Fresh alliance of an old pledge.
Original translation by Foxs
Huang Yaoshi reflected on how he’d incomprehensibly come into conflict with the Quanzhen Seven, and – even more incomprehensibly – established a deep grievance with them. There’d really been no reason for it at all. Seeing Mei Chaofeng wheezing ever fainter, he thought of the grudge he’d held for over a decade, and he felt a great, unbearable anguish within him. Tears began to fall.
A hint of a smile appeared on the corners of Mei Chaofeng’s lips. “Teacher,” she said, “please…treat me like that way you used to – the kind way you treated me before. I’ve wronged you: wronged you too much, too far! Let me be by your side forever…forever to serve you. I’m dying fast. Time’s almost up!” An imploring look covered her face.
Huang Yaoshi’s eyes were brimming with tears. “Very well, very well! I’ll treat you just like I did back when you were little,” he said. “So from today, Ruohua better be a good girl, and pay attention to what teacher says.”
Mei Chaofeng’s betrayal of school and teacher was the greatest regret of her life. But now, facing death, she had somehow gained forgiveness from her teacher, who was once again calling her by her childhood name of former days. Beside herself with joy, she clasped Huang Yaoshi’s right hand, gently trembling, in both of hers.
“Ruohua will pay attention forever,” she said. “Teacher, I want to learn how to be 12-year-old Ruohua again. Teacher, tell me how, tell me how…” She rose up with all her strength, determined to perform the rite of acknowledgement.
After her third kowtow, she stiffened, never to move again.
From the other room, Huang Rong had witnessed these heart-moving, soul-stirring events unfold in succession, but hoped only that her father would stay a bit longer so she could come out and meet him the moment Guo Jing was respiring smoothly. She watched as Huang Yaoshi stooped, about to gather Mei Chaofeng’s body in his arms.
Suddenly, there was the sound of a horse neighing outside – the sound, in fact, of Guo Jing’s Little Red. Then Sha Gu’s voice could be heard: “Well, this is Ox Village. How am I supposed to know if there’s someone here called ‘Guo’? Are you called ‘Guo’?” Someone else, in a hugely impatient tone, answered: “With such few households in the village, how come you don’t know everybody around here?”
At this, the door burst in, and several people entered.
Behind the open door, the look on Huang Yaoshi’s face suddenly changed: those entering were exactly who he’d been hunting as fruitlessly as if he’d been treading in broken iron shoes – the Six Freaks of Jiangnan. As it happened, they’d gone to Peachblossom Island for the appointment; but whether they turned east or west, they ended up in circles, and found no way into Huang Yaoshi’s residence. Later, they chanced upon one of the island’s mute servants, and realised there that he’d already left. When the Freaks saw the Little Red dashing around in the forest, Han Baoju brought it under control, and the six then came to Ox Village looking for Guo Jing.
The Freaks had just stepped through the doorway when ‘The Soaring Bat’ Ke Zhen’e, whose hearing was acute, suddenly sensed the sound of breathing coming from behind the door. “Someone’s here!” he shouted. The six turned around instantly, and got a big shock: Huang Yaoshi, carrying the dead body of Mei Chaofeng across his arms, stood blocking the doorway, as if to stop them from escaping.
Zhu Cong gave a deep bow. “Master Huang,” he said, his hands folded respectfully, “my best wishes to your good health! The six of us observed the summons to visit Peachblossom Island and pay our respects, but it so happened that the Master was engaged with other business. How fortunate it is that today our paths should cross here!”
Huang Yaoshi had just intended to strike immediately and kill the Six Freaks, but with a glance at the pale face of Mei Chaofeng, he reconsidered: “The Freaks were her mortal enemies. Today, she might have died the sooner, but I’ll enable her to kill off the Six with her own hands still. Should she learn of it in the netherworld, she’ll definitely be pleased.”
His right hand holding the corpse and his left hand raising her wrist, in a sudden flash he was bearing down on Han Baoju, aiming Mei Chaofeng’s palm at his right arm. In a panic, Han Baoju tried to dodge, but it was already too late: there was a loud crack as his arm took the hit. As if using Mei Chaofeng’s palm as a weapon, Huang Yaoshi channelled his martial arts through the dead hand, transmitting a massive force of astonishing power. Although it didn’t snap Han Baoju’s arm, it left half his body tingling in paralysis.
For the Freaks, nothing could be more horrifying: Huang Yaoshi, without a single word, had immediately advanced and issued a vicious strike – and using the corpse of Mei Chaofeng as a weapon, too. There was a chorus of shouts as each drew their armaments, but Huang Yaoshi couldn’t care less; raising high the body of Mei Chaofeng, he shot straight over, and Han Xiaoying was in the firing line. She saw the eyes of Mei Chaofeng, still round and staring after death – the long hair draping the shoulders, the mouth edged with brimming blood twisted in a terrifying grimace – and the right hand held high, then violently pounding down towards the top of her own head. Scared, her hands and feet went numb, dodging and blocking forgotten.
With the wave of a shoulderpole and the flick of a counterpoise, Nan Xiren and Quan Jinfa launched simultaneous attacks at Mei Chaofeng’s arm. Huang Yaoshi pulled back the right arm of the corpse and swung out with the left arm, hitting Han Xiaoying right in the waist. In pain, she squatted straight down. Han Baoju, tilting as he stepped up diagonally, unfurled his Golden Dragon Whip; but Huang Yaoshi strode forward with his left foot and stamped firmly on the whip’s point. Han Baoju tried to free it with a mighty pull, but how could he move it one iota? In the space of a blink, Mei Chaofeng’s claw was slashing at his face. Stunned, Han Baoju ditched the whip and recoiled, rolling away immediately. Feeling his face searing with agony, he touched it with his palm and saw it come away covered in fresh blood – five nail scars had already been gouged in him. It was fortunate that Mei Chaofeng was dead and therefore unable to unleash the 9 Yin White Bone Claw form, and that the fierce poison on her nails had dissipated with the exhaustion of her qi. Otherwise, this one claw would have been instantly fatal.
After just a few exchanges, it was as if the Freaks were fighting for their lives on every side. If it hadn’t been for Huang Yaoshi intending Mei Chaofeng to kill with her own hands in posthumous vengeance, and deciding to use her limbs to destroy the enemy, the Six would have died long ago or been taken to the edge of death by injury. And even so, the Six were still living breath-by-breath against the Master of Peachblossom Island, whose moves would come and go like a phantom’s.
In the other room, Guo Jing had been overjoyed when he heard Zhu Cong hailing Huang Yaoshi. But then, he’d listened as the seven fought, his six beneficient teachers panting for breath and crying out as they held on with all their strength. The situation was desperately critical. The qi in his dantian had yet to stabilise; but with the gratitude he owed to his teachers for raising him being no different to that he owed his parents, how could he just keep his hands in his sleeves? Immediately restricting his qi and concentrating his breath, he launched out a palm. There was a loud bang as his strike shattered the secret door.