The Legend of the Condor Heroes – Chapter 9

Iron spear, damaged plough.

Original translation by SunnySnow

Guo Jing and Huang Rong went to the back of Prince Zhao’s palace and leaped over the wall into the courtyard. Huang Rong whispered to Guo Jing in a soft voice:

“Your ‘light body’ Gong Fu is excellent!”

Guo Jing crouching by the foot of the wall watching out for any movement in the courtyard felt ecstatic at hearing such praise from her.

After a moment they heard some footsteps approaching – two men were laughing and talking as they walked towards them. One man was saying, “What do you think the prince has in mind with the young lady?”

The other man laughed and said, (not sure of this translation) “It’s obvious isn’t it? This type of pretty woman, after giving birth who would give her another glance?”

The first man retorted, “With your dirty mind, you had better be careful that the prince doesn’t cut your head off. This girl, although her face is pretty, she cannot compare to the princess.”

The second man exclaimed, “This peasant(??) girl! How can you compare her with the princess?”

The first man replied, “The princess, you said she (??)…” He suddenly stopped, coughed twice and changed the subject(?) saying, “The prince really suffered a loss at the hands of that big fellow today, you better be careful not to give him any cause for offence or you are sure to get a real beating!”

The second man said, “If the prince tries to beat me, I’ll simply dodge – and return with a kick…”

The first man laughed, “Stop talking ****(?)”

Guo Jing thought to himself, “So, that “Yuan Yan Kang” already has a pretty sweetheart no wonder he cannot marry the Mu girl. But if this true, then he shouldn’t have even taken up the challenge in the first place let alone grab her shoe. Why would he want to concern himself with other people’s affairs? Could it be that if a person is not willing to agree then he would use force to coerce them?

At this point the two men had walked very close (to Guo Jing and Huang Rong). One was carrying a lamp and the other a basket of food. They were dressed as servants, wearing green clothes and caps. The man with the basket laughed and said, “Talking about other people I fear that someone has already become very hungry, we had better deliver these vegetables quickly!”

The other man replied, “How can he win a young girls heart if he doesn’t gain her sympathy?” Both men laughed as they walked away into the distance.

Huang Rong became very curious. She whispered to Guo Jing, “Let’s go and see what type of pretty girl they are talk about”.

Guo Jing asked, “What about getting the medicine, isn’t that more urgent?”

“I want to see the girl first!” said Huang Rong stubbornly and she started off after the two servants.

Guo Jing thought, “What’s so interesting about seeing some girl? Really strange.”

What he didn’t know was that invariably when a woman hears about another beautiful woman, they will never be satisfied until they have seen them with their own eyes. If the women that hears about this other woman is herself especially beautiful, then all the more is the desire to see that other woman so she can compare herself to her! Guo Jing however did know enough about girls to know that they can be extremely difficult at times so he had no alternative but to follow.

The Zhao residence was huge. Guo Jing and Huang Rong followed the two servants for quite sometime before arriving in front of a big house. At the entrance stood a few guards with weapons in their arms. Guo Jing and Huang Rong hid behind a corner and heard the two servants whispering something to the guards before the guards opened the door and allowed them in. Huang Rong picked up a stone and flung it at the torches to put out the lights, before pulling Guo Jing with her to follow the servants in. Huang Rong was so swift that she and Guo Jing overtook the servants and were in front of them. The servants and guards didn’t notice that they slipped in and cursed and joke while starting the fire for the torches again. They entered a large room, before opening a small door at the corner and walked in. Guo Jing and Huang Rong followed them in silently and noticed rows of iron bars, forming a large prison cell. Behind the bars sat a woman and a man.

One of the servants lit a candle and placed it on the prison table. Under the candlelight, Guo Jing saw the man’s face which was anxious and furious; it was none other than Mu Yi. A young girl was sitting beside him and it was his daughter, Mu Nian Ci. Guo Jing was suspicious and thought, “How did they end up here? Ah, it must be WanYan Kang who captured them. What does his intend to do with them? Does he love this lady or not?” The two servants took out some wine and dishes from their basket and pushed it into the cell.

Mu Yi picked up a plate of snacks and flung it out before yelling, “I have already fallen into your trap, kill me if you want to. Why pretend to be so nice?”

Amongst the commotion, the guard outside suddenly said, “Greetings, little prince!”

Guo Jing and Huang Rong exchanged glances and hurriedly hid behind the door, only to see WanYan Kang rushing in and scolding, “Who made Hero Mu angry? Let’s see whether I will break your legs when we leave later.”

The two servants were frightened and dropped on their knees, “We dare not.”

WanYan Kang answered, “Hurry up and get lost.”

The two servants replied, “Yes, yes.” And turned to leave, but when they reached the door, they stuck their tongues out at each other, made funny faces and left.

WanYan Kang waited till they close the door, before saying gently, “I invited Hero Mu and Miss for something else, please don’t get offened.”

Mu Yi was furious, “You lock us up here like prisoners, and you dare use the word ‘invite’?”

WanYan Kang said, “I’m so sorry. Please bear with it for the time being, I’m really sorry.”

Mu Yi retorted angrily, “You can use this to cheat a three year old. I’ve seen enough of vicious officials.”

Wanyan Kang tried to speak out several times but was shut up by the angry Mu Yi. Yet, he still remained good natured and laughed joyfully without a tint of anger.

Mu Nian Ci listened to the argument and whispered to her father, “Father, let’s hear what he has to say.”

It was then that Mu Yi grunted before becoming silent.

Wanyan Kang said, “Your daughter has rare talents and beauty. I’m not blind so how can I possibly not like her?”

Mu Nian Ci blushed deeply and lowered her head.

Wanyan Kang continued, “However, I am the eldest son of Prince Zhao and my family rules are very strict. If people know that I marry a commoner, my father will be furious and will face a lot of trouble.”

Mu Yi replied, “Then what do you plan to do?”

Wanyan Kang replied, “I was thinking of letting Hero Mu and Miss stay here for a few days to recover from any injuries, before going back. After a year or half, when the situation is better, I will either go and ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage or Hero Mu you send Miss to me so as to complete the marriage. Isn’t this a perfect solution?”

Mu Yi remained silent, though he was thinking about another thing.

Wanyan Kang continued, “My father has gotten into trouble all because of me. The emperor even reprimanded him three months ago. If my father learns about this now, he will never agree the marriage. So I hope that Hero Mu keeps this secret tight.”

Mu Yi turns furious, “If I listen to what you say then my daughter will suffer if she is with you since everything has to be kept under wraps.

Wanyan Kang replied, “I have everything planned out already, I will get some grand officials to ask for her hand in marriage, it must be a grand and joyous affair.”

Mu Yi’s faced suddenly paled and he said, “Please ask your mother to see me so that I can discuss this with her.”

Wanyan Kang smiled and said, “How can my mother meet you?”

Mu Yi yelled, “If I don’t get to meet your mother, I won’t give in to you no matter what you come up with.” With that, he picked up the jar of wine and threw it out.

Ever since Mu Nian Ci fought with Wanyan Kang, she already fell for him and was delighted after she heard his plan. But her father’s sudden outburst changed everything and she didn’t know whether she was surprised or dejected.

WanYan Kang flipped over and caught the wine jar in time before putting it back on the table and laughed, “I’m leaving!” before turning to go.

After hearing Wanyan Kang’s words, Guo Jing felt that the former had his reasons and a very good plan, but who would expect Mu Yi to lose his temper. He thought, “I will try to convince him now.” He was about to go out when Huang Rong pulled his sleeve and brought him out of the house.

They heard Wanyan Kang ask a servant, “Have you brought it?” The servant nodded and raised his arm to reveal a rabbit. Wanyan Kang took the rabbit from him and broke it’s hind legs in a flash, before placing it in his pocket and hurrying off. Guo Jing and Huang Rong felt curious and followed behind him. After a while, they saw a small three-roomed hut. It was a normal hut like any other commoner’s but stood out amongst the grand surroundings of the Zhao residence. The two felt very curious. They saw Wanyan Kang open the door and enter the hut. They tiptoed to the back of the house and peered into the window. They were sure that there was something secretive in the hut, which Wanyan Kang kept. However, they heard something they did not expect when he called out, “Mother!”

A woman’s voice answered him. Wanyan Kang walked into the room, Huang Rong and Guo Jing saw a middle-aged woman sitting beside a table, gazing blankly into space. This woman looked no more than forty, had very delicate features but wore little powder on her face and very common robes.

Huang Rong thought, “This princess is indeed prettier than Miss Mu, but why does she dress so shabbily and live in such a hut? Has she fallen out of Prince Zhao’s favor?”

Guo Jing was thinking about the same thing at first but later felt that it was nothing special. He thought, “She must be like Rong’er. She purposely dress up shabbily like a peasant for fun.”

Wanyan Kang walked to her side, pulled her arm and said, “Mother, are you ill again?”

The woman sighed, “I was worrying for you.”

Wanyan Kang leaned on her and giggled, “But your son is standing healthily in front of you.”

The woman replied, “With swollen eyes and a broken nose? You call that fine? You are getting more and more naughty, it’s alright if your father knows, but if your teacher learns about it, you’ll be in hot soup.”

Wanyan Kang giggled, “Mother, do you know who is the Taoist priest who came today?”

The woman asked, “Who?”

Wanyan Kang replied, “He is my teacher’s martial brother, and is my elder. But I purposely pretend to be ignorant of that fact and called him Taoist this, Taoist that. He scowled and was furious but couldn’t do anything.” With that, he started laughing again.

The woman was alarmed and said, “Oh no! I’ve seen your teacher flare up before and he can kill people. It’s really a frightening thought.”

Wanyan Kang was curious and asked, “You’ve seen teacher kill before? When? Why did he kill people?”

The woman lifted her head and gazed at the light, as if she was somewhere far away and said gently, “That was a long time ago. Ah, I cannot remember anymore!”

Wanyan Kang did not probe further, instead he grinned smugly and said, “That Taoist Wang came to ask me how was I going to deal with the marriage and I told him that if he brought Miss Mu to me, I would listen to whatever he say.”

The woman asked, “Have you asked your father permission? Has he agreed?”

Wanyan Kang smiled, “Mother, you are too honest. I asked my men to trick them into coming here and locked them up in the back cell earlier on. How does Taoist Wang expect to find them then?” Wanyan Kang was going through the events in an excited manner while Guo Jing was fuming outside.

Guo Jing thought, “To think that I actually thought that he had good intentions just now! Luckily Hero Mu is wise not to fall into his trap.”

The woman answered exasperatedly, “How can you make fun of his daughter and lock them up? Hurry and release them now, and remember to apologize and give them some money.”

Guo Jing nodded his head and thought, “That’s more like it.”

Wanyan Kang said, “Mother, you don’t understand! These swordsmen don’t care about money. If I release them and they go round telling people what happen, father will hear about it.”

The woman became anxious, “Then do you want to lock them up forever?”

Wanyan Kang smiled, “I sweet talked them into going back to their village and let them stupidly wait for me forever.” With that, he burst out laughing.

Guo Jing was shaking furiously at this time, he raised a palm towards the window frame and was about to yell out when he felt a soft and smooth palm cover his mouth and someone grab his left wrist. A gentle voice whispered into his ear, “Calm down.”

Guo Jing recovered and turned towards Huang Rong with a faint smile before looking back into the room again.

Wanyan Kang continued, “That Mu fellow is really cunning, he doesn’t take the bait. But let’s see how long he can last if I lock him up for another couple of days.”

His mother answered, “I’ve seen Miss Mu and I find her beautiful and talented. She is quite likeable. Why not I talk to your father and ask him to let you marry her, then everything will be solved.”

Wanyan Kang laughed, “Mother, for the last time, we are royalty. How can I marry such a commoner? Father always tells me that he will arrange a respectable match for me. But it’s a pity that we are the Wanyans.”

The woman asked, “Why?”

Wanyan Kang replied, “If not, I can marry the princess and become the crown prince.”

The woman sighed and said in a low voice, “How can you look down on poor commoners…do you really think that…”

Wanyan Kang laughed, “Mother, I have a joke for you. That Mu fellow says that he will only believe me if he meets up and discuss with you.”

The woman replies, “I won’t help you to lie and do such despicable things.”

Wanyan Kang giggled aloud and walked around in circles. He said, “Even if you are willing to do so, I will not allow it. You don’t know how to lie and will be exposed on the spot.”

Huang Rong and Guo Jing studied the room, which was furnished with normal wood furniture and normal farming tools. On the wall hung a moldy sphere and a broken plough. An old wooden carriage was placed in the corner of the room. Both of them thought, “This woman is a princess. Why is her house so plainly furnished?”

Wanyan Kang pressed his chest and the rabbit in his pocket let out a squeal.

The woman asked, “What’s that?”

Wanyan Kang replied, “Ah, I almost forgot. I saw an injured rabbit just now and picked it up. Mother, please tend to it.” He took out a little white rabbit and placed it on the table. The rabbit’s hind legs were broken and it couldn’t move.

The woman asked, “Good child!” She hurriedly took out some tools and medicine and tended to the rabbit’s injury.

Guo Jing started to fume again and thought, “This man purposely injures the rabbit as he knows that his mother is kind-hearted and will tend to its injuries. Therefore, the woman will forget about the bad stuff that he has done. How can he be so evil as to make use of his mother’s kind nature and cheat her?”

Huang Rong was leaning on him and felt Guo Jing’s whole body quiver. She knew that he must be fuming with anger and was afraid that he couldn’t control it and burst out at Wanyan Kang. She pulled his hand and said, “Let’s ignore them, come, let’s go and find the medicine.”

Guo Jing asked, “You know where they hid the medicine?”

Huang Rong shook her head, “No. So we have to go and find out.”

Guo Jing thought about how huge the Zhao residence was and wondered where to start finding, “It would de disastrous if we alert Shao Tongtian and the rest…” he was about to discuss this with Huang Rong when there was a flash of light in front of them. A man was carrying a small lantern while humming a tune. He was walking nearer and nearer to them. Guo Jing was about to slip behind a tree when Huang Rong rushed forward, towards the man. The man was alarmed and before he could say anything, Huang Rong flipped her palm and shot out a shiny steel object (direct translation) which pierced into his throat, she asked, “Who are you?”

The man got a fright of life and only managed to answer after awhile, “I…I am the caretaker. What…what are you doing?”

Huang Rong answered, “What am I doing? I am going to kill you! You are the caretaker? That’s great. Where did you keep the medicine that your little prince asked people to buy during the day?”

The caretaker replied, “I…I don’t know. Little prince kept it himself!”

Huang Rong used her left hand to twist his wrist and used her right hand to push forward slightly, causing the steel object to pierce even deeper into his throat. The caretaker felt strong pain shoot through his wrist but didn’t dare scream out loud.

Huang Rong said in a low voice, “Are you going to tell me or not?”

The caretaker responded, “I really don’t know.”

Huang Rong used her right hand to remove his cap and stuffed it into his mouth. Following that, her left hand pulled and twisted his arm. A crack sound was heard as she broke the bone of his right shoulder. The caretaker yelled out aloud before fainting onto the ground. However the cap in his mouth muffled his voice.

Guo Jing was stunned as didn’t expect this young petite lady to be so vicious and cruel in her actions. Huang Rong shook the caretaker and he came around. She swiftly removed the cap from his mouth and placed it back on his head before saying, “Do you want me to break your left shoulder as well?”

The caretaker wept in pain and answered weakly, “I really don’t know. Even if Miss kills me, I still won’t know.”

Huang Rong only believed him then, she lowered her voice and said, “Go and find little prince now and tell him that you fell and broke your shoulder. Also tell him that you suffer serious internal injures and the physician says that you must take the medicine which he bought up earlier and is not available in the shops now. Beg him to give you some of the medicine.”

The caretaker listened attentively to Huang Rong’s instructions and dared not question anything.

Huang Rong continued, “Hurry up, little prince is at the princess’s place. I am going to follow you and if I see that you do not act properly, I will break your neck and dig out your eyes.” With that, she stretched out her fingers and made a clawing sign at the skin of his eyes. The caretaker shivered and stood up; he clenched his teeth, ignored the dreadful pain and dashed towards the princess’s house.

Wanyan Kang was still talking with his mother when the caretaker suddenly dashed in, sweating and crying. He repeated what Huang Rong instructed him to say. The princess saw that his face was as white as a sheet and knew he was in great pain, she didn’t wait for Wanyan Kang’s answer and immediately ordered him to give the caretaker the medicine.

Wanyan Kang frowned and said, “The medicine is with Mister Liang, go and find him yourself.”

The caretaker wept and said, “Little prince, please write a note for me.”

The princess immediately took out some paper, ink and a brush and Wanyan Kang wrote the note. The caretaker bowed and thanked them while the princess said gently, “Hurry and take the medicine to cure your injuries.”

The caretaker came out of the house and walked a few steps when he felt the cold blade of a knife on the skin of his neck. He heard Huang Rong say, “Go to Mister Liang now.”

The caretaker walked a little but he could take the pain no longer and fell to the ground.

Huang Rong said, “If you don’t get the medicine, your neck will be broken into two.” With that, she pressed onto his head and turned it forcefully.

The caretaker got a shock and had a sudden wave of determination. Sweating non-stop, he hurried on. They passed by seven or eight servants but no one questioned anything when they saw Guo Jing and Huang Rong.

When they reached Liang Ziwong’s quarters, they found the door locked. A servant then tells them that he has gone to the fragrant snow guest hall. Guo Jing saw the caretaker having difficulty walking and helped him along the way. They were reaching the guest hall, when two guards carrying lanterns in one hand and sabers in another said, “Stop, who’s there?”

The caretaker took out the note written by Wanyan Kang and gave it to the guards. They glanced at it and let him through before going up to question Guo Jing and Huang Rong, the caretaker said, “It’s our own people.”

One of the guards said, “The prince is having a banquet with important guests, so no one is allowed to disturb them. If you have anything, you can come back tomorrow to…” he didn’t finish his sentence when the two guards felt strength less, numb and were unable to move as Huang Rong had sealed their points. Huang Rong hid them in the bushes before grabbing Guo Jing’s hand and made their way towards the entrance of the hall. She gently pushed the caretaker forward and swung up with Guo Jing. They caught the wooden window frame and peered inside the hall.

The hall was brightly lighted with a huge banquet table in the middle. Guo Jing looked at the people sitting around the table and his heart beat furiously. He saw the same people in the same room as earlier, such as the junior chief of white camel mountain, Ouyang Ke, the dragon king of the demonic group, Sha Tongtian, his martial brother, the three headed dragon, Hou Tonghai, ginseng immortal, Liang Ziwong, the slaughterer of a thousand hands, Peng Lianhu and the head of the banquet was the Jin sixth prince, Wanyan Honglie. At a corner of the table was a thickly padded grand chair, which sat superior virtue Lingzhi, who had a golden complexion and looked seriously injured.

Guo Jing laughed in glee, “You ambushed Taoist Wang, so it serves you right, have a taste of your own medicine.”

The caretaker entered the room and bowed towards Liang Ziwong before handing him the note written by Wanyan Kang.

Liang Ziwong read the note, glanced at the caretaker and handed the note to Wanyan Honglie, “Prince, is this written by little prince?”

Wanyan Honglie looked through the note and said, “Yes, please follow what it says Mister Liang.”

Liang Ziwong turned behind and instructed a dwarf dressed in green, “Go and take out five grams each of the medicine which little prince delivered today and give it to the caretaker.”

The dwarf nodded and followed the caretaker out.

Guo Jing whispered to Huang Rong, “Let’s go, these people here are too formidable.”

Huang Rong smiled and shook her head. A strand of Huang Rong’s soft hair brushed pass Guo Jing’s face and he felt a tickling sensation not only on his face but also in his heart. He didn’t argue with her and jumped down. Huang Rong hurriedly grab his wrist, flung her body forward, locked her legs on the high wooden pole and gently released Guo Jing onto the ground.

Guo Jing was relieved, “What a close shave, if I just jumped that like that, won’t it alert the top fighters inside?” Guo Jing was not a veteran Jiang Hu traveler and tended to be careless at times.

The caretaker and the dwarf came out and Guo Jing followed behind them. He walked ten steps before turning around and saw that Huang Rong had done a somersault and was peering into the hall with her legs hooked on top and her head below. There was a light breeze, causing her white robe to float gently, the image looked like a blooming white lily amongst the darkness. Huang Rong glanced into the hall and saw that no one had notice her presence, she turned around and watched till Guo Jing’s figure disappeared into the darkness before turning her attention back to what was going on in the hall.

Suddenly, Peng Lianhu turned around, and with eyes quick as lightning; he did a check on the windows. Huang Rong didn’t dare look anymore, and only crouched near the window to hear what was going on. She heard a rasp voice say, “Do you people think that Wang Chuyi turned up coincidentally or was it for a reason?”

A high pitched voice replied, “No matter whether he has ill intentions or not, having being injured by superior virtue Lingzi would leave him dead, or at least crippled.”

Huang Rong glanced into the hall and saw that the person talking was Peng Lianhu, who was petite and had eyes that looked like lightning. She heard a clear voice laugh, “We would hear of the seven sons of Quanzhen even when we are in Tibet. They really live up to their name, if it were not for superior virtue Lingzi’s attack, we would have been defeated by him.”

A deep and rough voice answered, “Mister Ouyang, you don’t have to flatter me, both me and that Taoist priest are injured, there is no winner.”

Ouyang Ke said, “Anyway you just have to recuperate quietly for some time whereas even if he doesn’t die, he would end up a handicapped!”

After this comment no one spoke. The host could then be heard toasting all the assembled guests. Guest by guest he said, “Sir has come from a great distance to visit, I am deeply honored! It reflects greatly on the Jin nation to have such honored guests as yourself!”

Huang Rong thought to herself that the person speaking must be Prince Zhao Wanyan Honglie. The assembled guests then all answered with modest protestations as decorum required.

Wanyan Honglie then continued, “Lingzhi is Tibet’s foremost monk, Liang is a master of great learning and integrity, Chief Ouyang is an legendary leader of military virtue, Master Peng’s prestige is widely feared on the central plains, Formidable Sha rules over Yellow River! If any one hero among the five of you lent a hand, the Jin Nation’s challenges could be overcome, imagine what could be achieved with all five of you united together! Ha Ha! That would be akin to having a lion using all it’s strength to catch a rabbit!” At this he sounded very arrogant indeed.

Liang Ziwong smiled and said, “If Your Lordship has a task for us to carry out, you need only say it and we will gladly carry it out. Only this old man’s (referring to himself) GongFu is very shabby and weak. I fear that if I was to be entrusted with such a task by you Lordship I would fail and not be able to show my worthless face again, ha ha!” Peng Lianhu also added a few self depreciating remarks in the same vein.

These men have always been the center of attention and power in their own areas and were not used to having to make humble and polite comments in the presence of a noble such as Wanyan Honglie.

Wanyan Honglie again toasted each guest in turn with a cup of wine, “Humble Prince is deeply moved by your presence here tonight. I talk of a great matter with you all. This matter cannot be mentioned to any other person outside of this room. If it were to escape it would cause great trouble for my Jin nation. This humble prince places his great confidence in your hands.”

These words, although humbly spoken, implied a great importance and caused everyone to present to take note that this must be a very serious matter that required the utmost secrecy. Everyone therefore replied, “Your Lordship need not fear, no words that are spoken here tonight will leave this room!”

The five invited guests all knew that the reason for their invitation must be a matter of great importance. Something that would require no small measure of effort to carry out. Although having spared no expense in sending them presents of gold, silver and other valuables, Wanyan Honglie had still not made any mention of what task he would be asking them to perform. Now that he was about to reveal such a deeply held secret, there was not one person present who didn’t feel highly interested and excited.

Wanyan Honglie spoke again boasting about the weakness of the last two emperors Hui Zong and his son Qin Zong and how the mighty Jin Army secured a crushing victory over the Northern Song Empire. All the guests cheered at this speech.

Huang Rong thought to herself angrily, “How Shameless! Everyone aside from that Tibetan Monk are Chinese. The Jin Prince is boasting about how his country had invaded our country and held our two emperors captive and you are all actually cheering him on!”

She heard Wanyan Honglie again speak, “At that time our Great Jin soldiers were vigorous, their numbers were vast, but now after almost 100 years the Zhao officials serve our emperor at Huangzhou. Esteemed guests, can you guess why they serve there?”

Liang Ziwong said, “Please enlighten us your Lordship.”

Wanyan Honglie sighed, “This year Yue Fei had defeated us and he had us in his hands and although there was no one who did not know it who dared to say it out loud? Our Jin Generals knew how to lead troops but when they encountered Yue Fei they were always defeated. Even after Qin Gui ordered Yue Fei’s execution our soldiers were still demoralized by their earlier defeats that they lacked the willpower to act against the Southern Song. However this although the humble prince has the ambition to act, he lacks the abilities to succeed. If my guests with their god like abilities were to help with this enterprise, then there is no way that we could not succeed and earn great merit.”

All the guests looked at each other without fully understanding exactly what was being asked. They all thought, “Charging enemies and fighting valiantly, taking cities and seizing territory, truly all of us can do, but could it be that he actually (only?) wants us to go and kill the Southern Song palace’s general (Yuan?)?

Wanyan Honglie’s face showed self importance (de2 yi4). His voice was slightly trembling, “A couple of months ago, this humble prince was looking through some old files in the palace when I stumbled across a letter left behind by the former emperor. It was actually a few lines written by Yue Fei, the phrasing of which was most peculiar. I puzzled over this for a few months until at long last I figured out it’s hidden meaning. It turns out that when Yue Fei was languishing in prison he realized that he had no hope of leaving with his life. His loyalty towards serving his country was so great that he wrote down his entire life’s learnings regarding battle tactics and other secret military arts in this letter in the hope that it could be passed on to other loyal countrymen who could use put them to use in defending China against the Jin invaders. Luckily Qin Gui was very clever and feared that Yue Fei would try to communicate with people outside of prison so he was very careful to prepare against such an event. Every guard assigned to watch over Yue Fei was personally selected by Qin Gui as to be known as completely trustworthy and loyal to him (Qin Gui). If the troops formerly under Yue Fei were to get word from Yue Fei and rise up in rebellion against the court, who would stop them? At that time the only reason that there was not such a rebellion was in fact entirely due to Yue Fei not being willing to rebel against his emperor. If he changed his mind and decided to do so he would have certainly succeeded. What Qin Gui did not know though was that Yue Fei didn’t have any desire to save his own life, only to save the rivers and mountains of the Song Empire (i.e. his country). Fortunately this letter never left the palace even after his execution.”

Everyone was listening intently to this story so intently that they forgot to drink their wine. Huang Rong hanging outside the window was also listening mesmerized.

Wanyan Honglie continued, “Yue Fei had no way to communicate his military strategies except through hiding them in his writing. He wrote four pieces entitled ‘Pu Sa Man’ (Buddhist Barbarian), ‘chou nu er’ (Shameful Slave), ‘He Sheng Zhao’ (Congratulating the Sage Imperial Court) and ‘Qi Tian Yue’ (Level Heaven Music/Happiness). Each piece of writing appeared to be nonsense. The style did not follow the proper rules and the tonal sequence was all wrong. The sentances were jumbled to the point of incoherence. Qin Gui, who was said to have wisdom and talent the size of the oceans, was not even able to figure out what meaning lay in these pieces so he dispatched some men with these letters to the Jin. Many years later these four pieces of nonsense writing found their way into the secret files of the Jin palace. No one was able to comprehend the meaning of these letters. Everyone thought that Yue Fei, who was near execution at the time he wrote these letters, was giving vent to his anger and frustrations by writing such disjointed and sensless verse. Nobody guessed that apparantly nonsense verse was in fact a riddle hiding a very great secret!

This humble prince though continued to work on these letters until I finally discovered it’s secret. It turns out that if you took every third word in a piece and put them together then reversed the order a the hidden message was revealed. In these four letters Yue Fei instructed his successors/followers in the arts of military strategy, to continuously attack along the Yellow River and wipe out our Jin armies. But for all of his dilligent work for his emperor, it turned out to be all in vain. Ha Ha!”

All the guests gasped in surprise, then one after another began praising Wanyan Honglie’s intelligence for cracking such a difficult code.

Wanyan Honglie said, “Yue Fei’s military abilities were supernatural, when he attacked the was no one more formidable or successful. Imagine if we were to have his book of secret military strategies, the whole empire would be ours for the taking!”

(Note: from the above context it seems that Yue Fei’s letters refer to a book that is hidden in his tomb. I must have missed that in the above translation, but can’t see where in the Chinese text)

Everyone suddenly realised what was being asked, “Prince Zhao invited us here to do a bit of grave robbing!”

Wanyan Honglie went on, “This humble prince thinks that this great book must be with Yue Fei in his tomb.” At this point he paused before continuing, “Honoured Guests you are all brave heros and now you must be wondering how I could be asking you to rob a tomb? Further more, although Yue Fei is the Jin’s sworn enemy, but his spirit and loyalty is something that is world renown, we couldn’t possibly disturb is resting place. Humble prince searched through the historical reports from spys of the Southern Song to look for further clues. It turns out that the day Yue Fei died he was buried near by beside “Zhong An Bridge.” Later Emperor Xiaozong moved his body to Xi Hu (Westlake) in a temple he had built for him. His ‘cloth cap’ however was buried at another place, and this must be where his book is. This other place is near LinAn.” As he spoke this last sentance he watched his guests intently. Everyone was listening intently for him to reveal the exact location of the book.

Wanyan Honglie however suddenly changed the topic, “Humble prince again had another thought: since someone moved Yue Fei items then I fear that the book must have been taken by them as well. But after some very detailed research I know that this could not be possible. The people of Song venerated Yue Fei so much that they would not have dared interfear with his belonging. We are certain to find the book at this place. However in the south there are many martial people of high ability. If we are to succeed we cannot allow the slightest word of this to get out or else some of them my try to search for the book themselves which would cause no end of trouble! This task concerns the fate of two nations and it is not something I would lightly undertake unless I had the help of the greatest heros of the Wulin world.”

Everyone nodded their head at this.

Wanyan Honglie then said, “Although the location of this book is no small matter, because this affair is indeed difficult to speak of however with the presence of people of such great ability it is easy to speak (???) The location of the book is…” At this point the door to the hall was suddenly pushed open and one man rushed in, his face all swollen and pale. He rushed forward to Liang Ziwong and called out, “Master…” everyone recognised him as the dwarf dressed in green that Liang Ziwong sent to fetch the medicine.

When Guo Jing went with the caretaker and dwarf to fetch the medicine, he used his left hand to not only support the caretaker and help him walk, but also to ensure the caretaker would not dare try warn the dwarf in any way about Guo Jing. The three of them went along a long corridor past some rooms before arriving at Liang Ziwong’s storeroom. The dwarf lit a candle, opened the doors and entered.

Guo Jing stepped close to the room where he smelt the pungent scent of various medicinal herbs. He also saw that the table, couch, floor and everywhere else was covered with all types of dried herbs, bottles big and small, jars, bowls, vats and so forth. It seems that although Liang Ziwong was a guest here, he still couldn’t help but play around with different medicinal herbs and concoct different drugs. The dwarf seemed to be well versed in the nature of herbs as well as he quickly selected portions of four different herbs and wrapped them up in separate packets of white paper which he gave to the caretaker.

Guo Jing reached out and took the packets before turning and leaving the room. Now that he had the medicine in his hands, he didn’t pay any attention to the caretaker. Unfortunately for him though, the caretaker was a slippery fellow. When Guo Jing and the dwarf left, he deliberately hung back, waiting until they were past the door. Then he suddenly slammed the door shut, grabbed the door bolt and locked the door, shouting, “Robber, Thief!” Guo Jing got a big shock, and immediately turned to try and push open the door only to find that it wouldn’t budge, the door was firmly shut. The dwarf, although he was small, he was by no means slow witted. He immediately sized up the situation and took advantage of Guo Jing’s distraction with trying to open the door to quickly snatch the four medicine packets out of his hand and threw them into the pond beside the room. Guo Jing tried to hit the dwarf with his fists, but the dwarf was too quick and managed to slip away.

Guo Jing became more frantic and angry. He placed both his palms against the door and used his internal energy to break the door. There was a loud crack as the door bolt snapped and the door flew open. Guo Jing rushed in and smashed the caretakers jaw with one swing of his fist which silenced him immediately. Luckily for Guo Jing, Liang Ziwong liked not to be disturbed so his room was located in an out of the way place in the palace far from anyone else so the caretakers screams had not alerted anyone. He rushed out of the room and saw that the dwarf was already a long way off. Guo Jing sprinted after him and in no time at all had caught up with the dwarf and grabbed him by the neck. The dwarf when he heard Guo Jing behind him tried to use his leg to sweep Guo Jing off his feet(?) The dwarf was no stranger to fighting having encountered many rough types in his travels with LiangZiwong so his skills were not weak. Guo Jing knew that he was in danger of not only failing to get the medicine for Wang Chuyi, but also if the alarm was raised Huang Rong would also be in mortal danger if she was caught. Since there was no time to lose he made use of his most vicious moves such as, “bone and tendon splitting” move (the one taught by one of the seven freaks of the south I think).

Guo Jing soon had the dwarf knocked unconscious and he hastily hid him in the bushes beside the path. He then hurried back to the medicine store room and lit a candle which revealed the caretaker still lying unconscious on the floor.

Guo Jing cursed himeself silently for being so careless, “Which four jars did the dwarf select the medicine from? I wasn’t paying attention and now I have no idea of which herbs he used.” All the jars were marked with strange signs but no words. He thought hard, “I remember he was standing here so maybe I should just grab a little from each jar around here and bring them all back to Wang Chuyi to select from.” He hurridly snatched a pile of paper and began grabbing a handful of each type of herb/medicines which he then wrapped up in several packets all the while worried that someone had heard the caretakers shouts earlier.

As soon as he had packed up all the medicine he felt much more relieved. As he turned to leave his elbow accidentally knocked over a large bamboo basket which fell to it’s side. As soon as the lid fell off there was a sudden hiss and a huge blood red snake shot out of the basket straight towards his face.

Guo Jing was startled and jumped back. He saw the snake was still half coiled in the basket so he wasn’t sure how long it was. Its head waved back and forth as its forked tongue flickered at him. In Mongolia it was a cold climate and all the snakes that he had seen were small. This blood red snake certainly didn’t look like any snake he has seen before. He felt petrified as slowly stepped back until he knocked against the table sending the candle tumbling over. In an instant the candle went out and the room was plunged into pitch black darkness.

With the medicine in hand he quickly rushed towards the door but just as he reached it he felt something grab onto his leg as if someone was wrapping a thick rope around it very tightly. Without time to think he tried to jump up. However the thing wouldn’t let go and immediately he felt a cold sensation on his right arm and found that he could no longer move it.

Guo Jing knew that the snake had already wrapped around him so he madly used his left arm to feel around his waste for the knife that “JiSiHan” had given him long ago. A sudden stench of pungent fishy-medicine like smell assailed his nostrils and he felt something cold on his face. It was the snake’s tongue licking his cheek. At this point there was no time to find his knife so he grabbed the snake firmly around its neck. The snake was incredibly powerful and began to squeeze tighter; its head inched closer towards his face…

Guo Jing tried to hold back the snake but his arm was becoming numb and it became difficult to breathe as the snake tightened it’s grip around his chest. When He tried to use his internal energy to loosen the snakes grip it gave him slight relief before the snake resumed it’s crushing grip. Guo Jing’s left arm was beginning to lose strength. The stench of the snakes breath was unbearable and made him feel nauseous. He knew that he would not be able to hold off the snake for much longer. eventually he might lose consciousness and losen his grip, then the snake would strike…

When the dwarf who was knocked unconscious by Guo Jing eventually came around his first thought was where was Guo Jing. He looked over to his masters store room but saw it was dark and silent. He assumed Guo Jing had already fled. So he rushed back towards the “Fragrent Snow Hall” to report to his master Liang Ziwong.

Huang Rong got a shock when she heard the dwarf’s report. She executed the move “Goose lands on flat sand” to quietly drop to the ground. When the guests in the hall were listening to Wanyan Honglie’s story no one payed any attention to what was going outside. However as soon as they were interrupted by the dwarf’s news this was no longer the case. In a room full of people with such high martial arts abilities who were no longer distracted could any of them now fail to notice Huang Rong’s almost silent move outside? Liang Ziwong was the first to move. In a flash he was outside and standing in from of Huang Rong, blocking her path.

“Who are you?” he demanded.

Huang Rong could see by the way Liang Ziwong moved that his ability even exceeded hers. Considering that there was a room full of other highly skilled martial artists this was no time to start a fight, so she simply smiled and said sweetly, “This plum tree has such beautiful blossoms, could you please break a twig of them off for me?”

Liang Ziwong didn’t expect to see such a beautiful young woman standing outside dressed in such splendid clothing. When he heard her delicate laugh (like pearls tinkling on jade) he couldn’t help being surprised. He thought that she must be a palace lady, possibly (lady) Qian Jin, so he immediately broke off a twig of plum blossoms to give to her.

Huang Rong smiled and received the blossoms saying, “Thank you kind sir.”

By this time all the rest of the guests were standing by the door watching the proceedings. Peng Lianhu turned to Wanyan Honglie and asked, “Sire, is this lady from the palace?” Wanyan Honglie shook his head and said, “No.”

Peng Lianhu went over and stood in front of Huang Rong blocking her way, saying, “Please wait a moment lady. Let me also break off some blossoms for you.” His right hand moved to execute a holding lock, grabbing her wrist, extending his five fingers towards her side, then suddenly flipping his hand to a claw and striking at her throat!

Huang Rong initially intended to pretend to be a simple lady with no martial abilities and not that bright so that play for time and find a way to escape. She didn’t expect that Peng Lianhu not only had great martial ability but that he was very sharp and saw right through her deception. His blow was so strong that she had no alternative but to dodge, raising her right hand in a sweep, thumb touching index finger, the remaining fingers outstretched, as if like an orchid shooting out. Her execution of this move was not only of the highest skill but also exquisitely beautiful.

(Note things are a little hard to figure out here after!)
Peng Lianhu knew that if she landed her strike on his “Corner Pool” acupoint then his whole arm would become numb and useless so he was forced to suddenly change his strike to avaoid her counter strike. He was shocked that not only did this very young lady have such outstanding skill and speed, but that she also knew such secret acupoint gongfu. Although he had seen many types of gongfu in his time, he had never seen this “Orchid touch acupoint” style before.

This “Orchid style” relies upon speed, accuracy, surprise and purity. Of these “purity” was the most important. It requires graceful execution and easy and relaxed manner to execute properly, as if the the person using it had not a care in the world. If it was executed with too much urgency or viciousness then it would lose it’s advantage in a fight.

As Huang Rong executed the “Orchid style” everyone else washed in astonishment. Peng Lianhu laughed, “Little girl, what is your good name please? Who is your honourable master?”

Huang Rong smiled and replied, “This sprig of plum blossoms is quite pretty is it not? I must go and put it into a vase!” She didn’t answer Peng Lianhu at all. Everyone else looked at her suspiciously wondering where on earth she came from.

Hou Tonghai said sternly, “Elder Peng asked your name. What’s the matter, didn’t you hear?”

Huang Rong asked innocently, “He asked something?”

Peng Lianhu actually saw Huang Rong earlier during the day (in disguise) making fun of Hou Tonghai, now seeing her here again, acting so impertinently, he suddenly thought, “That filthy beggar boy is actually you in disguise!” Suppressing a laugh he said, “Elder Peng, don’t you recognize who that girl is?”

Hou Tonghai was shocked. He looked Huang Rong over a couple of times while Peng Lianhu said, “You were chasing someone all day today around in circles, how could you forget?”

Hou Tonghai again looked at Huang Rong blankly until at last he recognized her, “Yeah, that filthy boy!” When he was chasing Huang Rong, he never stopped cursing her as, “Filthy boy,” however even though “he” had now become a “she” he couldn’t help but curse her as before. He raised both fists and charged her, but only grasped some air as Huang Rong deftly dodged aside.

The dragon king of the demonic group Sha Tongtian’s body became a blur as he moved forward and clutched Huang Rong’s right wrist calling out, “Where are you running to?”

Huang Rong shot her left hand up and struck at his eyes with her two fingers but Sha Tongtian was too fast and grabbed her left wrist as well. Huang Rong struggled to free herself but tray as she might she was not able to. Instead she shouted out, “Shameless!”

Sha Tongtian asked, “What is so shameless?”

“Big men bullying a girl and trying to take advantage of her!” she replied indignantly.

Sha Tongtian was surprised at this. He was after all a famous elder martial artist and this did appear to be a case of the strong bullying the weak so he relaxed his grip and said, “Go in to the Hall and we will talk”

Huang Rong saw she had no alternative but to step into the Hall.

“Before we do any talking let me first cut this filthy tyke down to size!” Hou Tonghai angrily demanded as he raised his fists to strike.

Peng Lianhu stopped him, cautioning, “First we need to find out exactly who her ShiFu is and what School she belongs to.” He could see from her fighting style and appearance that she must be from a great school and that it would be better to find out who she was before doing anything too hasty.

Hou Tonghai didn’t pay any attention to him though and launched an attack at Huang Rong.

She dodged aside and responded, “So you really want to fight eh?”

“You’re not going to get away,” Hou Tonghai retorted. He was afraid that if she did get away then he would never be able to catch her again.

“If you want have a little competition with me, no problem” she said as she took up a wine bowl full of wine from the table and placed it on her head. She then grabbed another full wine bowl in each hand and continued, “Do you dare to take up this challenge?”

Hou Tonghai was suspicious, “What kind of mischief is this?”

Huang Rong looked around at all the assembled guests and smiled saying, “Me and this big horn uncle have no deep grievance. If I am able to defeat him what does everyone think?”

Hou Tonghai angrily stepped forward and yelled, “You defeat me? Listen you little smelly brat, this is a carbuncle not a horn. Take a good look and stop spouting crap!”

Huang Rong didn’t pay any attention to him, but rather continued addressing the others. “Let me and him compete with three full bowls of wine each. Who ever is the first to spill a drop will be considered the loser, is this fair enough?” She had seen Liang Ziwong, Peng Lianhu and Sha Tongtian in action and knew that she would be no match for any of them in a fight. However if this three horned dragon, through increased teasing, can be enticed to fight using light body skills and quick wits she would hold the advantage. If you were to compare true martial ability she may not be the equal but she thought, “Right now my only chance is to play the fool and hope they don’t find me a threat and let me go.”

Hou Tonghai yelled, “Who wants to play monkey tricks with you!” and with that he launched into another fierce attack.

Huang Rong again dodged aside still holding the wine and laughed, “Ok! I’ll hold the three bowls of wine and you can attack without any bowls. Let’s compete!”

Hou Tonghai was more than twice as old. Although his name was not as widely renowned as that of his martial brother Sha Tongtian, he was still a fairly respected member of the Martial Arts world. To receive such a taunt in front of his peers was enough to drive him even more angry. Without a further though he grabbed up three bowls of wine placing one on his head and the others in his hands. He crooked his left leg and sent a vicious kick towards Huang Rong with his right.

Huang Rong laughed, “Well done! This shows the talents of a true hero.” She then began to display her “Lightness” Qing Gonfu by moving all around the room. Hou Tonghai launched a series of kicks against her but she was able to dodge them all. Everyone began to roar with laughter to see such a ridiculous fight.

Huang Rong kept her upper body completely steady as she glided about the room while lumbering behind her with big steps was Hou Tonghai. She began spinning as she moved, her skirt forming a circle, as she alternated between dodging and attacking trying to use her elbows to knock over Hou Tonghai’s wine cup. However he was always able to avoid her attacks.

Liang Ziwong thought to himself, “This girl’s gongfu is certainly trained to a high degree, but all things considered, she is still no match for brother Hou. However who wins and who loses is of no concern to me” His main concern was for his treasured medicinal herbs in his storeroom so he immediately thereupon turned and headed out the door to find this thief.

“The four medicines listed on the prescription, “Dragon’s Blood,” “Pseudo Ginseng,” “Bear Gallbladder” and “Myrrh” (translators note: these names are straight out of the dictionary and all appear to be real plants judging from their scientific names also quoted under the same entries) are all the same ones as those the Prince ordered to be brought up. These herbs are nothing special and not very expensive so their loss is no big deal, but what does concern me is what else he may have taken whilst he was in there.

Guo Jing was beginning to lose consciousness as the snake squeezed tighter and tighter. From the smell and the feel of the snake’s breath on his face he knew the sake must be getting closer. He knew that once the snake was able to bite him then he would surely be dead. Already the snake’s body was brushing against his mouth. He whole body was immobile held fast in the sakes deadly vice like grip, or his left hand, which was desperately trying to hold back the snake and even this was growing weaker. The only thing that he could move was his head and teeth so he opened his mouth and bit hard into the snake’s neck.

The snake began to writhe and squeeze even tighter as it felt the pain from Guo Jing’s teeth sinking in. Guo Jing felt a gush of snake blood flow into his mouth. It tasted extremely bitter and was hard to bear. He didn’t know if it was poisonous or not but he was too afraid to let go and spit it out as he feared he may never get a second chance to latch onto the snake again so he had no option but to swallow it. He also thought that the more blood the snake lost then the more strength it would also lose and it must eventually loosen it’s grip so he redoubled his efforts to start sucking out the snakes blood and continue to swallow. After continuing in this manner for a while his stomach was full and the snake gradually began to loosen its grip. Finally, after a few spasms the snake loosened its grip entirely and moved no more.

Guo Jing was by now exhausted and had to lean heavily against the table to remain upright. His first thought was to flee; however both his legs were still numb from the lack of blood flow and so he was forced to wait for his circulation to again reach through all his limbs. After a few minutes he felt his whole body getting hotter as if he was burning up. This made him very worried until after a short while he found that he could move again. However the feeling of extreme heat still continued to course through his whole body. When he pressed the back of his hand against his cheek it felt like it was scalding hot.

The packets of medicine were still safely in his coat. “Now I have the medicine I can help save Wang Daochang. Mu Yi and his daughter, though innocent of any wrong doing, are locked up by Wanyan Kang and are probably certain to be killed. I must help them escape before I leave.”

With this he went out of the storeroom and, after looking about for the right direction, headed off to the prison where Mu Yi and his daughter were being help.

When he arrived at the prison he saw a bunch of guards patrolling around keeping a tight watch around the prison. Guo Jing waited a while but found no way to get in the same way they did the first time. So he went around to the back of the building and waited for a patrol of guards to go past. He then leaped lightly onto the roof of the building wall and then quietly into the courtyard within. Leaning against the building wall he listened for any presence of soldiers. When he was sure that the coast was clear he whispered quietly, “Elder Mu, I’ve come to help you get out of here.”

Mu Yi got a shock. “Kind Sir, who are you?” he asked.

Guo Jing replied, “Junior’s name is Guo Jing.”

Mu Yi vaguely heard the name Guo Jing but after all the events of the past day and even being weak from injuries, when the two words ‘Guo Jing’ hit his ear drums it was light a thunderclap. With a trembling voice he asked, “What? Guo Jing? Your…your…clan name is Guo?”

Guo Jing replied, “Yes, junior is the one who fought with the young prince earlier today in front of the stage.”

Mu Yi asked, “What is your father’s name?”

“My late father’s name is Xiaotian.” When Guo Jing was young he didn’t know his fathers name. It was only later when Zhu Cong taught him to read that he was able to learn his father’s name.

Mu Yi’s eyes began to swell up with tears. He raised his head up and said softly, “Heaven, oh Heaven!” He reached his hands through the bars and tightly held Guo Jings hand.

Guo Jing could feel Mu Yi’s hand’s trembling and at the same time could feel tears dropping on to his hand. He thought to himself, “(Tr. Implied mild surprise at the depth of emotion shown like a ‘Gosh’ or ‘Gee Wiz’ here I think) Elder Mu is very grateful to me that I am coming to rescue them.”

He quietly whispered, “I have a sharp knife here which I am going to use to cut away the lock then you both can come out. Just before I heard the young prince talking. I know he is trying to deceive you, please don’t trust him!”

Mu Yi however asked, “Your mother, is her clan name Li? Has she passed away or is she still alive?”

“Oh!” Guo Jing asked surprised, “How do you know my mothers clan name? My mother is in Mongolia”

Mu Yi became even more excited upon hearing this. He continued holding Guo Jing’s hand.

Guo Jing said, “Let my hand go so that I can break off the lock.”

Mu Yi held Guo Jing’s hand as if it were the most precious treasure in the world. He was afraid if he let it go he would lose Guo Jing so he continued to hold fast, sighing, “You…you have grown up into such a big man now. Ai! I only have to close my eyes and I can see your father, now long ago departed from this world.”

“You knew my father?”

“Your father was my sworn brother. We swore to help our fellow country men.” at this point his throat become choked with emotion and he was unable to continue. When Guo Jing heard this, he found his eyes become moist with tears as well.

Mu Yi was in fact Yang Tiexin. During the battle with the government troops he suffered a deep wound from a spear in his back. He managed to cling onto a horse and was carried for several miles before he finally lost consciousness and fell off into a clump of bushes. The next morning when he awoke he crawled to a near by farmers hut where he remained for over a month recovering before he could struggle out of bed with the aid of a walking stick. The village nearby was called Lotus Pond village and was only about 7-8 kilometers (4-5 miles) from his own Ox Village. Luckily the farmer’s family was very kind and took care of him as he slowly recovered. However he was worried about his wife and wanted to go back and look for her in Ox Village. Since he was afraid that government troops may still be there searching for him, he waited until midnight to return to his old house and look around.

When he arrived there he saw the door was ajar which made him fear the worst had happened. He pushed open the door and walked in. He looked around and saw things were very much like they were the night that they had to flee. There were some half finished new cloths that his wife, Baoshi, had left still lying on the bed. On the wall where his two family spears had once hung one was missing, probably taken by one of the soldiers that night, leaving only one hanging there looking lonely as if like himself it had too had lost it’s old partner/wife. Apart from this nothing else was disturbed, all covered by a thick layer of dust…

On the wall where his two family spears had once hung one was missing, probably taken by one of the soldiers that night, leaving only one hanging there looking lonely as if like himself it had too had lost it’s old partner/wife. Apart from this nothing else was disturbed, all covered by a thick layer of dust. When he went over to his sworn brother Jing’s house it was also much the same as the night they had left.

He thought about the old wine seller Qu San (the cripple Inn Keeper from Ch 1) with his incredible martial arts skills he might be able to help him find his sworn brother’s family and his wife, however when he went to the wine shop he saw it was locked up and no one was there. Yang TieXin (now disguised as Mu Yi) then went and made inquiries amongst his acquaintances in Ox Village but they all said that after the soldiers had left there had been no news of Guo or Yang.

He then returned to Red Plum village to ask about his wife at his father in law house only to find that his father in law had died of shock shortly after hearing the news of the soldiers attack from that night. Yang TieXin wanted to cry, but had no more tears to shed. Dejected he returned to the farmer’s family who had cared for him in Lotus Pond village.

However as the saying goes, “Troubles never visit in isolation.” An epidemic of plague had broken out and one by one the farmer’s family were stricken. After only a few days six of them died leaving only a new born baby girl alive. Yang TieXin was duty bound to care for her so he made her his adopted daughter and took her with him on his quest to find Li Ping and Bao XiRuo. But since one was halfway to the northern desert and the other already in the north what chance did he have of finding them?

Yang TieXin however didn’t dare to use his real name since he was a wanted man hunted for by government soldiers. So he ‘split’ the character for for his surname, “Yang” in half and used the left side to form the new character “Mu” for his assumed/new surname and the right half to form the character “Yi” for his personal name.

(Tr Note: The character “Yang” is made up of the character “Mu” or wood and “Yang” for the sound. The whole character actually means Poplar Tree as well as being a surname. The “Mu” of his assumed name actually means solemn and has another part of a character on the right side. The “Yang” character is pronounced as “Yi” when by itself and means “Change” as well as other meanings. This is coincidently the same “Yi” as the “Yi Jing” or “I Ching” – classic of changes. I’m sure there are quite a few allusions in this simple name change from which those who know Chinese history and culture well could have hours of fun analysing. Also it is a common fact that when a man is forced to alter his name he is reluctant to lose touch with the original name, so the name Yang TieXin choose is not in keeping with custom. Anyway – on with the story!)

After ten years of fruitless searching among the “rivers and lakes” all over the country (the Chinese south, not the Jin north) his adopted daughter Mu NianCi had grown like a flower into a young woman. Yang TieXin thought that his wife must have probably died at the hands of marauding troops by now. But he still held out the hope that heaven was not blind to the suffering of man, and that Guo XiaoTian’s wife had born a son (Guo Jing) who had lived. As soon as Mu NianCi was of marriageable age he stuck his spear into the ground, erected a banner proclaiming a competition to win the hand of his daughter and waited in the hope that Guo Jing would one day come and win her hand in marriage thus fulfilling his hope and pledge to become father-in-law to his sworn brother’s son.

Although many tried, no Guo Jing was among them, and so after the best part of a year he even this hope of finding Guo Jing began to fade. Now he would even be content to find any man of good character and martial ability to marry his adopted daughter. Then, all of a sudden, on this one day, to encounter embarrassment at the hands of Wanyan Kang and help from a heroic stranger yet by nightfall to find that the heroic stranger is non-other than Guo Jing, well how could he help but become overwhelmed with emotion?

Meanwhile, Mu NianCi was beginning to grow impatient listening to them talk about the past. She wanted Guo Jing to help them escape first and then when they were safe to talk over old times at leisure. But then she had a sudden thought, “If we leave now, I will never see ‘him’ again!” As soon as such a thought came to her, she hurriedly pushed it aside. Guo Jing was also thinking that getting everybody out was the most important thing so he slowly raised his golden knife ready to stike the lock and cut it open.

Suddenly a glint of light appeared under the door and the sound of many footsteps could be heard approaching. Guo Jing quickly slipped behind a door just as the prison doors were pushed open and in marched several people. Through the crack in the door Guo Jing could see the person in front was a bodyguard carrying a lantern. Behind him was the prince’s consort, Wanyan Kang’s mother.

She asked the bodyguard, “Are these two the people whom the young prince imprisoned?”

The bodyguard replied, “Yes,” confirming it was them.

She then ordered the guard on duty, “Release them immediately.”

The bodyguard hesitated, reluctant to obey the order so she said, “If the young prince asked why you released them, tell him I did it, now quickly open the lock and free them!”

The guard dared not refuse the order any longer and opened the lock freeing both of them. The consort then produced two ingots of silver from her cloak and passed them to Yang TieXin saying softly, “Please go safely!”

Yang TieXin however didn’t take the silver but just stared at her without so much as a blink. The consort assumed from his stare that he was angry with her and felt remorse at what they had suffered. In a gentle voice she apologized, “Please forgive us, my son has wronged both of you most gravely today through his disgraceful behaviour.”

Yang TieXin stared at her for a little while before slowly taking the silver and putting it in his robe without a word. He then took his daughter’s hand and walked out of the prison.

The bodyguard called after him. “Hey you scum, don’t you know any manners? When our lady saves your life you should get down on your knees and koutou to show your thanks!”

But Yang TieXin kept on walking as if he had not heard a thing.

Guo Jing waited until they had closed the door and left. Only when he heard the consort was far away did he emerge from hiding and look around. But by then there was no sign of Yang TieXin or his daughter. He thought that they must have left the palace by now so he had best return to the “Fragrant Snow” hall and pull Huang Rong away from listening so they could hurry back with the medicine for Wang Chuyi. He rushed off to the hall following the winding path when he saw two figures carrying red lanterns coming directly towards him in what also looked like a great hurry. Guo Jing tried to duck and hide behind a scenic rockery but he was too late, he had already been spotted.

“Who’s there!” shouted the man as he dashed forward with his hands raised in a claw stance.

Guo Jing could only raise his arms to block the strike. In the light of the two lanterns he was now able to clearly see that his attacker was none other than Wanyan Kang!

As it turned out, the bodyguard, after releasing the prisoners, had hurriedly reported the consort’s actions to the young prince. Wanyan Kang got a shock when he heard this.

He thought to himself, “Mother’s heart has always been too soft and she never sees the consequences of the old man and his daughter getting away! If my ShiFu were hear about this, and were to bring them to face me, how could I deny what’s been going on! I would really be in deep **** (trouble)!”

He immediately rushed to search for them and see if he could cut them off in time before they really escaped from the palace. Running into Guo Jing was the last thing he expected.

Both of them had already fought heavily that day and now they meet again in the middle of the night, one in a hurry to rush back with medicine, the other in a hurry to kill two people so as to seal their lips, thus they fought even more(?) tenaciously now. Guo Jing tried to escape a couple of times but was always blocked by Wanyan Kang. When Guo Jing saw the bodyguard coming forward drawing out his sword ready to assist his master he thought things were going badly indeed!

Liang Ziwong thought that Huang Rong was about to be defeated when turned to leave but to his surprise he heard a cry from the crowd that indicated a change of situation. Huang Rong suddenly raised up both her arms and head sending the three bowls of wine soaring straight up in the air. She then swung both her fists towards Hou Tonghai and struck using a move called “Eight Steps to overtake the moon” (or something like that). Because Hou Tonghai was carrying the wine bowls he couldn’t block the strike so instead he had to dodge quickly to the left. Huang Rong followed through with a flash of her right hand leaving Hou Tonghai no option this time but to block with his arm. Not only was he unable to stop the wine from spilling in his hands, but the bowl perched atop his head also tipped over and fell with a crash to the floor.

Huang Rong instantly leaped back and caught two of her bowls in mid air while the remaining one fell neatly on her soft cloud like hair, all without spilling so much as a drop of wine. Everyone present could not help quietly murmuring, “Excellent” upon seeing such a brilliant performance of skill. Ouyang Ke however didn’t murmur his praise, but said it out rather loudly. Sha Tongtian shot him and angry glare
but Ouyang Ke did not notice and again called out, “Brilliant indeed!”

Hou Tonghai’s cheeks flushed red, “Try that again!”

Huang Rong laughed and scrapped her cheek with a finger saying, “Now, now, aren’t you ashamed?”

Sha Tongtian seeing his junior disciple’s loss of face gave a grunt, “Young girl you are certainly full of devious tricks. Tell us, who is your master?”

Huang Rong smiled sweetly, “I’ll tell you tomorrow. Right now I must be on my way.”

Without appearing to bend a leg or take a step Sha Tongtian suddenly appeared in the doorway blocking Huang Rong’s exit. Only just a few minutes earlier Huang Rong had already learnt just how powerful Sha Tongtien’s Gongfu was when he had grabbed and locked both of her hands and this latest “Change form exchange place” maneuver only served to highlight just how powerful and opponent he would be. Although she felt a slight wave of worry, her face didn’t betray her feelings.

Instead she gave a slight frown and asked in a slightly annoyed tone, “Why are you blocking my way?”

Sha Tongtian replied, “I want you to tell me which school you belong to and why you came barging into the palace.”

Huang Rong arched her pretty eyebrows and asked, “And what if I don’t tell you?”

Sha Tongtian snapped, “When the dragon king of the demonic sect asks a question, there is no choice but to answer!”

Huang Rong saw that she was surrounded in the hall and there wasn’t much chance of her making a run for it. She saw Liang Ziwong was about to leave and so called out to him pleading sweetly, “Uncle! This bad man is blocking my way and won’t let me go home.”

Liang Ziwong laughed when he heard her grumbling in such a cute manner, “The dragon king has only asked you a question, why don’t you be a nice girl and answer him? I’m sure he will let you go then.”

Huang Rong laughed in her most charming way and replied, “But I just don’t feel like answering.” And then to Sha Tongtian, “OK – If you don’t make way, I’ll just have to dash through.”

Sha Tongtian laughed coldly, “Only if you have the ability to get through.”

Huang Rong demanded, “You must not lay a finger on me!”

Sha Tongtian replied, “What need is there for me, the dragon king, to move a finger in order to stop a little girl like you.”

Huang Rong exclaimed, “Good, It’s settled then. A gentleman cannot go back on his word. Dragon King Sha, do you see that?” She pointed with her left hand off to one side of the room. Sha Tongtian looked over to where she was pointing and at this point Huang Rong made a dash to get past him whilst he was distracted.

She moved with blinding speed, but Sha Tontian’s reaction was even faster. He shot his right two fingers up and aimed towards her eyes as she moved forward. If she didn’t stop she would be blinded. Luckily she was agile enough to stop in time and leap back away from the danger. She immediately tried again and again from many different angles but each time she found her way blocked no matter how quickly she moved. Finally when she found her nose almost smashing into Sha Tongtian’s shiny bald head threatening to stain it with blood from her broken nose she gave up with a little shriek of frustration.

Liang Ziwong laughed heartily, “Dragon King Sha is a master at this, there is no point in continuing. Why not just admit defeat?” He then turned off and set off at a rapid pace back to his medicine store room.

As soon as he stepped into the room he smelt fresh bood and knew that all was not well. He looked down and saw by the glow of his torch the shriveled body of his prized red snake. All it’s blood had been drained and his stores of medicines were strewn about the place. Liang Ziwong’s blood ran cold – 20 years of work had been destroyed in one night! He clutched the body of his dead snake and couldn’t control his tears.

Later he killed a seriously wounded senior (master?) and from inside his sack he took a manual of martial art’s secrets along with ten or so prescriptions for the preperation of different types of medicines/drugs/potions. Study of this book combined with use of these drugs would lead to martial arts of incredible power. Part of the preparation of the drugs required the raising of a special type of venomous snake. He searched deep in the forests and mountains to find this type of snake and fed it upon the most precious of herbs and other medicines. The snakes body was originally black, but over the years as her fed it cinnabar it gradually began to turn into a bright red. After twenty years of feeding the snake it had only just a few more days to complete it’s transformation when he was called to Yan Jing to meet with the Prince. When the snake was ready he only need drink the blood of the snake and meditate to gain the full benefit of the martial arts power which would make his gongfu more powerful than ever. Now to see his lifes work not only lost to him, but to possibly in addition have someone else benefit instead was more than he could bear.

After a few moments he managed to compose himself and saw that the traces of blood on the snake had not yet congealed. He realized then that it couldn’t have been very long since the snake had died, so the culprit must still be near by. He immediately leapt up into a tall tree and looked all around for any signs of the thief. From there he saw the vicious fight between Guo Jing and Wanyan Kang going on in the garden. Burning with fury and anger, he leaped down and sped off towards the fight. As soon as he arrived he could already smell the pungent smell of the snake’s blood coming from Guo Jing.

Guo Jing was not Wanyan Kang’s equal yet when it came to fighting and from the start he was already at a disadvantage. To make matters worse, he felt his stomach burning up with and unbearable heat as if it were full of boiling water. He was terribly thirsty and itched most terribly all over his body.

“This time I’m certain to die,” he thought, “The snake’s poison is beginning to take hold.”

In the midst of these fearful thoughts he was being struck repeatedly by Wanyan Kang’s fists which were made even more painful by the effects of the poison.

“You filthy bastard!” yelled Liang Ziwong, “Who sent you to steal my precious snake?” He couldn’t imagine that some stupid kid would know about such a secret as that of the snake. He thought it must be someone else who put him up to the task. In fact he was almost certain that it was Wang Chuyi who had sent Guo Jing.

When Guo Jing heard this he was furious. “That precious snake of yours attacked and poisoned me! I’ve got a bone to pick with you!” (Tr. Sorry, it’s hard to render it into better english without becoming too inaccurate) and he leaped toward Liang Ziwong with his fists raised for attack.

Liang Ziwong however smelt the medicine smell mingled with the snake blood and had an evil thought. “He has drunk the snakes blood. If I kill him now and drink his blood then I may still be able to gain the beneficial effects. Who knows, maybe the drug’s effects will be enhanced…” As soon as he thought of this his anger vanished and he leaped towards Guo Jing to meet his attack. With his superior gongfu he was able to easily lock Guo Jing’s arms and legs and hold him down. He then prepared to bite into Guo Jing’s neck to extract his precious drug/medicine…

Meanwhile Huang Rong, no matter how quickly she moved had not been able to get past Sha Tongtian. She was already getting anxious about what would happen if he decided to catch her. She decided that a change of tact may be more appropriate.

“If I can get through the door then you promise to leave me be, okay?” She asked.

“If you can get through the door I will admit defeat.” replied Sha Tongtian.

“Ai yo! What a pity my father only taught me the skill of entering, not the skill of leaving.” she sighed.

“What is this ‘entering’ and ‘leaving’ skill?” Sha Tongtian asked half doubting, half curiously.

“Your ‘Change form exchange place’ skill, although not bad, is still far below that of my father’s skills. Way below in fact.” she boasted.

“Don’t talk crap you stupid girl.” Sha Tongtian retorted angrily. “Anyway, who is your father?”

“If I told you my father’s name, I’m afraid I would scare you out of your wits, so it’s best if I don’t say.” Huang Rong replied mischievously. “When he taught me the skill of entering he hid by the door way and I tried to rush in from outside. I tried many times but was never able to get past him. However even though I cannot get out against you with your piddling skills, there is no way that you could stop me from getting back in. I wouldn’t even have to raise a sweat”

Sha Tongtian laughed coldly and said, “From outside going in or from inside going out, what’s the difference? OK you come here and show me!” With that he moved aside to let her demonstrate the great ‘entering’ gongfu which she boasted.

Huang Rong immediately shot outside and laughed, “Ha, you fell for my trick. You said a minute ago that if I could get through the door that you would admit defeat and would let me go. Well am I outside now? Did I not go through the door? Come now Dragon King Sha, you are an honorable man, your word is your bond. You cannot think of going back on what you promised in front of all these gentlemen.”

Although Sha Tongtian knew that she had tricked him, she was correct, his word was his bond and he could hardly go back on what he promised. He scratched his bald head and flushed red but could see no way to get out of this.

Peng Lianhu however was not about to let Huang Rong get away. He suddenly shot out a stream of darts towards her. The darts were extremely fast but they were aimed close to the back of her head rather than right at her. However when they hit the stone pillar they ricocheted towards her. They were too fast for her to catch and she had no choice but to leap forward a pace to avoid them. The darts continued in a stream and each one forced her to moved forward half a few inches. Before she knew it she had moved back inside the hall again!

Peng Lianhu’s objective all along had been to force her back into the room and everyone watching exclaimed their praise at his skill. He just laughed and said, “What’s this? You’ve gone back inside again!”

Huang Rong scowled, “Huh! You used your ‘ninja’ weapons to bully a girl and force her to move, what’s so fantastic about that!”

“Who was bullying you?” he asked incredulously. I never laid a finger on you or harmed you!”

“Then let me go!” she said angrily.

“First tell us who taught you your gongfu.” he demanded.

Huang Rong smiled and said, “I taught myself whilst in my mother’s womb!”

Peng Lianhu said, “If you’re not willing to tell us then perhaps I can find out another way!” With this he shot his fist straight towards her shoulder.

Huang Rong didn’t move or try to block the blow. She figured that he wouldn’t dare to act so shamelessly as to hit a girl who refused to fight back.

When Peng Lianhu saw she wasn’t going to fight he pulled short his punch and withdrew his arm shouting, “Come on, show me what you’ve got. Stupid girl! I bet I can find out who your master by your style of fighting within 10 (martial arts) moves.”

He had seen many styles during his life and although he had seen the Huang Rong was a very crafty girl, he was confident that she would not be able to hide her real martial arts style from him in a true fight. In fact he thought he needed no more than ten to do so.

Huang Rong asked, “And if you have not found out within ten moves?”

“Then I will let you walk free.” he replied, and without further ado launched into an attack using ‘Triple Linked Penetration’ (Literal Translation) so called because it incorporated three movements(?).

Huang Rong turned her body and dodged whilst forming a ring with her thumb and little finger and stretching the remaining fingers to form a three-pronged fork. Using this she counter attacked using the ‘Night Trident Searches the Sea’.

Hou Tonghai cried out, “‘Night Trident Searches the Sea!’ Senior Brother, this brat must be from the……Our (?Book says ?? so i’m guessing he must be referring to his own school – i.e. Demon Sect?) School of Martial Arts.”

“Rubbish!” scolded Sha Tongtian. He knew the Huang Rong had already been teasing and making fun of Hou Tonghai for some time before tonight. He figured that she must have picked up the ‘Night Trident Searches the Sea!’ from her earlier encounters fighting with Hou Tonghai.

Peng Lianhu couldn’t suppress a laugh as he whirled around to attack again. Huang Rong turned obliquely to the left and without bending a knee or taking a step suddenly ‘moved’ to the side.

Hou Tonghai again exclaimed, “‘Change form exchange place’!, Senior Brother, did you teach her that?”

Sha Tonghai again scolded him saying, “Can you shut up – okay? Always saying stupid things!” However, inside he couldn’t help but admire Huang Rong’s intelligence and skill in learning the basics of such a move after only having seen it once. Even if the execution of the move wasn’t entirely correct, she had been able to dodge Peng Lianhu’s strike. Amazing achievement!

As the fight continued Huang Rong attacked using the “Soul smashing knife” followed by the ‘Soul Snatching Whip” strikes. When Hou Tonghai saw these attacks and heard her call out, “Yi Yi Yi” with each strike he couldn’t help but call out, “Senior Brother! This brat must be from out school…” If he didn’t see Sha Tonghai’s face growing angrier by the minute he would have again called out the name of the sects moves.

Peng Lianhu was also getting angrier. He thought to himself, “So far I’ve been kind and have shown mercy with my attacks, but this girl is craftier than a witch. If I don’t start using more vicious attacks I run the chance of not forcing her to reveal her true style.”

Martial Artists, after training in their chosen style may pick up moves from other styles and over time can even become quite proficient at them. However, in a life and death struggle, they will always return to their roots and use the style that they first learnt and are most familiar with.

Peng Lianhu’s first four strikes had been mild and contained no desire to injure. However from his fifth strike his moves became like a whirlwind. When all the spectators saw his moves take on a vicious turn they couldn’t help but become worried for Huang Rong. Everyone had not idea of her background and although she had been stubborn, no one actually had any real grievance against her or wanted to see such a young, pretty and charming girl come to any harm.

No one except for Hou Tonghai that is, who actually thought, “The sooner the ***** (brat) is dead the better!”

Huang Rong continued hide her style by using strikes from Wanyan Kang’s ‘CompleteTruthSchool’ and Guo Jing’s ‘Southern Mountain Fists’ style. She had only just learnt these moves by seeing them earlier the same day when Guo Jing and Wanyan Kang fought using them on the stage. For the seventh move she even used Peng Lianhu’s ‘Triple Linked Penetration’ that she first saw only six moves ago! However now it was getting more and more dangerous. Even in a straight fight with Huang Rong using all her strength and true skills against Peng Lianhu she would not be able to prevail, how could she expect to survive using tricks picked up by observing others? She was gambling against the fact that even though he was using the most vicious strokes that he wouldn’t actually go so far as to kill her.

“This little girl is remarkably smart. She can hold herself against that Peng guy’s fists. Ayo. Watch out, watch out. Why haven’t you dodged left?”

Peng Lianhu’s style used a brilliant mixture of false (i.e. feints) and real strikes, which he was able to switch between at will. On the eighth move he made a feint with his left and a real lunge with his right. Huang Rong expected him to do the opposite on the next move and feint with his right whilst attacking with his left. This meant that she ought to dodge to her right, but when she heard Ouyang Ke call out she immediately changed her mind and leapt elegantly to the left. This sudden posture was exquisite, and it turned out that nobody in the crowd recognized it.

When Peng Lianhu heard Ouyang Ke’s crucial word of help he became furious. He thought, “Do you think that I wont kill you if I have to you stupid girl!” His nickname wasn’t ‘Slaughterer of a Thousand Hands’ for nothing. He had an extremely cruel nature when angry. At first when he saw Huang Rong he thought that she being so young, and a girl, it would be shameful to kill her, but now at the second last move of the contest and still yet to find her real School/Style, he was so angry that he no longer cared. He struck with ‘Push open the window and watch the moon’ using all his force, left hand “Yin,” right hand “Yang,” one soft, one hard, both simultaneously pushing out.

Huang Rong knew that things were desperate now. She stepped back as she saw his fists coming toward her face. All that she could do was to duck her head, bend both her arms, point both elbows forwards and strike at his chest.

Peng Lianhu expected her to try and block this strike and intended to follow up with the tenth stroke. However he was taken aback that she should actually try a counter attack against such a vicious strike. He had already half executed the tenth strike ‘Falling Star Great Void’, but immediately concentrated his internal energy to stop his strike like trying to reign a horse back from tipping over a cliff. “You are a disciple of ‘Twin Killers of the Dark Winds!’” he cried out with a shiver in his voice.

Huang Rong leapt back several feet. When Peng Lianhu called out these words a wave of fear went through the room. Everyone present, with the exception of Price Zhao knew of the dreaded ‘Twin Killers of the Dark Winds’. Even the feared ‘Slaughterer of a Thousand Hands’ Peng was afraid to touch her now.

Before Huang Rong could say anything a cry sounded in the still night air. It was Guo Jing, and he sounded as if he was in real danger. Huang Rong was suddenly concerned about his safety and her face went white with fear.

Guo Jing’s arms and legs were all held down by Liang Ziwong. He wasn’t able to move an inch but as he saw Liang Ziwong coming closer ready to bite his throat he suddenly felt a surge of strength born of desperation and executing ‘Carp Arching Backwards’ he was able to free himself and leap upright. Liang Ziwong quickly struck again. Guo Jing tried to leap forward (away from Liang Ziwong) but Liang Ziwong’s speed was like the wind and there was no way Guo Jing could escape it.

“Smack!” the punch hit him square on his back and was not at all like the earlier punches from Wanyan Kang. This one felt like it penetrated to the bone. Guo Jing was frightened out of his wits and didn’t stop for another hit but continued running straight ahead, away from everyone. His ‘Jing Gong’ (light foot skill) ability was very good and he used it to maximum ability to speed through the trees and rookeries of the garden. Liang Ziwong was not able to keep pace.

Guo Jing initially ran very fast but after a short while felt himself growing slower and he began to pant heavily. There was a big hole torn in the back of his gown and he felt pain from where he had been hit. He thought that the Liang Ziwong’s last punch must have actually been a claw and taken some of his flesh away along with the back of his cloak. He was very worried now and looked frantically for some place to hide. Straight ahead was the Consort Wang’s shabby compound. He rushed in with the hope that they wouldn’t search there and he might be able to make his escape later. He lay down behind the wall at the back and didn’t dare to move a muscle. Soon he heard Liang Ziwong and Wanyan Kang, one calling the other answering, coming closer. Liang Ziwong was so angry he couldn’t control his voice as he called out.

Guo Jing thought anxiously, “If I wait here by the wall it’s only a matter of time before they find me. Consort Wang seems to have a kind nature, perhaps she will save me.”

Given the critical situation he didn’t have any time to think further so he quickly slipped inside the house. There he only found a lighted candle on the table in the middle of the room. Consort Wang must have been in another room. He quickly looked around the room and saw a wooden wardrobe in the east corner which he opened the door and slipped in before closing it leaving only a crack to see through. He then pulled out his golden knife and allowed himself to relax a little.

He heard footsteps and saw Consort Wang walk in slowly. She sat down by the table and looked at the candle as if in a daze. Before long Wanyan Kang entered and asked, “Mother, did some bad man come in and give you a fright?”

Consort Wang shook her head and so Wanyan Kang went outside again and continued searching elsewhere with Liang Ziwong.

Consort Wang then closed the door and looked as if she was going to bed. Guo Jing thought, “As soon as she blows out the candle I’ll slip out through the window and escape. No – I had better wait a while first, in case I run into the young prince and that white haired fellow again. That crazy guy tried to bite my throat. That sure is some weird kind of Gongfu! My Shifu’s never taught me anything like that before. I really must ask them about it next time I see them. Going around and biting people’s throats! What’s with that?” He then thought some more, “After fighting so much and being away for so long, Huang Rong must have gone by now. I had better get out as well other wise she might be wondering what’s been keeping me.”

Suddenly the window creaked open and someone leaped in. Both Guo Jing and Consort Wang had a shock. Consort Wang gave a gasp but Guo Jing noticed that the person who had just entered was none other than Mu Yi or now Yang Tiexin. Guo Jing couldn’t be more surprised. He had assumed that He and his daughter had fled the palace long ago.

When Consort Wang recognized him she quickly said, “Please hurry and leave, before they find you.”

Yang Tiexin replied, “Many thanks for Consort Wang’s king concern. If I didn’t come here to thank you in person I would regret it to my dying day.” His words contained an element of sarcasm as if fully of bitter rancor.

Consort Wang sighed and said, “Please forget it. It is my son who has wronged you and your daughter. Yang Tiexin looked around and saw that beside a table, lamp, bed and wardrobe there was not much else. Everything seemed to be old, worn and familiar. He suddenly felt a wave of sadness and he could not suppress a tear as it trickled down his cheek. He wiped his eyes with his sleeve and walked over to the wall where the lone spear was hanging. He took it down and saw that it was covered with rust. He could still make out the four characters “Tie Xin Yang Clan” written on the spear blade/shaft (???).

He gently stroked the spear shaft and sighed, “This iron spear is rusty. It has not been used for a long while.”

Consort Wang spoke softly, “Please don’t touch the spear.”

“Why?” Asked Yang Tiexin.

“Because this is the most precious possession I have.” she murmured.

Yang Tiexin was suddenly angry. “Really?” he asked bitterly. He paused before going on, “This spear used to have a matching partner, however today only one remains.”

“What?” asked Consort Wang suprised but he didn’t reply. He hung the spear on the wall and gazed at the broken plough tip saying absentmindedly, “This plough tip is worn (lah). Tomorrow you should call on Zhang Mu-er in the east village to take a catty of iron and see if her can repair it.”

When Consort Wang heard this she felt as if she had been struck by a bolt of lightning. For a moment she was speechless as she stared at him. Finally she stammered, “Who…who are you?”

Yang Tiexin replied slowly but evenly, “I said the plough tip is worn. Tomorrow you should call on Zhang Mu-er in the east village to take a catty of iron and see if her can repair it.”

Consort Wang felt her knees going weak. She again stammered, “Who…who are you? How…how could you know what my late husband said…said the night he died?”

Consort Wang was none other than Yang Tiexin’s wife, Bao Xiruo. When Wanyan Honglie was wounded by an arrow that day near Ox village, Bao Xiruo had saved his life. When he saw such a beautiful woman save his life he couldn’t stop thinking about her after he escaped that night. So he bribed Duan TianDe to have his soldiers raid Ox village that night so that he could arrange to “save” Bao Xiruo and appear to be a hero. Once her husband and friends were dead then she would be alone in the world and would naturally look to her “rescuer” to protect her. If he took her north and was patient enough she would sooner or later give up hope of return and agree to remarry to him starting a new life together.

During the eighteen years at the palace, her face had not changed much at all. Yang Tiexin’s face though had undergone much change from the hardships he encountered on the road searching for her. Now when they met again she could not recognize her former husband at first. After all these years of mutual longing to be together again this night amongst so much danger was as if they were in a dream.

Yang Tiexin didn’t reply, he just walked over to the table and pulled open a drawer. Inside he saw a couple of sets of a man’s blue coats exactly the same as the ones he used to wear. He picked one up saying, “I have enough coats to wear. You are tired and should rest now that you are pregnant. No need to make more clothes for me.” These words were the same ones spoken by him to her eighteen years before when she was pregnant.

Bao Xiruo rushed over to his side and grabbed his sleeve. When she pulled it up she saw a (familiar) old scar. A mix of surprise and joy suddenly enveloped her. For the past 18 years she had thought her husband had been dead and now to recognize him now standing before her was like a ghost come back to life. She immediately hugged him with both arms, holding tightly and crying, “Quickly! Quickly take me with you. Let us leave here now. I will show you a secret gateway where we can slip away unseen. I am not afraid of ghosts. I would rather become a ghost and be together with you than part with you again.

Yang Tiexin held his wife as warm tears rolled down his cheeks. After a long while his asked gently, “Do you think that I am a ghost?”

“I don’t care if you are a man or a ghost, I wont let go of you again.” she sobbed. “How is it that you are still alive? After all these years I can’t believe that you are still alive. Where…what..”

Yang Tiexin was about to reply when suddenly Wanyan Kang’s voice called from just outside the window, “Mother, why are you sobbing? Who are you talking to?”

Bao Xiruo got a fright, “It’s nothing,” she called out, “I was just sleeping.”

Wanyan Kang had clearly heard the sound of a man’s voice talking inside the room. He immediately became suspicious and walked around to the door, knocking gently saying, “Mother, I would like to have a word with you.”

“Tomorrow,” She replied, “Let’s talk tomorrow. I’m very tired now and want to sleep”

When Wanyan Kang saw that his mother was not willing to open the door, his suspicions only increased. “I just want to have a few words, then I’ll go.”

Yang Tiexin knew that Wanyan Kang was intent on coming in, so he went over to the window with the intention of making a quick get away. He tried to push open the shutter, but to his surprise he found that it wouldn’t budge. Someone had locked it from the outside! Bao XiRuo was in a panic. She thought she would play for time and keep talking whilst Yang Tiexin found a place to hide. She hurriedly pointed to the wardrobe and motioned for her husband to hide inside. Imagine their surprise when they opened the door and found Guo Jing inside! Bao XiRuo couldn’t help but let out a little scream.

When Wanyan Kang heard this he became extremely worried. He thought someone was trying to harm his mother so he started trying to break open the door with his shoulder. There was no time to lose, Guo Jing grabbed Yang TieXin and pulled him into the wardrobe and closed the door just as the wooden bar on the bedroom door gave a loud crack and flew open.

In rushed Wanyan Kang. He saw his mother’s face was pale with fear and her cheeks were wet with tears but apart from her, there was no one else in the room.

“Mother, what’s wrong? What has been going on?” he asked anxiously.

Bao XiRuo made an effort to compose herself before saying, “Nothing. I just am not feeling well.”

Wanyan Kang rushed over to her and said, “Mother, I promise I wont doing anything stupid again. Please don’t be worried. I’ve been a bad son to make you so worried.”

“OK.” She said in a comforting way, “Now I’m feeling so tired. Please let me go to bed. I’m very tired and want to sleep.”

But Wanyan Kang heard a waver in her voice and asked, “Mother, are you sure that no one has been here recently?”

“Who?” she asked.

“Just recently a couple of bandits entered the palace.”

“Really?” She replied. “You really should be going off to bed. Don’t let these things concern you.”

Wanyan Kang said, “Yeah, I’m sure the guards, even though their a useless bunch, will be able to take care of them. You need not worry. Please go and have some rest.”

He was just on the point of leaving when he noticed a slip of a man’s robe sticking out from a crack in the wardrobe door. Now he knew that something strange was really going on. He didn’t say anything but instead sat down at the table and poured himself a cup of tea which he began to drink slowly whilst he mulled over what to do. “In the wardrobe a man is hiding, but I don’t know if my mother knows this or not.”

He took a few more sips of tea before standing up and slowly walking over to the wall where the spear was hanging. “Mother, what do you think of your son’s spear skill that your saw earlier today.”

“I have already told you that I don’t like you using your skills to bully other people.” Bao XiRuo said in a disapproving tone.

Wanyan Kang replied in a hurt tone, “Bully people? I was merely competing one to one in a fair competition with that stupid boy.” He then grabbed the spear off the wall and playfully try a few strokes. The red tassel on the spear danced about as he executed the ‘Rising Phoenix Soaring Dragon’ strike aiming straight at the wardrobe. If this stroke went through the wardrobe, Yang TieXin and Guo Jing, who were not able to see what was happening, would have no hope of fending off the attack. They would be dead for certain. Seeing this Bao XiRuo immediately fainted!

Wanyan Kang stopped short with his strike. Seeing his mother’s reaction he immediately knew that she knew about the man hiding in the wardrobe. Propping the spear down beside him, he lifted up his mother, but watched the wardrobe for any signs of movement all the time.

Slowly Bao XiRuo regained consciousness and when she saw the wardrobe still intact with no spear hole she immediately felt immense relief. Having been through so many extreme highs and lows of emotion over the past hour she felt very weak all over.

Wanyan Kang was very angry, “Mother, am I your son or not?” he demanded.

“Of course you are my son. Why do you ask?”

“Well then, why do you keep so many things secret from me?”

Bao XiRuo thought to herself, “I must tell him about today’s events and let him be reunited with his true father. After that I will take my life since I have lost my chastity and thus deeply wronged my husband. This life I can never be reunited with my husband TieXin…” At this thought she again burst into tears which now flowed freely.

When Wanyan Kang saw how his mother was acting so strangely today he didn’t know what to think. Finally Bao XiRuo said, “Please take a seat and listen to what I have to say very carefully.”

Wanyan Kang sat down as told but he stayed near the spear and continued to watch the wardrobe.

Bao XiRuo asked, “Do you see the four characters written on the spear?”

“When I was a small boy I asked you about those characters, but you refused to tell me what ‘Yang Tie Xin’ meant.”

“Well now I am going to tell you what they mean.”

Yang TieXin hiding in the wardrobe could clearly hear every word that was being said between mother and son. Having an impulsive nature he thought to himself, “She is a Prince’s Consort now. How could she possibly want to live with me again in a shabby hut in the wilds as a village wife? She is about to leak out my identity, could she actually be planning to have her son kill me?”

He heard her continue, “This spear is originally from a place call Ox Village in JiangNan near the Song city of LinAn(??) I sent men to journey far away to fetch this for me. That plough, this table, lamp, bed, wardrobe, everything in this room has been brought here from Ox Village.”

Wanyan Kang interrupted, “I really don’t understand why you insist on living in the old shabby shack. I can get you the most beautiful furnishings but you always refuse!”

“You say that this place is a shabby shack. But to me it is better than the most intricately decorated palace! Child, you are not fortunate. You have never lived with your true mother and father in such a shabby place.”

When Yang TieXin heard this he felt a sudden wave of emotion and could not keep himself from shedding tears.

Wanyan Kang laughed, “Mother, the more you talk the more strange you become. How can father possibly live in this place?”

Bao XiRuo sighed, “Such a pity he wandered all over the country for eighteen years, living amongst the rivers and lakes. If he could have just lived here for half a day that would be more than comfortable enough for him.” (??Not sure if I have the correct translation here??)

When Wanyan Kang heard this he opened his eyes wide and asked in a trembling voice, “Mother, what are you saying?”

Bao XiRuo asked in a sharp voice, “Who do you think your real father is?”

Wanyan Kang said mystified, “My father is the great Jin Prince Zhao. Mother, why are you asking me this?”

Bao XiRuo stood up and took the spear, cradling it in her arms, tears again flowing, “Child, you don’t know, but I can’t blame you. This…this is your real father’s spear that he used to use many years ago…” Pointing to the characters on the spear she continued, “This is your real father’s name!”

Wanyan Kang felt his body shake. “Mother,” he cried out, “You are talking rubbish. You must be going crazy. I’m going to call for the doctor.”

“Am I talking rubbish? You say that you are a Jin? You are Chinese! Your name is not really Wanyan Kang, it’s Yang, Yang Kang!”

Wanyan Kang was shocked and very angry. He turned to go shouting, “I’m going to ask father.”

Bao XiRuo cried out, “Your father is in there!” With this she took a bold step toward the wardrobe, pulled open the door and taking Yang TieXin’s hand led him out into the room.”