cha continued to say, Well? Are you going to talk yet? I know you cant speak now, but your fingers can still move. Quickly write out the names of your co-conspirators, otherwise there will be some even better stuff coming up!

    Zheng Hong Tai was the head of the Western Coalition, and when he had to question criminals he would often use all sorts of torturous methods in order to get them to talk. But he wouldnt have expected that the karmic loop would come full circle for him, as today he would end up as the one being questioned by Yu Luo Cha and the pain that his body has to sustain was even greater than any torture he had ever administered. He had no choice but to reveal all that he knew. Using the tips of his fingers, he wrote quite a few wobbly words on the ground. Yu Luo Cha then asked, What are the positions of these people? Zheng Hong Tai wrote beneath the first three names the four words, Guards within the palace while writing behind the last two names the four words, Bandits of Underground world. Yu Luo Cha shouted, Who else? Zheng Hong Tais forehead was drenched in sweat as he wrote the three words Theres no more. Yu Luo Cha said, I dont believe you. What about regional governors and the governments high ranked officials? Zheng Hong Tai wrote, I really dont know. The Lord of Manchuria only ordered me to contact these five people. Yu Luo Cha shouted, Hmph! You dare to keep secrets from me? and gave another kick towards a spot on his waist area. Zheng Hong Tai was filled with so much pain, he felt as if he had already arrived at the hellish underworld to experience their torturous torment. He continually thrashed about on the ground for quite a while before extending a finger to write. But even after a very long time, he still was unable to actually write anything. In fact, he looked as if he was debating with great difficulty over the exact names that he should reveal.

    Zhuo Yi Hang blurted out, Miss Lian, I believe he really doesnt know any more. If you keep torturing him, Im afraid youll only force him to bring out innocent names and thus drag a whole bunch of guiltless people into this mess with him. Yu Luo Cha asked, How did you know he wanted to frame other people? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, Observe his expression, he is obviously debating over which crowd of people are off on the worst terms with him in order so that he may slander their name. Miss Lian, his expression really scares me, why dont you just give him a clean kick and end off his life right away? Yu Luo Cha said, Youre much too humane. But nevertheless, she finally gave Zheng Hong Tai that last obliterating flying kick to concretely impact him on the acupoint of his back that can immediately end ones life. Zheng Hong Tai spew out a mouth of fresh blood, while his eyes closed and he finally stopped breathing. Zhuo Yi Hang whispered lightly by Yu Luo Chas ears, I dont like it when you are so violent, and I especially dont like how your emotions fluctuate between happiness and anger with such unpredictability. When you act like this, who would dare to come close to you?

    Yu Luo Cha was stunned. Had it been somebody else who had uttered these words to her, she most definitely would have been angered. But now, hearing Zhuo Yi Hang say these words, it was as if somebody had emptied a whole bucket of ice-cold water over her head. She thought to herself: no wonder everybody is so afraid of me. My temper really isnt good, causing others to be so terrified of me while leaving me to be without much pleasure as well. Therefore, she replied in a low voice, Thank you for your honest and sincere words.

    Zhuo Yi Hang was staring at Zheng Hong Tais corpse when he suddenly cried, Oh no! Yu Luo Cha asked, Whats wrong? Zhuo Yi Hang said, Him and I both departed from the capital and was supposed to arrive in the Northern Shaan area together. Now that he died here without a suitable explanation, when the Crown Prince finds out, the blame would be linked to me! Yue Ming Ke laughed out loud and said, Thats easily taken care of. He then took out his sword and with a clean swipe decapitated Zheng Hong Tais head and placed it into a leather sack before saying, Your humble brother and Xiong Jing Lue[5] are old family friends. Xiong Jing Lue has received orders to patrol the borders and therefore sent a letter ushering me to accompany him in order to assist him with his military duties. Therefore, I have to journey to the capital and report to the authorities before I can accompany Xiong Jing Lue outside the countrys borders. When I arrive at the capital, I will be able to find a way to explain everything to the Crown Prince.

    Relieved, Zhuo Yi Hang joyfully expressed his gratitude and was then about to impart his intentions to depart when Yu Luo Cha suddenly asked, Hey, exactly which sects famed fighter are you? I would like to take a look at what your martial arts are like. Yue Ming Ke chuckled out loud and said, Youve just finished an intensive battle. Would you like to rest for a while? Yu Luo Cha replied with displeasure, I can easily combat with you for three or five days. Thus, Yue Ming Ke flipped over his sword, smiled and then said, If I wasnt interested in witnessing your martial arts for myself, I wouldnt have come here to Hua Shan today. Brother Zhuo, you were asking me a while ago which sect and school Im belong to. Just observe Yu Luo Cha and you will see in a moment. Zhuo Yi Hang exclaimed with startled bewilderment, Where in the world did this sudden desire to compete sword skills come from? Yue Ming Ke just replied, When the chess player encounters a worthy opponent, its inevitable that they will have the itch to compete in a match[6]. Brother Zhuo, if you dont have anything urgent to do right away, why dont you stay and watch this match? Yu Luo Cha was silently displeased in her heart as she was thinking: Who does this kid think he is? What makes him think that he will necessarily be a worthy opponent for me? She then immediately took the lower position and prepared herself into a fighting stance, purposely giving Yue Ming Ke the advantageous position. With a dazzling smile, she lifted up her sword and addressed Yue with a, Please.

    Yue Ming Ke and Yu Luo Cha stood there facing each other, each focusing their full concentration on the other person. Nobody moved for a very very long time. Suddenly, with a stir of his sword Yue Ming Ke shouted, Watch out! as the tip of his sword zipped towards Yu Luo Chas shoulder, all the while radiating sparkling cold light. With a diverting slash of her sword, a stance that was originally heading towards the left was suddenly changed to turn full circle and head towards the right. With a whoosh, Yue Ming Ke had already flipped around while simultaneously performing Coiled Dragon Blasting Twist with his treasured sword. Yu Luo Chas sword skinned past the top of his head, while with a rotate of his body the edge of Yue Ming Kes blade also arrived exactly at the right moment and in exactly the right spot against Yu Luo Chas heart. Zhuo Yi Hang was frightfully startled, but Yu Luo Cha only struck out with the speed of lighting as her valued sword brushed downwards to ward off Yue Ming Kes attack. Then with a vibration of her swords handle, her whole sword stirred and actually shot up to pierce towards Yue Ming Kes eyes. Zhuo Yi Hang was again startled, but little would he have expected Yue Ming Ke to change his stance with a speed that cannot even be discerned, much less described. With a swipe and a push of his sword, he also deflected Yu Luo Chas blade. Zhuo Yi Hang heard the both of them simultaneously exclaim with a surprised, Hey! but immediately the two swords had engaged into battle again.

    The duel continued on while still no observable winner can yet be ascertained. Zhuo Yi Hang was so transfixed by the battle, his eyes were sticking out and he felt as if his whole soul was shaken when he suddenly heard Yue Ming Ke exclaim, Go! as Yu Luo Chas body leapt up high into the air. Yet, not only were her sword stances not the least bit affected, but she continued on to execute a Soaring Phoenix Diving into Forest to bring her whole person along with her sword plunging downwards from mid air. Yue Ming Ke retaliated with the stance Raising Torch to Scorch the Heavens, causing the two swords to fiercely impact against each other. Relying on the forceful shock projecting from the two sword tips impact, Yu Luo Cha propelled her whole body forward as her rare sword blasted through with the force of a tornado. With two brushes of her sword, her blade immediately headed straight towards Yue Ming Kes back. How can this in any way be considered as a sword skill competition? This was even more dangerous, more fatal and more frightening than the intense battle within the Seven Greats Formation!

    Zhuo Yi Hang attempted to approach in order to stop this battle but Yue Ming Ke immediately swept back with his sword to prevent Zhuo Yi Hang from advancing, rendering himself unable to retaliate when he turned around only to be met with a succession of attacks from Yu Luo Cha. Yue Ming Ke was situated in the centre and was thus able to calmly and steadily deflect these stances while piercing sword after sword towards Yu Luo Chas heart. In just a blink of an eye, the battle had again returned to an equally matched state.

    Yu Luo Chas stances were all incredibly erratic and bizarre, for though you may observe her attack from right in front of you, she would suddenly appear from behind. And even when you watch her come from the right, she would unexpectedly emerge from the left. Resembling a fierce hawk soaring through the air at one moment at then resembling a ferocious tigers squatting ambush at another. Like a water snake slithering away one moment while also like a dragon leaping from a bottomless abyss at another. Her weightless body was like the flowing streams and floating clouds, while the force of her sword was like a light spirit soaring high above the air. But Yue Ming Ke was not at all afraid, and his swords attacks were not at all affected or disorganized. When he encountered a stance, he would dismantle that stance. His attacks were like the raging claps of thunderstorms, while his defences were as unperturbed as the congealed image reflected off a calm rivers tranquil surface. The peak of Hua Shan was encased in a haunting cold light as the moon has lost her luminosity and the stars robbed of their sparkle. All that can be seen was the ruling force of the sword blades, the blinding spectrum of sword energy that pierced into ones eyes. The two fighters attacked and retaliated, while the counts of their stances already reached three hundred in number.

    Zhuo Yi Hang was the prized disciple of the worlds number one swordsman, but when watching this battle, even he couldnt help but be truly amazed. The fantastical exquisiteness of these two fighters sword skills seemed to extend beyond that of even the Wu Tang sects. After observing a while, he suddenly recognized a certain principle about their attacks and couldnt help himself from repeatedly exclaiming with surprise.

    At first glance, the styles of the two fighters combat were completely different from each other. But after one studies it for a while, similarities would start to appear between the two styles. Yue Ming Kes sword skills were incredibly eclectic, as it would seem to include within it sword stances from the E-Mei sect, Song Yang sect, Shaolin sect, as well as his own Wu Tang sect. The most complex and superior moves were extracted from each sect and then slight changes would be applied in such a way so as to modify and enhance it to be even more ingenious than the original. To be able to witness this fight here today really played a huge part in the benefits that Zhuo Yi Hang would profit from in the future. But this concerns a subsequent incident.

    As for Yu Luo Cha, her style of sword art also seemed to be an eclectic mix of the most famous schools, but yet her every stance would go in the opposite direction of the original stance. For example, Hua Shan sects Golden Condor Extends Wings should originally be initiated from the left side and then proceeded towards the right. But in Yu Luo Chas hands, it went in the opposite direction of right to left. As for Wu Tang sects Erratically Seizing Life, it was supposed to proceed from the top towards the bottom, thus attacking the opponents lower body. But in her hands, it went from bottom to top, attacking the opponent at mid level.

    At first, to counter Yu Luo Chas advances, Yue Ming Ke would utilize stances from other sects to dismantle her attacks. For example, when Yu Luo Cha used Wu Tang sects Erratically Seizing Life, he would use Xue Shan sects Famed Camel Travelling a Thousand Miles to evade her stance while also attacking at the same time. But after a while, he would actually employ the stances that she imitated to disassemble her attacks. For example, when she switched the directions of the stance Golden Condor Extending Wings, to attack, he also used the original, but slightly modified Golden Condor Extending Wings stance to ward off her attack. What was even more odd was how he seemed to be able to predict her every move ahead of time, and therefore when she actually implements that stance, to counter her he would use exactly the same original stance that she imitated.

    The two fighters continued to struggle amidst their intense battle, neither of them able to come out as the winner. Zhuo was transfixed by the battle when he suddenly heard Yue Ming Ke shout Back! as Yu Luo Cha flew back more than ten feet, and was just about to approach and resume her attack when Yue Ming Ke loudly shouted, Theres no use in fighting anymore, where is your ShiFu right now? Did she relate to you the complete set of the sword skill she created? Hurry, go and tell her that the Tian Du Philosopher is waiting for her, highly anticipating their reunion.

    Yu Luo Cha suddenly retracted her sword and said, Your ShiNiang has already passed away three years ago. Yue Ming Ke was severely taken back and with an angry swipe of his esteemed sword, he shouted, Who was the villain that dared to murder her? Yu Luo Cha replied, She died when she fell into a death seizure through incorrect exertion, nobody could be blamed. Yue Ming Ke then asked, Where are her remains now? Yu Luo Cha replied, Within the Yellow Dragon Caves inner stone rooms. Once you move away the caves two screen-like slabs of rocks, you will be able to find it. Her last orders to me was that three years after the day of she died, I was to report the news of her death to Taoist Priest Zhen Qian. The original intention was to have Priest Zhen Qian deliver this message to your ShiFu, but since youve come now, go find it yourself!

    Yue Ming Ke then said, Please lead the way. Yu Luo Cha laughed coldly and said, Equally matched first rate fighters should not exist together on the same grounds. Ten years from now, Ill seek you out for another fight! And with a wave to Zhuo Yi Hang, she used her supreme levitation skills to descend the mountain. Yue Ming Ke sighed and said, Yu Luo Chas temper is truly very similar to my ShiNiangs! Zhuo Yi Hang said, Her martial arts truly are extremely skilled, but shes also too proud! Yue Ming Ke suddenly asked, I wonder where the Yellow Dragon Cave is located? Amongst the five peaks of Hua Shan, where could I find it? Zhuo Yi Hang said, I know where it is as he then led Yue Ming Ke from the Jade Maiden Peak towards the Cloud Stand Peak.

    While Yue Ming Ke was walking, he narrated to Zhuo Yi Hang the whole history of his ShiFus romantic tragedy. Yue Ming Kes ShiFu was a famous swordsman named Huo Tian Du, whose fame had already spread beyond the four seas more than thirty years ago. His wife Ling Mu Hua was also a famous expert in the art of the sword. The two of them lived on the peak of E-Mei Shan, together establishing a home and studying together, passing the years in the lifestyle of immortals. But what was not expected was how extremely competitive Ling Mu Hua would turn out to be as she was continually experiencing contempt towards her husbands success.

    Huo Tian Du spent half a lifetime trying to gather together the sword manuals of the various famous sects of the world and fixated his full attention on a complete study of them. One day, he was suddenly enlightened by an inspiration and boasted to his wife, Twenty years from now, I will be able to congregate the essence of a hundred schools of sword art together into one theory, thus forming my own unique sect. By then, I can be undefeated within the world. You better entreat me to take you as my disciple right now so that we can practice swords together. Otherwise, I wont relate to you the intricacies of my theory."This was originally intended as a joke that is dropped in causal conversation between two spouses that are teasing each other. But he couldnt have predicted that Ling Mu Huas character would be so stubborn and headstrong, as she only laughed coldly and stated, Do you think that only you can form your own unique sword skill? I can also do that. I wont call you ShiFu. Twenty years from now, we can compete together once again, then we can see whether its you whos stronger, or me."

    At that time, Huo Tian Du was only teasing his wife and therefore after having a laugh over it he took no further notice over her words. But he couldnt have predicted that when he woke up the next morning, he would discover that his wife has departed over the night without a single word and taken along with her all the manuals that Huo Tian Du collected over the years. Huo Tian Du was incredibly devastated, and even after roaming through the main seas and major mountains of the world, he still could not find her[7]. In the midst of his sorrows, he no longer desired to return to his abode on E-Mei Shan and instead seized his sword and travelled by his solitary self towards the Northwest regions. When he fell in love with Tian Shans vast and overwhelming scenery, he decided to settle down on the Tian Shans high Northern peaks thinking to himself: since my wife has already decided to establish her own school, I should also continue on with my studying so that when we meet up again in the future, we can each be the judge of the other. Though the manuals were lost, yet he has already completely memorized them within his heart and thus spent twenty yearsEtime to examine and form a style of sword art that exceeded the common to approach the heavenly. Henceforth, the sword skill was titled, the Tian Shan Sword Art."

    Yue Ming Ke was the disciple Huo took the third year he arrived at the Tian Shan. Through Yue Ming Kes progression from childhood to adulthood, he also was to practice the art of the sword as the ShiFu and his disciple would often use their newly created sword stances to spar with each other. Therefore the fact that the Tian Shan sword skill could be completed, Yue Ming Ke should also be noted for his key contribution. Two years ago, Huo Tian Du suddenly heard from the friends of the martial arts world that in the Northern Shaan area there suddenly appeared a young girl whose martial arts were incredibly exceptional and possessed of a sword skill with a mysterious background and unbelievable power. Upon calculation, Huo Tian Du realized that the span of twenty years had passed. At that time, Yue Ming Ke had already descended the mountain but Huo Tian Du called him back and told him all about the incident that happened twenty years ago. He then instructed him that when he passes by the Shaan Xi area, he must look for this Yu Luo Cha.

    Having gotten to this point, Yue Ming Ke then said, When I was just duelling with Yu Luo Cha, I noticed that her sword attacks were executed in exactly the opposite fashion as the stances that my ShiFu uses. Therefore, based on this I was able to ascertain that she was my ShiNiangs disciple." The two of them talked as they walked and before they knew it, they had already arrived at the Yellow Dragon Cave. Zhuo Yi Hang entered the cave first and was immediately greeted with the remnants of a fragrant aroma that still remained behind. Much beyond his control, the slender and enchanting image of Yu Luo Cha emerged within his mind, mixed in with an inexplicable and befuddled sense of disappointment and regret. The two of them entered further into the deeper portions of the cave and found that there were indeed two slabs of stone that were arranged together to resemble a screen. Yue Ming Ke generated his inner energy and with two whooshes of his palms caused the slabs of stone to wobble about, and with another pull with his hands he was able to move apart the two stones to emit a small opening. The two of them then entered inside and immediately saw the skeleton that was sitting amidst the centre of a stone shrine.

    Yue Ming Ke knelt down on the ground and knocked his head on the floor three loud times as a sign of reverend respect. When he lifted his head, he found that etched along the stonewalls were various sword stances. He lighted a fire and looked around everywhere, yet still was unable to find the sword manual. He figured that his ShiNiang must have destroyed it once she has familiarized herself with it. He then lifted his head towards the heavens and stated solemnly, Reverend ShiNiang, today your disciple dares to bring you to Tian Shan to be reunited with ShiFu. Please give me your blessings so that your remains may remain undisturbed along the journey."

    He then took down the skeleton and immediately discovered that amongst the shrine there was a scroll made of lambskin. Recorded within the manual were the various sword stances that were similar to the ones etched along the walls. When he arrived at the end of the manual, he found words that were written in blood. Yue Ming Ke studied these words closely and found that it was actually a broken up account of his ShiNiangs memoirs. The first two entries talked of the deep remorse that would plague her in the late nights after she departed from her husband, causing her to often jolt up from her dreams in the middle of the night. She would then bite through her fingers and then use her own blood to write down these words in the hope that twenty years later, she may use this journal to prove the profundity of her love to her husband. The following few entries talked of her progress in the development of the sword skill and then there was one section that said:

    Since Tian Du collected manuals from all over the world, he must therefore study and discover the essence of each skill in order to create an original sword art. I will purposely create a sword skill that is antagonistic towards his so that I may always be able to have the upper hand. The thunderstrike that attack first rules as lord, from now on, the swordsmen of the world would know of the authentic and the false, allowing for my sword skill to be undefeated within the world."
    After a long sigh, Yue Ming Ke then jumped over a section before he suddenly came upon an entry that read:

    Last night, a hungry pack of wolves were howling ravenously outside. I exited the cave with my sword in hand when I suddenly heard the cries of a little girl. Once I dispersed the pack of wolves, I found that amongst the wolves' pack there was a little infant girl. Her whole body was completely naked and was only about three or four years old. Once she saw me coming, she became incredibly alarmed and extremely petrified, as she immediately shot up and flew in fright while screaming sounds of ee-yah' which stood for something that was not understood by humans. Hmmm, this girl infant was raised on wolves' milk, is that not very strange? I arrived at the wolves' lair and searched around to find a piece of cloth that was already beginning to putrefy and corrode. Upon closer inspection, writings can be vaguely discerned and it can be finally ascertained that this girl's surname was Lian. Her father was a destitute and poverty-stricken scholar who had no choice but to escape to this place during hard times. After her mother died when gaving birth to her, her father abandoned her amongst the bushes by the foot of the Hua Shan. She was then adopted by the monks of the Ji Shan to be reared, but was unexpectedly abducted by a mother wolf. Surprisingly, she didnt die and would actually come across my path. Can it be predestined fate? Thus I seized this girl and brought her back to the cave as I am determined to take her as my disciple. By building on her inborn endowment, strengthening her foundation and coaching her in martial arts, she may be able to emit a beacon or two of light in the future thus also glorifying our sect."

    Yue Ming Ke waved his hands and beckoned Zhuo Yi Hang to come and read as well, while remarking, It says here that Yu Luo Cha was actually suckled by a mother wolf." Reading further, there was another entry that said, Today Lian had completely shed off all her fur[8] and I descended the mountain to visit the market in order to make her some clothes. She has already begun to speak human words and could even say mama' which really filled me with so much remorse that I couldnt stop myself from crying. Since this girl departed from the wolves' lair, her untamed wildness has gradually subsided and she was no longer biting at people and snapping at objects. I gave her the name Ni Chang' to commemorate the day when I first tailored a new set of colourful clothing for her."

    Further down, there were a few more entries that detailed Lian Ni Changs progress in her sword training. The final entry was filled with a disarray of chaotic writing that said:

    Last night I was sitting in meditation, cultivating my inner energy reserve. But suddenly I fell into a dark nightmare that projected an endless number of demons and ghosts to struggle with me. I exerted full force in combating the swarm of demons and when I woke up, my lower body was completely crippled and I could no longer move. My upper body was also starting to experience the loss of sensation. I was never able to elevate my training to the most proficient levels, thus leading to this cataclysmic misfortune of seizure through incorrect exertion. Pity that I will no longer be able to see the day when I can reunite with Tian Du."

    Yue Ming Ke sighed and said, My ShiFu once said that the progress of inner energy cultivation must not be rushed or forced, and it most definitely must not be a competition to arrive at or attain something. Its hard to imagine that even an expert like ShiNiang will also fall prey to this calamity." After Yue Ming Ke finished reading, he then placed the lambskin manual back within his possession and said, This manual is my ShiNiangs heart and soul, I want to ask somebody to bring it back to my ShiFu." In the midst of their conversation, a blaze of fire suddenly flashed from outside the cave.

    The two of them were both startled and immediately shot up just to see Priest Zhen Qian calmly step in. Yue Ming Ke let out a sigh of relief as he heard Zhen Qian explain, I happened to be very good friends with the Tian Du Philosopher and Priest Purple Sun. Two days ago, Yu Luo Cha came and implored me to take her ShiFus remains back to E-Mei Shan. But unfortunately she came upon Ying Xiu Yang and his pack of cronies, thus coming up here to battle with them instead. Only now is everything finally taken care of. Coincidently I would come across the two of you, thats truly wonderful indeed." Yue Ming Ke said, Theres no need to bring the remains back to E-Mei, my ShiFu is now residing on Tian Shan." Priest Zhen Qian said, I was informed of that a long time ago, only your ShiNiang was never aware of this fact."

    The Taoist Priest Zhen Qian had brought with him a wooden box, which he had placed outside the cave. Yue Ming Ke placed his ShiNiangs remains into the box and then suddenly said, Priest Zhen Qian, I also beseech you to bring this manual roll to Tian Shan and place it into my ShiFus hands. But you must take extreme caution not to lose it." The slight traces of displeasure appeared on Priest Zhen Qians face causing Yue Ming Ke to hurriedly add, Your humble student is not trying to be disrespectful, but this manual concerns extremely important and serious matters. If it lands into the wrong hands, the repercussions will be terribly severe." Zhen Qian thus opened the manual and looked over it before finally saying with a smile, Then I will do anything and everything I can in order to protect this manual. But are you not afraid that I will steal it?" Yue Ming Ke repeatedly insisted, I dare not." With a long laugh, Taoist Priest Zhen Qian thus placed the manual within his possession.

    Yue Ming Ke inspected the whole area once again and then suddenly took out his sword and drew wildly all over the stonewalls. In just a short lapse of time, the sword stances that were etched on the stonewalls have been all removed. Priest Zhen Qian then said, The sword art that your ShiNiang created is much too cruel and deadly. It really isnt a good idea to let it remain in this world." Zhuo Yi Hang then said, The sword skill is indeed very deadly, but if used for the right causes, it can also play a large role in eradicating the villains and instilling the peace." Zhen Qian thus laughed and said, It seems that you and Yu Luo Cha are quite understanding towards each other." Zhuo Yi Hang quickly added, Please do not tease me Elder Priest."

    After the three people had finished their final words, they all departed and each went on his separate way. After a few days of travelling during the day and sleeping through the night, Zhuo Yi Hang had finally returned home. When his old servants saw him, they were all filled with joyful tears as they said, Young master, after praying for thousands and millions of times, we are finally able to see you return to us. Old master has missed you so much that he has fallen ill from anxious concern, hes waiting to see you right now!" Zhuo Yi Hang immediately ran into the inner rooms and when he saw his grandfather, he immediately bowed down in tears. When Zhuo Zhong Xian saw him, his illness was immediately alleviated quite a bit as he said, Why are you crying? Has your father returned as well?" When Zhuo Yi Hang saw how sick his grandfather was, how could he possibly dare to tell him the truth? Therefore he only made up some excuses saying that since his father was an important official within the capital, he was not yet able to resign his position. Zhuo Zhong Xian murmured, The world of officialdom is much too dark and deadly. Its probably better to resign soon."

    After a few days, Zhuo Zhong Xians sick body started to gradually strengthened. He even began to talk about the day when he encountered Yu Luo Cha, all the while displaying the residual traces of fear. When he came to ask about Geng Shao Nans background, Zhuo Yi Hang could only relate to his grandfather the truth. It was only then that Zhuo Zhong Xian knew that his grandson was so accomplished in both the literary and martial arts, and was even a disciple of the great Wu Tang sect. Although he was shocked, he was also delighted as he said, It is a good thing to know that you are so proficient in both your martial and literary studies. But even though you are the disciple of the Wu Tang sect, you must take caution to not run around the JiangHu world recklessly. If you ever happen to come across Yu Luo Cha, there would undoubtedly be trouble because Yu Luo Cha seems to be particularly hateful towards Wu Tangs disciples." Zhuo Yi Hang dared not to mention his encounter with Yu Luo Cha and only said, After everything is properly taken care of, your grandson I will study in order to attain a proper position within the government and continue our family legacy." Zhuo Zhong Xian said, That would be even better" and then continued, To tell you the truth, Yu Luo Cha really cannot be considered a bad person. Even though she has taken away my money, yet I am not the least bit angry or hateful towards her." Hearing his grandfather say these words, Zhuo Yi Hang didnt know why, but he secretly felt joy within his heart.

    From then on, Zhuo Yi Hang kept himself within his house, dedicating himself to studying books and practicing his sword skill. After the passage of two months, the capital sent two imperial emissaries over to their house requesting to see Zhuo Zhong Xian. Zhuo Yi Hang was in his room when he heard his grandfathers anguished cries. He immediately dashed out only to see that his grandfather had already crumbled to the floor.

    Such is: Cruel sea of officialdom renders tides of heartbreak, arrival of one letter brings sorrow to shatter the soul.

    [1]Original text says Jie Dao which could possibly be translated as Knife of Interdict which one online source states is a knife used by Buddhists. But due to inadequate information to confirm this usage, thus the word Sabre was used instead.

    [2]The Pan Guan Bi is also known as the Ghost Judge (Pan Guan) Pen although Scholars brush seems to be the term that is more commonly used.

    [3]A common phrase that describes how one is left with no options. Although riding on top of a tiger is very dangerous act, and therefore one must get down from the tiger. Yet the act of descending the tiger itself is also equally dangerous. Thus you can move forward, and you cant turn back.

    [4] 5 Zang, 6 Fu where the 5 Zang organs consisted of the liver, heart, spleen, lungs and kidney and are Yin in nature. The gallbladder, small intestine, stomach, large intestine, Urinary Bladder and San-Jian (triple warmers upper, middle and lower) comprises the 6 Fu organs that are Yang in nature.

    [5] Jing Luo was a military position that was translated by someone as the managing governor. There was indeed a real historical figure called Xiong TingBi, who resided in the position of the Supervisor of Military Ministry.

    [6] When the chess player encounters a worthy opponent, its inevitable that they will have the itch to compete in a match: Fun fact: Liang Yu Sheng was a fanatic of Chinese Chess. His passion for Chess can even be said to extend beyond his love for Wuxia, as even now in his old age he remains to be very interested in studying and playing a game or two. Before he wrote wuxia, he made a name for himself by writing many essays that would describe the steps and dynamics of a chess match. Many people praised his writing style for these match summaries as being even more exciting and entertaining than witnessing the actual battle in person. Traces of wuxias elements can be discerned throughout these writings, leaving many readers feeling as if they were immersed in the cold glint of the swordplay in a wuxia battle when reading about a chess match written through the pen of Liang Yu Sheng.

    [7]The story of Huo Tian Du and Ling Mu Hua/Ling Yun Feng is mainly narrated in LYSs Lian Jian Feng Yun Lu." However, what should be noted is that Liang wrote Lian Jian" about 4 years after he wrote Bai Fa Mo Nu Zhuan", thus the characters and incidents that were outlined here in Bai Fa" would turn out differently in Lian Jian." What was detailed in Lian Jian" was a relationship between two well matched people who has gone through a lot together and who loved and cared about each other very much, but due to personality differences and further disagreements and misunderstandings, they had to eventually separate from each other. The relationship between Huo and Ling in Lian Jian" would turn out to be a very sophisticated exploration into the disintegration of a marriage, and not the fragile and childish separation that would seem to be portrayed in this passage. The character of Ling Mu Hua (who later renamed herself as Ling Yun Feng") would also be very different than what seems to be portrayed in the brief summary that appeared in Bai Fa."

    [8]According to an age-old myth, it was said that an infant who was raised by nursing on wolfs milk will end up growing fur all over its body.

  6. #6
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 5

    Chapter 5
    Trouble Hits Smooth Road
    Villain Strikes With Deadly Hand
    Little City Catches Fire
    Wicked Conspiracy Revealed in Dungeon
    (Translated by Faerie Queene)

    As soon as Zhuo Yi Hang stepped out of the room, the first sight he was met with was the sickly yellow colour of his grandfathers face. At that time, his grandfathers breathing had grown so faint that it was barely hanging by a thread. Zhuo Yi Hang hurriedly ordered his servants to carry his grandfather into the bedroom, but because the imperial emissaries were also present at that time, somebody needed to be there to attend to them. Therefore even though Zhuo Yi Hang's heart was in a state of great turmoil, he had no choice but to remain behind. The head emissary was greatly alarmed and said apologetically, The Emperor misses Old Master Zhuo so very much, but nobody could have predicted that just one edict would have brought so much sorrow to master Zhuo. Zhuo Yi Hang asked, What did the edict say? Can its contents be disclosed? The two imperial emissaries and Zhuo Zhong Lian were officials that used to belong to the same palace hall, thus they were on fairly good terms with each other. Therefore they truthfully related to Zhuo Yi Hang the details of the Emperors sudden decision to recall Zhuo Zhong Lian back into the palace.

    Because Emperor Shen Zong had previously placed his confidence in the wrong people, he ended up ordering the execution of Zhuo Yi Hang's father Zhuo Ji Xian. Although the case was revoked and justice was reinstated afterwards so that Zhuo Ji Xian was further titled as the Vice Instructor of the Crown Prince, yet the Emperor's guilt-ridden heart still remained to be unsettled. One day when he was conversing with the Grand Academician Fang Cong, Shen Zong suddenly thought of Zhuo Ji Xian's father Zhuo Zhong Lian, and remarked with a long sigh, Both father and son were such capable and honest officials. I wonder if Zhuo Zhong Lian would blame me[1] when he sees the Imperial Announcement[2]? Fang Cong replied, Zhuo Zhong Lian and his ancestors have been blessed under the palace's care for generations, how could he possibly harbour any resentful blame? If your majesty misses him, the position for the Minister of the Personnel Department is vacant at the present moment, why not recall him back to the capital? Shen Zong said, You have read my mind, right now the palace is indeed in desperate need of experienced and knowledgeable officials who has the state's best interest in mind. Therefore he immediately wrote out an edict and then sent two imperial emissaries to personally deliver the edict to Shaanxi and bring Zhuo Zhong Lian back to the capital. Within the edict, there was mention of Zhuo Ji Xian being titled as the Vice Instructor of the Crown Prince. Shen Zong's intentions were solely that of expressing gratitude towards his official, but he never would have guessed that Zhuo Zhong Lian haven't even read the Imperial Announcement yet and would instead come across the news of his son's death. Zhuo Zhong Lian was no longer able to withstand the shock as grief and sorrow overwhelmed his frail body that had barely recovered from his previous illnesses to begin with.

    Their conversation was suddenly interrupted by sounds of crying coming from within the inner rooms. The imperial emissaries hurriedly insisted, Honoured brother, do not worry about obliging us. Please give Old Master Zhuo our sincere respects. Zhuo Yi Hang expressed his regrets and immediately ran into the inner room. All of his servants were in a state of confusion and turmoil for Zhuo Zhong Lian was on the brink of death. When he saw Zhuo Yi Hang come in, he beckoned with his hands while saying, Come over here. Zhuo Yi Hang ran towards his grandfather's side and with tears in his eyes cried, Grandpa, please forgive your grandson for being so unfilial. Zhuo Zhong Lian mumbled brokenly, From now on, you don't have to take your state examinations. Stay at home to study and take care of the agricultural business instead. Then with a convulsion of his two feet, Zhuo Zhong Lian stopped breathing. Zhuo Yi Hang burst into a tearful wail as his servants tried to console him by saying, Old master lived past his sixtieth year and in the end died peacefully in his sleep. Please do not be too overly stricken with grief young master. The reverend emissaries are still outside. We should ask them to report to the Emperor while we start to arrange the funeral and burial ceremonies. Zhuo Yi Hang forced off his tears and returned to the main hall to inform the emissaries who were also very sympathetic.

    The emissaries spent the night at the Zhuo household and by the next day, the Zhuo family had already erected a memorial tablet while they placed the coffin in one of the West rooms. As Zhuo Zhong Lian's co-patriots, the two emissaries lighted three sticks of incense in front of the tablet, paying their respects in a very solemn and reverential manner. Zhuo Yi Hang himself knelt by the floor, returning the courteous act by bowing his head as a sign of expressing his gratitude. The head emissary extended his hand to help him up while saying, Honoured brother, please take care of yourself. We will return to the capital and report to the Emperor, and will most definitely try to secure a posthumous title for Old Master. The housekeepers had already prepared the funds and resources for the emissaries return trip, and was just about to see them to the doors when Zhuo Yi Hang suddenly leaped up and cried out in a trembling voice, Honoured Emissaries please remain behind!

    The Imperial Emissaries and housekeeper were all greatly taken back, for they all thought: Zhuo Yi Hang was a well-bred person who has always been very well-mannered. Why would he suddenly erupt into such an unrefined act of discourtesy? Jumping up so abruptly was already highly frowned upon, but to further order the imperial emissaries to remain behind was even more impertinent and ill-mannered. The housekeeper quickly stammered, Young master, the Old master was glorified during his life and mourned after his death. Now the reverend Emissaries have come in person to pay their final respects, shouldn't you quickly express your gratitude towards the gracious Emperor? Zhuo Yi Hang took a brief moment to calm himself down before saying abruptly, Honoured Emissaries, please accompany me inside to the inner rooms for a brief rest. The housekeeper's heart was palpitating so wildly that even his muscles were twitching, while the countenance of the Imperial Emissaries darkened with displeasure.

    Zhuo Yi Hang led the two emissaries into the study while the housekeeper followed behind them. Upon arrival at the room, Zhuo Yi Hang turned to the housekeeper and ordered him to Go outside and stay by the shrine while he closed the door on him. The housekeeper was terribly worried as he couldn't understand why his young master's behaviour was so abnormal. Could it be that he was possessed by some kind of demon? But because he didn't think it was proper to inquire further in front of the emissaries, he could only retreat outside while mumbling all the way, May the heavenly lord protect us with your blessings.

    The two emissaries were both perplexed and suspicious, for they thought that Zhuo Yi Hang had wanted to beseech them for something. But because Zhuo was in the midst of conducting a funeral ceremony, they therefore felt that even if he was desirous to secure a position in the realm of officialdom, it can certainly wait until another time. After Zhuo had locked up the door to the room, he immediately asked in a hushed voice, Honoured Emissaries, may I ask whether you are feeling any signs of discomfort or sickness? The head emissary's colour changed as he exclaimed, Of course not! The sub emissary said, Honoured brother you have provided such excellent accommodations for us that even though our ages may indeed be old, yet our old bodies can still withstand a bit of toil from all this traveling around and bustling about. However esteemed brother, you on the other hand still have to complete the duties of filial piety, it is more important for you to take care and not be overly saddened so that you yourself won't fall prey to sickness. There were traces of sarcasm and scathing contempt in the words and tone of the emissary, but Zhuo Yi Hang continued, Honoured emissaries, please pardon me for my brazenness, but while we were back in the hall I noticed that there appears to be an aberrant anomaly on the centre of Official Li's right palm.

    The head emissary was surnamed Li, and when he heard these words he quickly flipped over his palms for a look. Immediately his countenance blanched, as his expression became one of panic and surprise for all over his palms was a rash of red bumps, much resembling a case of measles. The sub emissary was surnamed Zhou, and when he flipped over his hands for a look, he was also met with the same condition. Zhuo Yi Hang said, I would like to ask the both of you to use your nail to tweak the bumps and see if there is any pain. The two emissaries followed his instructions, and with the very long fingernails that ancient scholars were fond of leaving, they used their left hand's index finger to stab at their right palm. Not only was there no pain whatsoever, but there was actually a bit of numbness. Zhuo Yi Hang continued, Honoured emissaries, please use your fingers to lightly massage the seventh joint at the back of your neck and see what happens? By that time, the two emissaries were under the full control of Zhuo Yi Hang's words, as they became as compliant and obedient as little children. They each used their fingers to massage the seventh joint of the other person's spine. With just a light application of pressure, they both screamed out in pain as they hurriedly cried out, What does this mean? How did esteem brother know of this?

    With a sigh Zhuo Yi Hang said, Honoured emissaries, I'm afraid that you've fallen prey to a furtive attack. These are the signs of the JiangHu world's deadly Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds[3]. I was only able to notice it when Official Li extended his hands to help me up. It seems that the red spots have only recently begun to erupt, which is why honoured emissaries have not been able to notice it yet. After one has been injured by the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds, if that person does not receive treatment within 24 hours after exhibiting the first signs, I'm afraid that it will pose a threat to one's life. Therefore your respectful minor had no choice other than to behave so discourteously in order that I may inform honoured officials of the situation. It should be understood that in the feudal imperial dynasties, the imperial emissaries were a representation of the Emperor himself. If they did indeed die within the Zhuo household, not only would the whole Zhuo lineage be faced with the danger of confiscation and extermination, but even the high officials of the region will be dragged into the matter. The repercussions were so severe that even though Zhuo was in mourning, he had no choice but to personally handle this matter.

    By now, the faces of the two emissaries have turned the colour of parched earth as they hurriedly pleaded, Then I beseech you Brother Zhuo, please heal us! Zhuo Yi Hang called in his housekeeper and told him to first isolate a vacant room. He then left orders that unless the closest relatives and friends of the household came to call, otherwise they were not to release news of the old master's death to the public yet. When they were inside the vacant room, Zhuo then took out some gold needles and used them to penetrate into the Ji Xin, Feng Wei and Jing Cu acupoints of the emissaries bodies. The two emissaries immediately felt their stomach to fill up with gastric acid and then they both spitted out a mouthful of yellow fluid. Not long after, their whole body started to burn with heat. Zhuo Yi Hang said, I am taking advantage of our early detection but I would like to ask honoured emissaries to please lie down for the time being for we still have to continue the treatment later tonight. He then proceeded to collect his needles when he suddenly asked, Who are the guards responsible for honoured emissaries' safety? Can they be trusted?

    Emissary Li replied, The Emperor sent us the imperial bodyguard, Commander Qin to accompany us on our trip outside the Imperial City. This person is a descendant from a long lineage of imperial bodyguards and is a trusted servant of the Emperor. Furthermore, his character is honest and upright, there would be no reason for him to assassinate us. Zhuo Yi Hang said, Your unworthy brother I would still like to ask him to step inside for a few words. Emissary Li said, As you wish then and therefore Zhuo Yi Hang sent his housekeeper to bring in the Commander Qin. This man was of average height and built, and though he looked to be quite kind, yet you could tell right away that he didn't possess the brightest disposition.

    Zhuo Yi Hang said to him, I have long heard of your great name, it is a pleasure to meet you as he extended his hand to shake Commander Qin's hand. Commander Qin immediately jumped back for his wrist was suddenly overcome with an aching numbness. He looked over and discovered that the faces of the two emissaries were so red that it was as if they were being burned by fire as they laid on the bed with sweat pouring from their foreheads. He was severely taken back and shouted, How dare you try to secretly attack the Imperial Emissaries? and with a flip of his hands, he immediately attacked with his palm. Zhuo Yi Hang jumped out of the way while the two emissaries immediately ordered for them to halt. Zhuo Yi Hang said, Forgive my rude behaviour Commander, but I was only trying to clear the suspicion for you. The emissaries have fallen under a furtive attack, but the person who attacked them was not me and it was you. I am hoping to have a word with you Commander.

    The Commander Qin was about as quick and sharp as a wooden chicken, thus it was only after Zhuo Yi Hang had finished speaking did he finally realize, So you were just testing me? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, I dare not. I only wanted to see whether Commander Qin knew the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds. But now I know that though Commander Qin's martial art skills are superb, yet you've never practiced this deadly set of palms. Commander Qin said with alarm, What Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, The two honoured emissaries have fallen prey to the furtive attacks of these Venomous Palms. Thus he led Commander Qin over to the sick bed to have a look, and outlined in detail the various symptoms of the Venomous Palms. Though in actuality, Commander Qin's martial arts were not particularly skilled, yet he was still quite knowledgeable and therefore recognized that Zhuo Yi Hang's words were not false. A cold sweat erupted all over his whole body as he immediately expressed his gratitude.

    Zhuo Yi Hang explained, The potency of the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds lies in the fact that it doesn't kill immediately, but rather takes its effect gradually. Judging from their symptoms, it should be about three days ago when the honoured emissaries were secretly attacked. Commander, I'd like you to think carefully. Did you come across any suspicious looking people during the past few days? Commander Qin silently muttered an I'm so ashamed, before lowering his head, lost in deep thought. Emissary Li suddenly asked, Can it be the old man who served us tea? Commander Qin has also thought to that as well for he immediately exclaimed, At that time I also found him to be somewhat suspicious, but seeing that he was of such an old age and didn't seem to be a person who was harbouring any powers, in my moment of carelessness, I actually let him go.

    Zhuo Yi Hang quickly inquired about the old man who served them tea. Emissary Li said, Three days ago, we were taking shade under a tree beside the road, quite overcome with thirst. Suddenly, there was an old man who passed by while lugging around a big pail of cool tea. Coincidently, he happened to rest under the same tree's shade. When we were talking, he told us that he was bringing tea to his family who were working on the farm. After talking to him for a while, he heard that we were headed for your mansion and said that he was one of your farmers, and even detailed for us the directions to your house. He was the one who offered a bowl of tea to the two of us, but Commander Qin didn't drink any. When he handed us the bowl, he pressed his finger against my palm briefly, but at that time I didn't take much notice. Emissary Zhou added, When he brought me tea, his finger also bumped against my palm. Zhuo Yi Hang said, That's it then. Did he know that the two of you were emissaries? Commander Qin said, The bandits that were stationed along the Chuan-Shaan paths are as numerous as the strands of hair on a person's head. Now that we have to journey through these roads, how could we possibly dare to display the status of our governmental positions?

    Zhuo Yi Hang did not say anything as he thought over their words, but the more he thought about it, the more terrified he became. This old man was obviously trying to bring blame onto his household. He thought to: If the emissaries had died from poisoning after immediately paying a visit to my house, then by that time, even all the waters of the Yellow River can't wash my house from blame! While pondering over this matter, his servant suddenly came running while simultaneously calling with alarm, Master, master! Zhuo Yi Hang pushed open the doors of the room and scolded, What's wrong? His servant replied, There's a young man outside whose face is bruised and swollen as if he has just been in a fight with others. He barged in, requesting to see you master. We told him that our household is in mourning and our master will not receive any guests. But he wouldn't listen to us, and continued to force his way through. When we struck out to stop him, he only had to extend out his arm to block us and already all the people who advanced ended up falling backwards. We were just about to shoe him outside when he suddenly begged for forgiveness and said that he was in a hurry to see Master you, and was not intentionally trying to hurt us.

    Zhuo Yi Hang said, Is that so? and immediately asked to be excused from the emissaries before closing the room doors behind him and then ran out to the main reception hall. All that was seen was a person on the steps who loudly cried, Brother Zhuo! Oh man, I'm so glad I made it to see you! Upon a closer look, Zhuo Yi Hang discovered that it was Meng Can's disciple Bai Min. Zhuo Yi Hang only saw him once in Beijing and had merely exchanged a few words with him. They could hardly be considered as acquaintances, thus Zhuo Yi Hang really could not understand why he would travel such great distances to come here and visit him.

    Bai Min joined his hands together and bowed by kneeling to the floor and pleading, Save me brother Zhuo! Zhuo Yi Hang asked, Brother Bai, what trouble are you in? Bai Min replied, I'm not in any trouble, but I've only been beaten up by a bunch of people for no reason, plus sustaining the attack of the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds on top of it all! Zhuo Yi Hang was shocked, thinking Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds again? while he hurriedly took him into the inner rooms and asked him to explain in detail.

    What had happened was that as soon as Bai Min received notice about Meng Can dying from his injuries, he immediately returned to discover that Wang Zhao Xi was his little martial art sister's betrothed husband. When he saw what a young and promising hero Wang Zhao Xi was, in the midst of his great sorrow over his ShiFu's sudden death, there was also joy in knowing that his martial arts sister will now have a worthy person to take care of her for the rest of her life. But he never would have expected that Wang Zhao Xi would suddenly disappear the next day without as much as a single word. Meng QiuXia cried and cried and cried, but regardless of how hard Bai Min tried to console her, his martial arts sister still would not say or respond to anything.

    Having gotten to this part, Bai Min asked with a very clueless expression, Brother Zhuo, you're friends with brother Wang, tell me, what do you think made him act so strangely? He traveled so many miles just for the sole purpose of receiving his bride, now that he happened to come across his father-in-law's death, regardless of what, he should act as half a son and organize the funeral proceedings. Why would he suddenly run away and leave everything behind, including his own wife? My martial arts sister is acting equally strange. It's not my fault that brother Wang suddenly left! But she's completely ignoring me, as if it was me who made him go away! Zhuo Yi Hang was able to come up with a theory after just briefly analyzing over the situation. He was thinking to himself, It really was because of you that he went away while simultaneously consoling Bai Min, It's only a small misunderstanding. I'll explain everything to brother Wang later and everything will be okay. Bai Min asked, Explain to him about what? I didn't do him any wrong, and he's done nothing to wrong me! There's no need for you to explain anything to him. If you talk to him, he might actually laugh at us and think that theres a petty squabble between us siblings. But in all honesty, we didn't even have a fight! My sister herself even told me later that it wasn't my fault, and then she also told me to go to sleep. So I listened to her and went to sleep, but when I woke up the next day, I found that even she's left as well!

    Zhuo Yi Hang said, What? She's left as well? Bai Min said, Yeah! ShiFu has just been buried, and not only does she not stay home to mourn, but she actually goes out to run after her husband! Zhuo Yi Hang asked, How did you know that she went to look for Wang Zhao Xi? Bai Min replied, Because that's what she said in the note that she left me! She also told me to stay home to keep company by ShiFus shrine for her, and that I was not to run around outside in case I cause any trouble. Upon hearing these words, had Zhuo Yi Hang not been in mourning, he would have most likely been unable to hold back his laughter. He couldn't believe how goofy and foolish this guy was, he was being misunderstood by others and yet he was completely clueless! Bai Min paused before continuing, I was worried that my sister would come across danger traveling by herself, so even though she told me not to run around, I still had to come after her. Having gotten to this part, he suddenly raised his hands.

    The red measles on the center of his palm were visibly striking, causing Zhuo Yi Hang to ask, Did you also come under attack three days ago? Bai Min replied, Yeah! When I arrived in the Western Shaan area, I realized that I didn't know where Wang Zhao Xi lived. Your residence on the other hand is much easier to find. As soon as I asked about the Zhuo family who had once resided in the position of the Supreme Commander, many people knew where you lived. I thought that since it was so much easier to find you, you can most likely tell me where Wang lived. Zhuo Yi Hang replied, Actually, I don't know where he lives either. Bai Min said, Man! If only I knew that earlier! I wish I hadn't come to find you because as soon as I arrived in Yan An City, I realized that there was somebody tailing me!

    Zhuo Yi Hang remarked, That's good that you kept your guard up. Bai Min replied, I still know a few things about the basic rules of survival in the JiangHu world. The day before yesterday I was passing by PanLong Shan[4] and everything was just fine and dandy when suddenly a pair of riders came up behind me and asked if I was going to see the Gao Qiao Town's Zhuo family. When I said that I was, those two guys suddenly jumped down from their horses and started to attack me out of the blue for no reason! Zhuo Yi Hang asked, Really? So you lost to them? Bai Min replied, Man, those two stinkers were really tough. At first I could pull even with them in battle, but I eventually found it harder and harder to ward off their attacks. Standing behind them was an old man who didn't lift a finger himself, but just stood there repeatedly saying, 'I want him alive, not dead. I almost thought I was going to die from anger! So the execution of my fist attacks became more and more disorganized and more and more muddled because of this anger.

    Zhuo Yi Hang then asked, So how did you manage to escape them in the end? Bai Min replied, During the beginning of this year, I went to the Tian Qiao[5] and saw a fortune teller who told me that because this was a year that was being ruled by my astrological house, many troubles will be coming along my way. But, I will be able to overcome these dangers every time and my perils will turn into providence. Zhuo Yi Hang couldn't stop himself from saying, I'm asking you how you escaped the danger! Why are you suddenly talking about getting your fortune read at the Tian Qiao? What does that have to do with anything? Bai Min replied, But that fortune teller really did know what he was talking about. At that time, I was in great danger and was staring defeat straight in the face, but suddenly the sound of somebody's cold laughter came from the direction of the PanLong Shan's mountaintop. The sound of that laughter was extremely piercing to the ears, and the old man was suddenly heard to shout out, Retreat quickly! The sounds of laughter and shouting were mixed together, and while the last sounds lingered in the air, that person was already seen to fly down from the top of the mountain. Like a shooting comet, that person ripped across the distance with the speed of a flying arrow and the two stinkers I fought with were immediately tossed aside as soon as they came into contact with that person. The old man who was giving the orders leaped forward, and in a flash delivered two palms my way. Just when I extended my palm to ward off that attack, somebody was suddenly heard to say in a low voice by my ear, Move away! as a loud scream was immediately heard to come from the old man who has already been thrown backwards. Then after he picked up his two cronies, they immediately ran for their lives. It was only then that I was finally able to see that the person who had saved me was a beautiful young woman!

    A thought immediately struck Zhuo Yi Hang as he blurted out, Yu Luo Cha! Bai Min asked, What Yu Luo Cha? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, That woman's name is Yu Luo Cha, she is a powerful bandit in the Southern Shaan area. Didn't you know? Bai Min said, Oh, so she knows you! No wonder she told me to come find you. Well, back to the story: as the old man start running away, she didn't chase after him but only remained behind and laughed while saying, 'Your Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds is not too shabby. When do you want to get together for another fight? After the man had escaped a far distance, she suddenly grabbed my hand and flipped over my palm to study it. I asked her, 'Hey, are you going to read my fortune too?' She said, 'Silly boy, who said I was reading your fortune? You've been injured by the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds.' And then she took out a pill and told me to swallow it before saying, 'I can only prevent your martial arts from degenerating by helping to preserve your central Qi. But I don't know how to cure the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds. Hurry to Zhuo Yi Hang's place, he's the sole disciple of Wu Tang's Purple Sun Taoist Priest. The old priest Purple Sun is experienced with curing these kinds of venomous poisons. Go now! Hurry!

    Zhuo Yi Hang remarked, No wonder your symptoms are so moderate! So it was Yu Luo Cha who used medication to preserve your central Qi. To cure these kinds of venomous and deadly poisons was indeed the specialty of Wu Tang's Purple Sun Taoist Priest. By studying under him during the last twelve years, Zhuo Yi Hang was able to inherit this skill as well. Therefore, he took out his golden needles and pierced the essential acupoints for Bai Min in order to relieve his poison and then helped him to resume his proper blood circulation. The operation was finally completed after quite a while of bustling about. By that time, Bai Min was already busy snoring away, lost in deep slumber.

    When Zhuo Yi Hang went over to check on the emissaries, he found that they were also in the midst of sweet slumber. Thus Zhuo Yi Hang took a walk outside his house's back garden along with the Commander Qin who had accompanied the emissaries on this trip and said to him, If anything happens, you can take the honoured emissaries and escape out the side doors in the western corner. There will be a secluded path that leads straight to the top of the mountain. Then Zhuo also walked him through the front and back portions of the mansion, making sure that he was familiar with the surroundings before returning inside. He then ordered his servants to first go inside the kitchen to heat up ten pots of boiling water and then bring Bai Min and the two emissaries inside the kitchen. He also ordered Commander Qin and an old servant to go inside the kitchen to take care of the patients, but this was only after they themselves have consumed some extremely cold medicine[6]. They were to take off all the patients' clothes and then use the heated force from the water's steam to expel the poison from within their bodies. When the doors were opened again after four hours, the old servant was so overwhelmed with heat that he almost fainted. Zhuo Yi Hang and Commander Qin helped the three patients into their clothes and brought them outside, they then fed them the freshly boiled ginseng extract that was made from the first grade ginseng. After massaging them for a while, they watched them fall into a deep sleep before finally leaving their side. Zhuo Yi Hang had bustled about for the whole day and by that time it was already midnight. An old servant came up to him and said, Yan An City's District Magistrate[7] sent someone over to call upon us, but because master you were busy at that time, we didn't report to you. Zhuo Yi Hang replied, Deliver a thank you card to them tomorrow. We will send them an obituary notice when we officially conduct the burial ceremonies. In regards to such small matters, Zhuo Yi Hang really didn't bother taking it to heart and therefore immediately went to bed instead.

    By the next day, the two emissaries and Bai Min were already significantly more energized and could begin to consume some diluted congee. By dusk, aside from having not yet regained his full strength, Bai Min's body had already recovered to functioning with the regularity of a healthy person. Zhuo Yi Hang spent some time chatting with him in the study, and found that his character was so kind and honest that he could converse with him quite naturally and without any restrictions. They were suddenly interrupted in the midst of their casual conversation by the noises coming from a crowd of horses and men that drifted in from outside. An old servant came in to report, The prefecture's military defence officer Wang has brought his men here and is asking to see you Master. Zhuo Yi Hang's eyebrows knitted together as he thought to himself: Grandpa is no longer an official, why must they persist in badgering us with bribery and string pulling? After issuing a command of Bring them in, he stepped foot outside the main reception hall only to find that the military defence officer Wang had already brought twenty or thirty men into the reception hall. Perplexed, Zhuo Yi Hang wondered to himself why this official was daring to be so rude. He originally thought that Officer Wang had brought his men here to service the Zhuo family, but never would he have expected Officer Wang to suddenly shout, Zhuo Yi Hang you are under arrest!

    Zhuo Yi Hang asked, What crimes am I guilty of? Officer Wang retorted, You're committing the huge crime of harbouring a convicted criminal. Zhuo Yi Hang shouted with anger, My family has been governmental officials for generations! How dare you spew out such a load of garbage! Officer Wang gave a cold laugh and said, How dare you try to intimidate us with your powers and connections? Search his house! His troops started to rush into the inner rooms while Zhuo Yi Hang shouted, You dare disturb the Imperial emissaries? Officer Wang gave a cold snicker and said, I've received the orders of the imperial courts and would very much like to report to the emissaries. The clanging and banging sounds of fighting was heard to come from the direction of the study. Zhuo Yi Hang shouted, Brother Bai! Don't fight with them! We'll go to the courts of Yan An and reason with them!

    Officer Wang commanded his men to tie Zhuo Yi Hang up, causing Zhuo to be so infuriated that with a cold laugh, he placed his two hands on the rosewood table and with a press, caused the whole table to immediately flip over. Zhuo Yi Hang shouted, I'll go only if you reason civilly. But if you use brute force, I will only hurt you first and then worry about pleading guilty when I get to the capital. The two soldiers standing beside Officer Wang gave a wink of their eyes and Officer Wang immediately got the hint and thus said, Fine! Taking account of the fact that you're the descendant of a high official, I'll let you save some face! Zhuo Yi Hang rushed ahead of Officer Wang, and charged straight into the inner rooms. Yet when he pushed open the doors, the two emissaries were nowhere to be found!

    Zhuo Yi Hang was greatly taken back but immediately thought to himself: Can it be that they had run away because they thought the ruckus outside signalled the attack of bandits? Officer Wang came up behind him and laughed coldly while saying, So where are the emissaries? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, Let me go find them for you. Officer Wang said, The emissaries were already murdered by you, where are you going to find them? A thought suddenly flashed across Zhuo Yi Hang's mind as he suddenly whipped his head around and grasp out with his hand while yelling, So you're the scoundrel who's committing those villainous acts!

    A soldier from behind officer Wang blazed forward and extended out his arms to ward off Zhuo before quickly transforming his stance into in a grappling attack. Through the exchange of that one stance, Zhuo Yi Hang and the soldier were equally matched. The man shouted, First you murder the emissaries and now you dare to resist arrest? Zhuo Yi Hang collected his thoughts briefly and said, Fine, then we'll bring this case to the royal courts! The soldier took out shackles and barked, You were still able to deny your guilt before because we didn't have any solid proof. But now the emissaries are gone, what else do you have to say for yourself? There are laws in our country, and there's no room for you to put on airs and make your own rules! Hurry and put these shackles on! Zhuo Yi Hang's countenance immediately changed colours, but just when he was about to resist arrest, he immediately thought to the fact that his grandfather and father were both high officials within the imperial palace. If he resisted arrest, then he would be willingly taking on the blame of a rebel, thus slandering and bringing shame onto his whole family's legacy. Having thought to this, his hands started to lower unconsciously, leaving the soldier to cuff the manacles onto his wrists.

    After all the commotion, the whole Zhuo household was left in an utter state of mayhem and chaos. All the old servants were crying and wailing as Zhuo Yi Hang said to them, You don't have to worry about me. The divine Emperor presides over the millions miles of land, he most definitely will clear this unjust charge for me. But despite these words, when Zhuo Yi Hang thought to how his father ended up being wrongfully executed, he couldn't help but be chilled to core of his heart. Zhuo Yi Hang was just able to leave orders for his housekeeper, You have to take good care of the old master's altar before officer Wang urged, Move! and pushed Zhuo Yi Hang outside the main gates. Already waiting for him was Bai Min who had been brought outside after having been tightly bonded.

    The troop of soldiers took away the two of them and traveled all throughout the whole night, so that by the time they arrived in the Yan An City it was already dawn. After waiting two hours, the courts rose for the trial. However, it was not the district magistrate for the Yan An City who resided in the position of the judge but instead, it was another official of the second rank[8] who sat in his place.

    He questioned Zhuo Yi Hang first, Your family has been blessed with the imperial court's care for many generations. Why did you conspire with rebels to induce harm onto the imperial emissaries? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, The emissaries were indeed attacked by somebody, but I was not that perpetrator. The official asked, Then who was it? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, Officer, please give me one month's time and I will personally bring the perpetrators who furtively attacked the emissaries to you. The judge knocked his wooden gavel[9] and bellowed, Rubbish! An imperial officer is not a three year old child who can be so easily deceived by your slick words that they will end up releasing you! Zhuo Yi Hang said, If I was intending to escape, I need not come here in the first place! The judge knocked his wooden gavel again and said, Then confess everything! Zhuo Yi Hang retorted, I have nothing to confess to.

    The Judge said, You say that you didn't bring any harm onto the imperial emissaries, but then how would you know who the true perpetrators were that harmed them? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, I will reveal this only to the revered Emperor. The presiding judge was enraged and shouted, Am I not worthy enough to question you? Zhuo Yi Hang remained silent and did not reply while the judge picked up a command stick and was just about to give orders for the administration of punishment on Zhuo, when for some reason he suddenly decided to hold back and commanded instead, Bring forth the accomplice convict! When the soldiers brought forth Bai Min, the Judge asked, What is your name and where are you from? Bai Min replied, I'm Bai Min and I'm from Beijing. The Judge asked, You are the disciple of the Crown Prince's Primary Martial Arts Instructor Meng Can, are you not? Bai Min replied, Yeah! You've heard of me? The Judge slammed down his gavel again and said, For what reasons did you travel these thousands of miles to arrive in Yan An? Confess now and don't you dare hold anything back! Bai Min raised his head up high and said, A true man would never conceal his actions! I came to Yan An because I wanted to look for a friend. Is that illegal now? The Judge asked, Who are you looking for? Bai Min loudly replied, Wang Zhao Xi! The Judge knocked his wooden gavel so hard that the sound reverberated to the heavens and shook the ground. The whole court ruptured into a loud murmur while the prefect of the Yan An City who was also present during the trial suddenly underwent a change of countenance.

    The presiding judge told the recording clerk to write down the testimonial and hand it over to Bai Min before ordering him to sign his name. After Bai Min made sure that the recorded testimonial did not add in any false allegations, he immediately picked up the ink-brush and wrote his name without any deliberation. The presiding judge handed the testimonial over to Yan An's district magistrate and smiled, We're finished here then. He then gave a final knock with his wooden gavel and said to Zhuo Yi Hang, Your accomplice has already confessed to all his crimes, are you not going to follow in his steps? Zhuo Yi Hang was completely baffled as he asked, What did he confess to? Yan An's prefect shouted, Wang Zhao Xi and his father are the malicious bandits who terrorizes our city, everybody knows that! Zhuo Yi Hang was greatly taken back and was left completely speechless. The presiding judge said, The fact that you're daring to conspire with such malicious bandits is already a severe crime. Zhuo Yi Hang said, Say whatever you will, I want to argue this case with you in the capital's royal courts! The judge ripped out into cold laughter and said, Did you think you will still be going to the capital? and told a prison guard to transport him to the prison cells. Zhuo Yi Hang was shocked and angry, while Bai Min who was standing beside him asked, Is Wang Zhao Xi really a bandit? Zhuo Yi Hang did not answer him, but his face was green with rage. Bai Min was incredibly devastated as he hurriedly said, It's all my fault! Zhuo Yi Hang replied, It's not your fault while the prison guard barked, Prisoners are not allowed to talk in private! and thus separated the two of them into different cells.

    Zhuo Yi Hang was put into a prison cell all by himself, but the cell was actually surprisingly tidy and clean, not at all resembling that of a typical prison cell. However, three days passed and he still did not receive a single visitor. Within his heart, he really hoped that his servants would come to visit him for he wanted them to go seek help from his grandfather's students and friends. But three days passed and nobody came, not knowing whether it was because his servants didn't have the courage to approach, or whether the courts were refusing them the rights to enter. It was only until the fourth day, did military defence officer Wang and the soldier who exchanged stances with Zhuo the other day suddenly arrive to take him out of the cell. They passed by room after room and weaved through corridor after corridor, walking quite a while before finally arriving at their destination. They promptly threw Zhuo inside the room and immediately locked up the doors behind him.

    When Zhuo Yi Hang lifted his head, he saw that in the middle of the room stood a red-faced old man with the most dark and demonic glint in his eyes. He gestured for Zhuo Yi Hang to have a seat while saying with a sly smile, The Crown Prince highly praises you. Zhuo Yi Hang had absolutely no clue what was happening. The old man continued, The divine Lord of a million years is old now and often ridden with illnesses. The Crown Prince will be ascending the throne very soon, but I'm afraid that he will still need to rely on the help of Eunuch Wei on many matters. Zhuo Yi Hang's face changed colours as he said, I am a convict, if you want to say something then say it. What are you telling me all this for? The old man thus said, Eunuch Wei also highly praises you. Zhuo Yi Hang retorted with anger, Who cares for his praises? The red faced old man praised, You are quite the tough guy! But did you know that your life is now in our hands? Zhuo Yi Hang laughed coldly and said, What is it that you want? The red faced old man suddenly asked, You were old acquaintances with Zheng Hong Tai weren't you?

    A thought suddenly flitted across Zhuo Yi Hang's head as he asked, So what? The red faced old man continued, What did he say to you before he died? Zhuo Yi Hang retorted, What are you talking about? I don't know anything! The red faced old man laughed and said, Alright, let's lay all our cards on the table. My name is Yun Yan Ping, have you heard of my name before? Zhuo Yi Hang suddenly unleashed a loud roar while he immediately stretched his arms out to the sides and broke apart the manacles binding his hands. Then with a forward sweep of his palm, he shouted, So you're the traitor! The red faced old man leaned backwards and kicked out with the tip of his foot, causing the stool to fly forward. All that was heard was a loud smashing sound as the stool splintered into a million pieces under the force of Zhuo Yi Hang's palm. Yun Yan Ping then took down his belt and whipped it forward while laughing, So I finally got it out of you didn't I? Zhuo Yi Hang, are you going to confess now or what?

    You may be wondering why Zhuo Yi Hang would suddenly become so angry? Well, that day before Zheng Hong Tai died, he revealed the identity of five conspirators who were bribed by the Manchurians. There were three people amongst that list who were guards within the palace while the other two were bandits of the underground world. Amongst the guards who were listed as spies, there was one who was called Yun Yan Ping!

    With a flex of his body, Zhuo Yi Hang attacked with his palms while Yun Yan Ping retaliated by slashing out with his belt and bringing forth a sudden gust of fierce winds. Zhuo Yi Hang struck out consecutively, but whether he swept from the side or hacked from the front, Yun Yan Ping's movements still remained to be incredibly agile, as he dodged, attacked and navigated around the cell-like room with ease. The belt in his hand was wielded like a soft whip, and even after the duration of twenty, thirty stances, Zhuo Yi Hang was still unable to gain the lead by even a single stance. He suddenly thought to himself: since the situation has come to this point, then why don't I just escape and then report to the Crown Prince myself? He increased the intensity of his strikes and bludgeoned forward with a few stances before suddenly turning around and with a loud bang, kicked open the rooms door. Yun Yan Ping shrieked with laughter and said, Think you're getting away from me? Dream on!

    With a huge leap, Zhuo Yi Hang attempted to flit by Yun when suddenly the room was filled with the chilling draft of a palms strike that was blasting towards Zhuo with full force. Zhuo Yi Hang slanted his body and slid over to the side, but just when he was about to retaliate with his palms, somebody suddenly flitted in and struck out with vermilion coloured palms, catching Zhuo completely off guard. Two palms were immediately thrown out, accompanied by gusting winds that tore through the room like a raging storm. Zhuo Yi Hang roared with anger, Did you think I was afraid of your Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds? and then by executing the Five Men Demolishing Mountain Palms, he hurtled palm after palm of raw force, staking his own life by undergoing the risk of mutual fatality. That man didn't dare to intercept Zhuo's palm attack directly, but instead targeted his palms towards Zhuo Yi Hang's acupoint. Zhuo Yi Hang didn't dare to sustain that palm attack with his body and since he couldn't barge forward, he could only retreat back inside the room. With a twist of his belt, Yun Yan Ping was able to entwine Zhuo and then with a tug brought Zhuo Yi Hang crashing to the ground. The old man who used the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds immediately followed inside and closed the door behind him.

    While standing guard by the door, the old man asked, Brother Yun, were you able to get it out of him? Yun Yan Ping replied, The little rascal won't confess the truth. Just finish him off with one of your palms brother Jin. The old man surnamed Jin lifted his palm and prepared to smash it down against the back of Zhuo Yi Hang's head. Zhuo Yi Hang did not show an ounce of fear but only said coldly, Even if you kill me it won't do you any good. After I die, my friends will go to the capital and request for an imperial trial. They will disclose the true identities of all of you and reveal your conspiracy. A shock went through Yun Yan Ping's body as he asked, Are you talking about Yu Luo Cha? Zhuo Yi Hang lifted his head and stared straight ahead, ignoring Yun's question but all the while bearing a proud expression on his face.

    The old man surnamed Jin said, Oh really? You little squirt! I never expected that you would have the guts to make acquaintances with Yu Luo Cha. Yun Yan Ping suddenly unleashed an evil cackle as he snickered, It seems that this kid will come in very handy. The old man surnamed Jin suddenly kicked out with his leg to impact on the Wei Zhong acupoint located on curve of Zhuo's back leg. This acupoint was situated right in the juncture where the upper leg connected with the lower leg, and was one of the nine numbing acupoints of the human body. Zhuo Yi Hang immediately fainted and Yun Yan Ping then called in military officer Wang, ordering him to bring Zhuo back into the prison cell.

    After Zhuo Yi Hang was taken away, Yun Yan Ping and the old man Jin looked at each other and smirked. But these two men were not the only traitors who were conspiring with the Manchurians, for Wei Zhong Xian also had associations with Manchuria. After Zheng Hong Tai's death, Yue Ming Ke arrived at the capital and reported the secret of Zheng Hong Tai's death to Military Commissioner Xiong. Xiong then brought this up during daily court, thereby disclosing the identity of the traitors. But Ming Shen Zong only laughed and labelled this report as unsupported rumours, thus ignoring the issue by setting it aside. The three palace guards were actually quite efficient in their methods of obtaining news, for the moment they caught a whiff of the brewing trouble, they immediately ran away. Therefore by the time Ming Shen Zong received news of the guards' escape, despite his regrets, it was already too late to do anything.

    Although the three guards did indeed escape out of the imperial palace, yet they remained within the capital for they were all acquaintances of Wei Zhong Xian. As for Zheng Hong Tai, his relationship with Wei Zhong Xian was relatively more removed, for through his communications with the Manchurian messenger he was only able to discover that the three guards were part of their group and was not aware of the fact that Wei Zhong Xian also had a part to play. Wei Zhong Xian himself knew that Zheng Hong Tai was a co-conspirator, but because the two of them has never mentioned this matter to each other, Wei Zhong Xian was never able to figure out whether Zheng Hong Tai was aware of his secret identity. Overcome with anxiety, Wei Zhong Xian decided to secretly send the three guards to the Shaan area. He also ordered another one of his trusted men who was an imperial official to arrive at the Yan An City and impersonate as an emissary in order to draw out the secret from Zhuo Yi Hang. But coincidently, the Emperor really did end up sending two emissaries over to Zhuo's household for the proclamation of the imperial edict. Therefore, Wei Zhong Xian immediately devised the malicious plot of sending his two guards to kill the emissaries in secret so that they may slander blame onto the Zhuo household. By using this crime as an excuse, Wei Zhong Xian can then capture Zhuo Yi Hang and interrogate him in private.

    Amongst these two imperial guards, there was one who was skilled in the soft martial arts, a skill that was secretly passed down from Tibetan Buddhist's branch of martial arts. This was the Yun Yan Ping who used his waist belt to combat Zhuo Yi Hang earlier. When the practitioner of this soft martial arts has reached the pinnacle levels, they have the ability conquer the hardest forces by using the softest objects. Although Yun Yan Ping has not been able to reach the highest pinnacle of this skill yet, yet he has already captured the majority of its essence. The other man who used the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds was called Jin Qian Yan. His Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds had the ability to kill people within a crowd and still allow the perpetrator to escape undetected due to the fact that the first symptoms won't start appearing until three days later and it is only after seven days would the victim die from its poison. This time, they had received Wei Zong Xian's orders to furtively attack the imperial emissaries along the journey in order that they may charge the Zhuo household with this crime. But they never would have dreamed that Zhuo Yi Hang would actually be able to discover this plot and end up rescuing the emissaries. This incident ended up causing a series of secret and public feuds within the imperial courts, but this concerns a subsequent matter and will not be revealed presently.

    Back to Zhuo Yi Hang who was becoming increasingly possessed by hatred after being brought back to the prison with his Wei Zhong acupoint sealed. Although his blood was boiling with rage, his whole aching body was numb and limp without a single shred of strength left in him. He secretly lamented to himself, Crap! for thought to how: the Manchurians have now bought out high officials, imperial guards and bandits of the underground world this all concerns a very serious matter. I only know the identity of five traitors, but who knows how many more there are that I don't know of? I must report to the Crown Prince immediately, but now that I'm imprisoned in this cell with nobody to save me, I must rely on my own powers to escape out of this place. The moment I get angry, my respiration and blood flow will not be able to circulate properly. Therefore, how can I release my sealed acupoint if I keep up this blind rage? Therefore his anger slowly dissipated as he sat down and meditated quietly, concentrating his attention as he generated his energy flow. Zhuo Yi Hang's inner energies were originally well established, and after sitting for two hours he felt his Qi to have already circulated throughout his vital points and coursed through his whole body in order to release his sealed acupoint. He was just about to snap apart his manacles and break through the door to escape when he suddenly heard what sounded like noises of combat coming from afar.

    Zhuo Yi Hang pressed his ear against the floor in order to hear more clearly and discovered that the sounds of combat were approaching closer and closer towards him. While he was still in the midst of his surprise, the dungeon doors suddenly blasted opened. Zhuo Yi Hang immediately stood up. Standing there was Yun Yan Ping with a evil grin filling his face as he slowly approached. Zhuo Yi Hang shouted, What do you want? Yun Yan Ping said, Your good friend is here, why don't I take you to her? and before he could even finished these words, a loud thunderous boom was heard as the doors to the Prefecture office exploded, blasted apart by a cannon's[10] fire. In the background, the glare coming from the flames can be seen to flare towards the skies. Yun Yan Ping's face immediately changed colour and with a flip of his palms, he suddenly clamped down on Zhuo Yi Hang's wrist.

    Once the Wei Zhong acupoint has been sealed, it requires a minimum of twelve hours before it will automatically release itself. Therefore, thinking that everything was under control and within his grasp, Yun Yan Ping was not on his guard. Little did he expect that Zhuo Yi Hang would unleash a thunderous roar and then with a jolt of his arms, his handcuffs would fly out as his legs kicked out repeatedly, one foot coming after the other. Because Yun Yan Ping was caught off guard, he immediately sustained a kick to the knee and fell to the ground. But his martial arts were not of a low grade, and with just a roll on the ground he was able to escape Zhuo Yi Hang's attack.

    By the time he stood up, his belt was already in his hands, and with a forceful slash, the belt was then wielded like a soft whip as it sliced towards Zhuo Yi Hang's waist area. Since Zhuo Yi Hang knew that backup help was outside, his spirit was completely rejuvenated. Wherever his body flitted to, he would execute a Fingers striking across the Pipa as he flipped his body over and attacked. With a whip of his belt, Yun Yan Ping attempted to entwine his opponent's arms while Zhuo Yi Hang suddenly bent over backwards at the waist and transformed his palm strike into a fist punch. Every one of his punches whistled in the wind as each stance forcefully impacted forward, causing Yun Yan Ping to retract his belt and retreat a few steps.

    Zhuo Yi Hang continued to advance forward with mad ferocity, throwing out punch after punch while Yun suddenly brought up his left palm to ward off Zhuo's blows, taking advantage of the chance to immediately whip out with his belt. With a loud slap, Yun's belt impact on the side of Zhuo's body in the area under his arms. Zhuo Yi Hang pressed his arm against his body, holding Yun's belt in place while simultaneously pulling backwards. But he was unable to pull Yun forward by even a single inch. Yun Yan Ping laughed coldly and with a whistling sound, his left palm slashed forward towards Zhuo, forcing him to have no other choice but to bring up his palms in order to counter the attack and thus freeing up Yun's belt in the process. Yun's belt was now free to swish around like an lithe snake, curling upwards to bind Zhuo's upper arm and shoulder.

    Because Zhuo Yi Hang's upper right arm and shoulder was restrained, he could only use his left hand to ward off the attacks. But even though Zhuo Yi Hang had already used the Pressure of a Thousand Pounds[11] to stabilize his body, when Yun Yan Ping retracted his belt, the force pulling him back was so strong that Zhuo could barely keep his balance and was almost tugged down to the floor in the process. Just when he was struggling, sounds of footsteps was heard to approach as someone was suddenly heard to shout, Brother Yun, they're on to us, let's go! Yun Yan Ping's face paled greatly, but he continued to exert force with his wrists in hopes of pulling Zhuo Yi Hang over so that they may then use him as a hostage. Suddenly, a series of laughter that chimed like silver bells drifted into the room. Although Zhuo Yi Hang was alarmed, he was similarly ecstatic at the same time as he cried out, Yu Luo Cha! Yun Yan Ping hurriedly loosened his grip and retracted the belt while immediately turning around to dash out of the dungeon.

    Zhuo Yi Hang's guess was right, the person who had directed an army to charge into the town was indeed Yu Luo Cha. After she had struck up an alliance pact with Wang Zhao Xi's father Wang Jia Yin, she had originally intended to meet up with him in the Northern Shaan area. But her pact to duel with Ying Xiu Yang on the peak of Mountain Hua caused her to tarry this meeting for three-quarters of the year. This time, she brought along a few dozen female troops with her as she traveled towards WaYaoBao in order to meet up with Wang Jia Yin. But along the journey, she happened to save Bai Min's life and afterwards, the more she thought over this incident, the more suspicious she got. She repeatedly thought to Zhuo Yi Hang and therefore sent someone into town in hopes of finding out some news. By the time she received news of Zhuo Yi Hang's arrest, Wang Zhao Xi has also received the same news. He brought a troop along with him and handed them over to be directed and commanded by Yu Luo Cha. They then charged the city's gates during the middle of the night, breaking through the gates in less than a two hour span and entering into the city to invade the prefecture's building.

    As soon as Yun Yan Ping charged out of the dungeon, the first thing he saw was Jin Qian Yan standing 30 feet ahead of him engaged in intense battle with a young girl. By that time, Jin Qian Yan was already in an extremely dangerous predicament for he was encased under the rays of the sword.

    Yun Yan Ping hurriedly whipped out his belt and with a Golden Dragon[12] Coiling Pillar, tried to wrap his belt around Yu Luo Cha's sword, hoping to use the soft force conquering hard force method to pull Yu Luo Cha's sword to his hand. Yu Luo Cha smiled dazzlingly and with a side sweep of her sword, Yun Yan Ping immediately felt a pain struck at the area between his thumb and index finger[13]. He hurriedly loosened his grip only to discover that his belt had already been broken into two parts by Yu Luo Cha. It should be understood that this method of conquering hard with soft relies completely on the strength of one's internal energies. Although Yun Yan Ping's internal energies were above the likes of Zhuo Yi Hang, yet he was also inferior to Yu Luo Cha. Therefore, to use this conquering hard with soft method on Zhuo Yi Hang may be feasible, but when used on Yu Luo Cha, it was useless.

    Jin Qian Yan took advantage of the fact that Yu Luo Cha was battling Yun Yan Ping by spreading out his palms and attacking Yu Luo Cha's shoulders. Yu Luo Cha's stances were unbelievably fast and after tearing apart Yun Yan Ping's belt with just one swipe, she followed with a rotating kick of her legs. Immediately, cold lighting flashed as the thick Qi emanating from her sword's blade filled the air as Yu Luo Cha's blade arrived at Jin Qian Yan's throat. Jin Qian Yan became so petrified that even his soul was about flee from his body, thus he immediately ceased his attack and devoted all his attention to defending instead. Although Jin Qian Yan's palm attacks were deadly, yet Yu Luo Cha's sword skills were so lethal and merciless that Jin Qian Yan couldn't even approach her. If Yu Luo Cha hadn't been slightly restricted due to the fact that she was harbouring a little caution, Jin Qian Yan would most definitely have been obliterated a long time ago. Yun Yan Ping took a deep breath of cold air and realized that since things have gotten to this point, there was no way that he could escape and therefore was left with no other choice but to fight. Thus he attack from the side and used the 18 grappling palm stances in attempts to counter the enemy and save his acquaintance. Although they were already giving it their all as they combined the power of two people and battled for their lives, yet the fact still remained that they were residing in the position of the losing side.

    The moment Zhuo Yi Hang stepped outside and saw that Yu Luo Cha was engaged in battle with two powerful fighters, he immediately prepared to help out by entering into combat. But Yu Luo Cha called out, Go to the back and help Wang Zhao Xi, these two clowns are no match for me! Zhuo Yi Hang was experienced enough to discern with just one glance that Yu Luo Cha's words were indeed true, therefore he ran towards another corridor and was immediately met with the sounds of slaughter that were shocking the peace of the still night. In the corridor stood two men who were engaged in battle while simultaneously in flight and the man who was running ahead was none other than Wang Zhao Xi. Wang was brewing up a storm with the force of his sword stances, but his opponent's skills were not bad either as he used his sword to block towards the left and impede attacks from the right, attacking while simultaneously defending. The match was evenly tied between the fighters.

    The man who was fighting with Wang Zhao Xi was the same man who had accompanied Officer Wang to arrest Zhuo Yi Hang a few days ago. Zhuo Yi Hang's anger flared up the moment he laid eyes on the man and immediately pounced towards him. The back of Zhuo's fists swept outwards to the left and right sides respectively and with a Gold-shattering hands, double-hanging fists, he attacked the two Tai Yan acupoints on his opponent. That soldier was originally the number one warrior under the governor of ShaanGan, and although his martial arts were not bad yet how could he possibly withstand the combined attack of two skilled fighters? Therefore he managed to dodge Zhuo Yi Hang's punches, but was unable to escape Wang Zhao Xi's sword. As soon as he evaded Zhuo's attack by moving his shoulders to the side, Wang Zhao Xi's sword had already pierced into the Tian Zhu acupoint located on his shoulder blade before he even had time to turn around. His life was ended there immediately.

    Wang Zhao Xi said, Brother Zhuo, your unworthy brother has arrived much too late, causing you to suffer for much too long! Zhuo Yi Hang nodded his head but remained silent. Judging from the current situation, Zhuo Yi Hang finally accepted the fact that Wang Zhao Xi really was a powerful bandit of the Northern ShaanXi area. Wang Zhao Xi continued, Let's go watch how Heroine Lian finishes off those two crooked villains. Although Zhuo Yi Hang was not willing to associate with bandits, yet he could still differentiate between what was right and what was wrong. Since others have risked their lives by coming here to rescue him, he most definitely could not leave with just a wave of his hands. Therefore he could only follow Wang Zhao Xi as they walked towards the other corridor where Yu Luo Cha was dominating the scene.

    Under the shimmer of her sword's radiation, when one observed the battle from afar, one was almost unable to differentiate the identities of the different fighters. Wang Zhao Xi praised, Yu Luo Cha really is amazing. These two crooks will soon be facing complete annihilation! The moment he finished his words, a sweet sounding voice was suddenly heard to say, I doubt that! Wang Zhao Xi's countenance immediately changed colours as a figure suddenly sprung down from the eaves of the corridor. It was a young girl whose face was concealed by a cloth. But judging from her voice and figure, she seemed to be even younger than Yu Luo Cha by a few years!

    Wang Zhao Xi cried, What are you doing here? The masked young girl said, You came! So why couldn't I? Hey, someone's waiting for you. Let me go cross swords with Yu Luo Cha first, I'll come back and talk with ya later. Zhuo Yi Hang asked, Who is that? Is that your friend brother Wang? Wang Zhao Xi looked embarrassed and said, You can say that we're acquaintances and immediately chased after her.

    Yu Luo Cha was currently engaged in the midst of an intense battle with Yun Yan Ping and Jin Qian Yan, but her sword's force was lighting up the night like a rainbow, where each and every single metamorphosis executed under her sword was mystifying and unimaginable. Though Jin Qian Yan knew the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds, yet he couldn't even touch the corners of Yu Luo Cha's clothes. All he could manage to do was to shrink the size of the combat ring and exert all his powers into self-defence. Yu Luo Cha's every stance was insistent and menacing, its force was as overwhelming as the billowing cold waves and high tides that rushed towards shore. After fighting a little longer, the two men found that even self-defence was proving to be an increasingly difficult task. But just when Yu Luo Cha was about to finish them off with her final move, she suddenly heard the sound of a blade slicing through the air come up from behind. With a back sweep of her sword, a loud ringing sound rang out accompanied by sparks that shot out like fireworks. Yet surprisingly, her attacker actually managed to not let her sword fly out of their hand!

    Yu Luo Cha was slightly taken back as she turned around for a look only to discover that it was a masked young girl. She shouted, Are you trying to get yourself killed? while the young girl replied, Everyone boasts of how great your swordsmanship is, I want to witness it for myself. Yu Luo Cha thus retorted, Fine, take a good and close look then! and with a whirl of her sword's handle, her blade twisted around a semi-arch and sliced towards her opponents heart. The young girl swept her sword to impede and by rushing forward with all her strength, she was actually able to block off Yu Luo Cha's stance!

    Yun Yan Ping and Jin Qian Yan both breathed a sigh of relief as they immediately leaped up onto the roof. Yu Luo Cha shouted, Wang Zhao Xi stop them! I'll be there right away! Wang Zhao Xi's toes tapped on the floor as he pounced onto the roof to chase after them, all the while calling out, Heroine Lian, please have mercy on her! Zhuo Yi Hang knew that Yun and Jin's martial arts were above Wang Zhao Xi's, therefore after a slight hesitation and one last look, he also chased after them.

    Yu Luo Cha had originally thought that she would be able to wound the masked girl within three stances, but she never expected that all three of her stances would be warded off by the young girl. Listening to the sounds of combat on the roof drift further and further away, she couldn't help but be greatly angered.

    In order to ward off these last three deadly stances that Yu Luo Cha has executed, the young girl had to exert every ounce of strength she had, drawing out even the primordial energy left from her su*ckling days. She now realized that Yu Luo Cha's swordsmanship was truly far above her own, and after throwing out another stab, she immediately retracted her sword and attempted to escape. Yu Luo Cha laughed and said, Oh, so the little puppet actually dares to fight back huh? Although there were traces of a smile on Yu Luo Cha's face, yet there was really resentful anger within her heart. With two slashes of her sword, Yu Luo Cha forced the young girl to dance around in circles, giving her no chances of escaping.

    The young girl cried out, Since I'm not your match, I can only admit to defeat. Why won't you let me go? Yu Luo Cha retorted, Even admitting to defeat is not good enough! The masked girl said, If you have the guts, I dare to you follow me and go face up to my papa instead! Yu Luo Cha replied, I'm going to face off against you first! Her sword swiped out and the young girl immediately felt a thick and chilly draft envelop her as Yu Luo Cha's sword swished and slashed about in front of her face. After a startled scream, her face shield was peeled off by Yu Luo Cha's sword and it was then that Yu Luo Cha discovered that she was actually an attractive young girl. Thus she said, Fine, I won't kill you, but I'm going to leave my mark on your face instead! and then immediately pierced forward, about to leave a scar on the young girl's face.

    When the young girl heard these words, she was so terrified that in the midst of her anxiety, she flipped up her dark steel sword and pierced upwards from bottom to top, striking against Yu Luo Cha's sword. Then with a sudden slide of her blade, what was originally a stance that was obviously attacking towards the left suddenly switched directions halfway to attack towards the right side, piercing towards the Jiang Tai acupoint located on the left side of Yu Luo Cha's chest. Yu Luo Cha was suddenly dumbfounded, while the young girl took the opportunity to leap up onto the roof. Yu Luo Cha screamed out, Where did you learn those sword stances? as she chased after her.

    Back to Wang Zhao Xi and Zhuo Yi Hang who had followed Yu Luo Cha's orders and were now chasing after the two villains. But they waited and waited, yet Yu Luo Cha was still nowhere to be seen. Since the martial arts of Yun and Jin were above Zhuo and Wang, after the four people have combated with each other for a dozen or so stances, Wang Zhao Xi and Zhuo Yi Hang were already forced to the point of where they only had the ability to defend themselves and not to attack. Jin Qian Yan and Yun Yan Ping were only concerned with escaping and had no intentions of dallying in battle, therefore as soon as they took over the position of the attacker, they quickly faked an attack and then immediately turned around to escape. Wang Zhao Xi asked, Do we chase after them? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, Yes! These two people have sold out their country to act as Manchurian spies! At that time, Wang Zhao Xi's men have already set fire on the prefecture building, its roaring flames were blazing towards the skies as heavy smog and thick smoke filled the air. By the time that Zhuo Yi Hang and Wang Zhao Xi chased to the outside of the prefecture building, they could no longer find any traces of the two villains.

    Zhuo Yi Hang surveyed all four directions with his sword ready in his hand when suddenly a white flash shot out from amongst the smog and zipped right past him with a loud whooshing sound. It was the young masked girl they saw a moment ago, except her mask was now uncovered and she had sneaked out from amongst the smoke and smog. Another whoosh immediately followed, as another white bolt shot out again from amongst the smoke. Wang Zhao Xi cried, Heroine Lian, the two crooks have escaped. Why don't the three of us split up into two groups and chase after them? Yu Luo Cha replied, It's more important to chase after that little kid! Zhuo Yi Hang insisted, Those two people are conspiring with the Manchurians, it's much more important to chase after them! Yu Luo Cha immediately shot forward while stating with determination, I said it's more important to chase after that little doll! Wang Zhao Xi had no other choice and could only along with Zhuo Yi Hang, chase after Yu Luo Cha. Although Zhuo Yi Hang could not comprehend Yu Luo Cha's actions, yet he was extremely displeased for he felt that Yu Luo Cha was completely disregarding the weight between important and minor matters by letting the big crooks run away in order that she may chase after a young girl instead.

    You're probably wondering why Yu Luo Cha was acting this way? Well, the very last stance that the masked young girl executed was a stance taken out from the exclusive school of sword art that was created by Yu Luo Cha's ShiFu. Yu Luo Cha has accompanied by her ShiFu's side since she was a young child. They lived together in the ancient cave, not only practicing martial arts together, but also relying and leaning on each other for support. Thus Yu Luo Cha was absolutely certain that her ShiFu did not take any other disciples. That was why she was so shaken when she saw the masked girl execute that stance, for within her heart she was worried that it was Yue Ming Ke and Zhuo Yi Hang who had taken her sword manual and then secretly passed it off to others afterwards. That day Yu Luo Cha left in a huff after she tied Yue Ming Ke in their sword fight, but when she thought over her actions more carefully afterwards, she truly regretted them. She returned to the cave and searched around, yet not only could she not find the sword manual, but even the sword stances that were carved onto the walls have been abolished. Yu Luo Cha thus silently made a vow to herself that she will retrieve and bring back her ShiFu's sword manual. Therefore, having just seen with her own eyes the masked girl executing the exclusive sword stances of her school, how could she possibly not chase after her with haste?

    The young girl ran ahead of them while Yu Luo Cha, Zhuo Yi Hang and Wang Zhao Xi trailed tightly behind her. After a while, Yu Luo Cha had already caught up to the young girl while Wang Zhao Xi and Zhuo Yi Hang were left behind. Probably due to the fact that she was being pursued so urgently, the young girl started to scream loudly, Papa! Yu Luo Cha slowed down slightly and laughed, Alright, I'll wait till I see your father before I question you.

    By that time, they have already arrived at the foot of the QingFeng mountain located outside the city gates. The young girl was screaming for her father all the while as she was running up the mountain, but Yu Luo Cha stuck to her like a shadow. Yu Luo Cha's sword swayed back and forth as she followed closely behind, while the tip of her blade would constantly arrive at the back of the young girl time after time. The young girl was terror stricken and petrified, but whether she dodged to the left or ducked to the right, she was still unable to escape. Meanwhile Yu Luo Cha was like a nimble cat toying with her mouse, enjoying herself tremendously while playing with this toy. Yu Luo Cha's mischievous and playful laughter rang out incessantly while the young girl was so terrified now that she had started to shriek hysterically. The sounds of laughing and shrieking mixed together and rang throughout the night. Suddenly, the young girl tripped forward and screamed, Papa! as a strange whistling sound came from the mid section of the mountain.

    When Yu Luo Cha retracted her sword and observed closely, all she could see was a grey flash hurtling straight down towards them like a shooting comet and blazing meteor, truly arriving with the speed of sound. Yu Luo Cha jumped a few steps to the side and immediately saw a tall old man with a nose like an eagle and a jaw resembling a lion. A bristly beard filled the lower half of his face to finish off a most unattractive appearance. He roared loudly, Who dares to pick on my daughter?! The young girl's face was streaked with tears as she quickly ran up to hide behind the old man while saying with a pampered pout, Papa! Rip out the eyes of that thieving wench for me!

    With a cold laugh, Yu Luo Cha pointed with her long sword and said, Return my sword manual to me right away old bandit! The old man paused briefly and growled in a low voice, What sword manual? The young girl sobbed, Papa, that thieving wench is accusing me of being a thief! But when did I ever set eyes upon her so called sword manual? She kept on pressing her sword against my back earlier, she's obviously intent on picking on me! Papa, you have to gouge out her eyes for me!

    The young girl was repeatedly insulting Yu Luo Cha by calling her a thieving wench, causing Yu Luo Chas blood to really boil with anger. Though the smile on her face has not yet disappeared, yet the sword in her hand had already pierced out! The old man uttered a Hey! and retreated three steps as he pushed the young girl away with his palm while saying, Stand on top of that crag for now. Don't you dare help out, I saw everything that just happened.

    When Yu Luo Cha did not succeed with her first stab, her second and third stance immediately pierced out in sequential fashion. The old man ripped out with an angry roar as his body soared up, the fingers on his left hand thrusting out like lances, piercing straight for Yu Luo Cha's eyes. His right palm swept out like a sabre, chopping towards the lower part of Yu Luo Cha's legs. His two hands were placed respectively at the top and bottom, a form resembling the Yue[14] family's Rafter propping hands. But when compared to the authentic Rafter propping hands, the dynamic force of this man's palms was even more powerful! Yu Luo Cha had already struck out and could not retract her stance in time, therefore with a sink and charge of her body, she immediately executed the Sparrow gliding through clouds supreme levitation skill in order to soar up thirty feet into the air without using the help of any objects. She twisted a full circle in mid-air to land on top of a large stone crag located on the median point of the mountain.

    The old man immediately followed by jumping up and shouting with rage, Never in my life have I encountered anybody who dares to issue a challenge to my face, how dare you be so rude? What is the name of your ShiFu? Yu Luo Cha's expression changed ever so slightly as she immediately ripped out into laughter and said, Never in my life have I met anybody who dared to scream and shout in my face. What is the name of your ShiFu?

    The old man was a wandering martial arts master who possessed rare abilities, and it is true that within his life, he really has remained undefeated. He asked Yu Luo Cha about her ShiFu and school of martial arts by assuming the status of an senior and elder, but little did he think that such a young girl like Yu Luo Cha would also dare to demand him for the background of his ShiFu and school, treating him like a junior and student. The old man was so angry that even his beard and eyebrows were rippling with fury as he thundered, You pompous little runt! Answer to my palm! Yu Luo Cha smiled faintly before suddenly diving down from the top of the crag.

    Such is: The Demoness faces off against the Old Freak, the champion determined through the sword and palm.

    [1] The actual term used in the original novel was actually Zhen (literally means I/me) which is a term that is solely reserved for the Emperors use.

    [2] The original term is Di Chao which is sometimes also known as Di Bao (Bao can literally translate as announcement/newsletter/paper). The Imperial Announcements basically served the purpose of a periodical newsletter that is delivered to the major officials in order to detail the recent decisions and major events of the imperial courts.

    [3]The original title of this martial art was actually Yin feng du sha zhang which should literally translate as something like: Palms of the Yin Winds and Venomous pellets/grains/sand. But because this martial art is mentioned quite often, the translator has decided to shorten the title in order to bring about a better linguistic flow.

    [4]Translated as Coiling Dragon Mountain.

    [5]Translated as Bridge of Heaven.

    [6]Refers to the temperature characteristics of the herbs. Herbs can be classified into hot, neutral or cool categories that will have an influence on the Yin and Yang patterns of the body.

    [7]Low-ranking officers/prefects who were responsible for the supervising a district.

    [8]The imperial system assigned their civil officials ranks so as to designate their importance and power. There are officially 9 ranks, but because often each rank will be separated into various classes, there are actually 30 grades in total. The 9th rank is the smallest, while the 1st rank represents the highest grade.

    [9]Though I used the word gavel, the actual object used by Chinese imperial judges to silence the courts, or add emphasis should look more like a small block/slab of wood rather than the hammer or mallet-like object as used by western courts.

    [10]The term that was used in the novel was tu pao which literally translates as earth cannon. I'm not exactly sure whether these cannons were any different in size and power when compared to the larger cannons we typically see, but the following link shows a picture of a cannon from the Ming dynasty (1368):

    [11]The term used in the novel was Jin which when translated correctly should be Catty which equals to approximately 1.1 pounds. Therefore, I've opted to use the word Pounds instead of Catty.

    [12]The literal translation should be Golden SCALY dragon.

    [13]The original term is hu kou which literally translates as Tigers mouth. This area should be the muscle/flesh part situated between the thumb and index finger, which should be analogous to the group of abductor pollicis muscles in the hand.

    [14]Referring to Yue Fei, the Song Dynasty general whom as legend has it, was the founder of various different and important styles of martial arts.

  7. #7
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 6

    Chapter 6
    Sentiments Revealed Under Moonlit Night
    Binds Ill-fated Love
    Battling Rare Master on Mountain
    Sword Palm Faces Off
    (Translated by Faerie Queene)

    The old man gathered together the power of his inner Qi and directed it all onto the one strike of his palm, sending forth a gust of howling wind. Yu Luo Cha flitted by to avoid his strike, and as her clothes rippled about in the breeze, her long sword simultaneously plunged downwards from mid air. The old man immediately flipped around to push out with his palms, hastily striking towards Yu Luo Cha's vital acupoints. With just a slight movement of her body, Yu Luo Cha's long sword had already flipped around to pierce upwards by using the Threading the Golden Needle stance. It was almost as if the old man had already expected her to use such a move for he suddenly took a step forward as the tip of Yu Luo Cha's sword immediately glided past his ribs. He then brought his two palms together and then suddenly spread them apart, extending towards the left and right sides, thus causing the Virginal boy praying to the Kuan Yin stance to suddenly transform into the Ying Yang clashing palms that struck towards Yu Luo Cha mercilessly. But for some reason, Yu Luo Cha also seemed to have been able to predict that he was going to use this stance, and with a plunge of her sword, her blade immediately shot back up and pierced towards the Qi Men accupoint located on the old man's underarms. The old man did not budge a step, but suddenly contracted his body to evade this stance while immediately transforming his palms into fists and then charged forward with a Side punch to a Tiger stance. Yu Luo Cha extended her body and jumped up more than ten feet into the air before diving down diagonally. The old man roared, Answer to this stance kid! and immediately attacked forward. Yu Luo Cha flashed a beautiful smile and chimed, Answer to this stance old bandit! and with a sweep of her sword, her blade pared away.

    The old man thought that she was using the DaMo Sword skill's Leaping across river stance, therefore moved from the Kan[1] position to the Li[2] position. Then with a back flip of his hand, he attempted to clamp down onto the wrist of her sword-wielding hand. But Yu Luo Cha charged forward with her sword unexpectedly and just when she's reached the midpoint of her attack, she immediately changed the direction of her strike and headed straight towards the position of where her opponent has just dodged to. The old man was greatly taken back, but luckily his martial arts were of such an incredible caliber that it enabled him to change stances with the speed of lightning, and thus with a whirl while still residing in the Li position, he further retaliated by attacking with the middle and index finger of his left hand, striking towards the Phoenix Eye Acupoint located behind Yu Luo Cha's back. Yu Luo Cha's method of countering this attack was to immediately strike back, attacking her opponent as a means of countering her opponent's attack. The old man was forced to flee the Li position, causing the attack of both sides to cancel each other out.

    Yu Luo Cha and the old man were both competing to gain the upper hand, thus there was not a single moment, stance or move of where either of them relented. Their every action was calculated with the utmost precision as they each struggled to gain the edge over the other. Yu Luo Cha's sword skill was mystical and unfathomable, for even when she seemed to be charging forward, she would suddenly appear from behind you, and when she appeared to strike towards the left, she would suddenly come from the right. Her sword skill seemed to comprise the essence of the various schools and sects of sword art, yet at the same time there was not a single stance which bared true similarity to its original.

    Similarly, the old man's palm strikes were incredibly strange as well, for regardless of how thunderous the force and speed of his strikes were, and regardless of how his attacks rained down like a hurricane, his body still continued to move in accordance with the formation of the Eight Houses and Five Steps. For amongst martial art theories, the Eight Houses referred to eight different directions that were plotted out according to the positions of the houses in the Eight Trigrams: Kan, Li, Dui, Zhen, Xun, Qian, Kun and Gen[3]. There were four official positions[4] and four slanting positions.[5] As for the five steps, that was in reference to the five step-formations that were determined in accordance to the five elements of Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth. The five step-formations thus proceed as: advance, retreat, attending to the left[6], expecting from the right[7] and remaining at center. These attacking and guarding transformations of the Eight Houses and Five Steps were originally created by Zhang San Feng, the founder of the Tai Chi school. It was known as the Thirteen Positions of Tai Chi, for the Tai Chi fists were founded on the principle of overcoming the hard with the soft. The force of this old man's punches was incredibly dynamic and was an embodiment of raw strength. But the movement and step formations that he was using belonged to the Thirteen positions of Tai Chi. Therefore, his attack was comprised of a mixture of both hard and soft forces. To embody both forces simultaneously and then to use it towards combat was most definitely something that was not possible had one's martial arts not approached the level of the Enlightened yet.

    Yu Luo Cha and the old man could only counter each other's attack by using the method of counter-attacking, yet even after exchanging over one hundred stances, neither one of them were able to gain the slightest edge over the other, causing Yu Luo Cha to be secretly alarmed. She knew it was no longer a joke and thus no longer dared to treat the situation in a playful manner. Instead, her expression became somber and serious, as she concentrated all her attention on combating her opponent and executed the exclusive sword art that was related to her by her ShiFu with increasing intensity and speed, causing the deadliness of her attack to reach a level that she has never attained before.

    Similarly, the old man had already fought over one hundred stances but was still unable to win the upper hand. The mystical brilliance of Yu Luo Cha's sword skill forced him to take extreme caution at every turn. As the battle escalated to its most intense moment, the two silhouettes flitted back and forth in such a blur that amongst the tornado created from the palm's strike and the rays of luminance projected from the sword's attack, it was no longer possible to differentiate which silhouette belonged to the old man and which one belonged to the young girl!

    The old man secretly took a deep breath for he truly could not imagine that a young girl of such an immortal beauty could actually execute a sword skill of such deadliness that it was unmatched by anything he's ever encountered before. She truly was one of the few worthy opponents that he has ever had the chance of encountering throughout his whole life. Similarly, Yu Luo Cha was also taking a deep breath as she never would have expected this old man's palm strikes to embody such thunderous force. She had to admit that in terms of inner energy cultivation, it seems that this old man was a notch above her.

    The battle has now reached a point of where termination or a harmless resolution was made almost impossible for both sides were delivering deadly strikes to the other. In the midst of their intense battle, Yu Luo Cha suddenly heard a scream of terror drifting in from the back of the mountains. It sounded like Zhuo Yi Hang's voice. Her concentration and attention was momentarily disconcerted and as a result, her swords attack slowed down just ever so slightly. But just that little bit was enough for the old man to deliver a strike with a whoosh of his palm while residing in the Gen position. Yu Luo Cha immediately pierced out with the stance astrological shift, cosmic realignment, but by that time the old man's palm has also arrived at the corners of her clothing. Just when it became very evident that the fight was only going to result in a double fatality, the old man suddenly retreated a few steps and shouted, Don't come forward! Yu Luo Cha glanced over to the side and discovered that on the crag of which the young girl was standing on, there had appeared a beautiful middle-age woman. The old man's words were meant for that beautiful matron. Considering the supreme martial art abilities of Yu Luo Cha and the high sensitivity of her acute senses, she was actually unable to detect exactly when this woman had arrived. In fact, there wasn't any space or room during her fight that allowed her to divert her attention for even a brief moment, truly illustrating how intense and dangerous the battle was.

    By now, Yu Luo Cha was truly a little impressed by the old man as she thought to herself: when a first rate fighter is in combat, they must be completely receptive to their surroundings. Their eyes should be able to survey all four directions and their ears must also be sensitive to sounds coming from all eight sides. But once coming across an equally matched opponent, I was unable devote a shred of attention to my surroundings! That really goes to show that I'm still not seasoned enough.

    The old man gave out a loud roar and with a flip of his body, came forward again while shouting, Let's continue the fight! Yu Luo Cha replied with anger, Did you think that I was scared of you? It's a shame that despite having such supreme martial arts, you would actually stoop so low to pull such a dirty trick of stealing someone elses martial arts manual. Today if you don't return my sword manual to me, I swear that you will never see the end of me! Then with two swipes of her sword, she attacked in sequential fashion. The old man roared furiously and countered with a Piling Mountains, Overthrowing Ocean, as the two resumed their fight again.

    Meanwhile, standing on top of the crag was the young girl who had faced off against Yu Luo Cha earlier. She turned towards the lovely matron who came up behind her afterwards and said, Auntie, go and punish that thieving wench for me! The lovely matron said, ah-Hu, your execution of the butterfly darts are notches above mine, why ask me to make a fool of myself? The young girl replied, Papa said that I was not to help out. The lovely matron asked quietly, What sword manual is she talking about? Did that sword manual belong to her? The expression on the young girl's face changed immediately as she pressed her lips against the matron's ear and whispered, Don't say any more, if Papa hears of this, we'll be in big trouble! The lovely matron only smiled faintly while thinking in her heart: That old corpse is in a life and death battle right now, he won't be able to hear me even if I raised my voice louder. But when she noticed the nervousness in the young girl, she smiled and took out three butterfly darts while saying, Fine, I won't say anymore than. Just watch how I punish her for you! and with a grand sweep of her right hand, the three butterfly darts emanated strange whistling sounds as it zipped through the air, and with the speed of lightning headed straight towards Yu Luo Cha.

    At that moment, Yu Luo Cha was in the midst of an intense battle with the old man. Though the execution of Yu Luo Cha's sword stances became increasing faster, the force of the old man's palms was also becoming increasingly dynamic. The two fighters both had their full attention devoted to the battle when the projectiles shot in from the side. Yu Luo Cha had the ability to differentiate the type of weapon that was being thrown just by listening to the sound it emanates. Therefore, she knew right from the beginning that there were three butterfly darts that were shooting towards her and striking towards three different spots on her body the Qi-Men Acupoint, the Dang-Men Acupoint and the Bai Hai Acupoint. If this was any other time, based on Yu Luo Cha's abilities, these three measly butterfly darts were truly nothing more than just mere child's play. She needed only to lift a finger, and all the attacking projectiles would have been shot down. But right now, the two equally matched fighters were battling for their lives. One fighter excelled in having a deep reserve of inner energy levels, while the other fighter's sword skill was incredibly powerful, causing them to be perfectly matched in terms of ability. The situation was akin to the two sides of a balance that was perfectly equal in weight, where adding just a single pin or a thread onto either side would cause a disruption in the perfect equilibrium.

    When Yu Luo Cha heard the sounds of the impending projectiles fly towards her, her face immediately changed colours as she sneered, Shameless bastard! Can't believe you would actually resort to such sleazy moves! Yet surprisingly, she did not evade the projectiles. The sword in her hand executed the Facing the lapping waves and then immediately switched to the Three rings covering the moon, attacking straight towards the Jiang Tai acupoint located on her opponent's front while simultaneously coming in from the side to attack his Ju Gu Acupoint.

    You're probably wondering why Yu Luo Cha was not dodging the projectiles? It was because Yu Luo Cha knew that though to evade the projectiles was not at all a hard task, yet if she divided her attention to impede the projectiles, in accordance with her opponent's skilled martial arts, she knew that he would take the opportunity to attack and then she would most definitely be finished. Therefore, she figured that she might as well bring her opponent down with her. This way, even if she was going to die, she can at least die with dignity. Her last two stances were incredibly vicious, for with just two snipes of her blade she was able to force the old man to jump from the Gen position to the Qian house. Yu Luo Cha's attack did not slow down a slight bit as she lurched forward and attacked with her sword, transforming from the Three rings covering the moon to the White spectrum envelops sun, aiming the tip of her blade straight for the Xuan Ji acupoint located on the old man's chest. By that time, the three butterfly darts were already fast approaching and was just about to make contact with Yu Luo Cha's throat!

    As the projectiles hurtled forward, Yu Luo Cha was not the only one who underwent a change of colour, for the old man's face has also bloated to a beet red. Having heard Yu Luo Cha's charge, he became even more embarrassed and humiliated. Thus with a shift of his shoulders, his right palm suddenly shot out in the air and deflected a butterfly dart, shocking it out towards the bottom of the mountain. This action took Yu Luo Cha completely by surprise, but by that time it was already too late for her to retract her attack as her sword automatically entered through the lapse. By shifting his shoulders, the old man was only able to evade frontal contact, but a tearing sound was heard as the blade went through his sleeve, causing the tip of the blade to leave a wound on his arm and fresh blood to drip out. The old man did not utter a single sound, but with a melancholy gloom jumped back more than ten feet. By that time, the second and third darts have already arrived in front of Yu Luo Cha.

    Now that her powerful opponent has retreated, Yu Luo Cha only needed to give a sweep of her sword and already the two butterfly darts were struck down. The old man charged towards the mid section of the mountain and pointed to the lovely matron while scolding in a severe tone, Who gave you the orders to shoot out projectiles? The lovely matron had an incredibly flirtatious demeanor, and with a bat of her eyelashes, she put on a hurt and wronged face as she pouted, Master, you never gave me any orders to stay out of it. She was picking on ah-Hu, why should we go easy on her? Master, I did everything for you and your daughter! Her eyes reddened and tears brimmed about. Yu Luo Cha's shadow flitted up high into the air, and like a giant condor gliding in the air she struck towards them while shouting, Bit*ch! So it was you who fired those projectiles and with a sweep of her right hand, three silver needles flashed out, glinting under the sun's glare. The old man lifted up his sleeve and with a billow brought down two needles while the third silver needle pierced straight into the lovely matron's shoulders, causing her to shriek out in pain.

    The old man shouted, You saw for yourself! Her firing the projectiles has nothing to do with me. You are certainly one despicable and ruthless thief, first you pick on my daughter and now you're injuring my beloved mistress! There is no way I'm letting you go. We'll have a one on one fight, but nobody is allowed to bring along any helpers this time. Do you dare to accept my challenge?

    Yu Luo Cha suddenly laughed, causing the old man's face to immediately change colours as he said, We can fight right here and now if you have the guts! He thought that Yu Luo Cha was jeering at the fact that he was injured under her sword, which was why he wanted to arrange another date for them to have a rematch. But in actuality, Yu Luo Cha was laughing at his behaviour. She knew that considering the old man's martial art abilities, to strike down all three of the needles that she fired out earlier would not be a hard task. But he purposely allowed one needle to pass through, thus injuring the lovely matron in the process. She figured that this was very likely his way of punishing and reprimanding his mistress, as she thought to herself: So that woman's his mistress, no wonder he had to conceal his actions and lay the blame of her injury on me. Yu Luo Cha then said, You stole my sword manual, there is no way that I would be letting you off the hook. But we're both tired today, even if we continued fighting, we won't get any results. Where do you live? If you are willing to reveal the location of your abode, I will most definitely pay a visit to you one day. Not only had Yu Luo Cha's words and tone softened greatly, but furthermore, she did not mention anything about the old man being injured.

    The old man was an established and famed figure in the martial arts world, therefore when his beloved mistress secretly fired out darts during the middle of his fight to help him out, he almost wanted to hide with embarrassment. This was the reason why he was not angry even though he had just sustained a sword wound. Hearing Yu Luo Cha ask him this question, he thought for a moment before answering, Alright, a month from now I will be waiting for you at the Tie Mansion located in LongMen. Yu Luo Cha was completely taken back, while the old man took his mistress in one hand and his daughter in the other and immediately flew down the mountain. Yu Luo Cha had more questions to ask and was just about to chase after them when she suddenly heard Zhuo Yi Hang and Wang Zhao Xi cry from the back of the mountain, Heroine Lian! Lian jiejie![8] Hurry! Come quickly! The person who was calling Lian jiejie was Zhuo Yi Hang, causing Yu Luo Cha's heart to be filled with warmth. But because she was worried that they might have undergone harm, she immediately ran towards the back of the mountain.

    Amongst the maze of rocks that was scattered behind the mountain, Wang Zhao Xi and Zhuo Yi Hang could both be seen crouching inside a stone cave. Yu Luo Cha asked with curiosity, Hey, what are you guys doing? Zhuo Yi Hang turned around and jumped outside while saying in a somber voice, Taoist Priest Zhen Qian has been murdered! Yu Luo Cha jumped and said, What? Taoist Priest Zhen Qian has been murdered? and immediately ran forward for a look. She immediately saw Taoist Priest Zhen Qian sitting cross legged within the stone cave with blood dripping from his seven orifices[9].The frozen expression on his face clearly communicated the immeasurable pain he had to sustain. Yu Luo Cha reached out her hand to touch his body, discovering that though his pulse had stopped, his body temperature was still lukewarm, thus indicating that his breath had stopped not long ago. Zhuo Yi Hang said, Someone must have murdered him because they wanted to get their hands on his sword manual! Yu Luo Cha's heart jumped as she gasped and hurriedly asked, What sword manual are you talking about? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, Your ShiFu's sword manual! Brother Ming Ke asked Taoist Priest Zhen Qian to deliver it to Elder Tian Du. But nobody would have expected that he would suddenly die here in the middle of nowhere while the sword manual would end up missing! Yu Luo Cha shouted with anger, It must be that old bandit Tie's doing! And I thought that he was a respectful elder with a strain of the heroic valor within him! I can't believe that the old bandit would not only steal my sword manual, but would actually dare to murder Taoist Priest Zhen Qian! Wang Zhao Xi asked, But how did you know it was him? Yu Luo Cha replied, Taoist Priest's martial arts are of such a skilled level, if it wasn't the old bandit's doing, who else would have the ability to injure him? Hey! Wang Zhao Xi, are you old acquaintances with that old bandit? Tell me now! Zhuo Yi Hang chipped in, You guys keep going on and on, but who exactly is this 'Old Bandit Tie'?

    Yu Luo Cha answered, Even though Ive only branched out on my own for three years, yet I'm quite aware of the figures and heroes belonging to both the black and white sides. Tie Fei Long is from the LongMen County located in the ShanXi province. He is well known to others as a strange martial artist belonging to the Northwest regions. Am I right? Wang Zhao Xi continued, This person resides in the juncture between the good and the bad. He may do good deeds, but he similarly does bad deeds. Anyone who dares to harass him would most definitely be shamed and tortured to their deaths. But he has been very proud and arrogant his whole life, he might not be willing to do such things as steal another sect's sword manual. Yu Luo Cha glared and asked, Did you think my eyes were playing tricks on me then? The girl who appeared in the prefecture building was that his daughter? Wang Zhao Xi nodded and with an embarrassed expression answered, Yes. Yu Luo Chan then said, The sword skill that his daughter used was my very own sect's sword skill. Wang Zhao Xi's eyes widened with surprise and asked, Is that really true? Yu Luo Cha laughed coldly and said, You must be trying to protect her on account of seeing that she's a beautiful young girl! These words took Wang Zhao Xi by such surprise that he stepped back two steps and respectfully stated, My father does indeed know that old man, but all I know of him are what I hear from others' words. In honesty, I am not too aware of exactly what his true character is like. But in actuality, Wang Zhao Xi did have an incident with Tie Fei Long and his daughter. He originally wanted to reveal the details, but when he saw how angry Yu Luo Cha got, he immediately swallowed up the words that had already arrived at his lips.

    Yu Luo Cha continued, I battled Old Bandit Tie for half a day and still had no idea who he was. But before he left, he told me to find him at the Tie Mansion of the LongMen County. He's really got some guts! He actually dares to leave me his name after stealing my sword manual and murdering a good man! I most definitely will seek him out and settle this score!

    Suddenly, Zhuo Yi Hang was heard to cry out with an Ai-yah! and then continued, I remember now. This old man has a nose like a hawk and a mouth of a lion, a bristly short beard also fills the lower half of his face to complete his unappealing appearance am I right? Yu Luo Cha asked, You know him as well?

    Zhuo Yi Hang replied, Around seven or eight years ago, he came to my ShiFu and challenged him to a competition based on the skill of palm attacks. My ShiFu refused, therefore asked my fourth martial arts uncle to compete with him instead. My uncle ended up losing by one stance. After this incident, my uncles all blamed my ShiFu for not helping out and causing Wu Tang's name to be shamed. But my ShiFu replied, 'The way to counter arrogant and competitive people is to let them win, especially since our Wu Tang's eminence is already like a large tree that easily attracts the rage of stray winds. Why should we bring more trouble upon ourselves just to win this one little match? Besides, I can tell that though he won over brother you by one stance, yet within his heart, he already holds our sect in true deference.' My four uncles all asked what my ShiFu based this theory on, but my ShiFu only smiled and did not respond. It was only later did he reveal to me: 'I didn't want to tell them the truth because your fourth uncle is similarly a competitive and arrogant person. The man used the Dragon Subduing Hands to win your fourth uncle by one stance. That was a powerful stance found within his Thunderstorm Palms of the Eight Trigram. After he won, he was discussing the dynamics of his stance with me and his attitude was very pleased and haughty for he thought that there was nobody in the world who would be able to dismantle this stance. I didn't say anything, but when I saw him to the door, I purposely stood in an eight trigram foot sequence, and from the Xun position, I ran straight towards the Qian position before turning straight towards the Li direction. I brought my hands together to form a fist and bowed with my palms slanting downwards. Then with a separation of my left and right hands, I appeared to be performing the rites of seeing one's guest out, but in actuality, I was executing the stance which could overthrow the stance in the Dragon Subduing Hands. He is an expert, therefore of course he would be able to discern my true intention. That was why after he stepped out of the doors, he turned around and brought his hands together in a bow and then asked me to excuse his previous actions.' Wang Zhao Xi praised, Your ShiFu's character is truly magnanimous. Yu Luo Cha snickered coldly, I would never be so nice when dealing with such despicable villains.

    Wang Zhao Xi did not dare to make a sound, but within his heart he was secretly crying for help. Tie Fei Long did not have a male child, he had only one daughter named ShanHu[10] whom he spoiled immensely. He was not only arrogant and competitive, but his personality and ways were always considered as being quite strange and eccentric. Therefore he rarely associates with the people of the martial arts world, and similarly, other people dared not to bother him. Because of this reason, though Tie Shan Hu was actually quite lovely, yet even now at the age of eighteen, she still remains to be unmarried. Tie Fei Long brings her along with him as he roams around the martial arts world, but he was still unable to find a suitable husband for his daughter. Because Wang Zhao Xi assists his father in handling the affairs of the Northern Shaan area's underground world, he has established quite a reputation for himself. Coincidently, Tie Fei Long and Wang Zhao Xi's father Wang Jia Yin knew each other already, thus when Tie heard of Wang Zhao Xi's name, he secretly laughed at himself for not taking notice of the cream of the crop that was standing right in front of him, but was instead digging around at the bottom of the barrel.

    Therefore, along with his daughter they arrived at the Yan An City to visit Wang Jia Yin, and of course Wang Jia Yin showed the greatest respect and devoted his utmost attention to this wandering master of rare ability. After the father and daughter met Wang Zhao Xi, they found him to be extremely suitable and thus after the banquet finished, Tie Fei Long straight out proposed marriage to the Wang family. Wang Jia Yin was extremely apologetic and could only tactfully explain that his son was already engaged to the daughter of Meng Can, the martial arts instructor of Beijing. This marriage engagement was made before the kids were even born, therefore they could only ask Tie Fei Long to please select another suitable husband for his daughter. But what he really didn't expect was that Tie Fei Long could actually be so inconsiderate of social etiquette, for he actually smacked down on the table and shouted, And you call yourself a lord of the underground world when you're accepting a dog that works for the imperial courts as your in-laws? Is there a single thing about my daughter that's not perfect? Call off that marriage engagement right away! Wang Jia Yin knew that he was dealing with an unreasonable man, and since he was also in the midst of putting together important matters, he didn't want to anger such a person. Therefore he could only say, Even if we were to call it off, I still have to explain everything to Master Meng. But we are separated by such great distances, it's not something that can be accomplished over the course of a day or two. Tie Fei Long then took his daughter and left in an angry huff. Afterwards, Wang Jia Yin asked his son what his feelings were towards this incident. Wang Zhao Xi did not particularly like Tie Shan Hu, and did not wish to call off his original marriage engagement for the purpose of establishing another marriage. But at the same time, he also didn't want to anger old Tie, therefore after discussing it over with his father, they decided that Wang Zhao Xi was to hurry towards the capital and quickly complete the marriage ceremonies. But little did they expect that as soon as Wang arrived in the capital, he would come across Meng Can's death, and then come to a misunderstanding with Bai Min.

    Wang Zhao Xi was thinking: Yu Luo Cha is in the midst of striking up a treaty with my family, if she goes to seek out the old freak Tie and end up creating a huge ruckus, then wouldn't all this blame end up being dumped onto my family's head?

    Then Wang Zhao Xi also thought to: Even if all this does end up on my family's front doors, that still may not be much of a big deal. But right now our main task concerns the amalgamation of the world's heroes in hopes that we can come together as one body and do great things one day. These small matters are simply not worth the trouble of ending up on the blacklist of this crazy martial arts master. Besides, old Tie most definitely is not the type to commit murder in order to covet another's manual. Although Wang Zhao Xi was really quite displeased with Yu Luo Cha's way of acting out based on her emotions, yet because he knew that Yu Luo Cha would be even bigger trouble than old Tie, he could only remain silent.

    Having spent half the day in battle and after a long night's toil, the hour was already approaching midday. Yu Luo Cha and the others were all hungry and thirsty, and as the shafts of sunlight shone into the stone cave, the stench of blood became even harder to withstand. Yu Luo Cha tore down a section of her sleeve and returned to the cave to slowly wipe the blood off Taoist Priest Zhen Qian. She noticed that the blood stains were purplish and dark in colour, as if his death was caused by poison. Yu Luo Cha thought to herself: Tie Fei Long's martial arts were above Zhen Qian's, if he wanted to take his manual it seems unlikely that he would need to use poison. She did a careful examination and found that the bones of his jaw were completely shattered, very obviously resulting from the blow of a palm's strike. Then with a closer look at the area of injury, she discovered that the marks of fingers' clenching down onto bone could be vaguely discerned. This was very obviously the result of a victim who was first struck down with a palm strike from his aggressor who then clamped down with their five fingers and utilized the power of inner Qi to injure their victim's throat. Such an act was indeed synonymous with Tie Fei Long's fighting style! Yu Luo Cha's heart was now filled with a great number of unanswered questions.

    The Taoist Priest Zhen Qian was old friends with both Zhuo Yi Hang and Yu Luo Cha's ShiFus. While shedding tears, the two of them dug out a plot in the ground and buried Zhen Qian. Afterwards, Yu Luo Cha gathered together a mound of earth to serve as a representation of lighted incense before then turning towards the heavens to make a solemn vow of seeking revenge for Taoist Priest Zhen Qian.

    The three of them then washed off their blood-stained hands, drank some water from the stream and consumed some dried food. By the time they descended the mountain, Wang Zhao Xi's backup troops has already arrived. Bai Min has also been rescued already and when he saw Yu Luo Cha, he immediately expressed his gratitude with joy.

    When Yu Luo Cha saw how Zhuo Yi Hang's eyebrows were knitted together tightly, she said, Don't worry Brother Zhuo, I have already commanded someone to bring your grandfather's remains to WaYaoBao. When Brother Zhuo you arrive there, we can immediately begin the burial rites. As for your servants, I have already taken the liberty of making the decision for you and have dispersed them after giving them all compensational money. Zhuo Yi Hang remained silent and did not say a single word. He was thinking that since things have come to this point, if he did return home he would most definitely be arrested. Therefore, he could only allow her to arrange things as she pleases.

    Zhuo Yi Hang originally did not want to accompany Wang Zhao Xi to WaYaoBao, but because he needed to rely on him to bury his grandfather's remains, he had no choice but to follow him. WaYaoBao was located around a hundred fifty miles from Yan An City, and since they traveled along with Wang's men and horse troops, by midnight they were able to arrive at their destination. Wang Jia Yin came out personally to greet them and was very happy to finally meet Yu Luo Cha, finding her to be extremely likable. They both exchanged greetings and expressed their admiration for each other. Then when Wang Zhao Xi explained to his father about Zhuo Yi Hang's background, Wang Jia Yin was again filled with joy as he laughed and said, How lucky we are to have someone like Brother Zhuo who is well learned in both the martial and literary arts. What the bunch of us ruffians and hoodlums need is indeed such a talent who has the ability to strategize military tactics. Zhuo Yi Hang acknowledged the praise by returning a greeting with a fold of his hands and then said coldly, We can discuss such matters at later times. Wang Jia Yin was taken back, but Wang Zhao Xi immediately explained in a low voice, Brother Zhuo is in the midst of mourning. Wang Jia Ying then immediately expressed his condolences and then hurriedly ordered someone to bring forth a set of mourning attire for Zhuo Yi Hang to change into.

    Zhuo Yi Hang was desirous to leave as soon as possible, therefore he immediately buried his grandfather the next day and then entreated Wang Zhao Xi to take care of the tomb in the future. Yu Luo Cha had to meet and greet the various fortress leaders during the day time, but by sunset, she still found time to come forward to Zhuo Zhong Lian's tomb to give her respects. Even though she was lighting incenses and candles, as well as accompanying Zhuo Yi Hang in a series of reverential bows, but within her heart she honestly found it funny that she was actually bowing to the high official whom she had robbed in the past. When Zhuo Yi Hang saw how her expression did not communicate any distress or sorrow, he secretly became very displease within his heart for he thought that she was just hypocritically putting on a display of concern. But what he did not understand was Yu Luo Cha's heart. If Yu Luo Cha wasn't doing this for him, even if someone had held the blade of a sword to her neck, they still would never have been able to force her to come and kneel or bow by the tomb.

    The last traces of sunset gradually disappeared from the horizon as the new moon rose in the night sky. Zhuo Yi Hang and Yu Luo Cha were standing shoulder to shoulder as they slowly walked back from the burial grounds. Yu Luo Cha was leaning close by Zhuo Yi Hang, her soulful eyes brimming with expression as she suddenly started to gently play with her hair, seemingly as if desiring to say something, but in the end deciding to remain silent. Zhuo Yi Hang felt as if the air she was exhaling was filled with the fragrance of orchids, causing his soul to palpitate wildly. He hurriedly stepped away, causing Yu Luo Cha to laugh and ask, Even now, you're still scared of me? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, I don't know why you always want to make others be afraid of you. Yu Luo Cha said, Didn't you know that I was nursed by a mother wolf? I never set out with the goal to make others be afraid of me, but maybe it's my untamed wildness that causes others to be scared of me.

    Zhuo Yi Hang suddenly took a deep sigh and thought to how Yu Luo Cha was not only blessed with a beautiful appearance, but she similarly possessed an intelligent mind. She was like a beautiful piece of jade that was so exquisite that it could only have been created by the heavens. It was really a shame that she had nobody to bring her onto the good paths. Yu Luo Cha asked, What's wrong? Why are you suddenly sighing? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, With your supreme martial art abilities, why must you continue to mix in with the crowd of the Underground world?

    Yu Luo Cha's expression changed immediately as she retorted, What's so bad about the underground world? It's at least a much cleaner business than the world of officialdom! Zhuo Yi Hang lowered his head and didn't reply. Yu Luo Cha then said, What plans do you have from now on? Are you really planning to take the position of a government official, and like your grandfather and father, devote your life to the stinking emperor? Zhuo Yi Hang answered with determination, Never in my life will I be an official, but I will similarly never be a bandit! Yu Luo Cha's heart was filled with fury, and had it been someone other than Zhuo Yi Hang who had said these words, she most definitely would have extended out her palm to deliver a hard slap.

    Zhuo Yi Hang then said slowly, I am a Wu Tang disciple, and the rules of our sect states that we are not allowed to act as bandits or escorts. You should know that. Yu Luo Cha sneered and asked, But are your grandfather and father not bandits? Zhuo Yi Hang said with anger, How in the world can they be considered as bandits? Yu Luo Cha answered, Those who act as officials rob from the poor to feed the wealthy. But what we do is rob from the wealthy in order to feed the poor. Yes, we are bandits, but my kind of stealing is at least much better than the kind of stealing that your kind does! Zhuo Yi Hang retorted, Fine! Say as you wish, but we all have our own ways. There's no need to force others to accept your own ideals.

    Yu Luo Cha's body was trembling slightly while an incredible sadness filled her heart. When Zhuo Yi Hang saw the brimming tears that were threatening to fall from her reddened eyes, a compassionate tenderness immediately began to develop within him as he unconsciously reached out to hold her finger and say, Though our ideals and goals may be different, yet our friendship will always remain. Yu Luo Cha asked sadly, When are you going? Zhuo Yi Hang answered, Tomorrow. Yu Luo Cha sighed and did not say anything else. After a long silence, Zhuo Yi Hang changed the topic and asked Yu Luo Cha to tell him all about the strange happenings and interesting anecdotes of the martial arts world, while he himself talked about the colourful lifestyle and attractions of the capital. Under the moonlight, the two of them slowly strolled together while conversing like two old friends. Even though neither of them dared to reveal the feelings concealed within the deepest parts of their hearts, yet they were already able to develop a much better understanding of each other. That evening, they talked until late night before finally parting.

    Early morning of the next day, Zhuo Yi Hang bid his farewells to Wang Zhao Xi. Since Wang Zhao Xi knew that Zhuo was determined to leave, he did not try to detain him. They delivered their best wishes to each other and then departed with tears in their eyes.

    Having recently undergone a series of traumatic changes, Zhuo Yi Hang was filled with sorrow and dejection. But at the same time, he knew that there were matters concerning the state and country which could not be ignored. He thought over such matters for quite a while before he finally decided to take the next step of journeying to the capital and report to the Crown Prince about the traitors who have been bought out by the Manchurians. He figured that he could take this chance to proclaim his innocence as well.

    In order to arrive at the capital, he decided to take the path through ShanXi and then turn into Hebei. It took him only seven days to arrive into the ShanXi area and as he entered into the LongMen County that day, he marvelled at the force of the Yellow Rivers rushing currents and the grand majesty of the stone cliffs that comprised a most sublime scene. Zhuo Yi Hang suddenly remembered that Tie Fei Long and his daughter resided in this area and couldnt stop a jolt of fear from striking at his heart. His eyes darted all around him but he found no other pedestrians alongside the roads. In fact, the only things that could be discerned were the faint outlines of boat sails seen amidst the far seas. Zhuo Yi Hang felt quite lonely during his trip as he trudged along, accompanied by only his own shadow. After walking for a while, he passed over a hill to suddenly come face to face with a villa situated right in front of him.

    Zhuo Yi Hang thought to himself, "Could this be the Tie Villa?" and just as he was in the process of mumbling to himself, he suddenly heard a series of cold laughter sound from behind him. When he whipped his head around, he was shocked to discover that it was none other than Yun Yan Ping and Jin Qian Yan! Yun Yan Ping sneered, "Hey! Wheres your bodyguard Yu Luo Cha? You know kid, if you had stuck to her, we may not have been able to do anything to you. But I cant believe that you would actually dare to run around on your own!" Zhuo Yi Hang extracted his sword from its sheath and shouted angrily, "Even if Im by myself, Im still not afraid of you!" Jin Qian Yan laughed and said, "Oh, what a brave little hero! Did you really think that we werent aware of the limits to your capabilities? You can just quit your bluffing now."

    Amidst the laughing and jeering, a loud gust was suddenly heard as Jins palm struck out to attack. With a twist of his waist followed by a quick dodge, Zhuo Yi Hang immediately retaliated with a swipe of his sword. Jin Qian Yans body flitted up as he threw a punch with his left hand and then initiated a palm strike using his right hand. He punched towards Zhuos chest and slashed towards his wrist, enabling the same stance to be simultaneously executed in two different fashions. With a quick twist of his body, Zhuo Yi Hang blocked with his treasured sword and attacked from the side. With a ferocious growl, Jin Qian Yans right index finger suddenly flicked out at Zhuos sword blade, causing the sword to swerve to one side. Then with a punch using his left fist, Jin immediately advanced to attack again.

    Zhuo Yi Hang hurriedly executed the "Reverse Seven Star Steps" and branded his sword in accordance with the movements of his body. Amongst the piercing glint shooting out from the swords blade, Zhuo executed the stance "Toss of the Golden Coins" to chop towards Jins palm and pierce towards his wrist. The stance arrived with such startling speed that Jin Qian Yan did not dare to intercept with his fingers, therefore with a "Twist and Hook," he expanded his arms and grasped towards Zhuo Yi Hangs head with his vermillion coloured palms. Knowing that Jin was the practitioner of the Venomous Palms of Yin Winds, how could Zhuo Yi Hang possibly dare to intercept this attack? Therefore he could only thwart the attack with his swords blade and then sneak out from under the gusts of his opponents palm strikes to execute the 72 Styles of the Sequential-Linking Swords, conjuring up such a storm that his opponent dared not to approach.

    Although Jin Qian Yans movements were not as agile and lithe as Zhuo Yi Hangs, yet his overall martial art cultivation was far above Zhuo Yi Hangs and as a result, his palm strikes were extremely forceful. Furthermore, the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds was such a deadly and poisonous martial art that had Zhuo Yi Hang not been a practitioner of internal energies, he would have found it difficult to withstand even a light whiff coming from Jins palm strikes. After the two fighters have battled for up to fifty or seventy stances, Zhuo Yi Hang was already beginning to show the signs of eminent defeat. On top of that, there was still a Yun Yan Ping observing the battle from the sideline with his waist belt in hand, ready for attack at any moment.

    Since Zhuo Yi Hang knew that he wasnt their match, he could only attempt to devise an escape plan while still engaged in battle. During the most intense moment of their combat, Zhuo Yi Hang faked a move and then immediately dashed towards the direction of the villa. Yun Yan Pings levitation skills were quite superb and after shouting out loudly "Where do you think youre going?" his toes tapped lightly on the ground and with just three sequential jumps, he has already arrived behind Zhuo Yi Hang. With a flicker of his belt, the sash coiled towards Zhuo Yi Hangs waist, yet Zhuo has already dashed into the villa with just a few quick darts. Yun Yan Pings belt was like a python snake that never left Zhuos back for more than three inches and just when the danger has escalated to its most urgent point, a womans clear laughter rang out from amongst the cluster of flowers and trees planted by the side of the road. A pair of long handled scissors then suddenly emerged to cut Yun Yan Pings belt into two pieces!

    From amongst the cluster of flowers and trees, a woman suddenly emerged. She was followed by another woman. The one who was walking in front was the same middle-aged matron who was just recently wounded under Yu Luo Chas projectiles. Behind her was Tie Fei Longs daughter Tie Shan Hu. Yun Yan Ping hurriedly folded his fists to perform obeisance and said, "Jiu Niang[11], this kid is bad news." He then also said, "Miss Shan Hu, last time you lent out a helping hand to us. Can you please see us to the end here and help us out again by capturing this kid for us?" Tie Shan Hu laughed with scorn and said, "I will only do what I want to do. Why would I want to help you guys out?" The middle-aged matron then said with a displeased expression, "Our Master has already said that he wont see the two of you. So why did you guys come barging into here again?" Yun Yan Ping replied, "We were chasing after that kid and ended up here. Did you not see that elder?" The middle-aged matron scoffed, "You expect me to bother myself with taking notice of your trifling matters? Did you think our Tie Villa was a place you can just charge into at will? Now get out of here right away, Go!" Yun Yan Ping and Jin Qian Yan just looked at each other and did not know what to say.

    This middle-aged matron was named Mu Jiu Niang and she was the stepmother of Tie Shan Hu. When Tie Fei Long lost his wife during his midlife years, he later took a street performer as his wife. Although he adamantly refused to establish Mu Jiu Niang as his official wife out of respect for his deceased wife, yet Mu Jiu Niang was still highly favoured and dotted upon. Therefore the only thing that Jin Qian Yan and Yun Yan Ping could do was to stare at each other for even though their martial arts were far above that of Mu Jiu Niangs, yet they feared her powerful backup. Even if they had been ten times gutsier, they would still never dare to initiate any conflict with Tie Fei Longs precious concubine.

    Mu Jiu Niang shouted again, "Are you guys really itching for a good beating? Why arent you guys scramming like I told you to? Did you really want me to call upon the Old Master and ask him to personally see you guys to the door?" Yun Yan Ping hurriedly insisted, "Jiu Niang, please do not mind us. We will leave your esteemed abode immediately." After a hateful glare at Zhuo Yi Hang, he then quickly ran out of the village with Jin Qian Yan.

    Just as Zhuo Yi Hang was about to retreat as well, Mu Jiu Niang beckoned with her hands and said with an inviting smile, "Where are you going? Come here!" Zhuo Yi Hang lifted his sleeves and then said with a bow, "I dare not disturb the Master of the Villa." Mu Jiu Niang remarked, "Silly boy, if you go out now those two people will still be hanging around. Dont forget that youre not their match, did you really want to die?" Zhuo Yi Hang blushed and realized that there was indeed reason behind these words; therefore he could only follow them inside the mansion.

    Mu Jiu Niang brought him to West-end reception room while Tie Shan Hu brought forth fragrant tea and then suddenly asked, "Is Wang Zhao Xi going to be with you?" Zhuo Yi Hang replied, "No." Tie Shan Hu looked as if she was quite disappointed and with a twist of her body, ran outside the reception room. After a while, Tie Fei Long entered the room with his daughter by his side and Zhuo Yi Hang hurriedly issued a courteous bow in greeting.

    Tie Fie Long asked him for his name and then suddenly remarked, "Youre a descendent of Zhuo Zhong Lian?" Zhuo Yi Hang stood up and said, "He is my grandfather." Tie Fei Longs expression did not falter as he continued, "Is Wang Zhao Xi a good friend of yours?" Zhuo Yi Hang replied, "You can say that we are acquaintances formed in the name of honour." Tie Fei Long gave a cold snicker and said, "Wang Jia Yin could be considered as a powerful figure of the Underground world, yet why is he always interested in hanging around government officials?" Zhuo Yi Hang was extremely displeased, but Tie Fei Long continued, "Is that thieving wench who battled with me the other day also with you?" Although Zhuo Yi Hang was indeed displeased with the fact that Yu Luo Cha was a bandit, yet upon hearing others insult her as a "thieving wench," fury still erupted in his heart. He coldly stated, "Please do enlightened your unworthy junior as to what line of reasoning you abide by old hero Tie; you say that you despise the government officials and yet, you similarly detest the bandits."

    Tie Fie Long was infuriated as he shouted, "Mind your manners you pompous brat!" and immediately extended his hands to grasp down on Zhuos shoulders. Zhuo Yi Hang sunk his shoulders and lowered his elbow in order to struggle free from his grasp. Although he did manage to escape out of this deadlock, yet he also felt as if his shoulder was just scalded by a rope made of fire as he was overwhelmed by painful burning sensation.

    Tie Fei Longs expression immediately changed as he shouted, "Youre the disciple of Taoist Priest Purple Sun?" Zhuo Yi Hang replied, "Indeed, he is my revered ShiFu." Tie Fei Long murmured an "Oh," as Zhuo Yi Hang continued, "Seven or eight years ago, I was still at Wu Tang accompanying my ShiFu. At that time, I have already seen you Elder Tie." Tie Fei Long again murmured an "Oh" as his expression immediately softened and with a sweep of his hand he said, "Have a seat."

    Zhuo Yi Hang sat down as instructed and Tie Fei Long said, "I once had the opportunity to meet your ShiFu and so I have no desire to give you a hard time. But you must answer me truthfully, that girl who battled with me the other day who is she?" Zhuo Yi Hang proudly replied, "She is the famed Yu Luo Cha, whose mere name can cause the abandonment of all guts and the loss of all courage amongst the crowds of the Underground world!" Tie Fie Long jumped up and cried, "Ha! So shes Yu Luo Cha?! And I always thought that the talk amongst the Underground world were merely exaggerations! It seems that she does have some credibility to her martial arts." He continued to ask, "And who are you to her?" Zhuo Yi Hang replied, "You can say that we are acquaintances formed in the name of honour," causing Tie Fei Long to immediately burst out into a series of loud guffaws.

    Zhuo Yi Hang had no idea what that was all about, but after Tie Fei Long had his share of laughing he finally said, "I was just planning to bring Yu Luo Cha and Wang Zhao Xi over here. Since you guys are all acquaintances formed in the name of honour then thats perfect! But Im afraid that I will have to inconvenience you by asking you to remain here at my humble abode for a few days, which means that I cant let you go until they get here!" Zhuo Yi Hang reacted with anger, "So what elder you are trying to say is that you plan to kidnap me and put me under restraint?" Tie Fei Long replied, "Thats right! However, on the account of your ShiFu I wont put you under restraint. But dont you even think about escaping!" Thus he brought Zhuo out of the reception room and pushed him into the woodshed before locking the door behind him and saying, "Im afraid the rooms not too ideal, but youll just have to tolerate it for a few days."

    Though Zhuo Yi Hang was thrown into the woodshed, yet he knew that he was dealing with a man of a very peculiar temper and could therefore only accept the situation as it was. He proceeded to sit cross-legged on the floor and began to practice the cultivation of his internal energies. By nightfall Mu Jiu Niang has already arrived with his dinner. She smiled and said, "Wow, arent you very hardworking!" but Zhuo Yi Hang ignored her and swallowed down his dinner in just two or three gulps. Mu Jiu Niang sat down beside him and was watching him eat when her almond shaped face suddenly flushed a shade of light pink. After she had stared at Zhuo for a little while longer, she then lowered her head. But from then on, every meal was delivered by Mu Jiu Niang and furthermore, the quality of the dishes got increasingly better. Not only was there wild fowl and mountainous livestock, but there was also carp fish from the Yellow Rivers.

    Every time that Mu Jiu Niang came, she would chatter on and on and on, but Zhuo Yi Hang would barely take any notice of her, leaving her to be quite dispirited. One night, Mu Jiu Niang came again for another babbling session and said to Zhuo Yi Hang, "People say that your ShiFu is the number one swordsman in the world. Then your sword skills must also be quite good. Why dont you perform a few moves for me?" Zhuo Yi Hang did not budge a finger and instead stated coldly, "I am your prisoner, how could I be allowed to play with swords and knives?" Mu Jiu Niang replied, "Oh I see, youre still angry at our master. But thats understandable, after all youre a descendent from a wealthy family of officials, how can you possibly tolerate this kind of suffering? Did you want to run away?" Zhuo Yi Hang kept his lips tightly sealed and did not utter a single word in reply.

    Mu Jiu Niang continued, "Did you know why our master has to lock you up here like this? Its all because of his precious daughter." Zhuo Yi Hang was quite taken back as he asked, "What?" while thinking in his heart: one is already hard enough to handle, what am I going to do if another one latches on? Mu Jiu Niang laughed and said, "Shan Hus heart is set on marrying Wang Zhao Xi, but it turns out that Wang Zhao Xi already has a fianc." She immediately stopped once she has gotten to this part but Zhuo Yi Hang was already silently crying to himself "Oh no!" before Mu Jiu Niang could add, "Therefore he has to lock you up here." Zhuo Yi Hang hurriedly stammered, "But what does that have to do with me? There are plenty of other men in this world!" Mu Jiu Niangs laughter rang out and flourished like a flower dancing in the breeze, causing Zhuo Yi Hang to be quite baffled. Mu Jiu Niang laughed for a while longer and then extended her index and middle finger to teasingly brush across her face while laughing, "Oh dear! What an egotistical Narcissist! Did you think that she has her eyes set upon you? Shan Hu wants to lock you up here in order that she may lure Wang Zhao Xi to the Tie Villa and then " having gotten to this part, she suddenly stopped again.

    Zhuo Yi Hang let out a sigh of relief as he secretly laughed at himself for letting his imagination run out of control while Mu Jiu Niang suddenly sighed and remarked wistfully, "But perhaps there is someone else who has their eyes set upon you." Zhuo Yi Hang sat crossed-legged on the floor and completely ignored her, once again causing Mu Jiu Niang to be quite dispirited. She then leaned forward and attempted to make small talk, "Did your ShiFu give you this sword?" Zhuo Yi Hang continued to ignore her, but Mu Jiu Niang suddenly stretched her hand towards his waist and snatched his sword away from him. Zhuo Yi Hang immediately leaped up and said, "What are you doing?" Mu Jiu Niang pouted, "Cant I even take a quick peek?" Zhuo Yi Hang was just about to snatch it back when Mu Jiu Niang immediately hid the sword behind her body while simultaneously thrusting her chest forward. Just when Zhuo Yi Hang was in the process of hurriedly retreating, a cold laugh drifted in from outside the door followed by the words, "Shameless tramp!" The sound of a loud bang was immediately heard as the door was suddenly kicked open, causing Mu Jiu Niang to jump up in fright. A young girl was immediately seen to jump inside and it turned out to be none other than Yu Luo Cha!

    Zhuo Yi Hang cried, "Lian jiejie!" while Yu Luo Cha glared and did not respond. Her expression filled with the iciness of the wintry frost as she turned towards Mu Jiu Niang and said, "What do you think youre doing here? Humph! You really have no sense of shame!"

    When has Mu Jiu Niang ever experienced such ridicule and chastising? Though embarrassed, she was simultaneously infuriated which is why even though she knew that she wasnt Yu Luo Chas match, yet she simply found it impossible to settle the fire that was arising within her heart. With a swipe of her sword, she immediately lashed out at Yu Luo Cha, but Yu Luo Cha only laughed coldly and then executed a stance in return, immediately causing Mu Jiu Niangs sword to fly. However, with just a sweep and rotate of her sword, Mu Jiu Niang was able to retract her sword and then extract it from its sheath before she hurriedly escaped through the window.

    Yu Luo Cha was momentarily dumbfounded, for the stance that Mu Jiu Niang just executed was again a stance taken from her ShiFus exclusive sword art. She hurriedly chased outside and with just a flit of her silhouette, immediately zipped above Mu Jiu Niangs head to land in front of her, completely blocking her way of escape. Then with a stab of her sword and a leap towards the left, Yu Luo Cha used her residual momentum to immediately rotate the tip of her blade around. This was a powerful move within her exclusive sword art and unless the internal energies of ones opponent was far above that of ones own, otherwise the opponent must employ a stance from the same school of sword art in order to dismantle it.

    As expected, Mu Jiu Niang did indeed block with her sword by using her blade to deflect from left towards the right and then with just an additional sink of her sword, Mu Jiu Niang was able to dismantle the stance. Although her movements were not at all well-practiced, yet it could be ascertained without any more doubt that she has indeed read the sword manual. Yu Luo Cha unleashed a series of wild laughter and no longer held any mercy in her attack.

    Her sword stances succeeded each other with such urgent force that with just two quick swipes, she was able to simultaneously pierce towards the acupoints located on the two sides of Mu Jiu Niangs body. Although Mu Jiu Niang has indeed secretly practiced Yu Luo Chas sword manual, yet these days were nevertheless limited and the stances werent even well-practiced yet, thus how could she possibly withstand Yu Luo Cha? In just a flash, Yu Luo Chas sword has already pierced through Mu Jiu Niangs clothes and entered into the acupoints located on the two sides of her body, causing Mu Jiu Niang to fall over backwards.

    Yu Luo Cha retracted her sword and laughed wildly, but just when she was about to pursue, Tie Fie Long has already charged out and after a sweep of the scene with his two eyes, his anger erupted like the raging thunders. With a sweep of his Iron Palms, he roared furiously, "Yu Luo Cha, youve gone too far! Since youve come to my doors requesting a duel, then why didnt you follow the rules of the JiangHu world and presented a calling card? What vengeful score could you possibly have with her that would justify you to use such deadly actions?!" Yu Luo Cha snickered and said with an icy tone, "Humph! Your whole family is a bunch of petty and dirty thieves!" With an angry snarl, Tie Fei Long immediately struck out with a sweep of his palms. Yu Luo Cha flipped her body over and attacked, all the while laughing coldly and saying, "If you dont return my sword manual to me, I swear that you will never see the end of me!"

    Tie Fie Long intercepted a few stances with ferocious fervour before issuing a violent blow that forced Yu Luo Cha to retreat a few steps and then shouted out, "A bunch of crap! What sword manual?" Yu Luo Cha struck again with her sword while sneering, "What use is there in pretending that you know nothing? If it wasnt you who stole my sword manual, then how come your precious daughter and that flirtatious fox would know how to execute my ShiFus exclusive sword stances?" With another lions roar, Tie Fei Longs two fists struck out and once again forced Yu Luo Cha to retreat a few steps. He then immediately jumped out of the battle sphere and shouted, "Wait! Let me get this straight first!" and then jumped to Mu Jiu Niangs side to help her up.

    When he observed that she was bleeding from her sides, he was initially filled with tender compassion until the cold light radiating from a sword blade caught his eye and he discovered the long sword that laid by her side. Tie Fei Long immediately recognized that this was Taoist Priest Purple Suns Ice Ray Sword and thus no further questions needed to be asked in order for one to determine that the sword was taken from Zhuo Yi Hangs body. Suddenly the two words "flirtatious fox" rang in Ties head again, causing him to undergo a change of colour as he growled in a low tone, "Why did you steal another persons esteemed sword?"

    The traces of an icy sneer hung by Yu Luo Chas lips, but just when she was about to open her mouth to speak, she suddenly noticed that Mu Jiu Niang was trembling violently. Unspeakable volumes of terror could be discerned from her eyes, a look that very much resembled the horror found in the eyes of the ferocious bandits that would usually die under her own hands. She suddenly thought of the words that Zhuo Yi Hang said to her when they were in the cave, and she didnt know why, but she was suddenly filled with a merciful compassion that caused her to hold back the truth that have already arrived at her lips.

    When Mu Jiu Niang saw that Yu Luo Cha did not reveal anything, she let out a sigh of relief and then said with a trembling voice, "She broke through the door with her sword in her hand and since I didnt have any weapons in my hand at that time, I could only borrow Zhuo Yi Hangs sword for the time being." These words sounded quite reasonable but Tie Fei Long continued to bellow, "Then did you take the sword manual?" Mu Jiu Niang could only continue to shamelessly deny her guilt as she stammered, "Nnno, I didnt." Tie Fei Long roared, "Bring Shan Hu here!" causing Mu Jiu Niangs face to be suddenly drained of all colour.

    Such is: The extraordinary book brings about extraordinary calamities, jade bones consumed by dust and sand.

    [1]The Kan house amongst the 8 Gua (Eight Trigrams) is considered as the position representing the element of Water such as the Moon. Sometimes this Yin house is said to reside in the Western sphere, but most resources list it as being in the Northern house. Such discrepancies may be a result of the earlier and later version of the 8 Gua

    [2]The Li house amongst the 8 Gua is considered as the position representing the element of Fire such as the Sun. Sometimes this Yang house is said to reside in the Eastern sphere, but most resources lists it as being in the Southern house. Such discrepancies may be a result of the earlier and later version of the 8 Gua.

    [3]These 8 elements are commonly translated as: Water, Fire, Marsh, Thunder, Wind, Heaven, Earth and Mountain.

    [4]referring to North, South, East and West.

    [5]referring to Northwest, Northeast, Southeast and Southwest.

    [6]Book's footnote: an action which embodies the intention of turning towards the left.

    [7]Book's footnote: an action which embodies the intention of turning towards the right.

    [8]Translates as older sister. Zhuo Yi Hang may indeed be one or two years younger than Yu Luo Cha, but it should also be noted that Zhuos act of addressing Yu Luo Cha as an older sister is a way of expressing respect and veneration. In LYSs novels, such a method of addressing another is quite common, even in cases where the younger person may in actuality be a few years older. Similarly, characters sometimes uses the terms older sister/brother (jiejie/gege) and young sister/brother (meimei/didi) interchangeably even when referring to the same person.

    [9]The seven orifices refer to the human body's pair of eyes, pair of ear holes, two nostrils and mouth.

    [10]On the name of these two characters: the surname Tie is the same character for the word Bronze, while the name Fei Long literally translates as Flying/Soaring Dragon and ShanHu translates as Coral.

    [11]Mu Jiu Niang is the name of Tie Fei Longs concubine. The word "Jiu" literally means Nine (9), whereas the word "Niang" can also mean "lady," "madam" etc.

  8. #8
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 7

    Chapter 7
    Sword Manual Incites Unthinkable Tragedy
    One Storm Succeeds Another
    Sect Leader Imparts Heavy Responsibility
    Unexpected Misunderstandings Erupts Everywhere
    (Translated by Faerie Queene)

    Now more suspicious than ever, Tie Fie Long bounded on top of the fake mountain and furiously hollered three times, "Shan Hu Shan Hu Shan Hu!" Yet not only was he met with no response, but two silhouettes were furthermore seen to flit out from behind the back courtyards walls. This was directly followed by a loud "poom" sound and a wave of flames that blazed straight towards the skies. Tie Fei Long pointed to Mu Jiu Niang and screamed, "Wench! Dont you dare move!" Yu Luo Cha snickered and then stood beside Mu Jiu Niang with her sword in her hand before gently saying to Tie Fei Long, "Go. Ill be here to take care of things, dont worry."

    Tie Fei Longs short beard was bristling with a fury that caused each individual hair to stick out like sharp lances. He has been spending the last twenty or thirty years of his life living the life of a tiger whose whiskers nobody dared to mess around with. But now somebody has not only barged into his home, but has actually dared to set fire upon it! His rage at that moment was simply shooting through the roof! When he observed the two silhouettes, he noticed right away that their movements were extremely fast, indicating that they possessed a very high level of martial arts. He was already anxious to begin with, but now worried about the fact that his daughter might have come under harm, he actually felt fear. Thus he gave up the prospect of chasing after his opponents and ran towards the site of fire instead.

    Just when he has flitted across two buildings, three people promptly shot out from amongst the glare of the flames. The group consisted of two women and one man the male was Wang Zhao Xi and the two females were Meng Qiu Xia and Tie Shan Hu. Moreover, Tie Shan Hus face was ghostly pale as she was being carried out by Meng Qiu Xia!

    With a loud "humph," Tie Fie Long charged forward and bellowed, "Wang Zhao Xi, you have some nerve! You can take away your fianc, but why did you have to set fire upon my house and then wound my daughter?" But just when he has grasped out with his hands, Tie Shan Hu suddenly opened up her eyes to shout, "Papa, its not him!" Wang Zhao Xi stole three steps to the side as Tie Fei Long also retracted his palms and growled, "Then who was it?" Tie Shan Hu replied, "It was Jin Qian Yans uncle!" Tie Fei Longs face suddenly changed colours as Wang Zhao Xi said, "Right now its more important to put out the fire. We can hunt down those two scoundrels another time."

    Tie Fie Long thought over Wangs words and felt that they did indeed make sense. Jin Qian Yans uncle was named Jin Du Yi, but he has always resided in the far Western frontiers and has not stepped foot outside the South and Northern Tian Shan area during the last thirty years. Jin Du Yi was also a practitioner of the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds, but his skill level has reached such pinnacle levels that Jin Qian Yan was only able to capture six or seventh tenths of what his uncle has achieved. Thirty years ago, Tie Fei Long once had the chance of encountering Jin Du Yi, but at that time, Jin still has not succeeded in completing his Venomous Palms yet. Yet even then, they were already equally matched in battle. Tie heard afterwards that Jin has finally succeeded in his Venomous Palms and has publicly taken a vast number of disciples from the Western regions while his actions were also quite peculiar. But by that time, Tie Fei Long has already secluded himself within the LongMen County, pretty much ignoring the matters of the JiangHu world.

    The two of them each went their own separate ways and had not bothered to correspond with the other person during all these years until Jin Qian Yan suddenly paid a visit along with Yun Yan Ping three days ago. But because Tie Fei Long detested Jins uncle, he did not grant him the right to be received into the house and thus the moment that Jin Qian Yan stepped foot inside the Villas front gates, Mu Jiu Niang has already acted upon Ties orders to shoo them right back out. This incident caused Tie Fei Long to think to himself: Could it be that the old freak was angered by how I kicked his nephew out of my house and therefore purposely came here tonight to seek revenge? But if that is the case, then his breadth of heart is seriously much too cramped. However his martial arts are indeed very powerful and even if I chased after him, I wouldnt be able to catch up. Therefore he could only follow Wangs advice and put out the fire first.

    On the other hand, Meng Qiu Xia who has travelled a million miles in search for her husband has finally reunited with him now. Yet, she couldnt help herself from being overcome with all sorts of emotions as she stared at Wang Zhao Xi and then looked at Tie Shan Hu under the light that cascaded from the fires flames. What had happened was that as soon as Meng departed from the capital, she then promptly travelled towards the Northwest regions. Since she was an alert and careful girl who was practiced in martial arts, therefore even though she had to travel through millions of miles, yet luckily nothing bad happened.

    One day, she arrived in ShaanXi and happened to stumble across Tie Shan Hu and Mu Jiu Niang as she was walking along the path. Since they were all girls of the JiangHu world, they easily struck up a pleasant conversation with each other. However, in the midst of their conversation, Meng Qiu Xia happened to reveal that she was here in ShaanXi in search of her husband. Because Tie Shan Hu had her own romantic problems to think about, she took particular note of Mengs words and purposely asked questions in order to probe into Mengs situation. Though Meng Qiu Xia was alert and quick, yet she was still nevertheless quite inexperienced with the world and ended up making the mistake of revealing Wang Zhao Xis name. With a cold sneer, Tie Shan Hu struck out unexpectedly, moving with the speed of lightning to seal Mengs acupoint.

    By the time that Meng Qiu Xia finally woke up, she found that she was already situated within the Tie Villa. Because Tie Shan Hu still had the temper and disposition of a child, when she heard Meng say that she was the fiance of Wang Zhao Xi, she immediately ignored all consequences in order to strike her down. When she returned home and reported to her father, she was initially a little uneasy for fear that her father would reprimand her. Yet Tie Fei Long only stroked his beard and laughed while saying, "Wang Jia Yin is a Lord of the Underground world, yet he would actually go and become in-laws with some kind of martial art instructor that works for the Crown Prince! So let him undergo a little ridicule." Tie Fei Longs character was not only very strange and eccentric, but he also didnt allow others to ignore or oppose his own wishes. Last time Wang Jia Yin very delicately refused his marriage proposal, causing him to be quite displeased. But when he thought over it again, he realized that considering his status and position, to give a single girl a hard time was nevertheless something that was not particularly glorious when the word leaks out. Therefore, he then ordered Tie Shan Hu to treat Meng Qiu Xia with courtesy while he simultaneously sent someone over to alert Wang Jia Yin.

    Yu Luo Cha and Tie Fei Long had originally made a pact to re-duel with each other one month later, but when she heard of Wangs incident, even though she knew that the set date hasnt arrived yet, she still insisted on personally accompanying Wang Zhao Xi on this trip. When they arrived at the Tie Villa, Yu Luo Cha then suddenly said, "Though we have come together, yet we have different things to do. I have already made a pact to have a one-on-one duel with Tie Fei Long. You have to stay here and wait until we have determined the winner before you can come out." Therefore even though Wang Zhao Xi was greatly impatient to get inside, yet he had no choice but to pace about outside.

    Wang Zhao Xi waited around outside for a long time, but when he still didnt see Yu Luo Cha come out he immediately thought to himself: Sh*it! Theyre both such competitive and proud fighters, if they cant determine a winner they might end up fighting to the point of a double fatality before theyll call it quits. Since I am here already, I cant just stay on the outside and ignore everything. Thus as soon as he made this decision, he risked the chance of being reprimanded by Yu Luo Cha to stealthily sneak into the villa from the back end, hoping to catch a glimpse of how their fight was progressing.

    At the very same moment that Wang snuck into the Tie Villa, Jin Du Yi was also in the midst of searching the Villa with another first rate fighter. Tie Shan Hu happened to wake up in the middle of the night to discover Jin and immediately shouted loudly for assistance. As a result, she ended up sustaining one of Jins palms. Because Meng Qiu Xias room was connected right to Tie Shan Hus, the instant she heard noises she leaped out her room only to bump right into Wang Zhao Xi. Meng Qiu Xia immediately went over to pick up Tie Shan Hu while Jin Du Yi threw out a small sulfur bomb and then escaped by jumping over the wall.

    The fire ignited by the sulphur bomb was not particularly serious and Tie Fei Long only had to pick up a few cotton blankets to throw over the sources of fire so that in no time at all, the fire was extinguished. Tie Fei Long immediately jumped back down from the rooftops to see Wang Zhao Xi and Meng Qiu Xia on the floor, generating their internal energies into Tie Shan Hu in order to help her circulate her inner Qi. Tie Fei Long was greatly touched when he witnessed this scene. During the past few days, Tie Fei Long has already had a few conversations with Meng, and he was able to discover that contrary to his expectations, Meng Qiu Xia had a very temperate disposition and was not one who would snivel to herself with mortification or insult others with snobbish arrogance. Now watching Meng and Wang cooperate together in reviving his own daughter, he noticed an affectionate expression flowing between their gazes that expressed an endless amount of love. Yet as they were helping his daughter revive from her injuries, it was also evident that their attitude was very serious and their efforts genuine. Tie Fei Long thought to himself: This Meng Qiu Xia has already spanned the millions of miles in search for her husband that alone is already difficult enough of a task. Now upon reuniting with her husband after sustaining repeated difficulties, she doesnt selfishly concern herself with narrating the details of the events that ensued during her separation but would instead concern herself with reviving her "enemy" from her injuries first. Such a girl is indeed a rare find.

    Wang Zhao Xi greeted him as "Old Hero Tie" and was just about to reassure him that Shan Hus injuries were not serious when Tie Fei Long erupted into loud laughter and said, "Though that old bandit Jin may be unruly, yet he still harbours some caution for me within his heart. If he really did have any serious intent to harm Shan Hu, she would have been finished even if she had ten lives." It was only then did Wang Zhao Xi finally realize that the only reason why Tie Fei Long went to put out the fire first was because he knew right away that his daughters injuries were not serious.

    By now, Tie Shan Hu has already started to regain some of the natural red glow in her face, but when Tie Fei Long suddenly shouted in a very severe tone, "Get up!" Tie Shan Hu immediately scrambled up to the sound of his command and murmured, "Papa, what are you angry about this time?" Wang Zhao Xi was also perplexed, for it was already strange enough that her father would not console her after she has just undergone a trauma, but why would he proceed to speak with her in such an angry and severe tone? Tie Fei Long shouted, "I have something to ask you, follow me!" Then dragging his daughter by the hand, they entered into the outer courtyard. Wang Zhao Xia and Meng Qiu Xia followed closely behind and immediately saw Yu Luo Cha standing on top of a large slab of rock with her sword in her hand and a cool sneer on her face. Mu Jiu Niang was sitting on the floor, her pale face was a ghostly white.

    Tie Fei Long then said, "Alright. Listen carefully Yu Luo Cha, I will judge and handle this matter with the utmost impartiality." He then whipped his head around and asked Tie Shan Hu, "Did you steal her sword manual?" Tie Shan Hu replied, "No I didnt!" Yu Luo Cha laughed with a chilling coldness that caused Tie Fei Longs expression to harden as he shouted fiercely, "Shan Hu! You better tell the truth! Ill ask you again: Did you steal her sword manual?" Tie Shan Hu broke down crying and blurted out, "I did have a look at some kind of sword manual, but it wasnt me who stole it!"

    Tie Fie Longs face instantaneously changed into all sorts of awful colours as he asked in a trembling voice, "Then how did you see it?" Tie Shan Hu replied, "Auntie brought it to me!" In that split of second, Mu Jiu Niangs face had already turned into the colour of an ashen grey. Yu Luo Cha was laughing with satisfied merriment while Tie Fei Longs bloodshot eyes seemed ready to spit out fire as the colour of his face turned from green with rage to red with embarrassment. Yu Luo Cha suddenly ceased her laughter and said coldly, "Old Tie, I havent wrongly accuse you now have I?"

    Tie Fei Longs face froze with the iciness of a winter frost as he ignored Yu Luo Chas words and turned towards Tie Shan Hu to say instead, "Tell me everything and dont you dare hold one word back." Tie Shan Hu lifted her sleeve to wipe the tears from her eyes and then said in a low voice, "Two months ago, I was journeying home from the ShaanXi area. One day I was resting by a small diner in the Ji Xian town when I suddenly saw an old Taoist priest whose face was all black and bruised as he sat on the floor, unable to move. The diners owner wanted to drag him outside because he said that the priest seemed to have suddenly contracted some kind of serious illness and was afraid that he was going to die right there in the diner. But when I saw how pitiful he looked, it suddenly triggered my curiosity and so I went forward to have a better look at him. That old priest was really something! He opened his eyes and knew right away that I practiced martial arts. Therefore he said to me, Little girl, did you bring a sword with you? Please, tear apart my upper shirt and use your sword to cut off the rotting flesh located an inch under my shoulder blade and extract a poisonous needle for me! Hurry!" Zhuo Yi Hang could barely croak out the words, "Its Taoist Priest Zhen Qian!"

    Tie Fei Long asked, "Did Priest Zhen Qian know that you were my daughter?" Tie Shan Hu replied, "He didnt know at that time, but when I told him later, he then said to me, I have long heard of your fathers name and understand very well that he is a passionate hero. I would like you to please tell him that I have a sword manual that was relayed to me by someone else. I was to bring this manual to Huo Tian Du of the Heavenly Mountain, but its now been stolen by another person. If I am unable to recover from my injuries and end up dying here, then please ask your father to bring this message to the Heavenly Mountain and ask Huo Tian Du to seek revenge for me." Tie Fei Long has never heard anybody praise him as a "passionate hero," thus when he heard these words his cloudy expression immediately lightened up a bit as he stroked his beard and said, "Taoist Priest Zhen Qian is really some figure."

    Tie Shan Hu continued, "Later, he wrote out a medicinal prescription and told me to go find the herbs on the list for him. I took the prescription and went to the herbal stores in town, trying to gather together the right ingredients. But the stores were all so deficient in stock that they were either missing this ingredient or some other, forcing me to run to quite a few stores before I was able to collect together all the right ingredients. But it was then when I suddenly ran into Auntie in search for me." Tie Fei Long murmured an "mm," and then said, "When we didnt see you return, I sent your Auntie out to look for you." Tie Shan Hu continued, "So I told Auntie about the whole situation and took her to see the old Taoist Priest. But to my surprise, the old priest has suddenly disappeared while two men stood in his place instead. The two guys comprised of an old man and a young guy, and they were searching around for the old priests whereabouts. When they saw Auntie, they quickly bowed with courtesy and asked about the well-being of you, father. Auntie suddenly said, "Old Jin[1], come with me outside."

    Tie Fei Long snorted angrily and then turned towards Mu Jiu Niang to say, "So this masterpiece was done by you and Jin Qian Yan?" Mu Jiu Niang sobbed, "I was only trying to get him to reveal where the stolen goods were." Tie Fei Long then said, "Fine. Shan Hu, continue on." Tie Shan Hu thus continued, "The two guys followed us to a vacant area and then Auntie said to the old man, Old Jin, hand over the sword manual! Initially, the old man kept insisting that he didnt have anything and it was only when he was forced into the corner by Auntie did he finally admit to everything." When Yu Luo Cha heard this, she again emanated a wintry laugh, as her icy and haunting gaze shot onto Tie Fei Longs face.

    Tie Fei Long retorted with anger, "What are you being so impatient for Yu Luo Cha? The sword manual will eventually be returned to you!" He then continued to ask Tie Shan Hu, "So did that Jin Qian Yan finally hand over the sword manual?" Tie Shan Hu replied, "At first he wouldnt, but then Auntie said, "You guys should know what kind of figure Taoist Priest Zhen Qian is. He has friends all over the world and now that you guys have murdered him here, did you really think that you could get away so easily and just take his sword manual back to XinJiang[2]? Arent you afraid that his friends would investigate into this matter? Give me the sword manual now and Ill keep it safe for you. When I finish reading it, Ill return it to you guys. Otherwise, hahaha you should know that to anger Mu Jiu Niang would not be a good idea!" That old Jin laughed and said, "Jiu Niang, then we will follow the rules of the Underground world and share the wealth amongst everyone. I will hand this sword manual over to you first and will come to retrieve it in 2 months. When Auntie had the sword manual in her hands, she then swiftly brought me to a nearby mountain to practice it."

    Tie Fei Long asked, "Why didnt you tell me of this incident earlier?" Tie Shan Hu replied, "Auntie told me not to say anything. As soon as she has practiced a few stances, it was as if she has suddenly discovered a priceless treasure and straightaway said to me, This is the worlds most extraordinary book, if we can practice the sword stances as outlined in this book, we can be unbeatable within the world! She also said, Shan Hu, we will practice this sword skill together in secret, but we must not let your father know. I was thinking: Its not such a bad idea to have more skills, so therefore I promised her in the midst of my ignorance."

    Zhuo Yi Hang blurted out, "Then did the two of you come across Taoist Priest Zhen Qian afterwards?" Tie Shan Hu replied, "We only saw Priest Zhen Qian again on the QingFeng Mountain, but werent you guys there that day as well?" Tie Fei Long grunted again and said, "Taoist Priest Zhen Qian made an arrangement to meet with me on top of that mountain, but when I got there he was nowhere to be found. This was very likely related to the same incident. Wench! Why is it that even now you wont tell me the truth?"

    Mu Jiu Niang didnt dare to respond because ever since she has taken the sword manual, she has always wanted to keep it within her sole possession. When Tie Fei Long once again traveled to the Northern Shaan area to see Wang Jia Yin last month, Jin Qian Yan sent someone to secretly deliver a letter to her which said that they have discovered Zhen Qian hiding on top of the QingFeng Mountain. Coincidently, Tie Fei Long also happened to receive an anonymous letter which asked him to come to the QingFeng Mountain for a meeting and thus Tie Fei Long brought Mu Jiu Niang along with him on the trip. Afterwards, when Tie Shan Hu drew Yu Luo Cha to the mountain and Tie Fei Long ended up battling with her, Mu Jiu Niang was then free to proceed to the back of the mountain to discover Zhen Qian hiding in a cave.

    Now that the truth was finally made clear, Yu Luo Cha said in an icy tone, "Stealing my sword manual is already bad enough, but why did you have to go and murder Taoist Priest Zhen Qian as well?" Tie Fei Long widened his eyes and glared at Mu Jiu Niang, causing her to stammer with panic, "I did discover Zhen Qian inside the stone cave, but by that time he was already on the verge of dying. There was some food beside his body, indicating that there was most likely somebody there to take care of him previously. But by the time I got there, there was only him! His expression indicated to me that he was in great pain and he seemed to be trying to tell me to help him end this torture. So I had no other choice but to follow his orders!" Mu Jiu Niangs words were indeed truthful, but what she didnt admit to was that she also had another agenda on her mind at that time. She was afraid that Zhen Qian would discover that the sword manual was in her possession and was similarly afraid that Tie Fei Long would return to discover everything, therefore hurriedly expedited Zhen Qians death.

    After Tie Fei Long has finished his interrogation, he was greatly infuriated within his heart. But on observing how his precious concubine and daughter were both horrified and shriveled up within themselves, he was incredibly devastated at the same time. Wave after wave of chilling sorrow pierced into his heart so that even his voice was trembling and broken up as he first turned towards his daughter to say, "Fine, then bring out the sword manual and return it to its rightful owner." Tie Shan Hu cried, "It was just stolen by someone else!"

    Tie Fei Long asked, "You mean the old freak Jin?" Tie Shan Hu admitted, "Yes!" Finally, Tie Fei Long understood everything, "Jin Qian Yan just came to see me two days ago. It must be concerning this book." When Yu Luo Cha heard that her sword manual has been stolen again, her whole face changed colour as her temper boiled to such threatening degrees that it was on the brink of exploding again.

    Tie Fei Long said in a clear and loud voice, "Yu Luo Cha! The retrieval of your sword manual will now be my personal responsibility. I swear I will bring your sword manual back to you even if I have to run to the ends of the earth!" Yu Lou Cha replied, "Fine, Ill believe it when I see it[3]," as if trying to say that she doesnt believe his words. Ignoring her remark, Tie Fei Long reached out his hand to lightly sweep across his daughters hair, a gesture he used to make when she was still a little child. When Tie Shan Hu came into contact with her fathers gaze, she couldnt stop a haunting chill from shooting straight into her heart as she cried out, "Papa, what are you doing?"

    Tie Fei Long said slowly, "Shan er, you have turned nineteen this year, am I right?" Tie Shan Hu replied, "Uh-huh. Why?" Tie Fei Long then said, "You are no longer a baby bird. You have now grown your own wings and can venture out to face the world on your own." Tie Shan Hu cried out, "Papa! I want to always remain by your side and be your baby bird!" Tie Fei Longs face suddenly hardened as he pushed her away and shouted in a severe tone, "From now on, you are no longer my daughter! Now get out of my house! But when you go out there, you are not to use my name for your own purposes!"

    Tie Shan Hu was trembling uncontrollably from head to toe, very much desiring to cry out yet was unable to. Tie Fei Long added, "You coveted another sects sword manual and then kept it a secret from your own father. If it wasnt for your deceased mothers sake, I would have taken your little life right away!" Ever since the day she came into this world, Tie Shan Hu has never had to sustain such punishment and furthermore, she was very aware of her fathers temper and knew that he would never take back his words. When she saw Yu Luo Cha look at her with a peculiar expression, she was simultaneously ashamed and angry. Therefore she immediately knelt down on the floor and knocked her head to the ground three times before stating tearfully, "Papa, please take of yourself from now on!" and then ran out the villas front gates without so much as turning her head around for one last look.

    Although Yu Luo Cha was used to killing human lives without so much as batting an eye, yet upon witnessing such a scene, she couldnt help but feel saddened within her heart. When she originally saw Tie Shan Hu shriveled up on the floor, she had already wanted to say something to alleviate Tie Fei Longs anger. Yet in that brief moments time, she was unable to turn around and change the tone of her words. Now that the father and daughter have had this falling out, it has already become too late for her to attempt in consoling either person.

    After Tie Fei Long finished kicking his daughter out, he had to calm himself down briefly before he was able to turn to Mu Jiu Niang and shout, "Wench! Get over here!" Mu Jiu Niang suddenly thrashed her hair about and shrieked with wild laughter before screaming loudly, "Cmon you old bag of bones! Ive wanted to die for a long time now so just kill me and get it over with!" Tie Fei Long shouted, "You have stolen another persons sword manual and ruined my name. Such is a crime that can be rightfully justified with the punishment of death! What else do you have to say for yourself?"

    Mu Jiu Niang laughed with crazed madness and screamed, "Years ago I had no choice but to marry you when my father suddenly died in a foreign hometown, leaving me without any money to conduct his burial ceremonies. But after I married you, I was not given the title nor treated with the respect of an official wife. Just because I put on a fake smile whenever I see you, did you really think that I would truly like you? Im looking forward to dying now because Ive wanted to be freed from these living conditions for a long time!"

    Mu Jiu Niang has followed by her fathers side ever since she was a very young girl, and even though they had to go from town to town performing tricks and stunts for money, yet their lifestyle was actually quite free and unrestricted. When her father died, she was left with no other choice but to marry a much older Tie Fei Long whose white hair marked a stark contrast against her youthful face and caused them to comprise a most unattractive couple. But what made her feel even more depressed was the strictness of Tie Fei Longs eccentric character that rarely left her with the chance to experience any moments of true happiness. Had it not been out of fear for Tie Fei Longs deadliness, she would have escaped a long time ago, and the reason why she would actually dare to steal anothers sects sword manual to begin with was because she wanted to secretly succeed in the sword skill so that Tie Fei Long could no longer prevent her from leaving.

    At that moment, Tie Fei Long was almost paralyzed with shock. Mu Jiu Niang delivering such a speech to him was a scene he would not have conjured up even in his wildest dreams. But when he looked at her beautiful face blooming in all its loveliness and then thought to the snowy beard that filled his own face, he realized that he truly couldnt blame her for feeling this way. The palm that was already raised above Mu Jiu Niangs head immediately froze in mid air and he suddenly found that he couldnt bring himself to smash it down on her skull. Yu Luo Cha immediately leaped forward and gently pulled Tie Fei Longs hand away from Mu Jiu Niang.

    With a long sigh, Tie Fie Long then said with a sweep of his hands, "Go then! Dont ever come back to see me again!" Mu Jiu Niangs laughter suddenly ceased and then she also knelt down to knock her head on the floor three times before saying, "Master, please take care of yourself from now on!" Then like Tie Shan Hu, she also ran out of the front gates without so much as turning her head around for one last look.

    Tie Fie Longs face was contorted with anguish and torment while his heart was wringed by wretchedness and despondency. He suddenly felt that he truly was an old man. Crumbled on top of the fake mountain, he felt as if he has just undergone a huge illness. With a sigh he said, "Alright, we should all be going as well."

    The early morning of next day, Zhuo Yi Hang was the first to express his intentions of departing. Yu Luo Cha said to him, "I hope that you will arrive safely at the capital." Zhuo Yi Hang replied, "I also hope that you will be able to retrieve your sword manual."

    Wang Zhao Xi and Meng Qiu Xia both came forward as well to express their farewells to Tie Fei Long. Tie Fei Long said to them, "Sonny, please give my sincere apologies to your father when you return home. I was much too impertinent in the past." Wang Zhao Xi replied, "I dare not" and after a short pause, Tie Fei Long continued with a sad smile, "This Miss Meng is really a much more superior girl than Shan Hu. Now that the two of you have sustained such a crisis together, Im sure that you will most definitely be able to spend the rest of your lives in happiness and will have to undergo no further separations." Wang Zhao Xi suddenly felt greatly relieved for he knew that from now on, this old man will never bug him again. Yet though he was filled with joyful happiness, he was simultaneously struck with compassionate pity. He was feeling joyful because he knew that Meng Qiu Xia really did love him, yet he was also feeling pity because this old man standing in front of him was simply too sad and lonely.

    Wang Zhao Xi then said, "We will be accompanying brother Zhuo for a short distance." Tie Fei Long then inquired, "What about you Yu Luo Cha? Arent you leaving as well?" Yu Luo Cha smiled and said, "I cant just let you go by yourself to retrieve my sword manual." Tie Fei Long angrily snapped, "Since I have made you a promise, then this has become my own business. Did you think that I wont be able to bring back your manual by myself?"

    Yu Luo Cha was secretly amused by the extreme pride of this old man but said instead, "Since old hero Tie you have promised to personally take action, I am of course completely reassured. But Im afraid that you might be a bit lonely if I left you to travel such long distances by yourself. Dont you think its a better idea for me to accompany you and relieve you of your boredom?"

    Tie Fei Long became quite joyful when he suddenly heard Yu Luo Cha praise him with such respect, but the latter part of her speech induced an even more powerful and soothing effect on him for those words were spoken with a tender affection comparable to that of which a daughter would use with her father. Though Tie Fei Long was indeed competitive and arrogant, yet he truly did admire straightforward people who possessed a bold personality and true abilities. Having gone through two intense battles with Yu Luo Cha, they have unexpectedly transformed from enemies into friends, both respecting and admiring the other person.

    Tie Fei Long chortled with laughter and remarked, "Its too bad youre not my daughter!" to which Yu Luo Cha replied, "Then I will be your daughter!" and then immediately knelt down to bow with joyful respect while saying with genuine tenderness, "Father[4]." Tie Fei Long hurriedly helped her to her feet and said, "How can I be worthy of such an honour?" Yu Luo Cha smiled and asked, "Are you unwilling to take me as your daughter because I once insulted you and then hit out at you? Let me tell you, if you want to vent out your anger, then I think it would be best for you to be my father. Think about it, when you become my father, only you will be allowed to hit and yell at me while I wont be able to hit or yell at you!"

    Tie Fei Long was so amused by her words that he roared out into joyful laughter and said, "Since that is the case, if I dont accept you as my daughter, then it would make me look even more petty and immature! Too bad I dont have any valuable presents to give you. Since your martial arts are already better than mine, theres really not much I can give you. But in terms of inner energy cultivation, I can still be said to have a relatively acceptable grasp. Why dont I share my understanding of it with you in the future and then we can both study it together." The reason why Yu Luo Cha was willing to call Tie Fei Long father was because firstly, she liked how his character was similar to her own and secondly, she pitied how desolate and lonely he was. She never wished to learn his martial arts and therefore never expected him to relate to her the essence and practice methods of the internal energy cultivation that he has gathered over the last twenty, thirty years. Since to refuse such a heartfelt offer would simply be too disrespectful, she could therefore only express her gratitude without any further hesitation.

    Thus Tie Fei Long, now accompanied by Yu Luo Cha saw Wang, Zhuo and Meng outside the villas gates. Yu Luo Cha entreated Wang Zhao Xi to take care of the matters related to her mountain fortress for her, while also specifically beseeching Meng Qiu Xia to take her female troops under her command for the time being. Meng Qiu Xia also agreed to her request. Yu Luo Cha then had to once again bid her farewells to Zhuo Yi Hang, but her unwillingness to separate from him this time was even stronger than before.

    By the time they finished seeing their guests out, it was already noon hour. Tie Fei Long and Yu Luo Cha were retreating back to the house for a rest when Tie Fei Longs eyebrows suddenly knitted together as he remarked, "That Zhuo Yi Hang has such a snobby upper class attitude, I really dont understand why you would be on such friendly terms with him." Yu Luo Cha just laughed and did not answer, but at that very moment, a servant suddenly ran into the room, bringing with him a black visitation box[5].

    When Tie Fei Long saw the black visitation box, his face immediately clouded over while Yu Luo Cha also remarked, "Why would this person be so disrespectful?" For it should be understood that the typical visitation box that carries within it social calling cards are usually outlined with gold or made of red wood in order to express the callers joyful blessings. Black visitation boxes are rarely ever seen or heard of. Tie Fei Long said, "Lets read the card first before we say any more." Thus he opened up the box and took out the calling card to discover that written on the card were the words, "Wu Tangs Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf and Taoist Priest Red Cloud brings forth their disciples, humbling asking for the honour of being received into your esteemed abode."

    Tie Fei Long remarked with surprise, "Why would the Wu Tang 5 elders travel the millions of miles to come here and visit me? They have always declared themselves as the orthodox centrality of the martial arts world and then labeled me into the category of the demonic and villainous, why would they suddenly come calling upon my house with such courtesy and respect?" He thus hurriedly sent orders to invite them inside.

    Amongst the 5 elders of Wu Tang, Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf ranked second and was followed by Red Cloud who was third in ranking. In terms of their respected status and exalted eminence, they were only below that of Taoist Priest Purple Sun. Tie Fei Long has once exchanged palms in the past with the fourth ranked elder Taoist Priest White Stone and in the end won over him by one stance. He knew that in both Yellow Leaf and Red Clouds hearts, they felt that the combat results were unjustified and unmerited. Thus when he saw their calling card, he immediately became suspicious for he did not know whether they harboured good or bad intentions behind their visit. He thus awaited their arrival with quite a serious and anxious expression whilst Yu Luo Cha just stood by one side and issued a soft chuckle every once in a while.

    After just a short while, the doors opened as Yellow Leaf and Red Cloud were seen to ascend the stairs and enter into the room walking shoulder to shoulder. Tie Fei Long promptly brought his hands together to greet them while saying, "It has been ten years since our last encounter, yet the health and well-being of two respected priests are still as before. How is Taoist Priest Purple Sun?" Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf said remorsefully, "My honoured martial arts brother has left the mortal world last month to ascend into heaven and join the pantheon of deities."

    This piece of news made Tie Fei Long incredibly upset for even though the relationship between Tie and the other four elders was infused with cracks which allowed the feelings of resentment and dislike to seep in, yet towards Taoist Priest Purple Sun, Tie truly held only the highest regard and esteem. Only now did Tie Fei Long understand the reason to why Yellow Leaf and Red Cloud would use the colour black on their visitation box. Unable to stop his tears from welling up, Tie Fei Long sighed and said, "Such an unexpected tragedy. From now on, the martial arts world will know of no other elder whose actions and distinction can give others cause for true respect and esteem." Though these words were obviously Ties way of exalting Taoist Priest Purple Sun, yet when Yellow Leaf and Red Cloud heard these words, they couldnt help but feel traces of disgruntlement and unease.

    Tie Fei Long turned to face the South and then bowed three times to express his last respects before suddenly thinking to himself: the Wu Tang sect is the current martial art worlds big dipper. Now that their sect leader has died, they must be most chiefly concerned with establishing another successor, not to mention there must also be a great deal of ceremonial rites that needs to be prepared and completed. Why would Yellow Leaf and Red Cloud find time to come here? Can it be that theyre trying to clear away all the scores of their sects past vengeances and thus came here to settle the score with me? But after thinking over it more carefully, he realized that such a conjecture did not make any sense and therefore couldnt help but ask, "May I ask why honoured priests have called upon my house today?" Yellow Leaf looked around the room and then said coldly, "We would like to inquire about two matters. The first concerns our sects disciple Zhuo Yi Hang. Is he currently residing in your honoured villa?" Yu Luo Cha interrupted right away, "Why are you guys looking for Zhuo Yi Hang? Are you trying to hasten him home for the funeral?"

    Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf glowered at Yu Luo Cha, but because he knew that Tie Fei Long had a daughter named Tie Shan Hu who was very unruly and ill-behaved, he therefore thought that Yu Luo Cha must be Ties daughter and secretly snickered at the bad manners of the Tie family. He thus continued, "The last orders of our sect leader Purple Sun states that Zhuo Yi Hang was to be established as our new sect leader[6]. We have purposely come to bring him back to the mountain."

    As soon as Yu Luo Cha heard these words, her heart was immediately filled with elation. But within her joy, there also surfaced uneasiness. She was happy for Zhuo Yi Hang when she found out that he was to be established as the leader of a sect at such a young age and would just be a step away from ascending into the exalted position of the martial art worlds leader. But she was similarly worried because she has had some past issues with the Wu Tang sect, and now that Zhuo has become their sect leader, she was afraid that it would be harder for them to get closer in the future.

    Upon observing the haughtiness in Yellow Leafs expression, Tie Fei Long replied coolly, "Then the two of you have arrived at precisely the wrong moment. Zhuo Yi Hang has just left." Tie had originally expected Yellow Leaf to swiftly express his farewells and run after Zhuo when he heard these words, but Yellow Leaf was surprisingly calm and nonchalant as he remarked, "Really? Then we will wait for him here" before he proceed to sit down. At first, Tie Fei Long was greatly baffled by this response, but he quickly understood the reason after analyzing over the situation briefly.

    The calling card read "Wu Tangs Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf and Taoist Priest Red Cloud brings forth their disciples, humbling asking for the honour of being received into your esteemed abode," yet in front of them stood only Yellow Leaf and Red Cloud, which means that the other Wu Tang disciples should also be arriving promptly. To receive a sects leader was an extremely important and serious matter, but since these two people were Zhuos martial art uncles, they will therefore be assisting him in the future. Thus it could be deduced that they have come here today with the purpose of relating the final words of Zhuos ShiFu to him and were not here to personally comply with him. Because of this reason, the martial art brothers of Zhuos lineage will therefore have to arrive shortly in order to perform the proper rites and customs of recognition to a sect leader. Thinking to these rules of the martial arts world, Tie Fei Long secretly laughed at his own thoughtlessness. Since the Wu Tang disciples will be arriving soon, they will likely come across Zhuo Yi Hang and intercept him. No wonder these two old Taoist Priests would be sitting here in wait.

    But Tie Fei Long still had some queries that were left unanswered and therefore he brought his hands together with respect and asked, "May I inquire about how honoured Taoist Priests managed to procure such rapid information so as to discover that Zhuo Yi Hang was at my humble abode?" Yellow Leaf did not respond, but just sat there with the same haughty nonchalance. Then he suddenly stated, "There is still a second matter which I would like to inquire about."

    Tie Fei Long was quite crossed as he declared loudly, "Please continue." Yellow Leaf thus said, "How did Taoist Priest Zhen Qian die?" Tie Fei Long jumped up and blurted out, "Humph! So you were the one who wrote the anonymous letter?" Yellow Leaf replied, "Yes." Tie Fei Long laughed coolly and said, "Since that is the case, then you were unable to keep our engagement" to which Yellow Leaf said in reply, "Now is not too late."

    Yellow Leaf and Red Clouds side of the story began with them setting out to receive Zhuo Yi Hang with six other second generation disciples. To do so, they must first arrive at the Zhuo familys mansion located in the Shaan Xi area, but little did they expect that as soon as they arrived in Shaan Xi, they would accidentally stumble across the secret codes left behind by Taoist Priest Zhen Qian at the diner. The symbols communicated to them that Zhen Qian has undergone a furtive attack and was now hiding on the QingFeng Mountain, trying to recover from his injuries.

    There were Wu Tang disciples situated all the country and furthermore, a Wu Tang disciple residing in the local area happened to come up to Yellow Leaf and report to him that they have discovered the traces of Tie Fei Long who was currently residing in another inn within the same small town. Since Taoist Priest Zhen Qian was close acquaintances with the Wu Tang 5 elders, Yellow Leaf therefore quickly hastened to the mountain. But by that time he got there, Zhen Qian was already unable to speak. When Yellow Leaf asked him to explain his encounter, he could only use his finger to write on the ground: "Ask Tie Fei Long." Zhen Qian told Yellow Leaf to go ask Tie Fei Long because he has already related his whole story to Tie Shan Hu and therefore naturally conjectured that she must have told everything to her father as well. But instead, Yellow Leaf misinterpreted Zhen Qians intentions and ended up believing that Zhen Qian was murdered under the hands of Tie Fei Long.

    When Yellow Leaf first examined the seriousness of Zhen Qians injuries, he already knew that it was no longer possible for Zhen Qian to recover and therefore ran back to the inn in a rampage and unhesitatingly sent out an anonymous letter to the inn that Tie Fei Long was residing in. Yellow Leaf requested Tie to meet him at the QingFeng Mountain so that he may list out his crimes and take revenge for Zhen Qian in front of his corpse. The reason why Yellow Leaf sent out the letter anonymously was because he was taking into account of the possibility that Tie Fei Long would be scared away by the fame of the Wu Tang 5 Elders.

    Yellow Leaf was originally intending to attend the meeting, but as soon as he sent out the anonymous letter, the local disciple rushed in unexpectedly to report that the front doors of the Zhuo mansion were for some unknown reason padlocked. He also reported that the servants of the mansion were also seen to leave the mansion intermittently, each one of them carrying luggage within their hands, clearly indicating that some kind of sudden change or urgent crisis had taken place. Yellow Leaf thought over the situation carefully and felt that Taoist Priest Zhen Qians case was a matter which could still be taken care of later, but to bring Zhuo back to Wu Tang was the most important matter to take care of at present. Therefore after assessing the situation and weighing the consequences, Yellow Leaf had no choice but to miss this engagement.

    By the time that Yellow Leaf arrived at the Zhuo mansion, Zhuo Yi Hang was already taken to the Yan An City, and by the time Yellow Leaf made it to Yan An, Zhuo Yi Hang was already rescued. Through the repeated process of searching and pursuing, they later discovered that Zhuo Yi Hangs imprisonment was related to Wang Zhao Xi. Therefore the Wu Tang sect went over to WaYaBao to see Wang Jia Yin. But Wang Jia Yin himself wasnt sure about the history between his son and Zhuo Yi Hang, therefore could only tell them that his son has just traveled to Shan Xis LongMen County to call upon Tie Fei Long.

    Due to the fact that Wang Jia Yin and the Wu Tang 5 Elders were not close acquaintances and also because the Wu Tang sect has always looked down upon the people of the Underground world, Wang Jia Yin therefore did not explain the situation to them in detail. And of course, he definitely would not mention Yu Luo Chas pact to duel with Tie Fei Long and Wang Zhao Xis intentions of rescuing his fianc" But judging from the signs in front of him, Yellow Leaf concluded that to find Zhuo Yi Hang, they must first find Wang Zhao Xi, and since Wang Zhao Xi was at the Tie Villa, then they might as well find Zhuo and seek revenge for Zhen Qian at the same time.

    Therefore, Yellow Leaf and Red Cloud immediately chased to the Tie Villa to blatantly confront Tei Fei Long about Taoist Priest Zhen Qians death. As soon as Tie Fei Long heard these words, he could no longer hold back his rage as he sneered and said coldly, "Then I take it that elder priests have come here today to accuse me with the crime of Taoist Priest Zhen Qians murder?" Yellow Leaf did not bother to conceal his true intentions, but just answered with stark honesty, "Indeed."

    As soon as these words were spoken, it was as if someone had just poured oil upon fire, for Tie Fei Long immediately surged forward with wild force and swept down on Yellow Leaf with a strike of his palm while he roared, "Yellow Leaf, what kind of person do you think I am?" Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf intercepted with a strike and said coldly, "You are fully aware of what you have done. Why come and ask me?" With a snarl, Tie Fei Long executed the "White Ape Opens Road"and then brought his two palms together before suddenly extending them out towards the left and right sides, simultaneously slashing towards Yellow Leafs two shoulders. Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf immediately flipped his body over and had to consecutively execute the two stances "Three Rings Covering the Moon"and "Wind Sweeps Across Drooping Willow"before he was able to dismantle Tie Fei Longs stances. Tie Fei Long snickered and said, "I know that after Taoist Priest Purple Sun dies, the rest of you who are petty and restricted in breadth of heart will definitely not to be willing to leave me alone. Haha! Since you guys are so indignant, then come on! Well have another battle!"

    Barely concealing the sarcasm and ridicule behind his tone, Tie Fei Long was basically saying: I once defeated one of the Wu Tang 5 Elders, and though Taoist Priest Purple Sun who was forgiving and magnanimous does not take it to heart, yet the rest of you who are trivial and narrow-minded will of course try to find any little excuse just to seek your revenge.

    In truth, though Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf was indeed indignant about their defeat that occurred years ago, yet he would never be as bitter and resentful as Taoist Priest White Stone was. But now hearing Tie Fei Longs words, he couldnt help but feel anger erupt from the bottom of his heart as he rushed forward and took the disadvantaged position to strike up a stance and shout, "Old bandit! Come on! Did you think I was afraid of you? Taoist Priest Zhen Qian is waiting for you in the hellish underworld! If you have any last words or wishes, you better say them now while you still have the chance!"

    Tie Fei Long exploded with rage as he bellowed, "Ill make you choke on those words first! Take this!" Tie then jumped from the "Gen" position to the "Li"[7] house and with a "Bronze Pipa Hands", the back of his hand swept, slapping towards Yellow Leafs face with the speed of lightning. With a flit of his body, Yellow Leaf extended his palms to slash across Tie Fei Longs right arm while his two fingers snuck towards Ties acupoint, causing Tie to suddenly retract his palm. Taoist Priest Yellow Leafs body shot upwards while his right fist charged forward and then suddenly transformed into the "Hammer[8] striking beneath elbow" stance. He then brought his fist forward to impact upon Ties palm, forcing both parties to retreat three steps.

    As soon as Tie Fei Long stepped back, he surged forward again right away to thunder, "Taoist Priest Zhen Qian was murdered under the hands of a malicious villain, but what does that have to do with me? Youre pushing all the blame onto me for no reason! If you dont apologize to me right now, dont you even think about getting out of these doors alive!" Tie Fei Longs fiery temper exploded earlier when their conversation turned into an ugly argument, pushing him to immediately deliver a strike with his fists and resulting in an exchange of a few stances. But then he realized: combating palms is one matter, but Zhen Qians death concerns a completely different matter. I have to first get things straight. Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf was similarly taken back as he asked, "Are you telling the truth?" Tie Fei Long snapped with anger, "You dare to doubt my words? Stinking Taoist Priest, I can seek revenge for Zhen Qian, but I will still duel palms here with you today!" With a flit of his body, he jumped from the "Li" position into the "Kan" position, and through the power of wind and force of thunder planted within his palms, two strikes instantaneously ripped towards Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf with a loud whoosh.

    When Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf saw how forceful Ties approaching attack was, he swiftly transformed his left fist into a palm and rounded inwards towards the center. Then with a twist and a wring of his right arm, he used the stances from the "Crane Arm Technique" to disband the force of Ties attack. Though Tie Fei Longs palm strikes had the ability to alternate between both hard and soft attacks, yet his right arm was already confined by Yellow Leaf, forcing Tie Fei Long to take advantage of the pulling momentum and strike out with his left fist. With a "Charging Fist," Ties confined right arm charged upwards and struck towards Yellow Leafs "Tai Yang acupoint" while still being locked in the band created by Yellow Leafs arm.

    Amongst the 5 Elders of Wu Tang, the martial arts of Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf were behind only that of his elder martial arts brother, the sect leader Purple Sun. With a turn of his shoulder, a loud blast sounded as Yellow Leaf forcefully intercepted Tie Fei Longs fist. Then with a hook of his left arm, he immediately snagged onto Tie Fei Longs wrist and with the speed of lightning, bent his arm down towards the bottom in one twisting motion. Tie Fei Longs punch struck Yellow Leaf so hard that sparks flew and stars danced in front of his eyes, but having had his arm snapped by Yellow Leaf, Tie Fei Long was also in unbearable and excruciating pain. He hurriedly generated the internal energies within his left palm, pushing it forward while Yellow Leaf brought out his right palm to intercept it forcibly. Although Yellow Leaf was shocked so hard by this contact that he almost toppled over, yet his right hand remained in its place and it was refusing to let go.

    The battle was now caught in a deadlock for the martial art proficiency of both fighters has already reached the levels akin to the purest part of a burning blue flame. Sweat started to drip down from the foreheads of the two opponents and Yellow Leaf whose face was the colour of mouldy dust was furthermore wheezing loudly like a cow. Tie Fei Long has generated all his internal energies to withstand him, but the bones of his wrist were snapped so hard that he felt as if it was going to burst apart with pain. Although both men were now secretly regretting their moves, yet to retract their energies at this point was already a very complicated matter.

    Taoist Priest Red Cloud immediately began to act out when he saw how dangerous the combat situation was, but just when he was about take action, a beautiful sight suddenly lighted up in front of his eyes. Yu Luo Chas white dress fluttered by and before Red Cloud could even register what was happening, she has already blazed ahead of him with a blinding speed. Then with an extension of her two arms, she simultaneously grasped towards the underarm area of both fighters, causing them both to experience an extreme itchiness. As a consequence, they both unconsciously receded the generation of their internal energies, thus allowing Yu Luo Cha to pull them apart with just a light tug.

    This caused Yellow Leaf and Red Cloud to be equally taken back while Yu Luo Cha just pursed her lips into a smile and said, "Both elderly Priests are already of such an old age, but why would you still be as ignorant as I am?" Yellow Leaf was in the midst of circulating his internal energies in order to slow his rapid breathing and bring his vital functions back to normal circulation, but when he heard her words, he couldnt help but ask with surprise, "What did you say?" Yu Luo Cha replied, "At first, I also thought that Taoist Priest Zhen Qian was murdered by old hero Tie, and like you guys, I also blindly struck up a battle without first getting everything straight. But now that I think back to it, I really have to laugh at my foolishness." Yellow Leaf asked with astonishment, "Then, youre not his daughter?" Yu Luo Cha smiled and replied, "Who said that I wasnt?" Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf angrily scowled, "Humph! What kind of joke are you playing on me?"

    In the midst of this conversation, sounds of footsteps were suddenly heard to approach from outside the room. Red Cloud swiftly leaped down the stone steps and then shouted back up to them in a loud voice, "Zhuo Yi Hang has returned!"

    Feeling quite desolate and depressed after he has departed from Yu Luo Cha, Zhuo Yi Hang lagged behind on his horse and trotted behind Wang Zhao Xi and Meng Qiu Xia. Watching them together, riding saddle by saddle, Zhuo unconsciously thought to Yu Luo Cha and was overwhelmed by all sorts of emotions. He found that the more he thought about her, the more disconcerted and confused he became. Suddenly, a few horses were seen to gallop towards their direction with rapid speed and there was also someone who was shouting loudly, "Brother Zhuo!" Wang Zhao Xi pulled on his reins and the approaching crowd also descended their horses. The person leading the crowd was the eldest disciple within Wu Tang's second generation, Yu Xin Cheng. Behind him were five other people, one of them being Geng Shao Nan!

    Zhuo Yi Hang introduced his sect members to Wang Zhao Xi, but Geng Shao Nan who has met him previously became quite embarrassed having been reminded of their past encounter. Zhuo Yi Hang asked, "What has brought my honoured brothers here today?" Yu Xin Cheng inquired back, "Have you not seen our second and third martial arts uncles yet?" Zhuo Yi Hang remarked with surprised, "Why would the two elders come here as well?" Yu Xin Cheng tearfully cried, "During the ninth of last month, our ShiFu has passed away to ascend into the heavens!" Upon suddenly receiving this news, Zhuo Yi Hang immediately wailed "wa" and burst out into tears, nearly falling to the floor. Taoist Priest Purple Sun spent twelve arduous years educating and enriching Zhuo Yi Hang who loved him like a father, but now that they've been separated forever, he could no longer repay his ShiFu for the kind beneficence he has shown him all these years.

    Yu Xin Cheng hurriedly held up Zhuo Yi Hang while consoling him in a soft voice, "Brother, please take care of yourself and try not to be overly saddened. Now that ShiFu has passed away, the responsibility of our Wu Tang sect will be lying on your shoulders from now on." Zhuo Yi Hang wiped away his tears and asked, "What do you mean?" Yu Xin Cheng replied, "ShiFu's last orders were to have you succeed him as the sect leader!"

    Zhuo Yi Hang was greatly taken back as he asked in a trembling voice, "But there are still four other respected martial art uncles above me and below them are still my numerous martial art brothers. Why would I be chosen as the sect leader?" Yu Xin Cheng replied, "Brother, not only are you are skilled in both your martial and literary arts but you are also knowledgeable, resourceful, young and dynamic. The mission of glorifying our sect will now depend on you! Every single person in our sect respects and concurs with ShiFu's last wishes. We are all rejoicing over his last decision." After he finished these words, he immediately conducted the rites of obeisance towards a sect's leader. Geng Shan Nan and the other four sect members also came forward to perform obeisance.

    Zhuo Yi Hang hurriedly returned the act of courtesy and said, "Brothers, how can I be deserving of such high regard? I am simply too unworthy, so please, let us not mention these matters of succession for the time being. We can discuss such matters in greater detail later when we return to the Wu Tang Mountain." Yu Xin Cheng said, "Brother, please do not be indecisive about such matters." Geng Shan Nan also added, "Elder brother, please come with us to see second and third uncle first." Zhuo Yi Hang asked, "Are the two elders here as well?" Yu Xin Cheng replied, "They are waiting at the Tie Villa up ahead." Geng Shan Nan said, "We have put in a lot of effort and spent a great deal of time before we were able to find you here." Zhuo Yi Hang said with tears, "I have put my honoured brothers and uncles through too much trouble. You have all travelled such long distances and endured such difficult toils. I feel awful to have been the cause of all this, but in regards to the high expectations my ShiFu and honoured sect members hold for me, I'm afraid that I will end up disappointing everyone."

    With tears, Zhuo Yi Hang departed from Wang Zhao Xi and then turned his horse around to begin his return journey when Geng Shao Nan suddenly asked, "Elder brother Zhuo, why would you be travelling on the same paths as that little scoundrel?" Zhuo Yi Hang asked, "What do you mean?" Geng Shan Nan said, "He is the son of Wang Jia Yin, the bandit lord of the Northern Shaan area!" Zhuo Yi Hang answered back, "I am already aware of this fact."

    Yu Xin Cheng was the eldest in rank amongst the second generation disciples, but because he was of extremely average talent, he was therefore truly satisfied and in support of Zhuo Yi Hang being established as their sect leader. However, he was also very firm and rigid about adhering to the rules of their sect; therefore upon hearing these words, he jumped back in alarm and quickly asked Geng Shan Nan, "Is that the same youngster who accompanied you on your trip last year?" All the sect members know of Geng Shao Nan's incident because after Geng was ridiculed, he immediately hastened back to the mountain to wail about his injustice. Geng Shao Nan affirmed, "Yes" and Yu Xin Cheng's face instantaneously underwent a change of colour as he said to Zhuo Yi Hang with a serious manner and a sombre tone, "Brother Zhuo, you are now our sect's leader. From now on, whatever you do, you must take extra caution to set a good example for the rest of our sect."

    Zhuo Yi Hang wiped his tears and replied, "Elder brother, thank you kindly for your constructive words, I will most definitely take them to heart. But amongst the underground world, there are still a good number of heroic and valiant figures. As long as we don't become bandits, then even if we happen to associate with them on a casual basis, that still wouldn't be considered as violating our sect's rules." Yu Xin Cheng said, "That is true, but they say that this Wang Zhao Xi was connected together with Yu Luo Cha! I'm sure brother you are aware of how Yu Luo Cha burglarized your grandfather's possessions." Zhuo Yi Hang's face flushed red and he could only mumble, "My grandpa did not hold her in blame."

    When Geng Shan Nan heard these words, he became quite displeased as he asked, "Have you seen Yu Luo Cha yet Brother Zhuo?" Zhuo Yi Hang nodded his head and then suddenly said, "I am feeling very upset and bewildered right now. There are still many matters which I would like to tell my honoured brothers about in the future. Brother Geng, I am infinitely grateful towards you for accompanying my grandfather on his trip for me last year," and as soon as he finished these words, he then proceeded to strike a low bow as his gesture of appreciation. Geng Shan Nan hurriedly returned a bow in respect and muttered with a red face, "Your incompetent brother I was unable to properly complete my duties and fulfil my promise to you. Even if brother you don't blame me, your unworthy brother I am still much ashamed." Yu Xin Cheng interrupted, "Let's not mention these matters anymore. Brother Zhuo is our sect's most promising talent and now he has become our sect leader. Is there still any doubt that he will be able to settle this score for you in the future?"

    Zhuo Yi Hang directed his horse forward, but his troubled heart was in a state of turmoil as his horse slowly trotted forward. The fact that his sect members would regard Yu Luo Cha as their enemy was already something that he had anticipated, but he really didn't expect that their attitude towards her could actually turn out to be so hostile. Now that Yu Luo Cha was at the Tie Villa, they will all be coming face to face with each other very soon!

    Zhuo Yi Hang's heart palpitated wildly when Yu Xin Cheng suddenly said, "Brother, let's usher our horses to pick up their speed." In a muddled daze, Zhuo relaxed his hold on the reins and before he knew it, they have already arrived at the Tie Villa. But the moment they stepped foot inside the Villa, they were greeted with the sound of Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf shouting. Yu Xin Cheng was incredibly shaken and thus without even waiting for the servants to relay the message of their arrival, he has already commanded all his sect members to charge inside.

    Back to Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf who was just in the process of interrogating Yu Luo Cha when he suddenly saw Yu Xin Cheng's group accompany Zhuo Yi Hang inside. He hurriedly came forward to receive them and Zhuo immediately knelt down with a mournful wail. Yellow Leaf helped him up and then repeated Taoist Priest Purple Sun's last words to him. But Zhuo Yi Hang insisted, "Your worthless disciple is much too incompetent and unworthy to merit the bestowment of such an important responsibility. I beseech uncle to please gather together all the Wu Tang disciples by recalling them back to the mountain and then re-establish a more suitable person as the sect leader." Since Yellow Leaf felt that it was inappropriate to discuss such matters within the Tie Villa, he thus said, "That is a good suggestion. Let me finish this business with old Tie first and then we can all return to the mountain."

    Tie Fei Long was already quite displeased when he watched the Wu Tang sect overstep the boundaries of a guest and take over their host's house as if it was their own, but luckily Taoist Priest Purple Sun happened to be the person he most admired and respected, otherwise his temper would have exploded a long time ago. The moment Yellow Leaf and Zhuo Yi Hang finished their conversation, he immediately jumped forward to state loudly, "Yellow Leaf, your own sect leader is here right now. You can ask him yourself who the true culprit behind Taoist Priest Zhen Qian's murder was." Zhuo Yi Hang discerned through Tie's words and expression that there must be some kind of misunderstanding between him and his martial arts uncle over Taoist Priest Zhen Qian's death, therefore he immediately reported to his uncle, "Taoist Priest Zhen Qian was murdered by the practitioner of the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds, Jin Du Yi's disciple. Old hero Tie was just about to travel to the Western frontiers in order to seek him out for revenge."

    Since Zhuo Yi Hang has personally confirmed Tie's words, Yellow Leaf had no other choice but to believe Tie's claim and as a result, blushed deeply while hurriedly bringing together his fists and bowing to Tie Fei Long to say, "Please excuse my irrational behaviour and accept my sincere apologies. When are you planning to leave senior Tie? I will most definitely send disciples to accompany you along your journey in order that they may assist you."

    Tie Fei Long snickered coldly and said, "There's no need. I have only one thing to ask of you. When you arrive in front of the Taoist Priest Purple Sun's tomb, please tell him that Tie Fei Long not only has an important matter to take care of, but also due to the incompatibility between our respective sects, he would not be able to arrive in person to give his last respects. I can only continue to offer my worship and veneration from afar, but I sincerely hope that I can have his understanding and forgiveness." Yellow Leaf knew that Tie Fei Long was still angry at heart, yet he also did not know what he could do in order to mitigate his bitterness. He therefore could only bring his fists together to say, "Senior Tie, such words are much too serious."

    Zhuo Yi Hang was standing by one side during the whole conversation (for although his ShiFu did establish him as the sect leader, yet he did not dare to take on the central position of a sect leader) but when he looked over to his side, Zhuo discovered that Geng Shao Nan was standing beside his martial arts uncle Red Cloud and furthermore, the faint traces of Geng's soft whispering could vaguely be heard. Geng appeared to be reporting something to Red Cloud and since Zhuo knew that Geng Shao Nan was Red Cloud's favoured and esteemed disciple, a thought immediately flashed across his head causing him to secretly cry with alarm. Geng Shao Nan must be asking his ShiFu to seek revenge for him!

    Zhuo Yi Hang quickly glanced towards Yu Luo Cha who was sitting behind Tie Fei Long, her animated eyes wandering nonchalantly around the room as if oblivious to what was happening around her. When her magnetic eyes happened to gaze directly into his own eyes, Zhuo Yi Hang hurriedly lowered his head while his heart palpitated so wildly that its hammering beat suddenly became audible.

    After Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf expressed his apologies to Tie Fei Long, there was already nothing else left for him to say and therefore Yu Xin Cheng along with the rest of the disciples all got up and prepared to depart. Yellow Leaf forced out an awkward laugh and said, "Please do excuse us senior Tie, we will be departing now." But before he could even finish his words, Taoist Priest Red Cloud has already jumped out to shout loudly, "Hold on brother!"

    Startled, Yellow Leaf turned back around only to see Red Cloud point to the young girl standing behind Tie Fei Long and declare loudly, "We have been so very impressed by this heroine here that this menial Taoist priest has long hoped for the opportunity to learn a few things from her. Who would have thought that I would come across this chance today?" Yellow Leaf froze with alarm as he thought to himself: has my brother suddenly lost his mind? He resides as one of the 5 elders of Wu Tang, but he sounds as if he's trying to issue a challenge to this young girl! How could he utter such words?

    With a sarcastic snicker, Tie Fei Long flashed over to one side and allowed a perfectly composed Yu Luo Cha to take the center stage. But Yu Luo Cha's expression was still one of poised tranquility as she took her time straightening up her clothes and smoothing out her dress before she very slowly stood up.

    Red Cloud leaped forward a step while Yu Luo Cha smiled faintly and said, "The swordsmanship of the Wu Tang Sect is unrivaled within the world, how could I possibly dare to challenge elder priest's skills?" With an angry grunt, Red Cloud then declared, "It's fine if you don't want to exchange moves. But this humble priest dares to ask young miss you to repay the debts you owe to our Wu Tang sect." Yu Luo Cha's eyebrows shot up as she asked, "What debts?" Red Cloud replied, "I dare to ask young miss you to please severe six of your fingers and then give them to this humble priest so that I may bring it back to Wu Tang!"

    That year, when Yu Luo Cha ridiculed the five disciples of Wu Tang on the Ding Jun Mountain, she cut off two fingers on Geng Shao Nan's hand while the other four disciples each lost one finger. All together, it comprised a total of six fingers. As soon as Yellow Leaf heard these words, he immediately understood: So this young girl wasn't Tie Fei Long's daughter, but was instead the famed Yu Luo Cha whose mere name can cause the abandonment of all guts and courage amongst the gangs of the Underground world?! Who would have thought that she would be so young?

    Yu Luo Cha did not bother responding but only stood there giggling incessantly. Although Taoist Priest Red Cloud was already situated in the middle of the room, yet he knew it wasn't proper to take out his sword and push a young girl into battle.

    Zhuo Yi Hang's whole body was trembling and when Geng Shao Nan saw the peculiar expression on Zhuo's face, he approached his side softly and whispered, "Elder brother, is anything wrong?" Zhuo Yi Hang replied, "No, nothing." Geng Shao Nan said, "That female bandit is extremely powerful, I'm afraid that even ShiFu can't stop her! You have to prepare yourself elder brother, we absolutely cannot let her escape today." His head caught in a daze, Zhuo Yi Hang could only nod in response while secretly hoping within his heart that this battle won't ensue.

    Amidst the laughter, Tie Fei Long ran into the middle of the combat ring and said in a clear voice, "Lian er, do you really owe Wu Tang something?" Yu Luo Cha smiled and said, "Nah, I don't owe them anything. What I took away with me was merely a prize! Since Wu Tang's five disciples wanted to compare sword skills with me, they can't expect me to return empty-handed right? Father, I'm sure you're aware that this has always been the rule within the black societal clans." When Yellow Leaf heard them refer to each other as father and daughter, he was again startled.

    Tie Fei Long stroked his beard and laughed, "Lian er, you must have been mistaken. Those people who battled with you must have been impostors who were pretending to be Wu Tang disciples. Think about it, the Wu Tang sword skill is undefeated within the world! Why would they gang up on one person with the combined power of five fighters and still end up losing?" The father and daughter went back and forth with their playful banter, causing Red Cloud to be even more humiliated as he whipped out his sword to yell, "Yu Luo Cha, are you planning to clear this debt or not?" He then turned towards Tie Fei Long to say, "We reside on the mountains and have really gotten out of loop with the matters of the outside world, thus we never knew that you actually have such an extraordinary daughter. We realize that to seek payback from her right in front of your face may indeed be disrespectful, yet you have to repay an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Such is a reality which I cannot change!"

    But Tie Fei Long only roared with laughter and said, "This daughter of mine is quite different from all others. She never needs me to worry or interfere with anything that she does. Any debts or problems she may have, she will take care of herself. What are you all coming to me for?" When Yellow Leaf heard these words, he was once again baffled for Tie's attitude did not seem to reflect the relationship between a father and daughter. After a slight pause, Tie Fei Long continued, "But being her father, I should come forward to say a few words on her behalf. Is it just you who's seeking payback, or will the two generations of Wu Tang's skilled fighters gathered here today be seeking payback as a group?" Red Cloud snapped furiously, "As long as you don't help out, our Wu Tang sect most definitely will not take advantage of our large numbers to win this battle." Tie Fei Long smiled and said, "Really? But even if you do decide to send out a few more fighters all at once, it still won't be much of a big deal. As long as Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf can hold back, then I don't have to worry my old head about anything. I may as well have a seat with Yellow Leaf and just enjoy this battle." What Tie Fei Long was obviously saying was: as long as Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf does not participate in the battle, then even if all of your fighters strike out together, you will still not be Yu Luo Cha's match. Such words of course made Red Cloud even more infuriated.

    Tie Fei Long and Yellow Leaf gestured to each other, then retreated simultaneously before Red Cloud said, "Yu Luo Cha, aren't you going to take out your weapon? What are you waiting for?" Yu Luo Cha smiled ever so faintly and said, "Since the elders have issued orders, then this youngster dares not to disobey. But out of respect to seniors, please strike your stance first."

    Despite Taoist Priest Red Cloud's aggressiveness, Yu Luo Cha continued to take no notice of him, and though she has said that she will follow his orders, yet her sword still remained within its sheath. Red Cloud was boiling with anger, and yet he had no other choice but to return his sword to its sheath and then swiftly blast out with his left palm. The sleeves of his robe sliced through the wind as he strained his two fingers to pierce towards Yu Luo Cha's face using the stance "Painting the eyes on the Dragon." But Red Cloud was surprised to find that Yu Luo Cha only had to move her body ever so slightly before he ended up attacking empty air!

    The sound of a sword blade grazing through the wind instantaneously followed as a current of cool air immediately approached from behind him. Although Red Cloud was greatly alarmed, yet luckily his martial arts were also incredibly apt, and thus with a tap of his toes he executed a "bending waist to plant willow" and then by generating the energy from his whole body, he immediately snuck to one side. Even while in the midst of rotating his body, he was able to discern where the weapon of his opponent was positioned and thus with the execution of Wu Tang's supreme martial art skill the "Yuan-Yang[9] sequential kicks," he kicked madly towards Yu Luo Cha's sword wielding hand. With a slide, Yu Luo Cha evaded his attack, but Red Cloud continued to kick and ended up more than ten feet away from the combat ring before he could stop himself. He turned back around only to find Yu Luo Cha asking with her long sword in her hand and a dazzling smile on her face, "Elder priest, why aren't you taking out your sword?"

    The sheer speed of Yu Luo Cha's movements was like nothing he has ever seen before! Red Cloud had to stop and secretly take a deep breath for he really couldn't believe that she would have the ability to extract her sword even in the midst of dodging his attacks. Because he had underestimated her abilities, he bludgeoned forward blinding and almost committed an irreversible mistake.

    Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf was only observing the battle from the side, but he was similarly taken back. Even though the degree of Yu Luo Cha's martial arts proficiency still could not be discerned yet, however it could already be ascertained that her levitation skills were above Tie Fei Long's and therefore it seems reasonable to conclude that her martial arts were not taught by him.

    By this time, Red Cloud no longer dared to take this battle lightly and as he hurriedly took out his sword, he said in a much more humbler and courteous tone, "Fine, then would young miss please strike a stance first." Again, Yu Luo Cha only smiled faintly and said, "Then excuse my rudeness!" She then raised her left fingers above her head and immediately pushed her right arm forward. The tip of her sword was sparkling rays of light as she pierced towards Red Cloud's chest while standing in the center position!

    The theory of martial arts states that: "The Sword runs along the side, the Spear attacks along a line," and there is a similar saying which states, "The Sabre follows the light, the Sword follows the dark." What these phrases illustrate is that the art of sword should be chiefly concerned with agile transformations and lithe movements, thus those who use the sword will typically attack from the left or right sides. They don't often take the centre position. But now, Yu Luo Cha has chosen the method of the frontal attack by taking the centre position with her very first stance, this was obviously a way of slighting Red Cloud's abilities. Even though Red Cloud has already changed his attitude towards Yu Luo Cha by treating her as an equally matched opponent, yet when he observed the disregard she was showing towards him, he couldn't stop himself from exploding with absolute rage.

    With a swirl of his esteemed sword, Red Cloud's blade approached Yu Luo Cha's blade and with the stance "Dance of the Silver Snakes[10]," he suddenly twisted. Such a move had the ability to dismantle the frontal attacks of one's opponent and was a powerful attack found within the Wu Tang sect's 72 Styles of the Sequential-Linking Sword Skill. Yellow Leaf, who was observing from the side was secretly praising his brother and thinking to himself: brother's sword skill truly has improved greatly. This stance was executed at exactly the right time and with exactly the right force, with such a twist and pull, regardless of how powerful one's opponent may be, this stance will most definitely cause their weapon to fly out of their hand!

    Taoist Priest Red Cloud was thinking the exact same thing and was very confident that his attack was most definitely going to succeed. But he never expected that Yu Luo Cha's sword stances would turn out to be so erratic and contrary to convention. He watched her attack from the front, but what was obviously a "Venomous snake flicks out forked tongue" stance underwent a slight vibration and somehow, the blade suddenly slid over to one side and pierced towards his left shoulder-blade while also simultaneously slashing downwards towards his arm and the side of his body. Red Cloud was greatly taken back, but by bringing his body together with his sword, he rotated in a semi-circle and managed to escape such an attack. Yu Luo Cha followed closely behind and by bending at the waist and extending her arm, her long sword tore out with the force of a tornado.

    When Red Cloud observed that she was obviously attacking with the "Waves clashing against dragon gates" stance, he hurriedly lifted his sword to scrape in an upwards motion. But little did he expect that when Yu Luo Cha's stance reached its halfway point, she would suddenly change directions, so that what should have been a stance which struck towards the top would suddenly pierced downwards and even when it appeared that she was attacking left, she would suddenly flip towards the right. Caught completely off guard, Red Cloud was all thumbs as he clumsily scrambled about and repeatedly stumbled backwards.

    Yet nevertheless, the fame of Wu Tang's sword skill was not founded on unmerited grounds. After the exchange of a few stances, Red Cloud was able to discover that even though the mysticism of Yu Luo Cha's sword skill was incomparable to anything he has ever encountered before, yet he was also able to gradually understand some of its dynamics so that he was not as baffled and unprepared as before. He then immediately made the decision to execute all 72 styles of the Sequential-Linking Sword Skill with such intensity that it forms a shield which could prevent the invasion of wind and rain. By doing this, he was concentrating his full energy into resisting her attacks but would have to end up abandoning the prospect of initiating any attacks.

    It should be understood that Wu Tang's art of inner energy cultivation was considered as the essence of orthodoxy within the martial arts world. Similarly, their school of sword art has undergone the reformation and modification of many generations of talented martial art masters. Therefore, their sword skill truly was profound and ingenious, otherwise how could they have taken possession of the "World's number one" title? Under the tight defense created by Red Cloud, Yu Luo Cha truly was unable to break through his barrier at the time being.

    Yellow Leaf's palms were dripping with sweat and it was only now did he finally allow himself to let out a breath of relief, but the fact remained that Red Cloud was still unable to decipher or comprehend Yu Luo Cha's radically bizarre sword skill. Amongst this process of attacking and guarding, another fifty or seventy stances past while Yu Luo Cha continued to reside solidly in the position of the fighter with the upper hand. She took the initiative with every move, causing Yellow Leaf's heart to eventually return to a state of nervous panic. He knew that in a situation where two skilled fighters were competing sword skills, if one fighter only had the ability to defend and not to attack, their every move will most definitely be restricted by their opponent at every turn. Once enough time passes by, they will eventually reveal an opening of which their opponent can take advantage of. His own status was extremely respected and he had further made a promise to Tie Fei Long, so of course he could not lend out a hand to help his brother.

    But at that time Zhuo Yi Hang happened to be standing beside him and so he lightly tugged on his hand and then whispered to him softly, "Wait here a while longer, then go forward to substitute your martial arts uncle." Amongst all the second generation disciples, Zhuo Yi Hang's martial arts were recognized as being the most superb. Even though overall, he may still be slightly below that of Red Cloud, yet the fact that he was young and energetic was one area which he excels over his martial arts uncle. Therefore Yellow Leaf thought to himself: by asking him to go out, he can at least withstand fifty or so stances. Besides, Zhuo Yi Hang was a youngster and therefore even if he was defeated, it at least won't be such a shameful loss. It is best to let him ward off the opponent for the time being while we think of another plan.

    By that time, Zhuo Yi Hang was lost in a comatose daze as his eyes remained glued to the battlefield and his limbs were frozen over with terror. When Yellow Leaf pulled on his arm, he couldn't help but be shocked as he immediately glanced towards him and asked, "Are you feeling sick?" Zhuo Yi Hang shook his head while Yellow Leaf continued in a low voice, "Did you hear what I said?" Zhuo Yi Hang nodded with bewilderment, leaving Yellow Leaf unsure of whether he could believe his answer or not. But on observing Zhuo Yi Hang's soulless, glassy-eyed stare, he became extremely concerned.

    At the same time, the fight on the battlefield was becoming increasingly intense as the sweat on Red Cloud's forehead started to become visibly observable. With a laugh that rung out long and clear, Yu Luo Cha stroked her sword to paint out a ray of brilliant light, striking straight towards Red Cloud's wrist. Red Cloud lifted his sword to block her, but her wrist suddenly retracted so that the tip of her blade pierced downwards, heading directly towards the joint on his kneecap. Red Cloud was incredibly surprised, for such a move was none other than the "Gold Needle Shocks World"[11] stance from his own Wu Tang sword skill!

    Because Red Cloud has fought over one hundred stances with Yu Luo Cha, he had already begun to understand that her sword skill tends to run in the opposite direction of the original stances that were being imitated. But since he couldn't figure out a way to overcome these stances, he could only exert all his efforts into defending and ignore the lure of attacking. By this way of secure shielding, he could only hope that he will not leave an opening for his opponent to make a fool of him. But when he suddenly saw his opponent approach with a stance from his very own sect, he momentarily forgot that her sword skill was based on opposite principles and actually rushed forward to take the outer position. With a swerve of his sword, he then quickly spun it around two rotations. Such a move was called "Three Turns of the Dharma Wheel[12]" and was originally an ingenious move that could be used to ward off the "Golden Needle Enters World" stance. But what he did not expect was that even though Yu Luo Cha appeared to be piercing downwards, the tip of her blade would suddenly bounce around to thrust upwards. Red Cloud's sword was snagged within the force of her blade as the two weapons twisted together for two full circles before Red Cloud's sword almost flew out of his hands!

    Such is: Amongst the blur of dust and wind, sword skill sheds out divine light.

    [1]The actual text in the book should be correctly translated to "Old third Jin" referring to Jin Qian Yans hierarchy within his lineage. But it was shortened in the translation to induce better flow.

    [2]The largest province in China, more commonly known in the ancient eras as the "Western Regions" (XiYu) that was taken over by the "Huns." Famous landmarks belonging to the Xinjiang region includes the Silk Road, the Flaming Mountains (Huo Yan Shan the legendary landmark featured in the great Chinese classic "Xi You Ji"/"Journey to the West"), the Heavenly Lake and most pertinent to this novel, the Heavenly Mountains (Tian Shan).

    [3]The translated phrase has actually been slightly modified to induce better comprehension of the sentence. The original text was actually a Xie Hou Yu (sometimes translated as "Informal Phrases" and "Riddle Phrases"). Xie Hou Yu relies on the pairing of two statements that answers off each other (an "answer" to the "riddle") and then of which could be applied to reference many people, things and incidents of daily life. Some very simple and commonly used examples of a Xie Hou Yu would be "The cat who cries for the mouse" --> "Showing fake mercy/compassion" or "The clay bodhisattva that crosses the river" --> "Cant even take care of himself" or "Lantern made of Cows Skin" --> "You can never illuminate it." A Xie Huo Yu is also used here, the first part translates as "Riding the donkey while reading the musical sheets" and the later part answers the first as "Riding while reading" (literal translation), which has the double meaning of "well see as we go along." The actual implication of the phrase is basically that of showing scepticism towards the vow/statement made by another person. In this case, the translator has decided to modify it in such a way which can facilitate a more comprehensible read while simultaneously retaining the original implications.

    [4]Should be correctly translated as "Foster father," but the word "father" was used here instead to induce better flow.

    [5]A box with a social calling card inside that lists the name and (possibly) also the purpose of the visitors calling upon the owner of the establishment.

    [6]To translate the actual term used in the novel, it should really be "sect leader-disciple." The word "disciple" added onto the title may indicate that though Zhuo was to be established as the new sect leader, yet he was also to be guided by his elders (the other 4 elders), thus stressing the importance of his simultaneous position of the "disciple."

    [7]"Gen", "Li" referring to the positions plotted according to the eight trigrams. Refer to footnote in Chapter 6 for further details.

    [8]Chinese hammers that are used as weapons can be either constructed with long or short handles, and has a head shaped like a melon (therefore it is sometimes referred to as standing/lying melon hammers), while some heads are octagonal or square in shape. Some hammers are attached to a long chain or rope (referred to as Meteor Hammer). The following is a picture of a melon hammer: and a meteor hammer:

    [9]Translates into Mandarin duck.

    [10]Translation shortened. Full translation should be "Dance of the Silver Snakes on Mountain"

    [11]The translator believes that "golden needle" may be referring to the legendary Monkey King Sun Wu Kong's (the main character in the Chinese classic "Journey to the West") weapon, a golden stick which was also known as "The Divine Needle that Stabilizes the Sea"

    [12]A Buddhist term, also known as the "Wheel of Law."

  9. #9
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 8

    Chapter 8
    Humbly Honours Sect Leader
    Entangled Heartstrings Cannot be Broken
    Spilled Water Forever Unrecoverable
    Sorrow and Hatred Still Remains

    (Translated by Faerie Queene and Foxs)

    When Geng Shao Nan saw how dangerous his ShiFu's situation was, he cried out with alarm and was just about to charge out with Yu Xin Cheng when Red Cloud has already retreated two steps, relieved from immediate danger. What had happened was that though Red Cloud was not Yu Luo Cha's match, yet his inner energy cultivation was still quite rich. Therefore during the most crucial moment, he hurriedly generated his inner energy to momentarily freeze her sword, thus alleviating the force of her attack. He then immediately retracted his sword and retreated, barely able to catch his breath.

    Yu Luo Cha smiled faintly and said, "We have fought over one hundred stances but was still unable to determine a winner. I think we should just forget about this whole score and stop fighting." Yu Luo Cha was only saying these words for Zhuo Yi Hang's sake for she was trying to allow Red Cloud to save some face. But Red Cloud has already fought to the point of where his head was spinning with dizziness, and now that he was unable to defeat a youngster in front of his own disciples, how could he be willing to give up? To him, Yu Luo Cha's words were simply oil that poured over his fire. His face grew green with rage and with a grind of his teeth, he whipped out his sword and charged towards Yu Luo Cha again!

    With a flare of her slender eyebrow, Yu Luo Cha laughed icily and said, "Ha! So you still wanna fight?" and thus with a swipe of her sword, she pierced towards his right side. This move was again a stance taken out of the Wu Tang sect; it was named "White Crane Preys on Fish." According to logic, Red Cloud has already experienced the repercussions of one mistake and should be careful not to repeat the same mistake again. Therefore, he should have hastened back to defense mode. But Red Cloud has spent a few dozen years studying the sword skill of his sect, so that the act of uniting the sword with the heart as one has long become a habit. As soon as he saw Yu Luo Cha use a stance from his very own sect's sword skill, he couldn't help but rush to take the outer position again and with a side sweep, he used the "Intercepting the river battle" stance. With a back sweep, Yu Luo Cha forced Red Cloud's sword to twirl around before a loud "ding dong" sound was heard and Red Cloud's sword was immediately seen to fly out of his hands!

    Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf was incredibly frantic as he pushed Zhuo Yi Hang and cried, "Why aren't you going out yet?" But words are often slower than words, for Yu Xin Cheng and a few other sect members have already charged forward one after the other. Zhuo Yi Hang was completely stupefied with shock as he extracted his sword in a state of frenzied bewilderment. But sounds of metal clashing and scraping against each other were immediately heard as Yu Luo Cha's white dress fluttered by. A white flash slithered through the crowd and in just a blink of an eye, the long sword in the hands of all five Wu Tang disciples have been shocked out of their hands!

    Geng Shao Nan, who was so willing to risk his life in order to save his ShiFu just a moment ago, found out the moment he stepped foot onto the battlefield that just one glare from Yu Luo Cha was enough to terrify him to the core. Having completely lost his courage, he actually didn't dare to exchange stances with Yu Luo Cha and could only drop to the floor and roll away from the battle. Only when he had rolled to the walls did he finally stop.

    When Red Cloud saw his disciples humiliate themselves in such an embarrassing manner, his bloodshot eyes burned with fury as he picked up a long sword from the floor and then charged towards Yu Luo Cha again. Yu Luo Cha only laughed coldly and said, "You should probably wait for your disciples to pick up their swords as well." But in just a blink of an eye, Red Cloud has already attacked with three stances!

    Yu Luo Cha blocked and sealed with her sword when suddenly, her blade turned downwards with the speed of lightning. Zhuo Yi Hang happened to arrive right at that very moment, and though his arms and legs were limp, yet when he saw his martial arts uncle come under danger, he had no choice but to pierce out with his sword. Yu Luo Cha cried, "You!" and then suddenly screamed sharply before she tossed away her sword. As her weapon crashed to the ground, Yu Luo Cha also backed up more than ten feet but it could already be observed that her arm was injured as blood seeped through her white dress!

    Yu Luo Cha has always been a proud and competitive person who strives towards victory. Yet for Zhuo Yi Hang's sake, when she first began her fight with Red Cloud, she was already planning to let Red Cloud take advantage of the fight by a stance or two. But when she saw how aggressive and unrelenting Red Cloud was, she couldn't stop herself from losing her temper and as the fight escalated to its intense moments, how could she be willing to let it all slide? It was only when she had defeated Red Cloud and then extracted the weapons from the Wu Tang disciples did she regret her action. Not sure of how to resolve this mess, when she saw Zhuo Yi Hang pick up his sword and charge forward, she purposely allowed Red Cloud's sword blade to lightly drag across her arm, so that she may pretend to be injured and retreat in defeat!

    But the person who was most surprised was probably Red Cloud who thought that he must have been dreaming when he saw Yu Luo Cha throw away her sword and retreat in defeat. Even though he was holding his sword in his hand, he actually didn't dare to charge forward to attack Yu Luo Cha. At this very moment, Tie Fei Long was suddenly heard to explode into a thunderous howl while Yellow Leaf was also heard to cry out hoarsely!

    What had happened was that when Zhuo Yi Hang ran forward, the sounds of metal crushing and blades breaking simultaneously ensued. When Yellow Leaf saw how his sect's disciples were all an embarrassing farce and how Zhuo Yi Hang was teetering and tottering about, obviously far from being Yu Luo Cha's match, he understood that such a situation no longer allowed him to hesitate or insist on his principles. Therefore, he immediately expanded his arms and hurriedly flew towards the battle center. On one side of the room, Yellow Leaf was seen to fly up. While on the other side of the room, with a sweep of his sleeves, Tie Fei Long also soared out like a large bird[1]. The palms of both fighters met up with each other and with a loud explosion, both men were shocked backwards. Tie Fei Long roared ferociously, "Yellow Leaf! Have you no shame?!" By that time, Yu Luo Cha has already retreated with a scream after she intentionally let herself be wounded. Yellow Leaf nearly jumped out of his skin as his heart pounded wildly in his chest. But he couldn't be bothered with answering Tie's words and could only cry out hoarsely, "Yi Hang! Are you hurt?" He thought that Zhuo Yi Hang must have undergone some kind of harm already, but Red Cloud immediately hollered out instead, "Brother! Let's just go!"

    Tie Fei Long brought up his fists and was itching to charge forward again when Yu Luo Cha who was leaning against the sandalwood table called out, "Father! Your daughter I tied them in battle, there's no need to fight anymore." Tie Fei Long asked, "Why do you say that?" Yu Luo Cha replied, "Taoist Priest Red Cloud kindly allowed me to win one match, but when I combated their second generation disciple, I was also defeated by one stance. Therefore we're even, neither one of us has lost." Tie Fei Long said, "Since that is the case, then we'll forget about this whole incident! Yellow Leaf, you have important matters to take care of, so I won't detain you!" He then brought his hands down and returned to his seat, lifting up his tea cup as a gesture of bidding farewell to his guests.

    Red Cloud didn't know whether he should laugh or cry, but Yellow Leaf understood very well that if they continued to fight, it would most definitely prove to be unbeneficial to them. Therefore he could only force back his anger and force out a fake smile as he expressed farewells to Tie. Tie Fei Long remarked, "In front of Taoist Priest Purple Sun's shrine, please ask him to forgive me for my discourtesy." Yellow Leaf replied, "I dare not forget!" Zhuo Yi Hang bowed alongside Yellow Leaf as they retreated, but when he suddenly saw Yu Luo Cha leaning against the door frame with what seemed to be a smile and yet did not resemble a smile on her face, he hurriedly turned around, no longer daring to turn back for another look.

    The crowd departed from the Tie mansion and all along the trail, Red Cloud's face was taunt with displeasure as he did not utter a single word for very very very long time. Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf rode alongside Zhuo Yi Hang, purposely allowing themselves to fall behind the crowd before he said to Zhuo in a soft voice, "This Yu Luo Cha's sword skill is truly brilliant and unfathomable, which goes to show that her fame truly is well deserved. But why would she be wounded by you?" Zhuo Yi Hang replied, "That was thanks to third uncle." Yellow Leaf chuckled and said, "I don't think that even I could defeat her" and thus Zhuo Yi Hang knew that Yellow Leaf did not believe his words and couldn't help but blush. Yellow Leaf continued, "It seems to me that she was purposely looking out for you." Zhuo Yi Hang knew that his martial arts uncle was already suspicious therefore could only relate to him the full details behind his encounter with Yu Luo Cha. When Yellow Leaf heard to the part of where Yu Luo Cha combated the six villains on top of Mountain Hua's peak, he secretly marveled to himself with surprise. After he had finished listening to the full details of Yu Luo Cha's background, he was even more startled. He remained silent as he pondered over Zhuo's words for a long time before he nodded his head and thought to himself: This female bandit's ways are indeed unorthodox, for even though she may be "demonic," yet at the same time she seems to possess a bit of the heroic valor. And thus he said, "So she was su*ckled by a mother wolf? No wonder she is so wild and unruly! But you yourself belong to the educated elite classes, it's not very fitting for you to associate with her." Zhuo Yi Hang replied, "Please do not misunderstand uncle, your disciple I do not have any personal relationship with her." Yellow Leaf laughed and said, "Let's hope so. Otherwise, as a sect leader, you will be laughed at by your fellow disciples!" But Zhuo Yi Hang was thinking to himself: I'd rather not be the sect leader.

    They traveled alongside the Yellow River and passed by the Tong Pass to enter into Henan before heading south from Nanyang to enter into Wubei. All along the trip, they had each other to converse and chat amongst, so that the journey was not at all lonely. But amongst the conversations of Red Cloud, Yu Xin Cheng, Geng Shao Nan and the likes, it could be easily detected that they harboured great resentment and hatred towards Yu Luo Cha. Although Taoist Priest Yellow Leaf's attitude was somewhat better, yet he still viewed Yu Luo Cha as belonging to the demonic and eccentric classes. Zhuo Yi Hang secretly lamented to himself as he ruminated over how difficult it is to dissipate the misunderstandings that exists between human beings.

    After traveling for more than twenty days and passing Lauhekuo, Wu Tang mountain was already in sight. All Wudang Pai disciples, both Taoist and secular, had already gathered on the mountain. Hearing that Priests Yellow Leaf and Red Cloud who went out to fetch Zhuo Yi Hang had returned, they went out to meet them and escorted them up the mountain. Priests White Stone and Green Palm also came out of the monastery to receive them. After Zhuo Yi Hang paid his respect, Priest White Stone led him into the inner room to see Taoist Priest Purple Sun’s corpse.

    It had already been 2 months since Purple Sun’s death, but since they wanted to wait for Zhuo Yi Hang’s return, they did not lower the corpse into the ground and used tonics to preserve the corpse in order so that it will not decompose. When Zhuo Yi Hang took the lid off the coffin and saw the corpse, he cried out loudly and fainted.

    He gradually awakened after a long lapse and immediately discovered that all four of his martial art uncles along with the 12 eldest disciples of the second generation were there, organized into two rows with a somber expression.

    Priest Yellow Leaf then opened his mouth to say, "Yihang, in his lifetime, your Shifu cherished you the most; he passed on everything he knew to you, exactly because he wished that you may be able to carry on his aspiration, to bring our Sect to the great height of development, do you know it?"

    Zhuo Yi Hang kowtowed and said, "Even if my body is torn and my bones are crushed, disciple will never be able to repay one of departed master's ten-thousand kindness."

    Priest Yellow Leaf helped him up and said, "In that case you must bathe and fast tonight, tomorrow we will have a general assembly in the Great Hall to inaugurate you as the new Sect Leader. If there is anything unclear to you about our Sect, you may ask now."

    "Being the Sect Leader is a great responsibility," Zhuo Yi Hang said, "Disciple absolutely does not dare to bear it."

    "And why is that?" Priest Yellow Leaf asked.

    "Disciple is young and inexperienced," Zhuo Yi Hang replied, "How can I be an example to my fellow disciples?"

    Priest Yellow Leaf said, "To bring our Sect to the great height of development, a youthful strength, talent and boldness to be in charge like yours is exactly what we need. Are you saying that you want to push the responsibility to several old fellows like us?"

    Zhuo cast a glance to Yu Xin Cheng. Without waiting for him to speak, Yu Xin Cheng immediately led the four head disciples to come forward and performed obeisance. He said, "Worthy brother Zhuo, you don't need to decline, who would dare to disobey our former Sect Leader's dying wish? Much less there will be four Shishu who will support you." Yu Xin Cheng was afraid that Zhuo’s hesitation was due to his apprehension towards the possibility that his fellow sect members may feel that his succession was undeserved, and therefore he was especially keen to indicate that their feelings were otherwise. Actually, it was not what Zhuo Yi Hang had in mind.

    Priest White Stone also spoke, "Yihang, you should remember the expectation your Shifu had toward you."

    Zhuo Yi Hang looked around the room at the 12 martial art brothers, he had to admit that amongst them, there was nobody else who had the talent and ability to take on such a daunting responsibility. And even if they did select another candidate, others would not be satisfied with such an arrangement.

    Priest Yellow Leaf pressed him again, "Your Shifu cannot remain in the coffin forever, if you do not accept his order for you to be the Sect Leader, he cannot be buried; how can your heart be at ease?"

    Crying, Zhuo Yi Hang said, "Shishu and Shixiong, please understand, disciple have received our Sect's great kindness, plus there is the wish of departed master that I must follow; however, disciple still have another condition: even if I have to be the Sect Leader, we must wait for three years."

    "And why is that?" Priest Yellow Leaf asked.

    "Disciple has been framed, right now I am a convicted criminal on the run from the law," Zhuo Yi Hang replied, "If I don't clear up this false charges, how can I be the Sect Leader?"

    Priest Yellow Leaf was shocked; he took Zhuo Yi Hang inside and asked him the story behind it. Zhuo Yi Hang had kept the details of this incident a secret from his martial arts uncle and fellow sect members all along the journey because this concerned a very serious matter and they had many disciples along with them during the trip. But now, Yellow Leaf took Zhuo to one side and Zhuo explained everything in detail to him. Hearing about how the traitors bought by the Manchus were conspiring to topple the Ming Dynasty, Priest Yellow Leaf was astonished. After being silent for a long time, he suddenly asked, “So Yu Luo Cha knows about this matter?”

    Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “Yu Luo Cha most definitely knows. Amongst the six villains who battled with her on Mountain Hua’s peak, there were two who were Manchurian spies.” Yellow Leaf asked, “Since she is a bandit of the Underground world, shouldn’t the fact that somebody else is also trying to capsize the imperial government make her happy now that she’s getting what she has wanted all along?” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “She feels only true hatred towards those people. Not only her, but Wang Zhao Xi feels the same way as well. Within the hearts of the Underground heroes, they feel that though the Emperor’s position may be something which can be seized, yet the country most definitely cannot fall into the hands of a foreign race.”

    After analyzing the situation for a long time, Priest Yellow Leaf said, "Actually, our Sect should not be involved in imperial court's politics, but this matter concerns the fate of our nation, plus you are falsely accused, hence we cannot ignore it. Are you thinking of going to the capital after your Shifu is buried?"

    "Definitely," Zhuo Yi Hang replied, "I want to see the Crown Prince; I need to report those traitors who are planning to harm the imperial government, and also tell him the disaster I am facing."

    Priest Yellow Leaf said, "You don't have to tell your fellow disciples, but you ought to tell your four Shishu."

    "I was thinking the same thing," Zhuo Yi Hang replied, "It's not that I don't trust my fellow disciples, but I am afraid the more people know about it, the higher the possibility this matter might leak out."

    "I understand it perfectly," Priest Yellow Leaf said, "You don't need to explain."

    Priest Yellow Leaf told Zhuo Yi Hang to wait quietly inside, while he went out to summon Red Cloud, White Stone and Green Palm, thee people. They had a very long discussion. Priest White Stone said, "This being the case, during these three years the position of the sect leader could only be momentarily transferred upon Yellow Leaf Shixiong."

    "I am nearing the twilight of my life, my spirit is waning," Priest Yellow Leaf said, "How can I deal with it?"

    "It's only for three years," Priest White Stone said, "If Shixiong is unwilling, who can take over this responsibility?" Finally Priest Yellow Leaf relented.

    The Four Elders and Zhuo Yi Hang went out and explained everything to the twelve most senior disciples. Hearing that Zhuo Yi Hang was framed, they all voiced their concern, but knowing this was a top secret matter, nobody dared to inquire further.

    During the next few days, they were busy preparing and conducting the burial rite for Priest Purple Sun. Afterwards, the secular disciples also left the mountain to return to their homes but Zhuo remained on the mountain to mourn. One night, Yellow Leaf asked him to come to the Cloud Room. He asked, "Had your father arranged a marriage for you at the capital?"

    "He had not," Zhuo Yi Hang replied.

    Yellow Leaf then asked, “So are you interested in anybody?” Zhuo Yi Hang’s face blushed deeply as he hesitated briefly before answering, “No” while within his heart, he found it very strange that his martial arts uncle would ask him such questions. Yellow Leaf continued, “You’re no longer a young kid, I think it’s about time for you to arrange a marriage.” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “But I am still in my mourning period, how could I talk about such things as marriage?” Yellow Leaf chuckled and said, “I may not be from the wealthy governmental families, yet in regards to these ancient customs, I do know a thing or two. While in the midst of mourning, all marriage rites should be delayed for three years. But it is still acceptable for one to talk about and arrange marriages.” Zhuo Yi Hang felt a jolt come from within as he hurriedly said, “I really have no intentions of doing such things.”

    After thinking over Zhuo’s words for a while, Yellow Leaf laughed and said, “Considering your talents and superb qualities, you should be matched with a virtuous girl of extraordinary talents and beauty. The martial arts of that Yu Luo Cha may indeed be powerful, but she is nevertheless a ruthless bandit of untamed wildness. I suggest you to not take much notice of her.” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “Your disciple I did not have such an intention, but uncle you have mentioned this matter more than once. Is it because you do not believe my words?” Yellow Leaf replied, “You are the most extraordinary talent of our sect and now the heavy responsibility of our sect rests upon your shoulders. I was only afraid that you would lose your way and end up falling into the dark paths.” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “Uncle you can be reassured. Your disciple I will know to take good care of myself.” Yellow Leaf answered, “That is good. But upon coming across a suitable girl of virtue, I must help you to quickly establish a proposal so that you don’t get distracted by outside attractions.”

    Zhuo Yi Hang was becoming increasingly alarmed, for even though he truly has not thought to matters of marriage with Yu Luo Cha yet, but for some reason, he found that after encountering her, all the women of the world were merely soiled earth in comparison. Yu Luo Cha’s strong and forceful personality may sometimes scare him and it could even be said that he detested such a personality. Yet at the same time, it seemed to have burned a mark into his heart.

    Now hearing his uncle’s words, Zhuo was sensing that he wanted to be his matchmaker, causing him to be so worried that he repeatedly waved his arms and said, “Your disciple really does not want to talk about matters of matrimony at such a young age.” When Yellow Leaf saw his anxious expression, he couldn’t help but be secretly amused and yet at the same time, he also couldn’t help but be secretly worried. He could tell that Zhuo’s insistence of having no feelings towards Yu Luo Cha was unlikely to be truthful and therefore thought to himself: Since he is acting like this, then it is better not to push him. When he can meet a better choice, we’ll let them spend more time together and then we don’t have to worry that he won’t gradually transfer his affections.

    When Zhuo saw his uncle smile to himself faintly and did not pursue the topic, he let out a breath of relief. Standing up, he said, "If Shishu does not have any other instruction, disciple is thinking to leave the mountain tomorrow." He had originally thought of fulfilling the proper mourning period of three by seven, twenty one days before leaving, but hearing what Yellow Leaf said tonight, he thought it best to leave as soon as possible.

    Yellow Leaf smiled and said, "Sit down for a moment." Slowly and deliberately Priest Yellow Leaf continued, "You are our Sect's incoming Sect Leader Disciple. I don't feel comfortable sending you to the capital alone."

    Recalling how Yun Yanping and Jin Qianyan had pressed him, Zhuo Yi Hang thought that his martial uncle’s concern was not without any reason. Priest Yellow Leaf continued, “Thereupon I am thinking of asking your fourth Shishu to accompany you.” The fourth martial uncle was Priest White Stone.

    Amongst the Wudang Five elders, White Stone ranked in the fourth place, but he was also the youngest in terms of age. He had just turned fifty that year, and has been a Taoist Priest for just ten years. Zhuo knew that his uncle was originally surnamed He and it was only after his wife died did he go up the Wudang Mountain and become a Taoist Priest.

    Priest Yellow Leaf added, “After suffering a setback in his palm duel against Tie Feilong that year, your fourth Shishu diligently trained his internal energy, and now he is a lot stronger than he was. By being close to him, it will also do you good.”

    Zhuo Yi Hang said, “It’s wonderful to have fourth Shishu as my traveling companion, I am only afraid it will inconvenience him too much.”

    Priest Yellow Leaf laughed, “Since when do you become so polite toward your fourth Shishu?” Still with a smile on his face he stood up and told Zhuo Yi Hang to go to bed early.

    Amongst his four uncles, Zhuo Yi Hang was relatively closer to Priest White Stone. Therefore now that White Stone was willing to accompany him on his trip, Zhuo was quite excited. The next morning, Zhuo Yi Hang bade his farewells to his three martial uncles. After a visit to his ShiFu’s tomb, he descended the mountain with Priest White Stone.

    Traveling during the day and lodging in the evening, after more than ten days, they reached the Eastern regions of HeNan. Priest White Stone suddenly said, “Yihang, what do you say you and I detour to Song Shan for a little bit?”

    Zhuo Yi Hang was anxious to get to Beijing, so he felt it strange that his martial uncle would take a sudden interest in Mount Song; thereupon he asked, “Why does Shishu want to go to Songshan?”

    Priest White Stone laughed, “Songshan is one of the five sacred mountains[2],” he said, “How can we miss such a famous mountain?”

    Zhuo Yi Hang said, “After our business is done, we can come back and tour it. It won’t be too late by then, will it?”

    Priest White Stone replied, “It won’t be a few days late for us to go now; besides, I do not simply want to have a tour, I am thinking of making a visit to someone.”

    Zhuo Yi Hang said, “In that case, disciple will keep you company.” In his heart he was wondering why his Shishu never mentioned anything about this in advance.

    Song Shan is a generic term for two mountains, Taishi and Shaoshi[3]. The two mountains are facing each other, about a dozen of li apart. Situated on the northern slope of Shaoshi, below the Wuru Peak, is the well-known Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Shaolin Pai martial art school. Zhuo Yi Hang asked, “Is Shishu going to pay a visit to Shaolin Temple?”

    Priest White Stone laughed and said, “Monks and priests are not the same, why do I want to pay a visit to the temple? I don’t even have any friendship with the monk presiding over the Shaolin Temple. You and I are going to Taishi first, if we have extra time later, we may go to Shaoshi.”

    Zhuo Yi Hang felt even more strange, they were Wulin people, yet they were not going to tour Shaolin first? Then the person they were going to visit most probably was not a Wulin character. Since martial uncle wanted to visit Taishi first, Zhuo Yi Hang thought he would better oblige.

    The two of them woke up early and started ascending Songshan; the eastern horizon was turning white, but the morning sun had not risen. Songshan was covered in fog like an ocean of cloud. When they reached the middle of the mountain, the vast and thick cloud gradually thinned down. The first ray of the rising sun peeked out of the ocean of cloud; it was as if the curtain covering the mountain scenery was suddenly lifted up. They saw the grand yet graceful ridges and peaks, the beautiful and clear springs gushing out from among the rocks, the serene and mysterious looking caves in the distance, the bright and beautiful red clouds on the eastern horizon, the chirping and twittering birds, and smelled the sweet fragrance of flowers all around them.

    Zhuo Yi Hang sighed and said, “A famous mountain’s scenery is indeed marvelous and out-of-this-world.” The two of them took a bit of rest to freshen their throats with the mountain water while eating their provision. They ate until half full before continuing their ascend.

    Songshan was full of ancient cedar trees; braving the strong mountain breeze, the two of them passed through the thick cedar trees’ undergrowth. They walked for a while and the hill was getting steeper and steeper. Suddenly they came across an old tree, its branches reaching up to the sky, the trunk was so big that even two people could not encircle it. Zhuo Yi Hang lingered on, sighing in admiration. Priest White Stone said, “Among the visitors of Taishi, no one do not like to stop by underneath this tree. Legend has it that when the Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty visited Songshan, he bestowed a title to this tree ‘The Great General’; therefore, the tourists also call this tree ‘General Cedar’. If the legend is true, that means this cedar tree is approximately two thousand years old!”

    Zhuo Yi Hang looked up to admire its branches, and saw most of the branches were still full with leaves, the tree seemed very much alive and thriving. He could not help but laughing as he said, “Human life is no more than a hundred years, compared to this tree, we are no more than mere infants. Why do we even bother to strife for fame, disturbing each other?”

    While he was still talking, suddenly Priest White Stone pulled him away and said quietly, “Did you hear that? Seems like someone is coming!” After retreating behind the cedar tree, they saw on the mountain path over yonder walk three military officers.

    Zhuo Yi Hang recognized one of them as a chief of the Imperial Bodyguards, Shi Hao. He thought: how can this man have the sensibility to visit Songshan. It was then that he suddenly noticed the hand that White Stone had placed on his own was trembling ever so slightly.

    The mountain breeze transmitted their voices, Zhuo Yi Hang was able to hear clearly. Shi Hao said, “Official Li, with the imperial emissaries safely escorted to the provincial governor’s office, our burden has now been lightened significantly.”

    The one he called “Official Li” replied, “The Crown Prince will ascend the throne soon, Yun Yan Ping and his gang most likely wouldn’t dare to harm the imperial emissaries.” When Zhuo Yi Hang heard these words, his heart was stirred; they were obviously talking about the imperial emissaries Zhou and Li. Listening to their tone, it appeared that they had successfully found those imperial emissaries and had safely delivered them from any harm.

    The other man said, “Official Li’s ancient sword is impressive, we may want to have rounds of wine tonight.” The “Official Li” smiled, but did not say anything. Out of the corner of his eyes Zhuo Yi Hang noticed that Priest White Stone had a peculiar expression on his face. He was just about to say something when his uncle signaled for him to remain silent.

    When the three people got to the top of the mountain, Shi Hao remarked, “The leaves on this old cedar are still so lusciously green. What a remarkable sight. Why don’t we go and rest beneath the old cedar for a while?” The “Official Li” sighed and remarked, “They say that ever since the beginning of time, the Beauty has been like the famed Warrior for never can they allow the world to see their white head. This tree is known as ‘The Great General,’ but even though it has now reached the old age of 2000 autumns, yet its head still has not turned grey yet. Such is really a sight that fills people of my generation with both admiration and envy.” Zhuo Yi Hang thought to himself, “This person has actually had a bit of education.”

    As the three people approached closer and closer, White Stone was just about to jump out when suddenly the mountain breeze brought forth the sounds of young girls’ laughter and chatter, causing the three people to stop in their tracks. After a while, a young girl bounded down from the peak of the mountain. She was about seventeen or eighteen years of age and was holding a little girl around ten years old by the hand. The little girl was laughing and jumping about as she descended the mountain, but when she saw the three strangers, she said “Look Jiejie! There’s some people here! Tell them to go away so we can play hide and seek!” During that moment, Taoist Priest White Stone’s hand was again trembling slightly.

    The one whom they called “Official Li” was in his early forties and had quite an imposing and domineering presence. He ran towards her and said, “Hey little girl, what’s your name? Where’s your mother?” The little girl said, “None of your business!” but still added, “I don’t have a mama, I only have an auntie.” The older girl glared at the “Official Li” and said, “Hua Mei, ignore them. Let’s go back.” The young girl asked, “Jiejie, are they officials? Auntie said that officials are bad people. Alright, I’ll listen to you, I won’t play with him.”

    The older girl held onto her little sister’s hand and swiveled around when the “Official Li” hurriedly called out, “Hey, we’re not bad people. Please take us to see your Auntie.” The older girl said, “My auntie does not want to see you guys.” There was another officer standing beside the “Official Li” and he seemed keen on soliciting his superior’s approval, therefore with a leap forward, he stood in front of the young girl and said with a sinister grin, “What a pretty little girl! Why won’t you play with us? How about we take you to play in the capital? That’s where the real fun is.” He then extended his hands to touch the girl’s face as “Official Li” cried out, “Old Hu, stop your insolent behavior right away!” But before he could even finish his words, the young girl’s slender hand has already swept out and a loud slapping sound followed as a hard slap landed smack on the officer’s face.

    Zhuo Yi Hang almost burst out laughing as he thought to himself: These officials have taken advantage of their power status for so long that they are used to going around taking advantage of woman and young girls as if it was no big deal. This hard slap that he got from the young girl was truly well deserved! The young girl’s movements are quite impressive and it seems that she has practiced martial arts before.

    The officer who was just slapped in the face was called Hu Guo Zhu, and his position was a grade below that of “Official Li” and Shi Hao. The three of them all work together in the Imperial Bodyguards department and will therefore always get together to drink and seek pleasure with women. When he heard his superior tell him to “stop his insolent behaviour,” he was already quite bitter within his heart for he was secretly thinking to himself: Humph! What are you pretending to be so prim and proper for? And after further sustaining such a hard slap, his anger flared up immensely. He charged forward and tried to catch the young girl. The young girl pushed her little sister to one side and then with a light block, dissipated Hu Guo Zhu’s force. With push of her palms, she caused Hu to retreat three steps and then shouted out, “Hey! Are you guys looking for a fight?”

    Hu Guo Zhu was a sub-commander within the Imperial Bodyguards and was furthermore a skilled fighter from the Kun Lun Sect who had a bit of name within the martial arts world. Unexpectedly taken by surprise and was pushed back by a young girl in front of his colleagues, he of course lost all face and screamed to the young girl, “Humph! You want to start a fight with me?” The young girl replied, “It’s not me who wants to start a fight with you, it’s you who wants to start a fight with me.” Hu Guo Zhu said, “Fine. It doesn’t matter who wants to fight with whom, but there will definitely be a fight here today!”

    The Official Li originally wanted to stop him, but then he had a second thought: how is the girl’s martial art skill? Is she being taught by that person? Thereupon he called out, “Hey, if you want to fight, fight here! This place is wide; don’t fight on a mountain path!”

    The young girl raised her eyebrows; she said, “I am not afraid the three of you come up together.” She placed her little sister on top of a slab of rock and told her, “You may watch the fight, don’t run around wildly!”

    The little girl clapped her hands and cheered, “Yay! Watch the fight! Watch the fight! Jiejie, you have to win this fight!”

    The young girl jumped out toward the open space in front of the ancient cedar tree; turning around, she beckoned and said, “Hey, come here!”

    Hu Guo Zhu’s face was red from anger, he followed her by jumping over; in term of qinggong, he had already lost one stance! The girl seemed relaxed, but she was in full concentration waiting for the enemy.

    Shi Hao said, “Hey, Old Hu, don’t be reckless, this Miss is a trained fighter!”

    Hu Guo Zhu kicked the ground with his toes, he flew up while delivering a right-hand blow toward the young girl's face. "Take this!" he shouted. The young girl sneered, her body swayed slightly, her palm struck backhandedly, quick as lightning it hacked down on the enemy's right arm.

    "Good move!" Hu Guo Zhu called out. His left palm parried up, his right hand reached up like a claw to grab the young girl's face. The move was called “Golden Dragon Extends Claw,” a stance taken from the formidable Kun Lun Sect’s “18 Dragon Shadow Formations.” Who would have thought that his claw ended up clasping empty air. The young girl's body was as lithe as a panther; her right palm suddenly hacked horizontally toward the enemy's left rib. Hu Guo Zhu bent his waist while turning around; he managed to evade the attack with great difficulty. The young girl sent out her left palm again with the “Crushing Palms” to “crush” his left rib. Hu was greatly taken back; hastily he pulled back and 'Slap! his shoulder was hit by the girl's palm that he staggered several steps backward. "Very dangerous!" he shouted inwardly. If he did not use his shoulder to take the blow and let the vital acupoint on his chest received the 'crushing palm', perhaps his life would be gone by now.

    After receiving two setbacks, Hu Guo Zhu did not dare to underestimate the enemy anymore. 'Whoosh! Whoosh!' He whirled his fist around, switching from the “18 Dragon Shadow Formations” palm technique to the “Black Tiger Fists” which emphasized the use of strength. Though the girl’s levitation skills were good, yet her strength was nevertheless below that of the man, therefore at this point, they were equally tied.

    After fighting for a while, the young girl changed her palm stances again; she fluttered around Hu Guo Zhu and launched an attack as soon as she saw a hole on his defense line. Because Hu Guo Zhu’s movements were not as agile as the girl’s, he was unable to counterattack, neither was he able to tighten his defense, so a short time later he had to sustain two palm strikes in succession. Luckily, they weren’t impacted onto his vital areas so he was still able to stand; however, his brow was drenched in sweats.

    The “Official Li” repeatedly shook his head and called out, "Old Shi, pull Old Hu back, don't harm the girl."

    In big strides Shi Hao dashed forward, he situated himself in between the two combatants; his right palm pushed, his left palm pulled. This move was called 'leading the horse back to its feeding trough'. Hu Guo Zhu was pulled to the side by his left palm, while the young girl was pushed several steps back by his right palm.

    In term of palm technique, Shi Hao might not necessarily be able to subdue that girl, but he had a deep reserve of inner energy and his palms encompassed Yin power within them as well. That year when he encountered Wang Zhao Xi, he performed the “Feet Shattering Tiled Steps” skill and even Wang Zhao Xi had to avoid him. Since this girl’s abilities were below that of Wang’s, how could she possibly withstand Shi Hao? Shi Hao was thus able to separate the two fighters by pushing them both backwards. However, the girl seemed to be rather competitive too, as she was pushed back, she called out, "Alright, the two of you can come together!"

    The “Official Li” shouted, “Young girl, there’s no need to fight anymore. We’re all one family! Is your Shifu not surnamed He?” The girl was stunned and did not say anything for a long time.

    The “Official Li” smiled faintly and said, “Now can you bring me to see your auntie?” But as soon as he finished his sentence, someone jumped down from the adjacent mountain cavity and said coldly, “Why do you want to see me?” The person who said these words was a middle-aged nun around 40 years of age. As soon as “Official Li” saw her, he immediately ran forward, "Um, why did you become a nun?" he called out.

    The nun ignored him completely; with left hand pulled the young woman, right hand took the little girl, she said, “There are too many bad people in this world. Let’s go home.”

    The “Official Li” bounded several steps forward and shouted, "Hey, can't I say just a word?"

    The nun walked several more steps before she stopped. Turning around she said, "Alright, speak."

    “Official Li” giggled and said, "How about two words?"

    The nun's countenance fell. “Official Li” said, "Xia Mei, I was wrong, now I have come to take you home!"

    "Humph!" the nun snorted with disgust and retorted, “Who am I to you? You go and be your official while I’ll be my nun. Don’t come around here causing trouble again.”

    “Official Li” said, "The Crown Prince is going to ascend the throne any day now."

    The nun said, "It has nothing to do with me even more!"

    “Official Li” said, "You know that I am the Crown Prince's trusted aide; the Crown Prince ascend the throne, I am going to ask him to assign me an outside duty, at the very least commanding a battalion, or who knows, perhaps he will make me a general. At that time, you will become the Madame of the newly appointed officer."

    The nun was so angry that her face turned from red to green; she reproached him, "Go find your own Madame of the newly appointed officer. If you keep pestering me, don't blame me for being impolite!"

    “Official Li” chuckled and continued, "I am not surprised you are getting angry, you did not know! Hu Shi[4] is dead, she left neither son nor daughter, so my home will now be all yours.”

    With a chilling laugh, the nun said with a wooden expression, “Get out of my sight! Fourteen years ago you divorce me for your wealth and riches …”

    “Official Li” interrupted, “But that was solely my mother’s idea, it had nothing to do with me.”

    The nun snapped back, “You think I’m some kind of shameless woman with no principles? Divorcing a wife is like throwing out a bucket of water. Let’s see you go recover every droplet of that spilled water back to me!”

    The “Official Li” persisted, “But even if you won’t do this for my sake, you can at least do it for Shen'er’s sake.”

    A tremble shook through the nun’s body; she had turned back, but now she turned around again and asked, “How is Shen'er?”

    “Official Li” replied, “He is at home waiting for his mother’s return!”

    The nun suddenly laughed coldly and snapped, “You think I really know nothing? Shen er was not willing to live under his step-mother’s poor treatment and ran away from home a long time ago! Do you want me to tell you where he has gone?”

    Official Li’s face immediately turned a shade of grey as he suddenly jumped up and shouted, “Ha! So you are hiding him!”

    The nun sneered and said, “Look! Just that one little test was enough to uncover your mask. You have come only for your son, so don’t spew your load of garbage at me! Now get out of my sight!”

    “Official Li” dashed out to stop her and said, “I want both of you to return home with me!”

    The nun was as cold as a slab of ice as she waited for the “Official Li” to catch up; then she said, “Shen'er is not here.”

    “Where is he?” “Official Li” asked.

    The nun hardened her face and did not reply, “Official Li” continued, "In that case I want you to come home with me!"

    The nun still put on a straight face and ignored him. “Official Li” suddenly said, "Fine, I know you’re still pining away for that Long kid. But he’s not interested in you anymore!”

    Angered, the nun said, "Nonsense!" Swiftly her palm swept, 'Slap!' just like Hu Guo Zhu, “Official Li” sustained a hard slap in the face.

    Holding his face, “Official Li” shouted, “You nasty shrew!” and grasped forward. With a twist of her body and a “Seven Stars Hands,” the nun struck out consecutively. “Official Li” sucked in his chest and abdomen, suddenly he pounced forward with an outstretched palm. “I have already given you a break, now aren’t you going to stop?” he said.

    'Whoosh! Whoosh!' he punched twice, followed by a slash with his left palm and a sweep with his right palm, executing movements which very clearly indicated that he was a skilled fighter who specialized in the inner martial arts.

    The nun also shouted, "Are you or are you not going to get lost?" Amidst the palm wind she suddenly advanced in; deftly she grabbed his wrist to fling him aside. Luckily, the martial arts of “Official Li” were quite high; lowering his wrist, he was able to struggle free, while calling out, "Hey, don't you think outsiders will laugh at seeing husband and wife fighting?"

    The nun's anger had reached the top, her palms struck out in succession, very swift and fierce. “Official Li” was forced to withdraw repeatedly. Watching from the side, Shi Hao did not dare to help. “Official Li” gradually retreated to the front of the ancient cedar tree! The nun slapped again, “Official Li” withdrew to the back of the tree. Priest White Stone immediately leaped out and by just applying a hand on Official Li’s shoulders, he pushed him aside. When the nun saw him, she was simultaneously happy and surprised as she cried out, “Gege! When did you get here?"

    The real name of this nun was He Qi Xia and she was the sister of Taoist Priest White Stone. More than 20 years ago, there were two families that asked for her hand in marriage. Both families had a reputable name within the martial arts world; one was E-Mei sect’s Long Xiao Yun while the other was the present “Official Li” whose full name was Li Tian Yang. Since both the Long and Li were family friends with the He family, He Qi Xia’s father and brother were unable to determine whose proposal to accept and therefore left it for his daughter to decide. At that time, He Qi Xia was only a young girl of sixteen or seventeen years of age, and it was based solely on the fact that she felt that Li Tian Yang was the slightly better good-looking of the two did she end up choosing him.

    But Li Tian Yang was quite greedy for riches and fame, he therefore traveled to the capital after his marriage. Because his martial arts were quite good and since he was educated, he therefore caught the eye of a cavalry general who offered him his daughter’s hand in marriage. However, Li Tian Yang did still have a bit of conscience left within him and didn’t dare to abandon his wife right then at the capital. He asked permission to go home with the pretext of reporting to his parents. As soon as he was home, he secretly asked his mother to do the dirty work of breaking the news of divorce to his wife. At that time, he already had a three year old son and Taoist Priest White Stone still has not become a priest yet. White Stone had gone to the Li family and pleaded for the case, saying: his sister and Li have already been married a few years and even have a son, so why divorce? But the Li family was adamant and did not retract their decision, causing White Stone to be infuriated and thus broke off all ties and relations with the Li family.

    Now, fourteen years later, Li Tian Yang has already become the Commander amongst the Imperial Bodyguards while Long Xiao Yun has disappeared. He Qi Xia returned to her ShiFu’s home on Taishi Shan after she was kicked out of the Li family, but since her ShiFu death seven years ago, she has already gotten used to the life in the mountains and therefore proceeded to shave off her hair, becoming a nun.

    When Li saw White Stone, he was quite alarmed. Stammering, he said, "Brother-in-law, it's good to have you here. Please help me persuade Qi Xia."

    White Stone only retorted with bitterness, "This matter is between the two of you, it's useless for me to interfere. Fourteen years ago I have already persuaded you!" Embarrassed, Li Tian Yang was momentarily speechless.

    Since Zhuo Yi Hang also jumped out behind White Stone, Shi Hao saw him. He cupped his fist and called out, "Zhuo Gongzi!" Feeling embarrassed to listen to Li Tian Yang's family dispute, he pulled Zhuo Yi Hang aside to talk.

    "Chief Shi," Zhuo Yi Hang said, "I am still a criminal wanted by the throne; are you going to arrest me and take me back to the capital?"

    Shi Hao laughed aloud and said, "The Crown Prince miss you, and you are absolved from the all criminal suspicion a long time ago. Because the Emperor was severely ill, all matters of the state have now been handed over to the Crown Prince two months ago. After escaping from your home the other day, Emissaries Li and Zhou went to HeNan, settling down in the home of a local overseer of the river defense before sending out a letter to the Crown Prince that details their encounters. By that time the Crown Prince has already taken over the imperial court; he gave an order for a thorough investigation. That imperial censor who masquerade as the fake imperial envoy has already been deposed and charged with criminal conduct; the Inner Palace Guard Yun Yan Ping is also declared as a wanted criminal. Through the various clues, this case has eventually ended up on the tails of Wei Zhong Xian, but he is the head of the Eastern Coalition and he has long planted his roots of power. Therefore the Crown Prince did not want to start a hard battle during a period where he was to officially ascend the throne any day. Right now the Crown Prince is busy recruiting talents, that's why he is thinking about you. He sent me and Chief Li out of the capital to escort the imperial emissaries, while also ordered us to be on the lookout for any news regarding you."

    Zhuo Yi Hang said, "I am on my way to the capital to see the Crown Prince regarding another matter, but since you are escorting the imperial emissaries, I cannot travel together with you."

    "We can always see each other at the capital," Shi Hao replied.

    The two of them were still talking when suddenly they heard the nun scolded harshly, “Get out of here!” It seemed that all attempts at reconciliation have failed and Li Tian Yang has angered her once again!

    Zhuo Yi Hang looked up and saw Li Tian Yang's sullen expression; Li Tian Yang said, "Alright, we'll meet again someday!"

    The nun screamed, "All gratitude and grudges between you and I are severed, I never want to see you again!" With a sigh, Li Tian Yang could only signal to Shi Hao and descend the mountain.

    After the three of them left, Zhuo Yi Hang turned back around to greet the nun. By this time the young girl was already standing beside the nun while the little girl was sitting on Taoist Priest White Stone’s knee. Priest White Stone laughed and said to her, “Say hello to Zhuo Gege!” He turned to Zhuo and said, “You haven’t met my daughters yet have you?” he then pointed to the older one to say, “She is He E-Hua” and then lifted up the younger one to say, “And she is He Lu Hua.” He Lu Hua squeaked with excitement, “Zhuo Gege!” while He E-Hua has already started to reveal the shy and embarrassed behaviors of a stereotyped girl as she softly muttered a greeting with her head lowered, causing Priest White Stone to erupt into loud guffaws.

    Such is: Pity the young children, caught in the waves of love.

    [1]The direct translation should be "wild goose."

    [2]Five scared mountains of the Daoists: Taishan - 泰山 (in Shandong), Huashan - 華山 (in Shaanxi), Hengshan - 衡山 (in Hunan), Hengshan - 恆山 (in Shanxi) and Songshan - 嵩山 (in Henan).

    [3]Literally means ‘greater room’ and ‘lesser room’, respectively.

    [4]This name indicates that his wife was from the Hu family.
    Last edited by foxs; 06-09-10 at 03:58 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 9

    Chapter 9
    Martial World Lurks Tricksters
    Scheming to cheat Red Pill
    Clever and Extraordinary Youngster
    Sincerely Asks for Sword Manual
    (Translated by Faerie Queene)

    Taoist Priest White Stone was originally surnamed He. Before he became a priest, he was a father to two daughters; the elder daughter He E-Hua was now eighteen years of age and his younger daughter who has just recently turned ten was named He Lu Hua. Since the wife of Taoist Priest White Stone died not long after He Lu Huas birth, White Stone therefore brought his two daughters to his sister and implored her to take them under her care. During the span of these last ten years, White Stone would make a trip to the TaiShi Mountain every one or two years in order to visit his two daughters. However, Zhuo Yi Hang was never aware of this fact.

    But what he was even more unaware of was the real prospect that Taoist Priest White Stone had in mind for this trip. Because Zhuo Yi Hang was the Wu Tang Sects most extraordinary and promising second generation disciple, Taoist Priest White Stone have long yearned to marry his own daughter to him. Yellow Leaf always knew of his brothers intentions and therefore tried to help him unite this relationship by inquiring about the object of Zhuos affections a few days ago.

    After White Stone finished introducing his daughters to Zhuo Yi Hang, he laughed and said, E-Hua, your martial arts brother is not an outsider, so the two of you dont have to too formal or polite with each other. This martial arts brother of yours is skilled in both his literary and martial arts, so if there is anything you dont understand, make sure you ask him.

    The crowd of them thus proceeded to walk towards the peak of the TaiShi Mountain. For after He Qi Xia shaved off her hair to become a nun, she took the name of Ci Hui[1] and constructed a temple on the peaks of the Tai Shi Mountain in hopes of continuing her practice in peace. Ci Hui brought them all inside the temple and was just inviting Zhuo Yi Hang to have a seat when Taoist Priest White Stone chuckled and said, Just let the little ones go outside to play by themselves.

    He E-Hua therefore took Zhuo Yi Hang for a tour around the temple and when they felt tired, they stopped beneath an old cedar tree for a rest. The two of them conversed casually amongst each other and when they got to the topic of Abbess Ci Huis experience, He E-Hua remarked with a big sigh, The fate of a woman is truly dreary!

    Zhuo Yi Hang laughed and said, How can that be so? You can only say that Abbess Ci Hui was unfortunate in having encountered the wrong person. He E-Hua replied, Is that not so then? Since the beginning of time, women have had to rely on men. If they are lucky enough to marry a good husband, then that might be acceptable. But if they happen to fall into a bad marriage, their whole life would be finished! Even someone who possesses a character and martial arts abilities such as my aunt is still left to grow old by herself in a deserted mountain with nothing but the weak flicker of the oil lamps and the stillness of the ancient Buddha statues to accompany her.

    Zhuo Yi Hang remarked, But really, she doesnt have to make herself unhappy over such a heartless man. He E-Hua interrupted, But even in cases where two people were originally very much in love, sometimes it can still be very hard to avoid the mutability of affections. Take SiMa XiangRu and Zhuo Wen Jun[2] as an example, were they not a perfect match of the talented scholar and the virtuous beauty that were very much in love with each other? Can you not say that they were the kind of heavenly matches that could only be found in legends? But when Zhuo Wen Jun grew old, SiMa XiangRu still transferred his affections onto somebody else. Had Zhuo Wen Jun not written the Bai Tou Yin[3], to change SiMa XiangRus mind, wouldnt the heavenly couple have thus ended up as the wretched couple? And had SiMa XiangRu himself not written for Empress Chen[4] the Chang Men Fu[5]? But when in his own shoes, he couldnt see the anguishes and sorrows of the broken-hearted female! Now tell me, is the fate of a woman not very pitiful?

    When Zhuo Yi Hang heard these words, a strange feeling suddenly washed over him as he uncontrollably thought of Yu Luo Cha. He felt that words such as Women have a dreary life would have never been uttered through the lips of Yu Luo Cha!

    This He E-Hua possessed a gracious demeanour while her manner of speech was likewise elegant and refined. In terms of her capabilities, education and martial arts, she could be said to be proficient in all and deficient in none. But for some reason, Zhuo Yi Hang couldnt help but feel that she was missing something. What exactly was this something? Zhuo Yi Hang was unable to describe what it was, perhaps because it was that indescribable and almost mystical form of elusive radiance concealed within life? This form of radiance was something that Zhuo Yi Hang could very clearly experience through Yu Luo Chas presence. Yet at the same time, it was also this radiance that arouses his agitation or even revulsion towards her. But even if it was revulsion he was experiencing, that very feeling of revulsion was similarly an extremely captivating force that continues to attract him.

    But all along, Taoist Priest White Stone had no idea to what Zhuo Yi Hangs feelings were. Therefore after he and his sister had finished recounting their experiences since their last separation, he ventured outside only to see the two youngsters engaged in pleasant conversation. This caused a rush of elated joy to immediately flood into his heart.

    Taoist Priest White Stone originally had no intentions of visiting the Shaolin temple. But during early morning of the next day, Abbess Ci Hui suddenly received two invitations from Reverend Zun Xing, the Monastery Inspector of the Shaolin Temple. One of the invitations had her name on it while the other one was addressed to Taoist Priest White Stone. Abbess Ci Hui laughed and said, Shaolins Monastery Inspector has one efficient method of procuring information. You just arrived yesterday and already they have received news!

    Since Abbess Ci Hui resided on the Tai Shi Mountain with Shaolin as her neighbours, courteous interactions would occasionally ensue between the two parties. White Stone remarked, They sent someone over to present their respects when our sect leader past away. Out of courtesy, we should also do something to express our gratitude. Since they happen to sent us an invitation today, we may as well go and pay them a visit. He then turned towards Zhuo Yi Hang to instruct, Since you are our sects future sect leader, you should take this opportunity to meet the elders of Shaolin.

    The two mountains Tai Shi and Shao Shi were located straight across from each other, separated by a distance of about a dozen miles or so. The three people needed to walk for only an hour before they arrived beneath the Five Bosom Peak located on the Shao Shi Mountains Northern corner. What they saw was a field so densely populated with stone pagodas that it came to resemble a forest. And amongst the midst of this forest made out of stone pagodas, the outlines of the Shaolin temple could be seen to tower out. White Stone said, We should first go and announce our names to the admittance monk first. You stay here and wait for a while. Zhuo Yi Hang nodded his head to acknowledge these instructions, but just when he was about to speak, distant sounds of outcry and clamour suddenly broke out.

    The three of them ran towards the front gates of the Shaolin temple and found that the doors of the temple were tightly bolted while two old men were standing on top of the large rock in front of the gate, hurtling insults and cursing up a storm. One of them shouted, Jing Ming you old baldy! Dont put on your pompous airs with me! Even if you are a grand master of one sect, were not nobodies either you know? The other guy shouted, From what I can see, your Shaolin sect has merely empty fame that can be backed up by nothing at all! If you really did have some true abilities, then why wouldnt you have the guts to meddle with us?

    Zhuo Yi Hang was incredibly taken back when he heard these two people throw out such disrespectful words. For it should be understood that the two sects of Shaolin and Wu Tang were akin to the martial art worlds TaiShan and North Dipper. During that time, though Wu Tang can be said to dominate in terms of sheer numbers and thriving illustriousness, yet when judging from the perspective of the sect with the longest history and greatest production of generational talents, the Shaolin sect still holds prominence over Wu Tang. Who exactly were these two people? Why is it that they would dare to issue words of challenge right in front of Shaolins front doors?

    When the two old fellows saw Taoist Priest White Stone and Abbess Ci Hui arrive, they immediately leaped down from the rock and bounded towards them. There was a smile on their faces as they affected a friendly expression in welcome. But they were only greeted with an icy expression from the Abbess Ci Hui who hardened her face and did not even bother to bat an eye at them. On observing his sisters reaction, White Stone also followed suit by turning up his nose and veering over to one side with big steps and a proud expression.

    Having been completely ignored by White Stone, the two old fellows were left to feel quite disappointed. But when they arrived in front of the three people, they then turned towards Zhuo Yi Hang to try and strike up a conversation, Young brother, have you come to the Shaolin temple to pay your worship? Zhuo Yi Hang nodded his head, causing one of the old chaps to snort with disgust and scoff, You may as well save yourself a trip. Within that whole Shaolin temple, aside from the senior Jing Ming who can manage to withstand a few of my stances, all of their other members are not even worthy of a mention! Why waste all your energy and time to come here and pay worship?

    Zhuo Yi Hang was almost knocked over with alarm, as he hurriedly inquired with cordial respect, Please excuse my boldness. But may I be graced with the acquaintance of revered elders names? With another snort, the old man rebuffed, You wouldnt know my name even if I told you. In these day and times, all that the young blood knows to worship are merely figures of empty fame. Just because there so happens to be some old bones like us who didnt bother themselves with opening up any sects or schools, all you can hear people talk about are Shaolin and Wu Tang. So in the end, how would the new generation know of our existence? But if the Wu Tang five elders were here right now, they will most definitely have insisted on taking the status of our junior! The old man has just been rambling on and on with such frenzy that he has left Zhuo Yi Hang to be completely clueless on what to make of his mouthful of mumble jumble.

    The old chap continued, Is that Taoist Priest standing over there your Shifu? Such a question left Zhuo Yi Hang dumbfounded as he silently thought to himself: since he says that even the Wu Tang 5 elders have to pay reverence to him as the senior, then how come he doesnt recognize my uncle White Stone? Therefore Zhuo answered, He is my martial arts uncle and proceeded to inquired about their names once again.

    The old man remarked with smugness, Which sect are you from? Didnt the elders of your sect ever mention to you the two names Immortal on Land Hu Mai and the Heavenly Hands Meng Fei? I am the Immortal on Land, Hu Mai. Twenty years ago in a martial arts competition, I had crossed swords with Taoist Priest Purple Sun on the top of the Wu Tang Mountain. In the match of hand combat, Purple Sun very kindly allowed me to win by one stance. While in terms of sword skills, even though we were originally tied, yet since I had already beat him in hand combat I felt that I should try to reserve some face for him and therefore let him win in the end by half a stance! Zhuo Yi Hang has truly never heard of such an occurrence before and when he considered to the humility and magnanimity of his ShiFus character, if such a fight truly did happen, how could it be that he has never heard his ShiFu never mention anything about it before?

    The Heavenly Hands Meng Fei interrupted, But that was twenty years ago! At that time, the Taoist Priest Purple Sun may still have been able to pose as a challenging opponent to my old brother Hu, but I dare say that if they had another competition today, he would be defeated in less than fifty stances! As for Shaolin, though they depend on their Divine Fists for their fame, yet in reality, the flaws found within this set of martial arts is extremely numerous. From what I can see, the Dhyana Master[6] Jing Ming is not even my match, so forget facing off against my old brother Hu!

    He then extracted from his traveling pouch a book which had the words The Ten Weaknesses of Shaolins Fist Skills imprinted on its cover. Turning to Zhuo, he then said, In order to abolish the ignorance of the worldly mortals, I have purposely written this book in order to outline in detail the various deficiencies of Shaolins Divine Fists. Zhuo Yi Hang thus said, Oh I see, so you have come here with the purpose of presenting this book to Elder Jing Ming? Meng Fei replied, But its too bad that despite having such a respectable name, Jing Ming that old baldy has in reality an extremely cramped breadth of heart. We purposely came here to pay him a visit and he actually dares to lock up his doors and refuse us the right to enter! Zhuo Yi Hang was just about to ask for permission to flip through the old mans book when the front doors of the Shaolin temple suddenly swung wide open as two old monks walked out together shoulder to shoulder.

    Hu Mai shouted loudly, Ha! So you finally dare to show your face? Jing Ming! Do you have enough guts to exchange ten stances with me? Standing on the left hand side was a monk with a pair of gentle eyes and a compassionate gaze who incanted, Blessed is the divine Amitabha Buddha and his merciful guidance before he said, These old bones of this humble monk are already much too brittle and it has been a long time since he has taken an interest in such activities.

    But the monk standing on the left side only snickered and snapped, Ive been informed that over the past few days, the two of you have come to our front doors every day demanding to exchange stances with our head abbot. But our admittance monk has already informed you of Shaolins rules; if you have come to Shaolin with the purpose of exchanging stances, then you must start competing with our disciples of the fifth generation. You must ascend the stages one at a time, and if you really were able to defeat the representatives from each of our generations then I will naturally have to come out and meet your expertly stances! You disregard the rules of our sect and yet you still have the audacity to come around here kicking and screaming?!

    Then with a signal of his hands he shouted, Wu Jing! Come out and exchange a few stances with these two guests. A little novice monk of about fourteen or fifteen years of age immediately leaped out in answer to his command. Hu Mai puffed up with fury as he shrieked, Zun Xing, you bald headed old bloke! How dare you look down on us like this? Even if youre the Monastery Inspector, were also important people you know?! Are we not worthy enough to exchange a few moves with you?

    The little novice monk immediately positioned himself into a fighting position and called out, Alright! Since you two guys are guests, Ill let you guys execute three stances first before I retaliate! Hu Mai squeaked with fury, You no hair little brat, do you know who I am? The little novice monk made a funny face and quipped back, I know that you are a lowlife bum! When Zhuo Yi Hang heard this, he could not refrain from bursting out into laughter, for the two words Wu Lai which comprises lowlife bum when pronounced with a HeNan accent sounds exactly like Hu Mai!

    Hu Mai continued to rave, Wu Tang and Shaolin are both considered as leaders of the martial art world, so Jing Ming, why is it that you dont follow after Taoist Priest Purple Suns gracious example? That day, Purple Sun personally accompanied me up Wu Tang and then even after losing to me in hand combat, he still brought his four martial art brothers along with him as he personally saw me down the mountain. Now this is the kind of class that a leader of the martial art world should have! But before he could even finish his words, a loud smack was suddenly heard as a hard slap was delivered straight across his face. Then with just a sweep of his hands, Taoist Priest White Stone has already thrown Hu Mai more than thirty feet off to the side causing Hu to roll around the ground squealing hysterically like a pig that was being slaughtered.

    Meng Fei stood by one side and wailed loudly, Is there no room for the countrys law in the eyes of Shaolin? Can you just commit murder under the glare of broad daylight?! Meanwhile, Hu Mai continued to quack about with pain as he rolled around all over the ground, his voice gradually becoming choked and raspy as if he really was about to die any minute. The old Dhyana Master Jing Mings eyebrows knitted together as he turned to the Monastery Inspector Zun Xing and said, Give him a small rejuvenation pill to ingest.

    The Dhyana Master Zun Xing took out a silver jar to pour out a very tiny red pill and then asked the little novice monk to bring it to Meng Fei while he said, Our merciful head abbot grants you this miraculous pill. Meng Fei immediately grabbed the pill and delivered it into Hu Mais mouth. But after just a brief pause, Hu Mai began to howl out with pain again. Meng Fei barked, My brother was secretly attacked by the evil tricks of your people, just one little red pill will not do any good! Give me two more! Zun Xing retorted with fury, Who do you think youre fooling? But the old Dhyana Master Jing Ming had a compassionate heart and was worried that Hu Mai really has been severely injured, therefore said, Give him another pill then. Zun Xing had no choice but to take out yet another red pill to hand over to him. With euphoric jubilation, Meng Fei greedily snatched up the pill and then hurriedly tucked it away before throwing Hu Mai on his back and with a large step, proceeded to descend the mountain.

    But Taoist Priest White Stones rage was still unabated as he thundered out with rage, Do you guys know who I am? Meng Fei turned around and responded, I was just about to ask. White Stone snickered and said coldly, I am the fourth martial arts brother of the Taoist Priest Purple Sun, known to others as the Dragon Slaying Swordsman, Taoist Priest White Stone! Didnt that old lowlife bum say that I had personally accompanied him down the Wu Tang Mountain once? Why is it that he couldnt recognize me when Im standing right in front of his face?! Standing around them was a crowd of little novice monks who all burst out into hysterics upon hearing this.

    While still draped across Meng Feis back, Hu Mai suddenly lifted up his head to exclaim, Ohhhhhh! And I was wondering who that was! So its one of the Wu Tang five elders, no wonder he has a bit of strength to him! Im old now and my energy is not as vibrant as before. In three years, I will tell my disciple to come find you and settle this score! Though his voice was not particularly vociferous, yet one could tell that there also was not a bit of hoarseness to it. White Stone found the whole incident both aggravating and amusing as he loudly bellowed, Now get out of my sight you dirty rat! as the figure of Meng Fei was seen to hurriedly scamper down the mountain.

    With a chuckle, Zun Xing said, Brother White Stone, you really shouldnt have revealed your name to him. White Stone asked, Why is that? Zun Xing replied, Now that you have given him your name, its going to give them more material to construct their tall tales in the future. So that even when they die, they will now be able to etch upon their tombstones with big bold letters the words: Once exchanged stances with the Wu Tang five elders!

    Taoist Priest White Stone burst out with laughter and said, What ridiculousness! as Zun Xing continued, But brother White Stone, I really wasnt trying to make a joke out of all this. Within the martial arts world, there really are a countless number of frivolous people who have too much time on their hands. Take those two lowlife rats that were just here for example! They knew very well that our head abbot wouldnt exchange moves with them. And because they were absolutely certain that the members of the Shaolin temple wouldnt hurt their lives, they take advantage of it by causing such a huge ruckus right in front of our doors in hopes of somehow making a name for themselves! White Stone remarked, Only your Shaolin sect would be so graciously forgiving. Had this happened on our Wu Tang Mountain, it would have been a miracle if their two legs werent broken by now! Zun Xing laughed and said, That is why they wouldnt dare to bother your Wu Tang sect, but they wouldnt have thought that even when bringing out the name of Wu Tang on the Song Mountain, they would still come across their unlucky star you.

    White Stone rubbed his hands together and was laughing out with satisfaction when Zun Xing suddenly interrupted, Brother White Stone, when I watched you deliver that palm strike just a moment ago, it seemed to me that you had originally exerted your full force but then suddenly retracted all but three tenths of power when you actually came into contact with his clothing. Are my observations correct? Taoist Priest White Stone was incredibly impressed as he replied, Reverend, the clarity of your observational abilities is truly alarming. When I originally saw how arrogant the words of those two lowlife bums were, I struck towards him with full force. But when I actually caught a clear glimpse of his movements, I realize that he was not even worthy of my attention and therefore only used three tenths of power. The Dhyana Master Zun Xing sighed and said, Then we have been tricked. White Stone asked, What? as Zun Xing explained, We have let them cheat away from us an extra miraculous pill.

    But the old Dhyana Master Jing Ming said, Brother, you must take caution not to be too miserly. Even if we have let them take away an extra pill, yet this pill could only be used to save lives and we need not worry that they will be using this pill to do bad deeds. Meanwhile, Zun Xing only shook his head and remained silent. But who would have thought that there would be a twist of fate in store? This tiny red pill would actually ignite the second strange case in the history of the Ming dynasty. What is now known as the Red Pill Case would end up taking the life of an Emperor! But this concerns a subsequent matter and will not be presently disclosed.

    Taoist Priest White Stone later beckoned Zhuo Yi Hang to come over and express his worship to the Reverend Jing Ming after he had finished officially greeting him. When the Revered Jing Ming saw how exceptional Zhuo Yi Hangs demeanour was, he was quite full of praise.

    That night, the Reverend Jing Ming hosted a banquet in the Awareness Edification Chapel in honour of Taoist Priest White Stones arrival. During the banquet, they conversed to Taoist Priest Purple Suns recent passing and all that was heard around the table were sighs and laments coming from everyone. Zhuo Yi Hang was also secretly filled with despondency as he thought to himself: Ever since his ShiFus death, the Wu Tang Sect has come to resemble a crowd of dragons that were without a leader. And although the martial art abilities of his four martial arts uncle were pretty good, yet they did not possess any leadership talents. It really seems that from now on, the throne of the martial arts worlds central divinity could only be conferred upon the Shaolin sect.

    The last colours of the sunset began to gradually dissipate as the luminous moon rose high above the mountains, drowning all thirty six stupas and fifty-four pagodas in a film of luminous moonlight. The Reverend Jing Ming was taking a sip of green tea when he turned towards the moonlit sky to suddenly ask with a smile, Do you think that the nightwalker would have an easy time moving about under such a moonlit night?

    Taoist Priest White Stone asked with surprised, Revered Dhyana Master, what do you mean by these words? Could it be that there are some night trawlers in this world who would dare to cause trouble at the Shaolin temple? Even if those two lowlife bums wanted to continue latching onto the Shaolin sect, they still wouldnt have such remarkable abilities! Reverend Jing Ming laughed and said, The person who will be coming tonight is not some kind of pesky rascal, but is one of Military Commissioner Xiongs men. Furthermore, it is I who personally invited him to come.

    Taoist Priest White Stone had absolutely no idea what to make of these remarks and could only ask, Who is Military Commissioner Xiong? Do you mean the Managing Governor of the Eastern LiaoNing Province[7], the great general Xiong Ting Bi? Jing Ming replied, Where else in the world could you find another Military Commissioner Xiong? White Stone remarked with perplexity, But Military Commissioner Xiong is the current eras famed warrior whose character and military strategizing abilities are admired throughout the world. Could it be possible that he would actually try to cause trouble for Shaolin? Jing Ming laughed and said, Of course he would not, and after a slight pause he suddenly said, There is one person named Yue Ming Ke. Have all of you heard of his name before?

    A jolt shocked through Zhuo Yi Hangs heart as he said, I know this person. Jing Ming stated, It is him who will be coming tonight. Surprised, Zhuo Yi Hang asked, Why would he come here? Jing Ming replied, He was sent over here by Military Commissioner Xiong.

    What had happened was that when Xiong Ting Bi was appointed as the Managing Governor of Eastern LianNing Province, the Ming Emperor also simultaneously bestowed him with the Royal Sword that grants its wielder the right to execute other members of the imperial court before reporting to the Emperor. It should be understood that the threat at the border has now reached the state of extreme concern. And of course the decadent and degenerate military power stationed at the border contributed as one big causal factor.

    Therefore after Military Commissioner Xiong was granted the Royal Sword, he set off with the determination of conducting a huge reorganization of military order. Bringing along with him his personal troops, he expedited along his journey and traveled throughout the nights to arrive swiftly at the borders. Once entering LiaoYang, Xiong immediately executed the three generals Liu Yu Jie, Wang Jie and Wang Wen Ding who were all debasing the countrys laws by indulging in acts such as extortion or spoiling their troops to oppress the common peasants. Xiong then took their severed heads around to the military tents and exhibited them to all the troops. Once the troops saw the heads, they were all intimidated into a state of solemn sobriety and from them on, all the troops abided by Xiongs commands.

    Xiong Ting Bi then expanded his area of reorganization and while training his troops he was also simultaneously constructing war chariots and cannons, excavating trenches and fortifying the citys structure. As a result, what was originally a troop of eighteen million useless soldiers that were degenerate beyond hope have suddenly been transformed into an mighty crowd of thriving and effective military troops to station at Fu Shun and face off against the Manchurian troops. Upon receiving news that Xiong Ting Bi was personally heading the military defence, the Manchurian king did not dare to advance or attack and could only retreat his troops to station in Xing Jing. While the two armies stood off against each other, no battles have broken out so far.

    During this time, Yue Ming Ke was positioned within the army as a Grand Adjutant[8], and though his post wasnt a very high one, yet in reality, his importance to Xiong Ting Bi akin to being one of his arms.

    The Northeast regions were famous for their production of white gold and exceptional bronze, compelling Xiong Ting Bi to suddenly decide that he wanted to have a noble sword custom made. He therefore asked Yue Ming Ke to be in charge of accomplishing this task. But it was also at this time that rumours started to drift in from the capital. It was said that because officials such as Fang Cong Zhe and Liu Guo Jin were jealous of the trust and military power that the Emperor has bestowed upon Xiong Ting Bi, they were therefore trying to get Xiong impeached by the imperial court.

    Therefore upon Xiongs order, Yue Ming Ke returned to the capital in order that he may investigate into what the situation was and help Xiong Ting Bi make the necessary arrangements in case anything was to happen. That was one reason behind his trip, but Yue Ming Ke was also planning to take this opportunity to try and seek out a suitable sword-maker who would be willing to travel to the borders in order to help Xiong Ting Bi make his sword.

    When Yue Ming Ke arrived in the capital, he was able to discover that though the conspiracy was indeed in the midst of festering, yet there were still a bunch of upright and incorruptible high officials such as Yang Lian and Liu Yi Jing whom were all actively supporting and protecting Xiong Ting Bi. Therefore conjecturing that Xiong should be safe for the time being, Yue Ming Kes thoughts returned to the task of constructing a first-rate sword.

    But all the famous sword makers were either dead or so old that they would be unable to travel such long distances. Though Yue Ming Ke was a master of the sword himself, yet he knew nothing about the art of sword making. After thinking over this matter for a long time, he suddenly remembered that amongst the various sects of the martial arts world, only the Shaolin sect has in their possession a book that discusses the art of sword making. This book was called The One Hundred Constructive Arts of the Dragon Springs[9]. Yue Ming Ke immediately thought of asking the Shaolin temples head abbot to grant him the permission of copying out a duplicate of this book. That way, not only could he use this book to make a sword for Xiong Ting Bi, but they could also use the sterling bronze from the Northeast area to construct weapons for their military troops. Therefore taking advantage of the fact that the borders were not requiring any immediate attention at present, Yue Ming Ke hurriedly traveled towards the Xiao Shi Mountains Shaolin temple to express his intentions.

    After Reverend Jing Ming finished explaining to Taoist Priest White Stone about Yue Ming Kes purpose, he then said, This was originally a good deed, not to mention this was all conducted on behalf of Military Commissioner Xiongs request. But the rules of Shaolin have always strictly prohibited the circulation of ancient texts to outsiders. Therefore after thinking over this for a long time, I could only ask him to come here and steal the book! Having finished these words, Jing Ming erupted into a hearty guffaw.

    The Dhyana Master Zun Xing suddenly turned towards Zhuo Yi Hang and asked, What are the martial arts of this Yue Ming Ke like? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, The superiority of his martial arts is at a level more than ten times beyond that of mine! Greatly taken back by these words, a displeased expression also simultaneously appeared on White Stones face.

    Dhyana Master Zun Xing chuckled and said, Brother, you are much too humble. There is a reason to why I wanted to know about the degree of his martial art skills; Even though our head abbot and I hope that he will be able to attain what he wants smoothly, yet we still cant guarantee that our fellow sect members wont give him a hard time. Therefore if his martial art abilities were lowly, then we will not send out our first rate fighters to guard the stations. Taoist Priest White Stone suddenly added, Considering Shaolins great fame, even if you were purposely intending to let him by, you still cant let him obtain his goal too easily. Zun Xing smiled and said, Most definitely. If brother you are interested, why dont you come along tonight and have a look for yourself?

    Let us now turn our attention back to Yue Ming Ke who was extremely elated after receiving the hint from the Dhyana Master Jing Ming. That night, having changed into a dark coloured night travelers outfit, Yue Ming Ke arrived at the Shaolin temples front doors and bowed respectfully three times before he dashed inwards. But it was also at this time that he happened to catch the whiff of a light draft that suddenly glided past him. He was then able to vaguely discern what appeared to be a black shadow that hurtled towards the Northeast corner with the speed of a shooting comet. The levitation skill of this person was already an indication of first-rate abilities! The average fighter would have never been able to detect the presence of such a person. Startled, Yue Ming Ke was worried that the Reverend Jing Ming might have changed his mind and sent over first-rate fighters to secretly watch over him.

    But just as he was in the midst of contemplating, a little novice monk immediately leaped out from the LoHan Hall. Though the little monk appeared to be only about fifteen or sixteen years of age, yet his movements were actually extremely agile and athletic. The very moment he appeared, he executed the Yin Yang Clashing Palms to strike towards Yues face while stating loudly, Dirty Scoundrel! How dare you break into our temple?

    Having been instructed by Jing Ming beforehand, Yue Ming Ke knew that the little novice monk was just putting on an act. But now watching him getting into the role with such genuine passion, Yue couldnt help but be secretly amused. After evading a few stances, Yue already began to contemplate on how he could pass this station in a way that would allow the little novice monk to save some face. But it seems that the little novice monk was actually quite competitive for he has suddenly initiated the Shaolin Soft Palms attack. Alternating between palm and finger attacks, the little monk was stabbing one moment and then piercing at another.

    Accompanied by a revered monk of the DaMo Sanctuary, Zhuo Yi Hang and his uncle were observing the fight from the heights of the stone pagodas. On observing the little novice monk, they discovered that he just happened to be the little monk who had jumped out to challenge Hu Mai during the daytime. Zhuo couldnt help but find this funny as he remarked, The movements of this little Dhyana Master are extremely lithe! Im afraid that had he struck out during the daytime, that old lowlife bum would have been injured even more severely!

    Having humoured the little novice monk by accompanying him for a few twists and turns, Yue Ming Ke suddenly revealed a weak spot to him. Unable to retract his attack in time, the palm of the little novice monk landed right on the Qi Men Acupoint located under the left side of Yues chest. Yues body immediately flitted upwards as he flew over the outer walls and said, Young masters palm force really is powerful! I bow down to you!

    The little novice monk was frozen on the spot with astonishment for he had felt the muscle on Yues body sink inwards the very moment he made contact with his clothing. He wasnt even able to concretely impact Yues body yet and already Yue was impacted so hard that his whole body was shocked into the air!

    Seeing how his opponent was unable to maintain his balance despite the fact that his palm hasnt even concretely impacted upon his opponents body yet, the little novice monk was led to believe that all of this was really due to his skilful mastery of the soft palms. Watching his opponent flit away to dodge his attack, he was just about to call after him, Since you are willing to admit to defeat, then why are you still charging towards the inner stations? Come back for a few more rounds! But just when he was about to utter these words, a voice was suddenly heard to drift towards him through mid air. It turned out to be none other than the Dhyana Master Zun Xing who was currently stationed at the Ancestral Founder Temple. Zun Xing reprimanded in a severe tone, Foolish child! You have just been granted a win and yet you dont even know enough to express your gratitude? The mastery of your soft palms is far from being a worthy match!

    The face of the little novice monk blushed the shade of a fiery scarlet that spread all the way to the tips of his crimson ears. He hurriedly folded his palms together and said, Thank you honoured guest for showing mercy. But Yue Ming Ke was similarly surprised at how the Dhyana Master Zun Xing was able to observe everything so clearly despite being physically stationed at such a far distance! This really goes to show that the fame of the Shaolin temple was certainly well deserved.

    After Yue Ming Ke whisked past the LoHan Hall, he entered into the Awareness Edification Chapel, the very same place that the Reverend Jing Ming had used to receive Taoist Priest White Stone just a while ago. The very moment that Yue Ming Ke arrived there, he immediately heard a series of whooshing sounds that cut through the air and hurtled straight towards his face. Executing his supreme levitation skills, Yue Ming Ke rocketed to the top of the large roof beam with just one flit of his body. What he immediately heard was a monk say with a laugh, No need to be alarmed my guest, please come down for a competition of projectiles. When Yue Ming Ke observed the rectangular shaped object arrive back into the hands of the monk, he became quite perplexed.

    This monk was named Xuan Tong and was the disciple of the Monastery Inspector Zun Xing. He was only intending to give his visitor a little scare when he unleashed his specialty projectile just a moment ago. But what he didnt expect was how incredibly superb Yue Ming Kes levitations skills would turn out to be, far exceeding his original expectations. Initially, he was just planning to hurl the Yuan Yang Pillow[10] past his opponents ears, but as soon as the projectile arrived near Yue Ming Kes body, Yue Ming Ke suddenly disappeared from sight completely. It was only after Xuan Tong had retracted his projectile did he discover that Yue had already arrived on the top of the roof beam. Such a feat actually ended up igniting the competitive side in Xuan Tong, compelling him to really have the desire to contest with Yue Ming Ke!

    With a smile, Yue Ming Ke descended upon the floor and with a wrap of his fists he said, Then please go easy on me Reverend. Xuan Tong replied, Your words are much too humble. What projectile will you be using? Since Yue Ming Ke never uses any projectiles, he had to think over this question for a little while. When he happened to lift his head to glance outside, he discovered that planted right in front of the chapel was a Dragons Eye Tree[11] densely populated with bunches of ripe fruit. Thus with a smile he said, I happen to be a little thirsty, may I go pick a few Dragons Eyes in order to quench my thirst? Slightly staggered, Xuan Tong replied, Please do.

    In just a breath, Yue Ming Ke has already consumed twenty or thirty dragons eyes and by collecting together all their seeds in the palm of his hand, he smiled and said, Alright. I have my projectiles. Reverend, please proceed to enlighten your disciple.

    When Xuan Tong saw Yue Ming Ke use the Dragons Eye seeds as his projectiles, he involuntarily began to simper with anger. Therefore with just a flip of his wrist, he first tossed out five Bronzed Bodhi Beads[12]. What immediately followed was a series of tinkling sounds that chimed out continually under the sequential flicks of Yue Ming Kes fingers. All of Xuan Tongs Bronzed Bodhi Beads have been shot down by the Dragons Eye Seeds that were catapulted out of Yue Ming Kes palm!

    Xuan Tong was absolutely astounded, but with a sweep of his two hands, two of his specialty projectiles the Yuan Yang Pillow immediately hurtled out in two paths. This projectile was quite a powerful weapon for even though it was shaped like a pillow, yet concealed within its center were numerous sharp blades that had the ability to retract and extend out of the pillow. Yue Ming Kes two fingers continued to flick out in a sequential fashion as four Dragons Eye Seeds blasted out. Once the tiny Dragons Eye seeds impacted upon the Yuan Yang Pillow, the pillow flipped flopped in mid air and completely lost its direction.

    With a wave of his hands, Xuan Tong retracted his weapon and since his eyes were sharp, Yue Ming Ke was able to discern that tied to the Yuan Yang Pillow was an extremely thin piece of metal twine that was connected to Xuan Tongs finger. Therefore he waited until Xuan Tong tossed out his weapon again before he suddenly bounded up and snipped towards the metal twine with his two bare fingers, cutting it cleanly in two halves. As a result, the Yuan Yang Pillow suddenly flew off to one side and hurtled right out of the Awareness Edification Chapel while the blades concealed within the pillow all shot out and nailed right into the Dragons Eye Tree. Having past the second stage, Yue Ming Ke immediately dashed towards the Sutras Treasury Chamber after leaving behind a final Thank you for your mercy!

    Before he has taken more than a few steps, another monk was seen to jump out from the DaMo Sanctuary. In his hand was a Monks Spade[13] that glinted menacingly in the light as he blocked Yues path and said, Please stay behind sir.

    Yue Ming Ke knew that amongst all the sects, the Shaolin temple had the strictest examination standards. The monks of the temple were either skilled with their fist combat, accomplished in the art of projectiles or experts of blades. Furthermore, it was only when they have achieved a certain level of skill in all three areas of the fists, projectiles and blades will they then be allowed to probe into the intricacies of inner energy cultivation. And it is only after one has been able to achieve a substantial reserve and understanding in the art of inner Qi cultivation will one then be allowed to enter into the DaMo Sanctuary. Therefore, the revered monks of the Shaolin temples DaMo Sanctuary were all masters of both inner and outer martial arts, and were without any doubt first rate fighters possessive of extraordinary powers. Since this monk bounded out from the DaMo Sanctuary, he was obviously one of the top figures of the Shaolin temple.

    Therefore Yue immediately folded together his fists in introduction. This monk was named Tian Yuan, the head disciple of the Dhyana Master Jing Ming. He stood there defending the barricade with his spade and then with a bow of his head, he smiled and instructed, Please reveal your weapon Sir Yue.

    After declaring, Forgive me, Yue Ming Ke immediately extracted out his sword. All that followed was a bright streak that glistened with the crystal clarity of the autumn streams, dazzling the whole area with radiant luminosity!

    When Yue Ming Kes ShiFu, the Philosopher Tian Du extracted from Tian Shan the finest of its Five Metals, he proceeded to solicit the help of the Master Sword-maker, elder OuYang YeZi[14] to construct two priceless swords one short, one long. The long one was named Gliding Dragon[15] while the short one was titled Jade Fracturing. The very one that Yue Ming Ke had in his hand just happened to be Tian Shan sects exclusive and prized treasure, the Gliding Dragon Sword.

    When the monk Tian Yuan saw him bring out such a phenomenal sword, he was slightly staggered. But when he thought to what a heavy and solid weapon the Monks Spade was, he knew that it was hard for even a treasured sword to cut into it and was therefore reassured.

    After Yue finished performing the rites of greeting, he held up his blade and blocked it in front of his chest. With a loud smack, the monk Tian Yuan brought down his monks spade but Yue Ming Kes two shoulders immediately swung to one side and then with a half-turn of his body, retaliated with a back swing of his sword. Yue Ming Ke pierced directly towards Tian Yuans wrist with the velocity of a lightning flash and a sparking explosion. The monk Tian Yuan exclaimed Very fast! and with a flourish of his wrist, his monks spade rocketed upwards. Yue Ming Ke retracted his sword and turned his blade around to pierce directly while Tian Yuan simultaneously pushed his monks spade forward, bringing about a loud ring that shocked through the air as sparks flew out all around. The monks spade was chipped in this process, but Yue Ming Kes arm was also aching with pain! Yet despite this fact, he still did not dare not to hesitate in his movements or loosen his concentration, but instead in the blink of an eye, he swiped, slashed and stabbed out with the sword in his hand to complete three sequential stances!

    The monk Tian Yuan had the advantage of possessing colossal strength in his arms and therefore when he discovered how potent Yue Ming Kes sword advances were, he began to swirl up a frenzied storm with his spade. Suddenly, it was as if there was a green glare that encased over him from head to toe, protecting him with a safety shield that extended to a twenty feet radius, permitting neither wind nor rain to penetrate through. Yue Ming Ke praised, Impressive! and by calling upon all aspects of his combat training, he branded the Gliding Dragon Sword to conjure up a ferocious storm that swallowed, spitted, expanded and unleashed like a tornado, thus enabling Yue to manoeuvre with ease amongst the encasement of the green rays!

    Tian Yuan was the DaMo Sanctuarys revered monk and in terms of martial arts, he could sit tight in the third place within the whole Shaolin temple. His rich experience and expertise enabled him to be knowledgeable in the martial arts of all the sects spanning from North to South. But Yue Ming Kes sword art was formed through compiling the elements of the various schools sword skills, therefore was substantially solid while also being dynamically powerful. Even after exchanging fifty stances, Tian Yuan was still unable to determine the background of Yue Ming Kes school!

    As the two fighters battled back and forth, simultaneously advancing and retreating, another thirty or fifty stances have been exchanged. The sword stances of Yue Ming Ke grew tighter and tighter, truly resembling the vast currents of the ChangJiang and the grand tides of the Yellow River that gushed forward with ferocity. He twisted and turned amongst the rays of green light, both attacking and defending at the same. All that could be heard were the sounds of splintering gold and shattering jade that rung out incessantly. Having just reached the most intense portion of their battle, another voice was suddenly heard to descend upon them from mid air. It turned out to be none other than the old Dhyana Master Jing Ming who was transmitting his message from the very heights of a pagoda. In a slightly scoffing tone he said, Tian Yuan, you have already lost. Why are you not retreating? Though the volume of his voice wasnt particularly vociferous, yet upon entering its listeners eardrums, its reverberations shocked straight towards ones heart!

    Tian Yuan retracted his stances with bewilderment and discovered that the two blades on his Monks Spade have been completely blunted! However, even though he was shaken, yet he was also thinking to himself: This was just a result of my opponent possessing a superior weapon, but in terms of actual martial abilities, I have not lost by a stance yet. As a result, even though he had to halt due to his ShiFus orders, yet he was feeling disgruntlement at heart.

    Yue Ming Ke turned towards the open space and bowed to the person observing from far away before he dashed past the DaMo Sanctuary and headed towards the direction of the Sutras Treasury Chamber. By that time, the monk Tian Yuan has already ascended the pagoda to ask his ShiFu, Your humble disciple has not lost in terms of stances, why must honoured ShiFu force me to retreat? Even if we are intent on letting him pass, yet we should still let him know that we are purposely letting him go. By allowing him past in such a way, wouldnt it give him the chance to look down upon Shaolins spade skill?

    It should be understood that Shaolins Spade Skill was already an extinct art within the martial arts world. At that time, even though Wu Tang dominated in terms of sword arts, yet when concerning the mastery of the fist, palm, projectiles and other miscellaneous weapons, Shaolin still held the authority. This was what propelled the monk Tian Yuan to say such words. But the Reverend Jing Ming again scoffed lightly and said, You have accompanied by my side all these years and have even ascended to the head position within the DaMo Sanctuary. Yet why is it that you wouldnt even recognize your own defeat? Take a look at the patch of clothing covering your chest. The monk Tian Yuan lowered his head for a look only to discover that on the chest area of his monks robe were three tiny holes. Such a discovery caused his whole body to break into a cold sweat for he finally realized that Yue Ming Ke really was holding mercy within his attack.

    The old Dhyana Master Jing Ming brought his palms together and praised, As they say: The world witnesses the birth of new talents in every generation, each of which basks in triumphant glory for a few dozen years. I never would have thought that I would be able to personally witness the martial arts world radiate this spectrum of glorious brilliance in my last years!

    Monk Tian Yuan asked with perplexity, ShiFu, exactly which sect or school does the sword skill of this Yue Ming Ke belong to that would merit such approval from you? The old Dhyana Master Jing Ming replied, His sword skill was compiled by extracting the essence embodied within the soul of the sword art belonging to the various sects and schools. I have long heard that the Philosopher Tian Du residing on the Heavenly Mountain was engaged in the study of a special sword skill, thus I believe that this person must be his favoured disciple. The Heavenly Mountain was separated from the Song Mountain by more than tens of thousands of miles, and furthermore, the fact that Huo Tian Du was dedicated to creating an unique sword skill was something of which only a few of the old masters in the marital art world would know about. Therefore even though Tian Yuan was the revered monk of the DaMo Sanctuary, yet he wasnt even acquainted with the name of Huo Tian Du. As a result, this knowledge only caused him to be even more astounded.

    Old Dhyana Master Jing Ming continued, Though the internal energy cultivation of this person might still be somewhat lacking in substantiality, yet in terms of sword skills, Im afraid that even if the Taoist Priest Purple Sun was brought back to life, he probably would still be unable to defeat him. From the looks of the situation, it seems that even if we werent purposely allowing him to pass the stations, he would still have the ability to pass the four levels on his own. The philosophy of martial arts is boundless like the never-ending cycle of sunrise and sunset, for if one does not advance, that is already equivalent to regressing. You have to take caution of this from now on.

    Amongst all the disciples of Jing Ming, monk Tian Yuan was able to learn and master the most of his ShiFus martial arts. The fact that he possessed the most powerful martial arts within all the disciples did originally cause him to have a bit of arrogance to him, but after this lesson, his cultivation became even more pure and his practice more devout. Therefore, in the future he would end up succeeding the Dhyana Master Jing Ming as the next head abbot of the Shaolin temple. But this concerns a subsequent matter.

    After flitting past the DaMo Sanctuary, Yue Ming Ke arrived at the Ancestral Founder Temple from where the Sutras Treasury Chamber was already in sight. This Ancestral Founder Temple was an extremely important architectural structure, for the monks of Shaolin had constructed it in remembrance of the ancestral master DaMo. Therefore Yue Ming Ke knelt down in front of it and performed obeisance three times before Dhyana Master Zun Xings laughter suddenly rang out from within the temple as he said, Please come in for a brief rest Sir Yue. When Yue Ming Ke entered the temple, he performed the rites of greeting with the utmost sincerity and respect as he said, Your disciple offers his worship and does not dare to issue any challenges. Since this Dhyana Master Zun Xing belonged to the same generation as the Reverend Jing Ming, he originally had no intentions of guarding the barricade himself. But upon observing the superb martial art skills of Yue Ming Ke, his curiosity was suddenly ignited as he descended the pagoda with the intention of personally testing out Yues martial arts.

    Dhyana Master Zun Xing smiled and said, You dont have to be too humble. Please sit down. In the pursuance of knowledge, it matters not who is the novice and who is the expert for it is he who arrives at the final destination that is deemed as the master. By studying from each other, we can both learn and benefit in the process. Therefore Yue Ming Ke replied, Then please forgive me as he sat on top of the rattan mat on the West end. Zun Xing sat on the rattan mat located on the East side so that they both faced each other, separated by a distance of thirty feet. Zun Xing said, In order for us to compete, there is no need for us to actually exchange stances. I will sit right here on this mat to compare fist skills with you. Yue Ming Ke was thinking to himself: how is one to compare fist skills by sitting on this rattan mat? But Zun Xing was immediately heard to continue, We are separated by thirty feet, a distance of which the force of our fist strikes can reach. Let the two of us sit on our rattan mat as we strike with our fists. The person who is struck off their rattan mat first will be considered as defeated. If the two of us can both manage to remain sitting, then we will determine our points through bell chimes. Yue Ming Ke asked, How are we to use bell chimes to calculate our points?

    The Dhyana Master Zun Xing smiled faintly and took out a chain of copper bells of which he tossed to Yue while saying, Hang this around yourself. Yue Ming Ke did as he was told while the Dhyana Master Zun Xing sat down cross-legged. After Zun Xing had finished hanging a set of copper bells on himself, he continued by saying, You and I can both execute our fists strikes at will. We will use the duration of time it takes to burn one stick of incense as our limit. If both of us can manage to remain seated on our rattan mats, then we will determine our victory by counting to see whose copper bells rings the most number of times. Such a method of competition was really quite unique and novel, inducing Yue Ming Ke to nod his head in acknowledgement of these instructions.

    Zun Xing sat up straight on the rattan mat and said, Please begin. Yue Ming Ke punched through the air with his fist, causing Zun Xing to shout, Good! as he drove out a punch in retaliation. The two forces crashed into each other, but because Yue Ming Kes dynamic power was slightly weaker, he immediately felt a light gust of air brush across his face. Yet luckily, his bells didnt ring.

    Zun Xing punched out in sequential fashion, forcing Yue Ming Ke to expend all his efforts into defending. Every time the thrusts of the two fighters fist strikes clashed into each other, a light blast of air would come blowing towards Yue. And furthermore, that blast of air would show signs of becoming increasingly more forceful each and every single time. This immediately caused Yue Ming Ke to be worried for he thought to himself: Shaolins divine fist skills were without match. If I engaged in hard combat with him, I will most definitely be unable to withstand for very long. Thus when Zun Xing struck out with his next punch, Yue secretly generated the Pressure of a Thousand Pounds skill to stabilize his body and did not retaliate with any punches. All that was heard were the chimes of bells as Zun Xing counted, One, two while Yue Ming Ke took advantage of this opening to suddenly thrust out with a punch. Since Zun Xing has just released a punch, he was unable to execute another strike in time to counter Yues attack, causing the bells hanging around him to also ring out as Yue Ming Ke counted, One, two The bells suspended on each fighter had both rung three times. Zun Xing laughed and said, Youre quite clever and continued to drive out yet another punch. Yue Ming Ke employed the same tactic as before by waiting until Zun Xing has punched out before he proceeded with his attack. But what he didnt know was this punch just thrown out by Zun Xing was a decoy strike that didnt actually embody hard power. Zun Xing thus waited until Yue Ming Ke had attacked before he executed his real fist strike, causing the force of the two punches to collide into each other again. Yue Ming Ke hurriedly retracted his arm but Zun Xings speed of execution was unbelievably fast and he had already followed his previous attack with another punch, causing the bells around Yue Ming Ke to ring out again. This round, Yue Ming Ke lost by two points.

    After this lesson, Yue Ming Ke paid close attention to the authentic and decoy nature behind Zun Xings moves, taking care to look out for the weak spots of Zun Xings attacks while guarding his own space. In such a manner, bell chimes were heard to ring out incessantly as the stick of incense burnt past its three-quarter mark. After a quick mental tally, Yue Ming Ke discovered that he was losing by five points, causing him to be extremely anxious within his heart.

    Zun Xing thought to himself: I should let him win a few. Thus when Yue Ming Ke struck out his next two punches in a consecutive fashion, Zun Xing did not attempt to withstand his attack. As a result, the bells around him chimed out four times so that in comparison, Yue Ming Ke was now only losing by one point. This caused Yue Ming Ke to unconsciously break into a big grin, influencing Zun Xing to think: Alright, lets see you squirm a little again. This time, he no longer held any reserve as he forced out his punches with a frenzied fervour. Yue Ming Ke focused his utmost attention on the battle, both withstanding and attacking at the same time. But after a while, Yue was still losing by three points as the stick of incense was almost finished burning!

    Since Yue Ming Ke didnt know what Zun Xings thoughts were, he thought that Zun Xing was purposely trying to give him a hard time. But also because of this reason, a plan suddenly popped into Yue Ming Kes head. As Zun Xing threw out another punch, Yue Ming Ke generated his inner energy and with a thrust, caused the bells hanging around his chest to suddenly jump up as he immediately proceeded to propel forth another punch. The dynamic force coming from the punches of both fighters impacted into each other, causing the copper bells to explode in mid air. As the snippets of copper spewed out all around them, Yue Ming Ke cried out, Oh no! My bells have been destroyed! What should I do now? With a startle, Zun Xing was just about to get up when Yue Ming Ke took advantage of this opening to immediately send out a fierce punch, causing the bells around Zun Xing to ring three times as they tumbled down the rattan mat. The stick of incense has just finished burning!

    Zun Xing ripped out into hearty laughter and said, Brother! You really are something! Since we are tied, then you are said to have passed this stage. Yue Ming Ke replied, Please forgive my rudeness as he jumped down from rattan mat and performed obeisance with a bow. He immediately felt an aching pain within his two arms, but Zun Xing just laughed and praised, Such a young age and already in possession of such a reserve of inner energy! You deserve to pass this stage.

    Once stepping out of the Ancestral Founder Temple and under the pale gleam coming from the wan moon and the vacillating sparkle glittering from the sea of stars, Yue Ming Ke suddenly thought back to the black shadow that flitted past him when he was entering the temple earlier this evening. He thought to himself: I have already past through four consecutive stages and now the night has already reached the third hour, if that black shadow was someone sent by the Shaolin temple to watch over me, then why is it that this person still wont show their face? But before he knew it, he had already arrived in front of the Sutras Treasury Chamber.

    Yue Ming Ke once again knelt to the floor and knocked his head three times against the ground as his sign of respect. He immediately heard an elderly voice call out, My good child, please come in!

    When Yue Ming Ke pushed opened the door and entered inside, the Dhyana Master Jing Ming was seen to be sitting up straight on top of the rattan mat. Yue Ming Ke hurriedly tidied up his appearance and then knelt down to perform obeisance. Jing Ming asked, Are you the disciple of Philosopher Tian Du? Yue Ming Ke replied, Yes. Dhyana Master Jing Ming continued, Thirty years ago, I was traveling past the E-Mei Mountain and once had the honour of meeting your ShiFu. At that time, he was still collecting together the sword manuals of the world and was immersed in silent contemplation and meticulous study in attempts to understand the essence of these sword arts. But since he retired to the Tian Shan, all news of him has since been lost. Now watching you strike out tonight, it can be conjectured that his Tian Shan Sword skill has already been completed. This humble monk really has to express my congratulations to his old acquaintance.

    Yue Ming Ke brought his hands together and said, The Tian Shan Sword skill is still in its early stages of development. We are still in high anticipation for Reverends constructive criticism. Reverend Jing Ming laughed and said, In the realm of sword combat, this old monk is nowhere near the level of your ShiFus expertise. But since you have already come here tonight, then let me test you on your inner energy. Yue Ming Ke was taken back as he thought to himself: in the competition of inner energy, the winner and loser are determined right on the spot. There is no room for clever stratagems to cover up for inadequacies. What should I do now?

    Jing Ming continued, Please sit down on the rattan mat over there. Yue Ming Ke thought that he wanted to compete fist forces with him like Zun Xing and therefore hurriedly insisted, Your disciple dares not to receive the punches of old Dhyana Master. Jing Ming smiles faintly and assured, I was not planning to compete fist skills with you. Please have a seat first. Yue Ming Ke realized that he had just made a blunder with his words, for the Dhyana Master Jing Ming was the grand master of a generation, there was absolutely no way that he would compete fist skills with himself. With a blush, Yue followed his instructions and sat on top of the rattan mat. Jing Ming picked up another rattan mat and sat right in front of Yue Ming Ke while taking out a cord and handing it over to Yue saying, You and I will each hold onto one end of the cord. Sit still and circulate your Qi as you usually would during your daily energy cultivation practices. I will be observing what degree of profundity your inner energy level reaches.

    Yue Ming Ke was not sure what to make of these instructions for he was thinking to himself: How is that suppose to test out the levels of my inner energy? But nevertheless, he still sat down in crossed legged fashion and began to practice his energy cultivation. After sitting for a while, he felt a force of Qi gather at the centre of his chest that rose and fell in accordance with the movements of his breath. This was the energy force that developed in ones body when one has achieved a certain profundity of inner Qi. Since he was a child, Yue Ming Ke had accompanied by his ShiFus side and engaged in the dedicated practice of inner Qi on the Heavenly Mountain. Therefore, he has already attained the full legacy of his ShiFus inner energy cultivation methods.

    Having sat for just a while, his energy had already coursed through his body and extended to the extremities of his four limbs while the temperature of his body began to heat up slightly. Yue Ming Ke understood very well that his inner energy has shown signs of progression and felt a delighted thrill within his heart. He opened up his closed eyelids slightly to see Dhyana Master sitting on the rattan mat with his eyes closed and his head slightly lowered as a smile played lightly about his lips. Yue Ming Ke was thinking: Can it be that the Dhyana Master Jing Ming has already been able to assess my inner energy levels? Just this one thought caused a slight wave to lightly ripple across the peacefulness of his heart. But the Dhyana Master Jing Ming continued to sit silently with his eyes closed.

    Having sat for an hour, the bits and pieces of extraneous thoughts started to gradually seep into Yue Ming Kes mind. From speculating on Jing Mings intentions, his thoughts then switched to The One Hundred Constructive Arts of the Dragon Springs and whether he would be able to attain it tonight. Soon those thoughts turned to whether the old Dhyana Master Jing Ming would find his martial arts to be worthy of notice before wandering to thoughts of Military Commissioner Xiong guarding at the borders and whether there would be any changes in the military situation. Once all these extraneous thoughts erupted in Yue Ming Kes mind, the ability to control his breathing using his mental will power did not come about as natural as it did just a while ago. Dhyana Master suddenly incanted, Blessed is the divine Amitabha Buddha and his merciful guidance, immediately alarming Yue Ming Ke while the Dhyana Master Jing Ming continued, Abolish all ignorance, forgo all obstinacies. Awaken the Intuition and enter the Impersonal. Since the beginning of time, how many seekers of enlightenment have been able to understand these twelve words?

    Alarmed, Yue Ming Ke was suddenly filled with vigilant awareness as he chewed over these twelve words and realized that the old Reverend Jing Ming was trying to use the teachings of supreme Buddhist wisdom to point out the intricacies of inner energy cultivation. So-called ignorance was in reference to the thoughts of Desire, Anger and Delusion. As for obstinacies, that was in reference to the irresolvable and un-eradicable matters that haunts the human heart and obstructs the intuitive spirit. What was known as Impersonal is the state of awareness where one can be Without Others, Without Self. The teachings of Buddhism posits that one must abolish all of ones ignorance and abandon all forms of obstinacies before one can be awakened to enlightened intelligence and enter into the state of eternity. From these Chan teachings, Yue Ming Ke was suddenly enlightened to the principle of inner energy cultivation, causing an inspiring revelation to flood into his mind and illuminate his heart.

    As soon as Yue Ming Ke understood this philosophy, all extraneous thoughts ceased. Then with three generations of his inner Qi, his inner state returned to one of vacant purity. With a tug of the cord, Dhyana Master Jing Ming said, Thats good enough. As long as you continue your practice in such a way, you will most definitely be able to achieve the heights of supremacy one day.

    Yue Ming Ke arose and expressed his gratitude, though he was still unsure of how Jing Ming was able to assess his internal states and was just about to inquire when Jing Ming said, When one is practicing internal energy cultivation, they mustnt allow one speck of dust to land upon their hearts. If their inner state is not calm, then their four limbs will likewise be unable to still. Therefore once one has extraneous internal thoughts, it will most definitely surface externally. When you first sat down, there were slight vibrations in the rope, but this movement gradually subdued to a static state which is an indication that your inner energy cultivation has already reached a proficient level. However, you were still unable to achieve the level of pure stillness yet, which is why the cord again began to show the signs of slight vibration later on. Such is akin to the light ripples that disturb the surface of a still pond and that is why I knew that your mind have been tainted by extraneous thoughts. Yue Ming Ke was in absolute reverence and was just about to report his intention of taking the book when the Reverend Jing Mings expression suddenly became very grave as he immediately asked, Did you bring an acquaintance along with you tonight?

    Severely taken back, Yue Ming Ke hurriedly answered, No! causing Dhyana Master Jing Ming to immediately say, There is someone hiding on top of the Sutras Treasury Chamber. I want you to capture him for me. The very moment that he finished these words, the Dhyana Master Zun Xing was already heard to state in a loud voice, All members of the DaMo Sanctuary immediately proceed to the Sutras Treasury Chamber!

    With his sword in hand, Yue Ming Ke leaped up on to the upper loft as a strange whistling sound suddenly cut through the dark silence and the force of a palm struck straight towards his face. Yue warded off that palm strike with one hand but discovered that his opponents palm force was strangely powerful. Thus he hurriedly charged towards the source of the palm strike and pierced out with his sword.

    Since Yue Ming Kes internal energy foundation was already quite established, he would of course possess the ability to differentiate the nature of the attack by just listening to the sound it emanates. But what was surprising was that as soon as he stabbed out, he immediately felt the stir of a light breeze brush past him as a black outline suddenly flitted out from right in front of him and arrived by his right side. With a loud roar, Yues Gliding Dragon Sword has already thrashed out with a frenzied fury, shooting silver rays out in all directions, illuminating the room with a brilliant flare to reveal a red faced old man hunched up in the corner with an eerie grin on his face.

    With a flip of his treasured sword, cold light shot out as the tip of Yue Ming Kes sword penetrated directly towards his opponents Hua-Gai acupoint with the stance White Spectrum Envelops Sun. The red faced old man instantaneously dived towards the floor and started to back away. Since Yue Ming Ke was worried about damaging the Buddhist Sutras on the shelves, he swerved his blade around to block the old mans exit route. But who would have expected the old mans movements to be so extraordinary fast, for he took advantage of the time it required for Yue Ming Ke to change his stance to suddenly pounce forward. Then with a flourish if his palm, he slashed down directly towards the wrist of Yue Ming Kes sword wielding hand.

    With a quick squat of his body, Yue Ming Ke lifted his sword and sliced towards the pulse point of his opponents wrist. But with a half twist of his body, the old man suddenly thrashed out a palm, so that just as Yue Ming Ke was in the midst of hastily changing his stance, his opponent has already scratched across Yues wrist with his finger, bringing forth a searing sensation of burning pain. Infuriated, Yue Ming Ke drove his sword forward and with a vibration of his swords blade, the movements of retracting and extending suddenly became indiscernible. Such a move secretly harboured quite a few transformations and was a powerful obliterating move of the Tian Shan Sword skill. The red faced old man swerved his shoulder to one side, but Yue Ming Kes sword followed right to the spot he had dodged to and with a loud rip, a piece of the old mans long coat had already been slashed apart.

    Yue Ming Ke branded his sword and pierced out again, but the red faced old man unleashed a ferocious growl and retaliated with a palm sweep, bringing forth a blast of dynamic palm force that actually shocked Yue Ming Kes sword so hard that its tip swerved over to one side. The old man then snuck to the top of the roof with the speed of a preying eagle.

    Yue Ming Ke was just about to chase after him when he suddenly heard Dhyana Master Zun Xing bellow loudly from the top of the roof, Get down! and what immediately followed was a loud Peng that sounded as if two slabs of gigantic wood were crashing into each other. The red faced old man immediately fell down as the Dhyana Master Zun Xing also leaped downwards. But as the fire torch in his hand lighted up the room, they immediately discovered that the old man had already positioned himself in between two book shelves. Though the colour of his face was the shade of ashen grey, yet the same haunting grin remained fixated on his face.

    The Dhyana Master Zun Xing growled, Who are you? How dare you not surrender right away? With an evil grin, the red faced old man replied, If you dare come forward one step, I will annihilate all the Buddhist sutras in your Sutras Treasury Chamber. Youve personally intercepted one of my palms; do you not believe that I would have such a power?

    The colour of Zun Xings face grew green with rage, but having just forcefully clashed palms with the old man, he knew by just that one palm he faced up that the martial arts of this man was something of which should not be taken lightly. He knew that the old man meant what he said and being held back by such a concern, he literally froze on the spot, unsure of what to do next. It was at this time that the Dhyana Master Jing Ming came up to the loft while incanting a Buddhist mantra. The red faced old man said, Dhyana Master Jing Ming. If your Shaolin temple plans to win by crowding me with your large numbers, then I wont plan to exit out of these doors alive! Dhyana Master Jing Ming murmured, Blessed is the divine Amitabha Buddha and his merciful guidance and with his palms pressed together he asked, May I be informed of the intentions behind your visit here today?

    The red faced old man said, Id like to borrow the The One Hundred Constructive Arts of the Dragon Springs and the Tendon Altering Sutra for a read. Dhyana Master Jing Ming replied, I have already promised The One Hundred Constructive Arts of the Dragon Springs to someone else. As for the Tendon Altering Sutra, that is a treasured legacy handed down by our ancestral founder. So please understand that we will not be able to comply with your request.

    Zun Xing sneered, Youve been hit with my divine fists, are you not going to hasten to find a place to sit down and ameliorate your injuries? What do you think youre doing by sticking around here and badgering us? Dhyana Master Jing Ming ran along the book stacks once before suddenly saying, Leave now. I wont give you a hard time. You wouldnt have the ability to take the sutras and ancient texts away with you even if you wanted to. When the red faced old man thought over these words, he realized that they did indeed make a lot of sense. But even if the elder Jing Ming would be willing to let him off the hook, all the other monks of Shaolin most definitely would not ignore this matter. Therefore he said, You may be willing to let me go, but what about the others? Jing Ming replied, Ill ask the monastery inspector to accompany you outside and announce to everyone else that they are not to harm you.

    The red faced old man glanced over at Zun Xing, but his two hands remained tightly clamped on the bookshelves. Jing Ming continued, The followers of Buddha do not speak words of deceit. What are you still worried about? The red faced old man replied, Fine! Then please give me a minor rejuvenation pill! Zun Xing snorted with disgust while Jing Ming ordered, Give it to him. Zun Xing had no choice but to take out the silver bottle and extract a tiny red pill. The red faced old man grabbed it and immediately popped it into his mouth while Zun Xing shouted, Fine. Follow me, Ill take you out. And with a great leap, he bounded out the room.

    The red faced old man turned towards Jing Ming and after a low bow, he also followed out the door with a giant leap. Yue Ming Ke noticed a strange glimmer in his eyes and was worried that something might go wrong, therefore followed closely behind them with his Gliding Dragon sword ready at hand.

    On the tiled roof of the chamber were already a crowd of people guarding about. There were the 8 Revered Fighter Monks of the DaMo Sanctuary along with Taoist Priest White Stone and Zhuo Yi Hang. When Yue Ming Ke noticed that Zhuo Yi Hang was also present, he was slightly surprised. With a sweep of his hand, the Dhyana master Zun Xing announced, The head abbot gives orders to let this man go!

    Since Zhuo Yi Hang happened to be standing right by the Dhyana Master Zun Xing, under the gleam of the moonlight he was able to discern everything clearly. He discovered that on the palm of the Dhyana Master Zun Xing were a mass of red spots, causing him to hurriedly ask, Dhyana Master, did you just exchange palms with that old bandit? Zun Xing asked, What? Zhuo Yi Hang replied, He is the practitioner of the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds, the Old Bandit Jin!

    This caused Zun Xing to be greatly alarmed for he suddenly remembered that when he first intercepted the old mans palm, he did indeed feel a strange sensation. Yet he wouldnt have thought that the old man would actually turn out to be the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds! With a loud roar, he was just about to chase after him when his legs suddenly weakened out from beneath him. By then, Jin Du Yi has already flitted past two great stupas and yet still turned his head around to snicker, Is the Shaolin temple planning to break their own promise? The Reverend Jing Ming called out from below, Let him go!

    Yue Ming Ke suddenly exclaimed, Im not a member of the Shaolin temple! immediately reminding Zhuo Yi Hang, causing him to hurriedly cry out, Brother Yue! Let us chase after him! He stole your ShiNiangs sword manual! With an angry growl, Yue Ming Kes body immediately dashed forward, and with just one giant leap, arrived more than a few dozen feet away from the Sutras Treasury Chamber. With two more leaps, he has already arrived near the back of the Ancestral Founder Temple. Zhuo Yi Hang took flight at the same time as Yue Ming Ke, following closely behind him as they chased over quite a few rooftops.

    Taoist Priest White Stone felt quite perplexed, and was secretly chastising Zhuo Yi Hang for sticking his nose into other peoples business. But what he didnt know was that Zhuo Yi Hang was doing this solely for Yu Luo Chas sake. As soon as he discovered that this was the man who stole Yu Luo Chas sword manual, he completely disregarded the differences between the calibres of their martial art abilities and actually chased after them with all his might.

    At the beginning, Zhuo Yi Hang was still able to discern the outline of Yue Ming Kes back as he chased after him. But that outline became smaller and smaller until it gradually shrunk to just a tiny black dot that was enveloped by the murky darkness of the night. Though the levitation skills of Zhuo Yi Hang were indeed quite extraordinary, yet when compared to the likes of Yue Ming Ke and Jin Du Yi, he still had quite a distance to go. Therefore though he chased further and further away, yet he eventually lost all traces of them.

    Zhuo Yi Hang was just in the midst of debating what his next step should be when Taoist Priest White Stone caught up to him. Zhuo Yi Hang said, Theyve gone towards the Northwest direction. Should we go after them? White Stone replied, You will be the future leader of our sect, therefore you must take care to familiarize yourself with the social graces and proprieties of the JiangHu world. We have come to Shaolin as guests, now that the monastery inspector has been injured by the Venomous Palms of the Yin Winds, we should first go to save our host before we chase after the opponent. Not to mention that old bandit Jin has already been injured by Shaolins divine fists, he most definitely will not be a match for the Yue lad, so why should he need your help? Thinking over this, Zhuo Yi Hang realized that they made a lot of sense and therefore followed Taoist Priest White Stone as they turned back towards the Shaolin temple.

    Yue Ming Ke on the other hand has already put his supreme martial arts into action as he tailed closely behind the back of the Venomous Palms of Yin Winds, Jin Du Yi. After chasing for an hour, they have already gone from the ShaoShi Mountain to the foot of the TaiShi Mountain. It was then that Yue Ming Ke suddenly felt a feverish aggravation build up in his heart as his mouth became extremely parched and thirsty. With just that slight pause in his footsteps, Jin Du Yi has already taken advantage of this opportunity to accelerate his speed as he dashed ahead with frenzy, suddenly disappearing from view.

    Yue Ming Ke took in a deep breath and felt his arm to be both aching and itchy at the same time. When he rolled up his sleeve for a look, he discovered that the area from his upper arm downwards was black and swollen as a red streak rose slowly upwards. It was as if he had been bitten by a poisonous snake. Jin Du Yi had attained his fame through his Venomous Palms of Yin Winds, thus in comparison to his nephew Jin Qian Yan, his martial arts were ten times more superior. He had first brushed over Yue Ming Kes wrist and then after an intense battle Yue immediately proceeded to engage in a frenzied chase, thus instigating the poison, causing it to spread through his body. When Yue Ming Ke saw this, he couldnt help but be alarmed as he hurriedly sat down on and generated his internal energy on the spot, attempting to use his supreme inner energy cultivation to force the poison back down.

    After about an hour, that red streak has already retreated to the area beneath his elbow. Yue Ming Ke thought to himself: I should be able to return to the Shaolin temple by daybreak. But just when he was feeling reassured he suddenly heard the lyrical notes of a flute melody drift in not far from where he was situated. Yue Ming Ke went out for a look and discovered that sitting up straight on top of a crag of rock was a young man!

    Yue Ming Ke was greatly surprised, for under the shifting and realignment of the stars and constellations, the fall of the moon and dissolution of the night mist, he conjectured that it must be close to the fourth hour. Why would there be a young man sitting here, playing a flute all by himself?

    After another short while, a number of dark shadows loomed out from the far distance and charged directly towards the young man in a disorderly fashion. The young man put his flute away and then stood up while saying in a clear voice, You guys are late.

    There were about ten people who have arrived. The person leading the crowd was a thin and brittle looking old man about fifty years or so of age. He faced the skies and chortled out with loud laughter before saying, I knew you wouldnt dare to go escape. Yo kid! Whats your name?

    With a flare of his eyebrows, the young man laughed and retorted, Why should I tell you?

    The old man shouted back, You snot-nosed little brat! Dont you know the rules of the Underground world? If you were planning a heist, than why didnt you first call upon the areas leader to offer your worship and respect? The young man replied, But youre not the leader around here. The old man laughed and said, Seems that you did do your homework. Then I take it you already know who the leader of this area is? That means that youre purposely breaking the rules, which makes you even guiltier! The young man just quipped back, Leader or Loser I couldnt care less. But if you guys can steal it, then I can steal it as well.

    A tall and muscular man suddenly dashed out from beside the old man. He was puffing with rage as he pointed his finger and shouted, Little rogue! You actually have the guts to mess with the dirty business of the black devouring black?! Give back that jade coral right now!

    Yue Ming Ke silently mused to himself that this turned out to be an inner conflict between bandits. But upon observing how gentlemanly this youngster appeared to be, Yue couldnt understand why he would also take part in these dark businesses of the black societal clans?

    Such is: JiangHus Black devours Black, the Hero develops suspicions.

    [1]The two words Ci Hui could be roughly translated as Compassionate (Ci) Intelligence/Intuition (Hui).

    [2]A paired of lovers who belonged to the Western Han era. Their story has been documented by SiMa Qians Shi Ji (Records of the Grand Historian) and later, Ban Gu et. al. also incorporated it within the Han Shu (Book of Han). The story of these lovers goes that Zhuo Wen Jun was a beautiful and very well-educated girl belonging to a wealthy family. She married at the age of seventeen but when her husband died, she returned to live at home. SiMa XiangRu was also a very talented scholar who came across bad times when his Lord lost power. It was at SiMa XiangRus most desolate and financially destitute time did he meet Zhuo Wen Jun. After he played for her the song The Phoenix Woos Her Mate, Zhuo Wen Jun actually left her home to meet with SiMa XiangRu in the middle of the night, an action which caused quite a scandal in ancient feudal times. Despite her familys protest and enrage, Zhuo insisted on being with SiMa XiangRu as they opened up a small tavern, living a humble but joyful existence. Later on, SiMa XiangRus talents were gradually recognized and rewarded; therefore their financial situation needless to say, gradually became better. But despite SiMa XiangRus plaguing medical condition (it is now determined that he was suffering from diabetes) which should restrict him from excessive indulgence in drinking and gluttonous feasting, once SiMa XiangRu grew wealthy, he give himself over to decadence, not only consuming excessive amounts of harmful substances, but his numerous rendezvous with beautiful and famous courtesans also became a widely known fact. Despite being heartbroken, Zhuo Wen Jun continued to withstand this behaviour from SiMa XiangRu, hoping that he will one day change his ways. But when SiMa XiangRu insisted on establishing a famous beauty as his concubine, Zhuo Wen Jun could finally take no more as she wrote him the poem Bai Tou Yin as her final attempt to win his heart back. When he read the poem, SiMa XiangRu was in fact so touched after being reminded of the happiness they shared in their youthful times, he abolished the notion of establishing a concubine and then reformed his ways, enabling the two lovers to be reunited. As a result, they spent the rest of their years together in happiness. Due to SiMa XiangRus illnesses, he did eventually die a few years later and his wife Zhuo Wen Jun followed after him shortly afterwards.

    [3]Roughly translated as the White Haired Song.

    [4]Books footnote: the wife of the Emperor Han Xiao Wu.

    [5]Roughly translated as The Poetic Essay of the ChangMen Palace. This was a long poem composed by SiMa XiangRu. It was said that when Emperor Han Wus wife, the Empress Chen A-Jiao lost the Emperors affections, she asked SiMa XiangRu to write her a poem that would bring the Emperor back to her. But her attempts would at last prove to be futile. In contrast, the poem that Zhuo Wen Jun wrote for SiMa XiangRu would indeed rekindle his affections.

    [6]Also known as the Chan Master, this was a title conferred upon monks who have attained a degree of enlightenment in Chan Buddhism. Although the Chan Buddhism also branched into what will later be known as Zen Buddhism in Japan, yet unlike Zen, Chan does not stress the art of meditation, but rather relied on the enlightenment that could be found in the everyday routines and events of life, as well as the humdrum simplicity of the ordinary conversations of ordinary life as their basis of achieving clarity of mind. Chan did not hold the scriptural study of traditional Buddhist texts as their basis of enlightenment, and similarly they did not view existence as a state of suffering that required salvation. Rather, they tried to enter into a new state of existence through a shift of the mind which could allow an opening of ones consciousness, an unveiling of sorts that would occur through the patience and simplicity of ordinary living. The Chan Buddhism actually underwent a division and separated into the South and North schools. The south school was actually founded under the teachings of the monk Hui Neng, the Chan Master whose famous parable was cited in the opening poem of this books first chapter.

    [7]Some online resources translate this position as the Managing Governor of Manchuria. The original term was actually LiaoDeng in which the translator believes in this case, would be more accurate to translate as Eastern (Deng) LiaoNing Province. During the end of the Ming Dynasty, a great part of LiaoNing was indeed occupied by the Manchurians (who would later construct what would become known as the ShenYang Imperial Palace, the Forbidden Palace of the Manchurians stationed in the city of ShenYang which was the capital of LiaoNing). As the Manchurian army grew stronger by the day while the Ming dynasty became increasingly more unstable and problematic, the Manchurians took over more and more of this province. Therefore by the time that the Qing army took over the Ming dynasty completely to officially established the Qing Dynasty and enter into the Imperial Capital, LiaoNing was basically seized by the Manchurians and claimed as their land. As a result, some translations would categorize the same area as Manchuria (for it is indeed where the kingdom of the Manchurians started to prosper), but during the time when Xiong Ting Bi was in post as a Managing Governor, the power that the Manchurians held was unlikely to be as strong as the dominance they held slightly afterwards. Therefore, the translator conjectures that it may be slightly more accurate to translate LiaoDeng as simply the Eastern part of the LiaoNing Province.

    [8]The following footnote was provided through the kind help and expertise of fellow wuxia fan Laviathan: (in the) Ming Dynasty: Canzhan Jiwu - Grand Adjutant, third in a triumvirate to whom military control of the auxiliary capital of Najing was entrusted after 1420, normally a concurrent appointment for the Najing Minister of War.

    [9]Translated from LongQuan, a city in the Province of ZheJiang. It was said that during the Spring and Autumn warring period, a famous sword craftsman named Ou YeZi received orders from the King of Chu to craft a sword. Arriving by the springs of the LongQuan County, Ou YeZi found the environment and atmosphere incredibly suitable for the crafting of a sword. Not only was the quiet area peaceful and undisturbed, but there were seven separate creeks that were coincidently arranged in approximation to the positioning of the seven stars in the big dipper. The water from the creek was cold and pure, thus in the end, Ou YeZi was able to construct three priceless swords of which he handed over to the Chu King who highly valued them. Of the three swords, it was the Long Yuan (Dragon Abyss) Sword which became the most famous. But due to political reasons, this sword was renamed as Long Quan (Dragon Spring) Sword during the Tang Dynasty. And because of this incident, the waters of the LongQuan Springs have longed been graced with the famous reputation of producing steel blades of superb quality.

    [10]Remember, Yuan-Yang translates as Mandarin Duck while also keep in mind that pillows in ancient times are often hard and rectangular box-shaped objects made from pottery or porcelain (such as the example in the following picture:

    [11]What is here translated as Dragons Eye is the fruit known in Chinese as Long (Dragon) Yan (Eye).

    [12]The term used in the novel was Tie (Bronze) Pu-Ti (Bodhi). The translator interprets this as a reference to the Bodhi beads in the Buddhist Mala (or beaded rosary), which were made from the Bodhi tree seeds.

    [13] The actual term used in the novel was Fan Bian (convenience?) Chan (spade/shovel), but Monks spade was used in this case as it seems the most suitable and fitting.

    [14]In history, there really was a master sword maker by the name of Ou YeZi (who made the Dragon Abyss/Spring Sword refer to previous footnote in chapter 9). But Ou YeZi lived during the Spring-Autumn period, about 2000 years before Huo Tian Dus time. Thus LYS was probably intent on winking at this historical figure by naming the sword-maker who made the Gliding Dragon sword as OuYANG YeZi. Otherwise, it would be that he made the mistake of confusing the name and time period of which Ou YeZi lived in.

    [15]This is a very famous sword that appears in multiple books of the LYSs Tian Shan series. In Chinese, the actual name of the sword is You Long, in which the word You can refer to both swimming or wandering. But the greatest likelihood should be swimming for the image of the swimming dragon is often found in Chinese phrases (also keep in mind, Dragons are said to be creatures of the sea). As well, the two swords Jade Fracturing and Swimming Dragon should parallel each other in the nature of their name one which has the solid resilience that shatters jade while the other embodies the lithe flexibility of a swimming dragon. However, for aesthetic purposes, I personally prefer Wandering Dragon but have in the end opted to use Gliding Dragon in order to be more faithful to the original concept embodied by the term.

  11. #11
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 10

    Chapter 10
    Sword Deciphers Profound Truth
    Heavenly Mountain Produces Legendary Swordsman
    Capital Rumours Strange Scandals
    Inner Palace Festers Illicit Adulterer
    (Translated by Faerie Queene)

    The youngster giggled and replied, So I take it that youre the Leader around here? The man answered with haughty pride, Now you know not to mess around with the Black Pocks? Are you going to cough up the Jade Coral or not? The youngster smiled and replied, Sorry, but Ive already exchanged it for money! Black Pocks was infuriated and with an extension of his two hands, a pair of flying claws rocketed out to clamp down towards the top of his opponents head. The skinny old man shouted, Dont hurt him! but with just a sweep of his flute, the youngster knocked the pair of flying claws over to one side and then by adding a poke, caused Black Pocks to fall to the ground with a loud plunk.

    The face of the brittle and emaciated old man underwent a change of colour as he hissed, What is your relationship to Tie Fie Long?

    The youngster just happened to be Tie Fei Longs daughter, Tie Shan Hu. Ever since she was expelled from her home by her father, she disguised herself as a young man and wandered about at will, all in all living quite a free and unrestricted lifestyle. Whenever she ran out of money, she would go to the wealthy households to steal something.

    But when she arrived at DengFeng a few days ago, she suddenly came across Jin Du Yi and his nephew wandering the streets with a big entourage. She hurriedly hid from their view and though she knew that she should have left the place as soon as possible, yet Jin Du Yi turning up here just might mean that her father and Yu Luo Cha would end up pursuing to this place as well! Although Tie Shan Hu was disowned by Tie Fei Long, yet she still misses her father very much. She knew that her father has gone with Yu Luo Cha to hunt down Jin Du Yi in order to retrieve the sword manual, and therefore having come across Jin and his nephew here right here and now, she decided to secretly tail after them despite knowing that her abilities were far from being their match.

    By the time she arrived at DengFeng[1], all the money that shes stolen along the journey was used up. Therefore that night, she arrived at the mansion of one of the citys wealthy households to steal something. Coincidently, she happened to come across one of Black Pocks men in the midst of doing a job. So she snatched a big bag of goods right out from the hands of the ferocious bandits and upon noticing a very adorable jade coral, snatched it away as well. She originally didnt take much notice of these bandits, but to her surprise, the very next morning she received an Underground world invitation requesting her to arrive at the Five Cedars Hill located on the foot of the Tai Shi Mountain during the third hour of that very night. It was then that she discovered that there were people keeping her under surveillance.

    Tie Shan Hu understood that her situation right now was tricky for if she caused a commotion with these bandits right there in her room, then her whereabouts just might be discovered by the Jin family. Since that was the case, she may as well just steal out quietly to meet with them at their pre-arranged destination, for she was pretty sure that this group of thugs were not her match anyways. But who would have thought that Black Pocks actually knew Jin Du Yi and his nephew and would end up asking Jin Qian Yan to come along that night to help him out?

    Jin Qian Yan and Tie Shan Hu did originally know each other, but due to the fact that she has changed into a male disguise and they were encountering under the pale gleam of the wan moon and faint glitter of the sparsely dispersed stars, he was unable to get a good look right away. It was only when she has struck out did he finally discern clearly that it was the moves of the Tie family!

    Yue Ming Ke was still hiding behind the rock boulder at that time, but upon hearing this he was secretly perplexed. Tie Fei Long and Jin Du Yi were two equally resonant names belonging to the Northwest regions. Why is it that both of them would simultaneously turn up here all of a sudden?

    With a faint smile, Tie Shan Hu twirled her bronze flute around and asked, Old Jin, havent you heard that Yu Luo Cha wants your life? And yet you still dare to hang around to cause trouble? Jin Du Yi jumped with alarm while his eyes darted all around him as he exclaims, Are you Shan Hu? Did your papa and Yu Luo Cha come here as well? Tie Shan Hu brought the flute to her lips and with a toot, she smiled and said, I know theyll be able to hear my flute sounds.

    Tie Shan Hu was only putting up a faade, but Jin Qian Yan was already so terrified that his face turned a sickly green and his lips blanched a ghostly white as he thought to himself: Uncle has gone to the Shaolin temple to steal the manual, but why is it that he still hasnt returned yet? If Yu Luo Cha and Tie Fei Long both came here at the same time, then by the time theyre finished with me, I wouldnt even have a bone left over for uncle to bury!

    Tie Shan Hu snickered again, causing Jin Qian Yan to be so worried that he hurriedly scrambled to affect a courteous bow while crooning, Miss, I never knew it was you! Please dont be angered! Then with a sweep of his hands, he twisted around full circle and prepared to run for his life. By this time, Black Pocks has already gotten up from the ground as he suddenly snickered, Brother Jin, dont listen to his crap! During the last few days, aside from him, there has been no other JiangHu figure to arrive within the KaiFeng region!

    This Black Pocks was the leader of the HeNan clans and was furthermore a powerful bully of the KaiFeng area. Even though his abilities were not at all powerful, yet the cronies under his command were actually quite numerous, thus enabling him to have quite an efficient network in procuring news. Having heard these words, Jin Qian Yans palpitating soul began to settle down slightly as he shrieked, Bratty little doll! You actually dare to fool me?

    Black Pocks was suddenly filled with surprised elation as he asked, Shes a girl? Give her to me! This caused Tie Shan Hu to be so infuriated that she issued yet another poke with her flute, causing Black Pocks to crumple to the floor once again with another loud plunk. But this time, he was hurt so much more severely that he was actually unable to get back up!

    Jin Qian Yan cackled with laughter and said, Little brat, dont think that you can throw your spoiled little tantrums around me! as he clamped straight towards her face with his right hand. Tie Shan Hu flitted away to one side as she screamed loudly in a high-pitched tone, Lian Jiejie! Come save me! Jin Qian Yan shrivelled up immediately, enabling Tie Shan Hu to sneak more than 20 feet away. Enraged, Jin Qian Yan soared up with one giant leap and arrived in front of Tie Shan Hu, blocking her escape route as he sneered coldly, Hmph! Using Yu Luo Cha to scare me? before he grasped out with his hand, forcing Tie Shan Hu to repeatedly retreat.

    When Jin Qian Yans palm swept towards her, Tie Shan Hu stabbed out with her bronze flute. But her flute was snatched and tossed to the ground by Jin, whose left palm immediately followed in attack. This time, it was already too late for Tie Shan Hu to retreat! However, Jin Qian Yan suddenly halted his attack and retracted his palm while laughing, I dont want to hurt you with my Venomous Palms of Yin Winds yet. Little doll, you better be a good girl and answer my questions truthfully. If you dare say one little false word, Ill make sure to torment you with so much pain that you could only wish you were dead! Where is your father?! Where did he go with Yu Luo Cha?!

    Tie Shan Hu asked, Did you really want to see them? Jin Qian Yan snapped back, Did you think I was joking with you? and flipped his palm over to grasp out. Tie Shan Hu darted over to one side while shouting, Lian Jiejie! but Jin Qian Yan would no longer be fooled this time as he stretched out with his talons. But just when his finger was about to touch her clothing, he suddenly screamed Owww! as he hurriedly retracted his hand. Even Tie Shan Hu was completely baffled by what just happened!

    This was the work of Yue Ming Ke who was hiding behind the rock and was able to hear everything clearly. He originally thought that this was just a simple case of inner conflicts erupting between bandits and was not planning to help out either side. But when he later heard Tie Shan Hu say that this old man was surnamed Jin and further heard the old man himself proclaim the name Venomous Palms of Yin Winds, he was secretly shocked as he thought to himself: Ha! Who would have thought that I would come across them here? Since I was unable to capture the old freak Jin, then Ill capture his nephew first!

    Yue therefore gathered together a dirt ball and then with a flick of his fingers, struck the dirt ball smack on the pulse point of Jin Qian Yans wrist. The thought of Yu Luo Cha really arriving caused Jin Qian Yan to be so terrified out of his mind that his soul just about dissipated right there on the spot as he hurriedly turned around to flee.

    Black Pocks was helped up by his cronies and seeing the situation at hand become problematic he cried out, There is nobody else here aside from this little rogue! Jin Qian Yan turned his head back around and indeed saw only Tie Shan Hu standing there laughing to herself in cold contempt. But where was there even a trace of Yu Luo Chas shadow? Jin Qian Yan was petrified to the bottom of his heart and did not dare to return, but after observing the situation for a little while longer, he found that there indeed were no other strange occurrences. By then, Black Pocks men had already surrounded Tie Shan Hu but since theyve encountered Tie Shan Hus martial arts before, they didnt dare to strike out recklessly unless Jin Qian Yan returned.

    After Jin Qian Yan had a little time to calm himself down, he started to think: If that really was Yu Luo Cha, once she strikes out she never holds back and would have most definitely revealed herself by now to chase after me. He then also thought to: If Yu Luo Cha really was here, she comes and goes with such lightning speed that I wouldnt be able to escape even if I wanted to! Since Im going to die anyways, then why dont I go back for another look just in case? Otherwise, if it really does turn out that its not Yu Luo Cha, then Black Pocks and his men will end up laughing at me for being such a gutless coward.

    When Tie Shan Hu saw Jin Qian Yan retreat one step at a come, she was lost at what to do and in her anxiety called out Lian jiejie! once again. Although Jin Qian Yan has already decided on what he was going to do, yet birds that are scared of the bow will by habit shrivel at the sound of its strings. Thus he snapped up his head and was frantically glancing all around him when he suddenly felt the stir of a light breeze, causing him to hurriedly bring up his palm and with a sweep cry out, Dirty rat! Dont even think about using projectiles! But the very moment that Jins palm struck, a hoarse scream of pain immediately accompanied the action as he was suddenly seen to roll to the floor. By then, Yue Ming Ke has already revealed himself from behind the boulder!

    When Yue Ming Ke shot out the very first dirt ball, he was originally intent on shocking down Jin Qian Yan. But Jin Qian Yans martial arts actually turned out to be quite established so that even though he was struck on his pulse point, he could still manage to sustain the pain. Since Yue Ming Kes poison has just begun to exhibit the signs of being under controlled, he didnt dare to execute his levitation skills in order to chase after Jin Qian Yan and could therefore only watch as he prepared to escape. Yet what was amusing was that this actually ended up making Jin Qian Yan suspicious, inducing him to return. In his heart, he was only afraid of Yu Luo Cha and didnt know that Yue Ming Kes martial arts would turn out to be even more powerful than Yu Luo Cha! Thus when Jin turned back around, Yue Ming Ke already had three dirt balls within his hand and after picking up two more brittle twigs, he hurtled them out all at the same time. When the twig hit Jin Qin Yans right eye, it was as if he was suddenly shot by an arrow as blood immediately spurted out all over his face causing him to thrash about on the ground, screaming wildly in pain.

    Black Pocks and his cronies were all so terrified that they hurriedly fumbled about to raise their weapons. But Yue Ming Ke only unleashed a long laugh before suddenly extracting his Gliding Dragon sword from its sheath. With a round sweep, Yue brought about a mass of splintering sounds that was caused when all the weapons were shattered by the Gliding Dragon Sword! Black Pocks ignored his own physical pain and immediately rolled down the hill while Jin Qian Yan also swallowed up his pain as he jumped up and attempted to escape. But by then, Yue Ming Ke already had the tip of his blade pointed towards his throat!

    Yue Ming Ke asked, What is your relationship to Jin Du Yi? Jin Qian Yan replied, He is my uncle for the ages of the uncle and nephew were separated by less than ten years. Yue Ming Ke continued, Fine. Then tell your uncle to bring his sword manual in exchange of you. Jin Qian Yan asked, What sword manual? Yue Ming Ke snapped, What are you still pretending for? Where is Yu Luo Chas sword manual? Jin Qian Yan asked, Huh? What does Yu Luo Chas sword manual have to do with you? Yue pricked forward with his sword and a person suddenly dashed out from the mountain crevices around the corner while shouting out, Let him go! Ill give you the sword manual!

    Yue Ming Ke pushed out with his left palm, striking Jin Qian Yan to the ground as he swerved his sword around to seal across his chest in anticipation of his enemy. By then, Jin Du Yi had already arrived with the same eerie grin as he snickered, Hmph! You really want to knock on the gates of hell? Alright, cmon on then! Cmon! The sword manual is right here, come get it if you have the guts!

    You may be wondering why Jin Du Yi never turned around to combat Yue Ming Ke when he was being chased and only now did he finally reveal himself to challenge Yue to a fight? This was all due to the fact that the punch Jin Du Yi received from Zun Xing had caused him to sustain internal injuries, therefore preventing him from exchanging stances with Yue. It was only after he had escaped from Yue Ming Ke did he finally have the chance to sit down and generate his Qi in attempts to mend his injuries. After the duration of two hours, he was finally able to generate his Qi to his four limbs and bring the circulation of his breath back to its natural rhythm. Since he had already agreed ahead of time to meet his nephew at this very place, once his internal injuries got better, he immediately hastened here.

    Yue Ming Ke replied, Good! I wanted to have another fight with you anyways! Dont escape this time if you have enough guts! and then with a flip of his wrist, his Gliding Dragon Sword suddenly whipped out as Jin Du Yi twisted his body around and retaliated with a palm as the two of them initiated an intense battle right there on the hillside.

    Since Yue was cautions of the potent deadliness in Jins Venomous palms, he swerved up a storm with his sword stances that showered down like tempestuous storms and raging winds, forcing Jin Du Yi to be unable to approach him. Jin Du Yi was similarly weary of the fierceness of Yues sword and therefore only weaved in and out from amongst the light shield of the sword, anticipating for the gap of where he could issue an attack with his palm.

    After battling for about an hour, each additional stance that Yue Ming Ke executed became faster than the last. As Tie Shan Hu watched from the top of the stone crag, all she could see was that Jin Du Yi was already completely encased amongst the swords gleam, causing her to be secretly in awe as she felt only absolute admiration and respect for Yue Ming Ke.

    This style of sword skill that Yue Ming Ke was executing was known as the Wind Chasing sword style belonging to the Tian Shan Sword Skill. Though it was an incredibly rapid and fierce force, this was actually Yues first time in employing it within combat. Upon executing it, he found that it indeed had the power to force Jin Du Yi into a continual and consistent mode of retreat. Yue Ming Ke was incredibly elated for this was an indication that all the gruelling work and high hopes that his ShiFu invested in the sword skill during these last twenty years were not wasted. Just this one style of the Tian Shan sword skill was already enough to be undefeated within the martial arts world! Though Jin Du Yi flitted, soared, thrashed and twisted about, his situation was clearly becoming increasingly dangerous. Yue Ming Ke ordered loudly, Return the sword manual right away!

    Jin Du Yi suddenly unleashed a strange whistle while he said with icy coldness, If I dont teach you a lesson by making you taste the bitter results of your own mistake, youll think that Im afraid of you! Thus with a transformation of his palms, the force of his attack suddenly raged with deadliness as every palm embodied along with it angry winds that howled in the air. The tip of Yue Ming Kes sword was shocked over to one side, greatly alarming him. After continuing the fight for a little longer, he suddenly felt his mouth to be parched and dried up while both his heart and body burned with agitation. Since this Wind Chasing sword skill was completely concerned with attacking, it requires a great deal of energy and because Yue Ming Kes injuries have just begun to show signs of rehabilitating, now after such an intense battle, his poison was immediately instigated again.

    Although Yue Ming Ke was silently crying with dismay, yet what he did not know was that Jin Du Yi was in even worse shape than he was. Ever since Jin Du Yi sustained Dhyana Master Zun Xings Shaolin fist, he has relied on his deep reserve of inner energy to circulate his inner Qi and mend his body so as to momentarily force down his injuries. But the majority of his internal damages still remained to be untreated. Now, in order to withstand Yues unbelievably fast and fervent sword attacks, he had no other choice but to force himself into generating his inner Qi. Therefore even though he was momentarily taking the lead, yet his five Zang organs and his six Fu organs[2] were already shocked and traumatized down to the core. After another little while, even his eyesight began to grow blurry.

    Amongst the clashing and clanging din of the fierce battle, Yue Ming Ke suddenly drove forward with a stance. Since Jin Du Yi had the ability to discern attacks through analyzing the sounds it emanates, he retaliated with a palm strike that once again caused the tip of Yues sword to swerve over to one side. Then with a hook of his left arm, he transformed his attack to the grappling technique, thus locking down Yues wrist. By that point, Yue Ming Ke suddenly felt an unbearable pain overcome his whole aching body as his legs weakened out from underneath him. As a result, he very instinctively drove his sword down towards the ground, but it just so happens that this would be the very move that would hit the nail on the spot!

    Jin Du Yis internal injuries were suddenly initiated, thus disabling his vision. Since he was unable to see anything and since Yue Ming Ke just happened to have lost all his strength, that very sword that he drove towards to the ground was both slow and weak in execution. As a result, Jin Du Yi was unable to discern clearly through sound the nature and direction of Yues attack, therefore ended up being stabbed right in his thigh bone. The Gliding Dragon Sword was incredibly sharp, which was why even though the driving force behind it was actually very weak, yet it still drove straight through Jins bone!

    With a loud roar, Jin Du Yi whooshed out two palms with mad frenzy and since Yues wrist was locked by his grasp, he had no means of escaping as Jins two palms landed smack on him, causing him to be shocked into the air like a ball of yarn! Yues body rocketed up high into the skies before it lost its momentum to hurtle head first towards the hard ground!

    Upon witnessing this, an incredibly petrified Tie Shan Hu immediately leaped out and extended her arms to very concretely catch Yue Ming Ke within her embrace. Yue Ming Ke immediately vomited out a mouthful of blood before calling out hoarsely, Hurry, bring the sword back to me! Tie Shan Hu expression was one of hesitation as she asked, Are you alright? Yue Ming Ke snapped with anger, Go! Go!

    Jin Du Yi had fallen unconscious the moment he threw out those two palms while Jin Qian Yan having been blinded in one eye and having sustained a palm from Yue Ming Ke was similarly weakened with exhaustion. However, Jin Qian Yan was still able to move about and seeing his uncle fainted on the ground, he called upon all his strength to come forward in rescue.

    Tie Shan Hu picked up the prized sword and with a whoosh, drew out a streak of silver ray immediately followed by another stance that caused a nearby rock boulder to ignite into sparks of fire while the chunks of rocks spewed out all around them. She was afraid that Jin Qian Yan would attack Yue which was why she flourished her sword in attempts to scare them off. But what she didnt know was that Jin Qian Yan actually did not have a single ounce of strength left in him and was afraid instead that Tie Shan Hu would be chasing after him so as to settle their scores. Therefore with his uncle in his arms, he hurriedly rolled down the hill.

    Black Pocks and his men have all ran away during Yue & Jins battle, therefore the only people left on the foot of the Tai Shi Mountain at that time was Yue Ming Ke and Tie Shan Hu. When Tie Shan Hu ran up to him, Yue Ming Ke said, Help me up and having sat down crossed-legged in silent meditation, he said with wheezing hoarseness, You leave this place first. Tie Shan Hu ignored these instructions as Yue Ming Ke continued, The enemy might return! You should leave this place first! Go and inform the Shaolin temple. Seeing how he was injured so severely and yet was still concerned about her own safety first, Tie Shan Hu was extremely touched. Yue Ming Ke reprimanded, Why arent you listening to me? Tie Shan Hu has always been like a big kid and normally, if someone had spoken to her in such a severe tone, she would have most definitely thrown a temper tantrum. But now with her face streaked full of tears, she said instead with soft tenderness, Alright, Ill listen to you, Im going right now.

    Although Yue Ming Ke tried to generate his Qi with devout concentration, yet his injuries were simply too severe and he just couldnt circulate his breath around. He sat there for a while and by the time he opened up his eyes, the skies had already grown light and the first sight he was greeted to was Tie Shan Hu standing near him with the prized sword in her hand as she guarded beneath a cedar tree.

    Yue Ming Ke asked, Why didnt you leave? Tie Shan Hu immediately jumped towards him and twisted her little mouth into a pout as she asked, Why are you being so unreasonable? Yue Ming Ke asked back, How am I being unreasonable? Tie Shan Hu replied, You saved my life, so why wont you allow me to do something back in return and stand guard over you? Are you the only one whos allowed to be the valiant hero around here? Yue Ming Ke had no argument to retort these words and therefore tried to move his limbs around instead, but he was overwhelmed by an unbearable aching pain and felt as if his whole skeleton was shattered. Tie Shan Hu offered, I can carry you back to the Shaolin temple on my back!

    When Yue Ming Ke looked over at her, he was immediately reminded that she was a girl disguised as a boy and therefore shook his head to say, Theres no need as he returned to his silent meditation in attempts to generate his Qi again. Tie Shan Hu was thinking to herself: Why does this person enjoy so much in giving others a hard time? She was of such childlike directness that she did not realize that Yue Ming Ke was refusing her offer because he was taking into account of the social proprieties between a male and female.

    But even after sitting for a very long time, Yue Ming Ke was still unable to circulate his Qi around to heal his injuries. Not only that, but even the very act of breathing was proving itself to be an increasingly difficult task. This was a result of him having eaten nothing all night compounded with the fact that his injuries were simply too serious, thus leaving him unable to use his internal energy as a method of ameliorating his own injuries. When he opened his eyes again, Tie Shan Hu was still guarding silently by his side. Yue Ming Ke sighed and Tie Shan Hu immediately said, Cmon, let me carry you on my back. Yue Ming Ke didnt say anything in reply and therefore with a relieved grin, Tie Shan Hu threw him on her back and slowly walked towards the Shaolin temple.

    Although Shaolins monastery inspector, the Dhyana Master Zun Xing has also sustained one of Jin Du Yis palms, yet he also had a very deep reserve of inner energy that was above that of even Jin Du Yis. Furthermore, he also had the Minor Rejuvenation Pills to aid in dissipating the poison and regulating his Qi, thus freeing him from all harm after just one nights rest.

    Having observed that Zun Xing will be fine, Taoist Priest White Stone and his sister thus expressed their intentions of departing early the next morning. Zhuo Yi Hang remarked, I wonder how Brother Yue is doing? Why is it that he still hasnt returned yet? Taoist Priest White Stone said, Im afraid that hell have to chase on for a few dozen more miles before he could capture that old freak Jin. Zun Xing also added, That old freak was hit by one of my divine fists, I doubt that he would be Sir Yues match. These words reassured Zhuo Yi Hang even though he still wanted to wait around for Yues return. Yet since Taoist Priest White Stone wanted to depart, Zhuo of course had no other choice but to follow after him. But in truth, Taoist Priest White Stone really had another prospect in mind. He wanted to bring his daughter along with Zhuo and him as they journeyed towards the capital because he felt that this would allow the two of them to spend some more private time together and thus get further acquainted with each other. Therefore if they suddenly had an extra Yue Ming Ke tag along with them, the situation would be far less ideal.

    With Yue Ming Ke on her back, Tie Shan Hu finally managed to arrive at the Shaolin temple by the noon hour. After the admittance monk went inside to report their arrival, the Dhyana Master Zun Xing personally came out to receive them. But upon taking one look at the situation, he was so alarmed that he hurriedly asked Tie Shan Hu for the details of last night. After Tie finished explaining, he sighed and said, Our head abbot is so compassionate. But in the end, it only inflicted unnecessary pain on Sir Yue.

    He then hurriedly brought Yue Ming Ke inside the inner meditation rooms and fed him with first grade ginseng soup before feeding him three minor rejuvenation pills. When the Reverend Jing Ming came in for a visit and noticed Tie Shan Hu standing by one side to take care of Yue, he suddenly instructed, Theres no need for you to be here. Tie Shan Hu was taken back by surprise but the Dhyana Master Jing Ming simply continued, He only needs to rest in peace and quiet for two days in order to recover. I will be giving you a letter of which you can bring to the Abbess Ci Hui living on the peak of the Tai Shi Mountain. She will let you stay with her. You can come back to the front doors of the temple and meet up with him after two days. Realizing now that the old monk has seen through her real identity, Tie Shan Hus almond shaped face instantaneously blushed to a deep red as she hurriedly departed after taking his letter.

    After Tie Shan Hu left, Dhyana Master Zun Xing walked out of the meditation room with his martial arts brother while whispering softly, The martial arts of that Yue Ming Ke is not only profound and powerful, but he also harbours extraordinary promise and a heroic spirit that is rooted deep within him. When you put Zhuo Yi Hang and him beside each other, it further accentuates their distinct superiority, for both youngsters are phenomenal talents that one rarely ever has the chance of encountering. But who would have thought that his behaviour would actually turn out to be so unruly? Our Shaolins religious practice was almost soiled by him! If brother you didnt manage to discover that she was a girl, we might have let her stay in the same room with Yue Ming Ke. Then if word of this gets out, wouldnt it end up being the laughing stock of the martial arts world? Reverend Jing Ming sighed faintly and said, I was not concerned about this.

    Dhyana Master Jing Ming continued, Matters are assessed differently in serious and non-serious situations. Since he was injured so severely, it matters not whether it was a male or female who brought him to here. In such times, there is no need to insist on such strict proprieties between a male and female. And if there really wasnt anybody to take care of him, then even if they had to share one room together, that will still be acceptable. Zun Xing asked, Then what are you sighing over honoured brother? Jing Ming replied, Yue Ming Ke has quite an intuitive understanding of the Dharmic intelligence. I feel that not only can he become a master of the sword, but he also has the potential of being a revered monk. I was just worried that hell end up falling into the trap of loves net.

    Lets put aside the private discussions of Reverend Jing Ming and his brother for now and turn our attention to Yue Ming Ke. After undergoing two full days of rest and recuperation, Yues poison was completely eradicated. His injuries have similarly healed so that aside from having not retained his full strength yet, all his other bodily functions have returned to normal. The early morning of the third day, the Reverend Jing Ming passed a hand-written duplicate of the The One Hundred Constructive Arts of the Dragon Springs onto Yue before leaving him with a few words, All 84 000 methods of Buddhism leads back to the Pure Land. The wonderful virtue in the sands of the Ganges will forever exist in the fountain of the mind. If ignorance can be abolished, enlightenment will be realized.

    After Yue Ming Ke performed obeisance and departed from the temple, the first thing he saw when he exited outside the temples gates was Tie Shan Hu waiting for him with a smile on her face. Thinking back to how she had carried him on his back, Yue Ming Ke couldnt help but feel a little embarrassed as he asked, How come youre here? Tie Shan Hu replied, One: to check up on you and Two: to say thank you. Yue Ming Ke said, I also have to express my gratitude to you. Where are you planning to go? Tie Shan Hu asked back, Where are you going? Yue Ming Ke replied, Im going to Beijing. Tie Shan Hu grinned and said, Im also going to Beijing. Yue Ming Ke was a little surprised as he asked, Youre going to Beijing as well? Tie Shan Hu quipped, Yup! So we should travel together. Since Yue Ming Ke had no reason to object, he could therefore only agree.

    The two of them thus traveled Northbound together. Tie Shan Hu was full of childlike exuberance and would chat with Yue Ming Ke about anything and everything. But the only subject she wouldnt talk about was her father, which Yue found quite perplexing. Having observed how she treated him like an older brother, those slight traces of discomfort and unease that Yue initially felt gradually dissipated.

    Although Tie Shan Hu may seem to be like an ignorant little girl who has not yet outgrown her childhood, yet because she has accompanied by her fathers side ever since she was a little child as they roamed towards the South and traveled throughout the North, she has therefore become quite acquainted with the worldly matters of the JiangHu world. All along their journey, they repeatedly came across figures of the JiangHu world, riding past their horses as they hurried towards the North.

    One day, when they came to HeBeis major city HanDan, the two of them wandered into the street market area where Tie Shan Hu suddenly whispered, Theres a tavern up ahead where a leader of the Black societal clans will be found. Yue Ming Ke warned, Dont interfere with other peoples matters but Tie Shan Hu said, Can you come take a look with me? This persons status is quite exalted. Im afraid that all the JiangHu figures weve encountered during the last two days will have to bow down to this person in acquiescence. Yue Ming Ke asked with surprise, How do you know? Tie Shan Hu replied, Look over there. Drawn on the corner of that tavern wall is the picture of a plum blossom right? Count how many petals are on the flower. Yue Ming Ke went in a little closer and then answered, Twelve petals. Tie Shan Hu continued, Thats it then. That plum blossom functions as secret symbol where the number of petals on the flower determines ones hierarchy. The most that one flower can have is only thirteen petals. Since this plum blossom has twelve petals, it is already quite a rare sighting in the JiangHu world! Yue Ming Ke thus said, Alright. Then well go in and have a look. But you must promise not to behave recklessly or cause any trouble!

    The two of them entered into the tavern and sat down at one of the vacant tables. Yue Ming Kes eyes wandered about the room and suddenly came across two people sitting by the window of the Eastern corner with their hats pulled down very low over their faces. One of them looked incredibly familiar. A shock suddenly jolted through Yues heart that brought him to his feet while an alarmed Tie Shan Hu cried out, Brother, what are you doing? But Yue Ming Ke just made a beckoning gesture with his hands and then said, Waiter, prepare a jug of Dragon Well tea for me! then with another wave of his palms, he blew the hat right off the head of that mysterious person. Yue Ming Ke then suddenly flitted over two tables and grasped down while shouting, Ying Xiu Yang you old bandit! Do you recognize who I am?

    That person suddenly revealed a tassel whip and curled it towards Yues wrist. Tie Shan Hu was left in a state of total confusion for she was thinking: He was the one who told me not to cause any trouble, but why is it that he would end up causing trouble himself?

    How was Tie Shan Hu supposed to know that this man was the big villain who was secretly conspiring with the Manchurians and that he was the same head leader who once organized the Seven Greats Formation to surround Yu Luo Cha on the highest peak of Hua Shan? That year, when Yue Ming Ke was secretly helping out Yu Luo Cha, he just happened to come across him.

    Although Ying Xiu Yangs martial arts were actually very good, yet upon encountering Yue Ming Ke he was still quite frightened. He tried to attack with one sweep of his tassel whip but was unable to succeed. By then, Yues left palm has already arrived. With a loud grunt, Ying lifted up the table to ward off the attack, thus causing all the cups, plates, drinks and food on the table to hurtle towards Yue. Yue Ming Ke managed to escape out of the way with just one leap, but Ying Xiu Yang has already jumped out the window and landed onto the streets below. Ying Xiu Yangs accomplice had no idea how powerful Yue was and actually dared to rush forward in attempts to obstruct Yue. By grasping onto the skin of the mans scalp, Yue flung him down towards the middle of the street!

    By the time that Ying Xiu Yangs feet landed on the street, Yue Ming Ke has already caught up to him with his Gliding Dragon Sword glittering out icy rays as it continually attacked. Ying Xiu Yang had no other choice but to tough it out and thus with a swing of his tassel whip, he turned around to battle.

    Ying Xiu Yangs tassel whip could be used as a 5-element sword as well as an acupoint-sealing device which also had the ability to entangle or snatch away swords and sabres. But though his stances were originally brilliant, yet Yue Ming Kes Heavenly Mountain Sword skill was simply too profound and boundless, compounded with the gold splintering and jade fracturing ability of the Gliding Dragon Sword, Ying Xiu Yangs bronze-like tassel whip suddenly paled greatly in comparison.

    Such a ferocious fight between the two fighters in the middle of the street had already caused all the pedestrians to flee in fright and all the stores to bolt up their doors. Every additional stance that Yue executed was faster and more pressing than the last, forcing Ying Xiu Yang to be backed up to the point of where he only had the ability to defend and no longer to retaliate.

    Just as they were caught in this intense battle, sounds of gongs were heard to clear the streets as eight mighty steeds marched out. Eight eunuchs marched at the very back of the group banging against their gongs. In the middle of this entourage was a governmental carriage. Ying Xiu Yang cried out, Come quickly and catch this malicious criminal! Eight imperial guards instantaneously leaped down from their horses to simultaneously surround Yue Ming Ke. They all seemed to be very well acquainted with Ying Xiu Yang for they took turns in greeting him.

    Yue Ming Ke immediately recognized the trickiness of this situation for even though he was not afraid of these imperial guards, yet he was the secret envoy sent back to the capital by Military Commissioner Xiong. If he caused too much commotion, then this might end up creating some unnecessary inconveniencies or unwanted problems. Therefore after faking an attack with a swipe of his sword, he flitted away with a twist of his body. Even if all those people wanted to chase after him, they wouldnt have had the ability to catch up.

    After Yue soared over two long streets, Tie Shan Hu suddenly jumped out of a dark corner and giggled, Hey! Why did you just cause trouble back there? Yue Ming Ke laughed and replied, Youre quite clever! Howd you know to wait here for me ahead of time? Tie Shan Hu answered back, Well I knew that you wouldnt be their match so of course I had to run away first! Yue Ming Ke remarked, Its not that I wasnt their match causing Tie Shan Hu to cackle with amusement as she said, I was only kidding with you! What are you being all serious and anxious about? I know its not that you werent able to defeat them, but you were only concerned about those guards right? Hey, did you know who was sitting in that carriage? Yue Ming Ke asked, Who? and Tie Shan Hu answered, A little girl whos now all grownup! Yue Ming Ke scoffed, Nonsense! but Tie Shan Hu insisted, Whos kidding with you? I just asked around and found out that sitting in that state carriage was the daughter of the royal princes wet nurse! This wet nurse of the royal prince is known as Madam Ke and they say that she is extremely doted on by the new lord. Right after he ascended the throne, he specifically sent an entourage to her native land in order to escort her daughter here. Yue Ming Ke asked, What? What new lord are you talking about? Tie Shan Hu replied, The old Emperor has already died and now the crown prince has ascended the throne!

    When Yue Ming Ke departed the capital the old emperor was already incredibly sick, but he didnt expect him to pass away so soon. Yue heaved out a big sigh that caused Tie Shan Hu to ask, Whats wrong? What good has the old emperor ever done for you that would cause you to be so saddened over his death? Yue Ming Ke answered, Im not saddened because of the old Emperor. But theres no point in discussing these matters of state and country. With an angry Hmph, Tie Shan Hu huffed, I know. Its because you think Im still a little kid so you think Im not entitled to listen in on these matters of state and country right? Yue Ming Ke answered, No, its not that, but just when he was about to continue, he suddenly saw a troop of soldiers come out from a side street, forcing Yue to hurriedly grab Tie Shan Hu by the hand and flee from the place.

    The two of them ran all the way to the outskirts of the capital before they stopped. Yue Ming Ke remarked, After causing this ruckus, we should try to hide out for a while before he continued to explain, I originally thought that the crown prince was a worthy and competent ruler who would be even more scrupulous and diligent once he ascends the throne. But who would have thought that he would behave like this? Even a wet nurse is indulged upon like this! Forget how such actions have already violated the rules and regulations of our ancient ancestral system, but what I cant further believe is how even villains were allowed to infiltrate into the palace! I pity how Military Commissioner Xiong and Brother Zhuos good intentions have been wasted.

    That year, when Zhuo Yi Hang discovered that there were spies amongst the palace guards, he entreated Yue Ming Ke to relate this information onto the Emperor. It was because of this reason that Yun Yan Ping and Qin Qian Yan had to escape out of the palace for fear of having their conspiracy being revealed. Although Ying Xiu Yang was not an imperial guard, yet his name was also mentioned in the imperial courts. Its hard to believe that once the old Emperor dies, even Ying Xiu Yang would have the guts to not only appear in public again but would furthermore dare to associate with the imperial guards!

    After this incident, the two of them took pains to be extra cautious as they went around the big cities such as ShiJiaZhuang and BaoDing before they snuck into Beijing. Yue Ming Ke brought Tie Shan Hu to Military Commissioner Xiongs good friend, the government official Yang Lians home. It was there that they were informed about the details on how the Emperor Shen Zong has passed away more than a month ago and how the crown prince Chang Luo has now ascended the throne and took the regnal name of Guang Zong.

    Yang Lian remarked, There are two strange happenings which have been shocking the capital recently. One, being the strange illness that was contracted by the crown prince right after he ascended the throne. Under the examination of the imperial doctors, they have diagnosed it as dysentery. But treating the ailment with the usual formulas used in treating dysentery has proved to be unsuccessful. It has now been a whole month and the Emperor has still been unable to attend the daily court meetings! Yue Ming Ke remarked, The Crown Prince has practiced some martial arts in the past and his body has always been quite healthy. Why would he suddenly contract such a strange disease? What is the second strange case then?

    Yang Lian replied, Recently, there have been many strange disappearances of young men within the capital. Included amongst these disappearances are even members of the rich and powerful! The Military Commandant of the Nine Gates[3] has already ordered for a thorough and serious investigation, but they have still been unable to turn up with any results. Dont you think that this is all very strange? Yue Ming Ke remarked with perplexity, If it was young girls who were disappearing, then we could at least deduce that it was the works of rapists and abductors. But men disappearing? That is very strange indeed.

    After talking for a while, Yue Ming Ke asked, What is the situation with Military Commissioner Xiongs case? Yang Lian replied, Right after you left the capital last time, a few Censor-in-chiefs[4] submitted to the Emperor official charges against Military Commissioner Xiong. In charge of this case is the vice-minister of the War Department Liu Guo Jin and the Censor-in-chief Yao Zong Wen, while the person who wrote the document is the Censor-in-chief Feng San Yuan.

    Yue Ming Ke snorted with disgust and said, That Liu Guo Jin used to be stationed at the Eastern LiaoNing Provinces as a Grand Adjutant. But he was avaricious and debasing the countrys laws, therefore Military Commissioner Xiong reported this to the Emperor who then had him sent home. Because of this incident, he has always harboured hatred and resentment at heart. As for that Yao Zong Wen, hes even more despicable for he was trying to extort from our honoured Military Commissioner and requested Commissioner Xiong to give him three of the best Purple Mink Fur. But you know how Military Commissioner Xiong is an official who is as honest and pure as water, how would he be able to afford first-grade mink fur? Therefore, he could only transfer onto Yao the one piece of mink fur that was given to him and of which he hasnt even worn yet. But that Yao Zong Wen actually has the audacity to secretly complain that we were trying to insult him! As for Feng San Yuan, Im not familiar with his background but Ive heard that he is in opposition to the righteous DongLin Group[5] so it can be conjectured that hes no good either.

    Yang Lian added, This person has one powerful pen though. He wrote an incriminating document that actually accuses the Military Commissioner Xiong of eleven crimes eight of which accuses Military Commissioner Xiong for being inept and thus detrimental to our country while three crimes charge him of deceiving the Emperor and his superiors. This caused Yue Ming Ke to erupt into loud laughter as he said, Thats strange. They actually have the audacity to say that Military Commissioner is inept and detrimental to our state? But the Manchurian troops have now been forced to retreat to XingJing, and exactly whose achievement is that? Every time that Xiong TingBi makes any changes or reforms, he would write a report and send it to the capital. Despite having military power in his possession and the Royal Sword in his hands, he still wouldnt dare to take any advantage of this, so how can that he be charged as deceiving the Emperor and superiors?! Yang Lian said, Thats why I say that this Censor-in-chief Feng has one powerful pen. He has the ability to completely twist the truth around and turn what is white into black. People like us would have never been able to write such a document. After a short pause, he continued, But you dont have to worry. The Emperor has been sick for more than a month now and these unread reports have all accumulated to one side. Besides, although there are indeed many bad seeds in the courts yet there are still quite a good number of upright gentlemen.

    That night, Yue Ming Kes heavy heart was full of indignant anger which inadvertently induced him to consume large amounts of alcohol as a means of drowning his sorrows. He ended up drinking to the point of being stinking drunk. The next morning, he suddenly detected that there was someone sitting by his beside, blowing small puffs of cool air directly onto his forehead.

    When Yue turned around for a look, he discovered that it was Tie Shan Hu. Yue laughed and said, Stop fooling around, whereas Tie Shan Hu replied, Look at you a practitioner of martial arts and drunk out of your mind! You were out like a dead log and wasnt even able to detect that someone has actually approached your side! Arent you embarrassed? Good thing it was only me, if it was that so-called female rapist who abducted you away, then oh my! Yue Ming Ke scoffed, Nonsense! Tie Shan Hu retorted back, What nonsense? Didnt you hear Official Yang say that there have been many disappearances of young men in the Beijing area these days? Yue Ming Ke scolded, A girl should watch the kind of words that comes out of her mouth your words are much too uninhibited. If you continue to spew such nonsense, Ill have to give you a beating. Tie Shan Hu stuck her tongue out at him and scoffed, Alright! Even if there werent any female rapists you should still get up you know.

    With a smile, Yue Ming Ke got out of his bed and said, Today I will be visiting Brother Zhuo. I believe he should have arrived in Beijing by now but you stay here in this house. Im afraid that Taoist Priest White Stone might have some grudge against you and your father. Tie Shan Hu snickered, I wouldnt go even if you asked me to. From what I can see, that Zhuo Yi Hang is not much of a true friend. Yue Ming Ke immediately pulled out a long face as he asked, What? Tie Shan Hu giggled and asked, Youre angry because Im talking about your friend arent ya? Let me ask you, if he really was a true friend, then why didnt he come along to help you out that night at the Shaolin temple? Yue Ming Ke replied, He did chase after us, its just that he didnt catch up. Tie Shan Hu remarked, Even if he couldnt catch up he should still have continued to chase on. I think the truth is, he simply doesnt care about you enough. Yue Ming Ke snapped with anger, I dont want to hear you bad-mouth other people with such slanderous talk. When Tie Shan Hu observed that Yue really was angry this time, she answered with a pout, Fine. I wont say anymore then.

    After Yue finished his breakfast, he then went by himself to the DaiFangJia HuTongs ShaanXi Guild Hall to ask about Zhuo Yi Hang. As he approached the DongChanAn Street, a horse carriage suddenly loomed out in front of him and throttled by. All around the horse carriage were silk embroidered decorations that added to its lavish opulence. Sitting within the carriage were two people dressed in yellow. As the carriage lumbered right past Yue, he seemed to have vaguely heard the person in the carriage say, What a handsome young man! Not taking much notice of it, Yue then arrived to the ShaanXi Guild Hall and asked around to discover that Zhuo Yi Hang had indeed arrived in the capital two days ago and was now staying at his fathers colleague, the Minister of the Personnel Department Yang Kuns house. After asking for the address of Yang Kuns mansion, Yue then hurried over there but Yangs housekeeper reported back to him that, Young master Zhuo has been extremely busy during these last two days. Yesterday he entered into the palace in hopes of seeing the Emperor. But since he was unable to see the Emperor, he has therefore gone back again today. Yue Ming Ke asked, When will he be back? The housekeeper replied, That I dont know. Why dont you come back at night and ask again?

    With a troubled and frustrated heart, Yue Ming Ke retreated outside. Yang Kuns mansion was located right by the LiuLiChang[6], a classical antiques street in Beijing famous for its paintings and calligraphy art market that often attracts many of the literati, artists, passing scholars on their way to an examination or other wealthy lords. Yue Ming Ke was passing by there when he suddenly discovered that the very horse carriage he had just encountered a while ago was also stationed outside the market. The weather was beautiful that day and yet the amount of people who were browsing through the market was actually not very numerous.

    Yue Ming Ke went into the Rinsing Stone Exhibition Room to look over some paintings, but after glancing around once, he realized that there really werent many real treasures and so just picked up one of Wen Zheng Mings creations, the flower-and-bird painting for a look. Suddenly someone was heard to remark beside him, What do you see in this painting?

    With a glance, Yue discovered that it happened to be one of the yellow-robed men from the horse carriage who had just spoken to him. He thus answered Wen Zheng Mings work is not bad while one of the yellow-robed men remarked, Wen Zheng Ming is one of the Four Masters belonging to the early period of our dynasty. His paintings of course could not be considered as bad. But this one you have in your hand is most definitely not his best work. Your unworthy brother I have in my collection one of his masterpieces. If you, my brother are a fanatic of his paintings, then I am willing to show you the Travelling by the Sacred Red Cliff[7] painting that he collaborated with Xie Shi Chen in order that you may also have the chance of appreciating his greatness. The painting just mentioned by this man was one of Wen Zheng Mings prized works that was created during his later years and was considered as a treasured commodity in the realm of art collections. When Yue heard this, he was extremely surprised to hear that this man would be willing to invite a complete stranger over to his house to appreciate a famous painting.

    The man in the yellow garment continued, There are some people in this world who if they have any famous paintings and calligraphy arts in their possession will hoard over them like sacred treasures and are unwilling to reveal them to others. But your humble brother I do not agree with such an attitude. If antiques and famous paintings could not be appreciated along with other fanatics, then where is all the enjoyment? Yue Ming Ke thought to himself: this persons passion for the arts is quite adorable.

    Yue was also thinking to himself: since he was possessive of martial arts, even if any incidents did occur, there was still nothing to be afraid of. Therefore he may as well take half a day off and follow them to their home for a look. Yue Ming Ke thus answered, Since Brother you are kind enough to extend such an honourable invitation, then dont mind it if your humble brother I accept your gracious offer.

    When they introduced themselves to each other, Yue found out that the two men were surnamed Wang and Lin. After they entered into the carriage together, the one surnamed Lin took out an emerald snuff bottle and handed it over to Yue Ming Ke saying, This snuff bottle is an import from the West. The scent is not too bad. Yue Ming Ke expressed his thanks and said, Your humble brother I am only an unsophisticated person who does not know how to appreciate such luxuries. Then the one surnamed Wang took out a pipe filled with spring tobacco, inducing Yue Ming Ke to say, Your unworthy brother is also not acquainted with alcohol or tobacco. In truth, he did drink alcohol, but now being in the presence of strangers, he wanted to take extra caution which was why he said such words.

    The man surnamed Wang puffed on his pipe, blowing out one great cloud of smoke after another. Yue Ming Ke found the smell quite repulsive and was feeling quite annoyed when the Wang fellow suddenly blew a mouthful of smoke straight into the direction of Yues face, causing Yue Ming Ke to be suddenly filled with nauseating dizziness as he roars, What are you doing? The Wang fellow again blew another thick cloud of smoke towards him and this time Yue felt as if the whole world was spinning around uncontrollably. He struck out with his palm while shouting, Dirty rats! How dare you use such despicable tricks? But by then, the two men have already jumped out of the horse carriage so that Yues palm was unable to land on his target as he fell unconscious and crumbled to the floor of the carriage.

    Yue Ming Ke wasnt even sure exactly how much time had past before he gradually began to awaken. But when he came to his senses, he noticed that there was a faint fragrance that enveloped around him. His bones were aching and his muscles were limb, but when he opened up his eyes, he found that he was lying on top of a brocaded mattress and on the bedside table was a small incense stove that was emanating trails of smoke. The room he was now in was decorated with an unbelievably opulent splendour, with a hanging gorilla fur and a suspending Mirror crafted in JianChang. On the wall was a scroll of painting that featured figures and a landscape that was so striking and realistic that it seemed as if it was ready to leap out of the page and enter into life. Yue Ming Kes eyes were sharp and after a careful examination found that it really was the Travelling by the Sacred Red Cliff painting that was created under the co-operation of Wen Zheng Ming and Xie Shi Chen. Yue Ming Ke felt as if he was lost in a dream or wallowing in an illusion, until his heart suddenly skipped a beat when Tie Shan Hus warnings of the female rapist suddenly rang in his head. He thought to himself: Her words couldnt possibly end up coming true could they? But after thinking over this possibility, he laughed at himself for being so silly for how could a female rapist have such an extraordinary luxurious and lavish room?

    Yue Ming Ke tried to turn his body around, but felt his four limbs to be both weak and aching as he thought to himself: those few gulps of smoke were really powerful! Even my martial arts were not enough to withstand it. He then struggled to prop himself up into a cross-legged sitting position before he began to generate his inner energy. After a little while, his blood and breath gradually came to circulate about naturally as it coursed through his whole body and brought about a wave of relief to every single one of his bones.

    Let us now turn out attention back to Zhuo Yi Hang who has along with Taoist Priest White Stone and his daughter arrived in the capital. In order to make Zhuos process of entering the courts more convenient, he settled down in the home of Yang Kun, the Minister of the Personnel Department. Taoist Priest White Stone and his daughter stayed in the martial arts instructor Liu Xi Mings house. White Stone was eager to repeatedly remind Zhuo Yi Hang, As soon as the important matters are taken care of, we will be hastening back to the mountain. Make sure you do not take on any of those stinking job titles to which Zhuo Yi Hang replied, Most definitely.

    But contrary to their expectations, the Emperor Guang Zong was bedridden within the recesses of the inner palace. The day right after his arrival in Beijing, Zhuo Yi Hang and Yang Kun took off early morning to arrive outside the gates of the Hall of Supreme Harmony where they respectfully inquired about the wellbeing of the divine lord before submitting their names and waited to be received. After waiting around for half a day, the only sight they were greeted to was the number of officials waiting to be received accumulate as the day went on. The large number of officials piled up in the Hall of Supreme Harmony and filed all the way to the outside of the Hall. The Emperor only called in one person, the official Li Ke Zhuo, leaving all the officials to be absolutely baffled. Li Ke Zhuo was only an official belonging to the second rank, for what reason would he be blessed with such a unique holy grace?

    Zhuo returned to Yang Kuns house filled with frustration and disappointment as he thought to himself: To see the Emperor is turning out to be such a hard task, it seems that this trip will just end up being a waste of time and effort. Yet surprisingly, by nightfall, an internal security officer from the palace suddenly arrived to Yang Kuns house and announced, The Heavenly Lords sacred health has shown great improvement today. He has heard that the grandson of Supreme Commander Zhuo has entered into the capital and gives orders that he is to come to the Hall of Mental Cultivation early next morning. Zhuo was immensely relieved upon hearing this news while Yang Kun asked, Which imperial doctors miraculous formula produced such great results? The internal security officer replied, You would never have been able to guess. But this ailment was not cured by a doctor! leaving Yang Kun in a state of muddled confusion.

    Whenever an Emperor falls sick, the natural custom is to have the imperial doctors be summoned in order to treat him. But if they were unable to produce a cure, then a national notice would be issued in order to enlist the help of the various regions famed doctors. Guang Zong has been sick for more than a month now, leaving all the imperial doctors befuddled and without a clue on how to remedy his condition. The famed doctors of all regions have also been called upon one after the other, but despite administering medicine and applying remedies, all methods have proved themselves to be ineffective. Now hearing the internal security officer say that the doctors did not administer any medicine, Yang Kun would of course be perplexed.

    The internal security officer continued, Li Ke Zhuo has somehow fallen upon good fortune and managed to accomplish a great feat! Yang Kun asked, What? What accomplishment has he achieved? The security officer replied, He was the one who cured the divine lords ailment, causing Yang Kun to exclaim with surprise, Since when did Li Ke Zhuo know medicine? Why would the divine lord be willing to consume his medicine? The security officer replied, Li Ke Zhuo came highly recommended by the Prime Minister Fang Cong Zhe himself. He said that Li had a miraculous red pill that would be able to cure all ailments. Li Xuan Shi then further urged the divine emperor in consuming it. Li Xuan Shi was the Emperors favoured concubine, causing Yang Kuns eyebrows to knot together as he remarked, Why would the Emperor listen to a womans words and be willing to use his sacred health to try this so-called red pill? The security officer laughed and remarked, But all thanks to Li Ke Zhuos red pill, the lord of a million years felt much better in just an hour after consuming it. Hes even got his appetite back! So the Lord of a Million years is now repeatedly praising Li for being the loyal official. Hearing the security officer say this, Yang Kun knew it was no longer appropriate for him to comment on the matter anymore.

    Early morning of the next day, Zhuo Yi Hang and Yang Kun proceeded to the Hall of Supreme Harmony once again to wait for their names to be called. When they passed by the Meridian Gate, they bumped right into a glowing and smug Li Ke Zhuo accompanied by two attendants who waited for him outside the gates. Zhuo Yi Hang was incredibly surprised once he saw who these two attendants were. Have you guessed who they were yet? It turns out that they just happen to be the two old blokes who were whining for a duel outside the Shaolin temple gates just the other day Hu Mai and Meng Fei!

    Hu Mai brought his hands together and said, After honoured official finishes curing the Divine Emperors illness today, a promotion will be a sure thing. Li Ke Zhuo assured, The two of you will most definitely be getting a share of whatever advantages I obtain. Meng Fei joyfully exclaimed, Thank you for your generous patronage Master. Li Ke Zhuo then whispered to them in a low voice, The two of you must not go away. If there are any complications after the Divine Lord has consumed the medicine, I will ask the internal security officer to come out and get the two of you. Meng Fei replied, The Minor Rejuvenation Pill eradicates all ailments once it is consumed. Honoured official need not worry. Li Ke Zhuo therefore proceeded through the Meridian Gate while Zhuo Yi Hang also followed after him. Meng Feis face bloated to the colour of beet red the moment he noticed Zhuo, but then hurriedly turned his head over to one side and pretended not to have seen him.

    This time the number of officials in the Hall of Supreme Harmony waiting to be received was even more numerous. After a while, the internal security officer came out to summon Li Ke Zhuo, Minister of the Personnel Department Yang Kun, Minister of the Rites Department Sun Shen Xing, Censor-in-chief Wang An Shun and about a dozen other officials to wait by the Tower of Manifest Benevolence. The last name to be called was Zhuo Yi Hangs, but when the hundreds of officials witnessed Zhuos name being summoned despite the fact that he did not carry an official rank, they were all in respectful awe. There were some who knew that he was the grandson of the former Supreme Commander of Yun Nan and Gui Zhou Provinces Zhuo Zhong Lian, and thus began to murmur and comment amongst each other, insisting on how the Emperor was really exhibiting special favour towards him.

    The Emperor Guang Zhong was now resting inside the Hall of Mental Cultivation which was located near the Tower of Manifest Benevolence. Zhuo followed behind the crowd of officials and sat down on the chair placed at the very back of the room. The officials who were waiting to be received all crowded around Li Ke Zhuo to express their congratulations. Li Ke Zhuo was beaming when he said, This was all due to the divine emperors infinite good fortune. My red pill just happened to be completed only last month!

    The Minister of the Rites Department Sun Shen Xing remarked, Your red pill really is a miraculous elixir from heaven. May I ask how it is prepared? If its formula could be announced to the world, then that really would be granting all living organisms with endless blessings of good fortune. Li Ke Zhuo snickered, You think these pills are easy to produce? It requires a thousand year old Fleece Flower Root, the Snow Lotuses of the Heavenly Mountain and the first grade Ginseng of the ChangBai Mountain as its ingredients as well as a pair of crickets who were in the midst of mating during the noon hour of the Dragon Boat Festival Day as its catalyst. I have spent over a few dozen years work before I was lucky enough to be able to collect together all these ingredients. When the crowd of officials heard this, they all clucked their tongues in awe, but Zhuo Yi Hang could barely keep from laughing out when he heard Li blindly spew out such exaggerated claims for he knew that this red pill must be the Shaolin temples Minor Rejuvenation Pill.

    After a while, the internal security officer came out to bring Li Ke Zhuo inside and it was then that Zhuo suddenly remembered that though Hu Mai and Meng Fei have tricked away two minor rejuvenation pills, yet one of them was already swallowed on the spot. Thus there could only be one red pill left over! Assuming that the one the Emperor consumed yesterday was the real red pill, then the one being submitted today must be fake! To play around with an Emperors life in such a careless fashion was simply much too contemptible!

    When Yang Kun saw the anxious and worried expression on Zhuos face, he hurriedly asked, Whats wrong? Zhuo replied, Im afraid that Li Ke Zhuo would be blindly submitting some fake medicine. An official standing beside Zhuo shot him an angry glance causing Yang Kun to recognize that this was a trusted man of Fang Cong Zhe, thus he hurriedly insisted, A man that Official Fang so highly recommends most definitely could not be wrong.

    After a while, Li Ke Zhuo came back outside with glowing face as the crowd of officials hurriedly came forward to ask about the situation. Li Ke Zhuo gloated, My red pill is one powerful substance. Consuming just one was originally more than enough, so you can imagine what miracles consuming two can produce. The Divine Emperors energy has rejuvenated significantly and will be able to attend the courts to greet the various officials tomorrow! The crowd of officials all hurriedly came forth to express their congratulations.

    But Zhuo Yi Hang was caught in a conflicting struggle between belief and disbelief. He was thinking to himself: even a real Minor Rejuvenation Pill should not have produced an effect so quickly. It was at this time that the internal security officer came out to announce, The Divine Emperor summons Zhuo Yi Hang inside.

    Such is: Jianghu tricksters cooks up illusion and deceit, the Lord of a million chariots life is fooled around with.

    [1]A city located in the capital of HeNan. The Song Mountain (and hence Shaolin temple) is located in this city.

    [2]5 Zang (Solid or also sometimes referred to as Yin) organs refers to the heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys, while the six fu (hollow, Yang in nature) organs indicate the gall bladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, bladder and the triple (upper, middle and lower) warmers (the openings to the stomach, small intestine, and bladder).

    [3]A symbolic reference to the Imperial Capital City.

    [4]An official belonging to the department in the imperial government that was responsible for overseeing or investigating into the conduct and misbehaviour of officials. Headed by one or two censor-in-chiefs, they also worked along with vice-censor-in-chiefs. Their reports to the Emperor about officials misconduct have the power to influence or cause their impeachment.

    [5]Also known as the DongLin Faction/Society/Academy of Classical Learning, the term DongLin literally translates as East (Dong) Forest/Woods (Lin). The group originated from a group of scholars who shared similar political views and ideals of reform, Confucian morality, defending against foreign invaders, taking a true concern to the troubles of common peasants and eradicating the corrupt officials to establish a non-corrupt government system. A group of scholars (who later became to be known as the DongLin 8 Scholars) held classes and organized meetings at the DongLin Academy, a school in the Jiangsu city during the WanLins (aka Shen Zongs) period of reign. This group eventually became an organized community (with an official declaration of their mission) that grew in power and numbers to become a crucial force in combating against corruption. The DongLin Group rose significantly in power when they assisted ShenZongs grandson (ChangLuos 16 year old son Zhu YouJiao) in ascending the throne, but coming across the opposition and political attacks of the Eunuch Wei ZongXians faction, the DongLin faction eventually lost power and many of its members (including the official Yang Lian) suffered a dreary fate when Wei ZongXian distorted the truth to somehow tie the 3 strange cases of the Ming Dynasty to this group.

    [6]The name of this street literally translates as Glazed Tile/Glass (LiuLi) Factory (Chang). Known as the Antique Street, this market was famous for its art market especially during the Ming and Qing dynasty (when this story takes place). In the 1950s, this market was restored and expanded by the government.

    [7]One of Wen Zheng Mings Red Cliff series paintings. The following link leads to the one mentioned in this book: (1st half) and (2nd half)

  12. #12
    Senior Member foxs's Avatar
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 11

    Chapter 11
    Sighing Over Putrefying Palace Chambers
    Hero Explodes With Fury
    Cicada's Song Laments Country's Problems[1]
    Chivalric Patriot left Heartbroken
    (Translated by Faerie Queene)

    Yang Kun reminded, “Honoured brother, take caution when responding.” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “Thank you for your guidance honoured official” before he followed the eunuch through the long corridor to enter into the Hall of Mental Cultivation. He was greeted to the sight of the Emperor inclining on his bed with a smile on his face. Zhuo Yi Hang pressed his body to the floor in obeisance while Chang Luo insisted, “You are excused of such formalities. Bring forth a seat” to which the eunuch brought over a chair as instructed.

    Having sat down and taken a good sideways glance at the Emperor, Zhuo Yi Hang discovered that the Emperor’s face was beaming with a healthy red glow where not even a single trace of illness could be found. But this only caused Zhuo Yi Hang to be even more alarmed for it should be understood that the Emperor Tai Chang (Guang Zong’s regnal name) has already been sick for a long time. Thus even heavenly elixirs and miraculous cures would probably not have been able to eradicate all illnesses upon initial ingestion. But the Emperor has only consumed one red pill and was already glowing with a red hue! If this wasn’t a sign of that final burst of life that sometimes radiates before death, then it must be that the red pill was made up of some very potent and vehement medication that functions briefly as an intense stimulant, but will only end up bringing about greater harm in the end. Zhuo Yi Hang’s heart was filled with suspicions and fears, yet he didn’t dare to voice his concerns.

    Chang Luo continued, “I heard of your arrival yesterday, but being haunted by the demons of sickness, it was unsuitable for me to receive you. Luckily, Li Ke Zhuo has just submitted two red pills that have this uncanny ability to completely cure all illnesses upon ingestion! Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to see you today. Look at me now and tell me, how do you think I look?” Since his attitude seemed to be extremely pleased, Zhuo Yi Hang did not dare to speak his true anxieties and could only say, “Divine Lord’s good fortune is as vast as the heavens itself, you are looking extremely well my lord. But having been sick for so long, extra caution must be taken in the future in order to preserve your good health.”

    Chang Luo drank down a flask of deer’s blood before continuing, “In regards to your case, Shi Hao has already informed me of all the details. As for the two emissaries Li and Zhou, they have already returned to the capital safely and are feeling greatly indebted to you!” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “But I’m afraid that behind the villain who furtively attacked the two emissaries, there exists a more powerful person who is supporting him.” The personal eunuch of the Emperor shot Zhuo an angry glance, causing Zhuo to insist, “Since the revered Lord of a Million Years has just recovered, I realize that I really should not be making my Lord worry at the present moment …” A Dark cloud came over Chang Luo’s face as he said to his personal eunuch, “Go to the Emerald Glory Palace and bring forth Li Xuan Shi.”

    The eunuch lowered his hands by his sides and retreated before Chang Luo laughed and said, “Sir Zhuo, you are one who harbours profound aspirations and masterful insights. Considering the depth of your observations and the alert quickness in your comprehensions, Zan[2] would very much like to enlist your help.” Zhuo Yi Hang’s heart skipped a beat while the Emperor continued, “Are you not in suspicion of Wei Zhong Xian?”

    Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “Your humble servant is merely a common civilian who dares not to interfere with the administration of the government. But the Eastern Faction and the Imperial Bodyguards have both been bestowed to the command of the castrated, I was just afraid that the order of Lord and Servant would eventually interchange. Such threats that one’s own officials poses must not be ignored.”

    Chang Luo then continued, “In regards to you being wrongfully accused, I had intended to conduct a thorough investigation from the very start. But it’s just that ever since I ascended the zenith position of power I have been tied down to this sickbed by ill-health.” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “My own personal injustice is nothing, it is matters that concerns the state and country that is most important.” Chang Luo added, “Which is why I’ve asked you to come here today. Wei Zhong Xian is in actuality neither loyal nor honourable[3], did you think it possible that I would be unaware of this fact? It’s only that he holds control over the Eastern faction so that all the guards within the palace are under his command, which is why I must not be hasty or impervious in my actions. Once Zan has fully recovered and can attend the court meetings, a suitable stratagem to deal with him will most definitely be designed.” Zhuo remained in absolute silence and did not say anything in response until the Emperor suddenly asked, “Sir Zhuo, would you be willing to remain within the palace?”

    Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “Your humble servant has not yet fulfilled the filial duties of my ancestral mourning rites, therefore dares not to serve the Honoured Lord.” Chang Luo laughed and said, “I am not asking you to be an official, but would just like you to remain within the palace and teach my crown prince. You Jiao has already turned seventeen, yet he still remains to be such an impish and ignorant child.”

    When Zhuo thought of his grandfather’s last words, he was just about to refuse the Emperor’s offer when he discovered that Chang Luo has already picked up an ink brush and was beginning to write an imperial edict right on the small bedside table. Once he branded the edict with the Imperial jade stamp, Zhuo was furthermore not in a position to inhibit his actions. Just as he was in the midst of panicking, Chang Luo has already handed him the imperial edict while saying, “Tomorrow you can report to the Department of Internal Affairs and ask them to make residential arrangements for you.” Zhuo Yi Hang took over the imperial edict and then knelt down to express his gratitude before announcing, “Your humble servant still does not dare to accept Your Honour’s gracious offer.” Chang Luo was greatly surprised as he asked, “Is there still a problem that is holding you back?”

    But before Chang Luo could even finish his words, he suddenly cried out with pain as the guards standing by outside all swarmed in instantaneously. With his veins almost popping out of his face, Chang Luo wheezed, “It’s not his fault, call Li Ke Zhuo inside!” before he fainted on his bed.

    Zhuo Yi Hang’s suspicions were correct. The first red pill that Chang Luo consumed was indeed the Minor Rejuvenation Pill of the Shaolin temple. But the second pill he ingested was a fake imitation! Hu Mai and Meng Fei were both houseguests[4] of Li Ke Zhuo. Hu Mai knows a bit of the martial arts basics while Meng Fei was a JiangHu conman who specializes in producing counterfeit medicine with the purpose of tricking others. When the two of them called upon their shameless extortion in front of the Shaolin temple to trick away the two Minor Rejuvenation Pills, one of them was popped into Hu Mai’s mouth right on the spot. However, the pill was actually not ingested. Right after they left the place, Hu immediately spitted it back out and then handed it over for Meng Fei to study over its properties. Meng Fei thought he was being smart when he blindly guessed at the medicinal components of the Minor Rejuvenation Pill in order to replicate a few pills. Li Ke Zhuo only thought that they were all authentic and presented them over to the Emperor for consumption, thus instigating the “Red Pill” case known within the history of the Ming dynasty.

    Seeing Chang Luo writhe about in agonized pain with drop after drop of sweat the size of yellow-beans erupting on his forehead, Zhuo Yi Hang was thrown into a state of panic when cries and sounds of clamour suddenly drifted in from outside the Hall of Mental Cultivation. One of the guards leaped out the room in one big motion while simultaneously shouting, “Who dares to disturb the peace of the Heavenly Lord?”

    Now turning our attention back to Yue Ming Ke, who after awakening gradually discovered that he was situated within a room decorated with the utmost opulence and extravagance. Having sat in silent meditation for a while, his head gradually cleared but he still felt as if he was caught within the webs of a dream or illusion. It was only when he looked straight into the expensive JianChang-crafted mirror suspended on the wall directly in front of him did he discover through its reflection that he had already been changed into sleeping garments. He then suddenly remembered that when he went out this morning, he had brought his sword along with him. But looking around the room right now, he found that not only were his original clothes gone but even his sword had disappeared! It should be understood that Yue’s sword was one of the two swords created by his ShiFu on the Heavenly Mountain. Such a celestial weapon having now gone missing, how could he not be thrown into a state of panic?

    He hurriedly got up to search around the room, but just when he had gotten off his bed the large mirror hanging on the opposite wall began to gradually move to one side as the traces of a subtle fragrance seeped into the room. Behind the mirror was actually a secret passageway from which a beautiful matron stepped out behind with nimble steps and giggled, “You’ve woken up?”

    Yue Ming Ke asked, “Who are you and why did you steal my sword?” The beautiful matron burst out into loud laughter and asked, “Sword? What sword could be worthy of such a big fuss? I have plenty of priceless swords here. How many did you want?” She then proceeded to open up one of the drawers at random and immediately the glow of jewels and priceless treasures spilled out to dance in front of one’s eyes. The whole drawer was brimming with all sorts of corals, precious stones, emeralds and pearls.

    The beautiful matron originally thought that Yue Ming Ke would most definitely be thunderstruck with awe, but Yue only remarked, “Even ten times the stuff you have there could not compare with my sword!” With a disdainful laugh, the beautiful matron asked, “What’s so special about treasured swords? I have plenty here. As long as you be good and listen to me, you can have whatever you want.”

    Yue Ming Ke asked again, “Who are you?” The lovely matron laughed again and said, “Look around you, does this place seem like it would belong within the mortal bounds?” Yue Ming Ke bit down lightly on his tongue and having felt a slight pain knew that he really was not dreaming, therefore snapped, “What else could this place be? The Celestial Lunar Palace[5]?” This caused the lovely matron to peal into a fit of laughter as she said, “Just about!” before she leaned in towards Yue, causing her alluring fragrance to become even more enticing.

    An intoxicating wave washed over Yue as he found the fragrance to induce an extremely uncanny effect. Upon inhalation, it seems to drug the spirit and weaken one’s tendons. Yue’s body gradually heated up as his blood boiled and his pulse surged, burning up his face and ears. Yue Ming Ke was thinking to himself, “Could this possibly be a demon come to test out the 'power of my meditation[6] '? And therefore sat down in cross-legged fashion and engaged in silent meditation.

    The beautiful woman leaned against Yue Ming Ke’s body and then used her fingers to stroke his eyelids. But Yue just continued to ignore her. The beautiful woman giggled, “It’s not like you’re not a monk, so what are you meditating for?” Yue Ming Ke continued to ignore her. The beautiful matron only laughed again as she said, “I’ve heard that holy monks have eyes that are not tempted by the five colours[7] and ears that are not bewitched by the five musical tones[8]. But if you don’t open your eyes, how can you ever become a true revered monk?”

    Yue Ming Ke’s heart skipped a beat as he became even more suspicious of the fact that this woman was a demon. Thus he thought to himself: Though I have not yet studied the Lotus Sutra, but the Reverend Jing Ming did say that I had an intuitive dharmic intelligence and have also related to me precious words of guidance and enlightenment. Since that is the case, I’ll take this chance to test out my power of meditation. As a result, he opened his eyes and with his eyes[9] observing his nose[10] and his nose observing his heart[11] he gathered his Qi within his elixir field and began to practice his inner energy cultivation.

    Met with no reaction from Yue Ming Ke who seemed oblivious to her, the beautiful woman was feeling quite perplexed. Therefore she took to the next step by pressing her body against Yue Ming Ke and then started to blow little puffs of air towards him. Yue Ming Ke decided to call upon the martial art technique of “The 18 Falls upon Contact with Clothing” so that with a deep breath and a thrust of his chest, he caused the beautiful woman to fly right off the bed with a scream. She snapped with coquettish petulance, “What kind of black sorcery is that?”

    By using the “18 Falls upon Contact with Clothing” martial arts technique, Yue Ming Ke discovered that the woman actually did not know any martial arts and couldn’t stop himself from blurting out, “What? You’re not a demon?” The beautiful woman snapped, “You’re the demon around here!” But her attitude suddenly switched from anger to coyness as she asked, “Have you come to the capital to take the state examinations?” A thought suddenly struck Yue, causing him to ask, “Didn’t you say you had many rare swords? Can I have a look at one?”

    The faint traces of suspicion appeared on the beautiful matron’s face, but that was immediately replaced by her smile as she said, “I doubt that you would have the guts to kill me. Fine, then I’ll take this opportunity to open up your eyes.” She then pressed a switch on the wall to open up a secret door to a closet. Within it were more than 10 swords, but when Yue scanned the collection, his Gliding Dragon Sword was nowhere to be found. The beautiful matron continued, “Just any one of the swords within this closet is easily more superior than yours. Well? Are you convinced now?” Yue Ming Ke suddenly leaped up and pulled a sword off the rack, causing the weapon’s cold glint and deathlike aura to instantaneously pour out. The beautiful matron asked again, “Well? Is it not much better than your sword? Now put it back on the rack right away.”

    Yue Ming Ke was indeed lost in a state of shock for he had discovered that this sword appeared to be extremely archaic. The bronze-coloured handle of the sword was filled with variegated streaks[12], causing Yue to conjecture that this sword must have been more than a thousand years old! Upon closer inspection, Yue found that etched within the sword’s handle were the two words “Dragon Springs[13]” and suddenly remembered how his ShiFu had once narrated to him the names of famous swords belonging to the eras of the past and present. He told him, “Although the two swords Gliding Dragon and Jade Fracturing were made from the best of the five golds, yet when compared to the swords: Gan Jiang and Mo Xie[14], Yu Chang[15] (Fish Intestine), Dragon Springs, Heavenly Rainbow, Jue Que[16] (Giant/Hard-Iron Gap), Chun Gou[17] (Sterling Hook) and Zhan Lu[18] (Deep-Clear Rivers), they were still far from being a worthy match.” At that time, Yue asked about the current whereabouts of these eight treasured ancient swords and his ShiFu replied, “It is said that ever since the Tang dynasty, the three swords Dragon Springs, Jue Que and Zhan Lu have all fallen into the hands of the royal palaces. But the current whereabouts of the other five swords are not known.” From these words, couldn’t it then be deduced that Yue was now situated within the forbidden grounds of the imperial palaces?

    Within the anecdotal writings of the Bi Guan Unofficial History, there was mention of how the princesses of the Tang dynasty liked to capture handsome men and then smuggle them into the palace for their own enjoyment. Could these shameful rumours of the illicit deeds occurring behind the walls of women’s palace chambers of the past be resurfacing again today?

    Yue remained lost in thought until he was suddenly interrupted by a few knocks coming from behind the wall and arriving with quite an urgent fervour. The beautiful matron ordered, “Quick, put the sword back now!” Yue Ming Ke pointed the sword forward and shouted authoritatively, “Who are you? Answer truthfully!” The beautiful matron’s jade-like complexion suddenly changed colours and by pressing a switch on the wall, she sealed up the secret door to the closet. Yue Ming Ke continued to approach her one step at a time until she suddenly threw herself against the wall to open up a secret passageway from which two people jumped out from behind and the beautiful woman herself disappeared from within.

    There were two people who leapt out from behind the secret door, both carrying weapons within their hands and one of them just happened to be the yellow-robed man who had used the anesthetising smoke to drug Yue Ming Ke earlier. Infuriated upon seeing him, Yue instantaneously drove his sword forward. But with a sweep of his hands, the man shot out three projectiles that exploded the moment upon release, causing the room to fill up with thick smoke. Yue Ming Ke already saw this coming though and by holding his breath, the sword in his hand lashed out with such whirlwind fury that with just one move, Yue’s sword had already arrived at the man’s throat.

    It was then when he suddenly remembered that if this place was indeed the forbidden palace, then this person must be a palace guard. This thought caused Yue to hurriedly retract his sword but by then the other person from the right side with a gong. With a back sweep of his hand, Yue Ming Ke tore away the man’s weapon and then with a loud bang, kicked open the doors to the room as he hurtled outside.

    The two people never could have expected that Yue Ming Ke’s martial arts would still turn out to be so powerful despite having just woken up. Briefly stunned, they then hurriedly clapped their hands together and clamoured for help. The moment Yue Ming Ke stepped foot outside, seven or eight guards surged forward from all four directions. But since Yue Ming Ke did not wish to hurt anybody, he only swept his sword around to ward off the attack coming from all four sides. Amongst the clatter of shattering gold and fracturing jade, the weapons in the hands of those seven or eight guards were all broken, attesting to the fact that the Dragon Springs Sword’s indomitable power was indeed alarming!

    Someone was heard to shout, “You little rogue! How dare you steal our palace’s treasured sword? Even if you can manage to force your way out, you would still have committed an unpardonable crime. So if you are willing to drop your sword right now, we can secretly let you out of the palace.” Yue Ming Ke was thinking: since things have gotten to this point, then I might as well bring this sword along with me and go to see the Emperor. I have to try my best to get to the bottom of this case even if it means my execution. Once he decided upon this, the sword in his hand danced up an angry storm that forced the guards to retreat more then twenty feet. Then with a twist of his body, Yue landed on the top of the rooftops.

    The rooftops of the imperial palace were all constructed out of yellow-coloured glazed tiles. When Yue flitted onto the top of the roof, he immediately found the surface he was standing on to be very smooth and slippery. Looking around him, he found that all the rooftops were connected together like a sea of clouds and glimmering like the iridescent scales of a fish. Yue Ming Ke still had his doubts a moment ago as to where he was, but now there could no longer be any doubt that this was the imperial palace he was situated within. Such a discovery brought forth a surge of emotions, for never in his dreams would he have imagined that the palace has actually fallen to such decadent states of debauchery. Even though Military Commissioner Xiong and him have both been painstakingly guarding over the country borders in battle after battle, yet it seems that their efforts will eventually prove itself to be useless.

    After seeing how powerful Yue Ming Ke was, those guards who had their weapons destroyed did not dare to chase after him. As a result, they could only clamour loudly for help while still situated on the ground. Yue Ming Ke targeted the ornamental columns[19] of the front doors and then charged forward with a wild, frenzied pace. Although the glazed tiles were so slippery that it disabled one from stabilizing their balance, yet Yue Ming Ke’s levitation skills were superb and just a light tap of his toes was enough to rocket him high into the air. Like a purple swallow skipping across the turbulent waves, Yue Ming Ke skimmed across the rooftops without the slightest bit of deterrence.

    However, the surface area of the imperial palace was incredibly vast, with the number of palace halls numbering past the thousands. After Yue has glided over the roofs of a few halls, a menacing snarl suddenly sounded from below as a person immediately leapt onto the top of the rooftops – it was Ying Xiu Yang! Yue Ming Ke was lamenting to himself silently: It’s over! Over! If even this kind of villain is allowed to infiltrate into the palace, what hope can there be left for the country?

    Ying Xiu Yang screamed loudly, “Come catch the assassin!” while Yue Ming Ke seethed with indignant rage as he bellowed, “Ha! Alright! Then I’ll capture you first and bring you to the Emperor himself!” With the stance “Dragon’s Coil and Wild Thrash,” his blade’s bronze streak extended for a radius of more than ten feet, forcing Ying Xiu Yang to swirl his tassel whip in defence. But the tassels of Ying’s bronze whip that came under the gleam of Yue’s sword Qi were all shorn into pieces and had Ying not managed to change his stances with such rapid dexterity, even his hand would have been slashed right off his arm!

    The force of Yue Ming Ke’s sword thrashed out like the violent waves that crashed against the gates of the Dragon King’s Underwater Palace. The sheer speed in the execution of Yue’s stances was simply indescribable for before you could even see the end of one stance, the second stance had already been thrown out! Ying Xiu Yang was not Yue Ming Ke’s match to begin with, now he was furthermore combating a Yue Ming Ke who was in the midst of his raging fury that compelled him to repeatedly execute his most obliterating moves. After just ten stances, Ying Xiu Yang had already experienced more than one instance of where he was merely a hairbreadth’s distance away from being injured under Yue’s blade.

    But by that time, the palace guards had also started to surge in from all directions upon hearing the sounds of combat, causing the pandemonium of people shouting and feet pounding to shock the air. Yue Ming Ke growled, “I’ll exterminate you first and explain later!” Thus with a swing of his treasured sword, the green glow of Yue Ming Ke’s sword immediately swirled out and enveloped around Ying Xiu Yang to trap him within the roar of its cyclonic centre. Then with a few additional swipes, Yue repeatedly attacked with deadly mercilessness.

    Ying Xiu Yang was dodging to the left and flitting towards his right when he suddenly felt a chilling breeze brush across his scalp only to find that the tuff of hair on the top of his head has been completely shorn off! Such a close call petrified Ying to the point of where even his shaken soul was about to jump right out of his body. He branded his whip and faked a defensive move before he rocketed upwards with all his might. Yue Ming Ke shouted, “Think you can escape?” and with a tap of his toe, leaped up high into the air, arriving more then thirty feet above the roof.

    His levitation skills were levels beyond that of Ying’s, thus with just that one jump, he had already managed to arrive above the top of Ying Xiu Yang’s head. Then with a flip of his body, Yue Ming Ke turned around to pierce with his long sword in a downwards direction! Ying Xiu Yang’s body was caught in mid air and he no longer had any other means of escaping. The haunting aura of death loomed up ahead as the tip of Yue Ming Ke’s blade was just about to arrive at the top of Ying Xiu Yang’s head!

    Yue Ming Ke continued to pierce downwards with a flip of his blade, but just when Ying Xiu Yang was about to lose his life a white flash suddenly zoomed out from one side. Before the figure could physically reach Yue Ming Ke, the force of this person’s palm had already arrived! With an explosion of wind, the palm’s strike surged forth with both force and fierceness, shocking the tip of Yue Ming Ke’s sword over to one side. Yue attempted to throw out one last slash with his residual momentum, but Ying Xiu Yang had already pulled his arm deep into his sleeves so that only the end of his sleeve was sliced off, enabling Ying Xiu Yang to escape alive!

    Yue Ming Ke drew up a new stance and landed on the tiles of the palace rooftops once again. By then, the person who had saved Ying Xiu Yang had already arrived and generated his palms strikes with the force of whirlwinds, bringing forth a flood of gushing and whooshing currents that forced Yue Ming Ke to retreat three sequential steps.

    Yue Ming Ke was completely abashed for he couldn’t believe that there would be a fighter of such powerful energy reserve that could be found within the imperial palace! When he had the chance to take a good look, he found that this person was wearing a mask that made him look all the more eerie and ghastly. Even under the net of rays drew by Yue’s sword, the person still dared to extend his hands in attempts to clamp Yue’s wrist! Yue hurriedly brought the blade of his sword around before coming in from the side to attack him. But this person chopped down on one side with his left palm and then slashed in from the other side with his right palm, fully employing the method of attack in defence of Yue’s attack and without any indication of holding back or harbouring caution. The two fighters exchanged a few stances, every one of them turning out to be annihilating moves. Although Yue felt the style of this person’s palms to be somewhat familiar, yet expending just that little bit of concentration in pondering over this matter almost caused him to be struck down by his opponent’s palm.

    The skilled fighters of the palace have now arrived from all directions, thus Ying Xiu Yang began to scream, “The assassin is right here!” while the mysterious masked man suddenly delivered a decoy attack and then escaped to ground level only to merge himself within the crowd of people. A brief second later, the guards who arrived from the various sectors of the place have all landed on top of the palace roofs!

    Yue Ming Ke found this whole incident very strange. For the supremacy of this masked fighter’s martial arts was not below that of the “Venomous Palms of Yin Winds” Jin Du Yi. Combating against him one on one, Yue knew that even though he may not necessarily lose to him, yet it would still be extremely hard for him to take the upper hand. If this man was one of the palace guards, then why is it that when his associates arrive, he would actually steal away secretly?

    Once the masked person left, amongst the vast number of palace guards, there were none whose martial arts were especially strong. Yue Ming Ke’s levitation skills were superb and plus he had a treasured sword by his side. Thus he did not dally in battle and only proceeded to flit away after exchanging a few stances so that shortly afterwards, he had already escaped to the outside of the Palace of Heavenly Purity. The crowd of palace guards chased after him relentlessly, creating a great ruckus of shouting and shoving, but in the midst of all this chaos, Ying Xiu Yang had already stolen away secretly.

    Let us now focus our attention back to Zhuo Yi Hang who having heard sounds of shouting and fighting coming in from outside the Hall of Mental Cultivation ran to the window for a look only to discover that the person being chased by the palace guards was actually Yue Ming Ke! Shocked beyond belief, Zhuo had no time to analyze over the matter and just bounded outside instantaneously in one great leap.

    The personal guards who served the Emperor was just in the midst of extracting their swords in attempts to deter Yue from entering the Hall, but when they saw Zhuo blaze out they froze in their tracks with surprise. By then, Zhuo Yi Hang had already pulled Yue inside the Hall of Mental Cultivation as they both knelt down in front of the Emperor’s bedside.

    Chang Luo was so petrified that he broke out into a body of cold sweat all the while pointing to Yue and spluttering, “What … what … what is that sword for?” Zhuo Yi Hang hurriedly reported, “This man is the personal envoy of the Military Commissioner Xiong. Your humble servant can use my very own life to guarantee his indisputable loyalty!”

    Yue Ming Ke returned his sword back into its sheath and then reported, “Your divine Majesty, there have been debauched demons and flagitious fiends that have erupted within the imperial palace. Please allow your unworthy servant to explain in detail!”

    Having broken out into a cold sweat, Chang Luo’s thoughts actually became a bit more coherent. Xiong Ting Bi’s faithful loyalty and valiant bravery has always been something he was well aware of, thus with a sweep of his hands he ordered, “Cheng Kun, tell all those servants to retreat outside the room.”

    Cheng Kun was the name of a head palace guard. Quite honest and loyal in character, he was furthermore aware of how the members of the palace have segregated into their own cliques and how the Eastern faction had already became an established force to be reckoned with. Now hearing that this “assassin” was actually Military Commissioner’s man, he had already let down half of his guard so that when he heard the Emperor’s orders, he immediately answered, “Your menial servant obeys your order.” Thus branding his sabre, he stood guard by the room’s door, causing all the guards who chased to the Hall of Mental Cultivation to be forced back outside.

    Having just been incriminated by the Emperor, Yue Ming Ke gathered together his thoughts and then presented forth the treasured Dragon Springs sword while saying, “Divine Lord, please observe and confirm whether this is a property of the palace?” Chang Luo took over the sword for a look and then asked, “How did you get this?” Yue Ming Ke knelt in front of the bed and reported his “special encounter” to the Emperor, but just when he had gotten to the part about encountering the beautiful matron, Chang Luo suddenly interrupted, “Did this woman have a very round face and wears her hair pulled back into a pair of coiling dragon buns[20]?” Yue Ming Ke replied, “Exactly so.” Chang Luo exploded with fury, “Is she trying to drive me to the ground with this madness?” before he fainted. Zhuo Yi Hang hurriedly came forward to resuscitate him by massaging his vital pulse points. By then, Cheng Kun had also turned back around.

    After a while, Chang Luo gradually awakened and murmured, “The two of you can retreat now, but you must not mention anything about this incident. Cheng Kun, go bring Fang Cong Zhe and Li Xuan Shi to me.” Zhuo wiped a handful of sweat from his forehead and exited the room with Yue. They could observe from afar that a group of female palace attendants were milling out from the Palace of Heavenly Purity, thus the two of them did not dare to tarry as they hurriedly return to the Tower of Manifest Benevolence.

    When the crowd of officials who were waiting there saw that there suddenly appeared an extra person who came out from inside, Yue Ming Ke suddenly found that he was being stared at by a few dozen pair of eyes. Yang Kun whispered to Zhuo, “How is the Emperor?” Zhuo Yi Hang did not dare to respond and could only shake his head. After a while, the faint traces of crying drifted out from the inner palaces as a eunuch came out to announce, “You can all go back now. The Emperor will not be seeing any of you today.”

    Once they exited the Meridian Gates, Yue Ming Ke said, “I’m afraid that the Emperor will not be able to last.” Zhuo Yi Hang remarked, “It seems that the fate of the Ming Dynasty can only be left to the mercy of the heavens.” Yue Ming Ke continued, “Although the Emperor may not be the most superb or competent ruler, yet at least he can understand and weigh the importance of matters. But the crown prince is just an ignorant little kid! When he succeeds the throne, there will be officials of powerful authority to reckon with on the outer level and castrated villains posing a threat on the inner level. Not to mention how the inner palaces are tainted by wild debauchery and licentious decadence. I’m afraid that we don’t have to wait around for the Manchurians to crash through our country’s borders and already the world would drive itself to the ground!” Observing the two of them converse about the Emperor with such bluntness and inhibition, Yang Kun hurriedly switched the conversation over to another topic. After Yue has inquired Zhuo about the address of his temporary lodging, he then promised, “I’ll come visit you tomorrow” before they waved farewell and departed from each other.

    Yet by the next day, the news of the Emperor’s passing had already been released from the imperial palace. As expected, the hundreds of officials all engaged in tearful mourning, the crown prince You Jiao also ascended the throne and established the regnal name of TianQi. The palace was in a state of utter chaos for even though Li Ke Zhuo had submitted the red pill to the Emperor that ended up taking his life, yet not only was he not penalized, but Fang Cong Zhe furthermore claimed to be relaying the last orders of the Emperor by saying that Li Ke Zhuo was a loyal official and granted him with riches. Pandemonium erupted amongst the crowd of officials when they heard about this news and those officials such as the Minister of Rites Sun Shen Xing, the Censorate Wang An Shun and Hui Shi Yang who were not afraid of being executed furthermore discussed amongst themselves in regards to how they could send forth an incriminating document to impeach Li Ke Zhuo while simultaneously charging Fang Cong Zhe with the crime of murdering the Lord. This incident created a huge ruckus that lasted for a very long time, but under the support of Wei Zhong Xian, Fang Cong Zhe was eventually able to suppress this earth-shattering case of the Red Pill. However, this concerns a later matter and will not be disclosed at present.

    For the time being, let us bring our attention back to Yue Ming Ke who after returning to Yang Lian’s home that day, began to narrate the whole incident to Tie Shan Hu with endless sighs of heavyhearted despondency. But Tie Shan Hu just laughed, “Only silly goofs like you would take upon the matters of the world as your own personal mission and then go to support such a degenerate dynasty. For me, a life wandering through the JiangHu world, standing up for justice and performing acts of heroism, living an existence comparable to the wild cranes and carefree clouds would be a much more gratifying and worthwhile experience.”

    The eyebrows on Yue Ming Ke face knotted together as he asked, “Did you think that I was doing all this for the Zhu family?” Tie Shan Hu smiled and replied, “I know, I know. You have your whole philosophy of how you must facilitate the Emperor in order to defend the country against the intrusion of foreign invaders – right? But the thing is, we don’t necessarily need an Emperor in order to defend our country against the Tartars!”

    Yue Ming Ke was speechless. He was thinking: I’ve always thought that this kid didn’t understand anything. Who would have thought that she could also have a point? Thus he did not say anything more. Tie Shan Hu added, “I don’t want to see Zhuo Yi Hang so don’t tell him I’m here.” Yue Ming Ke asked, “Why?” but Tie Shan Hu just blushed and answered, “No reason, I just don’t like seeing him.” In truth, this was all due to the fact that Tie Shan Hu had once proposed marriage to Wang Zhao Xi but failed in her efforts. Since Tie Shan Hu knew that Zhuo Yi Hang and Wang Zhao Xi were very well acquainted with each other, she figured that Zhuo must also know about this incident and therefore did not wish to see him.

    The next day Yue Ming Ke arrived at Yang Kun’s house according to his word. At that time, Yang Kun was already in the midst of collaborating with his colleagues in regards to how they could incriminate Fang Cong Zhe, leaving Zhuo Yi Hang alone with Yue Ming Ke.

    Yue said, “Who could have predicted that the Emperor Tai Chang[21] would pass away so quickly? Now there would be nobody left to abolish the shameful scandals of the palace.” After a long sigh, Yue continued, “This trip to the capital has opened up my eyes to many things, but it has only left me disheartened and dispirited. Once the new Emperor ascends the throne, those who will come to power will most definitely be Wei Zong Xian, Fang Cong Zhe and their allies. They’ve always been in opposition to Military Commissioner Xiong. If it wasn’t for my old commander’s sake, I really think that I would just go and join the monastery.”

    Zhuo Yi Hang remarked, “Let’s just stay here for a few days and see how everything works out. What do you think?” Yue Ming Ke replied, “The politics of the government are offensive to the ears and unbefitting to be known, I really don’t wish to bother myself with it anymore. However, I do have to steal into the palace again tonight.”

    Zhuo Yi Hang asked, “Why run such a big risk?” Yue Ming Ke replied, “My Gliding Dragon Sword was lost within the palace so I must go back again in order to investigate into this matter.” A thought struck Zhuo Yi Hang as he asked, “Then why don’t I come with you?” Yue Ming Ke knew that though Zhuo Yi Hang’s martial arts were quite good, yet he has still not reached the pinnacle of supremacy nor transcended into the boundaries of perfection yet, thus he was worried that Zhuo might not be able to escape out of the palace if they happen to come across any trouble. He therefore said, “Since I need to search the imperial palace during the night-time, it might become inconvenient if there are too many people involved. Thank you for your chivalric offer my brother, I acknowledge it with all my heart.”

    But Zhuo Yi Hang seemed lost in thought and did not say anything in reply for a very long time until he suddenly asked, “Would you like to come with me to visit my martial arts uncle?” Yue Ming Ke inquired, “Which Taoist Priest might that be?” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “My fourth uncle, Taoist Priest White Stone.” Yue Ming Ke remarked, “I’ve long heard of the great name of the five elders of Wu Tang, not to mention he is your martial arts uncle. Since he is here, I will of course be glad to go and present my respects.”

    Taoist Priest White Stone and his daughter were staying at the home of the martial arts instructor Liu Xi Ming located about a dozen miles from Yang Kun’s house. When Zhuo Yi Hang and Yue Ming Ke arrived to the Liu household, they knocked on the door for quite some time before somebody finally came to open up the door for them. But the person who opened the door was actually not a member of the Liu family but was rather He E-Hua. Zhuo Yi Hang was slightly taken back as he thought to himself: Where have all the people of the Liu household gone? Why would they let a guest come out to open the doors?

    There was a similar expression of surprise on He E-Hua’s face, as her pair of tear-filled eyes stared intently at Zhuo Yi Hang. It seemed as if she was desirous to tell him something and yet she remained silent, causing Zhuo Yi Hang to lower his head. Seeing all this, Yue Ming Ke couldn’t help but chuckle to himself silently.

    He E-Hua brought the two of them to the guest rooms of the West wing and then knocked on one of the doors while calling out, “Father, Brother Zhuo and his friend have come to see you.” Taoist Priest White Stone opened up the door and exclaimed with surprise, “And I was wondering who it was! So it is Hero Yue!”

    Yue Ming Ke found it strangely perplexing that the Taoist Priest White Stone would know him who he was, but standing right beside him was Zhuo Yi Hang who smiled and explained, “Brother Yue, that night when you were at Shaolin to take the book, my revered uncle was also present within the temple to witness you charge through five consecutive barricades.”

    White Stone remarked, “You have an excellent command over your sword.” Yue Ming Ke replied, “Wu Tang’s sword skill is uncontested within the world, I will need to be implore reverend you for an educational lecture in the future.” But Taoist Priest White Stone remarked coldly in response, “You are being much too humble Hero Yue. It is the force of the Yellow River’s latter currents that drives the old waves forward. The sword skill of Wu Tang has already fallen behind greatly.” Because Taoist Priest White Stone had a very cramped breadth of heart, when he witnessed the Revered Jing Ming highly exalt Yue Ming Ke’s Tian Shan sword skill that night at the Shaolin temple, he became greatly displeased within his heart. Zhuo Yi Hang never would have been able to anticipate the fact that his uncle would have such a jealous nature and only felt that his manner was strangely out of the ordinary. Yue Ming Ke was furthermore left to feel embarrassed and uncomfortable.

    White Stone just uttered, “Please have a seat Hero Yue, this humble priest has a few minor matters to discuss over with my nephew” before he took Zhuo by the arm and pulled him into the inner recesses. Yue Ming Ke could only manage to blurt out, “Please help yourselves,” as he sat down stiffly in the reception area in awkward solitude, feeling extremely discomforted and humiliated. He simply could not understand why Taoist Priest White Stone would treat him with such a cool and unfriendly attitude.

    Zhuo Yi Hang was even more confounded. As he accompanied White Stone into the inner rooms, he inquired with a slightly displeased tone, “Yue Ming Ke is the heroic figure of our present era. Not to mention your disciple and him get along quite well. May I ask why uncle you are treating him with such cold indifference?” White Stone retorted, “Since he is the current era’s heroic figure, then he most definitely will not be constrained by petty customs or concerned with the common social manners. I have to speak with you about something, so what so wrong about letting him just sit around for a while?” Although White Stone’s excuse was actually quite forced, yet Zhuo Yi Hang was nevertheless residing in the position of his student, thus it was not suitable for him to retort his uncle’s words. He could therefore only ask with respectful reverence, “What orders do you have for me Uncle?”

    Taoist Priest White Stone paused briefly before continuing slowly, “Now that the Tai Chang Emperor has died and your case has also been sorted out, you should really be accompanying me back to the mountain.” Zhuo Yi Hang stammered, “Um … uh … your disciple would still like to remain here for a few days.” White Stone asked, “What for?” Zhuo Yi Hang blurted out, “Your disciple has already made a promise to meet up with Brother Yue. His treasured sword was lost within the recesses of the imperial palace and there happens to be some very strange circumstances surrounding this incident!”

    Zhuo Yi Hang thus proceeded to relate the details behind Yue Ming Ke’s encounter within the imperial palace to White Stone, whose eyebrows knitted together as he remarked, “Is that really the case?” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “When the country is on the verge of its death, one can be sure to find fiends and felons at the root of this problem. Your disciple’s family has been graced by the country’s benevolence for many generations. Now witnessing such things happening, I really can’t help but feel sadden.” White Stone asked, “So you plan to lend a helping hand to Yue Ming Ke by accompanying him into the imperial palace in order to investigate into this matter?” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “Indeed.” White Stone suddenly blurted out, “We haven’t even taken care of our own matters yet, why go bother ourselves with other people’s problems?” then suddenly and unexpectedly tore open the front of his shirt while shouting, “Take a look yourself!”

    As White Stone bared the front of his chest, the faint traces of a red palm imprint could be seen clearly on his chest! Zhuo Yi Hang asked with alarm, “Uncle, have you sustained a furtive attack?” Taoist Priest White Stone nodded his head and said, “This is what I wanted to discuss with you about. Will we be going back to the mountains or staying here?”

    Zhuo Yi Hang exclaimed, “This is the work of the old freak Jin’s Venomous Palms of Yin Winds! Did you encounter him?” White Stone answered, “If it was the old freak Jin that I had come across, I’m afraid that I wouldn’t have been able to see you today. This person’s martial arts was at a level below that of the old freak Jin’s.”

    White Stone drove his fist into his palm and continued, “Yesterday around sunset, I just happened to be wandering around the area of the Heavenly Bridge by myself. There was a group of martial art performers there tightrope walking against steel twine and performing these horse-riding tricks. The martial arts they used were indeed that derived through authentic practice and not the kind of which was performed through illusory tricks. I was engrossed by their performance when it was suddenly interrupted by what seemed to be a bully type of man with bushy eyebrows and big eyes that barged onto their stage and demanded for his customary fee. The old performer bowed lowly and in a very pathetic manner begged the man, “We haven’t had any business for the whole day. Please elder, I beg you, have kind mercy on us and kindly give us a little more time.” The bully was screaming and shouting as he hopped up and down with displeasure. Not being able to stand such injustice, I ran onto the stage in order to stop the bully. With just a lift of my hand, I sent the bully sprawling across the floor before he scampered away like a dog with his tail caught between his legs, causing the old performer to shower me with endless words of gratitude. But by then, the day has already reached its twilight hour and after this whole incident, all the spectators have left the scene. Thus the old man invited me over to his tent to have a glass of watered-down drink and since I didn’t have my guard set up against him, I just followed him to his place. But it actually turns out that this old man was a skilled practitioner of the Venomous Palms of Yin Winds! Just when he was handing the bottle over to me, he suddenly struck out to impact a palm right on my chest!”

    Zhuo Yi Hang exclaimed, “Oh no!” but White Stone snickered and continued, “But it wasn’t like he was able to come out of the whole thing with much of an advantage. I may have sustained one of his palms, but I made him suffer two of my fingers in return. I managed to seal his Yu Qi acupoint so that regardless of how powerful his martial arts may be, he would still be unable to avoid being crippled for life!” Zhuo Yi Hang remarked, “From this situation, it seems that the old freak Jin has also arrived here in the capital!”

    White Stone continued, “That old performer jumped out of the tent and called out before he left, “Thievish Priest White Stone, if you don’t return to the mountains within three days, there will be someone else coming to grant you with another palm!” I was afraid that he would have more accomplices with him and therefore hurried back to the Liu household only to discover with surprise that the Liu family has also been turned upside down!”

    Zhuo Yi Hang remarked, “No wonder there was nobody from the Liu family to open up the door for us today.” White Stone continued, “Martial arts instructor Liu has gone out to find help.” Zhuo Yi Hang asked, “What? The martial arts instructor Liu is highly respected within the imperial capital and is furthermore known to enjoy great popularity. Can it be that there would actually be someone who would want to take revenge on him?” White Stone explained, “At around the same time that I came across danger, a few uninvited guests also barged into the Liu household and with a very menacing and hostile attitude forbid him to accommodate us within his home. Those people did not have any personal scores to settle with Liu, but had instead come with us as their targets.”

    Zhuo Yi Hang remarked, “That’s so strange! Much like the waters of the river that does not infringe upon the waters of the well, we have always gone about our business in our own way, separate from that of the old freak Jin’s. Not to mention how well-known and respected the fame of the Wu Tang 5 elders’ fame is within the world. Why would he purposely come around to make trouble for you uncle?” White Stone answered, “I have no idea what he’s trying to get at either, which is why I wanted to discuss over this matter with you. Should we return to the mountains right away or should we remain right here and finish this fight?”

    Zhuo Yi Hang analyzed, “According to logic, in order to not drag the elder Liu into this trouble we should most definitely return to the mountain. But since the martial arts instructor Liu has already gone out to seek help, we can’t just leave like this.” White Stone exclaimed, “Right! Your thoughts are exactly that of my own. Then during the next three days, you shouldn’t return to the Yang family. Just stay right here and see what those crooks dare to do.”

    Zhuo Yi Hang remarked, “Brother Yue’s profound sword skill is not only brilliant, but his supreme martial arts is equally worthy of exaltation, so why don’t we join forces with him in order to oppose our enemy? We can first lend him a helping hand and then we can also implore him to lend us a help hand as well!” Taoist Priest White Stone’s expression instantaneously changed into a series of awful colours as he barked with severe tone, “Yi Hang! You are our sect’s future sect leader! Don’t you know what the rules of our sect are?”

    Zhuo Yi Hang stammered with alarm, “May your unworthy disciple know which sect-rule he has offended?” White Stone thought over his question for a while before suddenly chuckling, “I suppose you can’t be blamed. You’ve only completed your studies for a mere two years and since your ShiFu has never stressed this rule, I suppose he never did tell you about it.” Zhuo Yi Hang asked with perplexity, “Exactly what rule are we talking about?”

    White Stone explained, “This rule is not an official rule passed down from our ancestors but is a rule of which everyone has abided by during the last twenty years. You should know that during the last twenty to thirty years, our sect has been thriving in such illustrious eminence that it has enabled the members of our sect to spread out all over the world. And that is why whenever we run into conflicts with the other sects we’ve never needed anybody to help us out in battle. With time, this tendency has become a regular habit. All Wu Tang sect members view the act of asking other non-sect members to help in battle as a disgrace and insult! As a result, this habit has gradually become an unofficial rule.”

    Zhuo Yi Hang remarked, “But the martial arts instructor Liu has just gone to seek for help! Uncle, are you not planning to accept his assistance?” White Stone laughed and said, “That’s different. He’s not a Wu Tang disciple and though the fact that he is arranging for others to help out may indeed be related to us, yet those helpers are only coming on behalf of his request so I don’t have to feel obligated to them!” Zhuo Yi Hang was thinking to himself: what a strange rule. If I become the sect-leader I will most definitely have to abolish this rule. The martial arts world should hold the values of heroism and chivalry as its main priorities. Just resorting to arrogance through one’s prominence and power should not be the mannerism and attitude of which a leader of the martial art world takes. People of noble heroism should really be holding the act of helping out each other as their personal mission.

    White Stone continued, “The members of our sect never asks any outsiders to help out in a duel against the other sects, but if friends or family know of this incident and volunteers to help out, that is acceptable. However, we must not go and ask them to come ourselves.” Zhuo Yi Hang replied, “Since that is the case, I better not tell Brother Yue about it.” White Stone said, “Of course you shouldn’t! And that is why I didn’t want to talk about this incident with you in front of him just now. We have a dozen members of our own sect residing in Beijing who will be arriving one after the other today in order to position themselves in a secret position within the Liu household.”

    Meanwhile in the reception room, Yue Ming Ke continued to wait in awkward solitude. Only after he had waited around for a very long time did Taoist Priest White Stone and Zhuo Yi Hang finally reappear. Since Yue Ming Ke felt displeased within his heart, he gave a bow and then said, “I have bothered you for much too long.” White Stone replied, “Yi Hang, why don’t you sit here with Brother Yue for a little while longer.” Such words were obviously a hint to show his guest out, causing Yue Ming Ke to rise to his feet with bewilderment.

    White Stone continued, “Brother Yue, I have heard from Yi Hang that you are now residing at the Yang mansion. This humble priest will one day come with Yi Hang to pay our respects.” With another low bow, Yue Ming Ke said, “Your student dares not trouble you for such an honoured presence” and with a twist of his body started to walk out of the Liu household. Zhuo Yi Hang saw him to the outside of the house before whispering softly, “Honoured brother, if you still have not left the capital in three days, I implore you to please come here for a brief gathering.” Yue Ming Ke was taken back as he thought to himself: Setting a date for a meeting is a very common matter, why must he be so secretive about it? But just when he was about to ask him, Zhuo Yi Hang had already issued a very low bow and announced in a clear and loud voice, “Please excuse me for not seeing you any further” and before Yue Ming Ke could even say anything else in reply, Zhuo Yi Hang has already closed the door on him.

    Yue Ming Ke returned to the Yang household with a dark cloud hanging over his head, but after taking an afternoon nap, he woke up by nightfall fully energized. By the time he finished his evening meal, the time gong was heard to strike the second hour. He changed into a night traveler’s outfit and then said to Tie Shan Hu, “When you stay here tonight, you must take extra care to keep your eyes open and remain on your guard alright? I probably won’t be back until daybreak, but if you don’t see me return by morning, then you should go to the Martial Arts Instructor Liu’s household located on the Northern side of the city to notify Zhuo Yi Hang right away.” Tie Shan Hu cracked up and teased, “You’re becoming more and more motherly every day! It’s not like I’m a little kid, so who needs you to fuss around me like a baby? I’m not a silly goof like you – a full grown man who gets kidnapped away by a female rapist!” Yue Ming Ke laughed and chided, “Nonsense,” before waving goodbye to her and exiting the Yang household to sprint towards the Forbidden City.

    A cold current blew under the vast skies of a moonless autumn night to complete the perfect backdrop for night-crawlers to venture out against. Although there were guards on watch above the Forbidden City, yet Yue Ming Ke’s levitation skills were so superb that he truly did have the uncanny ability to skip across water and move about with the intricate lightness comparable to a tuft of wisp dancing soundless in the breeze. Unbeknownst to the heavenly immortals and undetected by the ghosts of the underworld, Yue Ming Ke stole into the Imperial Palace and entered straight into the Imperial Gardens situated within the inner recesses of the palace.

    The surface area of the Imperial Palace was extremely vast and was comprised of an endless number of palaces conglomerated together like a sea of clouds. Yue Ming Ke hid in a dark corner and was just in the process of re-constructing in his mind the paths he treaded on during daytime when he suddenly heard the sound of footsteps passing by him. It turned out to be two palace guards who were dressed in black garments. One of them said, “I wonder what orders the Holy Lord Wei may have for me that would compel him to call upon me in the dead of the night?” The other man replied, “I’ve heard that Cheng Kun has been imprisoned by the Holy Lord Wei. Since you’re Cheng Kun’s good friend, I’m sure that the reason behind the Holy Lord summoning you here must be somehow related to this matter.” The former man grunted with displeasure as he huffed, “Cheng Kun! That little rascal is simply too ungracious! I won’t be able to save him this time.”

    Yue Ming Ke’s heart skipped a beat for he knew that the “Holy Lord Wei” of whom these two people were referring to must be Wei Zhong Xian while Cheng Kun was the Monitor of the late Emperor Chang Luo’s Palace Guardsmen[22]. Yue thought to himself: Though Cheng Kun may be a palace guard, yet he still does not fall short of being deemed as an honest and loyal man. The former Emperor has just passed away recently, why would Wei Zhong Xian not be concerning himself with handling the pressing number of important matters first and would instead bother himself with capturing this man? Then Yue Ming Ke also thought to: Since I needed to go find that Wei Zhong Xian anyways, why don’t I just follow these two people into the palace for a look?

    Employing his transcendental levitation skills, Yue Ming Ke silently tailed behind the two guards and through their conversation discovered that they were the trusted men of Wei Zhong Xian. Furthermore, he found out that ever since yesterday, the Western Faction has also been assigned to the sovereignty of Wei. Now, the Imperial Bodyguards were the only ones who were still operating on their own system for they were governed under Long Cheng Ye, the Commandant[23] of the Inner Courts.

    Following the two guards, Yue Ming Ke winded through a labyrinth of paths before finally arriving in front of a palace hall with a parasol shaped dome. After knocking on the door, the two guards entered inside while Yue Ming Ke flitted up to the top of the roof and then peered over the edge of the eaves to spy inside the room. What he saw was a portly eunuch with a white complexion sitting in the middle of the room with four palace guards standing by his side.

    The fires of fury ignited within Yue Ming Ke’s heart for he knew that the eunuch sitting in the middle of the room must be Wei Zhong Xian. He delved his fingers into his projectiles pouch but then suddenly thought to how the Imperial government runs on the principle of lawful justice, thus he knew that if he killed Wei Zhong Xian right here, Military Commissioner Xiong will most definitely reproach him with disapproval. As a result, Yue forced himself to hold off on this impulse.

    After the two guards had knocked on the door and entered inside, they performed the customary rites of greeting to Wei Zhong Xian before Wei was heard to say, “Wang Cheng, Dong Fang, the two of you has finally arrived? I take it that you are both aware of the fact that Cheng Kun is here as well?” The two guards answered “Yes” in response compelling Wei Zhong Xian to continue, “Wang Cheng, you have long been Cheng Kun’s assistant by fulfilling the duties of the sergeant-of-arms for the Palace Guardsmen. Am I right?” Wang Cheng replied, “Your menial servant may indeed be Cheng Kun’s assistant, but I have always been at odds with him.” Wei Zhong Xian asked, “Did the two of you have any disputes?” Wang Cheng hesitated briefly before answering, “No, but we do not get along with each other within our hearts.” Wei Zhong Xian murmured, “Mmm” and then asked, “Dong Fang, you and Cheng Kun were enlisted into the palace at the same time. Amongst all the palace guards, you and him get along the best, am I right?” Dong Fang hurriedly knelt down to perform obeisance while replying, “Your servant only recognizes the Holy Lord Wei” causing Wei Zhong Xian to roar with laughter as he shouted, “Very good!” Then after whispering some orders, Wei Zhong Xian immediately exited the room through the side doors while accompanied by his attendants.

    After a short while, the side doors re-opened but the people who came out of those doors were not Wei Zhong Xian and his men. Rather, it was two other palace guards dragging out Cheng Kun. Both his hands and feet were bounded tightly by shackles and Yue Ming Ke also observed that over the brief duration of two mere days, Cheng Kun has deteriorated into a haggard state of appearance. The guard who dragged him out brought him into the room and then smiled before saying, “Your good friend has bailed you out! Go ahead!” Having said this, he turned around and left the room. However, he did not unlock Cheng Kun’s shackles for him.

    With a big smile stretching all the way across his face, Wang Cheng helped Cheng Kun to a seat while he purred with concern, “You did not suffer I hope?” Cheng Kun snickered coldly and did not reply. Dong Fang said, “Brother, as the old saying goes, ‘People with ability always knows to abide by their times.’ Why must you go against the Holy Lord Wei?” Cheng Kun retorted angrily, “Who’s trying to go against him? I just don’t understand why he has it in for me!” Wang Cheng said, “Brother, we had to use our lives, fortune and connections to bail you out here tonight. All we ask in return is one honest answer from you.” Cheng Kun replied, “Your humble brother I am greatly indebted. What question did you want me to answer?”

    Wang Cheng said, “You were serving the late Emperor in the Hall of Mental Cultivation the day he passed away. At that time, he had summoned in Zhuo Zhong Lian’s grandson. Did you hear what they were talking about?” Cheng Kun replied, “I couldn’t hear very clearly.” Dong Fang asked, “Did they mention the Holy Lord Wei?” Cheng Kun answered, “I was standing guard outside the door.” Wang Cheng pressed on, “When the assassin barged in afterwards, why did the Emperor end up releasing him?” Cheng Kun answered, “I don’t know.”

    Dong Fang then asked, “Did the late Emperor’s health suddenly take a turn for the worse not long after swallowing the red pill? You should know the answer to this one.” Cheng Kun answered, “The late Emperor’s health did suddenly improve during the first day of consuming the red pill. But right after ingesting the red pill on the second day, he immediately burned with a high fever and then passed away in the Hall of Mental Cultivation shortly afterwards. But I’ve already told Wei Zhong Xian about all this!”

    Wang Cheng’s face suddenly changed colours as he solemnly stated, “Brother, we both came into this palace at the same time and having been friends for twenty years, I am now using my whole fortune and my very own life to back you up. But if you won’t answer us truthfully, not only will you never be able to leave this palace alive, but the lives of both our families will also be at stake!” Cheng Kun answered, “I would answer you if I knew the answer! But if I don’t know anything, what do you want me to say?” Dong Fang added, “Brother, the Holy Lord Wei isn’t trying to be overly suspicious, but he has to support the young Emperor and having just recently taken over the new reins of great power, there tends to be some officials and military officers who are at odds with him. When the late Emperor was still living, even he was quite cautious of the Holy Lord Wei. This Zhuo Yi Hang is a family friend of the Minister of War, Yang Kun. He was also closely acquainted with the former Lord during the days when he was still the Crown Prince, so it’s really hard to guarantee that the former Emperor won’t leave behind some sort of last words for him.”

    Cheng Kun said, “Minister Yang is an honest and good official, if Wei Zhong Xian is truly intent on protecting the young lord, Minister Yang would not go against him.” Wang Cheng hurriedly asked, “Then you’re saying that the former Lord did leave behind some last words for Zhuo Yi Hang?” Cheng Kun replied, “I didn’t say that.”

    Wang Cheng continued, “Then we’ll investigate into this matter later on. But this assassin concerns a very serious matter, are you absolutely certain that you did not hear what he said to the former Emperor?” Cheng Kun insisted, “I really didn’t!” Dong Fang asked, “Then what is his name and what do you know about his background?” Cheng Kun lamented, “Brother, why must you push me like this?” Cheng Kun knew that Yue Ming Ke was the envoy of the Military Commissioner Xiong, which was why he was afraid that if he revealed Yue’s identity, Wei Zhong Xian would induce harm upon Xiong Ting Bi. Wang Cheng continued, “I’m not trying to force you, but the Holy Lord Wei is absolutely adamant in having this assassin captured before he could be satisfied. If you know something and refuse to tell, then do you realize you’re dragging my whole family down into the grave with you?”

    Yue Ming Ke was thinking: The beautiful matron I saw in the palace must either be some kind of princess or Imperial concubine. But judging from this interrogation, she must also be part of Wei Zhong Xian’s clan otherwise Wei would not be so anxious to capture me in order to be satisfied.

    On observing Wang Cheng repeatedly bring up the endangerment of his family and fortune as if trying to use this act of kindness to pressure him into feeling indebted caused Cheng Kun to grow suspicious as he questioned him back in return, “How did you know that he was an assassin? If he really was an assassin, then why didn’t he take action when he saw the Emperor?” Wang Cheng replied, “That doesn’t concern you. You just have to tell me what his name and background is. As long as you are willing to talk, the Holy Lord Wei will immediately release you. And who knows? One day, he might even hand the Imperial Bodyguards over to you to be commanded.” Cheng Kun snorted with disgust, “I don’t give a crap about that! Besides, I really don’t know! As soon as that man stepped into the Hall of Mental Cultivation, the late Emperor immediately ordered me to go outside and hold back all those guards who were chasing after him.”

    Wang Cheng and Dong Fang turned around and looked at each other before Dong Fang said to Cheng Kun, “You say that you don’t know the answer to everything we ask. But what if I say there is something that you can help us with and of which would not require you to even lift a single finger? Would you be willing to help?” Cheng Kun replied, “That would have to depend on what it is regarding.” Wang Cheng continued, “There are some officials out there who won’t stop insinuating that the late Emperor was killed by Li Ke Zhuo’s red pill, causing even the Prime Minister to be dragged into this whole incident. The Holy Lord Wei would like you to act as a witness and testify that the late Emperor had died the night before yesterday and not in the Hall of Mental Cultivation right after he had ingested the red pill.” Cheng Kun’s countenance underwent an extreme change of colour as he suddenly growled, “I originally did not suspect anything. But from what you are saying now, the late Emperor really was killed by Fang Cong Zhe and Li Ke Zhuo wasn’t he?”

    Wang Cheng hurriedly insisted, “You are merely required to grant this one little favour and then you will be released immediately!” Cheng Kun retorted, “I never lie in my life.” Wang Cheng added, “My whole family comprised of both the young and the old have all been included within this matter. If you won’t agree to this, their lives will be immediately ended!” Cheng Kun immediately blasted with fury, “Wang Cheng! I’ve finally seen through your mask to discover your true rat face! Don’t give me all this crap about backing me up with your life and fortune! Who’s going to believe your lies?”

    Wang Cheng’s face turned an ugly shade of green while Dong Fang suddenly hollered, “Ungrateful bastard!” and then stretched out his hand to seal Cheng Kun’s acupoint. Wang Cheng then took out a sackcloth bag and while putting the shackled up Cheng Kun inside, he remarked with a cackle, “The Holy Lord Wei was worried that if he finished him off in public, he would ignite the fury of all the veteran guards. How do you propose we get rid of him without creating any fuss and without raising the others’ suspicions?” Dong Fang murmured, “This is one hard task. Let me think about it.” After briefly contemplating, he suddenly suggested, “Let’s take off his shackles first.” Wang Cheng asked with surprise, “What for?”

    Dong Fang said, “Since you’ve already sealed his acupoint, he wouldn’t be able to escape even if you took off his shackles. Let’s secretly smuggle him out to some kind of mountain and then hang him on a tree and say that he had hung himself in suicide! Wouldn’t that work out perfectly then? We’ll even let him go to the grave with the glory of a loyal patriot!” Wang Cheng slapped his hands together and praised, “Brilliant!” before untying the sackcloth bag to take out Cheng Kun so that he may unlock his manacles. But when he was turning around to ask Dong Fang, “Is this okay?” Dong Fang suddenly struck him down with his palm! Since Wang Cheng was caught by surprised, he was unable to dodge in time, but having rendered Wang unconscious with one strike, Dong Fang extended his two fingers and was just about to release Cheng Kun’s sealed acupoint when he himself collapsed to a floor with a loud thud! A guard immediately snuck out from the side door and remarked with a cold sneer, “The Holy Lord Wei really has great foresight!”

    It turns out that even though Dong Fang have always been at odds with Cheng Kun, yet his character was still somewhat better than that of Wang Cheng’s. As a result, the moment that Wang Cheng made the decision of killing off Cheng Kun, Dong Fang was immediately hit by the pangs of his guilty conscience. Furthermore, Dong Fang was also terrified of the fact that he would one day end up like Cheng Kun, causing him to suddenly change his mind and decide on releasing Cheng Kun so he could escape out of the palace with him. But what he had not anticipated was that Wei Zhong Xian had already secretly placed a skilled fighter in watch of them, so the moment that Dong Fang struck out, the skilled fighter immediately released a projectile to seal his acupoint.

    Observing on the roof eaves was a surprised Yue Ming Ke who watched the guard reveal himself from his hiding place and then revived Wang Cheng before he grinned and praised, “It all goes to show that you were the loyal one all along.” He then placed Cheng Kun back into the bag while saying, “Dong Fang may be dead meat, but his idea was actually not too bad. We’ll have Cheng Kun ‘commit suicide’ then” as he picked up the bag and walked outside with Wang Cheng.

    The two of them weaved through the Imperial Garden and by the time they had travelled through a portion of the garden, the night had already reached its third hour. Under the thick fog and the chilling wind, the Imperial Garden was a mass of eerie silence. As the two of them travelled around the corner of an artificial mountain, a gust of icy wind suddenly blew their way, causing Wang Cheng to shiver and whisper, “Uh Brother … I’m a little scared.” The guard snapped, “What are you afraid of? We haven’t even murdered him yet! Even if there were to be vengeful ghosts, they wouldn’t be coming for you right now!”

    But the very moment he finished these words, a spine-tingling draft suddenly came up from behind him while a voice was heard to whisper in his ear, “Coming for you!” Before that guard could even turn his head around, his wrist was already clamped tight while the Jiang-Tai Acupoint located on the side of his body was suddenly elbowed to bring about searing pain that stabbed into the very core of his soul. Yet strangely, he couldn’t scream out in pain. Wang Cheng was taken care of in the very same manner, while someone laughed loudly and said, “You guys wanted to murder someone? But the Lord of the Underworld wants the two of you to report to him first!” and then by applying pressure with his wrist, he threw the two people into the cave of the artificial mountain.

    From within the sackcloth bag, Cheng Kun suddenly felt himself being tugged by someone. When his eyes focused, he discovered that it actually turned out to be the “assassin” from the other day. The man smiled and said, “Your acupoint has been released. Go now, leave the palace and don’t work as no Palace Guardsmen anymore.” Cheng Kun exclaimed, “I can’t believe you’d be bold enough to steal in here again!” and then suddenly noticed that there were flickers of light glimmering from afar. He hurriedly instructed, “Brother Yue, change into Wang Cheng’s clothes and I’ll lead you out of the palace” while he took Yue Ming Ke inside the cave. After a short while, Yue Ming Ke had changed into a new set of clothing and the lanterns they saw looming up ahead just a moment ago have also disappeared.

    Cheng Kun said, “We can escape through the West Flowery Gate since it is guarded by the Imperial bodyguards – I have a friend there.” Yue Ming Ke replied, “I’m not going.” Cheng Kun asked with surprised, “What caused you to steal into the Imperial Palace again anyways?” A thought suddenly struck Yue Ming Ke, causing him to state, “Actually, I just happen to have a question that I would like to ask you” and then related his previous encounter once again before asking, “Brother Cheng, would you happen to know who that beautiful matron might be?” Cheng Kun heaved with a big sigh and said, “When the country is coming to an end, one can be sure to find fiends and felons at the root of its cause. I can’t believe that wench would actually dare to challenge the laws of the country and mock the order of authority!” On observing how disrespectful Cheng Kun’s words were, Yue Ming Ke asked, “Is that woman not a princess or concubine?” Cheng Kun replied, “Her power and status right now is above that of even the Empress Dowager[24] herself! She is the wet nurse of our present Emperor, Madam Ke!”

    Yue Ming Ke exclaimed with surprise, “Wet nurse?! How could a wet nurse have so much power?” Cheng Kun explained, “The current Emperor was brought up by her. It’s all very perplexing, but from the Emperor’s youngest years to this present day, he has never been able to leave her side. It just so happens that she’s born with the sort of youthful beauty that enables her, a matron who’s already approaching her mid-forties to look on appearance like a woman who hasn’t even reached her thirties yet! As a result, our late Emperor was also extremely fond of her.”

    Through the allusive tones of Cheng Kun’s words, Yue Ming Ke sensed that there were even more scandalous and decrepit secrets within the palace that were not fit to be known. With a long sigh, Yue remarked, “No wonder she would dare to be so unlawful and unruly!” Cheng Kun continued, “Even Wei Zhong Xian had to rely on her power in order to gradually establish his own power within the palace. When Wei Zhong Xian obtained control over the Eastern Faction two years ago, he sent a few of his trusted guards over to the Wet Nurse Mansion to be fully commanded by her. Eventually, she also brought in her own personal guards.”

    It finally occurred to Yue Ming Ke that the two yellow-robed men who had used the anesthetising smoke to drug him earlier must be her personal guards who helped her kidnap and smuggle men into the palace. He continued to inquire, “Did you guys know that she was kidnapping men and smuggling them into the palace?” Cheng Kun replied, “We have not yet anticipated that she would actually dare to do such things. Since the guards of the Wet Nurse Mansion forms their own clique, it’s not very easy or convenient for the rest of us to inquire into her business.” After Yue Ming Ke had finished asking about the paths towards the Wet Nurse Mansion, he said, “You stay here and wait for me. I’m going for a look and will return very quickly.”

    By following Cheng Kun’s directions, Yue Ming Ke eventually found his way to the Wet Nurse Mansion. Having noticed a few dark shadows patrolling up ahead, Yue stealthily picked up two small stones from the ground and flicked it into an empty space. Then by taking advantage of the guards’ divided attention, he immediately flitted down from a dark corner and stole into the mansion. Since Yue Ming Ke had escaped out of this building just two days ago, he still vaguely remembered the layout of the place. Then by using the various furniture and objects placed about the room as a means of camouflage, he combined in the execution of his light footwork and agile movements to arrive at the complex located in the center of the structure. But the very moment he emerged out of the dark shadows, somebody was suddenly heard to hiss in a low tone, “Is it Little San? The Emperor is inside right now, so go outside to patrol for the rest of your shift.” Since Yue Ming Ke had already changed into the uniform of an Eastern Faction guard, he knew that he must have been mistaken for the wrong person. He therefore did not say anything in reply and just waited for that person to approach him before he suddenly struck out with his fingers to strike his opponent’s death acupoint. Then after hiding the corpse under the stone drums located in front of the Hall, he levitated himself upwards by climbing on top of the roof eaves.

    Peering inside a room lit brightly by sticks of red candles and filled with trails of a subtle fragrant emanating from the incense pot, Yue Ming Ke mused to himself: This room resembles the bedroom of newly wedded couple. After he had time to closely observe around the room, Yue discovered that the arrangements of the room have already been placed in a different configuration than that of two days ago. There was a rectangular shaped table made of Dali Stone propped up in front of the window. Piled on top of the table were a bunch of Memorials presented to the throne[25] and there was a young man of sixteen or seventeen years old sitting there, flipping through the memorials. He would pick up a stack of memorials and flip through them hastily before tossing them aside to pick at another stack with a most spoiled attitude and naughty demeanour. Meanwhile, Yue Ming Ke was secretly lambasting, “What ridiculousness! Even if this Emperor could not yet be considered as a full-grown adult, he is most definitely not a child! Why is it that he still can’t leave his wet nurse’s side? And how could he commit such mad acts of travesty – bringing the memorials presented to the throne into his wet nurse’s bedroom to read?!”

    The little Emperor flipped through a few more memorials and then with a yawn and a lazy stretch he whined, “So annoying!” His wet nurse Madam Ke was sitting by one side and as she poured out a flask of Ginseng soup for him, she coaxed, “But you’re the Emperor now, how can you avoid reading these memorials?” The little Emperor complained, “There are so many words that I don’t even know! Tomorrow, I’m gonna go ask the Grand Tutor.” Madam Ke said, “Oh, my dear baby You (note: Emperor Xi Zong’s name was Zhu You Jiao), that will only cause people to laugh at you. Why don’t you let me have a look, maybe I’ll know the words.”

    The little Emperor picked up a memorial at random and handed it over to her. This was a memorial presented by the Viceroy of ShaanXi reporting of the “bandits’ riot” and imploring for military support. After Madam Ke finished reading it, she said, “Viceroy Wang says here that ShaanXi has already suffered from a few consecutive years of famine, now there are already thirty-six clans of bandits. This is why they wanted to ask you to send them some troops.” Alarmed, You Jiao asked with bewilderment, “How far is ShaanXi from here?” Madam Ke replied, “It’s very far away so you don’t have to worry my dear baby.” You Jiao thus said, “There are so many titles and names of officials out there that I can’t even remember who they are. Tomorrow, I’m going to ask the Minister of War, Yang Kun to go and send somebody over there.” But Madam Ke just smiled again and said, “Oh, you can’t do that my dear. Matters of moving troops and dispatching generals should be left to the sole discretion of the Emperor. If you ask those high officials for answers, one day when the order of Lord and Servant end up interchanging, that would be a problem!”

    Such is: The fox’s charm tricks the young Lord, planted clans disorders the Imperial structure.

    [1]The Cicada mentioned in the title is called the “Tiao Tang” (or perhaps more commonly known as Tang Tiao) which is a type of cicada mentioned within the Book of Songs. Because many cicadas are known to sing their songs in the fall season and die as winter arrives, their songs are thus often interpreted with a melancholic tone of gloomy sadness and pitiful laments that are often associated with the season of autumn itself. What is interesting about the “Tang Tiao” cicada is that the sound it creates is a less lively and less chirpy tune than that of which some other cicadas sings, but rather it is a more low-pitched drone that sounds like “Wu You, Wu You.” The sound of “Wu You” made by these cicadas is thus interpreted by people as a pathetic fallacy for which the cicadas songs express the feelings of human grief as embodied by the Chinese words "Wu You" which literally means something along the lines of “It is all finished,” “It is all gone,” “It has all come to nothing.” Thus to use such a cicada in the title of this chapter, Liang YuSheng is trying to call upon the cicadas’ songs as a pathetic fallacy to lament over the degeneracy of the decrepit government. The line that directly follows is: “Chivalric Patriot left Heartbroken” which not only indicates how the noble and the chivalric hero’s grief for the country is instigated by the mournful wail of these cicadas, but also how the heartache for the decaying conditions of one’s country is reflected and echoed in the hearts of living organisms from all levels of existence – where the same song of distress is found within the heart of the hero with lofty ideals as well as in the hearts of the small cicadas.

    [2]The Emperor’s way of referencing himself. Instead of saying “I” they use the word “Zan” instead.

    [3]The two words “Zong” and “Xian” in Wei Zong Xian’s name translates as “loyal” (Zong) and honourable (Xian).

    [4]For men with a certain amount of money and power, they sometimes kept “houseguests.” If these houseguests were able and talented men, they had the duel function of being their Lord/Host’s Aides; otherwise, they were mostly known to make a living by leeching onto their hosts, taking advantage of the free accommodations and food.

    [5]The Lunar Palace (GuangHan Gong) is also sometimes translated as the “Cold (Han) Palace (Gong)” and is in reference to the palace that according to mythological legend exists on the moon. This palace is sometimes connected to the Tang Emperor Tang Ming Huang who dreamt that he arrived on the moon and within this palace witnessed the dance of immortal goddesses wearing the “Skirt of the Rainbow, Garment made of Plumage” (NiShang YuYi – from where Lian Ni Shang derived her name). According to legend, Chang-E, the Goddess of the Moon is also said to reside on this palace, the following is a link to a painting depicting the Moon Goddess and the Lunar Palace (the name of the painting is called: GuangHong Qiu Tu, Painting of Autumn in The Lunar Palace):

    [6]“Ding Li” (samdhibala in Sanskrit) is according to Soothill and Hodous’ online dictionary of Buddhist terms translated as the power of abstract or ecstatic meditation, also the power of mind-control. Considered as one of the five transcendental powers that holds the power to destroy the disturbing thoughts arising from the five obstacles. Also one of the thirteen transcendental powers of the Pure-land school. The term used outside the realm of Buddhism and in its general context refers mainly to concepts of willpower, restraint, control, abstemiousness and sobriety.

    [7]According to Soothill and Hodous’ Online Dictionary of Buddhist terms, there are two groups of five colours, one being the primary group (blue, yellow, red, white and black) and the other group being the compound colours (crimson, scarlet, purple, green and brown). The primary and compound colours correspond to the 5 cardinal points (the 4 principal points of the compass and their intersection with the meridian) of East (blue & green), West (white & crimson), South (red & scarlet), North (black & purple) and Center (yellow & brown). The five are permutated in different ways to represent different ideas.

    [8]According to Soothill and Hodous, the five musical tones are in reference to the pentatonic scale, which is the five musical tones of the do, re, mi, so, la.

    [9]The organ of sight is recognized as one of the 22 roots or organs of power. There are also known to be ten kinds of eyes or vision (the eyes of flesh, deva, wisdom, dharma, Buddha, judgement, eyes shinning with Buddha light, immortal, unhindered, omniscient). The Deva eye is attainable by men through meditation. The above information is provided through Soothill and Hodous’ online dictionary.

    [10]The organ of smell is recognized as the one of the 22 roots or organs of power. The sense of smell is also recognized as one of the six perceptions. The above information is provided through Soothill and Hodous’ online dictionary.

    [11]The heart is synonymous with the concept of the mind. One mind of the heart brings about universal and spiritual unity.

    [12]In the ancient era, swords of supreme quality (such as the Dragon Springs, Gan Jiang and Mo Xie swords – refer to subsequent footnotes) possessed markings resembling that of the cracks in turtle shells or the waves of the ocean. However, such markings were not decorations or the results of decomposition. Rather, it is the natural effect produced when bronze or steel has been repeatedly exposed under the scorching flames of the blacksmith’s forge. Only through the repeated instances of alteration, hammering and combustion can the sword achieve the toughness and resiliency of a first-grade weapon. The common phrases “Only a hundred combustions can produce steel” or “A thousand hammerings, a hundred combustions” generally used to describe how things/character/results of high grade can only be achieved after being put through numerous trials or instances of hard work/challenges, is derived from referencing this process. Thus bronze and steel which have undergone this long and repeated process of combustion and other specialized treatments will naturally develop markings of all sorts of shapes and variety – like the piling mountains, flowing waters, cracks of turtle shells, corrugated shape of fish intestines, the form that a sword will ultimately take differs from sword to sword, never to repeat itself (for the process/treatment of sword-making itself also differs from sword to sword). However, this special method of processing bronze has now become a lost art.

    [13]The following footnote is taken from footnote #9 of the translated chapter nine (part one) of this book. The original footnote was modified upon while more information was also added on -- “Dragon Springs”: Translated from “LongQuan,” the name of a city belonging to the Province of ZheJiang. It was said that during the Spring and Autumn warring period, a famous sword craftsman named Ou YeZi received orders from the Lord of Chu to craft a sword. Arriving by the springs of the LongQuan County, Ou YeZi found the environment and atmosphere incredibly suitable for the crafting of a sword. Not only was the quiet area peaceful and undisturbed, but there were seven separate creeks that were coincidently arranged in approximation to the positioning of the seven stars in the big dipper. The water from the creek was cold and pure, thus in the end, Ou Ye Zi was able to construct three priceless swords (or according to some accounts, Ou Ye Zi had constructed more than five swords including the swords: Long Yuan/Long Quan, Tai-A, Chun Gou, Zhan Lu, Yu Chang, Jue Que). Amongst the three swords of which he handed over to the Lord of Chu, it was the “Long Yuan” (Dragon Abyss) Sword which became the most famous. The Long Yuan Sword was also known as the “7 Xing (Star) Long Yuan (Dragon Abyss)” Sword (to reference the springs arranged in accordance to the seven star formation of which the sword was created from) or just Seven Star Sword. But this sword was later renamed as “Long Quan” (Dragon Spring) Sword during the Tang Dynasty. Because of these swords, the waters of the LongQuan Springs have longed been graced with the famous reputation of producing steel blades of superb quality and the LongQuan area was further known as the Homeland of Swords. The Dragon Springs sword was known for possessing four main characteristics: “Sturdy and resilient, slicing through steel with the ease of slicing through mud,” “Simultaneously hard and gentle in nature, retractable and extendable,” “Luminous in colour, imposing with cold light,” “Exquisite in its composition, elegant in its classical beauty.” Another defining trait of the Dragon Springs Sword was its “Extraordinary glow and eye-dazzling markings.” This trait is sometimes known in wuxia novels as the “Jian Qi” (sword’s aura/Qi) which is really a result of the specific circumstances imposed upon the elements/components of the sword during the process of sword-making (refer to footnote #12). But in this case, this extraordinary aura of the sword is referring to how the tone of the sword resembles the lapping waves of flowing waters and the gliding clouds of the skies to comprise a sparkling effect of fluctuating motion. Mention of the Dragon Springs sword in ancient texts often uses the following description, “shining with the streaking glow of a turtle shell and the spectral rays of the rainbow, its extraordinary glow and eye-dazzling markings could be easily discerned by the naked eye.” According to legend, it was said that even if you bury the Dragon Springs sword forty feet below ground, its “extraordinary glow and eye-dazzling markings” will still break through the earth and shine afar. Only when the sword is extracted from its shield will this strange Sword Qi disappear. It seems that not only humans will be opposed to being left alone in solitude and obscurity, even swords have the same ambition to shine.

    [14]This pair of swords was said to be created by a pair of husband and wife sword smiths who lived during the end of the Spring and Autumn era (722BC-481BC) and were said to be apprentices coming out from the same school as the master sword-maker Ou YeZi who crafted the Dragon Springs Sword. Having crafted two of the finest swords of their career, they named these two swords after themselves Gan Jiang (literal translation: Competent General), Mo Xie (literal translation: Do not be/commit evil). There appears to be various stories and legends surrounding these two sword-makers. It was said that though they worked for the Lord of the state of Wu (He Lu), yet Gan Jiang was also unjustly executed by the Lord of Wu because he did not want Gan Jiang crafting equally superb swords for the other states. Another story posits that it was Gan Jiang who crafted the pair of swords and named them after his wife and himself. He worked for the Lord of Chu and having anticipated that his lord would kill him immediately upon receiving this sword, he voiced these fears to his pregnant wife and left behind one sword buried under a large tree so that his unborn child may one day take revenge for him. Indeed, upon presenting the Gan Jiang sword to the Lord of Chu, Gan Jiang was executed. When their son Chi Bi (literal translation: Scarlet Nose) grew up, he dug up the sword and swore revenge for his father. But unable to approach the Lord of Chu, he narrated his story to a noble warrior from the Chu state, who having been touched by his story promised to seek revenge for him. According to legend, it was this warrior who by presenting the Lord of Chu with the Mo Xie sword as a decoy, beheaded the Lord of Chu with this very sword and knowing that being surrounded by numerous soldiers he would be unable to escape, this warrior beheaded himself with the very same sword. There was yet another legend which posits that Gan Jiang collected together the essence of the highest grades of gold and metals belonging to the five mountains (probably: SongShan, TaiShan, HuaShan, Northern HengShan, Southern HengShan) and combined them together within a forge. But the heat of the forge was not enough to melt the metals and since the metals were unable to merge together, his sword was unable to be completed. Gan Jiang knew that his failure to finish the sword according to his deadline would lead to his execution by the Lord of Wu and as a result was filled with despair. Suddenly, during one night, his wife smiled at him, causing Gan Jiang to be greatly worried as he pleaded for her to not commit what he feared she would do. But she only smiled and by the time Gan Jiang woke up, he found that she had already disappeared. He ran to the place where they crafted the swords and saw his wife standing by the forge smiling at him. But before he could reach her, she had already thrown herself into the fire. Her last words to him were that of reassuring her husband that she has not died yet and that they would eventually reunite. The metals finally melted and combined together to finally complete the pair of Gan Jiang, Mo Xie swords. Gan Jiang only presented the Gan Jiang sword to the Lord of Wu and secretly kept the Mo Xie sword by his side. But the Lord of Wu eventually discovered this news and had his men surround Gan Jiang. At that time, Gan Jiang opened up the box which contained the Mo Xie sword and asked the Mo Xie sword how he could ever be reunited with his wife. But the sword instantaneously transformed into a great white dragon which suddenly disappeared along with Gan Jiang himself. Similarly, the Gan Jiang sword which was by the Lord of Wu’s side all this time mysteriously disappeared as well. Meanwhile, in a district called the Pin (destitute/impoverish) Cheng (City) located a thousand miles away appeared a young white dragon that suddenly emerged in their YanPingJin lake. This majestic dragon was not only beautiful, but also kind-hearted and by calling upon the power of rainfall and the force of wind, it enabled the destitute city to benefit from the weather and prosper in its agriculture. As a result, the city was also renamed as Feng (Prosperity) Cheng. But the inhabitants found that the white dragon seemed always to be very unhappy as it looked towards the shores as if forever waiting for or pining away for someone with eyes filled with tears. After six hundred years, a young man named Lei Huan suddenly discovered a box buried within the ground. Upon opening the box, he discovered that it concealed the legendary Gan Jiang sword. Pleased with his finding, he hung the sword by his side and one day, when he past by the YanPingJin lake, the sword that hung by his waist suddenly leaped up into the air and dived into the lake. There was a great commotion in the waters when suddenly two dragons leaped out, one white dragon and one black dragon. These two dragons danced together in joyful happiness before returning to the bottom of the lake, only to disappear forever. The next day, a husband and wife moved into the town. They were merely an ordinary couple and although the husband was a very skilled blacksmith, yet he only crafted the ordinary tools used in everyday agricultural life while his wife stood by his side, fanning him with a little fan and wiping away his sweat.

    [15]Literally translates as “Fish Intestine” and is one of the five major swords crafted by the Master sword smith Ou YeZi at the Dragon Springs during the Spring and Autumn era. Ji Guang was the son of the Zhu Fan, the Lord of Wu. Zhu Fan’s last wishes were to pass his reign down to his three brothers (Ji Guang’s uncles). The reign was thus past on to Zhu Fan’s first brother and after his first brother’s death, it was succeeded by his second brother. But after the second brother’s death, Zhu Fan’s third brother refused to take over the throne and thus the reign of power was (according to the people’s wishes) passed onto the SON of Zhu Fan’s SECOND brother, Ji Liao. Being the son of the eldest brother and eldest lord, Ji Guang felt that he was cheated of his throne and thus secretly conspired to recapture his title. Thus during the ninth year of Ji Liao’s reign, Ji Guang invited his Lord over to his place for a feast. Ji Liao brought a big crowd of his trusted troops along with him to this feast that filled out the banquet hall, guarding over their lord. Ji Liao himself was also wearing three layers of steel armour as a safety precaution. But Ji Guang had already planned out the whole conspiracy ahead of time, so that after many rounds of alcohol, he asked to be excused. He then went to the underground kitchen where he had his own trusted troops waiting and then by concealing the Yu Chang sword within the belly of a fish, he then commanded his man Zhuan Zhu to disguise as a servant and present forth the plate of fish to the Lord of Wu. The plan proceeded smoothly, so that as the assassin Zhuan Zhu brought forth the dish, he also brought out the Yu Chang sword and with one stab, the Yu Chang sword sliced through the three layers of steel armour to end Ji Liao’s life right on the spot. Zhuan Zhu himself was killed right away by Ji Liao’s men, but Ji Liao’s men were also murdered shortly after by Ji Guang’s troops who were already standing by. From then on, Ji Guang overtook the throne to become the Lord of Wu. The unbelievably sharp Yu Chang sword thus became famous due to this incident. Some say that the Fish Intestine Sword was so named because the corrugated shape and markings on the sword resembled that of a fish’s intestine, while some also say that it derived its name due to its lightweight fineness which enabled it to be concealed within the stomach of a fish. As a result, the two characters Fish (Yu) Intestine (Chang2) Sword also became known as the Fish (Yu) Conceals (Cang2) Sword. It was also said that when the sword was first completed, the master sword expert Xue Zhu was invited over to divulge his opinion. Xue Zhu had the uncanny instinctual ability to determine the nature and “spirit” of a sword. At that time, he said that this sword “went against the natural order and cannot be pacified or tamed. The servant will use it to kill his lord and the son will use it to murder his father.” The sword was therefore later presented by the Yue State to the Wu State as a gift.

    [16]Literal translation: Giant Gap or Hard Iron Gap. This was one of the five most famous swords that was crafted by Ou YeZi and presented to the Lord of Yue. It was said that when the Lord of Yue, Gou Jian brought forth this sword to the world’s number one “sword critic” Xue Zhu (refer to previous footnote), he criticized this sword for having coarse components and for being rough in its composition (more specifically, Xue Zhu pointed out that the three main components of the sword: gold, silver and tin had already shown signs of separating from each other, whereas in a sword of truly superb quality, these three components would merge into one entity and one would never be able to separate them), thus the Jue Que sword could not be considered as a sword of superb quality. After having his treasured sword so criticized by Xue Zhu, the Lord of Yue later brought forth the Chun Gou sword of which Xue Zhu highly praised (refer to subsequent footnote). According to legend, this sword derived its name from the fact that when using it to slash or pierce towards an iron pot/cauldron, it would split open a huge gash or crack on the hard iron. As a result, it was named Jue Que for the word “Jue” could be interpreted as both “giant/great” or “hard iron” (depending on which variation of the Chinese character is used) and the word “Que” can be translated as “gap.”

    [17]As continued from above the footnote, the Lord of Yue brought forth his two prized swords (one being the Jue Que sword) to the sword expert Xue Zhu who criticized them as not worthy of being deemed as swords of true supremacy. Thus the Lord of Yue gave orders to bring forth another sword. This time, this sword was presented under the accompaniment of a hundred troops clad in iron armour. When Xue Zhu asked what sword this was that could possibly merit such attention, the Lord of Yue, Gou Jian only uttered two words, “Chun Gou” (literal translation: sterling hook). But upon hearing these two words, the sword expert Xue Zhu literally fell off his chair in alarm and remained frozen with paralyzed shock. It was only after a little while could he hasten towards the sword and after tidying up his appearance and then performing the rites of respectful reverence, he finally opened the box to study the sword, all the while remarking on the excellence of the treasured sword. The Lord of Yue then told Xue Zhu that someone had offered him a thousand majestic steeds, three wealthy towns and two great cities in exchanged for this sword, and then asked him whether he should accept the offer. Xue Zhu adamantly insisted that such commodities could not measure up to the Chun Gou sword. When the Lord of Yue asked Xue Zhu to explain himself, Xue Zhu said that such a sword was a creation that was borne from the work of both mortals and the heavens. For in order to provide the tin for this sword, the thousand year old ChiJin Mountain split open and offer tin and the RouYe River of a million years dried up in order to bring forth bronze. When Ou YeZi was in the process of crafting the sword, the Lord of Thunder hammered out the sword personally while the Mother of Rain cooled it down with her showers. A Scaly Dragon cradled the fiery forge while the Lord of Heavens himself fed the blazing ambers with coal. The sword master Ou YeZi acted under the orders of the heavens and under the help of the various gods, he slaved over this sword for ten years before it was finally completed. Once the sword was completed, all gods returned to the heavens, the ChiJin Mountain merged back together and the RouYe River filled up once again with swelling waves. Ou YeZi himself died of physical depletion and emotional exhaustion, never again to create such heavenly swords.

    [18]This sword derived its name from the ZhanLu Mountains in SongXi, where Ou YeZi was said to have created this sword. The characters Zhan Lu could be roughly translated as Deep-clear (Zhan) Rivers (Lu). Said to be completely black in colour, the Zhan Lu sword was also said to resemble the dark pupil of an eye that watches over you. Not known for its cutting sharpness, it is instead known for its compassion and trustworthiness. Like a pair of foreseeing eyes that judges with impartial fairness, it watches over the behaviour of its lord and the lord’s servants. There is a phrase associated with this sword that says: If the Lord is righteous and moral, the sword accompanies by his side and the country will prosper. If the Lord is immoral and corrupt, the sword abandons him and the country will fall into ruins. Comprised from the best of the five Golds, capturing the essence of the sun’s brilliance, it appears with majestic spirit and dominates with solemn authority. When Ou YeZi finished this sword, he wept with joyful tears for he had finally completed his lifelong wish of crafting a sword of indestructible sturdiness yet of which does not bear along with it a single bit of menacing deathly aura. It was said that when Ou YeZi presented this sword to the Lord of Yue, the Lord of Yue prized it highly as a priceless treasure. But after the State of Yue was defeated by the State of Wu, it landed into the hands of the Lord of Wu, He-Lu who hung it by his side and never for a moment let it out of his sight until the sword suddenly disappeared on him one day. It turns out that the sword delivered itself to the pillow-side of the Lord of Chu. When the Lord of Chu woke up to discover this sword, he called forth his high official Feng Hu Zi to ask him about the sword’s origins. Feng Hu Zi informed his Lord that this was the Zhan Lu Sword (some say that Feng HuZi was the disciple of Ou YeZi), causing the Lord of Chu to be greatly pleased. For it is known that this sword will only accompany the side of a righteous and moral ruler, thus allowing the ruler’s country to prosper. Since the Lord of Wu was immoral, the sword thus left his side. Some accounts also said that the State of Yue went to war with the state of Chu in order to repossess this sword. It was also rumoured that this sword was passed on throughout the various dynasty to eventually come into the possession of one of the most famous patriots of the Song dynasty, Yue Fei.

    [19]Sometimes also translated as “Cloud Pillars,” these were columns/pillars that were erected in front of structures of importance such as palaces or tombs. Sometimes they are adorned with decorative etchings.

    [20]Translated from “Pan Long” (commonly translated as coiling dragon) “Ji” (Bun). These kinds of hairstyles likely reflected the age or marital status of the woman in ancient times.

    [21]Zhu Chang Luo’s regnal name.

    [22]Chosen from amongst the Imperial Guardsmen for duty in the inner chambers of the palace.

    [23]In this case used as a prestigious title for military officers.

    [24]Typically, the mother of an Emperor.

    [25]The memorials mentioned here are documents written with statements of facts or petitions that were compiled by officials and then presented forth to authority figures (or a body of authoritative figures) such as the Emperor.
    Last edited by foxs; 03-22-10 at 03:21 PM.

  13. #13
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    Apr 2006

    Default Chapter 12

    Chapter 12
    Frustrated Feelings Not Dissipated
    Sadden Heart Laments One’s Country
    Powerful Villain Pulls Tricks
    Devises Plan to Harm General
    (Translated by Faerie Queene)

    You Jiao stretched again with lazy languor and then whined, “But I really don’t want to read anymore! Being an Emperor is such hard work, I couldn’t care for this job. Wet nurse, what do you think I should do?” Madam Ke was waiting for this exact question. She suggested, “I’ve heard that Liu Ting Yuan, the Supervising Secretary of the Ministry of War is very capable, why not ask him to lead the troops?” You Jiao exclaimed, “Okay! Liu Ting Yuan it is then!” and then picked up the vermilion brush[1] to brand his instructions on the memorial, after of which he grinned and said, “Wet nurse, from now on, you read these things for me and whatever you say, I’ll instruct it as so!”

    Madam Ke’s sole purpose behind pushing You Jiao to read these memorials was to make him feel annoyed and pressured so she can then take advantage of the situation and grasp the reins of power into her own hands. Therefore hearing him say these words sent her heart bursting with joy even though her face did not reveal a glimmer of these emotions. Instead, she knitted her eyebrows together and said with a frown, “My dear boy You, this is one responsibility that I dare not take on. If anything happens, those people from the DongLin Group would tear me apart!” You Jiao had to assure, “Don’t worry! I won’t mention it to anyone” before Madam Ke broke out into a sweet smile while she cooed, “Then why don’t you go to sleep? I’ll finish reading the rest of these memorials for you.” But she was suddenly interrupted by You Jiao blurting out, “Xiong Ting Bi is an official of absolute and unquestionable loyalty!”

    It turns out that he had picked up an ink brush pen and was scribbling away on a piece of paper while uttering these words. Although his writing was wobbly and crooked, yet the words on the page were written large and clear, so large that even Yue Ming Ke hiding on the eaves could read them clearly. What he saw was that You Jiao had filled up his whole paper with the sentence “Xiong Ting Bi is an official of absolute and unquestionable loyalty,” repeated over and over again seven or eight times.

    Startled, Madam Ke smiled and asked, “How would you know that Xiong Ting Bi is an official of absolute and unquestionable loyalty?” You Jiao replied, “When my father was alive, he would always say these words to me. He said that had it not been for Xiong Ting Bi who guarded the frontiers against the foreign invaders for us, those Tartars would have charged straight into the palace a long time ago! So when my father was gravely ill, he sent orders to Xiong and bade him to return to the capital. I just saw the memorial that Xiong Ting Bi sent to us half a month ago which reported that he had already taken off for the journey and estimates that he should be arriving here on the twenty-eighth. The twenty-eighth is just three days away! Do you think I should go out of the palace to personally receive him?”

    Hearing this news left Yue Ming Ke to be both worried and elated. He was worried because Xiong Ting Bi was returning to the capital at a time when the Imperial Palace was in the midst of a tumultuous power struggle. With the prime minister Fang Cong Zhe and Wei Zhong Xian bribing people from within and outside of the palace to join their clan in committing villainous crimes and the Emperor being under the control of Madam Ke, Yue Ming Ke was afraid that they would be inducing harm upon Xiong Ting Bi. Yet at the same time, he was rejoicing in the comfort of knowing that he would be seeing his Grand Master in just three days when he suddenly remembered that Zhuo Yi Hang had also arranged a meeting with him in three days. Struck by this reminder, Yue thought to himself: What a strange coincidence! Brother Zhuo specifically designated a “three day” interval for our meeting and this just so happens to coincide with the three day mark of Military Commissioner Xiong’s expected arrival!

    Madam Ke took a sip of the Ginseng soup and then eyed You Jiao askance while she smiled and said, “Look at you, didn’t you just say that you did not want to stress over these kind of matters? And yet here you are, getting all involved and strained. The late Emperor has just passed away and you won’t even have completed your seven days of mourning when the twenty-eighth rolls around. You can’t leave the palace right now, so just let him come here to pay his respects to you. My dear boy, you must be so tired. You should go to bed now!”

    You Jiao did originally want to go to sleep, but thinking of Xiong Ting Bi reminded him of another matter which caused him to remark, “When I was skimming over these memorials just a moment ago, I noticed that eight to nine-tenths of them were incriminating documents charging Xiong Ting Bi with crimes. Since Xiong Ting Bi is an official of absolute and unquestionable loyalty, then that means all these other officials who are incriminating him must be crooked officials! Tomorrow when I sit on the throne for the daily court processions, I’m going to interrogate them one by one. You write down all their names on a piece of paper for me alright?”

    Yue Ming Ke was secretly musing over how the little Emperor was actually not ignorant in handling this matter when Madam Ke jumped up with alarm and hurriedly insisted, “We live in the inner palaces and don’t know about the stuff that happens outside. Even if the late Emperor said that Xiong Ting Bi was a loyal official, yet we can’t guarantee that he wasn’t hogging power or disregarding authority in other ways. Since there are so many people who are incriminating him, then he must have wronged in some way.” You Jiao asked, “Then are you saying that I should be punishing Xiong Ting Bi? If my father’s spirit knew of this in the underworld, he most definitely would not agree to it.” Madam Ke replied, “Ignoring both sides would be the best strategy. If you impeach all those officials who are incriminating Xiong Ting Bi, then where are you supposed to find such a large number of officials to replace them and help you manage the government in the meantime?” You Jiao cocked his head over to one side and thought over these words briefly before replying, “Fine. Then toss all those memorials into a big bin and send them all over to Xiong Ting Bi!”

    Madam Ke clucked, “Fine, fine, now hurry off to bed” while she scrunched up the piece of paper You Jiao was writing on earlier and discarded it underneath the table. After Madam Ke had tidied up and put away his memorials, she took him by the hand and led him towards his bed. You Jiao suddenly made a very strange face as he said, “Li Xuan Shi wants to crown an Empress for me!” Li Xuan Shi was Guang Zhong Chang Luo’s favourite concubine and since You Jiao’s mother died early, she took care of his matters like his mother. Madam Ke laughed and said, “Congratulations my Lord! My little baby has finally grown up.” You Jiao cried, “I don’t want an Empress! I want wet nurse you to be my Empress! Wet nurse, you’re so beautiful! Your daughter looks just like your little sister but when she stands next to you, she’s not even as good-looking as you are!” Madam Ke scoffed, “Crazy words!” as she opened up the doors to the bedroom and went inside with You Jiao.

    Yue Ming Ke glided down to the floor and had just managed to pick up the ball of scrunched up paper from beneath the table when he suddenly heard the sound of a door opening, causing him to hurriedly spring onto the roof beams right at the moment that the doors flew open and a voluptuous young girl stepped foot inside the room. Yue Ming Ke was thinking to himself: why would this girl dare to be so audacious? She didn’t even bother to knock before she barged in!

    Madam Ke was heard to call out from within the bedroom, “Is it Ting er?” while the young girl answered, “Ma” in return. After a brief moment, Madam Ke came out from the bedroom and lightly closed the door behind her before whispering, “Lower your voice a bit, the Emperor has just fallen asleep.” The young girl said, “Eunuch Wei said that the Emperor was at our place, which was why I rushed over here immediately.”

    This young girl was the daughter of Madam Ke and her name was Ke Ping Ting. Before Wei Zhong Xian became a eunuch, he and Madam Ke were actually old lovers and after Madam Ke had an illicit affair with him, they ended up conceiving a baby girl, who became this Ke Ping Ting. This was why when Shen Zong passed away and Wei Zhong Xian obtained power, he immediately had their daughter sent for and brought over here for Madam Ke. However, Ke Ping Ting was not aware of the fact that Wei Zhong Xian was her real father.

    Madam Ke pulled her daughter down onto the seat beside her and smiled, “My silly child, what did you come for? Is it because you wanted to win the Empress’ crown? It’s too bad you weren’t born into that kind of good fortune. Even though the Emperor would listen to my words, yet the candidate for the Empress must traditionally be someone belonging to the ranks of nobility or upper class gentility. It’s too bad that none of our ancestors ever became officials, but what can we do? To have you be just a lowly concubine is something I wouldn’t want. But don’t worry my darling, I promise that I will find you a good husband.”

    Ke Ping Ting blushed deeply and pouted, “Mother, stop joking around. I have serious matters to discuss with you. Have you spoken to the Emperor yet? ShiGong said that it wasn’t very convenient for him to secretly hide out here in the palace, so he wants to secure the Military Commissioner of the Imperial Bodyguards position for himself.” Madam Ke replied, “I haven’t had time to mention that yet.” Ke Ping Ting urged, “ShiGong has already bestowed a sword manual to me. If you don’t put in a word for him, I’ll be placed in a very hard spot.” Madam Ke laughed and said, “It’s not like this is some kind of big deal, what are you getting so worried about my dear child? I will put in a word for you tomorrow morning alright? I promise.”

    Finding this all very strange, Yue Ming Ke mused to himself: This little girl is actually a practitioner of the sword and even has a ShiGong? Ke Ping Ting suddenly asked, “Ma, can you lend the Dragon Springs sword to me for a look?” Madam Ke snapped, “Don’t mention that sword again. That sword almost got me into serious trouble!” Ke Ping Ting insisted, “Does it really matter if I just take a little peak?” Madam Ke warned, “But you must not take the sword away for use.”

    Ke Ping Ting continued, “I heard ShiGong and Commander MuRong say that though there were many treasured swords within the palace, yet this sword was the most superior of them all. As for the rest, they couldn’t even compare with the Gliding Dragon Sword that Eunuch Wei had newly acquired!” The slight traces of surprise and alarm appeared on Madam Ke’s face while she mumbled to herself, “No wonder that kid was so concern about it!” She continued to mumble away as she was simultaneously unlocking the secret compartment to the closet. Meanwhile, having heard them talk about his treasured sword, Yue Ming Ke was concentrating his full attention on Madam Ke’s every move when he suddenly felt a light breeze blow his way. He turned towards this source only to discover a wave of glinting silver hurtling straight towards him!

    With a sweep of his sleeve, Yue Ming Ke shot down the storm of plum-blossom needles[2] and then immediately jumped down to the floor. Ke Ping Ting screamed loudly, “Assassin!” and Madam Ke leapt up in fright when she recognized that it was Yue Ming Ke. Ke Ping Ting reassured her by calling out, “Don’t worry Ma, I’ll capture him for you!” but Madam Ke pressed a switch on the wall and immediately disappeared behind a hidden compartment. Meanwhile, Ke Ping Ting picked a sword up at random and then with a swipe of her blade, pierced towards Yue Ming Ke.

    Yue Ming Ke was greatly taken back! He was taken back not because the young girl’s swordsmanship was masterful, but because the sword skill she was executing turned out to be none other than the stances found in Yu Luo Cha’s exclusive sword art! While he consecutively dodged three stances, sounds of clamouring broke out from outside the room. With a “Boat Crosses Autumn Waves,” Yue slashed towards her wrist while the two fingers on his left hand pierced towards her eyes. Although Ke Ping Ting’s martial arts was not bad, yet this was nevertheless the first time that she has come across such a powerful opponent and therefore the minute fear entered her heart, the long sword that she clutched in her hand was snatched away by Yue Ming Ke. She hurriedly jumped over to one side, causing a sword manual to suddenly drop to the floor! Yue Ming Ke hurriedly picked it up and by then the guards have already arrived outside the door!

    Although the sword that Yue Ming Ke had in his hand was not the precious Dragon Springs sword, yet it was still a remarkably sharp weapon and thus by just randomly throwing out a swipe with his sword, Yue caused the guard’s single-edge broadsword to be broken into two pieces. With a lift of his right foot, Yue kicked the other guard right back out the door while he himself glided up to the eaves and then with another twist, landed on the tiles of the roof before accelerating away with haste.

    After he had darted past a few towers and palace halls, he suddenly heard the cries of “Catch the assassin!” reverberate from all around him! Yue Ming Ke hurriedly dodged into a cluster of flower bushes just as a few dozen guards swarmed out from all four directions. Yet surprisingly, the place they pursued towards was not the Wet Nurse mansion of where he had wrecked havoc! Finding it all very strange, Yue Ming Ke leaped onto the top of a tree for a better look.

    What he saw from afar was a black shadow exploding out from nowhere and with the ferocious speed of a shooting meteoroid, that figure hurtled right out from within the inner palaces to blast past the Hall of Preserving Harmony, Hall of Middle Harmony and Hall of Supreme Harmony, tearing through all three of the main outer palace halls before it suddenly vanished! The blinding speed of this person’s movements was like nothing of what he’s seen before! This exhibit of levitation skills was not the least bit below that of his own, leaving Yue Ming Ke to be greatly shocked for he did not expect that there would be someone else other than himself who would dare to charge into the Imperial Palace in the dead of the night.

    The guards spread out and searched the Imperial Palace for about an hour before they gradually started to disperse. When Yue Ming Ke noticed two guards running back and forth in patrol, he suddenly thought to himself: why don’t I capture one of them and ask? Therefore he suddenly pounced out from behind the bushes and extended both his arms to attack his two opponents’ acupoints with lightning speed. As expected, the guard on the left side immediately collapsed with a thud as he came into contact with Yue’s finger. But the guard on the right side instantaneously counteracted this move by bending backwards and then flipped his hands over in a hook to actually clamp down on Yue Ming Ke’s wrist!

    Yue stabilized his weight and pulled back, yet not only was he unable to budge his opponent by an inch, but he was furthermore pushed back by the power of his opponent’s resistance! Extremely startled, Yue immediately took out his long sword and then with a brand of his blade, proceeded to pierce out. Without so much as a grunt, that man twisted his body around and then slashed down with both his palms to attack Yue’s blind spot. With a quiver of his sword’s blade, Yue re-directed his attack towards his opponent’s lower abdomen. Such a move was fast and agile beyond means, but with a grunt and a crouch, his opponent slid right beneath Yue’s blade to pass over to the other side. Having just retracted his palms, his opponent immediately struck out again, causing the forceful blast coming from his strike to slice right past Yue’s ear! The pure intensity of his opponent’s internal energy and the sheer speed with which he changed his stances were all something of which Yue Ming Ke has rarely ever encountered before in battle!

    Although Yue Ming Ke may be shaken, yet the man he was battling with was even more alarmed! This man was the Head Instructor of the East Faction guards and the number one fighter within the Imperial Palace. His name was MuRong Chong. Possessing the supreme skills belonging to both the internal and outer schools of martial arts has enabled him to remain matchless during the last few dozen years. But within the Imperial Palace tonight, there occurred two consecutive cases of an assassin’s intrusion!

    The levitation skills of the assassin discovered in front of the Gate of the Divine Warrior was above that of his own and therefore prevented him from catching up. But at least he could still assert that they did not yet have the opportunity to exchange stances and that way his famed reputation could still be said to have remained relatively unscathed. This assassin on the other hand has already greeted him with three sword stances, every one of them lethal to the point of where MuRong Chong found himself under the actual risk of being stabbed! Furthermore, this assassin was wearing a uniform belonging to the guards of the Eastern Faction, which meant that one of his men must have undergone harm already. Thus if he couldn’t capture him today, how could he possibly face his fellow troops in the future?

    Even though both fighters were harbouring caution and anxiety within their hearts, yet their movements were not the least bit hindered as they exchanged over a dozen stances in just a blink of an eye!

    On observing how the man just battled away in silence without attempting to alert others by unleashing so much as a sound caused a suspicious thought to suddenly dawn upon Yue Ming Ke and induced him to whisper in a low voice, “Hey! Which turf do you belong to my friend? I’m not a palace guard so don’t take me for the wrong person!” When Yue Ming Ke observed how the man did not call out to his fellow guards for help, he reasoned that this man must be in the same predicament as himself and was someone who had secretly stole into the Imperial Palace. But what he did not know was that because MuRong Chong resided in the position of Eastern Faction guards’ head instructor, he had always prided himself as being invincible in his martial arts. This was why having discovered an “assassin,” he wanted to capture him with his very own hands so as to claim full credit. He was afraid that if the other guards arrived, they would end up taking away a share of his glory and therefore remained hesitant in summoning for back up.

    Speaking out in order to voice his suspicions divided up Yue Ming Ke’s concentration ever so slightly, yet just that little bit of hesitation was already enough to induce an effect on the speed of his sword skill. Seizing the opportunity, MuRong Chong attacked through this opening and with a loud boom, landed a concrete punch on Yue Ming Ke’s shoulder! Even though his internal energy was already substantially solid, yet Yue Ming Ke still could not stop himself from convulsing a few times before he was eventually able to swallow up his pain and retaliate with another swipe. After succeeding in this one stance, MuRong Chong accelerated the intensity of his attack and stormed forward with even more ferocity! But having sustained a punch, Yue Ming Ke was gradually forced to the point of where he was starting to have difficulty in upholding the battle.

    Another twenty or thirty stances were exchanged, but by then the palace guards belonging to the Palace of Heavenly Purity have already heard the sounds of combat and were all hastening towards their direction. MuRong Chong was anxious to receive full credit for Yue’s capture and thus hastily executed a hook punch with his left hand while simultaneously generating a soft palm with his right hand. Forced to bend backwards, Yue Ming Ke hurriedly slashed his long sword towards his opponent’s legs just as the force of MuRong’s palm and fist strikes blasted by the tip of his nose with an icy gust. MuRong Chong leaped high into the air so the blade of Yue’s sword only ended up slashing through the leg of his trousers, but leaning over to one side, Yue Ming Ke was right in the midst of whipping out another sword swipe when MuRong Chong suddenly screamed out in pain! Then with a flip of his body, MuRong Chong immediately ran away while a shadow suddenly snuck out from a pitch-black corner and pulled Yue Ming Ke behind the rock of an artificial landscape mountain.

    This person just happened to be Cheng Kun. Being the Monitor of the Palace Guardsmen, he was of course a fighter of first rate abilities. But hiding in the cave all by himself caused the time to drag by so slowly that he was driven to the point of panicking with fear. Thus when the sounds of commotion coming from outside sliced through the silence, he secretly snuck back out to discover MuRong Chong patrolling back and forth on his search mission. Although Cheng Kun’s martial arts were somewhat below that of MuRong Chong’s, yet had this been any other day, he would not have been in a position of where he should feel threatened by MuRong. But at this place and time, he was so alarmed that he had to once again hide behind the rock of an artificial landscape mountain. Coincidently, the spot of where he had dodged to just happened to be located not far from where Yue Ming Ke was hiding.

    Yue Ming Ke snuck out and started to combat with MuRong Chong not long afterwards, but since Cheng Kun has not yet recuperated from the brutal torture that was inflicted upon him during the earlier part of the day, he thus hurriedly began to circulate his inner Qi. After a while, he witnessed how Yue Ming Ke had sustained a punch and was starting to edge towards the face of defeat, thus secretly broke off a few sticks of bamboo and then by using the most supreme projectile technique known as “lashing leaves, pelting petals, exterminating upon immediate contact,” he fired out the bamboo leaves.

    Since MuRong Chong was only able to equal Yue Ming Ke in terms of martial art skills, when he suddenly discovered that there was a skilled fighter ambushed nearby he was immediately worried that this would cause him sustain an injury right there on the spot. Furthermore, even if his companions did manage to arrive in time, such a predicament would only cause him to lose all face. Therefore with a whip of his body, MuRong Chong hurriedly fled from the scene.

    After Cheng Kun pulled Yue Ming Ke behind the rock of the artificial landscape mountain, he whispered “Follow me,” and then weaved through a cluster of artificial mountains before suddenly lifting away a huge rock to reveal the opening to a dark, oppressive cave. Cheng Kun and Yue Ming Ke stepped inside to catch their breaths just as a ruckus was heard to break out once again.

    Cheng Kun whispered, “From here, we can cut straight out to the Imperial Rivers located outside the palace. That way, there would be no need to exit through the West Flowery Gate.” Yue Ming Ke asked, “Does nobody else know about this secret passage?” Cheng Kun replied, “This secret passage was constructed by the late Emperor when he was still residing in the Palaces of the East end. There were only five guards in total who knew of its existence. Since the late Lord’s death, we Palace Guardsmen have already lost all power, so I doubt that they would be willing to work for Wei Zhong Xian and risk the danger of coming to this passage for a search.”

    The two of them expedited along the passage and as predicted, did not come across any impediments nor did they hear any sounds of pursuing troops chasing up from behind them. Not long afterwards, the lapping currents of the rushing water could be heard. Cheng Kun opened up a secret doorway and caused the river’s water to seep into the passage. Yue Ming Ke was just about to dive outside when Cheng Kun shouted, “Wait!” and lifted his hand to press a switch on the stone walls. Only then was Yue Ming Ke able to discover that located outside of the cave was a rapidly spinning bronze wheel composed completely of sharp blades. After a while, the speed of the spinning blades started to gradually slow down and eventually came to a complete halt.

    Cheng Kun closed the secret passageway behind him and snuck out from in between the sharp blades with Yue Ming Ke. After they made it to shore, Cheng Kun looked towards the skies and said, “It will soon be dawn and then it won’t be convenient for us to run about in these wet clothes. Dong Fang’s home is just around the corner, why don’t we go to his place and change into another set of clothing? I also have some words to say to Madam Dong.”

    Although Dong Fang was the assistant of Cheng Kun, yet Dong Fang’s wife who also happened to be a member of the martial arts world was aware that her husband and Cheng Kun have never gotten along on the best of terms. Therefore when she saw Cheng Kun bring in another Imperial guard the moment she opened the door, she couldn’t refrain from jumping back in alarm while they both rushed in, soaked from head to toe. Cheng Kun urged, “Sister, please close the doors behind you! I have something to tell you.”

    Thus Cheng Kun went on and narrated to Dong Fang’s wife the details of how Dong had rescued him in the face of danger but as a result ended up falling victim to a furtive attack. She was well aware of the fact that Cheng Kun never lies and therefore burst into tears as she wailed, “I’ve long told him not to work in this stinking Palace Guardsmen job, if only he had followed my father into the escort business, such a lifestyle would have been so much more carefree. But he wouldn’t listen to me and now look at what happened?!” Cheng Kun assured, “Sister, there’s no need to cry yet. Although the two of us never got along very well, yet I am eternally indebted to him for placing himself in danger in order to save me. I give you my word and promise that I will free your husband from the palace and return him to you!” Madam Deng choked back her tears and looked up at him with wide eyed suspicion. Her sceptical expression seemed to be questioning, “You can’t even solve your own problems! How are you to save my husband?”

    Cheng Kun continued, “Bring me a pen and some paper and I will write a letter for you. Tomorrow, all you have to do is bring this letter to the Commander of the Imperial Bodyguards Shi Hao and tell him to deliver this letter into Wei Zhong Xian’s hands for you. Once Wei Zhong Xian sees this letter, he would no longer dare to murder your husband regardless of how gutsy he may be.” The reasoning behind this request immediately dawned on Yue Ming Ke, causing him to exclaim “Of course! As long as Brother Cheng is still alive, Wei Zhong Xian most definitely would not dare to murder Brother Dong.”

    By then, Madam Dong had also comprehended Cheng Kun’s reasoning. She knew that Cheng Kun was aware of the many dark secrets of the Imperial Palace, including how Wei Zhong Xian and Madam Ke were dirtying up the palace halls and secretly eradicating those in opposition to them. None of these dark skeletons were able to escape Cheng Kun’s detection and furthermore, there were still many guards within the Imperial Palace who were his friends and thus if he used these points as his threat, there was no way that Wei Zhong Xian could afford to not exercise caution.

    After Cheng Kun had finished writing his letter, Madam Dong said, “I have already prepared two sets of clothing for the both of you. Please excuse its threadbare simplicity.” Cheng Kun and Yue Ming Ke thus went into the guest room and after closing the doors behind them, took off their wet clothing. Concealed within Cheng Kun’s wet clothes were a pair of gloves and after studying over it intently from top to bottom and then from front to back, Cheng Kun placed it on the table with cherished fondness and solemn reverence.

    Earlier, when Yue Ming Ke picked up the ball of scrunched up paper that the Emperor had written on, he immediately placed it underneath his many layers of clothing so that it was pressed right up against his bare skin. As a result, the paper has luckily not been soaked through completely. He thus hurriedly lighted up an oil lamp and then spread out the piece of paper over the lampshade in order to dry it off.

    After he had finished changing his clothes, Cheng Kun suddenly stated, “Brother Yue, the excellence of your martial arts belongs to a level of supremacy that your humble brother I can never match up to. You have saved my life and yet there is nothing I can possibly do to repay you during this lifetime. Please be kind enough to take these gloves as my token of gratitude.” Yue Ming Ke exclaimed, “Brother Cheng, why do you say these words?” and though he initially wanted to refuse, yet on observing how genuine the sentiments behind his sincere offer was and further taking into consideration that a pair of gloves was not something that was particularly expensive or priceless, Yue Ming Ke therefore accepted his offer.

    It was only after making sure that Yue Ming Ke had taken over his gloves did Cheng Kun finally explain, “Brother Yue, this pair of gloves was a gift bestowed upon me by the late Emperor. They say that it was knitted together using the fur of the Golden Silk Ape as well as the white leather thread of the Black Dragon Creek. Not only can it provide as an impenetrable shield to protect one against the blades of sabre and spears, but it can also function as an impermeable skin to render one immune against poisonous toxins and deadly substances. Using it to execute the Overcoming Sharp Blade with Bare Hands technique would be the most ideal!”

    Yue Ming Ke exclaimed with alarm, “Why didn’t you say so before? How could I possibly accept such a priceless gift?” and hurriedly took out the gloves again. Cheng Kun laughed and said, “When the gentleman offers his word, it is as irrevocable as the charge of a whipped stallion in flight! You’ve already promised to accept my humble gift, how could you take back your words now?” Yue Ming Ke had no other choice and could therefore only express yet another round of gratitude before placing the gloves into his possession with the utmost care and appreciation.

    By then, the pale white gleam resembling the sheen of a fish’s stomach had already started to break through the Eastern horizon. Madam Dong went out and hired a horse carriage to quietly transport Cheng Kun and Yue Ming Ke away while she herself started to travel towards the Imperial Palace.

    Yue Ming Ke instructed the coachman to drive the carriage over to the Secretary of the Ministry of War, Yang Lian’s home, causing Cheng Kun to remark, “Oh! So that’s where you were staying. Yang Lian is a good official, they most likely won’t dare to be too unheeded in their actions.” Yue Ming Ke asked, “What do you mean?” but Cheng Kun just asked back in return, “Did anybody know that you were staying at the Yang residence?” Yue Ming Ke replied, “The people who knew weren’t many. I never expected so many things to happen when I arrived in the capital and therefore did not take caution in keeping my whereabouts a secret.” Cheng Kun sighed and then whispered softly by Yue’s ear, “I’m afraid they already know where you were staying.” Yue Ming Ke asked, “How do you know?” Cheng Kun replied, “The day before yesterday, right before Wei Zhong Xian locked me up, I overheard some guards of the Eastern faction discussing amongst each other, saying something about keeping an eye on the Yang family. I was curious then as to why they would want to do that, but now it’s clear that it was due to the fact that you were staying there.”

    This filled Yue Ming Ke full of dread and anxiety as they hurriedly hastened towards the Yang mansion. By the time they arrived there, the skies had already brightened completely. Cheng Kun snuck a peek outside to make sure that there were no familiar looking faces before he got off the carriage with Yue Ming Ke. Right away the doors to the Yang household flew wide open as the servants of the Yang family came out hollering, “Master Yue has return!”

    Yue Ming Ke and Cheng Kun dashed towards the main hall only to discover Yang Lian sitting up straight in the middle of the room, thundering with rage, “The world’s coming to an end!” causing Yue Ming Ke to hurriedly inquire about what happened. Yang Lian replied, “I reside as a high official in the Ministry of War, can you believe that there would actually be bandits vicious enough to target in on my very own home?!” Yue Ming Ke asked, “Did you lose anything?” Yang Lian replied, “It’s not the materialistic things that I care about. Those bandits only took away some antiques, but your friend was kidnapped away by them!”

    Hearing this piece of news shook Yue Ming Ke down to his very soul and shattered his spirit into a million pieces. Although Tie Shan Hu and him may not be the most compatible pair in terms of personal interests and ideals, yet having journeyed such long distances together, their relationship was already as close as that of siblings. After he calmed his nerves down, Yue asked, “How many bandits were there?” Yang Lian replied, “I think about seven or eight? They were all masked! Your friend came out and started to battle with them, but was outnumbered and ended being captured.” Yue Ming Ke thought to himself: these bandits must without a doubt be Wei Zhong Xian’s men. Yet he didn’t want to voice these suspicions out loud for he was afraid that it would only end up scaring Yang Lian and burden him with additional worries. Therefore, he just said, “Uncle, let your unworthy nephew ask some friends from the martial arts world to investigate into this incident for you.”

    Yang Lian continued, “There have never been such wild and unruly criminals who dared to show their face in the Imperial capital. I’m going to go over to the Ministry of War’s Yamen[3] and demand that they alert the Supreme Commander of the Nine Gates so I can interrogate him on what kind of job he’s doing. It’s good that you’ve return, keep an eye out for my home while I’m away.” Then after leaving orders for his servants to be on alert and to keep guard over the house and its inhabitants, he stormed off in an angry rage to make a personal appearance at the Ministry of War.

    After Yue Ming Ke and Cheng Kun went inside the guest room, Cheng Kun immediately stated, “This must be the work of the Eastern faction guards. Who is your friend and what is his name? I’ll ask around for you.” Yue Ming Ke snarled, “I’m going to go into the palace and give them hell.” Cheng Kun shook his head and warned, “Don’t do that. You’ve already caused a huge commotion on two separate occasions, they will most definitely be tightening their security this time. Aside from MuRong Chong, I’ve heard that there are two other skilled fighters who have newly arrived to the Imperial Palace. Even I was only able to hear of this through bits and pieces, so their identities are not even known. But judging from the looks of things, they must be Jianghu fighters of extremely high positions. Brother Yue, if you risk the danger of stealing into the Imperial Palace once again, I’m afraid that you’ll only end up surrendering to their trap. I still have some good friends working within the Imperial Palace. In a few days when everything dies down a bit, I’ll secretly investigate into this matter for you.”

    Having thought over Cheng Kun’s words, Yue Ming Ke really had to admit that he had no choice but to listen to Cheng’s suggestion and therefore asked, “Then do you think they would be coming here again? I’m afraid that even if we don’t go around giving them trouble, they’d still come around here searching for us.” Cheng Kun said, “As they say in military treatises, that which appears false is in actuality true, and that which appears to possess substantiality is in fact an illusive disguise. After this whole series of incidents, they wouldn’t think that you would dare to return to the Yang mansion and that is exactly why we should stay right here. Since they don’t have any personal scores of vengeance with Yang Lian, they most likely won’t be venturing over here again. Besides, even if they do come, with our martial arts, we can capture one or two of them right here on the spot and then force our way outside while causing a ruckus big enough to make the whole world take notice. If they want a fight, we’ll give them a fight!” Yue Ming Ke cried, “Alright! That’s what we’ll do then!”

    When Yang Lian returned home night that night, he said to Yue Ming Ke, “The Supreme Commander of the Nine Gates has issued a search and arrest order for these criminals. I demanded that he have this case solved within ten days” causing Yue to secretly chuckle to himself, “If you leave this case to the Supreme Commander of the Nine Gates, I’m afraid that it’ll still remain unsolved even in ten years’ time!” After Yang Lian had a chance to catch his breath, he suddenly continued, “This whole incident is driving me mad with anger, but luckily, I still have some good news left to tell you.”

    Yue Ming Ke asked, “What good news?” and Yang Lian proceeded to explain, “Today when I went to the Military Department’s Yamen, I received a special message from Military Commissioner Xiong that was delivered posthaste by the means of a messenger riding on a horse that travels eight hundred miles a day. In his letter he said that he expects to arrive at the capital by the day after tomorrow and so he asks me to relate this message onto the other colleagues of the Military Department. He also mentioned in his letter that he plans to stay at my humble residence. This is all such great news! The whole government is currently in a chaotic state of corruption, we really need him to come back and take care of matters.”

    Yue Ming Ke had already learned of Military Commissioner Xiong’s expected return last night, but having this news further validated right now filled his heart with equal elation. He then remarked, “Although Military Commissioner Xiong may possess a great deal of military power, yet he is nevertheless a non-cabinet official. I’m afraid that he won’t be able to interfere with the matters of the council chamber.” Yang Lian said, “Though in terms of ranking, his position may not be higher than that of the cabinet council officials, yet he is the epitome of justice and honour, plus he is the possessor of the Royal Sword, so even Fang Cong Zhe and Wei Zhong Xian will have to be afraid of him.”

    On the day of Xiong Ting Bi’s scheduled arrival, his good friends such as the Minister of the Ministry of Personnel, Zhou Jia Mo, the Minister of the Ministry of Rites Sun Shen Xing, Censor-in-Chief[4] Zou Yuan Biao all gathered together at Yang Lian’s home in anticipation of him. The Ministry of War’s Minister Yang Kun was originally supposed to join them as well, but because he was busy organizing military troops to Shaan Xi, he was therefore unable to attend. The group of them began their wait early in the morning, but even by late afternoon, no sound of clanging gongs to signal the parting of the roads or any parading trumpets to announce Xiong’s arrival could yet be heard. Perplexed, Sun Shen Xing suggested, “Could he have changed dates?” Yang Lian asserted, “Xiong Ting Bi would never fall back on his promise.” These words were immediately followed by the housekeeper coming in to report, “Master, there’s two men outside asking to see you. When I asked them for their name, one of them said that his last name was Xiong. I’m afraid that it might be a member of Military Commissioner Xiong’s family, would you like to see him Master?” Yang Lian cried out, “Oh no!” as he jumped to his feet and then ordered with flustered alarm, “Hurry and escort him inside! This must be old Xiong! I know how he is.”

    After a short while, a muscular man with the demeanour of a tiger and the eyes of a hawk ran up the stairs, covered from head to toe in the dusts of his long journey. Waiting outside and carrying just one bag of luggage over his back was the one and only attendant that accompanied him. The crowd of officials all stood up and exclaimed, “Military Commissioner Xiong! Why didn’t you prepare us ahead of time?” for who could have expected a legendary general of such shocking fame and authoritative military power to be bringing only one attendant along with him as he traveled all the way from the frontiers back to the Imperial capital?

    Xiong Ting Bi laughed and said, “Didn’t I already send someone to deliver a letter two days ago? Why would you say that I didn’t give you any warning?” But what the group of officials meant by “preparation” was of course more than just a letter, still there was nothing more they could do now but joke, “You returning home in such glorified celebration is exactly the sort of elaborate ceremony we’d expect from a big general who is returning home after serving his duty at the frontline.” Xiong Ting Bi bellowed with laughter and said, “Well, I am in truth no more than a big soldier!”

    Yue Ming Ke hurriedly came forward to present his reverence while Xiong Ting Bi remarked, “You’re here as well? That’s wonderful! We’ll chat again tonight.” He then brought his attendant forward and introduced him to everyone. The name of this man was Wang Zan, a member belonging to a celebrated school of martial arts and the first disciple of the Sun-Moon Wheel’s Qiu Tai Xu. Already well acquainted with him, Yue Ming Ke came forward to ask, “You didn’t come across any problems along the journey I hope?” Wang Zan laughed and said, “We did come across a few thugs who made a living by ambushing travelers, but when they saw our measly bit of luggage, they left us alone without so much as batting an eye.” Yue Ming Ke chuckled and said, “Then their karma was working in their favour!”

    Wasting no time at all, the crowd of officials immediately swarmed around Xiong Ting Bi to pour out the details of all the chaotic mayhem and dark corruption that has been poisoning their government. Xiong Ting Bi remained silent as he took all this in and shook his head once in a while. The various officials were just starting to get warmed up when they were interrupted by a loud clamour coming from outside the door. This was instantaneously followed by the sound of Yang’s housekeeper announcing, “The Imperial Emissary has arrived!” The crowd of officials all retreated inside while Xiong Ting Bi and Yue Ming Ke also situated themselves within the guestroom, leaving Yang Lian to wait in the middle of the hall.

    After a while, the big doors flew open as an official wearing a gown embroidered with four-clawed dragons[5] and fastened by a jade belt entered inside. Behind him were a dozen Commandants[6] who also rushed into the room. Yang Lian hurriedly knelt down to receive the announcement of the Imperial edict which only compelled the Imperial Emissary to snap sharply, “This has nothing to do with you. Tell Xiong Ting Bi to come out!”

    Xiong Ting Bi turned towards Yue Ming Ke and smiled, “Wow! I barely stepped foot through the door and already they’ve arrived behind me. The Divine Lord may still be young in age, yet it could be seen that he is already quite sagacious! His sense of timing is exactly right!” He was straightening his attire as he was making this comment, and having tidied up his appearance, he immediately stepped foot outside only to be greeted by a sharp order coming from the Imperial Emissary, “Xiong Ting Bi! Kneel down to accept the orders of the Imperial Edict!”

    Xiong Ting Bi knelt down in wait of the edict’s orders, but what he heard the Imperial Emissary read was, “The convicted official Xiong Ting Bi has been found guilty in the act of coveting power for personal use and disrespecting of his superiors’ authority. His crimes include that of indulging his troops to disturb the peace of the common people and while having guarded the frontiers for many years, he has failed to make any progress in advancing the frontline. Now, he has furthermore left his post without obtaining prior approval, completely disregarding the governmental regulations to secretly steal back into the Imperial Capital and conspire in rebellion. He is now ordered to return the Royal Sword and is then to be transported to the Court of Supreme Justice to be tried.”

    After he finished reading the edict, the Emissary hollered, “Tie him up!” causing Xiong Ting Bi to be so furious that even his beard and eyebrows were standing on end as they stuck out like a bed of sharp spears that bristled with fury while he growled, “I was summoned home by the Late Emperor, what crime is there in that?” The Imperial Emissary barked back, “Haven’t you heard that the anger of the thunder’s strike and the mercy of the rain’s shower are all controlled by the mercy of the heavens? Do you dare go against the holy orders of the present Lord? Just this one crime is already an unpardonable sin!” Xiong Ting Bi blasted with fury, “The Holy Lord is still young and since the power of the government is now grasped within the hands of the villainous officials and malicious crooks, what more could be done?! Forget it! It’s all over! All over!” as he just stood there and prepared to be shackled. Xiong Ting Bi thought that this really was an authentic Imperial edict, thus even though he was extremely infuriated and felt incredibly wronged, he still did not dare to go against the orders of his Holy Lord.

    Frozen with shock, Yang Lian could only stand by one side as he watched the Commandants surge forward. They were just about to bind Xiong Ting Bi in the shackles when Yue Ming Ke suddenly ripped out from within the guest rooms with one great leap. With a roar forceful enough to shock the heavens, he thundered loudly, “Hold on!” causing the Imperial Emissary to snarl, “Who are you?” Four commandants proceeded to rush forward, but with a flex of his arms, Yue Ming Ke threw them back more than thirty feet and watched as they tumbled down the steps. The Imperial Emissary screeched loudly, “You dare to start a rebellion in broad daylight?!” which only induced Xiong Ting Bi to become all the more infuriated as he scolded in severity, “Yue Ming Ke! Are you trying to dishonour my name?”

    With tears welling up in his piercing eyes, Yue Ming Ke hurriedly explained, “Grand Master! This Imperial edict is a counterfeit!” Xiong Ting Bi was greatly taken back as he questioned, “Counterfeit?” The Imperial Emissary retorted, “Crazy lies!” as he instructed the Commandants to come forward and arrest them. Xiong Ting Bi suddenly unleashed his Royal Sword and roared, “Hold on! Let me get this all straightened out first before I come with you!” The crowd of Commandants all knew that Xiong Ting Bi possessed a dynamic fierceness that could force back a million men and having stood in the wrath of his thundering growl that reigned with majestic solemnity, they suddenly found that they have lost all courage to charge forward. Yue Ming Ke took out a ball of scrunched up paper and after straightening it out, he placed it within the center of his palm and then turned to Yang Lian to ask, “Official Yang, please come here and take a look. Is this, or is this not the authentic handwriting of the present Emperor?”

    Whenever an Emperor ascends the throne, Imperial decrees must be sent out to the various ministries in order to provide encouragement and solace for the high officials. Yang Lian came over to take a look and immediately saw the words “Xiong Ting Bi is an official of absolute and unquestionable loyalty” jump out at him, repeated seven or eight times as it filled up the entire piece of paper. The words were wobbly and crooked, but it was indeed the writing of You Jiao. With courage suddenly awoken in his heart, Yang Lian didn’t even bother to ask Yue Ming Ke about where he obtained the paper and immediately burst out with elation, “Official Xiong! This is indeed the handwriting coming out from the hands of our current Holy Emperor!” and then continued to call out, “Fellow officials! Please come out and take a look for yourselves!”

    This Imperial Emissary was one of the conspirators belonging to Wei Zhong Xian’s clan, his name was Cui Cheng Xiu and even though he was at a complete loss with what to do right now, he still forced himself to act calm as he hollered, “How could an Imperial edict be fake?” and then rolled out the edict to reveal the brand of the Emperor’s Imperial Jade Seal. Although the writing did not resemble that of You Jiao’s, yet Xiong Ting Bi could discern with just one glance that the stamp of the Jade Seal was indeed authentic. Yue Ming Ke hurriedly added, “The castrated fiend is usurping power and now dares to steal the national seal for his own use. Grand Master, please take this trial right up to the Imperial Courts with him!”

    With a derisive sneer, Xiong Ting Bi stated, “Cui Cheng Xiu, I’ll personally go with you to the courts!” The crowd of officials all chimed in, “We’ll come with you!” Cui Cheng Xiu screeched, “Xiong Ting Bi! You dare to belittle the Imperial court and go against the orders of the Emperor? This is a crime big enough to have all your familial possession confiscated and your whole household clan executed!” Xiong Ting Bi said, “No need to say anymore! I will risk death and decapitation to accompany you to the daily Imperial courts!”

    An idea suddenly sparked in Cui’s head, causing him to say, “The Holy Emperor is now fulfilling the duties of mourning within the palaces. Even if you wanted to go to the Imperial Courts, you would still have to wait until tomorrow.” He continued upholding his menacing act by threatening, “Yang Lian! Xiong Ting Bi will now be left under your surveillance! If I come back tomorrow to find him gone, you will be held fully responsible!” Having said this, he then took the group of Commandants along with him as they hurriedly retreated. Xiong Ting Bi knew that this rogue would not be able to escape very far and was taking in consideration of the fact that he was after all a non-cabinet official which wouldn’t make it very appropriate for him to arrest Cui right here and now, therefore stopped Yue Ming Ke from detaining them. Cui Cheng Xiu and his men were free to leave the mansion unimpeded, leaving a few of the high officials speechless with angered frustration.

    Xiong Ting Bi fell to his chair with a long dejected sigh. Shaking his head, he lamented, “Even if that edict can be proven as a counterfeit, the fact that the conniving fiends within the government would dare to be so unrestrained in carrying out their evil plots already indicates that there is no hope for our country!” The crowd of officials all came forward to offer their consolation and Yang Lian remarked, “Brother Xiong has traveled such far distances in order to return to the capital, please do not let these villainous scoundrels spoil your dynamic spirit! Come, let us all have a drink.”

    In the midst of this conversation, loud hollering suddenly broke out from outside as the sound of somebody knocking on the door thundered with earth-splitting fervour! Yang Lian lambasted with fury, “Cui Cheng Xiu actually dares to show his face here again?” but before he could even finish his sentence, the front doors blasted apart and a crowd of people swarmed inside, every one of them had their face masked with a piece of black cloth to reveal only a pair of eyes.

    The man who was leading the way shouted loudly, “We’ve heard that the great general Xiong has returned so we’ve come here today to borrow some spending money from him!” Xiong Ting Bi ripped into wild laughter as he said, “My two sleeves are filled only with the empty breezes of the cool winds, where am I to find money?” Yang Lian screamed loudly, “You actually dare to publicly declare burglary under the glare of broad daylight?! Is this world coming to an end?!” Yue Ming Ke said, “These people are not your regular bandits!” while a few dozen bandits surged forward to surround them.

    Xiong Ting Bi pushed Yang Lian inside a room and the “bandit” leader extended his hands to grasp out. With a loud roar, Xiong Ting Bi brandished out his treasured sword, but with a slant of his body the “bandit” blocked off the attack with just one strike of his palm, causing Xiong Ting Bi to remonstrate, “Don’t you think you’re putting your remarkable skills to waste by being a bandit?” Yue Ming Ke intercepted with a side strike and followed by saying, “MuRong Chong, do you want to live or not?” Jolted by this sudden shock, the bandit hesitated briefly while Xiong Ting Bi asked, “Ming Ke, do you know him?” Having had his identity revealed, MuRong Chong screamed out, “Finish them all off!” as the few dozen first rate fighters of the Eastern Faction surged forward like a great tidal wave, pushing both Xiong and Yue back up against the wall.

    It turns out that the announcement of the Imperial edict and the attack of bandits were all part of a plan concocted by Wei Zhong Xian and Madam Ke who were trying to secretly exterminate Xiong Ting Bi behind the Emperor’s back.

    With a swing of his five-element wheel, Wang Zan dashed out from within the rooms. One of the guards branded his whip and attempted to strike him down, but with just a spin of his wheel, Wang snapped the guard’s whip into two pieces and caused it to fly out of his hands. Suddenly, an old man arose from amongst the crowd of guards. He fired out with his two palms, the intensity conjured up by his palms’ strikes blazing forward with crushing force, shocking Wang’s five-element wheel over to one side.

    Yue Ming Ke kept his back against the wall and lashed out with his sword. With a half twist of his feet, the old man’s left palm smashed down towards Yue’s head with the stance “Thundering Bolt Flashes Overhead” and under the bright light of the cloudless day, everything could be discerned clearly – the palms of this old man were stained the colour of a vermillion red!

    Yue Ming Ke declared loud and clear, “Old freak Jin! So you’ve come as well?” The old man cackled loudly and did away with all disguises by ripping off his face cloth and tossing it over to one side as he hissed, “Yue Ming Ke! Today I will avenge that one scar wound you left on me!” Yue Ming Ke called out, “Grand Master, this old crook practices the Venomous Palms, don’t let him touch you!” all the while swirling his sword around with tempestuous fury and standing guard in front of Xiong Ting Bi. But MuRong Chong and Jin Du Yi each stood by one side and attacked simultaneously, forcing Yue Ming Ke into an extremely dangerous position!

    With a fiery glare, Xiong Ting Bi thundered, “Dirty Rats! How dare you?” and then suddenly exploded with colossal force by picking up a guard and tossing him right out the door! The guards were all frozen with panic, compelling MuRong Chong to urge, “Don’t be afraid of him!” and then by executing the Joint Lock technique, he came forward to snatch Xiong Ting Bi’s treasured sword! Although Xiong Ting Bi had the strength to counter a million men, yet techniques of sparring and duelling were nevertheless not his most prized skills and as a result, almost fell under the deadly attack of MuRong Chong. Wang Zan was already prepared to fight to his death by completely disregarding all concern for his own life in order to protect Xiong, yet he was still unable to withstand the advancement of these attacks.

    In the midst of all this tension, another person weaved out from within the rooms and shouted loudly, “Brothers, please let me say something!” This person was none other than Cheng Kun. Since all the guards of the Eastern Faction knew and recognized him, half of them stopped in their tracks the moment they heard him speak out. Cheng Kun continued, “Military Commissioner Xiong is the central pillar of our Imperial Government and the one supporting the world with his two bare hands! How could you all engage in such an atrocious and barbaric act as that of conspiring to induce harm upon him? The emasculated Wei may be in power now, but he will most definitely be meeting a terrible end in the future. My brothers, listen to me and disband this group instead!”

    A few of the guards suddenly broke down and having thrown down their weapons, immediately fled from the place. Bewildered, MuRong Chong hurriedly proclaimed, “Cheng Kun is already a wanted criminal! Those who dare listen to his words will be found guilty of a crime punishable through death!” Amongst this group of guards specially chosen for the mission, nine-tenths of them were selected from Wei Zhong Xian’s own personal troops, thus having heard MuRong Chong’s warning, aside from a few of them who had discarded their weapons to make a secret escape, everyone else resumed their collective attack.

    Yue Ming Ke stood in front of Xiong Ting Bi and continued to ward off the mass of attacks while Cheng Kun and Wang Zan took to the side and with their backs facing the wall, one of them defended on the left while the other one guarded on the right, exerting all they had as they fought to their deaths. Luckily for them, it just so happens that though these palace guards did not dare to escape due to the threat posed by Wei Zhong Xian and MuRong Chong’s sphere of power, yet more than half of them were already unwilling to exert their full efforts in attacking. Still, despite this fact, MuRong Chong and Jin Du Yi’s martial arts were indeed powerful, so powerful that just the combined attack of these two opponents was already enough to force Yue Ming Ke and his company of three to the point of where they were struggling to uphold the fight, not to mention the additional threat posed by all those guards who were entrapping them. As the battle continued on, Cheng Kun ended up sustaining a fist punch to his shoulder while Xiong Ting Bi’s left arm was wounded by a sabre. Yue Ming Ke’s eyes were spitting out fire as he generated a flurry with his sword and fought fearlessly in the face of death.

    Suddenly, a series of painful screams pierced the air, all of which belonged to the guards ambushed outside the building. An old voice was then heard to thunder loudly, “Old freak Jin, I’ve got you this time!” inducing Jin Du Yi to holler out, “Brother Hao, hold him off for ten stances!”

    Amidst the pandemonium of all the screaming and shouting, somebody was suddenly heard to peal out into a gleeful laughter that chimed with crystal clear musicality. This person then said with a giggle, “Hey old freak Jin! What about me? This is our first time meeting, are you not going to do me the honour of exchanging a few stances?” Silvery laughter filled the air as it reverberated all around and left a melodic ring echoing in everyone’s ears. Then amongst the dance of icy rays that stung at the eyes, Yu Luo Cha was suddenly seen to rocket out from amongst the crowd of people, the long sword in her hand glistening with an ethereal radiance!

    In just a blink of an eye, she has already wounded seven or eight guards as she charged straight for the centre of the combat ring. Infuriated, MuRong Chong flipped his arms over into a back-hook so that Yu Luo Cha’s sword ended up striking thin air as she almost fell prey to his strike! With a writhe of her sword, Yu Luo Cha pierced towards the left only to suddenly reappear on the right instead, causing MuRong Chong to be almost wounded under her blade. Having exchanged just one stance, both fighters were secretly taken back.

    Yu Luo Cha knew that she had blades pointing at her from all directions, thus with a smile she remarked, “This isn’t a good way to fight” and with a flip of her body, rocketed over to Yue Ming Ke’s side to take after his example by also pressing her back against the wall in combat.

    Yue Ming Ke called out with elation, “Heroine Lian! Quickly come over here and protect the Grand Master!” which only caused Yu Luo Cha to snicker coldly, “I don’t care about your so and so Grand Master, I’m only here for my sword manual!” Then with a sudden leap forward, she jumped back into the sea of blades and pierced directly towards Jin Du Yi!

    Jin Du Yi hurriedly swerved up a gust of palm strikes to create a wave of blasting palm currents that formed a solid shield in front of his chest, shocking Yu Luo Cha back one whole step. But with a twist of her blade, she attacked offensively while maintaining her defensive guard, all the while laughing with enchanting charm as she said, “Ha! Quite impressive indeed! But still not worthy enough to use my sword manual!” Then by leaning over and drawing up two erratic stances, she forced Jin Du Yi to retreat two steps!

    Yue Ming Ke called out, “Heroine Lian! I personally guarantee that you will get your sword manual, I thank you ahead of time for contributing your immense help here today!” Yu Luo Cha retorted, “I’m not going to accept your help, nor am I here to help you out today!” But despite these words, the sword in her hand did not pause for even a brief moment as her every move struck with fatal deadliness.

    Yue Ming Ke managed to steal a glance amongst all this chaos to discover that the treasured sword in Yu Luo Cha’s hand looked very much like his own Gliding Dragon Sword! Though he found this all extremely mystifying, yet surrounded by a mass attack, he was left with no other opportunity to study over the details.

    Amidst the mayhem of this intense battle, someone was suddenly heard to scream from outside the house, “Brother Jin! This is a tough one!” Jin Du Yi answered, “I know. Send half of the troops to surround him.” But Yu Luo Cha only laughed and said, “Father, hurry and charge inside! The old freak Jin is in here!” A coarse old voice answered from outside, “Alright I’m coming little Jade!” and following these words, a few guards were instantaneously seen to explode into the air. These guards were all snatched using the Stone Tablet Obliterating Hands technique and then tossed right out the door! Just a heartbeat later, an old man slowly fought his way inside. Yue Ming Ke didn’t know then that this person was the Tie Fei Long whose great fame shocks the Northwest regions, but seeing such a shocking display of force, he was left incredibly astounded as he secretly thought to himself: This Demoness really does have some earth-shattering abilities! She has actually adopted such a man as her father?!

    Now that Tie Fei Long and Yue Luo Cha have arrived, Yue Ming Ke’s side immediately received a surge of power. But the spurt of power on their opponent’s side was even greater! This was due to the fact that the guards were originally not desirous to induce harm upon Xiong Ting Bi and therefore half of them were actually not contributing their real efforts in the battle. But the moment that Tie Fei Long and Yu Luo Cha arrived, they proceeded to attack with a mercilessness that was deadly beyond means and as a result, ended up inciting the guards’ collective anger.

    Those guards who were not willing to exert their full effort just a moment ago were now witnessing their companions crumble and pile up on the floor after being wounded by Yu Luo Cha. Furthermore, every one of them were either pierced through their major joints or crucial acupoints, causing them to roll about on the floor screaming wildly in pain, comprising a sight that was simply too horrific to behold. But those who were crushed up and annihilated by Tie Fei Long were in worse shape, for their heads were smashed open and their brains were sprayed all over the place. Outraged, all the guards surged forward to surround Yu Luo Cha and Tie Fei Long, which ended up alleviating the pressure from Xiong Ting Bi’s side.

    Although Yu Luo Cha’s swordsmanship was supreme, yet a combination of her agile levitation skills was required in order to unleash its full power. Now being enclosed within the guards’ collective attack, she was unable to execute her levitation skills which decreased her power by half. Luckily, Tie Fei Long’s lower body work was extremely solid and the force of his palms was unbelievably explosive, thus it was only through combining the power of both the sword and palm were they able to withstand the attacks.

    Although the threat of their situation has diminished somewhat, Yue Ming Ke was still worried that their danger has not yet been abolished, while the possibility of the Eastern Faction sending support troops further caused his heart to remain wrought with tense anxiety. Whipping out with a few deadly lashes of her sword, Yu Luo Cha sliced up one of the guards who was advancing towards her and then giggled again with sonorous musicality as she asked, “Hey Yue Ming Ke! Where’s your good friend?” A thought jolted through Yue Ming Ke as he answered, “Coming!” and then with just a flex of his left arm, he had already taken out the gloves that Cheng Kun had given to him and put them over this hand. Then, to the surprise of everyone, Yue Ming Ke suddenly charged straight for the exit!

    Jin Du Yi thundered loudly, “Where do you think you’re going?” as he swept out from the side and blasted forth with his venomous palm. Yue Ming Ke immediately reached out with his left hand to directly impact with Jin’s palm while the sword in his right hand flashed out with such lightning speed and ripped out with such cyclonic fury that a loud cracking sound instantaneously followed as Yue’s blade sliced right through Jin Du Yi’s calf bone! Then through the momentum reverberating off the impact with Jin’s palm, Yue used this dynamism to thrust his whole body into the air as he shot over the head of all the guards and rocketed over the confines of the wall!

    By logic, Jin Du Yi’s martial arts were definitely not inferior to that of Yue Ming Ke’s, then why is it that he would end up falling victim to such an injurious blow? This was all due to the excessive pride that Jin took in the lethalness of his poisonous palms. Since Jin Du Yi never expected that Yue Ming Ke would actually be daring to directly clash palms with him, he let down his guard not knowing that Yue had already put on the Golden Silk glove that would protect his palms against any sort of poisonous attack. As a result, Yue was able to use a blindingly fast stance to meet Jin Du Yi’s attack through the method of counter-attacking. And having succeeded with this one stance, Yue Ming Ke immediately made his escape.

    Witnessing Yue Ming Ke flee from the scene while they were still in the face of grave danger left Xiong Ting Bi flabbergasted and puzzled. Wang Zan growled angrily, “They say you can only see into a person’s heart during the direst times, how true that is!” Xiong Ting Bi retorted, “Yue Ming Ke must have his reasons. Don’t jump to conclusions” and flourished his magnificent sword to shoot out rays of blindingly cold light that thrashed wildly about.

    Having been wounded under Yue’s sword, Jin Du Yi’s power was significantly weakened and even though MuRong Chong’s martial arts were masterful, yet Xiong Ting Bi was fearless and indomitable beyond comparison and plus he had the two skilled fighters Wang Zan and Cheng Kun present there to protect him while the other palace guards were unwilling to attack him. Therefore even though Xiong’s group was unable to break out of the barricade, they still managed to uphold their defence for the time being.

    Across town, Taoist Priest White Stone was still fuming with indignant anger over the fact of having been threatened and challenged. Gathered together and filling up the entire hall were the dozen Wu Tang disciples that resided in the Imperial capital along with a dozen other skilled fighters present on the behalf of Liu Xi Ming. They were all ready for a glorious battle with their enemy. But having waited for two whole days, they did not catch even a glimpse of their enemies’ shadow and since today was the last day set by the threat, their anxiety levels were particularly high.

    The crowd of fighters have gathered together at the Liu family ever since early morning, but having waited all the way until late afternoon, there was still no trace of their enemy. Liu Xi Ming laughed and said, “Wu Tang’s great fame resounds throughout the whole world, who would dare to play with the tiger’s whiskers?” Taoist Priest White Stone puffed up with smug satisfaction and laughed pompously, “But I won’t bother myself with hanging around here to wait for him after today.” Just when they were smirking and snickering to each other, a Wu Tang disciple was suddenly heard to report, “There’s someone coming!” Liu Xi Ming asked, “How many people are there?” The disciple who was standing on guard reported back, “Only one person!” causing Liu Xi Ming to exclaim with surprise, “They’ve got some nerve! Open the doors and let him in!”

    Shortly afterwards, a person charged into the room with sweat dripping from his forehead. The crowd of fighters immediately got up and prepared to meet their enemy, but Zhuo Yi Hang was immediately heard to cry out, “Oh! It’s only Brother Yue!” Taoist Priest White Stone let out a breath of relief and thinking that Yue had somehow gotten news of their predicament and have thus arrived to lend in his assistance, he snickered coldly, “Hero Yue, there’s no need to trouble you for your exalted presence.”

    But Yue Ming Ke only smiled and then came forward to tug at Zhuo Yi Hang’s hand. He then suddenly extended his two fingers and jabbed them into Zhuo’s waist, sealing his acupoint to render him immobile and mute! Then with a twist of his body, he threw Zhuo onto his back and dashed out of the door, catching a room full of masterful fighters completely off guard as they were all left frozen with shock.

    Such is: Soldier extraordinaire suddenly executes ingenious plan, a hall of skilled fighters left in absolute shock.

    [1]An ink-brush pen dipped in vermilion (a vivid red) coloured ink used by only the Emperor himself when he reviews the memorials presented to him by his officials. By writing notes, comments, authorization, support and instructions on the pages of these memorials, the Emperor relates his orders to his officials who will subsequently carry out these orders.

    [2]More than a thousand years ago, the plum-blossom needle was an acupunctural tool used in conjunction with its very own acupunctural method for the treatment of headaches, giddiness, neurasthenia, imbalance of plant nerve, neuritis, various ocular troubles, acute and chronic intestinal and gastric disorders. These needles were named plum-blossom needles due to the fact that there were composed of five small needles bounded together in the form of a plum-blossom. It is also known as “dermal” or “children” needle due to its ability to inflict little pain (for it only stimulates the channel/meridian point) and is usually used to cure patterns of vacuity or other bodily weaknesses. Though sometimes used in conjunction with “seven star needle,” the seven star needle is in fact seven needles bounded together. However, the plum-blossom needle is also sometimes known to be formed by three needles tied together in a bundle. Modern versions of this acupunctural tool has the needles attached to a metal hammer head and a long handle, such as the following examples: . However, due to the nature of how this weapon was used within this story (and other stories of Liang YuSheng which mentions this weapon), the needles should have been extremely thin in size and should not have included any mention of a metal hammer head or handle.

    [3]The headquarters/office of the head of an agency/office/department.

    [4]An official belonging to the department in the imperial government that was responsible for overseeing or investigating into the conduct and misbehaviour of officials. Headed by one or two censor-in-chiefs, they also worked along with vice-censor-in-chiefs. Their reports to the Emperor about officials’ misconduct have the power to influence or cause their impeachment.

    [5]These gowns worn by Royalty, Lords, Generals and Ministers (as well as the Empress, Honoured Consorts or other important women of the palace) were called “Mang Pao” where “Pao” meant gown and “Mang” was a mythical creature that was a variant of the Dragon. Since the Dragon was reserved for the sole use of the Emperor, thus the differentiating trait that separated the Emperor’s Long-Pao (“Long” meaning Dragon) from the Mang-Pao was the number of claws it had. The dragon had five claws while the Mang-dragon had only four claws. Otherwise, the creature embroidered on the Mang-Paos pretty much resembled the dragons stitched on the Long-Paos. In the Ming dynasty, the right to wear these gowns could only be bestowed upon the officials by the Emperor himself, and thus was considered not only a great honour, but a sign of great authority. Later, by the Qing Dynasty, the number of dragons and claws that were embroidered on the gown further differentiated the rank of the official. The following is a picture of a Mang-Pao from the Ming dynasty: and this is from the Qing Dynasty:

    [6]A prestige title for military officers (ranked 6 or 7 out of 9 ranks, were 9 was the lowest rank).
    Last edited by foxs; 03-22-10 at 03:29 PM.