The Legend of the Condor Heroes – Chapter 37

Descending from the sky.

Original translation by Foxs

One day Guo Jing’s troops pitched a camp by a riverbank. In the evening Guo Jing was reading the military strategy book when suddenly there was a commotion outside his tent. The curtain to his tent was opened, and somebody was forcing his way in. The guards outside shouted, trying to stop him, but that person moved his hand and one by one the guards fell to the ground. That man lifted up his head and laughed. Under the bright candlelight Guo Jing could see his face clearly; it was none other than the Western Poison Ouyang Feng, whom Guo Jing had searched high and low for tens of thousands ‘li’s. Unexpectedly he appeared here in a foreign land, Guo Jing was pleasantly surprised. He jumped up from his seat and called out, “Where is Miss Huang?”

“I was just about to ask you,” Ouyang Feng replied, “Where is that little girl? Quickly hand her over to me!”

Hearing this, Guo Jing’s delight was beyond measure, “So Rong’er is still alive; not only that, but she managed to escape from his evil hands too,” he thought.

“Where is that little girl?” Ouyang Feng sternly asked again.

“She went with you in Jiangnan, then what happened? She … is she well? You haven’t killed her, I really should thank you! I … I must thank you,” Guo Jing said. He was sobbing from overwhelming delight.

Ouyang Feng knew Guo Jing was not able to lie, but all signs indicated that Huang Rong was with him; how could he be so oblivious, Ouyang Feng had to re-think his assumptions. He sat cross-legged on the carpet in Guo Jing’s tent.

Guo Jing wiped out his tears, then unsealed his guards’ acupoints and asked them to deliver ‘ru jiu lao cha’ [lit. milk wine cream tea – don’t know exactly what kind of drink it was].

Ouyang Feng drank a bowl of ‘ma ru jiu’ [horse milk wine], he said, “Dumb kid, I might as well speak frankly with you. That little girl was with me since we were at the Temple of the Iron Spear in Jiaxing, unexpectedly several days later she escaped from me.”

Guo Jing cheered ecstatically, he said, “She is so smart, once she decided to escape, she will find a way to escape. How did she do it?”

Ouyang Feng full of hatred said, “At the Cloud Manor, by Lake Tai … Bah!” he spat, “Why would I tell you? In short, she ran away.”

Guo Jing knew Ouyang Feng was a conceited man; he did not expect him to personally reveal his own setback, so he stopped asking question. Knowing Huang Rong was alive and well he was elated, he kept shouted, “Wonderful! Just wonderful!”

Ouyang Feng was annoyed, “What do you mean wonderful?” he asked, “After she escaped I was hot on her trail; several times I almost caught her, but every time she managed to get away relying on her craftiness. But I always followed her closely, she could not run away to the Peach Blossom Island. I chased her to the Mongolian border then suddenly her trail disappeared. I thought she must be hiding in your troops; therefore, I am standing on my guard to prevent her from running away again.”

Hearing that Huang Rong was in Mongolia, Guo Jing was pleasantly surprised, “Have you seen her?” he asked.

Ouyang Feng was indignant, “If I saw her, wouldn’t I capture her?” he said, “Day and night I stayed in your troops keeping my eyes open, I did not even see this little girl’s shadow. Dumb kid, what kind of crafty trick are you playing?”

Guo Jing was silent for half a day, he asked, “Day and night you are in my troops? How come I did not recognize you?”

Ouyang Feng smiled, “I am just a lowly western area soldier in your ‘tian qian’ [front sky] group; you are the commander-in-chief, how would you recognize me?” In the Mongolian army, there were many prisoners of war who were then given jobs as soldiers; Ouyang Feng was from the west, once he intermingled with other soldiers from the same region, it was really not easy to single him out.

Listening to him Guo Jing was startled, he thought, “If he meant me harm, I would be dead by now.” He muttered, “Why did you say Rong’er is in my army?”

“You captured the Great Khan’s two sons, you destroyed cities and crushed the enemies, if not by that little girl’s direction, how can a dumb kid like you accomplish all that?” Ouyang Feng replied, “But that little girl has never shown herself up; it’s really strange. I have no choice but forcing you to hand her over to me.”

Guo Jing smiled, “If Rong’er is willing to show herself up that will be my earnest desire. Just think: would I hand her over to you?”

“Fine,” Ouyang Feng said, “You are not willing to hand her over to me, I’ll find my way to get hold of her. You have great authority as the commander of tens of thousands soldiers, but in Ouyang Feng’s eye, hey, hey … outside or inside this tent, I can come and go as I like; who can stop me?”

Guo Jing nodded, silently agreed to what he said.

“Dumb kid, what do you say we make an agreement?” Ouyang Feng asked.

“What agreement?” Guo Jing replied with a question.

Ouyang Feng said, “You tell me her hiding place, I guarantee not to harm even a single strand of her hair. But if you don’t want to tell me, I will find her sooner or later anyway. When that time comes, humph, it doesn’t matter anymore, does it?”

Guo Jing knew Ouyang Feng was smart and resourceful; as long as Huang Rong was not on the Peach Blossom Island, there would come a day when she would be captured by him. Ouyang Feng was not making an empty threat. He hesitated for a moment before finally saying, “All right, I am going to make an agreement with you, but not like what you said.”

“What do you mean?” Ouyang Feng asked.

“Mr. Ouyang,” Guo Jing said, “Your martial art is a lot higher than mine, but I am a lot younger than you are. One day you will grow old and your strength will be gone; you won’t be able to defeat me anymore.” Before, Guo Jing always called him ‘Uncle Ouyang’ but since he killed Guo Jing’s five benevolent masters, Guo Jing’s hatred was as deep as the ocean; therefore, he could not say the word ‘Uncle’ anymore.

It never occurred to Ouyang Feng that someday he would grow old and lose his strength; this revelation send a chill to his heart, “What this dumb said is actually not dumb at all,” he thought. “What then?” he asked.

“There is very deep enmity between us,” Guo Jing said, “I can’t leave this enmity un-avenged. Even if you fly to the sky, there will come a day when I will come looking for you.”

Ouyang Feng lifted up his head and laughed loudly, “Before I grow old and lose my strength, I will kill you!” As soon as he finished talking he bent his knees slightly, and thrust both palms forward with an earth-shattering force.

By this time Guo Jing had mastered the ‘yi jin duan gu pian’ [changing muscle forging bone] from the Nine Yin Manual. Also he had trained himself in the part that Reverend Yideng had translated; his internal energy had enjoyed quite a bit of improvement. He leaned his body slightly to avoid the attack, and at the same time counterattack with ‘jian long zai tian’ [seeing dragon in the field].

Ouyang Feng received Guo Jing’s attack head-on, thinking that he was already familiar with this ’18-Dragon Subduing Palms’. Besides, Guo Jing was Hong Qigong’s disciple, so his strength should be a lot less than Hong Qigong. Hence, he did not put too much energy on his defense. But unexpectedly when their palms met he was shaken. If his internal energy was not strong enough, he would be seriously injured. He was being careless and nearly lost in Guo Jing’s hand. He was shocked, “Perhaps this kid will already catch up with me before I grow old and lose my strength” he thought. Quickly he sent his left palm out.

Guo Jing again leaned sideways to evade, then returned the attack. This time Ouyang Feng did not dare to take it head on, he flicked his hand to redirect Guo Jing’s palm. Guo Jing did not know Ouyang Feng’s real intention, he thought Ouyang Feng simply parried his attack, who would have thought that inside that defensive move there was a hidden attack; Guo Jing felt a strong force surging toward his face, there was not enough time to evade, so he was forced to stretch out his right palm to block.

Speaking about internal energy strength, Guo Jing was still one level inferior to Ouyang Feng. The current situation was similar to the day at the imperial palace in Lin’an, inside the cave behind the waterfall; although Guo Jing would be able to hold his ground for a while, but in the end he would suffer a heavy injury or even death.

Ouyang Feng’s movement resembled a gourd, enticing the opponent to enter; which Guo Jing did. Ouyang Feng was delighted, but suddenly sensed Guo Jing pulled his right palm slightly, like he was losing his strength. Ouyang Feng sent more force to his palm, pressing harder; who would have thought that Guo Jing’s palm slid a little bit and thus avoid being crushed.

Ouyang Feng grunted ferociously, sending all his strength to his palm, thinking, “Today is the day you are going to die.”

Seeing the opponent’s fingertip swept to his chest, Guo Jing parried by sweeping his left palm horizontally while his right-hand index finger stretched out and fiercely went to Ouyang Feng’s ‘tai yang’ [sun] acupoint. It was the ‘Solitary Yang Finger’ he saw Reverend Yideng used. However, what he learned was superficial, he only saw the form, but did not know the variations within. In this critical moment instinctively he used mutual hands combat technique.

‘Solitary Yang Finger’ was the ‘Toad Stance’s adversary, how could Ouyang Feng not startled when he saw it? He leaped backward to elude, shouted angrily, “Old Duan Zhixing wants to give me a hard time?”

Unfortunately Guo Jing’s finger technique was not the real ‘Solitary Yang Finger’, hence it could not break the Toad Stance; but Ouyang Feng was scared away, without looking clearly he jumped back in shock. Only afterwards did he remember that the Solitary Yang Finger had an infinite variations; how could after launching an attack Guo Jing retracted his finger? Hence he knew Guo Jing had not learned it in its entirety. Without waiting for Guo Jing to launch the next stance both of his palms, one upward the other downward, one attack the other guarded, moved toward Guo Jing. This attack was so swift that Guo Jing did not have time to think, he simply jumped back to escape. ‘Crack!’ the small table behind him was smashed by the Western Poison’s palms.

Since he was gaining an upper hand, Ouyang Feng continued his attack by successively sending his palms; but suddenly he felt a gust of wind coming from behind, somebody attacked him. Without turning around he sent his left foot kicking backward. Turned out the attacker was also using his leg, so two legs collided, the attacker was thrown backward; luckily his bone was not broken, it looked like he had anticipated Ouyang Feng’s counterattack.

Ouyang Feng turned his head around only to see three old beggars standing on the tent’s entrance, they were the Beggar Clan’s three elders, Lu, Jian and Liang. Lu Youjiao swiftly moved toward Jian and Liang Zhanglao [Elders], then interlinked his arms with theirs. It was the Beggar Clan’s technique of combining power to fight a superior enemy using the-weak-subdue-the-strong method. During the Beggar Clan general assembly at Mount Jun to elect the new Bangzhu [Clan Leader] the other day, the Beggar Clan disciples had formed a human wall, rendering Guo Jing and Huang Rong helpless against them.

Ouyang Feng had never fought these three people, but from his first contact with Lu Youjiao’s leg he knew that Lu’s internal energy was not weak. The other two beggars looked not much different. If he fight Guo Jing one on one, he was certain he would win; but with the addition of these three stinky beggars he knew things would not end too good for him. He laughed a big laugh and said, “Dumb kid, your martial art has improved tremendously.”

He bent his legs and sat on the carpet, totally ignoring Lu Youjiao and the other two beggars. “What kind of agreement you want to make? Let me hear it,” he said.

“You want Miss Huang to explain the Nine Yin Manual to you,” Guo Jing said, “Whether she is willing to do that or not, it is entirely up to her; you must not harm even a single strand of her hair.”

Ouyang Feng laughed, “If she is willing, of course I won’t want to harm her in any way. Do you think it is easy to deal with the Old Heretic Huang?” he said, “But if she is not willing, how can it be that I can’t use a little bit of persuasion?”

Guo Jing shook his head, “No, you can’t.”

“Well, you want me to agree to this, what is there for me?” Ouyang Feng asked.

“From now on, if you fall into my hand, I will spare your life three times,” Guo Jing replied.

Ouyang Feng stood up, letting out a long laughter. His laugh was supported by a strong internal energy; it traveled far into the prairie. The horses were disturbed, they neighed and made commotion.

Guo Jing’s gaze pierced Ouyang Feng’s eyes, with a low voice he said, “This is not funny, and you know it. There will come a day you will fall into my hand.”

Although he was laughing Ouyang Feng was actually scared. He realized this kid knew the secret of the Nine Yin Manual, his martial art was improving by leaps and bounds; he really must not underestimate him. While his mouth was laughing, his mind had made a decision. “I, Ouyang Feng, am going to ask you, a stinky kid, for mercy? All right, let’s just wait and see,” he said with a smile.

Guo Jing extended his hand and said, “Once a gentleman said a word.”

Ouyang Feng smiled and replied, “Like a fast horse getting a whip.” He also extended his hand and patted Guo Jing’s hand three times. This was the way the people of Song Dynasty sealed their agreement; whoever broke it would be despised and disgraced for the rest of his life.

After sealing their agreement Ouyang Feng was about to interrogate Guo Jing on Huang Rong’s whereabouts some more, but suddenly with the corner of his eyes he caught a shadow moving outside the tent. That shadow was very swift; Ouyang Feng’s heart was stirred, quickly he went out the tent, but did not see anyone. He turned his head and said, “Within ten days I am going to visit you again. We’ll see whether you will spare my life, or will I spare yours?” With a loud laughter he moved swiftly, and a sort moment later his laughter was heard dozens of ‘zhang’s away.

Lu, Jian and Liang three elders looked at each other in astonishment, they thought, “This man’s martial art is really high. He is an extraordinary character, truly in par with our Hong Bangzhu.”

Guo Jing then told the three visitors the reason of Ouyang Feng’s visit. Lu Youjiao said, “He said Huang Bangzhu is in our army, that’s nonsense. If the Huang Bangzhu is here, how could we not know? Besides …”

Guo Jing sat back down, one hand supporting his cheek. “I actually think what he said is very reasonable. Oftentimes I have a feeling that Miss Huang is by my side; no matter how difficult the problem I am facing, she always gives me a wonderful solution. Only no matter what I think, I still can’t see her.” Speaking thus his eyes welled up with tears.

Lu Youjiao tried to console him, “Sir, please don’t worry, to be separated but for a moment, to be united forever in the future.”

“I have offended Miss Huang,” Guo Jing said, “I am afraid she won’t be willing to see me again. I don’t know what I must do to pay for this guilt.”

Lu, Jian and Liang three people looked at each other without saying anything.

Guo Jing continued, “Even if she is not willing to talk to me, if only she would let me see her once, I will be very much comforted.”

“Sir is tired, better go to bed soon,” Jian Zhanglao said, “Tomorrow morning we will discuss how we are going to deal with Ouyang Feng if he stirs up trouble again.”

The next morning the army continued their journey to the west. That evening after they pitched camp Lu Youjiao came and said, “Years ago Xiao Ren bought a painting in Jiangnan. I am a rough uneducated man, how could I comprehend the meaning behind this painting? While Sir is lonely in this army, Sir may enjoy this leisurely.” While speaking he put a roll of painting on the table.

Guo Jing unrolled the painting to take a look, he could not help but feeling astonished. The painting depicted a young maiden with a flower on her hair; she was sitting weaving silk on a loom. Her appearance resembled Huang Rong’s, only she looked distressed; her eyebrows were knitted together and her face looked thin and pale.

Guo Jing looked in surprise for half a day, he saw next to the picture were two lines of poem. The first one read, “Seven looms, in the springtime silkworms spit their raw silk, it is not easy to weave them into silk cloth. Do not use a pair of scissors so recklessly, otherwise the immortal ‘luan’ [a mythical bird] and the phoenix will be separated on two sides of the clothes.” The other one read, “Nine looms, a pair of flowers, a pair of leafs, and a pair of branches. From ancient time a shallow love often parts. From head to toe two hearts are bound together, passing through a strand of silk thread.” These two stanzas resembled the ‘si zhang ji’ [four looms/weaving machines] poem of Ying Gu, but the pain they carried was twice the ‘four looms’ had.

Although it was hard for Guo Jing to interpret the poem, he understood the ‘From ancient time a shallow love often parts’ part. After pondering it for half a day he thought, “This painting must be Rong’er’s handiwork; where did Lu Zhanglao get it from?”

He raised his head to ask, but Lu Youjiao had left early on. Hastily Guo Jing ordered his personal guard to summon him back. Lu Youjiao was persistent with what he said earlier, that he bought that painting at a bookstore in Jiangnan. Even if Guo Jing was ten times dumber, he’d know something was wrong. Lu Youjiao was a straightforward and rough warrior; how could he stroll into a bookstore and buy a painting? If the painting was a gift, he would throw it away without giving it a second thought. If he did buy it at a bookstore in Jiangnan, how come the maiden in the painting bore a very close resemblance to Huang Rong? But Lu Youjiao was determined not to reveal the truth; there was nothing he could do.

While he was hesitating, Jian Zhanglao walked in and whispered in his ears, “Just now Xiao Ren saw a shadow of a man moving on the tent toward our northeast; it swiftly disappeared without any trace. I am afraid that old scoundrel Ouyang Feng is going to sneak in tonight.”

“Good,” Guo Jing said, “We, four people will cooperate here to capture him.”

“Xiao Ren has an idea,” Jian Zhanglao said, “Let’s see if Sir will agree.”

“Any idea is good,” Guo Jing said, “Please tell me.”

Jian Zhanglao said, “This is a very ordinary idea: we dig a deep hole here, then we place twenty soldiers with bags of sand waiting outside. If he did not show up, consider him lucky, but if he did, I guarantee he can come but won’t be able to leave.”

Guo Jing was delighted, he thought that Ouyang Feng was very conceited, never considered others worthy to be looked at. This idea was an old trick, but actually very effective against somebody like him.

The three elders immediately supervised several soldiers to dig a very deep hole. The top of the hole was then covered with a rug, and a light wooden chair was placed on top of the rug. Twenty soldiers with sand bags in their hand were waiting outside the tent.

It was not uncommon for an army to dig holes in the desert, looking for water; so the activity was gone unnoticed.

The set up was completed and Guo Jing waited by the candlelight, reading. But Ouyang Feng did not show up that night. After pitching their camp the next day, again the three elders had some soldiers dug another hole, but again nothing happened that night. Toward the evening of the fourth day Guo Jing heard some strange noise among the tents; his heart was thumping fast. Suddenly there was a rustling noise outside his tent; with a long laugh Ouyang Feng walked inside his tent then casually walked toward the wooden chair.

‘Crack! Crack!’ with a loud noise both the man and the chair fell into the hole. The trap’s depth was about seven, eight ‘zhang’s [70 – 80 feet, about 25 meters], the mouth was narrow. Even if Ouyang Feng’s martial art were higher, how could he jump back up easily? Twenty soldiers swarmed the tent, and forty bags of sand were rapidly poured into the hole, burying Ouyang Feng’s body.

Lu Youjiao burst up in laughter, “Huang Bangzhu predicts like a deity …” he said.

Jian Zhanglao cast him a glance; Lu Youjiao closed his mouth immediately.

“What Huang Bangzhu?” Guo Jing quickly asked.

“Xiao Ren had a slip of tongue,” Lu Youjiao said, “I mean Hong Bangzhu. If Hong Bangzhu were here, he would have been delighted.”

Guo Jing stared at him, hard. He was about to ask another question when suddenly the soldiers outside his tent were shouting noisily. Guo Jing and the three elders quickly went out the tent to see the soldiers were pointing their fingers to the ground, shouting loudly. Guo Jing rushed forward to take a look, he saw the ground was rising up gradually, looked like something was trying to come out of the ground. Immediately Guo Jing realized what was going on, “With his excellent martial art Ouyang Feng is drilling the ground, trying to climb up,” he said. He commanded a dozen or so of his soldiers to ride their horses and trampled the ground at once.

The weight of the dozens or so soldiers and their horses was heavy enough to trample the raising ground back down. Even though Ouyang Feng’s strength was incredible he was not able to penetrate the ground, so the earth was slowly leveled up as before. To everybody surprise, in another location the ground was starting to rise again. The soldiers simply rode their horses to wherever the ground rose and trampled it flat.

Not too long afterwards the ground no longer rose anywhere. They assumed Ouyang Feng had lost his strength or even died of suffocation. Guo Jing ordered the soldiers to dismount their horses and dug the ground. It was already the first hour [between 11pm – 1 am]; the soldiers lifted up their torches high, they stood in a circle surrounding the digging.

About a dozen soldiers used spades and shovels dug a little over a ‘zhang’ before finally they saw Ouyang Feng was standing inside the sand. This location was a few ‘zhang’s away from the tent. Although the sand was soft, yet by using his bare hands Ouyang Feng was able to dig underground just like a mole. It was a demonstration of a very strong internal energy, truly extraordinary. The soldiers were astounded but full of admiration; they lifted him up and laid him on the ground.

Lu Youjiao probed him for breath, but felt his chest was still warm; he ordered the soldiers to get some iron chain to tie him up, for fear that Ouyang Feng would create problem once he was awake. Who would have thought that when he was crawling in the sand Ouyang Feng was unable to excavate his way upward because of the horses, he feigned death, thinking he would escape later. He suspended his own breath, and did not see Lu Youjiao stood beside him. But as soon as Lu Youjiao shouted his order to take some chain, Ouyang Feng leaped up, gave a loud shout, and grabbed Lu Youjiao’s main artery on his right hand.

It was a sudden change; a corpse went back to live. Everybody was shocked. Guo Jing rushed forward, his left hand pressed the ‘tao dao’ [pleasing talk] acupoint on Ouyang Feng’s back, while his right hand attacked the ‘ji zhong’ [spine’s central] acupoint on Ouyang Feng’s waist. These two were two main acupoints on the back; if Ouyang Feng was not buried under the ground, half-dead, and was very tired, how could he let his main acupoints be sealed that easily?

Ouyang Feng was startled, he swung his hand backward trying to fend off, but his acupoints were numb. He realized Guo Jing did not use his full strength; otherwise his internal organs would be shaken. Moreover, his hands and feet were weak; even if Guo Jing did not seal his acupoints still he would not be Guo Jing’s match. He was forced to let Lu Youjiao go and stood still.

“Mr. Ouyang,” Guo Jing said, “May I ask did you see Miss Huang?”

“I saw her shadow, that’s why I came looking for her,” Ouyang Feng replied.

“Did you see her clearly?” Guo Jing pressed.

Ouyang Feng hatefully said, “If that sly little girl is not in this, I bet you wouldn’t think of some clever trap like this.”

Guo Jing was silent for half a day, then he finally said, “You can go. I spare your life.” His right hand lightly waved, sending Ouyang Feng tumbled down a little over a ‘zhang’. He was afraid if he freed him in close proximity, Ouyang Feng would suddenly execute a counterattack.

Ouyang Feng turned around and said coldly, “I’ve never used any weapon dealing with a junior; but you are secretly helped by that sly girl of yours. She is very crafty. What happened to me tonight was the proof. I will be back within ten days with my snake staff. You have seen the vipers with your own eyes. Just watch out.” As soon as he finished speaking, Ouyang Feng flew away.

As Guo Jing looked at his shadow swiftly disappearing into the dark towards the north a chill crept up his spine. Remembering the venomous snake staff and the exquisiteness of Ouyang Feng’s stick technique very well; he could not refrain from feeling apprehensive. Although he had trained extensively in weaponry from the Six Freaks of Jiangnan, among those he had mastered none would be adequate to fight someone Ouyang Feng’s caliber; while it certainly was not a good idea to face the snake staff with his bare hands.

He was at a loss for a while; lifting up his eyes toward the sky he saw white snow flakes floating down in the darkness. Not long after he returned to his tent the weather turned cold. His soldiers started bonfires and got their horses inside their tents to protect them against the bitter cold weather outside.

The Beggar Clan people did not have any fur coats with them; with the sudden change in temperature they were forced to circulate their internal energy to keep their bodies warm. Right away Guo Jing ordered his troops to slaughter some sheep and make some leather coats. They were not as good as the tanned leather coats, but they helped the beggars to fight the cold.

The next day the weather turned even colder; the snow on the ground had turned into ice. The Khoresm’s army took advantage of this cold weather and made an attack; luckily Guo Jing had already anticipated this possibility. Using the ‘flying dragon’ formation they scored a big victory over the enemy; chasing them far into the night towards the snow-covered northern plains.

There was an ancient poem about the expedition to the west amidst a bitter cold weather: “The army general did not take out their golden armor at night. In the middle of the night the army set aside their spears, the wind blowing like a cutting knife. The sweats on the horses’ mane rose up like steam in the snow, the five-petal flower pattern on the (money) coin felt like ice, inside the tent the liquid ink to write letters froze over.”

Then there was another poem: “The soldiers and prisoners squeezed in the same station, the bones on the battlefield wrapped around the grassroots. Blowing wind like the blade of a sword sweeping wide, the horses’ hoofs got away from the frozen sand and stone.”

Guo Jing grew up in the northern desert, he was used to the bitter cold weather, but he remembered if Huang Rong were really in his army, she was raised in the south (Jiangnan), would she be able to withstand this bitter cold weather? His anxiety multiplied. The next several nights he roamed around the tents without alerting anybody; quietly investigate each and every tent, but not even Huang Rong’s shadow was to be seen.

Returning to his command-center tent, he saw Lu Youjiao was supervising the soldiers to dig another hole. “This Ouyang Feng is sly and alert, first time he fell into the trap, how can he fall for the second time?” Guo Jing asked.

“He would certainly think that we are going to prepare some other trap, but he would not expect us to prepare the same trap,” Lu Youjiao said, “It is called ‘a void inside a solid, and solid in an emptiness,’ an indiscernible combination of void and solid.”

Guo Jing cast a glance toward him, he thought, “You said leading little beggars did not need to use any military strategy, but you remembered the content of the military strategy book very well.”

Lu Youjiao continued, “But this man must have thought of a way to escape the sand piling on top of him, therefore, we must strive for a different method. We are going to use boiling water to soak him up.”

Guo Jing saw dozens of soldiers preparing about twenty big iron pots outside his tent. The soldiers used hatchets to break the ice and feed them into the pots using shovels. “Won’t he die of scalding?” Guo Jing asked.

“Sir had made an agreement with him that if he falls into your hands you will spare his life three times. But this time if he die from scalding, he won’t die in your hands, even if you want to spare his life you are powerless, therefore, it can’t be said that you break your promise,” Lu Youjiao reasoned.

Not too long afterwards the hole was dug, the mouth was covered with a rug, and a light wooden chair was placed on it. Outside the tent the soldiers were busy adding fuel to the fire underneath the pots; the ice were slowly melting into water, but the weather was just too cold; the water on the surface was slowly turning back into ice. “More heat, more heat!” Lu Youjiao urged.

Suddenly on the snow outside a shadow came lightning fast; Ouyang Feng with the stick in his hand had arrived on the tent’s entrance. “Dumb kid, whatever trap you prepared, your grandfather is not scared!” he said while flying toward the chair to sit.

Elders Lu, Jian, and Liang did not expect Ouyang Feng would arrive this soon; the ice inside the pots were barely melted into water; a very cold water, which certainly would not scald people to death. The water was even too cold to take a shower. They saw Ouyang Feng moved toward the chair, they could not help but feeling disappointed.

‘Crack!’ one more time with loud cursing the man and the chair fell into the hole. This time there were no sand bags around. With his level of martial art it was an easy matter for Ouyang Feng to climb back up. The three elders were helpless, they were afraid Guo Jing would be injured, “Sir, get out of the tent, quick!” they shouted in panic.

But suddenly somebody shouted from behind the tent, “Pour the water!” As soon as Lu Youjiao heard this voice, without hesitation he shouted, “Pour the water!” The soldiers lifted up the pots and poured the water into the hole.

Ouyang Feng was about to jump back up when the water from the first pot was poured over his head. He was shocked and was forced to fall back down. He used his snake staff as a brace against the bottom of the hole, and tried to jump up for the second time. This time he was prepared, he was sure he would not be forced to fall down by pouring water. Unexpectedly to him the weather was really cold, as the water left the pot it froze up immediately; as Ouyang Feng was jumping up, the water around his feet was turning into ice. With his incredible strength he tried to jump up, but ‘Bonk!’ he felt a shot of pain as his head was hit by a block of ice. He tried hard to kick around, but his feet were firmly buried in ice, he could not even move them. He was extremely shocked; with a loud shout he struggled with all his might; but just as his feet start to loosen up, his upper body was drenched in cold water, which also turned into ice.

The soldiers pouring the water had been trained well; four soldiers lifted the pot to pour water, while the other four-man teams were ready behind them. One team after another they pour water into the hole like a waterwheel. To protect themselves from the boiling water, each man bound a cloth on their faces. Who would have thought that the snow would not boil, but the cold water could also paralyze the enemy. In a short period of time twenty pots of water had been poured into the hole, forming a four, five ‘zhang’s and about seven feet in diameter ice column.

Everybody was excited, what they thought was a failure turned into a huge success. The three elders supervised the soldiers to dig around the hole; then tied a rope around the ice column. With the help of twenty horses the ice column was pulled up to the ground.

From all over the camp officers and soldiers alike came to the command-center tent to watch the marvelous sight. The soldiers joined their strength to raise the ice column up. Under the bright torch light they saw Ouyang Feng showing his teeth with an angry look on his face, his hands and feet splayed wide. He was frozen inside the ice column, could not move even one bit. The officers and soldiers erupted in thunderous applause.

Lu Youjiao was afraid with his profound internal energy Ouyang Feng would be able to melt the ice; he ordered the soldiers to melt some more ice and pour the water on the ice column to make it thicker.

“I had made an agreement with him, to spare his life three times. Break the ice, let him go!” Guo Jing ordered.

The three elders were disappointed, but a hero ought to keep his words, so they did not say anything. Lu Youjiao took a hammer and walked toward the ice column to break it when suddenly Jian Zhanglao called out, “Hold on!” He turned to Guo Jing and asked, “Sir, with his ability, how long do you think Ouyang Feng will survive inside the ice?”

“He might be able to survive for a couple of hours,” Guo Jing said, “Longer that that his life might be in danger.”

“Very well,” Elder Jian said, “Let him suffer two more hours. We can spare his life, but he has to suffer for a while.”

Remembering Ouyang Feng had killed his masters, Guo Jing nodded his head in approval.

The news traveled fast, officers and soldiers from other units heard about it and they came to watch. To the three elders Guo Jing said, “From the ancient times there was a saying, ‘a hero could be killed, but not humiliated.’ Although he is an evil man, but he is still a grandmaster of his martial art school. How can we let him be the laughingstock of others?” Straightaway he ordered his soldiers to erect a tent around the ice column and arranged a sentry duty. Nobody was allowed to enter the tent to see, not even a general.

Two hours later the three elders shattered the ice column, let Ouyang Feng free. Ouyang Feng sat cross-legged on the ground, circulating his energy. After vomiting three mouthfuls of dark blood he went away angrily.

Guo Jing and the three elders were watching him the whole two hours; although looked weary he was able to walk away just like that, he had made them sighed in admiration.

All this time Guo Jing was continuously in a daze. He was afraid when Ouyang Feng was still inside the ice column, but after Ouyang Feng was gone, he still could not calm his heart down.

He sat down, thinking hard. Never in his life had he felt so lonely, his heart was empty. He tried hard to think the reason behind it all. Suddenly it dawned on him that before Lu Youjiao issued the command to pour the water, he recalled hearing someone shouted in low voice, ‘Pour the water!’ He felt that voice was so familiar, he was 80, 90% certain that voice had Huang Rong’s accent; but because Ouyang Feng was falling into the trap that he was thinking of a more urgent matter and did not pay too much attention to the voice. ‘Pour the water!’ these words were buzzing in his ears while his heart was full of doubt. He sprang up and muttered, “Rong’er is really in the army. I have to examine everybody, officers and soldiers alike, not overlooking anyone. I am sure she won’t get away this time.” But then another thought came into his mind, “She doesn’t want to see me, why would I painstakingly force her to come out?” Unrolling the painting, he stared blankly at the girl in it; his heart was filled with bitter sweet feeling.

In the quiet night suddenly he heard hoof beats coming fast from afar. A short while later he heard his guard asked permission and soon a messenger entered his tent, bringing Genghis Khan’s military dispatch. Turned out the Mongolian army had advanced far into the enemy’s territory, enjoying victory everywhere they went. Just a few hundred ‘li’s to the west they would reach Khoresm’s fortified city of Samarkhand. Genghis Khan had learned that this city had become Khoresm’s new capital. It was defended by a large army of at least a hundred thousand strong with enough provision to last a long time. The defense was solid; the city wall had enjoyed a notorious reputation as unbreakable. Therefore, Genghis Khan ordered the four armies to join forces and attack simultaneously.

At daybreak the next day, Guo Jing’s army left their camp heading south along the river. In ten days they arrived outside Samarkhand’s city wall. Seeing Guo Jing’s small army, the enemy went out the city to engage them in fierce battle. With his ‘feng yang’ [scattering wind] and ‘yun chui’ [dangled cloud] Guo Jing managed to kill about five thousand enemy’s soldier in just half a day. With this defeat the Khoresm army was forced to go back inside their fortified city.

On the third day Genghis Khan’s big army, as well as Jochi’s and Chagatai’s, arrived one after another. More than a hundred thousand soldiers surrounded the city, attacking it from all directions. But Samarkhand’s defense was so tight; thousands of Mongolian soldiers and officers were wounded or dead, yet the city was still standing strong.

The next day Chagatai’s eldest son attempted to render meritorious merit; bravely he attacked the city wall, unfortunately an arrow was shot from the city wall, hit his head and he died. Genghis Khan loved this grandson, seeing him die in the battlefield his grief and anger was unspeakable. When the grandson’s personal guards brought his body over, Genghis Khan threw himself over the corpse with tears in his eyes, embracing his dead grandson. He pulled the arrow that killed him, only to see it was a wolf tooth arrow decorated with an eagle’s feather, the shaft was inlaid with gold, engraved with four characters, ‘da jin zhao wang’ [Prince Zhao Wang of the Great Jin]. The people around him who were literate read those words to him.

“Ah!” Genghis Khan angrily roared, “It’s that scoundrel Wanyan Honglie!” Leaping to his horseback he issued a decree, “All officers and soldiers, big and small, hear this: Anybody who is brave enough to break the city’s defense and capture Wanyan Honglie to avenge my grandson; the city’s women and children, jade and silk, everything is his.” A hundred riders immediately were dispatch everywhere to announce the Great Khan’s decree.

The other three armies heard this proclamation and their spirit rose; like a swarm of locust they attacked the city wall with earth-shattering battle cry. Some were trying to climb the wall barehanded; some were scaling ladders, some were throwing ropes with hook, some were using large tree trunk as a battering ram against the city gate. But the warriors on the city wall defended their city bravely. The battle continued until evening; the Mongolians had lost about four thousand men, yet the city of Samarkand was still standing like a mountain.

Since his military expedition against Khoresm started, this was Genghis Khan’s first major defeat. That night inside his tent he grieved over his beloved grandson’s death, his anger erupted like a thunder.

Guo Jing went back to his tent, browsing through his ‘Wumu’s Legacy’, trying to find a way to break the city; but Samarkhand was different from the cities in China, hence the methods described in the book were useless.

Guo Jing invited Lu Youjiao to his tent to discuss this situation. Knowing Lu Youjiao would go to Huang Rong for advice, as soon as he left the tent, Guo Jing followed behind. Who would have thought that Lu Youjiao had arranged Beggar Clan disciples to stand all the way from Guo Jing’s tent to his own? As they see Guo Jing, those disciples saluted him with loud voice.

Guo Jing understood immediately, “This must be another one of Rong’er’s schemes,” he thought, “Ay! She has always found a way to evade me. She is able to predict my every action and every movement accurately.”

More than two hours later, Lu Youjiao came back and reported, “This big city is really difficult to break, Xiao Ren has not found any good idea. Let us wait a few more days, perhaps an opportunity will present itself for us to attack.”

Guo Jing nodded without saying anything. When he left Mongolia heading south for the first time, he was just a naïve and simple-hearted youngster; but over the past year he had experienced misery, difficult and sometimes dangerous days. His experience had matured him tremendously. That night inside his tent he could not help but feel emotional as he quietly pondered the meaning of two lines of poems in the painting. He thought, “Rong’er must think I am heartless, she is waiting for me to apologize. Too bad I am stupid since the day I was born, I don’t know how to make amends, I don’t know how to do as she wishes.” Thinking these things he became more anxious than ever.

That night he could not sleep well, his thought was full of Huang Rong; he kept tossing and turning in his tent. It was after the third hour that he finally was able to sleep. He dreamt of meeting Huang Rong. He asked her how he could apologize to her. Huang Rong replied by whispering something in his ears. Guo Jing was elated, he woke up immediately; but then he could not remember what Huang Rong had said. He tried painstakingly to remember, but no such luck. He wanted to go back to sleep again and asked Huang Rong in his dream, but it seemed like the sleep had already left him.

Burning with anxiety he knocked his own head several times; suddenly he got an inspiration, “I can’t remember, but why don’t I ask her again?” He loudly shouted, “Quickly invite Lu Zhanglao to come over.”

Lu Youjiao thought what kind of urgent military affair would need his attention? Wrapping his body with the sheepskin he went barefooted to Guo Jing’s tent.

“Lu Zhanglao, no matter what I want to meet with Miss Huang tomorrow evening,” Guo Jing said, “I don’t care how you’d do it. Whether you come up with an idea yourself, or you ask others, but I want you to present me with a clever idea how I can see her. I give you until noon tomorrow.”

Lu Youjiao was flabbergasted. “Huang Bangzhu is not here, how can Sir meet with her?”

“You have a divine wisdom, you should be able to think of something,” Guo Jing replied, “If you can’t present a good idea by noon tomorrow, I am going to handle you according to the military law.” Being aware that he was speaking nonsense, Guo Jing was secretly amused.

Lu Youjiao was about to reason when Guo Jing turned his head to tell his guard, “Prepare a hundred soldiers to act as executioners tomorrow at noon.” His guard acknowledged with a loud voice.

Lu Youjiao looked distressed; dejectedly he walked back to his tent.

It was snowing heavily early morning the next day; the city wall was covered with ice, slick like oil. It was impossible to scale the wall. Genghis Khan withdrew his army that day. He thought the winter was coming, the coming days would get colder and colder; they wouldn’t see warmer days until the second or third month, which was still several months away. If he decided to leave this city and proceeded to the west, then he would practically leave around a hundred thousand enemies behind him, with a potential to cut his way back to Mongolia. But if he stationed some of his army to guard the city, he was afraid the enemy would get some enforcement then his troops would be overwhelmed by sheer numbers. Once a battle broke, his troops might be scattered in this foreign land and he would lost considerable men and horses.

Genghis Khan paced back and forth in front of his tent with his hands behind his back. He was lost in thought and stared blankly at the snow-covered peak on which the city was built. That peak was so high that it reached to the clouds above. Genghis Khan creased his brows. He saw the peak was extremely weird; it towered alone in the middle of a desert. There was no vegetation grew on it, the locals called it ‘tu mu feng’ [the bald wooden peak]. Samarkhand was built leaning on this peak, the foothill was actually served as the west city wall. He imagined whoever built this city must have spared no expense; the military strategists and the builders who designed this city must have had incredible ability and wisdom. This hill was very steep, practically a huge solid rock, nothing could grow on it; even monkeys or apes had no way of climbing it up. Samarkhand had this kind of truly impenetrable defense.

Genghis Khan thought, “Ever since the start of my military career, I have been in hundreds of battles, big and small; yet I have never faced as difficult situation as I have today. I wonder if the Heaven is going to cut me short?” He sat on the horseback, staring blankly at the falling snowflakes. The tents were covered with snow; while inside the city smokes went up the chimneys. Everything just added to his misery.

Guo Jing’s mind was filled with another kind of apprehension; he was wondering if his brute force method of forcing Huang Rong to show herself would actually make her hate him even more. What if Lu Youjiao had determined not to open his mouth? Certainly he could not behead him, could he?

It was almost noon, with composed face Guo Jing sat in his tent; while on the either sides of the tent stood the executioners, waiting. Then the bugle sounded, announcing it was noon.

Lu Youjiao walked into the tent, “Xiao Ren has thought of an idea, but I am afraid Sir would find it difficult to do,” he said.

Guo Jing was delighted, “Tell me, quick! I don’t care even if it requires my life. What’s so difficult?” he asked.

Lu Youjiao pointed to the peak of the ‘bald wooden peak’ and said, “Tonight about a quarter to midnight, Huang Bangzhu will be waiting there.”

Guo Jing was silent. “How can she climb there?” he asked, “Aren’t you just making a fool out of me?”

“Didn’t I say from the start it’s not going to be easy?” Lu Youjiao said, “Even if I invented an ingenious plan, it would be in vain anyway.” Finished speaking he made a bow, turned around and walked out the tent.

Guo Jing thought, “Sure enough it was Huang Rong’s words; she is calling me useless. This bald peak is a lot steeper than the Iron Palm Peak, the Mongolian cliff was nothing compared to it. I wonder if there is a deity on the peak who will hang down a rope for me to climb?”

Dejectedly he dismissed the executioners then walked toward the peak, staring blankly at the top. He noticed that from top to bottom the peak did not show any difference, its surface was covered with a thick layer of ice, looked like a slippery crystal, much like the ice column enclosing Ouyang Feng the other day. It was an out-of-this-world mountain, other than birds, no man or beast would be able to reach the top.

Guo Jing looked up to the peak; suddenly ‘splat!’ his fur cap fell on the snow. In an instant a thought came flashing in his mind, “If I can’t see Rong’er, it would be better to die anyway. Although this peak is dangerous, I should risk my life climbing it. Even if I fall down and die, I would still die for her.” Once he reached a decision he felt better immediately.

That evening he ate until he was full; then he inserted a dagger on his waist and slung a coil of rope on his back. It was not dark yet when he walked out his tent. To his surprise he saw the three elders Lu, Jian, and Liang were waiting outside, they said, “Xiao Ren will see Sir off to the peak.”

“See me off to the peak?” Guo Jing was confused.

“Certainly,” Lu Youjiao said, “Doesn’t Sir have an appointment to meet Huang Bangzhu on the peak tonight?”

Guo Jing was pleasantly surprised, “So Rong’er is not deceiving me after all,” he thought. With a delighted heart he walked along the three elders to the ‘bald wooden peak’.

He saw dozens of his soldiers were waiting by the peak with dozens of cattle and sheep. Lu Youjiao said, “Butcher!”

The soldier lifted up his saber and slashed the sheep’s hind leg. While the blood was still warm, the leg was planted on the peak’s wall. The blood froze in short time, the leg was firmly planted on the stone wall, then it was further reinforced with iron nails.

Guo Jing had not understood yet what they were doing. Another soldier chopped the other sheep’s hind leg and stuck it to the wall, approximately four feet above the first one. Guo Jing was delighted, he understood now that the three elders were making sheep legs ladder. It was cruelty against the animals, but there was simply no better way of doing this.

He saw Lu Youjiao leaped vertically up and perched on the second leg; Jian Zhanglao chopped the next sheep leg and tossed it upward, Lu Youjiao stuck the leg to the wall. Several legs later, this ‘sheep ladder’ had reached dozens of ‘zhang’s high; when the legs were chopped on the ground and tossed up, they would freeze up by the time they reached their destination. Guo Jing helped the three elders hung the rope down. They hoisted the sheep up alive and butcher them just before sticking up their legs on the wall.

As the ‘sheep ladder’ had reached about a half way up, they felt the wind was a lot stronger compared to the ground. Fortunately these four were martial art experts; their bodies slightly swayed, but their feet were steadily planted on the legs. Still, for fear that they might skid on the legs and lose their footing they tied a long rope on their waists, so the four of them would be able to help each other in case of an accident.

They were busy working until almost midnight when finally the ‘sheep ladder’ reached the peak. The three elders no doubt were exhausted, while Guo Jing himself was sweating profusely. Lu Youjiao was panting and smiling at the same time, “Sir, can you forgive Xiao Ren?” he asked.

Guo Jing felt bad, but also grateful, “I really don’t know how to repay three gentlemen’s kindness,” he said.

“It was Bangzhu’s idea, even if it is more difficult than it was, we still would have to obey. Who told us to have such a cunning and weird Bangzhu?” Lu Youjiao said. Three elders burst in laughter, turned around and slowly descended the peak.

Only after watching the three elders step by step scaling the hillside safely that Guo Jing turned around and saw the magnificent scenery on the hilltop. Ten thousands years of cold had created a world of crystal of many colors; some resembled reddish-green flowers and grass; some resembled strange beast or exotic birds; some resembled a forest of rocks; some resembled tree branches or bamboo grooves. Guo Jing enjoyed the scenery with amazement; his heart was full of praises.

Thinking that very soon Huang Rong would climb the ‘sheep ladder’ to see him, his blood rushed through his body, giving him a warm, fuzzy feeling, making his cheeks red. He was in daze. Suddenly he heard a girl’s soft giggle. This giggle was like an electric shock surged through Guo Jing. He turned around quickly, and saw under the moonlight a young girl smiled sweetly looking at him. Who else if not Huang Rong? Although Guo Jing knew perfectly well that she had promised to see him there, but to actually see her in person, he felt like he was dreaming.

Two people stared at each other for a moment then both of them rushed toward each other, ignoring the slippery cold ice of the peak; because of their grief and joy, they ran and slipped together. Guo Jing was afraid Huang Rong might be injured, before he even touched the ground he kicked back and propelled his body forward, grabbing her, embracing her in his arms. They had been separated for more than a year and they missed each other like crazy. This time they meet again, how could they not be happy?

After quite a while Huang Rong gently pried herself loose. They sat side by side on a round-stone-like ice block. “If I did not see how crazily you missed me, I wouldn’t want to see you,” she said.

Guo Jing only stared at her, did not say even half a word. After a long time he opened his mouth, “Rong’er.”

“Mmm?” Huang Rong answered.

Guo Jing was extremely joyful; he called again, “Rong’er.”

Huang Rong smiled, “Haven’t you called me enough?” she asked, “These past few days, even though I was not with you, haven’t you called me dozens of times every day?”

“How did you know?” Guo Jing asked.

Huang Rong smiled again, “You could not see me, but actually I saw you quite often.”

“You are always in our army, how come you did not let me see you?” Guo Jing asked.

“You still have a face to ask me?” Huang Rong was angry. “Once you found out I am alive and well, aren’t you going to marry that Princess Huazheng? I’d rather not let you know my whereabouts. Do you think I am dumb?”

As soon as he heard she mentioned the name ‘Huazheng’ Guo Jing’s delight was gone; his face looked so depressed that Huang Rong quickly looked around and said, “That crystal palace is so beautiful, let us go inside and find someplace to sit and chat.”

Guo Jing followed her gaze and saw a bulk solid ice resembling a cavern; under the dim moonlight it glowed beautifully. It did look like a big crystal block carved into a palace. Two people walked hand in hand entering the cave, and then found someplace to sit on.

“Speaking about how you treated me on the Peach Blossom Island, tell me, should I forgive you?” Huang Rong said.

Guo Jing stood up and said, “Rong’er, let me kowtow to you a hundred times to apologize.” He was serious, immediately knelt down and started kowtowing.

Huang Rong sweetly smiled, held out her hands to stand him up. “Let it be. If I haven’t forgiven you, I wouldn’t want to crawl to this peak even if you chop Lu Youjiao’s head a hundred times!”

Guo Jing was really happy, “Rong’er, you are really good.”

“What are you talking about good or not good?” Huang Rong said, “Originally I thought you wholeheartedly wanted to avenge your masters, certainly you don’t have the least of me in your heart; naturally I was really angry! Later on I learned about how you strike an agreement with Ouyang Feng; you are willing to spare his life three times for my sake. Only then did I know that you still have me in your heart.”

Guo Jing shook his head, “I can’t believe it’s only now that you know my heart.”

Huang Rong pursed her lips and smiled, “Did you see what I am wearing?” she asked.

Thus far Guo Jing’s eyes only looked at Huang Rong’s face; only after Huang Rong mentioned it that he turned his gaze to her clothes. Turned out she was wearing the black sable fur coat that he gave her when they first met at Zhangjiakou [Kalgan?]. His heart was moved, he held out his hand and tightly hold Huang Rong’s hand.

Two people sat leaning to each other for a moment. Finally Guo Jing broke the silence, “Rong’er, Da Shifu [First Master] said that you were captured by Ouyang Feng at the Temple of the Iron Spear; how did you manage to escape from his hand?”

Huang Rong sighed. “I feel sorry for Lu Shige’s [Martial (older) Brother] nice Cloud Village. The Old Poison wanted me to explain the Nine Yin Manual for him. I said the explanation is not difficult, but I needed a good and quiet place. The Old Poison said if that was the case, we would find some secluded temple. I said Buddhist monks are disgusting, I don’t like eating vegetarian food. The Old Poison then asked what I wanted. I said nearby Lake Tai there was a place called the Cloud Village; the scenery is beautiful, the food and wine are superb. The only thing is that the village master is my friend; it made him rather suspicious.”

“That’s right,” Guo Jing said, “Did he decide not to go?”

“No, he is arrogant,” Huang Rong said, “He is never afraid of other people. The more I told him, the more he wanted to go. He said no matter how many friends I have, the Old Poison would face them all. When we arrived at the Cloud Village, actually Lu Shige father and son were not home; they went north of the river to the city of Baoying, to visit their in-laws, Cheng Da Xiaojie’s [Eldest Miss Cheng] family. You know that the Zhuangzhu [Village Master] had learned building technique from my father according to the ‘wu xing ba gua’ [five ways eight diagram]. As soon as the Old Poison stepped into the village, he felt something was not right. He wanted to pull me out of there, but I entered to the east and turned to the west, very soon he lost my track. Hard as he tried, he could not find me, and in his anger he burned the Cloud Village down.”

“Ah!” Guo Jing gasped, “I did stop by the Cloud Village looking for you, but I found it in rubble. Turned out it was the Old Poison’s doing.”

“I knew he was going to destroy the village,” Huang Rong said, “So I warned everybody to get out. Although he could not catch me, the Old Poison is really evil and cruel. He guarded the way toward the Peach Blossom Island, hoping to catch me there. Several times I was nearly caught. Afterwards I ran to the north, toward the Mongolian border, and he followed. ‘Sha gege’ [dumb big brother], luckily you are dumb. If you are as smart as the Old Poison, you two will surround me from both directions. I may not know where to hide.”

Guo Jing simply blushed and smiled stupidly.

“But finally you are getting smarter, you knew how to push Lu Youjiao to think of something,” Huang Rong said.

“Rong’er, it was you who taught me,” Guo Jing said.

Huang Rong was astonished, “I taught you?”

“You taught me in a dream,” Guo Jing replied. Then he told her the dream he had the other night.

This time Huang Rong did not laugh at him, in fact, her heart was moved. She said quietly, “The people of ancient times used to say that perfect honesty and sincerity could open up metal and stone. You think about me and miss me this much; I should’ve let you see me sooner.”

“Rong’er,” Guo Jing said, “Later on you will never leave me forever, won’t that be good?”

Huang Rong swept her gaze around the marvelous structures cluttered on the peak. “Jing Gege, I am cold,” she suddenly said.

Guo Jing hastily took his own fur coat off and wrapped it on Huang Rong’s body. “Let us go down,” he said.

“All right,” Huang Rong said, “We’ll come back here tomorrow night. I am going to explain the Nine Yin Manual in detail for you.”

Guo Jing was astounded, “What?” he asked.

Huang Rong’s right hand was still holding Guo Jing’s left hand; she squeezed her hand and said, “My father has translated the last part of the manual, where the sentences were jumbled. I’ll explain everything to you tomorrow night.”

“This Sanskrit part is obviously translated by Reverend Yideng,” Guo Jing thought, “Why did she say it was his father?” He was full of doubts, was about to ask again when Huang Rong squeezed his hand one more time. He knew there must be a reason, so he agreed without asking anymore questions. Two people went down the peak.

Once they were in his tent, Huang Rong whispered in his ear, “Ouyang Feng also climbed the ‘bald wooden peak’, he hid behind us as we speak, secretly listening to us.”

Guo Jing was startled, “Ah! I didn’t even know he was there.”

“He was hiding behind a huge ice block,” Huang Rong said, “The Old Poison is extremely crafty, but this time he forgot that the ice is transparent, it could not conceal anything. It was not until the moonlight shone on it did I see a blurry shadow behind it.”

“So you talked about the Nine Yin Manual was actually for his benefit,” Guo Jing said.

“Hmm, I want to lure him to the peak, then we remove the ‘sheep ladder’; let’s see if he can meditate to become an immortal on that mountain peak, maybe he’ll become a deity,” Huang Rong said.

Guo Jing was very happy; he clapped his hands and cheered.

The next day Genghis Khan attacked the city again. Another thousand or so Mongolian soldiers died. The Khoresm soldiers on the city wall threw some insults and cursed their enemy. Genghis Khan flew into rage; but sweeping the battlefield with his eyes he saw the dead body of Mongolian soldiers and horses; he was upset.

That very evening Guo Jing, Huang Rong and the three Beggar Clan Elders readied themselves, they only had to wait for Ouyang Feng to climb the peak, then they would destroy the sheep ladder immediately. Who would have thought that Ouyang Feng was so cunning and had anticipated this; as long as Guo Jing and Huang Rong did not climb up, he also stayed down, hiding.

Huang Rong was forced to think of something else. She took some ropes and soaked them in oil. Khoresm was rich in petroleum; more than a thousand years ago the people dug a well to find water, but they found oil instead. Since then the people had used oil to cook their meals. The Mongolian army had seized several barrels of this oil and used them as fuel.

Jing and Rong, two people climbed to the peak with ropes soaked in oil on their back. Then they hid the ropes behind a big ice block. Two people sat inside the crystal palace talking to each other. Not too long afterwards they saw Ouyang Feng’s indistinct shadow appeared behind a big ice block. His lightness kungfu had been trained to perfection; he was extremely quiet, he never expected those two people to be aware that he was there.

Right away Huang Rong started talking about the manual, which they discussed earnestly. Of course they were discussing the real Manual. Ouyang Feng listened attentively, he found the manual was really marvelous; could not help but feeling ecstatic. He thought even if he compelled this little girl to explain, she might not tell him the whole thing, but right now he was eavesdropping he felt very fortunate.

Huang Rong slowly explained, and Guo Jing pretended to ask a lot of questions. Ouyang Feng thought, “He did not get such a simple truth, he is really stupid.”

Suddenly the horn was sounded urgently on the ground. Guo Jing jumped up immediately, “The Great Khan summons the generals, I have to go,” he called out. Actually it was a false alarm; he had made this arrangement in advance.

“We’ll go down together,” Huang Rong said.

“We are going up and down this peak, so much hassle,” Guo Jing said, “Can’t we do it inside my tent?”

“No, that Old Ouyang Feng has been looking for me everywhere, he is so cunning; it is extremely difficult to find a place to hide from him,” Huang Rong said, “But even if he were ten times more cunning, definitely he won’t guess that we are able to come up to this peak.”

Ouyang Feng was really smug, he thought, “Hey, this tiny, tiny peak is nothing; even if you run to the end of the earth I will still chase you.”

“Then you’d better wait here,” Guo Jing said, “I should be finished within an hour or so; I’ll hurry back up here.”

Huang Rong nodded her approval.

Without saying anything else Guo Jing climbed down the peak. He was a little bit apprehensive about leaving Huang Rong alone on the top with Ouyang Feng, but he thought Ouyang Feng must be dying to listen to the Manual’s secret; certainly he would not harm Huang Rong yet.

About the time needed to eat a bowl of rice later Huang Rong stood up and thought aloud, “Why is Jing Gege not back yet? I wonder if there are ghosts on this peak. Maybe Yang Kang or Ouyang Ke’s ghosts are here. I think I’d better go down, I’ll comeback with Jing Gege later on.”

Ouyang Feng was afraid she might see him, he curled up behind the ice block, did not dare to move even so slightly. He saw Huang Rong was climbing down the peak.

Guo Jing and the three elders were waiting on the ground. As soon as Huang Rong was down, they lighted a fire and burned the rope. Turned out when Guo Jing went down, he wrapped the oil-soaked rope on each of the sheep legs. As the rope was burned, the heat melted the ice that held the legs frozen to the wall, so that the legs dropped one by one to the ground.

The fire slowly crept upward along the winding rope. The dark night made the fire’s reflection on the snow and ice looked frighteningly beautiful. Huang Rong clapped her hands in delight and asked, “Jing Gege, would you say we should spare his life this time?”

“This is the third time,” Guo Jing said, “We can’t break our agreement.”

Huang Rong smiled, “I have an idea,” she said, “You don’t have to break your agreement, but you can kill him to avenge your masters.”

Guo Jing was delighted, “Rong’er, you are always full of ideas,” he said, “Tell me your marvelous idea.”

Huang Rong smiled, “It’s not difficult,” she said, “We let the Old Poison eats the northwest wind for ten whole days and nights; let him freeze and starve, he will be dead tired. Then we rebuild the ‘sheep ladder’, help him get back down. That will be the third time we spare his life, won’t it?”

“That’s correct,” Guo Jing said.

“You have spared his life three times by then, you don’t have to show leniency anymore,” Huang Rong said. “We wait here on the ground. As soon as he is down, we can start fighting him. We will have the three elders’ help; so with five people against a half-dead man, you say can we kill him?”

“We certainly can,” Guo Jing said, “But this way we are not acting too gentlemanly, don’t you think?”

“Hey,” Huang Rong scolded, “Do we need to talk gentlemanly toward this kind of evil and cruel man? Did he act gentlemanly when he killed your five masters?”

Thinking about his benevolent masters’ cruel death, Guo Jing was enraged. He also thought that Ouyang Feng’s skill was so high that if he let him off this time, he might not find another opportunity to seek revenge. Therefore, he gritted his teeth and said, “Very well, let’s do it.”

Two people went inside the tent. This time they discussed the Nine Yin Manual for real. They found out that the other party’s martial art was progressing tremendously, they were really grateful.

After the discussion Guo Jing said, “That traitor Wanyan Honglie is inside the city wall. We know he is there, but there is nothing we can do. Can you think of some marvelous way to break the city’s defense?”

Huang Rong was doubtful. “These past several days I have been racking my brain,” she said, “I can think of at least a dozen ways to do it, but none of these guarantees victory.”

Guo Jing replied, “Within the Beggar Clan there are some brothers, perhaps a dozen of them, whose lightness kungfu is superb. What if they plus we, two people, try to climb the city wall?”

Huang Rong shook her head. “Not that easy,” she said, “Every ‘zhang’ of the wall is heavily guarded by soldiers with bows and arrows. Let’s not talk about climbing the wall; once inside, there are more than a hundred-thousand troops. We can’t even force our way to open up the gate.”

Two people talked all night long; they did not even go to sleep.

The next day Genghis Khan attacked the city again. About ten thousand Mongolian soldiers used rock-throwers, rained the city with large rocks. But the soldiers defending the city took shelter inside blockhouses; the stones devastated the common people’s residences, but the casualty among the defending troops was actually only a few. The attack went on until the third day. The Mongolian army had used hundreds of different tactics, but so far the result was minimal.

On the fourth day snowflakes came floating down from the sky. Guo Jing looked up the peak and said, “I think we don’t have to wait for ten days, Ouyang Feng would be frozen to half-dead.”

“His internal energy is very profound,” Huang Rong said, “Chances are he will survive for ten days.” She was just closing her mouth when both of them cried out in alarm; something was falling from the peak, it looked like Ouyang Feng.

Huang Rong clapped her hands, “The Old Poison can’t take it anymore, he is killing himself!” she said; but straight away she called out in wonder, “Uh, strange! How did he do that?” Ouyang Feng did not fall straight down, but his body was floating in the sky like a kite.

Jing and Rong, two people were extremely astonished; how could someone fall from thousands of ‘zhang’ tall mountain peak did not meet a violent death, but floating slowly instead? Could it be the Old Poison possessed some witchcraft?

In the meantime, Ouyang Feng had fallen further down. Now two people could see clearly that he was naked, but there were two balloon-like things on top of his head. Suddenly Huang Rong understood what was going on, “It’s too bad!” she called out.

Turned out when Ouyang Feng was stranded on the ‘bald wooden peak’, although his martial art was profound, he knew he could not slide down this thousand-zhang peak. After enduring several days of hunger and cold he had a sudden inspiration. He stripped down to his underpants and firmly tied his trousers into knots. Afraid that his trousers might not be enough, he took the robe and tied it to his pants, then tied the whole thing onto his waist. Clenching up his teeth he jumped down from the mountain peak.

It was an extremely risky endeavor, but he was desperate; he had no other alternative. Once he jumped from the peak, his pair of trousers ballooned up and weakened his fall. He was naked, his hands were nearly frozen; he fought the cold and the wind by circulating his deep internal energy.

Huang Rong was amused and upset at the same time; momentarily she was at lost on how to deal with this new development.

By this time both armies inside and outside the city wall had found out about this; tens of thousand pairs of eyes looked up to see this flying man in the sky. Many low-ranking soldiers thought it was a deity descending to the earth; they all knelt down on the ground, worshiping.

Guo Jing saw the direction Ouyang Feng was falling; looked like he was going to land inside the city wall. He waited until Ouyang Feng was dozens of ‘zhang’s away, then grabbing an iron bow and an arrow he shot Ouyang Feng’s body. He thought being airborne, Ouyang Feng would not be able to fend off; however, he still remembered his agreement to spare Ouyang Feng’s life three times, so he aimed at a non-fatal spot; Ouyang Feng’s thigh.

While he was airborne, however, Ouyang Feng opened his eyes wide, looking to all directions. He saw the arrow coming his way, he bent his waist, swept his legs and struck down Guo Jing’s arrows one by one.

Although in a different army unit, Genghis Khan was also aware of Guo Jing’s agreement. He ordered his troops to shoot arrows. Immediately tens of thousands arrows shot out like a swarm of locusts flying toward Ouyang Feng.

Even if he had a thousand hands and ten thousands legs, it was no way Ouyang Feng could knock all the arrows down. He was naked, and being airborne his movement was limited; perhaps very soon he would look like a porcupine. In this dire situation Ouyang Feng let his hands go, he fell down head first to the ground. Hundreds of thousands people shouted with one voice, the noise was earth-shattering.

Amazingly Ouyang Feng flexed his waist midair and threw himself toward a flag inside the city. That time the northwesterly wind was blowing very strong, the flag fluttered straight from west to east. Ouyang Feng stretched out his left hand and grabbed the corner of the flag, tearing it into two pieces. Borrowing the strength of the flag, Ouyang Feng made a somersault, hurling his legs toward the flag pole. Hugging the pole he slid downward and vanished inside the city wall.

Both armies witnessed this marvelous show, they talked about it to each other, momentarily forgot they are in the midst of a battle.

“This can’t be considered sparing his life,” Guo Jing thought, “How can I still have to spare his life next time? Rong’er must be very upset.” Who would have thought that as he turned his head he saw Huang Rong’s eyes were gleaming with smile on her face. Quickly he asked, “Rong’er, what’s wrong? Why are you so happy?”

Huang Rong clapped her hands and laughed, “I present to you a great gift, wonder if you’ll like it or not?”

“What gift?” Guo Jing asked.

“The City of Samarkhand,” Huang Rong replied.

Guo Jing was dumbstruck.

“The Old Poison has taught me a method to break the city’s defense,” Huang Rong said, “Go and prepare your troops. Tonight you will render a great service.” Then she whispered in Guo Jing’s ear, explaining what to do next. Once he understood, Guo Jing was so happy that he repeatedly cheered and applauded.

That afternoon Guo Jing issued a secret order, assigned his troops to take their tents down and cut them into round umbrella shapes; then to tie leather ropes to this umbrella. He wanted ten thousands of umbrellas to be sewn and ready within an hour.

All the officers and soldiers were puzzled. They thought without tents in this bitter cold weather, the nights were unendurable. But the commander-in-chief had issued an order; they had no alternative but to comply.

Guo Jing also ordered his army to gather the cattle and sheep under the snowy peak. Furthermore he assigned a ten thousand men unit to be ready outside the north gate in four battle formations: ‘tian fu’ [sky high], ‘di zai’ [strong earth], ‘feng yang’ [scattered wind], and ‘yun chui’ [dangling cloud]; ready to assault the enemy. Then he placed another ten thousand men unit on the either sides of the north gate in four battle formations: ‘long fei’ [flying dragon], ‘hu yi’ [winged tiger], ‘niao xiang’ [soaring bird], and ‘she pan’ [coiled snake]. Their main assignment was to drive the enemy into the first unit’s ambush. The third ten thousand men unit was readied on the side to be deployed later.

That evening Guo Jing’s troops ate their provisions until everybody was satisfied, then the two ten-thousand men units moved to their appointed position on the north gate. Around the end of the eleventh hour, early the twelfth hour [approximately 9pm] Guo Jing dispatched one of his guards to report to the Great Khan, asking him to dispatch the army to surround the city, for the gates were about to be broken. Genghis Khan was surprised, he was doubtful. He told the guard to go and summon Guo Jing to his Golden Tent. That guard replied, “The Golden Blade Consort [jin dao fu ma] at this very moment has already led his troops to launch an attack. He is waiting for the Great Khan to render assistance.”

Right around that moment a horn sounded from the direction of Guo Jing’s troops; about a thousand soldiers started to butcher the cattle and the sheep, building the sheep ladder on the peak wall. The Beggar Clan disciples with their high level of martial arts skill went up and down lending their hands; very soon dozens of ‘sheep ladders’ were constructed.

Guo Jing shouted his command, and was the first to go up the peak. Ten thousand officers and soldiers followed, with long ropes tied to their waists, slowly climbing up the ladder. They were all under a strict order that was issued earlier not to make any noise at all.

In the dark night dozens of long strings of soldiers crawling and twisting like gigantic dragon slithering up the peak.

The top was actually not very wide, so it was impossible to hold ten thousand men at once. As soon as he had gathered enough people, Guo Jing led the soldiers to tie the umbrella to their waist; then with unsheathed weapons in their hands they were ready to leap into the city. Their target was the south gate.

With a clap of his hands Guo Jing was the first to jump down, followed by several hundreds of the Beggar Clan disciples.

Actually this jumping down from the peak was very dangerous, but the Mongolian soldiers were very brave. Earlier that day they saw Ouyang Feng had jumped from the peak with a pair of trousers as his parachute; they believed their umbrellas were a lot safer than the trousers; moreover, their commander-in-chief had given them the example; therefore, one by one they leaped down courageously. Very soon the sky was full with thousands of blooming parachutes, taking the officers and soldiers slowly down.

Huang Rong was sitting on an ice block on the peak. She saw the first phase of their plan was successfully completed; she could not help but feeling ecstatic. “Whether Genghis Khan can break the city defense or not, it has nothing to do with me. But if Jing Gege listens to what I say, he can seize the opportunity to do great things.”

Once his feet landed on the ground Guo Jing tore the parachute from his waist, brandishing his big saber he fiercely swept the defending troops. By that time there were some defending troops on night watch duty. They saw thousands of enemy troops descending from the sky; they were amazed and scared, they lost their will to fight. Moreover, those who landed first were the Beggar Clan disciples, each one skilled in martial art. In a short moment they were approaching the city gate.

After that the Mongolian army successively landed. Although there were some soldiers who lost their lives because their parachutes failed to open, but in ten soldiers, nine actually made it to the ground safe and sound. Some of them were blown away by the strong wind and landed outside the city gate; some landed separate from their unit, these soldiers were either captured or killed by the enemy. But those who landed successfully were numbered around one or two thousands. Guo Jing ordered half of them to fight the enemy, while the other half moved toward the city gate.

Genghis Khan saw Guo Jing’s troops flew into the city, he was amazed and pleasantly surprised. He ordered all three units of his army to attack concurrently. They saw the south gate was widely open; several hundreds Mongolian soldiers with spears in their hands guarded the gate, letting several thousands of their companions enter the city; and then they immediately joined themselves with Guo Jing’s troops, decimating the enemies.

The hundred-thousand defending troops were in panic; they did not know where the enemy came from. The Mongolians killed and splashed oil everywhere, setting the city on fire. The inferno reached the sky, Khoresm army was in total chaos.

It was almost dawn, the defending troops were scattered everywhere. The Khoresm king, Muhammad, received a report that there was no enemy at the north gate, so he rushed to the north to escape. Unexpectedly to him, Guo Jing’s ten thousand men had already waited at the either sides of the north gate; arrows and spears moved and made a great kill.

Muhammad did not want to prolong the fight. He ordered Wanyan Honglie to command the defending troops, while he took his personal guards trying to save his own life.

Guo Jing’s sole purpose was to find Wanyan Honglie; seeing his golden helmet flashing among the chaotic battle, Guo Jing ordered his troops to hunt him down. The Khoresm army knew they had lost, but their number was greater; they fought desperately, almost to the point of disregarding their own lives. Guo Jing’s troops were smaller, their movement was hindered. From the front came a fast horse reporting that the enemy troops soon would make a break through.

Guo Jing remembered the military strategy book had this saying, “Do not eat enemy’s bait, do not stop retreating troops. Surrounded troops are not necessarily weak, exhausted enemy should not be pursued too far.” He issued an order to change tactic immediately. His signal flag unfolding, the four formations: sky, earth, wind and cloud, dispersed to surround the enemy. By that time the enemy troops remained around the palace was about ten thousand men; although all were warriors, but they realized the imminent defeat and had lost their fighting spirit; they were easily captured by Guo Jing’s troops.

Guo Jing examined the prisoners, but did not see Wanyan Honglie among them. Even though he had achieved victory, but his heart was unavoidably discontented.

By daybreak the city defense was completely destroyed. Genghis Khan held a general assembly inside Muhammad’s imperial palace. Guo Jing was in the process of going through his troops, taking care of the dead and comforting the wounded, when he heard the Great Khan’s golden horn sounded. Immediately he rushed toward the royal palace.

By the palace gate he saw a small squad of soldiers; Huang Rong, Lu Youjiao and the other elders were standing among them. Huang Rong clapped her hands and two soldiers stepped forward carrying a big gunnysack. She smiled and said, “Hey, can you guess what’s inside this sack?”

Guo Jing laughed, “This city has all kinds of strange and wonderful things, how can I guess?” he said.

“This one is my gift to you, I am sure you will like it,” Huang Rong said.

Suddenly Guo Jing remembered; could it be that she found a good looking woman in the city and gave her to him as a joke? Quickly he shook his head, “I don’t want it,” he said.

Huang Rong laughed, “Are you sure?” she asked. “You can’t change your mind after you see it.”

Immediately she shook the sack and indeed somebody rolled out of it. His hair was disheveled, his face was full of blood; he was wearing a Khoresm army uniform. Guo Jing looked at his face intently, and to his awe, found out that he was the Great Jin’s Prince Zhao, Wanyan Honglie. Guo Jing was ecstatic, “Amazing! Where did you capture him?” he asked.

Huang Rong said, “I saw the defeated and dispersed soldiers were fleeing toward the north gate. A squad of soldiers bearing the Prince Zhao’s banner were heading east with someone wearing a golden helmet leading them. I thought this scoundrel Wanyan Honglie was slyer than that; in no way would he blatantly flaunt the Prince Zhao’s banner in time of defeat. I thought if his banner flew to the east, he must be running to the west; so I took Elder Lu and the others to prepare an ambush in the west. We did indeed capture this scoundrel immediately.”

Guo Jing bowed deeply to her, he said, “Rong’er, you have avenged my dear father for me. I really don’t know how to express my gratitude.”

Huang Rong pursed her lips and smiled, “It was just a coincidence. You have rendered this great service, the Great Khan will generously reward you. Won’t that be great?” she said.

“I don’t want anything,” Guo Jing said.

Huang Rong stepped to the side and whispered, “Come here.” Guo Jing followed. “You really don’t want anything in the world?” Huang Rong asked.

Guo Jing was taken aback, “All I want is never to be separated from you anymore,” he earnestly said.

Huang Rong smiled. “Today you have rendered this great service. Whatever you ask, I believe the Great Khan won’t get angry at you.”

“Hmm,” Guo Jing still did not understand. Huang Rong continued, “Right this moment if you ask him to appoint you as some high ranking official, he won’t deny it. If you ask him not to appoint you, it will also be difficult for him to deny. Important thing is, you have to make him promise in advance. Whatever you ask, he has to grant it.”

“Right!” Guo Jing said.

Listening to his short reply ‘Right!’ without saying anything else, Huang Rong shook her head; she was mad. “Looks like becoming the Golden Blade Consort is the best thing that ever happened to you, isn’t it?”

Her words made Guo Jing understand, he called out, “Hmm, I understand. You want me to ask the Great Khan to cancel my marriage; but I have to make sure he promises in advance he won’t deny whatever I ask.”

Huang Rong was hurt, “It all depends on you. You probably do want to be the Consort?”

“Rong’er,” Guo Jing said, “Sister Huazheng treats me with nothing but sincerity, but my love to her is a brotherly love. At first I thought I was holding to my gentleman’s agreement, since I did not object to the marriage arrangement a long time ago. But if the Great Khan is willing to nullify the agreement, that would certainly satisfy all parties involved.”

Huang Rong was overjoyed; she cast a sidelong glance to him with the sweetest smile on her face. Guo Jing wanted to stay and talk with her some more, but the horn was sounded for the second time from the palace. He placed his hand on hers and said, “Rong’er, wait for my good news here.” He dragged Wanyan Honglie inside the palace to see the Great Khan.

Genghis Khan was very delighted to see Guo Jing arrived; he left his throne to greet him, and then took his hand to enter the hall together. He ordered Guo Jing to take a stool covered with embroidery work and tell him to sit next to him. Listening to Guo Jing’s report on the capture of Wanyan Honglie he was even happier. Seeing Wanyan Honglie kneel down in front of him Genghis Khan lifted his right foot to tread on Wanyan Honglie’s head. Smiling broadly he said, “That day you came to Mongolia flaunting your military power and prestige, did you ever think that there will come a day like today?”

Wanyan Honglie knew his death was imminent, he raised his head boldly and said, “That time my Great Jin country was rich and powerful. I regret the fact that we did not extinguish your tiny Mongolia early on, rather than living to this day.”

Genghis Khan laughed a big laugh, ordering his guard to take Wanyan Honglie out and behead him in front of the palace. Guo Jing remembered his father’s death was finally avenged; his heart was filled with happiness and grief.

Genghis Khan said, “I have promised that whoever breaks the city defense and capture Wanyan Honglie I will give this city’s women and children, with all its gold and silk. Go ahead and receive your rewards.”

Guo Jing shook his head, “My mother and I have enjoyed the Great Khan’s benevolence. We have enough food and clothing. I don’t have any use of slaves or gold and silk.”

“Good,” Genghis Khan said, “That was precisely the true quality of a hero. What then you do want? All you have to do is ask, I will not deny anything.”

Guo Jing left his seat and bowed in front of the Khan. “I do have a favor to ask; Great Khan, please do not get angry,” he said.

Genghis Khan laughed, “Just say it,” he said.

Guo Jing was about to talk about the betrothal when suddenly he heard a heart-rending, earth-shaking cry of thousands of people from a distance. The assembled generals leaped up from their seats, unsheathing their weapons. They thought the surrendered Khoresm soldiers and people suddenly staged a rebellion; they were ready to dash out and suppress it. Genghis Khan laughed. “It’s all right! It’s all right!” he said, “This dog city refuses to subdue under the Heaven’s power, had killed many of my officers and soldiers, it even killed my beloved grandson; it has to be cleansed by slaughter. Let us go and take a look.” He left his seat immediately followed by the generals.

They left the palace on horseback heading toward the western part of the city. The nearer they got, the more miserable the cry became. Just outside the city gate they saw hundreds of thousands common people running around wailing loudly, they pushed and rolled and threw themselves down in panic, with Mongolian soldiers on horseback chasing them, killing the people with long sabers.

Earlier the Mongolian soldiers ordered all the inhabitants to go out of the city, nobody was left behind. At the beginning the people thought the Mongolians were going to search for spies among them; who would have thought that after searching for weapons, they also searched for all kinds of valuables; then they took all good looking young women, married or not, tied them together with long ropes. Samarkhand’s residents now realized that they were facing a grave danger. Some people showed resistance, but they were killed immediately with long sabers. Finally several thousands of Mongolian soldiers with loud battle cries charged toward these people, and went on a killing spree with their long sabers. Male or female, young or old, they were randomly chopped down. This massacre was truly with unprecedented brutality; from white or gray haired old men and women, to babies on their mothers’ arms, nobody could escape by luck.

When Genghis Khan and his entourage arrived to watch; more than ten thousands people had already fallen victim to the soldiers’ brutality; flesh and blood splattered to all directions, the Mongolian horses’ iron horseshoes tread on corpses everywhere; going back and forth among the people and kill some more.

Genghis Khan laughed big and called out, “Kill well! Kill well! Let them know my fierceness.”

After watching for a short moment, Guo Jing could not endure patiently, he dashed to the front of Genghis Khan’s horse and called out, “Great Khan, please spare their lives.”

Genghis Khan waved his hand, shouted loudly, “Kill them all, don’t leave anybody standing.”

Guo Jing did not dare to say anything, but then he saw a boy about seven, eight years old, dash out from the crowd and threw himself down at a woman who was just knocked down by a horse, calling out, “Mama!” A Mongolian soldier dashed in and swung his long saber, mother and son were chopped into four parts. The child’s hands were still clutching tightly to his mother.

Guo Jing’s blood boiled; he forgot everything and called out, “Great Khan, you said that this city’s women and children, along with all gold and silk are mine; why did you give your order to massacre them?”

Genghis Khan was startled; he smiled, “You said you didn’t want it.”

“You said that whatever I ask you, you will not deny it, didn’t you?” Guo Jing asked.

Genghis Khan nodded, still smiling.

With a loud voice Guo Jing said, “The Great Khan’s words are like a mountain; I am asking you to spare this tens of thousands lives.”

Genghis Khan was greatly astounded, not in his wildest dream would he guess Guo Jing would ask him this; but he had already given his promise, how could he refuse? He was enraged, his eyes blazing with fire looking at Guo Jing. His hand squeezed his saber’s hilt, he roared, “Kid, you really want this?”

All the princes and generals were scared to see Genghis Khan this angry. Genghis Khan was surrounded by brave warriors, each one had fought countless battles, none were weak or had a feeble heart, they faced death straight in the face; but facing Genghis Khan’s anger they could not help but tremble.

Guo Jing had never seen Genghis Khan look at him this way, he was also extremely scared; his body could not stop shivering, but he said, “I am asking the Great Khan to spare these people’s lives.”

With a low growling voice Genghis Khan asked, “You won’t regret it?”

Guo Jing remembered Huang Rong told him to ask for cancellation of his betrothal; now he let this good opportunity slipped away. He had lost the Great Khan’s favor forever, which he didn’t mind; but he actually realized his relationship with Huang Rong was just being thrown down the drain. He had seen and heard these hundreds of thousands common people wailing pitifully; how could he see others facing death and do nothing? Therefore, boldly he said, “I won’t regret it.”

Genghis Khan heard his trembling voice, he knew Guo Jing was scared to death, but still he boldly made a request. He was forced to admire Guo Jing’s guts; drawing a long saber he called out, “Withdraw troops!”

His guard blew the horn. Tens of thousands Mongolian cavalry with blood all over their bodies reined their horses and arranged themselves in neat formation.

Since Genghis Khan became the Great Khan, nobody had ever dared to defy his order. This time Guo Jing bravely hampered his order to massacre the city; he was really angry. With a loud shout he threw his long saber to the ground; then sped his horse back to the city.

The other generals cast their angry looks toward Guo Jing; now that the Great Khan was angry who knew who would be unlucky enough to bear the brunt of his anger. They were also discontented, since as Samarkhand’s defense was broken, they were hoping to plunder and kill to their hearts’ content for several days; but now their hopes were shattered.

Guo Jing knew the resentment of others, but he ignored them all, he rode his little red horse slowly to a secluded place. Since the beginning of the war, thousands upon thousands homes had been burnt to the ground, corpses scattered everywhere, the snow covered plain was dyed red with blood. He thought, “War brings wretched disaster; bad as it is now. In order for me to seek vengeance for my father I have commanded troops to kill these many people. In order to rule the world, the Great Khan has killed even more people. But for the officers, soldiers, and the common people, what did they do to deserve the cruelest death; their bones abandoned in the wilderness?”

The more he thought, the more restless his heart became, “I destroyed a city to avenge my father, actually killed these many people. In the end, is it worth it?” He wandered around the wilderness on horseback, going back and forth while painstakingly thinking deeply. It was dark when finally decided to go back to his camp.

As he arrived at the camp’s gate, he saw the Great Khan’s two personal guards were waiting outside. They stepped forward and bowed, reporting, “The Great Khan summons Master Consort. Xiao Ren had been waiting for a long time; asking Master Consort to quickly go.”

Guo Jing thought, “Today I have defied his command; the Great Khan might want to behead me. It has gone thus far, I just have to wait and see what will happen.” Beckoning to his own guard he whispered to his ear, ordering him to tell Lu Youjiao that he is going to the palace. He was anxious, but he had determined, “No matter how angry he is, I won’t take back my request to spare these people’s lives. He is the Great Khan, he can’t go back on his words.”

His heart was full of the idea that the Great Khan would unleash his anger, who would have thought that as he approached the palace gate he actually heard the Great Khan’s merry laughter were heard intermittently from inside the palace. Guo Jing could not help but to be a little bit surprised. He sped up his footstep entering the main hall.

He saw next to the Great Khan sat a man, and next to his foot a young maiden sat leaning on his knee. The man had a ruddy face with white hair, he was none other than the Perpetual Spring [Changchun Zi] Qiu Chuji. As for the young woman; who else but Princess Huazheng?

Guo Jing was delighted, hastily he rushed to meet them. Suddenly Genghis Khan snatched a long halberd from his guard’s hand, turned around and fiercely attacked Guo Jing’s head with the halberd.

Guo Jing was shocked, he leaned sideways to elude. ‘Crack!’ the halberd’s shaft hit his left shoulder and broke into two pieces. Genghis Khan burst into laughter, “Kid, let the bygone be bygone. If I am not looking at Qiu Daozhang [Taoist Priest] and my daughter’s face, I should have taken your head away today.”

Princess Huazheng sprang up, she called out, “Father, you must be bullying my Brother Guo Jing while I am not here.”

Genghis Khan tossed the broken halberd to the floor. He laughed, “Who said that?”

“I’ve seen it with my own eyes, how could you deny it?” Huazheng said, “For that reason my heart was troubled, I came with Qiu Daozhang to take a look.”

Genghis Khan laughed, he pulled his daughter with one hand, and Guo Jing with the other; he said, “Let’s not bicker, just sit nicely, listen while Qiu Daozhang recites his poem.”

At the battle of Misty Rain Tavern [‘yan yu lou’ – ‘lou’ means upper level of buildings with more than one floor] Qiu Chuji saw with his own eyes that Zhou Botong was alive and well; he also realized that Tan Chuduan was killed by Ouyang Feng. Along with Ma Yu and the others they went to apologize to Huang Yaoshi. Later on Quanzhen Six Masters came across Ke Zhen’e who told them everything, which made everybody sigh deeply. Qiu Chuji regretted deeply that he had been careless with his disciple, he taught Yang Kang martial arts, but did not take him out of the palace. The youngster was spoiled in riches and honor, and finally met his tragic end.

One day he received Genghis Khan’s and Guo Jing’s letter; he thought Mongolia was getting stronger and might swallow up China. It was exceptional that Genghis Khan should invite someone to come over. He thought he might want to seize the opportunity to give the Khan some advice, trying to open up his heart to the truth, so if he might prevent the slaughter of countless people all over the world, that would be his greatest contribution to mankind. Also, he missed seeing Guo Jing; therefore, braving the cold he took more than a dozen of his disciples to the west.

Qiu Chuji saw Guo Jing had been through wind and snow, his skin was darker, but his body actually looked stronger and healthier; Qiu Chuji was delighted. Before Guo Jing arrived he had been discussing what he had seen and heard with the Great Khan. He said that he experienced the harshness of the weather first hand, so he composed several poems. Stroking his beard he started to recite: “For ten years the people had dreaded the calamity of war, among millions not even one or two could survive. The past year met a good fortune receiving merciful imperial order, this spring braving the cold making the journey. Taming the three-thousand ‘li’ of northern mountain range, roaming two-hundred eastern hill provinces. Exhausted and anxious, gasping for the last breath of life; consumed by the people’s suffering.”

An officer with understanding of Chinese literature called Yelu Chucai translated the poem into Mongolian. Genghis Khan listened; he nodded his head but did not say anything.

To Guo Jing Qiu Chuji said, “That year when your seven masters and I were having a martial art contest at the Drunken Immortal Tavern, your Second Master took a half-finished poem from my pocket. This time I am traveling to the west without being able to see your seven masters again; but finally I have finished this poem.” He started reciting immediately, “ ‘Since the ancient time, the moon of ‘zhong-qiu’ [mid-autumn festival] has always been the brightest; the cool breeze of the night is so clear. The day the shooting star is brighter than the Milky Way, the dragons of the four seas leaped from the water.’ These first four lines were the ones your Second Master had read; I have just finished the next four, he had not seen them yet. ‘The song from the Wu and Yue kingdoms tower was heard extensively, the military barrack of Qin kingdom was full with songs, food and wine. I arrived before the emperor upstream of the river, desiring to stop the spears, wishing for peace and security.’”

Remembering The Seven Freaks of Jiangnan, Guo Jing’s eyes were brimming in tears.

Genghis Khan said, “During the journey to the west, the Priest must have seen my Mongolia’s military prowess. I wonder if you have composed a poem about it?”

Qiu Chuji answered, “Along the way I have seen the Great Khan’s power in destroying the cities and ransacking the earth. It made a deep impression in my heart, gave me inspiration to write two stanzas. The first one is, ‘The Heaven has sent a messenger down to the earth, why not try to save millions of suffering souls? These millions of souls day and night put to death by dismemberment, drinking the wrath, swallowing their weeping without uttering a word. They looked up and cried to the Heaven, but the Heaven did not answer; it was a mere trivial thing unworthy of Heaven’s attention. Peace among thousands of chaos, without religion building refined souls.’”

Yelu Chuchai thought Genghis Khan would not be happy listening to this, so he hesitated and did not translate immediately. Qiu Chuji ignored him, he continued, “My second poem is this, ‘Alas, the world is opened wide, on it live millions of living beings. Cruelty and wickedness battle each other incessantly, carrying the human suffering to its utmost. The Emperor of Heaven, the Queen of the earth, along with all deities, witnessing death; why not help? The messenger is sad but helpless, day and night full of heartache in vain’” [Translator’s note: all these poems consist of seven-character sub-sentences]

These two poems although not really deep, but the essence of lamenting the fate of mankind was so obvious. Earlier that day Guo Jing had witnessed first hand the massacre of the people in that city, he was even more somber.

“The Priest’s poems must be good, what did they say? Quick, translate them for me,” Genghis Khan said.

Yelu Chuchai thought, “I have advised the Great Khan not to kill too many innocent civilians, but he didn’t want to listen. Luckily this Priest has a deep merciful feeling and composed these beautiful poems. I hope he can persuade the Great Khan.” He translated the poem immediately.

Listening to the poems, Genghis Khan was dissatisfied, he turned to Qiu Chuji and said, “I heard there is a technique to reach immortality, to never get old, in China. I hope the Priest would teach me that.”

“There is no such thing as reaching immortality, to never get old,” Qiu Chuji replied, “But there is indeed a Taoist method of circulating the breathing that will result in preventing illness and prolong life.”

“May I ask what the most important thing in that breathing exercise is?” Genghis Khan asked.

“The way of Heaven knows no favorite, always recognizes good man,” Qiu Chuji answered.

“Which one would you call good?” Genghis Khan asked.

“A saint’s heart is undivided, his heart is for the common people,” Qiu Chuji said.

Genghis Khan was silent. Qiu Chuji continued, “There is a scripture in China, it is called the ‘Dao De Jing’ [Holy Scripture of Virtue] which we, Taoists view as our treasure. The ‘the way of Heaven knows’ and ‘a saint’s heart’ were taken from that book. There is another saying in that book, ‘Soldiers and weapons are inauspicious devices, not the tool of person with noble character. The tool will be used against his own will, not to gain fame or fortune from it. But woe is the man who loves to murder. Those who love to kill will not be able to realize his wish under the sky.”

When Qiu Chuji was traveling to the west, he saw the savageness of the war disaster; his heart was filled with sorrow. He took advantage of Genghis Khan asking him the secret of long life to repeatedly pleading for common people’s lives.

Genghis Khan was getting old, his strength waned, he wanted to learn the technique of immortality; he was very delighted to see Qiu Chuji arrive, thinking that very soon he would learn the technique to defy death and the method to prolong his life. Who would have thought that instead he was advised not to resort of military power and not to kill too much? This conversation did not suit his taste. Therefore, after talking a little bit more he turned to Guo Jing and said, “Go and accompany the Priest to take a rest.”