The perfect plan was just a dream.
For tens of thousands ‘li’ Zhang Wuji had been travelling together with Yang Buhui, keeping each other company and relying on each other. Now that they suddenly parted, he felt sadness. However, thinking that at last he did not fail Ji Xiaofu by successfully delivering her daughter to Yang Xiao, he could not help feeling relieved and gratified. After standing still for half a day, he remembered that he might bump into He Taichong, Ban Shuxian, or other Kunlun Pai here, so he quickly walked down the valley.
After walking for more than ten days, his arm was gradually healing; however, wandering around Kunlun Mountains, he still could not find his way out of the mountain. One particular day, he walked for half a day and then stopped by a pile of rocks to take a rest. Suddenly from the northwesterly direction he heard sound of barking dogs. From the noise, he estimated there were about a dozen dogs or so. The sound of barking was getting closer, it seemed like the dogs were pursuing some wild animal. Amidst the barking dogs, there appeared a little monkey running for his life; there was a short arrow sticking out from the rear of the monkey’s thigh. The monkey was still several ‘zhang’ away from Zhang Wuji when suddenly it fell tumbling down. Because of the arrow on its thigh it was unable to climb a tree. By this time its strength was gone that it could not even crawl back up.
Zhang Wuji came near the monkey and looked; the monkey looked back at him with fear, but its eyes also spoke to him, begging for pity. Zhang Wuji’s heart was touched; he mused, “I am also running away from Kunlun Pai people, so we are in the same boat.” Thereupon he gently lifted the monkey up and pulled the arrow out. Then he took some medicine from his pocket and applied it on the arrow wound.
Right this moment the barking of the dogs sounded very near. Zhang Wuji quickly opened his robe and hid the monkey in his bosom. He heard loud and intense ‘woof! woof! woof!’ as a pack of about a dozen large hounds with sharp teeth surrounded him. The hounds smelled the monkey. They bare their fangs and brandish their claws threateningly, but did not dare to attack immediately.
Zhang Wuji was terrified to see these vicious dogs exposing their row after row of sharp white teeth. He knew that as soon as he let the monkey in his bosom out, the dogs would turn their attention to the monkey and would not give him any trouble. However, he had received instruction from his father since he was a child to take chivalry seriously; he did not want to fail even toward a wild animal. Immediately he leaped over the dogs and ran as fast as he could. The pack of dogs barked wildly and ran after him.
How could Zhang Wuji match the speed of the hounds? He only managed to run for about a dozen of ‘zhang’ when the pack of dogs overtook him. He felt a sudden pain on his leg as a vicious dog sank its teeth on him and would not let him go. Hastily he turned around and struck the dog’s head with his palm. This palm strike carried his entire strength. The dog rolled down on the ground and then stopped moving altogether. The rest of the hounds attacked together. Zhang Wuji punched and kicked wildly with all his strength. However, his arm had not completely healed that he could not rotate his left hand; before long, a vicious dog bit his left hand and then the dogs pounced on him from all directions. His head, his face, his shoulders, practically his entire body was bitten by the dogs. While he was about to lose his consciousness out of shock and fear, he heard faint calls of a clear and tender voice of a woman. But the voice seemed to be very far away. His vision blackened and he passed out.
In his unconscious state, Zhang Wuji felt as if he was in the middle of packs of jackals and wolves, tigers and leopards which were ready to devour him. He wanted to cry out for help, but no sound was coming out of his mouth. Suddenly he heard that someone was saying, “The critical situation has passed, perhaps he will live.”
Zhang Wuji opened his eyes and saw a pale yellow light. He felt he was lying on a bed inside a small room, with a middle-aged man standing next to his bed.
“Da … Dashu … [big uncle, or more appropriately: honorable uncle] I … how did I ..” Zhang Wuji only managed to utter these words when he suddenly felt burning pains all over his body. Only then did he slowly remember that he was attacked and bitten by a pack of wild hounds.
“Xiaozi [boy, kid],” that man said, “Just consider yourself lucky you did not die. What is it? Are you hungry?”
“I … where am I?” Zhang Wuji said. Because of severe pain all over his body, Zhang Wuji passed out again.
By the time he came around for the second time, the middle-aged man was no longer in the room. Zhang Wuji thought, “Definitely I won’t live much longer, why do I have to experience this much torment?” Looking down his body, he saw his neck, his chest, arms and thighs were wrapped in cotton cloths, while a strong smell of medicine assailed his nostrils. Turned out someone was treating his wounds, but from the smell of the medicine, he knew the person applying the ointment had a rather shallow medical skill. He smelled almond, ‘ma qian zi’ [sorry, I don’t know what it is], ‘fang feng’ [windproof], ‘nan xing’ [southern star], and various other herbs. These kind of herbs were effective to treat rabid dog bites, as it would draw out rabies pus from the wound; but the dogs biting him were not rabid at all, his wounds were on his flesh and bones, without any poisoning. The medicine was not only ineffective, it would increase the pain.
Powerless to get up, he lay down until dawn. The middle-aged man came to check him up. Zhang Wuji said, “Dashu, thank you so much for saving me.”
The man coldly said, “This is the ‘Hong Mei Shan Zhuang’ [Red Plum Villa]; it was our Miss who saved you. Are you hungry?” While saying that he went out and came back with a bowl of steaming hot porridge.
Zhang Wuji drank several mouthful, but his stomach was nauseous; his head was dizzy and he did not have the appetite to each more.
He lay down for eight days before he was finally strong enough to get up. His legs felt weak without the least bit of strength. He knew it was because of excessive lost of blood, so it would take a while to recover.
The man came everyday to deliver his food and change his medication. Although his expression was rather bored, Zhang Wuji was still very appreciative toward him. Only, Zhang Wuji’s mind was filled with unanswered questions, but he did not dare to ask too much because the man seemed uninterested to converse with him.
One day, the man returned with the same medication, ‘fang feng’, ‘nan xing’ and so on. Zhang Wuji could not help from saying, “Dashu, these medicines are not effective for my illness. Would you change it for me?”
The man turned to him with a condescending look. After staring at Zhang Wuji for half a day he said, “Laoye [old master, grandmaster] personally wrote the prescription; how can he be wrong? You said the medicine is not effective, how could it revive you from the dead then? Really! Little kid is babbling nonsense. If our Laoye heard it, he might not be offended, but you really do not know good from bad.” While saying that he spread the medicine on Zhang Wuji’s wound. Zhang Wuji could only force a smile.
The man said, “I think you wound is so much better. Why don’t you go see Laoye, Taitai [Madame], and Xiaojie [Miss] to kowtow and thank them for saving your life?”
“That is only appropriate,” Zhang Wuji said, “Dashu, why don’t you take me to see them?”
The man led Zhang Wuji out of the small room, walked through a long corridor, passed through two halls, and came to a warm chamber. It was the beginning of winter, but the Kunlun region had been very cold for quite some time. The room was as warm as the springtime. Zhang Wuji could not locate the furnace; he only saw the chamber was decorated extravagantly, with couches draped in brocade and soft pillows. In all his life Zhang Wuji had never seen such a splendid and cozy room as the one he was in. Looking at his own dirty clothes, he felt so out of place standing inside such a luxurious warm room; he could not help feeling ashamed at his own filth.
There was no one inside the warm room, but the man’s expression was extremely respectful. Bowing, he said, “The boy who was bitten by the dog is well, he wants to kowtow to Laoye and Taitai to express his gratitude.” After saying this, he stood silently with relaxed hands; he did not even dare to breathe loudly.