Coming and going of a messenger brings a laugh.
Zhang Wuji and the peasant girl turned their gaze toward the northeast. It was already dawn. They saw a green shadow walking on the snowy ground with steps as light as a feather. When the shadow was about a dozen of ‘zhang’ away, they could see clearly that it was a woman wearing a green robe. She talked with Ding Minjun for a while, and then turned her head toward Zhang Wuji and the peasant girl, before finally she walked towards them.
Her clothes fluttered in the wind, her movements were light and graceful, her steps were dainty, but in an instant she was already four, five ‘zhang’ away from the two people. They saw her style was simple yet elegant, her countenance beautiful, she could not be older than seventeen, eighteen years of age.
Zhang Wuji was amazed; listening to her whistle and looking at her movements, he would have thought that she was a lot older than Ding Minjun, but it turned out that she looked even younger than him. He noticed a short sword hanging on the young woman’s slender waist, yet she did not draw her weapon but approached them barehanded.
Ding Minjun warned her, “Zhou Shimei [younger martial sister], this witch girl’s martial art is very demonical.”
The young woman nodded. With a refined and polite manner she asked, “May I know your honorable surnames and great given names? For what reason did you injure my Shijie [older martial sister]?”
When she was near enough, Zhang Wuji thought she looked quite familiar. As soon as she spoke, he remembered immediately, “Turns out she is the Hanshui River boatman’s little girl, Miss Zhou Zhiruo. Tai Shifu took her up the Wudang Mountain, how did she become Emei School’s disciple?”
His heart warmed up; he wanted to ask her about his Taishifu, but then he changed his mind. “Zhang Wuji is dead. Right now I am a bum, the ugly freak Zeng Ahniu. If I am not able to control my emotions, I would only invite inexhaustible calamity in the future. I simply must not reveal my true identity to avoid bringing harm to Yifu, so that my Papa and Mama’s death would not be in vain.”
The peasant girl laughed coldly and said, “With the ‘pushing the window to look at the moon’ your honorable Shijie’s palms struck my back. She broke her own wrists because of that. How could you blame me? Go ahead and ask your honorable Shijie, did I attack her even for half a stance?”
Zhou Zhiruo flashed a questioning look at Ding Minjun. Ding Minjun angrily said, “Take these two to see Shifu, let the Senior punish them.”
Zhou Zhiruo said, “If these two did not offend Shijie intentionally, in Xiao Mei’s [little sister – referring to self] opinion, it’s always better to let it go, turning an enemy into a friend.”
“What?” Ding Minjun angrily shouted, “Are you siding with the outsiders?”
Looking at Ding Minjun’s expression, Zhang Wuji remembered one night a few years ago, when Monk PengYingyu was besieged by enemies in the forest, in which Ding Minjun showed hostility toward Ji Xiaofu. History repeated itself today. Ding Minjun again was forcing her will to her young martial sister. He could not help but secretly worry for Zhou Zhiruo. But Zhou Zhiruo was very respectful toward Ding Minjun.
“Xiao Mei will follow Shijie’s instructions, will not dare to disobey,” she said with a bow.
“Alright,” Ding Minjun said, “Seize this stinky girl, break both of her hands.”
“Yes,” Zhou Zhiruo replied, “I am asking Shijie to help watch my back.” Turning around toward the peasant girl, she said, “Please forgive Xiao Mei for being rude; I want to request Jiejie’s [older sister] expert instructions.”
The peasant girl said with a cold laugh, “Where did this wordy girl come from?” While in her heart she said, “Do you think I am afraid of this little girl?”
Without relying on Zhang Wuji’s help, she sprang up and fast as a lightning launched three palm strikes in succession. Zhou Zhiruo leaned sideways and rushed forward, her left palm tried to capture the girl’s hand. She had used an offensive strike as a defensive mechanism, her gambit was rather ingenious.
Although Zhang Wuji’s internal energy was strong, his knowledge of movements in martial arts had not reached the level of complete comprehension. As he watched Zhou Zhiruo and the peasant girl fight a fast-paced battle; Zhou Zhiruo’s ‘mian zhang’ [soft palm] from Emei Pai was agile and swift, while the peasant girl’s palm technique was weird and mysterious, he was very impressed, but also concerned about the two combatants. He did not care who would win; he only hoped that neither one of them would be injured.
The two women fought for more than twenty stances; each had fallen into dangerous situations several times. Suddenly the peasant girl called out, “Got you!” Her left palm hacked down on Zhou Zhiruo’s shoulder.
‘Rip!’ Zhou Zhiruo flipped her hand and pulled the peasant girl’s sleeve. Both of them leaped back immediately. Their faces were red.
“Good ‘Qin Na’ [grab and capture] technique!” the peasant girl shouted. She was about to jump back into the arena when she saw Zhou Zhiruo wrinkle her brows with her hand pressing her chest. She staggered two steps and swayed as if she was about to tumble.
Zhang Wuji could not stop from calling out, “You … you …” His face showed a very deep concern.
Seeing this man with long hair and long beard show deep concern toward her, Zhou Zhiruo was secretly astonished.
“Shimei, how are you?” Ding Minjun asked.
Placing her left hand on her martial sister’s shoulder for support, Zhou Zhiruo shook her head. Ding Minjun had suffered pain from the peasant girl, she knew the peasant girl was very fierce. It was just that their Shifu often praised this young martial sister, saying that her perception was wonderfully deep, her progress was amazingly rapid. She would most likely play a very important role on the advancement of their Sect in the future. It was hard for Ding Minjun to accept, therefore, she told her to give it a try, with the hope that she would also suffer some pain under the peasant girl’s hands. Seeing her Shimei was able to fight the peasant girl for more than twenty stances without suffering any defeat, which exceeded her by a large margin, Ding Minjun was very jealous in her heart.
Feeling the hand leaning on her shoulder was without any strength, she knew her Shimei’s injury was not light. Afraid that the peasant girl would attack, she said hastily, “Let’s go!” Supporting each other, the two of them walked toward northeast.
The peasant girl noticed Zhang Wuji’s expression. “Ugly freak,” she said with a cold laugh, “Seeing a beautiful girl makes your soul fly to the heavens.”
Zhang Wuji wanted to explain, but he thought, “I won’t be able to explain this matter clearly without revealing my history. I might as well not say anything.” Thereupon he said, “Whether she is beautiful or not, what does that have anything to do with me? I was concerned about you, I was afraid you might be injured.”
“Are you telling me the truth?” the peasant girl asked.
Zhang Wuji thought, “Actually, I was concerned about both of you.” He said, “Why would I lie to you? I am surprised that such a young girl from Emei Pai can possess such an excellent martial art skill.”
“Fierce! Very fierce!” the peasant girl said.
Zhang Wuji turned his gaze toward Zhou Zhiruo’s back, thinking that she came with light and graceful steps but left staggering. He remembered how on the boat on the Hanshui River she helped feed him, gave him towel to wipe his tears. He wished her injury was not heavy.