The Heaven Sword and the Dragon Sabre – Chapter 19

Disaster strikes when the screen wall breaches the impregnable fortress.

Zhang Wuji was brought by the man leaping high one more time. Suddenly he heard someone calling out from a distance, “Shuo Bude, why are you this late?”

The man carrying Zhang Wuji replied, “I had to take care of a small matter along the way. Has Wei Yixiao arrived?”

“I haven’t seen him!” the man in the distance answered, “This is strange, even for him to come this late. Shuo Bude, have you seen him?” They were talking back and forth while the man walked closer.

Zhang Wuji was inwardly surprised. “Turns out this man’s name is Shuo Bude [can’t say],” he mused, “No wonder when I asked his name he said, ‘Can’t say’. Even when I asked him again why he can’t say it, his answer was ‘ Shuo Bude is just Shuo Bude; why should I explain to you the reason?’ How can someone have such a weird name?” He thought further, “It seems like he has an appointment with Wei Yixiao to meet in here. I wonder how is Zhu’er? He is a good friend of Wei Yixiao; I wonder how are they going to deal with me?”

He heard Shou Bude say, “Tieguan Dao Xiong [Taoist brother ‘Iron Hat’], let us go seek Wei Xiong [brother Wei]; I am afraid he met some kind of trouble.”

Priest Tieguan said, “Qing Yi Fu Wang is astute and intelligent, his martial art skill is superb, what kind of trouble might he meet?”

“I just feel something is not right,” Shuo Bude replied.

Suddenly from the valley below a voice came, “Stinky monk Shuo Bude, old mixed-up hair [a derogatory term to call a Taoist priest] Tieguan, come here quick! We need your help! It’s bad! It’s too bad!”

Shuo Bude and Priest Tieguan were shocked. “It’s Zhou Dian,” they exclaimed together, “What might be so bad?”

Shou Bude added, “Sounds like he is injured; why does his voice sound so weak?” Without waiting for Priest Tieguan’s answer, he carried Zhang Wuji and leaped down the peak.

Priest Tieguan followed behind him. “Ah!” suddenly he said, “Zhou Dian is carrying someone on his back; who could it be? It’s Wei Yixiao!”

“Zhou Dian, don’t panic,” Shuo Bude called, “We are coming to help you.”

“Panic your Mama’s fart!” Zhou Dian called back, “Why would I panic? The blood-sucking bat’s old life is about to return to Heaven!”

Shuo Bude was startled, “What happened to Wei Xiong? What kind of injury does he suffer?” he asked, while quickening his pace.

Inside the sack, Zhang Wuji felt like he was mounting the clouds and riding on the mist; he could not help but saying in a low voice, “Qianbei, let me down for the time being, helping people is more important.”

Shuo Bude suddenly lifted up the sack and tossed it in the air three times. Zhang Wuji was shocked; if Shuo Bude let his hands off, the sack would be thrown away, the consequences would be really hard to imagine. He heard Shuo Bude say in a calm and throaty voice, “Kid, let me tell you: I am the Bu Dai Heshang [cloth sack (Buddhist) monk] Shuo Bude; the one behind us is the Tieguan Daoren Zhang Zhong. The one speaking down below is Zhou Dian. The three of us, plus the Leng Mian Xiansheng [Mr. Cold Face] Leng Qian and Peng Yingyu, Peng Heshang [monk Peng], we are the Ming Cult’s Wu San Ren [Five Wanderers]. Do you know the Ming Cult?”

“I do,” Zhang Wuji replied, “Turns out Dashi [reverend] is also Ming Cult member.”

“Leng Qian and I do not kill people too often,” Shou Bude continued, “But Tieguan Daoren, Zhou Dian, Peng Heshang, they usually kill people without batting their eyelids. If they knew you are hiding inside my ‘Universe Air Pocket’, they might pounce on you just for fun and then you’ll become minced meat.”

Zhang Wuji said, “I have never offended your honorable Cult, why …”

Shuo Bude cut him off, “When Tieguan Daoren and the others kill people, do you think they would ask first whether you have offended them or not? From now on, if you still want to be alive, do not say even a single word from inside my sack. Do you understand?”

Zhang Wuji nodded.

“Why you don’t answer me?” Shuo Bude asked.

“You told me not to say even a single word,” Zhang Wuji replied.

Shuo Bude smiled. “It’s good if you know that …” he said, “Ah, what happened to Wei Xiong?” The last sentence was directed toward Zhou Dian.

Zhang Wuji heard Zhou Dian’s hoarse and throaty voice, “He … he … the disaster has reached its peak.”

“Hmm,” Shuo Bude said, “Wei Xiong’s chest is still a bit warm. Zhou Dian, was it you who helped him?”

“B**lsh*t,” Zhou Dian said, “Do you think it was he who helped me?”

“Zhou Dian,” Priest Tieguan said, “Are you injured?”

“I saw the blood-sucking bat was lying stiffly by the roadside,” Zhou Dian replied, “He was so frozen that he was not even breathing. Contrary to my nature, I showed him the kindness of my heart and transferred my ‘chi’ to help him. Who would have thought that the cold poison inside the blood-sucking bat was so fierce that this is what happened.”

“Zhou Dian,” Shuo Bude said, “This time you indeed have done a good deed.”

“What good deed or bad deed?” Zhou Dian said, “This blood-sucking bat is not only ruthless, he is also very strange. Usually I don’t like to see his face, but this time he has done something very much to Zhou Dian’s liking, so Zhou Dian decided to help him this time. Who would have thought that this blood-sucking bat is incorrigible? The cold poison inside his body attacked me instead and wanted to take Zhou Dian’s old life.”

Priest Tieguan was startled. “Your injury is that heavy?” he asked.

“Retribution, retribution,” Zhou Dian said, “The blood-sucking bat and Zhou Dian have never done any good things in all our lives, and now by doing one good thing we brought disaster to our own lives.”

“What kind of good thing did Wei Xiong do?” Shuo Bude asked.

Zhou Dian replied, “Whenever he excites the poison inside his body, the cold poison flares up and he has to suck someone’s blood to suppress the poison. There was clearly a baby girl by his side, but he would rather die than sucking her blood. Zhou Dian was surprised, so he said, ‘Aiyo, not right! The blood-sucking bat is doing something against his nature. Zhou Dian better also do an act of sacrilege by trying to save him.”

Hearing that Wei Yixiao did not suck Zhu’er’s blood, Zhang Wuji’s delight was not light. Shuo Bude slapped the sack with the back of his hand while asking, “Who is that baby girl?”

“That’s what I asked the blood-sucking bat,” Zhou Dian replied, “He said she is Bai Mei Lao Er’s [Second Old White Brow] granddaughter. He said presently the Ming Cult is facing a disaster, everybody must be united in a concerted effort; therefore, he must never suck her blood.”

Shuo Bude and Priest Tieguan applauded together. “That must be so,” they said, “If White Eagle and Green Bat, two Kings join hands, the power of the Ming Cult will rise.”

Shuo Bude took Wei Yixiao from Zhou Dian; he was shocked. “His body is ice-cold,” he said, “What can we do?”

“That’s right,” Zhou Dian said, “I’ll say it’s too soon for the two of you to be happy. The blood-sucking bat’s old life has 90% gone. One dead bat joins hands with the Bai Mei Ying Wang; what good does it bring to the Ming Cult?”

“You two wait here,” Priest Tieguan said, “I am going down the mountain to find a living person and let Wei Xiong drink his fill of fresh human blood.” Finished speaking, he stood up at once, ready to jump down the mountain.

“Wait!” Zhou Dian called out, “Mixed-up hair Tieguan, this place is so remote. By the time you find a living person, Wei Yixiao [one laugh] has already turned into Wei Buxiao [not laughing]. If a dead man can laugh, that is too scary. Shuo Bude, you’d better take the kid inside your cloth sack out, let Wei Xiong eat him.”

Zhang Wuji was startled. “Turns out they already knew I am hidden inside this cloth sack.”

“That won’t do!” Shuo Bude said, “This kid has shown great kindness toward our Cult. If Wei Xiong ate him, the Five-Element Flags would not let Wei Xiong keep his old life.” Thereupon he briefly told them how Zhang Wuji had received three palm strikes from Miejue Shitai in order to save the remaining several dozens of Rui Jin Flag people. “Therefore,” he concluded, “Do you think the Five-Element Flags would easily give this kid up?”

Priest Tieguan asked, “You are keeping this precious commodity inside your sack; are you going to use him to subdue the Five-Element Flags?”

“Can’t say [Shuo Bude], can’t say!” Shuo Bude said, “In short, currently our Cult is disintegrating and is in the face of a great catastrophe. The Heavenly Eagle Cult has come from afar to render their assistance. Unfortunately they are fighting with the Five-Element Flags over an old account; each one was completely routed by the other. All of us must join hands if we want to avoid destruction. The kid inside my sack will be beneficial to the unity of our Cult’s various factions and troops; I have no doubt about it.” Speaking to this point, he reached out toward Wei Yixiao’s back and stuck his palm on the ‘Ling Tai’ [spirit platform] acupoint, and sent out his ‘chi’ to help him resist the cold poison.

Zhou Dian sighed, “Shuo Bude,” he said, “It is great that you want to sell your life for your friend, but please be careful for your own old life.”

“Let me also help,” Priest Tieguan said. He stretched out his right hand and joined his palm with Shuo Bude’s left palm. Together two streams of internal energy burst into Wei Yixiao’s body.

About the time needed to cook rice later, Wei Yixiao started to groan weakly and came to his senses, but his teeth were still chattering; it was obvious that the cold was extreme. With a shivering voice he said, “Zhou Dian, Tieguan Dao Xiong [Taoist brother], thank you for your help.” He did not thank Shuo Bude, because the two of them were good friends; verbal gratitude would be superfluous instead.

Priest Tieguan’s internal energy was deep, but against the cold poison inside the Wei Yixiao’s body, he had to exert everything he had to overcome it that momentarily he was not able to speak. Shou Bude was not any better.

Suddenly several notes of a ‘qin’ [zither] floated over from the eastern side of the peak, intermingled with a clear sound of a whistle. “Mr. Leng Mian and Peng Heshang have arrived,” Zhou Dian said. Raising his voice, he called out, “Leng Mian Xiansheng, Peng Heshang, somebody’s injured. Roll over here quickly!”

From the other side the ‘qin’ responded with one clear note. Monk Peng asked, “Who … is … injured …?” The voice came from quite a distant away; it echoed over the valley. Successively he asked several questions: “Who is injured? Is Shuo Bude all right? How about Tieguan Xiong [brother]? Zhou Dian, why is your voice lacking some ‘chi’?” With each sentence he uttered, he got closer by several ‘zhang’, hence by the time he finished his strings of questions, he was close enough to them.

“Aiyo!” he said in shock, “It’s Wei Yixiao!”

“You are always flustered,” Zhou Dian said, “Always the first in the world to be anxious. Leng Mian Xiong, why don’t you think of a way to help?” The last sentence was obviously directed toward Mr. Cold Face, Leng Qian.

“Hmm,” Leng Qian grunted, but did not say anything. He knew Monk Peng would definitely ask for more details, so he could save himself some energy. And indeed, question after question did not stop gushing out of Monk Peng’s mouth. Zhou Dian’s explanation was a bit disorderly, but by the time he finished his story, Shuo Bude and Priest Tieguan were able to regulate their ‘chi’. Monk Peng and Leng Qian also transferred their internal energy to separately help Wei Yixiao and Zhou Dian to overcome the cold poison.

After Wei Yixiao and Zhou Dian’s vitalities are slightly recovered, Monk Peng said, “I came from the northeast direction, and learned that Shaolin Pai Zhang Men [Sect Leader] Kong Wen is personally leading Shidi [younger martial brother] Kong Zhi and Kong Xing, along with more than a hundred disciples of various generations, has just arrived at the Brightness Peak to take part in the besieging of our Cult.”

“Due east,” Leng Qian said, “The Five Heroes of Wudang!” He always spoke succinctly; even if his head was cut, he would not want to say even half an extra word. He only said these six characters [‘zheng dong, wudang wu xia’], but his meaning was, ‘The Five Heroes of Wudang have arrived to attack from the east direction.’ As for who were the Five Heroes of Wudang, everybody knew they were Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou, Zhang Songxi, Yin Liting and Mo Shenggu; hence did not need to waste his breath to explain.

Monk Peng said, “The Six Sects are advancing separately to mount a join attack, gradually closing in on us. The Five-Element Flags have been engaged in a number of battles. The situation seems to be very disadvantageous to our side. In my opinion, we need to be at the Brightness Peak ahead of the enemy.”

“You are releasing your Mama’s smelly fart!” Zhou Dian angrily said, “That fellow Yang Xiao did not come to seek help from us, would the Wu San Ren come uninvited?”

“Zhou Dian,” Monk Peng said, “Suppose that the Six Major Sects succeed in breaking through the Brightness Peak and extinguish the Sacred Fire, can we still live as human beings? Of course Yang Xiao did offend the Wu San Ren, but we are helping to guard the Brightness Peak, absolutely not for Yang Xiao’s sake, but for the Ming Cult.”

“Peng Heshang is right,” Shuo Bude also expressed his opinion, “Although Yang Xiao was rude to us, protecting the Cult is more important than our personal grudges.”

“Fart, fart!” Zhou Dian cursed and swore, “Two bald donkeys [derogatory term to call Buddhist monks] are farting together, the stench reeks out to the high heaven. Tieguan Daoren, Yang Xiao shattered your left shoulder in the past, don’t you remember?”

Priest Tieguan was silent for half a day before answering, “Protecting the Cult against the enemy is a big matter. We will settle the account with Yang Xiao after the enemy is repelled. When that time arrives, with the Wu San Ren join hands, I am not afraid this fellow will refuse to bow his head.”

“Humph,” Zhou Dian snorted. “Leng Qian, what do you say?” he asked.

“We go together!” Leng Qian said.

“You also submit to Yang Xiao?” Zhou Dian mocked, “Don’t you remember we made a heavy oath, saying that we, the Wu San Ren, from now on would leave our hands in our sleeves and would not pay any attention to the affair of the Ming Cult? Are you saying that our oath was merely a fart?”

“It was merely a fart!” Leng Qian said.

Zhou Dian was angry; he sprang up and said, “Everybody is farting! Mine is the only human’s words.”

Priest Tieguan said, “We still have time; let us hurry to the Brightness Peak!”

“Dian Xiong [brother Dian],” Monk Peng persuaded, “Because we were fighting over the Jiaozhu position in the past, we became enemies to each other. Yang Xiao is admittedly narrow-minded, but if we think carefully, the Wu San Ren are not without fault …”

“Nonsense!” Zhou Dian was furious, “No one among the Wu San Ren was dreaming to become the Jiaozhu; what did we do wrong?”

Shuo Bude said, “Even if we fight for a year or a year and a half longer, we would still be unable to clear up our Cult’s past argument of right and wrong. Zhou Dian, let me ask you this: are you or are you not a disciple of ‘Ming Zun Huo Sheng’ [The Bright Prophet of the Holy Fire]?”

“Do you have to even question that fact?” Zhou Dian said.

Shuo Bude said, “Today a great disaster is looming above our Cult’s head; if we keep our hands inside our sleeves, after we die, do we have a face to see ‘Ming Zun’ and Yang Jiaozhu [Cult Leader Yang]? If you are scared of the Six Major Sects, you can stay here. We are going to the Brightness Peak to join the battle and die for our Cult. You may come later to bury our bones!”

Zhou Dian leaped up and struck Shuo Bude’s face with his palm, while cursing, “Fart!”

‘Slap!’ Shuo Bude endured the heavy strike quietly. Slowly he opened his mouth and spat out several teeth; not a single word came out of his mouth. His cheek from white turned to red, from red turned dark scarlet and grew bigger.

Monk Peng and the others were stunned. Zhou Dian was even more shocked. Actually, Shuo Bude and Zhou Dian’s martial art skills were almost on par with each other. When Zhou Dian casually sent out his palm, if he wanted to, he could parry or dodged; either way, Zhou Dian’s palm would definitely not hit him. Who would have thought that he took the beating without doing anything? Consequently, his injury was not light.

Zhou Dian was filled with remorse. “Shuo Bude,” he called out, “Hit me back! If you don’t, you are not a human.”

Shuo Bude smiled wryly and said, “My energy is reserved to fight the enemy. Why would I want to hit a friend?”

Zhou Dian was angry; he raised his palm and heavily struck his own face. ‘Slap!’ he also spat several teeth out.

Monk Peng was startled. “Zhou Dian,” he said, “What are you doing?”

Zhou Dian angrily replied, “I shouldn’t have struck Shuo Bude. I told him to hit me back, he did not want to, so I have to do it myself.”

“Zhou Dian,” Shuo Bude said, “You and I are like brothers. The four of us are going to risk our lives in a battle on the Brightness Peak, we might part forever. What harm does it bring to let you hit me with a palm?”

Zhou Dian’s heart was deeply touched. He shouted with a cry in his voice, “I’m also going to the Brightness Peak. Yang Xiao’s old debt, let me set aside for the time being.”

Monk Peng was delighted. “Now that is a good brother!” he said.

Inside the sack, Zhang Wuji was able to hear everybody clearly. He thought, “These five men are highly skilled martial art experts; there is no doubt about it. What’s hard to come by is their chivalrous brotherhood. There are not a few experts within the Ming Cult; is it possible that all of them are heretical and demonic?”

While he was still deep in thought, suddenly he felt he was being moved; so he knew Shuo Bude was taking him to the Brightness Peak. Ever since he learned that Zhu’er was all right, he was relieved; his only concern right now was the Six Major Sects of Wulin world besieging the Ming Cult; how was he going to bring this matter to conclusion? He also thought that when he got to the Brightness Peak, he would see his childhood friend, Yang Buhui. After she grew up, would she still remember him?

The party travelled for a day and a night. Once every several hours, Shuo Bude would untie the mouth of the sack to let Zhang Wuji had some fresh air before he would tightly tie the sack again. By afternoon the next day, Zhang Wuji suddenly felt the sack was being dragged over the rugged ground. At first he did not understand, but later when he slightly raised his head, his forehead bumped heavily into a rock that it hurt like hell. Now he realized that they were walking along a tunnel inside the mountain. The tunnel was unusually cold, the air was not moving freely. After walking for the more than an hour, they were out of the belly of the mountain. Then they walked along an ascending path. But before long, they entered another tunnel.

After going through five such tunnels, Zhang Wuji heard Zhou Dian call out, “Yang Xiao, the blood-sucking bat and the Wu San Ren are here to see you!”

Half a day later, came the reply from some distance ahead, “What a pleasant surprise Fu Wang and the Wu San Ren honor me with your presence. Yang Xiao did not welcome you from afar, for which offense I beg your forgiveness.”

“What a hypocritical nonsense are you blabbering about?” Zhou Dian said, “In your belly you must be cursing the Wu San Ren’s words were like a fart; we said that we would never go up the Brightness Peak, we would forever pay no attention to the Ming Cult’s affair, yet today we come for a visit uninvited.”

“The Six Major Sects are besieging us from all sides, Xiaodi [little brother, referring to self] is unable to cope with it alone, and am very anxious,” Yang Xiao replied, “That Fu Wang and the Wu San Ren are looking at Ming Zun’s face and come to offer your help for the sake of loyalty, it is indeed our Cult’s good fortune.”

“It’s good if you know that,” Zhou Dian said.

Immediately Yang Xiao welcomed the Five Wanderers into the inner chamber, where a boy servant delivered tea and refreshments.

“Aaahhh ….!” suddenly the servant cried miserably. Inside the sack, Zhang Wuji was absolutely horrified for not knowing what happened. After quite a while, he heard Wei Yixiao say, “Yang Zuo Shi [left emissary Yang], I am sorry to harm your servant. Wei Yixiao will pay you back someday.”

His voice was full of vigor; entirely different from when he was gasping for breath previously. Zhang Wuji shivered inwardly. “He sucked this servant’s blood,” he mused, “Now his cold poison is under control.”

He heard Yang Xiao flatly say, “What’s pay back or not pay back between us? That Fu Wang is willing to come to the Brightness Peak shows that you regard me in high esteem.”

These seven people were the Ming Cult’s top fighters, masters who are the sharpest-tip-of-the-weapon; although presently they were facing a powerful enemy, once they gathered together, their spirits rose. After food and drink, they discussed ideas on how to resist the enemy. Shuo Bude placed the cloth sack next to his feet. Zhang Wuji was hungry and thirsty, but remembering Shuo Bude’s warning, he did not dare to either move or make any noise.

After a lengthy discussion, Monk Peng said, “Guang Ming You Shi [the Right Emissary of the Brightness] and Zi Shan Long Wang [Purpled-robe Dragon King] have gone missing; whether Jin Mao Shi Wang is alive or dead is also hard to foretell, so we might as well forget about them. The most unfortunate matter at the moment is that the enmity between the Five-Element Flags and the Heavenly Eagle Cult is getting deeper and deeper. During the most recent battle, both sides have suffered quite heavy casualties. If only the two of them can also go up the Brightness Peak and join forces to resist the enemy, not only siege of Six Major Sects, even twelve sects or eighteen sects, the Ming Cult would be able to counter soldiers with arms, water with earth wall.”

Shuo Bude lightly kicked the cloth sack and said, “The kid inside this sack is somewhat related to the Heavenly Eagle Cult; recently, he also showed great kindness to the Five-Element Flags. Perhaps he will play an important role in the resolution of bilateral animosity in the future.”

Wei Yixiao coldly said, “One more day the Jiaozhu position is undecided, one more day our Cult’s dispute is not resolved. Even if he has ability as big as the sky, he will never resolve this hostility. Yang Zuo Shi, ‘zaixia’ [humble one] wants to ask you something: after the enemy is repelled, whom will you support to be our leader?”

Yang Xiao unenthusiastically said, “Whoever possesses the Sheng Huo Ling [command or decree of the holy fire] I will support to be our Jiaozhu. This has been our Cult’s custom since the days of our ancestors; why did you ask me?”

Wei Yixiao said, “Sheng Huo Ling has been lost for nearly a hundred years; are you telling me that as long as Sheng Huo Ling is not found, the Ming Cult will not have a Jiaozhu? The Six Major Sects have the guts to besiege the Brightness Peak; they have complete disregard for our Cult. It is all because they know our Cult has lost our line of command, we are disintegrating internally.”

“Wei Xiong is right,” Shuo Bude said, “I, Bu Dai Heshang [cloth sack monk], am not of the Yin faction, neither am I of the Wei faction; whoever become the Jiaozhu is fine with me, as long as there is a Jiaozhu. Even if we do not have a Jiaozhu, a Vice Jiaozhu is also fine. Without a clear chain of command, how can we thwart the intrusion of the enemy?”

Priest Tiguan said, “Shuo Bude’s words attain my heart.”

Yang Xiao’s face changed. “Gentlemen,” he said, “Do you come up the Brightness Peak to help me to fight the enemy, or to make things difficult for me?”

Zhou Dian laughed aloud. “Yang Xiao,” he said, “Do you think I, Zhou Dian, do not know your real intention on why you do not want to elect a Jiaozhu? As long as the Ming Cult does not have a Jiaozhu, it will be you, the Left Emissary, who presides over the interim position. Humph, however, although your position is the highest, if others do not obey your order, then what good will it bring? Can you command the Five-Element Flag? Will the Four Great Hu Jiao Fa Wang submit to you? We, the Five Wanderers, are like floating clouds and wild cranes, don’t even give a damn to some Guang Ming Zuo Shi!”

Yang Xiao stood up abruptly. In a cold voice he said, “Today the enemy is outside, ready to strike; Yang Xiao does not have time to engage gentlemen in a battle of words. If gentlemen willingly watch with folded arms the Ming Cult’s life or death, then please go down the Brightness Peak! As long as Yang Xiao does not die, I will return your visit one by one in the future.”

“Yang Zuo Shi, you don’t need to lose your temper,” Monk Peng exhorted, “The Six Major Sects are besieging the MingCult. It is the duty of each and every one of the Cult disciple to defend our Cult. It is not your business alone.”

With a cold laugh Yang Xiao said, “I am afraid there are people within our Cult who are hoping that Yang Xiao will be slain by the Six Major Sects, and thus they will be rid of the nail in their eyes.”

“Whom are you referring to?” Zhou Dian asked.

Yang Xiao replied, “Every body knows his own heart; must I spell it out?”

“Are you talking about me?” Zhou Dian angrily asked.

Yang Xiao averted his gaze to someplace else; he was ignoring Zhou Dian completely. Monk Peng saw Zhou Dian’s eyes radiated a different gleam; apparently he was ready to fight with Yang Xiao, he quickly urged, “There is an ancient saying: brothers fight each other, outsiders will drive their insult. Let us discuss further our plan to fight the enemy.”

Yang Xiao said, “Yingyu Dashi [Reverend Yingyu] understands the important matter, your words are very true.”

“Fine!” Zhou Dian shouted loudly, “Bald thief Peng understands the important matter, Zhou Dian only knows trivial matter?” He was just being mule-headed; he did not want to consider anything. Still shouting, he said, “I want this Jiaozhu position to be decided today. Zhou Dian nominates Wei Yixiao as the Ming Cult Jiaozhu. The blood-sucking bat’s martial art skill is superb, in terms of scheming he is shrewd. Nobody in our Cult is superior to him.”

Actually, in normal times, Zhou Dian and Wei Yixiao had never been close friends; there were more ill will between them than there was goodwill. But he deliberately wanted to provoke Yang Xiao, so he pushed Wei Yixiao forward.

Yang Xiao laughed. “In my opinion,” he said, “It would be best if the Jiaozhu position is held by Zhou Dian. Currently the Ming Cult is all split up in pieces. If we have Great Cult Leader Zhou to preside at the top, our Cult will be turned upside down. Now, that should be very interesting!” [Translator’s note: This is one of those ‘lost in translation’ cases. Yang Xiao was playing with Zhou Dian’s name: the character ‘Dian’ means ‘top (of the head)’ or ‘apex’; but it also means ‘fall forward, upside down, or jolt’.]

Zhou Dian was furious. “Your Mama’s dog stinky fart!” he shouted. ‘Whoosh!’ his palm struck down on the crown of Yang Xiao’s head.

A while ago, Zhou Dian’s palm had caused many of Shuo Bude’s teeth fall down; it was because Shuo Bude had no intention to evade. But how could Yang Xiao receive such treatment easily? More than ten years ago, because of a dispute over a Cult affair, Yang Xiao had a major argument with the Five Wanderers. At that time, the Five Wanderers made an oath not to go up the Brightness Peak again. When they broke their heavy oath by coming today, suspicions had started to grow inside Yang Xiao’s heart. Seeing Zhou Dian suddenly make his move, he knew that the Five Wanderers had made an agreement with Wei Yixiao to come and conspire against him. Startled and angered, his right palm swept out to meet Zhou Dian’s palm.

Wei Yixiao knew Yang Xiao’s capability very well. After Zhou Dian was injured, his ‘chi’ had not recovered; he was definitely not Yang Xiao’s match. Thereupon Wei Yixiao dashed ahead of him with swept palm to receive Yang Xiao’s palm. The two palms collided, but surprisingly no noise was to be heard. Turned out although Yang Xiao had reasons to dislike Zhou Dian, he still remembered that both of them belonged to the same Cult; therefore, he was unwilling to harm his life. Consequently, his palm did not carry his full strength. However, Wei Yixiao’s martial art skill was deep; as his stance ‘han bing mian zhang’ [cold ice soft palm] arrived, Yang Xiao’s right arm was shaken, as he felt a burst of cold ‘yin’ energy penetrated his skin and flesh; hastily he exerted his internal energy to withstand. When the two men’s internal energy collided, they were locked at a stalemate.

“The one surnamed Yang,” Zhou Dian called out, “Eat my palm again!” Just now his first palm did not hit its target, now his second palm was aimed at Yang Xiao’s chest.

“Zhou Dian, don’t make a scene!” Shuo Bude called out.

Monk Peng also said, “Yang Zuo Shi, Wei Fu Wang, please hold your hands, don’t harm our own people!” He stretched out his hand to divert Zhou Dian’s palm. But Yang Xiao’s body leaned sideways, his left palm already met and stuck on Zhou Dian’s right palm.

“Zhou Dian,” Shuo Bude called out, “You are two against one, what kind of hero are you?” Reaching out toward Zhou Dian’s shoulder, he wanted to grab him and pull him back. But before his hand even touched Zhou Dian, he saw Zhou Dian’s body slightly shiver as if he had already received internal injury. Shuo Bude was shocked. He knew very well the Left Emissary of the Brightness’ divine power; he was their Cult’s top master. Shuo Bude was afraid that in that one palm strike, Yang Xiao had already injured Zhou Dian. He saw Zhou Dian’s right palm was stuck onto Yang Xiao’s left palm, as if he was not willing to withdraw his palm.

“Zhou Dian,” Shuo Bude called out, “We are all brothers, why would you disregard your own old life?” He came closer to pull Zhou Dian’s shoulder, while at the same time said, “Yang Zuo Shi, please be lenient with your palm.” He was afraid Yang Xiao was unwilling to withdraw his palm strength and took that opportunity to attack him. To his surprise, as he pulled Zhou Dian’s body, Zhou Dian swayed but could not move; while at the same time a burst of ice-cold ‘chi’ penetrated his palm and went straight toward the pit of his stomach.

Shuo Bude was even more shocked; thinking, “This is the special skill of Wei Xiong’s school, the Cold Ice Soft Palm; how could Yang Xiao also train this skill?” Hastily he exerted his own internal energy to resist the attack. But the cold ‘chi’ was growing in intensity that in a short period of time Shuo Bude’s jaws started to chatter from the unbearable cold.

Priest Tieguan and Peng Yingyu rushed forward; one protected Zhou Dian, the other protected Shuo Bude. With the combined energy of four men, the cold ‘chi’was no longer unbearable. They only felt that the force transmitted from Yang Xiao’s palm was sometimes light, sometimes heavy, something bursting something sluggish; it kept changing with infinite variation. The four men did not dare to withdraw their palms, for fear that as soon as their power slackened, Yang Xiao would sent out his power suddenly and then the four of them would either be dead or at least suffer serious injury.

“Yang Zuo Shi,” Peng Yingyu called out, “We are facing powerful enemy; how can you … can you … can you …” His teeth chattered so much that he was unable to continue. He felt as if the blood in his entire body had frozen to ice. Turned out as soon as he opened his mouth to speak, the real ‘chi’ in his body stopped momentarily that he was unable to withstand the cold ‘chi’ coming in from his palm.

And so for the next time needed to drink a cup of tea later, Mr. Cold Face Leng Qian stood on the side watching. He noticed that the faces of Wei Yixiao and his four fellow Wanderers were tight, but Yang Xiao seemed to be at ease; he felt very strange. “Although Yang Xiao’s martial art skill is high,” he thought, “Compared to Wei Yixiao, he is about the same, he won’t necessarily be able to defeat him easily. With the addition of Shuo Bude and the others, four men, Yang Xiao is absolutely not their match. Why is it that with one against five, he still looks like he is so confident of victory? There must be something strange going on here …”

Hanging his head, he pondered deeply, but failed to solve the puzzle immediately. He heard Zhou Dian call out, “Leng Mian devil, strike … strike his back … strike …” But Leng Qian was unwilling to make his move before he has a clear understanding of what was happening. Right now, among the Five Wanderers, he was the only one who was not doing anything; they would depend solely on him to escape the danger and get away from distress. However, supposing he also stakes everything he had to battle Yang Xiao, although with the addition of one man their combined power would be increased quite a bit, they still could not ascertain their victory.

He saw that the faces of Zhou Dian and Peng Yingyu had turned blue; it looked like if this situation continued, the ‘yin’ poison would enter their internal organs, and then they would face endless disaster. Thereupon he took out from his pocket five small sterling silver writing brushes and held them in his hand while he said, “Five brushes, strike your ‘qu chi’ [crooked reservoir], ‘ju gu’ [gigantic bone], ‘yang huo’ [positive orifice], ‘wu li’ [five interior(?)], ‘zhong du’ [middle capital].” These five acupoints were located on hands and feet, really were not fatal acupoints at all. He mentioned the target first, apparently so that Yang Xiao would know that he did not have any malicious intention, just wanted him to withdraw his palms.

Yang Xiao showed a faint smile, but did not take any notice of him. Leng Qian called out, “Forgive my offense!” With a tossing motion on his left hand and scattering motion on the right, five silver rays shot toward Yang Xiao.

Yang Xiao waited until the five silver brushes came near, then abruptly his left hand swept horizontally, pulling along Zhou Dian and the others, four people, using them as a shield in front of his body. Zhou Dian and Peng Yingyu uttered a stifled grunt as the five brushes separately landed on these two men’s bodies; Zhou Dian received two brushes, while Peng Yingyu was hit by three brushes. Luckily Leng Qian had no intention to hurt anybody; the force of his hands was very light, plus the pens did not actually hit the intended acupoints. Although they suffered flesh wound, they were not seriously harmed.

“It’s ‘Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi!’ [‘qian kun’ – heaven and earth, yin and yang, the universe; ‘da’ – big/great; ‘nuo’ – to shift, to move; ‘yi’ – also to shift, to move, to change/alter/remove. The Great Shifting of the Universe]” in a low voice Peng Yingyu said.

As soon as Leng Qian heard the five characters ‘Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi’, he understood immediately. ‘Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi’ was the fiercest martial art skill, a Ming Cult’s legacy, passed on from generation to the generation. The fundamental principle was not mysterious at all; it strove to stimulate one’s own potential first, and then used it to lead and shift the opponent’s force. But the variations within this principle were magical; it was almost unthinkable.

Ever since the death of the previous Cult Leader, Yang Dingtian, there was no one else within the Ming Cult who mastered this special skill, and thus none of the six men ever expected it. No wonder Yang Xiao did not seem to exert himself, since he simply directed Wei Yixiao’s palm power to attack the four Wanderers, and conversely, used the four Wanderers’ palm power to attack Wei Yixiao, while he leisurely positioned himself in between them, no more than drawing and transmitting both parties’ internal energy, nothing more than ‘parting the mountain to watch tigers fight’.

“Congratulations!” Leng Qian said, “No ill will, please stop fighting.” He always spoke succinctly. With ‘congratulations’, he congratulated Yang Xiao on being successfully trained in the Ming Cult’s long lost divine skill, the ‘Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi’; by ‘no ill will’ he was saying that we, six people, going up the mountain this time without holding any ill will toward you, that we were sincere in our desire to help resisting the invaders; and by ‘please stop fighting’ he meant both sides should stop fighting and must not have any misunderstanding.

Yang Xiao was aware that in normal times Leng Qian had never uttered a single rubbish talk; and because he did not want to utter even one extraneous word, he had never told a lie. If he said, ‘no ill will’, then he truly did not have any evil intention. Moreover, when he made his move by shooting the five silver brushes, it was obvious that his intention was indeed to help his companions out of trouble, not to harm anybody. Thereupon he laughed and said, “Wei Xiong, Four Wanderers, when I say ‘one, two, three’, everybody remove your palm power at the same time, so that nobody will get hurt!”

Seeing Wei Yixiao, Zhou Dian and the others nodded their heads, he slowly counted, “One, two, three!”

As the word ‘three’ left his mouth, Yang Xiao removed the divine skill ‘Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi’; but suddenly he felt his back was cold. A burst of sharp finger power pierced the ‘shen dao’ [divine way] acupoint on his back. Yang Xiao was shocked. “Fu Wang is very sinister and ruthless,” he thought, “To launch a sneak attack like this.” But when he was about to counterattack by slapping backward, he saw that Wei Yixiao swayed and tumbled down. It seemed like he had also fallen under the enemy’s sneak attack.

In all his life, Yang Xiao had seen countless big battles; although this turn of events had taken him by surprise, his mind stayed clear. Quickly he dashed forward to get away from the enemy’s reach. Upon turning his head around, he saw Zhou Dian, Peng Yingyu, Priest Tieguan and Shuo Bude, four people, had also fallen on the ground, while Leng Qian was exchanging palm strikes with someone wearing ash grey cotton robe.

The man struck backhandedly, and Leng Qian uttered a grunt; his voice sounded like he was in pain. Yang Xiao took a deep breath and jumped forward with the intention of helping Leng Qian, but suddenly he felt a burst of ice-cold ‘chi’ flowed swiftly from his ‘shen dao’ acupoint to his torso, attacking his ‘shen zhu’ [body pillar], ‘tao dao’ [pottery channel], ‘da zhui’ [big spine], ‘feng fu’ [windy mansion], and various acupoints along the ‘du mai’ [supervise arteries] channel.

Yang Xiao knew his condition was far from good. The enemy was not only a martial art expert, but also a sinister and ruthless person; he was able to take the split-second window when Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao and the four Wanderers were withdrawing their strength and like a lighting he struck a surprise attack. Yang Xiao had no choice but to circulate his own real ‘chi’ to fight the cold. This cold ‘chi’ was completely different from Wei Yixiao’s Cold Ice Soft Palm. Yang Xiao felt it was like a wisp of ice-cold thread, but wherever it reached, it turned the acupoint numb and itchy. If they were fighting face to face, Yang Xiao could use his internal energy to protect his body, and there was no way this kind of finger power would penetrate his internal defense. But since he had already fallen under the enemy’s sneak attack, his only option was to launch a counterattack together with Leng Qian, trying to knock down the enemy then act accordingly.

Yang Xiao stepped forward with raised right palm, and was about to strike down when suddenly his entire body shivered violently from the cold and the strength he gathered in his palm disappeared without a trace.

By this time Leng Qian had exchanged more than twenty stances with that man, and it was obvious that he was not the man’s match. Yang Xiao was very anxious. He saw Leng Qian kicked with his right foot. The man rushed one step forward and his finger hacked down on Leng Qian’s arm. Leng Qian staggered and fell backward.

Yang Xiao was startled and angered; he gathered the remaining of internal energy in his entire body into his right elbow and struck the grey-robed man on the chest. The grey-robed man stuck out his left finger toward the ‘xiao hai’ [small ocean] acupoint on Yang Xiao’s elbow. Immediately Yang Xiao felt his entire body went cold and numb, and was not able to make another move, even for half a step.

The grey-robed man laughed coldly and said, “The Guang Ming Zuo Shi indeed lives up to your reputation. After getting hit twice by my ‘huan yin zhi’ [fantasy/magical ‘yin’ finger], you can still stand.”

Yang Xiao said, “Your finger-flicking technique is from Shaolin, but whatever is the ‘huan yin zhi’ internal strength? Humph, Shaolin Pai does not have this kind of sinister and ruthless martial art. Who are you?”

The grey-robed man laughed aloud and said, “Pin Seng [impoverished monk] Yuan Zhen, a disciple under the tutelage of my master, whose Buddhist title was ‘Kong’ at the top and ‘Jian’ at the bottom. Right now the Six Major Sects are besieging the Ming Cult. You die under a Shaolin disciple, your death is not in vain.”

Yang Xiao said, “The Six Major Sects and our Ming Cult are enemies, real swords, real spears, we will fight to the death; that will be the deed of the real man, real hero. Kong Jian Shen Seng’s [Divine Monk] kindness and chivalry was widely known throughout the world, who would have thought that among his disciples there is someone as despicable and shameless as you are …” Speaking to this point, he was unable to stand anymore; his knees gave up and he fell sitting down on the ground.

Yuan Zhen laughed out loud and said, “To win by a surprise move is just fair in a war. It has been this way since the ancient times. I, Yuan Zhen, one man can flatten the Ming Cult’s seven big masters. Aren’t you going to accept the defeat?”

Yang Xiao shook his head and sighed. “How can you enter the Brightness Peak stealthily?” he asked, “How did you know about this secret passage? If you are willing to reveal it, Yang Xiao will die with closed eyes.” Yang Xiao knew that Yuan Zhen’s sneak attack was successful, admittedly it was because his martial art skill was superior; but most importantly, it was because he knew the secret passages of the Brightness Peak, bypassing a dozens of Ming Cult’s sentries along the way, and made his move stealthily [orig. shén bù zhi gui bù jué – deity (does) not know, ghost (does) not realize.], so that he was able to knock down seven masters of the Ming Cult in one move.

The Ming Cult had been operating from the Brightness Peak as their headquarters for hundreds of years, relying on dangerous precipice as their natural defense, enforced with metal ramparts and impassable moats. Who would have thought that disaster arose from the inside; it came so suddenly that there was not enough time to set up a defense? Indeed they had suffered a crushing defeat.

A phrase from the ‘Lun Yu’ [Analects of Confucius] suddenly came to Yang Xiao’s mind: Kong Zi [Confucius] said, ‘In his own territory there are divisions and downfalls, leavings and separations, and, with your help, he cannot preserve it. And yet he is planning these hostile movements within the state.-I am afraid that the sorrow of the Ji-sun family will not be on account of Zhuan-yu, but will be found within the screen of their own court.’ [This is not my translation, I found it here: http://classics.mit.edu//Confucius/analects.html under Section 4, Part 16, edited to pinyin spellings.]

Yuan Zhen said with a laugh, “You, Devil Cult, always regarded the seven peaks and thirteen cliffs of the Brightness Peak as a natural defense. In our Shaolin monks’ eyes, it is no more than a broad and open road, is it not? All of you have been hit by my ‘huan yin zhi’, I have no doubt that within three days, you will return to the Western Paradise. In my visit to the Peak this time, Pin Seng has buried several dozen catties of gunpowder. I will extinguish the Devil Cult’s devil fire. When the Heavenly Eagle Cult, the Five-Element Flags, and what have you, busily going up to rescue, ‘ka-boom’, the buried gunpowder will explode. Smoke will arise, fire will be out, from then on, you can consider the Devil Cult vanished without a trace. This is what it is called: The lone Shaolin monk extinguishes the Ming Cult, the seven demons of the Brightness Peak return to the Western Paradise.”

Listening to this, Yang Xiao and the others could not help from feeling extremely anxious, knowing that this monk was capable of doing what he said he would do. The loss of their own lives was not to be regretted, but the Ming Cult, which had been passed on for thirty three generations, would perish under this Shaolin monk’s hands.

In the meantime, Yuan Zhen was growing more and more complacent. “Within the Ming Cult, the masters are as numerous as the clouds. If you did not fight each other and disintegrate to pieces, how could there be any disastrous destruction? Just look at what happened today: if the seven of you were not in the middle of staking everything in palm power competition, how could Pin Seng quietly go up the Brightness Peak, and succeed in one strike? This is called: the Heaven regards sin yet still allow man to live, but the more sin committed, man must not live! Ha ha ha … I can’t believe the Ming Cult, with its awe-inspiring prestige in the former days, will end up like this after Yang Dingtian’s death.”

In the brink of great disaster of their own death, as well as the destruction of their Cult, as Yang Xiao, Peng Yingyu, Zhou Dian, and the others heard his words, they recalled the incidents happened over the last twenty years, and were all filled with deep regret. “This monk is right,” they thought.

“Yang Xiao,” with a loud voice Zhou Dian said, “I, Zhou Dian, really deserve to die! I was being unfair toward you. Although you are not too good, you being the Jiaozhu certainly beat us without any Jiaozhu at all, and so we won’t be completely wiped out like this.”

With a bitter laugh Yang Xiao replied, “What ability do I have to become the Jiaozhu? Everybody was in the wrong; we have made such a huge mess that in the netherworld we won’t have a face to see the past generations’ Jiaozhu.”

Yuan Zhen laughed. “It is too late for you, gentlemen, to regret it now,” he said. “When Yang Dingtian was the boss of the Devil Cult, he was insufferably arrogant. It’s a pity he died early and could not witness the defeat of the Ming Cult with his own eyes.”

“Fart!” Zhou Dian angrily said, “If Yang Jiaozhu were still alive, everybody would obey his orders! How can a bald thief like you launch a sneak attack like this?”

With a cold laugh Yuan Zhen said, “It doesn’t matter if Yang Dingtian is dead or alive. I will always have a way to have his reputation swept away …”

Suddenly a slap was heard, followed by a cry, “Ah!” Yuan Zhen’s back was hit by Wei Yixiao’s palm, while Wei Yixiao was also hit by Yuan Zhen’s counterattack finger strike, right on the ‘shan zhong’ [lit. mutton smell] acupoint on his chest. Both of them staggered a few steps backward.

When Wei Yixiao was hit by Yuan Zhen’s finger earlier, although his injury was heavy, his internal energy was, after all, a notch higher than the others. Only he did not immediately strike back, but pretended to be knocked out instead. When Yuan Zhen was getting immensely pleased with himself and not in the least on guard, he leaped up and attacked. He had sent out his entire strength in this one palm strike. He was willing to die together with the enemy to save the Ming Cult from a calamity.

Although Yuan Zhen was fierce, the Green-winged Bat King was one of the Ming Cult’s ‘Hu Jiao Fa Wang’, he shared the same honor with Yin Tianzheng and Xie Xun. When he struck with everything he had, how could it be considered a small matter? As soon as the power of ‘Cold Ice Soft Palm’ entered his body, Yuan Zhen felt his stomach turn upside down that he wanted to throw up. He tried to circulate his internal energy to steady himself, but he still felt the sky spun and the earth revolved that he felt he was about to fall down. He had no choice but sit cross-legged and circulate his ‘chi’ to resist the cold attack from the ‘Cold Ice Soft Palm’.

As Wei Yixiao got hit by the ‘Fantastical Yin Finger’ twice in succession, he could not stand and fell backward and was not able to move. Immediately the hall became quiet as the eight martial art masters all received heavy injuries; nobody was able to make even half a step of movement.

Eight men exerted their internal energies, each was hoping he could restore his strength one step earlier than the enemy. If only one side was able to move, he could kill the other side. Everybody was anxious in his heart. They all knew it was the decisive moment for the survival or destruction of the Ming Cult, as well as the live or death of all eight people. If Yuan Zhen was able to move first, despite his heavy injury, he would be able to pick up a sword and murder these seven people one by one. If only one of the seven Ming Cult people was able to move first, he would be able to kill Yuan Zhen and thus save the Ming Cult.

There were seven people in Ming Cult’s side, they should have the benefit of numbers; however, the Five Wanderers’ power was comparably shallower than the rest. When they were hit by the ‘Fantastical Yin Finger’, their strength was gone; while Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao, who possessed more profound internal strength were hit twice. Actually, it was not easy to differentiate the power of ‘han bing mian zhang’ and ‘huan yin zhi’; however, Wei Yixiao sent his last palm strike when he had already suffered injury, while Yuan Zhen launched hi attack when he had not been injured. It could be gathered from this fact that Yuan Zhen had a greater chance to make his move first.

Yang Xiao and the others were secretly distressed, but circulating internal energy to treat injury like this must not be forced the least bit; the more they were anxious and impatient, the greater the chance of something going terribly wrong. Each one of these people was an expert in internal energy cultivation; how could they not know this fact?

Leng Qian and the others vomited several times. They knew they would never be able to recover ahead of Yuan Zhen. They only hoped for one of Yang Xiao’s subordinates at the Brightness Peak would come into the hall. As long as one Ming Cult disciple came in, – he did not have to know martial art – he could pick a wooden stick and gently knock Yuan Zhen and kill him. However, after waiting for a long time, there was not even half a noise could be heard outside the hall. It was close to midnight, the disciples at the Brightness Peak were either on their guard duties outside, or were sleeping in their quarters inside. Besides, without Yang Xiao’s order, who would dare to barge into the hall? As for Yang Xiao’s servants, ever since one of them was bitten by Wei Yixiao to death, they all scared out of their wits and had scattered away early on. Not to mention Yang Xiao did not summon them, even if he did, they might not necessarily dare to step into the hall, to come to the presence of this blood-sucking Devil King.

Hidden inside the cloth sack, Zhang Wuji could not see anything, but when they spoke, he could hear every single word clearly. Right now the hall was quiet, but he knew that this silence was hiding an enormous murderous intention. After half a day, suddenly he heard Shuo Bude’s voice was calling out, “Hey, little friend inside the cloth sack, you must save us.”

“How do I save you?” Zhang Wuji asked.

The flow of ‘chi’ in Yuan Zhen’s ‘dan tian’ was starting to clear up. To suddenly hear a voice came out of the cloth sack, his shock was not light. His real ‘chi’ was shaken and his body was trembling violently. Ever since he entered the hall, his attention was focused on dealing with Wei Yixiao, Yang Xiao, and the other masters; how could he find the time to leisurely observe anything unusual lying on the ground other than an ordinary cloth sack? To suddenly hear someone was talking, he could not restrain from sucking a mouthful of cold air while cried out inwardly, “I am finished!”

He heard Shuo Bude say, “The mouth of the cloth sack was bound by the ‘qian chan bai jie’ [a thousand wraps a hundred knots] technique. Other than myself, definitely nobody else would be able to untie it. But you can stand up.”

“Yes,” Zhang Wuji replied, while standing inside the cloth sack.

“Xiao Xiongdi [little brother],” Shuo Bude said, “You were willing to give up your life to save the lives of several dozen Rui Jin Flag brethrens, your righteousness, chivalry and noble character deserves everybody’s utmost admiration. Right now several of our people’s lives also depend on you. Please go to that evil monk and kill him with a fist or a palm.”

Zhang Wuji pondered deeply and did not answer for half a day.

Shuo Bude added, “This evil monk took advantage of our precarious position and launched a sneak attack. It was a despicable deed, you have heard it with your own ears. If you don’t kill him, tens of thousands Ming Cult people, from top to bottom, will be wiped out completely by outsiders. If you kill him, you are performing a huge virtuous deed and chivalrous duty.”

Zhang Wuji still hesitated and did not say anything.

Yuan Zhen said, “Right this moment I cannot move the least bit. If you kill me, won’t you be the laughingstock of all heroes under the heavens?”

“Stinky bald thief,” Zhou Dian angrily said, “Shaolin Pai calls themselves a righteous major sect; but you surreptitiously came up here and launched a sneak attack. Won’t you be the laughingstock of all heroes under the heavens?”

Zhang Wuji had taken a step toward Yuan Zhen, but then he stopped and said, “Shuo Bude Dashi [reverend], your precious Cult’s dispute [orig. shi fei qu zhi – right or wrong, crooked or straight] with the Six Major Sects, Xiao Ke [the young one] does not know; Xiao Ke is very wiling to help you, gentlemen, but is unwilling to harm this Great Monk from the Shaolin Pai.”

“Xiao Xiongdi,” Peng Yingyu said, “You are somewhat ignorant. If you do not kill him now, when this monk’s strength is restored, he will definitely kill you as well.”

Yuan Zhen said with a laugh, “I have neither grudges nor enmity with this Xiao Shizu [young benefactor]; how can I kill him without any reason? Let alone this Xiao Shizu does not belong to the Devil Cult; apparently, out of ill intention Bu Dai Heshang captured him and took him up the mountain. You, the Devil Cult people, have never shrunk from any crime; what good might come out of this for him?”

Both sides were huffing and puffing, it was extremely difficult for them to talk, but they forced themselves to speak, trying to touch Zhang Wuji’s heart. Zhang Wuji was in quandary; he had personally heard how this Yuan Zhen monk launched a sneak attack, which was a cowardly act. But to go forward and strike him dead was also against his wish. Besides, once he made his move, he would be standing in the Ming Cult’s side forever and become the enemy of the Six Major Sects. His Tai Shifu [grand master], the Six Heroes of Wudang, Zhou Zhiruo, and the others would become his enemy.

He also thought, “The Ming Cult is recognized by the mainstream Wulin community as demonic and heretical, such as Wei Yixiao sucks people’s blood and Yifu indiscriminately killed the innocent. Really they have done too many things they should have not done. Tai Shifu has repeatedly warned me not to make friends with the Devil Cult people to avoid the disaster of lifelong suffering. Because my Father had involvement with the Devil Cult by marrying my Mother, he had to commit suicide on the top of Wudang Mountain. A warning example is close at hand, road to disaster is straight ahead. Much less this Yuan Zhen is Divine Monk Kong Jian’s disciple. Kong Jian Dashi willingly endured thirteen punches of ‘Qi Shang Quan’ [seven-injury fist] with the hope of restoring my Yifu, but the end result was he died under the fist. This kind of benevolence, justice and mercy is extremely hard to come by within the Wulin world even from the ancient times; how can I harm his disciple?”

As he heard Shuo Bude urge again, Zhang Wuji said, “Shuo Bude Dashi, could you teach me a way so that I do not need to harm this Great Monk while he also cannot harm all of you? Xiao Ke will certainly do as instructed.”

Shuo Bude thought, “Looking at the current situation, it is a fight to the death between the two parties; how can there be a way to preserve both sides? If Yuan Zhen does not die, then we will perish.”

While he was still deep in thought, Peng Yingyu said, “Xiao Xiongdi, your benevolence is truly admirable. In that case please stretch out your finger and lightly push the ‘yu tang’ [jade hall] acupoint on Yuan Zhen’s chest. This way you will definitely not harm him, you will only prevent him to use his internal energy for several hours. We will send someone to take him down the mountain, we will not harm even a hair on his body. Do you know the location of the ‘yu tang’ acupoint?”

Zhang Wuji’s medical knowledge was deep, he knew that if the ‘yu tang’ acupoint was lightly sealed, the flow of real ‘chi’ from the ‘dantian’ upward would be temporarily blocked, but his health would not be affected. Thereupon he said, “I do.”

He heard Yuan Zhen say, “Xiao Shizhu must not act on their behalf. You seal my acupoint, no doubt it is not fatal, but as soon as their internal energy is restored, they are going to kill me at once. How are you going to prevent it?”

“Your Mama’s stinking dog’s fart!” Zhou Dian cursed, “We said we are not going to harm you, naturally we are not going to harm you. Do you think the words of Wu San Ren of the Ming Cult cannot be trusted?”

Zhang Wuji believed that Yang Xiao and the Five Wanderers were people who would not fail to keep their own words, but he was not certain about Wei Yixiao. Thereupon he asked, “Wei Qianbei, what do you say?”

With a trembling voice Wei Yixiao said, “I won’t harm him for now. But the next time we meet, we will disregard our lives and fight … fight to the … the death.” By the time he said the words ‘fight to the death’, his voice was getting extremely weak while he was gasping for breath.

“Then so be it,” Zhang Wuji said, “Guangming Shizhe [The Emissary of the Brightness], Qing Yi Fu Wang, and Wu San Ren, seven gentlemen, each one is a hero and warrior of the present age, how can they break their own promise renege their own words? Yuan Zhen Dashi, please forgive ‘wanbei’s offense.” While saying that, he walked toward Yuan Zhen.

Because he was inside the sack, he could only take about one foot at a time; therefore, it was a dozen steps later that he finally arrived in front of Yuan Zhen. This kind of big cloth sack creeping forward slowly was actually a funny scene, but this moment everybody’s life was hanging on a thread; nobody found it amusing.

Listening to Yuan Zhen’s breathing, Zhang Wuji knew when he was about two feet away from him, so he stopped and said, “Yuan Zhen Dashi, ‘wanbei’ is doing this for the benefit of both sides, you must not blame me.” While saying that, he slowly raised his hand.

With a bitter laugh Yuan Zhen said, “At this moment my whole body can’t move; I can only let you, ‘xiao wan bei’, to do whatever you want.”

Ever since the Divine Doctor of the Butterfly Valley Hu Qingniu died, ZhangWuji’s technique in acupoint identification was already incomparable in this present age. Yuan Zhen and he were separated by a cloth sack, but unexpectedly his stretched finger toward the ‘yu tang’ acupoint did not miss even a thousandths of a hair width. This ‘yu tang’ acupoint was located on the pit of the stomach, about one ‘cun’ six ‘fen’ [1 cun is approximately 1 inch, 1 fen is about 1/3 of a centimeter] below the ‘zi gong’ [purple palace] acupoint, and about one ‘cun’ six ‘fen’ above the ‘shan zhong’ [mutton smell] acupoint. It belonged to the ‘ren mai’ [lit. free, unrestrained blood passage]. This blood passage was not a fatal major acupoint, but it was located as such that the ‘chi’ passage must pass through. If this passage was blocked, the flow of ‘chi’ in the entire body would be obstructed.

“Aiyo!” suddenly Yang Xiao, Leng Qian, Shuo Bude shouted together, “Quickly withdraw your hand!”

Zhang Wuji felt the forefinger of his right hand shook; a gust of cold ‘chi’ burst through his hand and spread throughout his body just like a lightning strike, immediately his body turned cold. He heard Zhou Dian, Priest Tieguan, and the others shouted curses at the same time, “Stinky bald thief, dare to use such treachery!”

Zhang Wuji’s entire body shivered violently. He understood that although that Yuan Zhen could not move away, he was still able to send all his strength to his finger, which he positioned in front of his ‘yu tang’ acupoint. Because Zhang Wuji was inside the sack, he did not see that Yuan Zhen unexpectedly could still execute this countermeasure. As Zhang Wuji’s finger arrived, two fingertips bumped into each other, the power of Yuan Zhen’s ‘huan yin zhi’ penetrated the cloth sack and went straight into his body.

In this situation of life and death, Yuan Zhen had used up his remaining strength on his finger. After the two fingers collided, his entire body was paralyzed and his countenance turned greenish pale that he looked like a corpse.

In the hall, there were originally eight men who were unable to move after receiving injuries. Now Zhang Wuji was added to their number. Zhou Dian was the one most irritated; although he was gasping for breath, he insisted on shouting curses at the Shaolin bald thief’s shameless treachery. Yang Xiao and the others, however, thought that they could not blame Yuan Zhen. The enemy was threatening to seal his acupoint, he held out his hand in self-defense. He had done nothing improper.

Yuan Zhen’s strength was completely depleted that he felt he was about to die. But secretly he was delighted, thinking this boy was still young, his power could not be too strong. After being hit by the ‘huan yin zhi’, he would certainly be dead in less than half a day, while in about two hours he would be able to slowly gather his dispersed real ‘chi’, and then he would be able to do anything he wanted.

The hall grew very quiet. After more than an hour later, the four candles illuminating the hall died out one after another. The hall became pitch black.

Yang Xiao and the others heard Yuan Zhen’s intermittent breathing slowly evened up; it was heavy at first, but progressively getting longer. They knew the scattered real ‘chi’ in Yuan Zhen’s body was slowly condensing, while whenever they tried to exert their own energy, a cold ‘chi’, like the ice-cold ‘huan yin zhi’, would burst into their ‘dantian’. They could not help but shiver. Their despair grew, the anxiety was getting even more unbearable. They wished for Yuan Zhen to recover quicker and quickly send out a palm strike to each of them so that they would die immediately, sparing them the seemingly endless torture of waiting anxiously.

Leng Qian, Zhou Dian and the others were content to just close their eyes waiting for death, simple and straightforward. Shuo Bude and Peng Yingyu, however, could not set their minds at ease. Of the Five Wanderers, Shuo Bude and Peng Yingyu were Buddhist monks [orig. ‘chu jia ren’ – those who leave their homes], but these two were also ones with the most ambition, the ones most care about the common people’s suffering, the ones resolved to take the great undertaking. By this time the situation was already decided, they were certain they would lose their lives under the hands of Yuan Zhen. Everybody’s lifelong magnificent aspiration would soon go down the drain.

“Peng Heshang,” Shuo Bude mournfully said, “We have carefully laid a plan to drive the Mongolian Tatars away, who would have thought that in the end everything is wasted? Ay, to think that the calamity of millions of common people has reached its peak, yet they will still have to endure suffering for a longer time.”

Zhang Wuji was generating hot ‘chi’ in his ‘dantian’ to fight the cold ‘chi’ of the ‘huan yin zhi’. He clearly heard everything Shuo Bude said, and was unable to restrain from feeling strange. “He said they are planning on driving the Mongolian Tatars away?” he thought, “Could it be that the notoriously evil Devil Cult really have the good of common people in their minds?”

He heard Peng Yingyu reply, “Shuo Bude, I have already said that if we rely solely on our Ming Cult’s strength, it is impossible for us to overtake the Mongolian Tatars. We have to contact the world’s heroes and warriors to join hands, only then we will succeed. In the past, your Shixiong [martial brother] Bang Hu and my Shidi [(younger) martial brother] Zhou Ziwang have raised arms in rebellion. The momentum was strong, but in the end they still utterly failed. Wasn’t it because they did not involve the assistance of outsiders’?”

Zhou Dian loudly said, “Death is knocking on your door, yet you two, this pair of bald thieves, are still fighting a vague battle. One says he wants to rely mainly of the Ming Cult, the other says he wants to join hands with the major sects. To me, Zhou Dian, everything is nonsense! Merely a fart! Our Ming Cult is all split up in pieces, with our guts spilled all over the place; yet you still want to fart? Peng Heshang wants to get in touch with the orthodox major sects, it is an even louder fart, an extremely stinky fart. We are currently besieged by the Six Major Sects, and you want to communicate your fart with them?”

Priest Tieguan interrupted, “If Yang Jiaozhu was still alive, we would have beaten the Six Major Sects out of their wits, then we would not have to worry that they would not obey our command.”

Zhou Dian laughed aloud and said, “The ox nose mixed-up hair [both are derogatory terms to call a Taoist priest] is releasing an even smellier ox fart! If Yang Jiaozhu were still alive, naturally everything would be alright; who wouldn’t know it? You just talk too much … aiyo … aiyo!” As he opened his mouth to laugh, his ‘chi’ dispersed and the cold ‘chi’ of ‘huan yin zhi’ burst into his heart and lungs that he could not restrain from screaming in pain.

“Shut up!” Leng Qian said. As soon as he said those two words, everybody calmed down immediately.

Zhang Wuji’s heart was still filled with disquieting thoughts: “Apparently there are many twists and turns surrounding this Ming Cult; they are obviously more than just a bunch of evildoers.” Thereupon he said, “Shuo Bude Dashi, what exactly is your precious Cult’s objective? Could you possibly reveal it to me?”

“Ha, you are not dead yet?” Shuo Bude said, “Xiao Xiongdi, with no reason whatsoever you deliver your life because of the Ming Cult, we feel very sorry. In any case you won’t live past a few more hours, so I don’t see any reason why I cannot tell you the secret of our Cult. Leng Mian Xianzheng, what do you say?”

“Tell!” Leng Qian said. Instead of saying, ‘it’s alright, you can tell him’, six words, it was enough for him to say just one word, ‘tell’.

“Xiao Xiongdi,” Shuo Bude said, “Our Ming Cult originated from Persia. It entered the Central Earth during the Tang dynasty. At that time it was called ‘Xian Jiao’ [Zoroastrianism]. By imperial decree, Tang emperors allowed Guangming [brightness] Temples to be built everywhere as our Ming Cult’s monasteries. Our Cult’s creed is to do good and shun evil, that all living creatures are equal. Those who have silver and gold ought to share it with the poor. No meat no wine. We worship the Ming Zun [Brightness prophet]. The Ming Zun is actually the God of Fire, the virtuous deity. It was because corrupt government officials bullied our Cult, our Cult brethrens were angered and often staged rebellions. From the Northern Song’s Fang La, Fang Jiaozhu, I don’t know how many times we have raised our arms.”

Zhang Wuji had also heard about Fang La’s reputation; he knew Fang La was named one of the Four Great Bandits of the Northern Song, sharing the same honor with Song Jian [from the Water Margin], Wang Qing, and Tian Hu. Thereupon he asked, “So Fang La was your precious Cult’s Jiaozhu?”

“That’s right,” Shuo Bude said, “In the years of ‘Jian Yan’ of the Southern Song, there was Wang Zongshi Jiaozhu at Xinzhou [Jiangxi], in the years of ‘Shao Xing’, Yu Wupo Jiaozhu raised arms at Quzhou [Zhejiang], during the ‘Shao Ding’ years of Emperor Li Zong, Zhang Sanqiang Jiaozhu staged a rebellion at Jiangxi and Guangdong regions. It was because our Cult often opposed the imperial authorities that the imperial government started to call us ‘the Devil Cult’ and strictly forbade our activities. To survive, inevitably our operations became surreptitious so we can evade the authorities’ eyes and ears. In the meantime, the accumulated grievances between us and the orthodox major sects grew to the level similar to water and fire. Admittedly, within our own Cult there were unavoidably certain individuals who were not self-introspective, some evildoer disciples, who relying on their superb martial art skill to indiscriminately killed, raped and plundered the innocents. As a result, today our Cult’s prestige within the Jianghu is declining …”

Suddenly Yang Xiao interrupted in cold voice, “Shuo Bude, are you talking about me?”

Shuo Bude said, “My name is ‘Shuo Bude’ [can’t say]; I won’t say anything that is not supposed to be spoken. Whoever has done the deed, he understands. This is called ‘the teeth chew the wontons, the stomach knows how many’.”

“Humph,” Yang Xiao snorted, but did not say anything.

Suddenly Zhang Wuji was startled by a realization: “Hey, how come I am not cold anymore?” When he was hit by Yuan Zhen’s ‘huan yin zhi’, the cold was unbearable, but after a while, surprisingly the cold ‘chi’ completely vanished.

What actually happened was: he was hit by the ‘yin’ poison of the ‘xuan ming shen zhang’ [black/mysterious and deep divine palm], which lasted until he was seventeen when the poison was completely eradicated from his system. During the seven years, day in and day out his body was fighting the cold poison; thereupon his body developed a natural defense against the cold, just like blinking his eyes or breathing, which he instinctively does. Much less after he trained the Jiu Yang Shen Gong, although he had not reached perfection yet, the last hurdle had not been passed, the ‘yang’ ‘chi’ inside his body was quite abundant, so that without taking too much time, the ‘yin’ poison was completely driven out.

In the meantime, Shuo Bude continued, “Ever since our Great Song perished under the hands of Mongolian Tatars, the Ming Cult becomes the mortal enemy of the imperial government more and more, because our Cult has taken the duty to drive out the invaders. Only it’s a pity that for the past few years the Ming Cult has become like a dragon without a head. Because the masters within the Cult are fighting over the Jiaozhu position, we have been constantly killing each other. In the end, some washed their hands and lived in seclusion; some founded another sect and became the Jiaozhu. After our Cult fell apart, the enmity with the prestigious schools and orthodox sects grew deeper, until finally we reached the situation we are in today. Yuan Zhen Heshang, did you hear even half a sentence of lie in what I just said?”

“Humph,” Yuan Zhen said, “No lies, no lies! You all are in front of the death’s door, why would you tell any lie?” While he said that, he slowly stood up and took a step forward.

“Ah!” Yang Xiao and the Five Wanderers cried out in alarm.

Although they all knew he was going to recover first, they did not expect his internal strength to be this profound that even after being hit by Qing Yi Fu Wang Wei Yixiao’s ‘cold ice soft palm’, his recovery would be this quick. They watched his imposing stature; as his left foot took another step forward, his body was as steady as a rock.

Yang Xiao laughed coldly. “Kong Jian Shen Seng’s distinguished disciple really is not to be trifled with, but you have not answered my question earlier. Could it be that there is some dubious affair in this matter that you cannot tell the truth?”

“Ha … ha …” Yuan Zhen laughed while taking another step forward. “You are not going to die with your eyes closed before knowing all the details, aren’t you?” he said, “You asked me how I knew the secret passages in the Brightness Peak, how I could pass through the layer upon layer of natural stronghold, and stealthily [as before, the original was ‘deity does not know, demon does not aware’] going up the mountain peak. Very well, I am going to tell you, gentlemen, the truth. It was your own precious Cult’s Yang Dingtian Jiaozhu, husband and wife, who personally lead me up here.”

Yang Xiao shivered involuntarily; he thought, “Based on his status, there is no way he would tell a lie; but how can there be such thing?”

Meanwhile, Zhou Dian had already cursed, “You are just releasing your eighteen generation ancestors’ fart! This secret passage is the Brightness Peak’s greatest secret, it is our Cult’s sacred passageway. Although Yang Zuoshi [left emissary] is a Guangming Shizhe [emissary of the Brightnes], Wei Dage [big brother] is a Hu Jiao Fa Wang, they have never walked on that passage. Only the Cult Leader, one man, can use this secret passage. How could Yang Jiaozhu take you, an outsider, into this secret passage?”

Yuan Zhen sighed and was lost in thought for half a day before quietly said, “Since you insist on getting to the bottom of this matter, I am going to tell you a secret that happened twenty-five years ago. You all are not going to go down the mountain alive anyway, so I am not worried that you would divulge this matter. Ay! Zhou Dian, you are right, this secret passage is the Ming Cult’s sacred passageway, it was always only the Jiaozhu, one man, who can enter it. Anybody else entering it would be considered a sacrilege, punishable by the most severe punishment, without any possibility of pardon. However, Madame Yang Dingtian had entered it. Yang Dingtian had violated the religious law by personally sneaking his wife into this secret passage…”

(Zhou Dian cut him off by cussing, “Fart! A stinky dog’s fart!” Peng Yingyu rebuked him harshly, “Zhou Dian, shut up!”)

“In turn, Madame Yang also personally took me in…”

(Zhou Dian cursed again, “Damn it! Pei! Pei!” he spat, “Nonsense!”)

“… I am not a Ming Cult disciple; technically, I did not violate you Cult’s law. Ay, even if I were a Ming Cult disciple, even if I committed a grave offense against the Cult, what should I be afraid of?” As he recounted these past events, surprisingly his voice sounded so forlorn.

“Why did Madame Yang take you into the secret passage?” Priest Tieguan asked.

“It was something that happened a long, long time ago,” Yuan Zhen replied, “Today Lao Na [lit. old cassock, a term used by Buddhist monk to call himself] is an old man, over seventy years of age … but when I was young … Alright, I will tell you everything. Do you gentlemen know who I am? Madame Yang was my Shimei [martial (younger) sister], before Lao Na left home, my secular surname was Cheng, my given name was Kun, I was none other than the ‘Hun Yuan Pi Li Shou’ [‘hun yuan’ – origin of the universe, ‘pi li’ – thunderbolt, ‘shou’ – hand]!”

As soon as these words came out of his mouth, no doubt Yang Xiao and the others were shocked beyond belief; Zhang Wuji, who was inside the cloth sack, was even more shocked that he cried out in alarm. The stories he heard from his Yifu that night on the Bing Huo Island immediately came back vividly to his mind; how his Yifu’s master, Cheng Kun, had killed his entire family: parents, wife and son; how Yifu has excessively massacred Wulin people to force Cheng Kun to appear; and how he had wounded Divine Monk Kong Jian with his fist, but Cheng Kun had not fulfilled his promise to appear in the flesh…

Zhang Wuji suddenly remembered, “Turned out at that time this evil Cheng Kun had bowed to Kong Jian Shen Seng as his master. Because Kong Jian Shen Seng wanted to resolve this debt of sin, he willingly took Yifu’s thirteen ‘Qi Shang Quan’ [seven-injury fist] punches. Who would have thought that Cheng Kun also deceived his Shifu and had caused Kong Jian Shen Seng to die with unsatisfied regret?”

He thought further, “As a result, Yifu’s insanity flared up and he killed the innocents indiscriminately that all Clans and Sects went up Mount Wudang together, forcing my Father and Mother to their deaths. All things considered, the main reason of all these affairs is Cheng Kun’s mischief.”

All of a sudden an incomparable anger flared in his breast; he felt his whole body was parched as if he was burning. This ‘air pocket of the universe’ of Shuo Bude was airtight. He had been stuffed inside the sack for a long time, the oxygen inside was depleted long ago. Because of his profound internal energy, Zhang Wuji was able to survive this long by breathing like a tortoise, i.e. he needed very little air. Now that his mind was suddenly agitated, the Jiu Yang Zhen Qi [real ‘chi’ of Jiu Yang] in his ‘dantian’ was out of control and was about to burst out. Immediately he felt like he was inside a burning stove and was unable to restrain from groaning loudly.

“Xiao Xiongdi,” Zhou Dian said sternly, “Everybody’s life is in danger; everybody’s distress is difficult to bear, but a real man will not show weakness by groaning loudly.”

“Yes,” Zhang Wuji responded, immediately he circulated his internal energy according to the Nine Yang Manual to blend his ‘chi’ evenly throughout his body. Usually, whenever he did this, his mind would calm down like still water, his spirit would transcend beyond the material world; however, as he circulated his energy this time, his four limbs and hundreds of bones felt unbearably painful, as if there were hundreds of small needles, all were burning red, simultaneously pricking his major acupoints all over his body.

During the several years he was training the Nine Yang Manual, although he had uncovered the mystery of the world’s most excellent martial art study, he did not have any expert master to give him directions, he was merely groping in the dark. As a result, the Jiu Yang Zhen Qi was accumulating in his body, but had not been put to use to break through the last major hurdle. He was fine as long as nothing triggering the ‘zhen qi’. But Yuan Zhen’s ‘huan yin zhi’ was the Wulin world’s most poisonous ‘yin’ martial art. As soon as it entered Zhang Wuji’s body, it was like the gunpowder being ignited. But because he was inside the ‘qian kun yi qi’ sack, the excited Jiu Yang Zhen Qi had nowhere to go, therefore, it came back and attacked his own body.

In this short period of time, he had experienced the most difficult and dangerous moment a warrior must go through in cultivating the internal energy. It was the moment where life or death, success or failure, were hanging on a thread. Of course Zhou Dian and the others did not know that at that particular time, Zhang Wuji was right at the critical juncture where the water met the fire, the dragon clashed with the tiger; they thought he was simply groaning in pain with his dying breath after being hit by Yuan Zhen’s ‘fantastical yin finger’.

While Zhang Wuji was struggling hard to resist the torment of the heating ‘yang chi’, every sentence Yuan Zhen spoke was transmitted clearly into his ears: “Shimei’s family and mine have been friends for many generations. The two of us were engaged ever since we were very young. Who would have thought that Yang Dingtian was also secretly in love with my Shimei. When he took up the duty as the Ming Cult’s Jiaozhu, his power rose until it shook the heavens. My Shimei’s parents were admittedly greedy people who craved selfish gain, while Shimei herself did not have a strong character. Unexpectedly she married him, but their marriage was not necessarily a happy one. Sometimes she wanted to see me. Unavoidably, we must find an extremely secret place for our rendezvous.

Yang Dingtian always complied with everything Shimei wished for, he did not dare to disobey the least bit. When she wanted to look at the secret passage, although Yang Dingtian very much did not want to allow her, in the end he could not resist her persuasion and ended up taking her into the secret passage. From that time on, the secret passage of the Brightness Peak, the most sacred ground of the Ming Cult for several hundred years, has become your Madame Jiaozhu’s and my secret rendezvous place. Ha … ha … ha … ha … I have been coming and going through this secret passage more than a dozen times; is it any wonder that today I can easily go up the mountain?”

Listening to this narrative, Zhou Dian, Yang Xiao and the others were at a loss of words. Zhou Dian only started to curse, “Fa …” but did not continue. Their breasts were filled with anger that they felt they were going to explode. They had never heard the Ming Cult being insulted as grave as this time. Moreover, today’s destruction of the Ming Cult was all because this secret passage was breached. Although they were listening with anger as if their eyes were spouting fire, they all realized that Yuan Zhen did not tell a lie.

“What? Are you angry?” Yuan Zhen said, “Yang Dingtian was blatantly destroying my marriage. She was clearly my beloved wife; just because Yang Dingtian rose up to become the boss of the Devil Cult, he snatched my wife away just like that. My hatred toward the Devil Cult is such that I refuse to coexist with you under the same sky.

On the day Yang Dingtian married my Shimei, I came to offer my congratulations, but when I was drinking their wine of happiness, I swore a heavy oath in my heart: ‘As long as there is one breath remaining in Cheng Kun’s body, I will definitely kill Yang Dingtian and destroy the Devil Cult completely.’ It has been more than forty years since I swore that oath, and today I see the great success of my effort. Ha … ha … I, Cheng Kun, have fulfilled my wish, now I can die with closed eyes.”

Yang Xiao coldly said, “Thank you very much for clarifying a great suspicion in my heart. Yang Jiaozhu died suddenly but the cause of his death was unknown. Turns out he died under your hands.”

With a conviction in his voice Yuan Zhen said, “At that time Yang Dingtian’s martial art skill was a lot higher than mine. Not to mention at that time, I am afraid even now my martial art skill still cannot surpass his skill of that time …”

“And so you injured Yang Jiaozhu sneakily,” Zhou Dian cut him off, “If not by poison, then it must be a sneak attack like this time.”

Yuan Zhen sighed and shook his head. “No,” he said, “My Shimei was afraid I would do just that. She warned me continually that if I killed Yang Dingtian, she would break all ties with me immediately. She said that by having a tryst with me she had already committed a serious offense against her husband, if on top of that I maliciously harm him, the Heaven would never forgive her. Yang Dingtian, ay, Yang Dingtian, he … he died on his own account.”

“Ah!” Yang Xiao, Peng Yingyu and the others exclaimed simultaneously.

“If Yang Dingtian indeed died under my palms, I would have spared your Ming Cult …” Yuan Zhen added. His voice trailed off as he recalled the events that happened several decades ago. In a slow and deep voice he continued, “That particular night, my Shimei and I were having our rendezvous in the secret passage. Suddenly we heard a very heavy breathing from the left, something that had never happened before. This passage was extremely secret, no outsider would be able to find its entrance; if it were a Ming Cult disciple, they would never dare to enter. When the two of us heard this sound of breathing, we were extremely shocked and quickly looked around to see what it was, only to see that Yang Dingtian was sitting inside a small room. There was a sheet of sheepskin in his hands, his face was dark red like blood. When he saw us, he said, ‘The two of you, very good, you have done to me very good indeed!’ While saying this, his face suddenly turned pale, but this ashen face immediately vanished, turned into blood red. This turning from ashen to red happened quickly three times in the blink of an eye. Yang Zuo Shi, do you know this martial art skill?”

Yang Xiao replied, “That was our Cult’s divine skill, the Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi.”

“Yang Xiao,” Zhou Dian said, “You have also mastered it, haven’t you?”

“How can I dare to say ‘I have mastered it’?” Yang Xiao said, “In the past, just because Yang Jiaozhu regarded me with respect, he had passed on some shallow introductions of this divine skill. I trained it for more than ten years, but so far I only reach no higher than the second level. When I tried to continue, it was like the real ‘chi’ in my entire body was trying to burst out of my brain, no matter what I did, I simply could not control it. Yang Jiaozhu was able to change his countenance three times in a flash; that means he had reached the fourth level. He once said that among the Cult Leaders of previous generation, the eighth generation Jiaozhu possessed the highest martial art skill. It was said that he managed to master the fifth level of the Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. But on the same day that he mastered it, he died of a fire deviation. From that time on, no one has ever mastered the fourth level.”

“That difficult?” Zhou Dian asked.

Priest Tieguan said, “If it is not that difficult, how can it be called the Ming Cult’s protective divine skill?”

They were all masters within the Ming Cult; naturally they had heard about the divine skill Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi for a long time and had always been fascinated with it. Consequently, although they were presently in a precarious situation, they could not restrain from having a discussion about it.

“Yang Zuo Shi,” Peng Yingyu said, “When Yang Jiaozhu reached this fourth level, why did his countenance change?” Actually, he inquired this slightly out-of-topic subject for another profound reason; he knew that if Yuan Zhen took several more steps forward, he would strike everybody dead with his palms. Thereupon he strived to bring up past events to gain as much time as possible. As long as one among their Cult’s seven masters could recover in time and fight back, he could hold Yuan Zhen back momentarily. Even if he was not Yuan Zhen’s match, perhaps the situation would change to their advantage. Anyway, it would beat just sitting there waiting for their deaths.

How could Yang Xiao not understand his intention? Thereupon he said, “The main principle of Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi divine skill is to shift the rigid and flexible, yin and yang, two ‘chi’ of the universe. When the countenance appears bluish pale and red during training, it is because the blood subsides, the real ‘chi’ changes shapes. It was said that when one reaches the sixth level, the entire body would turn abruptly from bluish pale to red and vice versa; but by the seventh level, the yin and yang blend harmoniously that there would not be any visible sign externally.”

Peng Yingyu was afraid Yuan Zhen would grow impatient, thereupon he asked him, “Yuan Zhen Dashi, in the end, how did our Yang Jiaozhu return to the Heaven?”

With a cold laugh Yuan Zhen said, “After all of you were hit by my ‘huan yin zhi’, I can hear from the sound of your breathing and the way you circulate your ‘chi’ that, you will definitely not be able to restore your energy within four hours. You want to gain time, hoping that you would get out of trouble by your own ‘chi’. Let me tell you, gentlemen, frankly: you won’t have enough time. All of you are martial art masters; even if you receive a more serious injury, after circulating your internal energy this long, you should have felt improvement no matter how slight. But how come your body is growing stiffer and stiffer?”

Actually, Yang Xiao, Peng Yingyu and the others had realized this fact early on, but they were not willing to lose heart as long as they still have one breath remaining.

They heard Yuan Zhen say, “When I saw Yang Dingtian’s countenance changed irregularly, I could not help but panic. My Shimei knew his martial art skill was extremely high. Just one strike and he would have sent us to our death. She said, ‘Dingtian, it is all my fault. Please let Cheng Shige [martial (older) brother] go down the mountain, whatever punishment you care to give, I am resigned to accept.’ Hearing her words, Yang Dingtian shook his head and slowly said, ‘I married your body, but I cannot marry your heart.’ He stared hard at us; but suddenly two lines of blood flowed down from his eyes, his body stiffened and he no longer moved. Shimei was greatly shocked. ‘Dingtian, Dingtian!’ she called out, ‘What happened?'”

Although his voice was not loud, Yuan Zhen uttered these words in the quietness of the night, plus everybody was still thinking about the terrifying situation of blood flowing down from Yang Dingtian’s eyes, all of them were quite shaken.

Yuan Zhen continued, “She called out several times, but Yang Dingtian was still motionless. My Shimei gathered her courage and stepped forward to pull his hand, but he was already stiff. When she felt his breathing, it turned out he had already died. I know in her heart she was exceedingly grieved, so I tried to console her, ‘It seems that he was in the middle of training some kind of extremely difficult martial art and accidentally suffered fire deviation so that his real ‘chi’ was heavily reversed to such an extent as he was beyond help.’

My Shimei said, ‘That’s right, he was training the Ming Cult’s timeless distinguished skill, the Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. While in a critical juncture, he suddenly discovered you and I were having a private meeting in here. Although I did not personally kill him, he died because of me.’ I was about to say something to comfort her and ease her burden when she suddenly pointed her finger somewhere behind me. ‘Who’s there?’ she shouted. I hastily turned around but did not see even half a shadow of anybody else. When I turned back, I saw a dagger had already pierced the pit of her stomach; she had killed herself.

Hey, hey, Yang Dingtian said, ‘I married your body, but I cannot marry your heart.’ I had won Shimei’s heart, but in the end I could not own her body. She was the only woman I ever loved and respected my whole life. If not for Yang Dingtian stirred up trouble, how could our blissful marriage end up in such a tragic way? If Yang Dingtian did not rise to become the Devil Cult’s Cult Leader, my Shimei would have never agreed to marry someone who was more than twenty years her senior.

Yang Dingtian had died; there is nothing I can do to him. But the Devil Cult is still alive and running amuck in the world. At that time, pointing my finger toward the corpses of Yang Dingtian and my Shimei, two people, I said, ‘I, Cheng Kun, swear to do everything I can to destroy the Ming Cult. The day I successfully accomplish my oath, I will come here to your presence and cut my own throat to express my apologies.’ Ha ha … Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao, you are going to die soon, I, Cheng Kun, also will not live much longer. It’s just that my heart’s desire is achieved; I will happily kill myself, so I am ten-thousand times better than you are. Over these years, for me, not a day passed by without contemplating a way to destroy the Devil Cult. Ay, I, Cheng Kun, have been unfortunate my whole life; my beloved wife was taken from me, and my only beloved disciple hated me to the bones …”

Hearing Cheng Kun brought up Xie Xun, Zhang Wuji paid a closer attention. Only when he tried to concentrate, the Jiu Yang Zhen Qi in his body grew more abundantly, so that he felt as if his four limbs and hundreds of bones were swollen to the point that his body was about to burst; as if each strand of his hair was inflated several folds.

He heard Yun Zhen continue, “After going down the Brightness Peak, I returned to the Central Plains to seek my beloved disciple Xie Xun, whom I have not seen for many years. To my dismay, after talking to him, I have found out that he has become one of the Devil Cult’s four great Hu Jiao Fa Wang. Although I visited the Brightness Peak often, my heart had always been on my Shimei, one person; I did not care about any of your shady businesses, my Shimei also had never said anything about the Cult’s affairs. My disciple Xie Xun’s position within the Devil Cult was quite high; but it was not before he mentioned it himself that I knew about it. With all his might he persuaded me to join the Devil Cult; he said something about joining forces with one heart, driving the barbarians away, my anger was not small. But I also realized that the Devil Cult has had long history and was deeply rooted; the number of masters within the Cult was also as abundant as the clouds. If I rely on my own strength, there was no chance I could destroy it completely. Let’s not talk about me, one person; even if the Wulin heroes and warriors under the heavens joined hands, we might not necessarily able to destroy it completely. My only hope was to incite disharmony from within, let them massacre one another, let the Devil Cult destroy the Devil Cult.”

Listening to this point, Yang Xiao and the others were unable to restrain their shock. Over the last several dozen of years, each one of them were completely in the dark, totally unaware that a major enemy was watching and waiting outside, with a deliberate plan to destroy the Ming Cult. Because of the dispute over the Cult Leader position, they failed to see the more sinister chaos waiting to happen. Yuan Zhen’s words were like a stick striking their heads, waking them up to a violent realization.

In the meantime, Yuan Zhen continued, “Immediately I maintained my composure, I only said that this matter was such of a great substance that I must not be rash without giving it further consideration. Several days later, while pretending to be drunk, I tried to rape my disciple Xie Xun’s wife. Seizing the opportunity, I killed his entire family: his parents, his wife and his son. I know that because of this, he would hate me to the bones and would definitely try to find me to seek revenge. If he could not find me, he was bound to commit outrageous acts recklessly. Ha ha … nobody knows a disciple better than his master. This boy Xie Xun is good in every aspect; his literary and martial art skills were extraordinary. It’s just that he was easily provoked to anger; he could not carefully reflect on cause and effects of everything …”

Listening to this point, Zhang Wuji could not suppress the anger in his heart much longer. He thought, “Turns out all these misfortunes befell on Yifu were the result of this old thief, Cheng Kun’s secret plot. This old thief was not drunk; it was part of his deliberate scheming.”

Yuan Zhen was immensely proud of himself. “Xie Xun killed Jianghu warriors indiscriminately,” he said, “In all places he left behind my name; he wanted to force me to come out. Ha ha … how could I step forward bravely? If you don’t want anyone to know, don’t do it. Xie Xun gained innumerable enemies. Eventually these blood debts were put on the Ming Cult’s account. Once in a while he got into dangerous situations while doing his killings and I secretly helped him. He was the blade with which I kill others; how could I let him be destroyed by others? You, the Devil Cult, faced enemies on the outside as numerous as the leaves on a tree, your own masters were fighting over the Jiaozhu position in the inside; your internal strife was endless, and thus step by step you fell into my plot.

Xie Xun failed to kill Song Yuanqiao. It was a regrettable matter, but he punched Shaolin’s Divine Monk Kong Jian to his death, injured Kongtong Wu Lao [five elders] with his palm, and killed countless masters of various schools and sects on the Wang Pan Island. He even harmed the Heavenly Eagle Cult’s ‘tan zhu’ [altar leader] of his old friend’s Yin Tianzheng … Good disciple, a very nice disciple indeed. I spared no effort in passing to him all excellent martial art skills. It truly was not in vain!”

“If that’s the case,” Yang Xiao coldly said, “Your Shifu Kong Jian Shen Seng also died under your treacherous plan.”

Yuan Zhen laughed. “Do you think I was sincere when I bowed to Kong Jian? He received several kowtows from me for the price of his old life. I can’t say he suffered any loses … Ha ha … ha ha …!”

While Yuan Zhen roared in laughter, Zhang Wuji’s anger flared uncontrollably. His ears were buzzing and he passed out, but a short while later he regained consciousness. In all his life he had received countless bullying and humiliation, so he was able to take it indifferently. But he was thinking about hisYifu, who was a strong and bold warrior, who had unexpectedly fallen under Cheng Kun’s treacherous plan to such an extent where his family perished and his own reputation destroyed, in the end his eyes were blinded and he lived all alone on a desolate island waiting for his death. It was such a deep enmity and great hatred; how could he not avenge him?

As his anger filled his breast, the Jiu Yang Zhen Qi in his entire body was aroused, the real ‘chi’ flowed out but could not leak outside the sack; the ‘Universe Air Sack’ started to inflate. However, Yang Xiao and the others were captivated by Yuan Zhen’s story; nobody paid any attention to the inflating cloth sack.

“Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao, Peng Heshang, Zhou Dian,” he heard Yuan Zhen said, “Don’t you have anything else to say?”

Yang Xiao sighed and said, “Since it has come to this, what else can we say? Yuan Zhen Dashi, can you spare my daughter’s life? Her mother was Ji Xiaofu of Emei Pai; she came from an upright family, she has not joined our Devil Cult.”

“Rearing a tiger reaping a danger, pulling grass must be from its root!” Yuan said, while taking another step forward. His palm stretched out, slowly came down toward the crown of Yang Xiao’s head.

Inside the cloth sack, Zhang Wuji heard the critical situation outside. He felt his entire body was burning. By listening to the sound to determine the position, he leaped in front of Yuan Zhen; raising his left hand inside the sack, he blocked Yuan Zhen’s palm with the back of his palm. In this one strike, Yuan Zhen was actually exerting himself, because his ‘chi’ had not completely recovered. As his strike was blocked by Zhang Wuji, he staggered and was pushed a step backward.

“Good kid! You … you …” he stammered. Steadying himself, he swept his palm forward, striking the cloth sack. The palm did not hit Zhang Wuji’s body, but landed on the inflating sack and bounced back that he was pushed two steps back. Yuan Zhen was shocked, not knowing what had happened.

By this time Zhang Wuji’s mouth was parched, his head was dizzy, the Jiu Yang Zhen Qi inside his body expanded to the point that he felt he was about to explode. If the ‘universe air sack’ exploded first, then he would escape danger; otherwise, when the real ‘chi’ inside his body reached its critical point, his flesh and skin would split open and he would be burned like a black coal.

Seeing the weird cloth sack, Yuan Zhen immediately took two steps forward and launched another palm strike. As before, his palm bounced and he was pushed one step backward, but the cloth sack was also pushed back by his palm strength. Like a giant ball it rolled several times along the ground.

Inside the sack, Zhang Wuji was also tumbling down repeatedly. With the ‘chi’ filling his chest, he felt his torso was about to burst. He wanted to release the real ‘chi’ out of his body, but by this time the sack was simply too full; just to let out a breath was getting more and more difficult.

Yuan Zhen successively punched three times and kicked twice, but all his attacks bounced on the cloth sack full of real ‘chi’. Inside the sack, Zhang Wuji had already fainted. Fortunately all of Yuan Zhen’s attacks landed on the sack; if his hands and feet had made direct contact with Zhang Wuji’s body, with the overflowing real ‘chi’ in his body, Yuan Zhen would definitely suffer serious injury.

Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao and the others watched this strange occurrence in amazement, but they were also surprised that they were at a loss of what to do. This ‘universe air sack’ belonged to Shuo Bude, but even he did not understand why the sack was inflated like a ball. They did not even know whether Zhang Wuji was still alive inside the sack.

They saw Yuan Zhen pull a dagger from his waist and ferociously stab it onto the sack. But where the point of the dagger met the sack, the dagger simply sank into the sack and bounced back out without creating any damage. The sack was made of some strange material; it was neither silk nor leather, but of some kind of unusual and extremely rare material under the heavens. Also Yuan Zhen’s dagger was not a treasured blade; although he stabbed several times, how could the blade overcome the sack?

Seeing his palms, feet and dagger were all ineffective, Yuan Zhen thought, “Why would I waste my time with this kid?” His leg flew up and he kicked with all his might. The large sack rolled straight toward the door of the hall.

By this time the cloth sack was fully inflated into a big ball. As soon as it hit the door, it bounced back with great speed toward Yuan Zhen. Realizing the sack was coming at him with a violent force, Yuan Zhen raised up his palms in front of his chest and pushed forward at the big ball with all his strength.

‘Ka-boom!’ The noise was like a thunder in a cloudless day, followed by shreds of cloth fluttered in the air as the ‘qiankun yi qi dai’, fully inflated with Zhang Wuji’s Jiu Yang Zhen Qi, exploded into pieces.

Yuan Zhen, Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao, Shuo Bude and the others felt an exceedingly burning hot air burst onto their bodies; next they saw a young man in tattered clothes standing in the middle of the hall, with a bewildered look on his face.

In that short time, Zhang Wuji had achieved the full potential of the Jiu Yang Shen Gong; water and fire flowed together, the dragon and the tiger converged. Because the sack was filled with abundant real ‘chi’, it was as if dozens of masters put forth their strengths and simultaneously massaged the several hundred acupoints on his body. The real ‘chi’ inside and outside of his body surged together to break the dozens of obstacles all over his blood passages. He felt an incomparable comfort as if a stream of mercury flowed along all his entire network of blood vessels. No one had ever met this kind of destiny, and now that the treasured sack was destroyed, no one would ever encounter such opportunity again.

Yuan Zhen saw that the young man from the sack was standing with a blank expression on his face as if he had lost his mind. Although he was severely wounded, if he did not seize this fleeting moment immediately, and if the enemy preceded him in taking the initiative, his life would be in danger indeed. Thereupon he rushed one step forward with an extended right-hand index finger, sending his ‘huan yin zhi’ internal strength straight toward the ‘shan zhong’ acupoint on Zhang Wuji’s chest.

ZhangWuji swept his palm to parry. He had just completed his ‘shen gong’ [divine strength/power] cultivation, however, his martial art skill was still mediocre; he had not mastered the martial art skills previously taught by Xie Xun and his own father, how could he fight such an accomplished martial art master like Yuan Zhen? In just one move, the ‘yang chi’ [‘yang’ reservoir] acupoint on his wrist was sealed by Yuan Zhen. Immediately a numbing cold burst into his body; he shivered and was pushed a step backward. But his body was still overflowing with real ‘chi’, which in a flash was also transferred to Yuan Zhen’ body via his finger.

Two different types of energy collided; one yin the other yang, exact opposite to each other, but Zhang Wuji’s internal energy came from Jiu Yang Shen Gong, the strength of his power far outweighed Yuan Zhen’s. Yuan Zhen’s finger heated up; he felt as if his internal energy dispersed all over his body. Moreover, he had already suffered a heavy injury, the level of his power was only one-tenth his normal strength. Realizing the situation was disadvantageous for him, he thought saving his own life was more important; thereupon he turned around and ran away.

“Cheng Kun, you big evil thief!” Zhang Wuji angrily cursed, “Leave your life behind!” Moving his feet, he ran after him out of the door.
He saw a flash of Yuan Zhen’s shadow as he entered another door. With anger filling his breast, Zhang Wuji rushed forward to pursue. But as soon as he exerted his strength, ‘Bang!’ his forehead heavily hit the doorframe.

What happened was: he did not know that after he had reached the full potential of his ‘shen gong’, a lifting of his hand, a kick of his foot, would be ten times more powerful than his usual strength. With just one big stride, he lost control and bumped his head on the doorframe.

Rubbing his slightly sore forehead, he mused, “Confound this demonic door; how come just one step took me this far?”

Busily he leaned sideways to enter the door, and saw that it was a small room. In his zeal to avenge his Yifu, he ran across the room toward the door on the other end. Outside the room was a courtyard, the air was filled with the fragrance of flowers and plants in the middle of the courtyard. He saw light coming out from a window of the room on the western side of the courtyard. He leaped toward the room and pushed the door open. He saw a flash of grey shadow; Yuan Zhen was pulling a curtain open and ran in. Zhang Wuji followed after him; but as he pulled open the curtain, Yuan Zhen was nowhere to be seen.

Zhang Wuji focused his eyes to look around and could not help but was inwardly surprised. This room looked like a chamber belonging to a young lady of a greatly rich family. There was a dressing table
standing next to the window, with a large red candle burning brightly on top of it, casting its light on a beautifully embroidered tapestry in the middle of the room, it looked imposingly rich and beautiful, not at all inferior to Zhu Jiuzhen’s room.

On the other side was the bed, with a gauze mosquito net drooping over it. There was a pair of pink embroidered shoes in front of the bed; obviously there was a woman sleeping on the bed. The only door to this room that he could see was the one he entered in; the windows were tightly closed. He had clearly seen Yuan Zhen enter the room, how could he disappear without any trace in just a blink of an eye? Could it be that he mastered some kind of art of invisibility? Or perhaps despite his status as a ‘chu jia ren’ [lit. those who leave home] he was hiding inside a woman’s bed?

Zhang Wuji was contemplating whether he should open the bed’s curtain to search for the enemy when suddenly he heard intermittent sound of footsteps; somebody was coming. Quickly he dodged behind a piece of blanket draped by the western wall, right before two people walked in.

From behind the blanket, Zhang Wuji peeked out and saw two girls; one was wearing light yellow silk robe, her dress and adornment were luxurious. The other was a younger girl, wearing dark green cotton robe; looked like she was the young maid.

“Xiaojie [miss],” the young maid said in a raspy voice, “The night is deep, please have some rest.”

The ‘miss’ turned around and slapped the young maid’s face heavily with the back of her hand. The young maid staggered and fallback one step. The body of the ‘miss’ swayed and she turned around completely. Under the candlelight Zhang Wuji was able to see clearly her big round eyes, with deep black pupils, on a round-shaped face. She was none other than Yang Buhui, whom he escorted for tens of thousands ‘li’ all the way from the Central Plains to the remote Western Region.

It had been several years; she had grown a lot taller, but her mannerism did not change, particularly the downward curve at the corners of her mouth, which he recognized as her childhood feature, was more pronounced.

He heard she cursed the maid, “You told me to sleep, humph, the Six Major Sects are besieging the Brightness Peak, my Father and his colleagues have been discussing plans to fight the enemy all night and have not finished yet. He [orig. ‘lao ren jia’ – a polite term for an older person] has not slept, how can I sleep? It would be best if my Father is killed by the enemy, and then you can kill me; you would gain everything your heart desires.” The young maid did not dare to defend herself, she simply helped her to sit down.

“Quickly get my sword!” Yang Buhui said.

The young maid walked toward the wall and took off the sword hanging on the wall. Her ankles were shackled with an iron chain, her wrists were also shackled with iron chain. Her left leg was limping, her back was arched like a humpback. When she had the sword in her hands and turned around, Zhang Wuji was even more startled; he saw her right eye was small, the left eye was big, her nose and the corners of her mouth were twisted. In short, her form was extremely unsightly. He thought, “This young lady’s appearance is uglier than Zhu’er. But Zhu’er is ugly because the poison in her body had caused the bumps on her face; she can be cure completely. This young miss, however, has an inborn deformity.”

Yang Buhui received the sword and said, “The enemy could be here any time, I want to patrol outside.”

“I am coming with Miss,” the young maid said, “If we meet the enemy, we can look after each other.” Her voice was so raspy that it was hard to understand; she sounded more like an uncouth middle-aged man than a young girl.

“Who wants your fake good intention?” Yang Buhui said. Her left hand reached back and grabbed the pulse on the wrist of that young maid’s right hand; the young maid was immediately paralyzed.

“Xiaojie,” she said in a trembling voice, “You … you …”

“A large number of the enemy is here to besiege us,” Yang Buhui said with a cold laugh, “We, father and daughter, are at the point of death. Most likely you, this little maid, were sent by the enemy to the Brightness Peak as a spy, are you not? How can we, father and daughter, let ourselves be tortured by you? Today I will kill you first!” While saying that, she flipped her sword to stab the young maid’s neck.

When he saw the young maid was deformed, Zhang Wuji felt compassion toward her; now that he suddenly saw Yang Buhui’s sword went straight to stab her, in this critical situation he did not have time to think, immediately he flew out and flicked the body of the sword with his finger. Yang Buhui was not able to hold her sword. ‘Clink clank!’ the sword fell to the floor. As soon as the sword left her right hand, her two fingers went straight toward Zhang Wuji’s two eyes. It was actually a very common, mediocre stance called the ‘shuang long qiang zhu’ [a pair of dragons fight over a pearl], but since she had been under her father’s tutelage for several years, the stance came out rather powerful.

Zhang Wuji leaped backward to evade and blurted, “Buhui Meimei [younger sister], it’s me!”

Yang Buhui was accustomed to him calling her ‘Buhui Meimei’, four characters; she was startled. “Wuji Gege [big brother]?” she asked. She only recognized the intonation of the call ‘Buhui Meimei’, but she did not recognize Zhang Wuji’s appearance.

Immediately Zhang Wuji felt a pang of regret in his heart; but he could not deny again. “It’s me!” he had no choice but answered in affirmative. “Buhui Meimei, how have you been these past several years?”

Yang Buhui looked at him intently, but when she saw a man in ragged clothes and filthy face, she was startled and felt uneasy. “You … you … really are Wuji Gege? How … how did you get in here?” she asked.

“It was Shuo Bude who took me up the Brightness Peak,” Zhang Wuji replied, “After that Yuan Zhen Heshang entered this room, he disappeared suddenly. Is there any other way out from here?”

“What Yuan Zhen Heshang?” Yang Buhui was confused, “Who entered this room?”

Zhang Wuji was anxious to chase after Yuan Zhen; he did not want to start explaining a long story. He simply said, “Your father is injured in the hall, you’d better take a look quickly.”

Yang Buhui was shocked. “I’ll go look at Father,” she hastily said, but then suddenly with a great force her palm shot down on the top of the young maid’s head.

“No, don’t!” Zhang Wuji cried out in fear as he reached out to push her arm so that Yang Buhui’s palm came down on empty air.

Twice Yang Buhui tried to kill that young maid, but both times Zhang Wuji intervened. “Wuji Gege,” she said sternly, “Is this girl your companion?”

Zhang Wuji was baffled. “She is your maidservant,” he said, “I met her just now, how can she be my companion?”

“If you do not know the real story, then do not meddle in other people’s business,” Yang Buhui said, “This maidservant is our family’s big enemy. My Father put shackles on her hands and feet exactly to prevent her from harming me. Right now the enemy is coming to attack in large numbers, this maid is going to take this opportunity to strike back.”

Zhang Wuji saw that this young maid was tender and pitiful; although her appearance was rather unusual, she did not look like a fiendish person. “Miss,” he said, “Do you have any intention to take this opportunity to strike back?”

The young maid shook her head. “Certainly not,” she said.

Zhang Wuji said, “Buhui Meimei, did you hear? She said ‘Certainly no’. Please spare her!”

“Very well,” Yang Buhui said, “Since you ask on her behalf, aiyo …” suddenly her body leaned sideways and swayed, her legs shaky.

Zhang Wuji hastily reached out to support her, but suddenly he felt pain on the ‘xuan shu’ [hanging hinge/pivot] and ‘zhong shu’ [hub/center], two acupoints on his lower back, and he tumbled forward.

Turned out Yang Buhui did not like him keep stopping her; she lured him to come near, and then using the iron ring on her middle finger she struck his two major acupoints on his back to overthrow him, followed by her right hand slapped backhandedly toward the young maid’s right-hand ‘taiyang xue’ [sun acupoint, on the temple]. But before the strike hit, Yang Buhui felt her ‘dantian’ fiery hot while her whole body went numb so that she did not have any choice but release the young maid’s wrist in her hand. Her knees buckled and she fell down, sitting on the chair.

What happened was: when with her entire strength she struck Zhang Wuji’s acupoints, although the Jiu Yang Zhen Qi had not completely protected his body since he had just mastered it, it automatically reacted against the external stimulation and heavily shook the arteries and veins in Yang Buhui’s entire body.

The young maid picked the sword lying on the floor and said, “Xiaojie, you always suspect me of harming you. If I wanted to kill you right now, it would be as easy as blowing dust; but I do not have this kind of intention.” Finished speaking, she returned the sword back to its sheath and hang it on the wall.

Zhang Wuji stood up and said, “Did you see that? I was right!” As soon as his acupoints were sealed, he used the real ‘chi’ inside his body to flush the obstructed blood vessels and very soon he was able to move again.

Yang Buhui looked at him helplessly, with a great astonishment in her heart. By this time the numbness in her hands and feet had vanished. Remembering her father’s safety, she stood up and said, “How is my Father’s injury? Wuji Gege, wait for me here, I will be back to see you. How have you been these past several years? I remembered you often …” She kept talking while rushing out the room.

“Miss,” Zhang Wuji asked the young maid, “That monk escaped to this room and suddenly disappeared. Do you know any other way out from here?”

“Do you really have to pursue him?” the young maid asked.

“This monk has offended the Heaven and defied reason,” Zhang Wuji replied, “He has committed innumerable crimes. I … I … must pursue him even to the ends of the earth.”

The young maid looked up to stare at his face. Zhang Wuji said, “Miss, if you know, please show me the way.”

The young maid bit her lower lip and hesitated for a moment. “You have saved my life,” she said in low voice, “All right, I’ll take you.” She blew the candle out and pulled Zhang Wuji’s hand away.