The Three Heroes of Lu Liang were sworn brothers. The eldest, Huo Yuanlong, nicknamed ‘Divine Blade Shocks Guanxi’, was the bearded man who had killed White Horse Li San. The second, Shi Zhongjun, nicknamed ‘Plum Blossom Spear’, was a tall and skinny man. The youngest, Chen Dahai, nicknamed ‘Green Python Sword’, was small in size but strong and capable. He was originally a horse thief from Liaodong, and later settled in Shanxi. He hit it off with Huo and Shi, and they eventually opened Jinwei Protection Agency in Taigu Province, Shanxi County.
Shi Zhongjun and Shangguan Hong, Li San’s wife, were fellow disciples learning from the same master. They had been learning martial arts together since childhood.
Shi Zhongjun had always loved his petite and gentle younger martial sister. Their master had intended to play matchmakers, and their fellow martial siblings had treated them as an engaged couple. But Shangguan Hong had a chance meeting with White Horse Li San, and they fell in love at first sight. But her family would not allow them to get married, so Shangguan Hong eloped with him. Shi Zhongjun was extremely upset, and fell seriously ill. From then on, his temperament changed. Yet his love for his younger martial sister did not cease, and he never did get married.
After parting for ten years, the Three Heroes of Lu Liang met Li San and his wife again, in the process of fighting for a map. Sixty enemies pursued Li San and his wife from Ganliang all the way to the Muslim Region. Shi Zhongjun, filled with jealousy and hate, was extremely ruthless when he attacked. He was the one who had shot the arrow protruding from Li San’s back.
After Li San had perished in the great desert, Shi Zhongjun arrived to see Shangguan Hong standing, alone, on a great expanse of land. He felt a tinge of regret, “Since we’ve killed her husband, we must treat her very well from now on.” The westerly wind breezed through her clothes. It was exactly like a decade ago, when he saw her standing on their master’s practicing arena. Shangguan Hong used two daggers as weapons. One had a gold hilt; the other, a silver one. This earned her the nickname of ‘Gold and Silver Little Swords Sanniangzi’ (‘Sanniangzi’ means something like wife of San). She was smiling, and did not hold any weapons.
Hope filled his heart, and his chest felt hot. His pale white cheeks became tinged with a blush.
He placed his spear on the saddle and leapt off the horse, calling, “Shimei (‘shimei’ is Chinese for younger martial sister)!” Shangguan Hong replied, “Li San is dead!” Shi Zhongjun nodded, and said, “Shimei, although we have been separated for a decade, I… I still think of you every day.” Shuangguan Hong smiled, saying, “Really? You are lying to me again.” Shi Zhongjun’s heart was beating wildly. This smiling face, this tender voice, had remained unchanged for ten whole years. Gently, he said, “Shimei, from now onwards, I will take care of you and ensure that you will never suffer again.” A sudden strange light flashed in her eyes, and she said, “Shige (‘shige’ is Chinese for elder martial brother), you treat me so well!” She fell into his arms.
Shi Zhongjun was overcome with happiness, and hugged her tightly. Huo Yuanlong and Chen Dahai grinned at each other, thinking, “Second brother suffered from lovesickness for ten years, now he has finally gotten his just rewards.” Shi Zhongjun smelt a faint fragrance, and was dazed. But he felt Shangguan Hong hugging him, and could not believe that this was really happening. Suddenly, he felt a pain assail him in the stomach, as if someone had stabbed him with a sharp object. He gave a yell, and moved his hands, trying to push Shangguan Hong away, but she clung on to him for dear life. Finally, both of them collapsed to the ground. Both Huo Yuanlong and Chen Dahai were shocked by the sudden change of events. They immediately leapt off their horses to attempt to save Shi Zhongjun. When they lifted up Shangguan Hong’s body, they saw a small golden-hilted dagger sticking out from her chest, where a pool of blood had formed. The silver-hilted dagger was protruding out of Shi Zhongjun’s belly. Shangguan Hong was determined to die with her husband. She had hidden the daggers in her clothes; one was pointing inwards and the other, outwards. As Shi Zhongjun embraced her, both of them were stabbed simultaneously.
Shangguan Hong died immediately, while Shi Zhongjun was barely alive. The thought that his terrible fate was caused by his younger martial sister pained him even more than his bodily wounds did. He called out, “Third brother, kill me quickly, so as to end my suffering.” Chen Dahai realised that Shi Zhongjun could not be saved, and glanced at Huo Yuanlong. Huo Yuanlong nodded. Chen Dahai gritted his teeth, and plunged his sword into Shi Zhongjun’s heart.
Huo Yuanlong sighed, “Who would have thought that ‘Gold and Silver Little Swords Sanniangzi’ would be so strong-willed?” Then one of his subordinates said, “We’ve searched White Horse Li San’s body, but there is no sign of the map.” Huo Yuanlong pointed to Shangguan Hong’s body, and said, “Then it must be with her.” After a detailed search, Shangguan Hong’s body yielded nothing but some pieces of silver and several spare sets of clothes. Huo Yuanlong and Chen Dahai glanced at each other, feeling both disappointed and puzzled. They had chased Li San and his wife from Ganliang to the Muslim Regions, and had keept a close watch on them all the time. If the map had changed hands, they would have noticed it immediately. Also, since Li San and his wife were willing to sacrifice their lives for the map, they would not have given it to others so easily. Chen Dahai examined the objects in Shangguan Hong’s little bundles closely, and found a set of clothes belonging to a little girl. Realisation hit him, and he cried, “Eldest brother, we must go after that little girl immediately!” Huo Yuanlong replied, “Don’t worry, in this great desert, where can a little girl go?” Waving his left arm, he ordered, “Two of you stay behind to bury Second Master Shi, while the rest of you follow me!” He pulled at the reins and rode away. With much hubbub, the remaining hundred horses continued the chase.
That little girl had rode for quite a long time, and was now more than twenty li away. But on the great, flat expanse of desert, one could see up to ten li away. Even though the girl was a long way ahead, they would eventually catch up with her.
The chase lasted till evening. Suddenly Chen Dahai cried, “In front!” Far away, they could see a black speck moving at the horizon. That white horse was strong, but it had not stopped galloping since morning, and was exhausted. Huo Yuanlong and Chen Dahai kept switching steeds, and rode closer to the girl.
The little girl, Li Wenxiu, lay on the horse’s back. Exhausted, she had already fallen asleep. She had not eaten for a day, and the burning sun had parched her lips. The white horse seemed to have humanly intelligence, and knew that the pursuing men would harm its little mistress. Summoning up all its energy, it ran, towards the blood-red setting sun. Suddenly, it reared up, and neighed. It had detected a strange smell, and its neigh could not mask its fright.
Huo Yuanlong and Chen Dahai had excellent martial arts skills, and the long journey had done them no harm. Suddenly they felt a tightness in their chests, and found it hard to breathe. Huo Yuanlong said, “Third brother, this does not seem right!” Chen Dahai looked around, taking in the surroundings. In the northwest, close to the setting sun, rose misty yellow clouds. Purple light flashed in the yellow clouds continually. The view was strange yet beautiful. None of them had ever witnessed such a sight.
The yellow clouds kept enlarging. In a short while, it had covered nearly half the sky. At this time, most of the men were dripping with perspiration, and were breathing heavily. Chen Dahai said, “Eldest brother, there seems to be an approaching sandstorm.” Huo Yuanlong replied, “yes, but we must catch that little girl before finding a place to shelter in…” He had not even finished his sentence, when a gust of strong wind blew, bringing with it a large amount of yellow sand. His mouth and nose were filled with sand, and he was unable to continue speaking.