The Heaven Sword and the Dragon Sabre – Chapter 24

First lesson of Taiji: countering hardness with softness.

Zhang Wuji wondered whether some misfortune had befallen his martial uncles on the way back from the Western Regions. Throughout the whole journey there had been no news of them. If any misfortune had delayed them on their way, the only people left on Wudang Mountain were his grandteacher and the third generation disciples. His third martial uncle Yu Daiyan was paralysed. If a formidable enemy attacked, how could they resist them? Thinking so, he felt anxious. He said clearly: “Elders and brothers, my late father was a Wudang disciple. I am greatly indebted to my grandteacher. Now that Wudang is facing great trouble, the earlier we get there the better. Bat King Wei will accompany me to first to lend aid. The rest of you should arrive in batches. I request that Left Messenger Yang and Grandpa arrange this. ” After saying this, he cupped his hands and left. Wei Yixiao used his lightness kungfu and followed him. Before the crowd could say anything in agreement, the two of them were already outside Shaolin temple. Their lightness kungfu was really amazing, without equal in the world. The two of them did not dare risk even a short moment’s delay. Without stopping they quickly covered ten li. Though Wei Yixiao did not fall behind, after some time he gradually found it difficult to keep up. Zhang Wuji thought: “Wudang Mountain is a long distance away, we can’t keep this up without rest. Moreover there is a formidable enemy in front. We should save our energy for battle.” He said to Wei Yixiao: “Let’s buy a couple of horses from the next town to conserve our energy.” Wei Yixiao had already considered this but he had brought the matter up. He said: “Sect Leader, buying horses will waste too much time.”

Not long later, they met five or six horses approaching. Wei Yixiao jumped up, lifted up two riders and put them gently on the ground. He called out: “Sect Leader, mount up!” Zhang Wuji stopped in his tracks. In his heart he felt that stealing horses like that was not the right thing to do. Wei Yixiao called out: “When dealing with important matters, don’t be held back by trifling affairs. Why worry so much?” He lifted another two riders off their horses. It so happened that those people also knew some martial arts. Cursing, they drew their weapons to attack. While holding on to four horses, Wei Yixiao kicked their weapons out of their hands. One of them shouted: “Who are you robbers? What are your names!” Zhang Wuji felt it would be even worse if they got tangled up any further. So he leapt onto a horse’s back and went with Wei Yixiao. Not daring to give chase, the horse owners could only curse. Zhang Wuji said:“Even though we have pressing matters to attend to, others may also have urgent matters. I don’t feel comfortable doing this.” Wei Yixiao laughed and said: “Sect Leader, this is small matter not worth mentioning. The way the Ming Cult handled affairs in the past… – now that is truly unscrupulous and illegal.” So saying, he laughed loudly.

Zhang Wuji thought: “The Ming Cult is considered an evil sect. There is some truth that. However it can be hard to determine what is righteous and what is evil.” He was the sect leader and yet he had difficulty making decisions. He was even undecided about a minor issue like the horses. Though his kungfu skills were of a high level, there are many matters in this world that cannot be settled with kungfu alone. He hoped to bring Xie Xun back soon, and pass this heavy burden on to him. Yet he was unwilling to simply take the asy way out. At this moment, he suddenly saw two people with silver rods in their hands blocking the road. Wei Yixiao shouted:“Get out of the way!” He waved the horse whip. One man blocked the whip with his staff, another man yelled and waved his left hand. Wei Yixiao’s horse was startled and stood up on its hind legs. Four men dressed in black then came out from a grove. They looked like they were able fighters. Wei Yixiao yelled: “Sect leader go on,let me deal with them.” Zhang Wuji saw that these people are trying to prevent reinforcements from reaching Wudang. Wudang Sect was in a very precarious and dangerous situation. He knew that Wei Yixiao’s lightness kungfu and martial arts is amazing, he could handle these people. Even if he couldn’t win he would be able to protect himself. Zhang Wuji squeezed both his legs to urge the horse forward. Two men in black used steel staffs to block the way. Zhang Wuji bent down, seized the staffs and threw them forward. The two men screamed as their legs were broken by the steel staffs and they fell to the ground. He saw that the four men fighting Wei Yixiao were not weak. He was worried that after he left more enemies will appear, so he helped Wei Yixiao deal with two of them.

Though Mt. Song and Mt. Wudang are in two different provinces – Henan and Hubei, one is in west Henan and the other in north Hubei. So the distance between them was not that great. After crossing the Ma Mountain, to the south was open country and the horse was able to travel quickly. At noon, he passed a small village. Zhang WuJi felt hungry so he stopped to buy some food. Suddenly he heard a horse scream behind him. He turned around and saw a knife stuck in a horse’s stomach. A man quickly tried to hide.

Zhang Wuji jumped up and grabbed that person. Only to see it is another man dressed in black with the front of his clothes splashed with horse blood. Zhang Wuji yelled: “Whose orders are you following? Which sect do you belong to? Has your party reached Wudang Mountain?” That person did not answer despite being questioned a few times. Zhang Wuji did not dare delay any longer, thinking that that once he reached Wudang Mountain he would understand what was going on. He sealed the man’s ‘Da Tui’ pressure point. The sealed pressure point would cause the man to suffer great pain for three days and three nights.

He then got onto his horse and continued his journey. Soon he reached the Three Palaces and crossed the Han River. While on a boat, he stared into the water thinking of the time Zhang Sanfeng and himself met Chang Yuchun and saved Zhou Zhiruo. Her beautiful image surfaced in his mind. After crossing the Han River, he headed south. By now night had already fallen. He continued for another two hours. It was a dark night. The horse was extremely exhausted and could not take it anymore. It collapsed to the ground. Zhang Wuji patted the horse’s back saying:“Horsey, you’re free to go now!” He utilised his lightness kungfu and was quickly on his way.

After traveling for eight hours, he heard the sound of hoofbeats – there was a group of people ahead. He quicken his pace and overtook them swiftly. Because of his speed and the darkness, no one noticed him. From their direction, they are heading for Wudang Mountain. The twenty or so people did not say a word, so he was unable to determine their intentions. But he could dimly see that each one carried weapons. There is no doubt that they are going to cause trouble for Wudang Sect. He thought: “I’ve managed to overtake them so Wudang Sect has not yet been attacked.” After continuing for less than an hour, he met another group of people heading for Wudang Mountain. In total he ran into five groups. The biggest group consisted of about thirty people and the smallest about ten. After seeing the fifth group, he was even more anxious, thinkng: “How many other groups have already gone up the mountain? Have they already clashed with people from my sect?” Though he was not a Wudang disciple, because of his father’s background he considered Wudang his own sect. So thinking, he increased his speed. Not long later reached the mountain and started climbing. Fortunately he did not run into anymore enemies. Halfway up the mountain, he saw someone hurrying upward. It was a monk and his lightness kungfu was amazing. Zhang Wuji followed him from a distance observing his actions.

He saw the monk go up the mountain. At the peak, someone shouted:“Which friend comes to Wudang at this time of the night?” As the sound died away, four people appeared, two Taoist priests and two laymen (non-priests). These were Wudang Sect’s third and fourth generation disciples. The monk said: “Kong Xiang of Shaolin has an urgent matter to see Wudang’s Master Zhang about.” Zhang Wuji though with surprise: “So he is a member of Shaolin’s ‘Kong’ generation, the same generation as Abbot Kong Wen, Kong Zhi and Kong Xing. He actually took the trouble to come personally to Wudang Mountain to bring news.”

One of the Wudang Taoist priests said:“Reverend, you has come from afar. Please come in and have some tea.” And soo saying he lead the way. Kong Xiang gave his saber to a priest, not daring to bring his weapon in. Zhang Wuji saw the priest lead Kong Xiang into the Purple Paradise Hall. He squatted down outside the window. Only to hear Kong Xiang say loudly: “Please report to Master Zhang immediately. The situation is urgent; there is no time to lose!” The priest replied: “Reverend, you have come at the wrong time. My grandteacher has been meditating in seclusion for over a year. We haven’t seen him in some time.” Kong Xiang said:“In that case, can you please inform Eldest Hero Song.” The priest replied: “My Eldest Martial Uncle, my Master and the other martial uncles have not returned from attacking the Ming Sect.” When Zhang Wuji heard this he was shaken. So Song Yuanqiao and the rest had really run into trouble on the way back.

Kong Xiang sighed and said: “If that is so then Wu Dang and Shaolin are in the same boat. It would be difficult to escape today’s disaster.” Not understanding what he meant, the priest said: “Senior Martial Brother Guxu Zi is in charge of our sect’s general affairs. I will ask him to come and pay his respects to reverend.” Kong Xiang asked: “Whose disciple is this Guxu Zi?” The priest answered: “He is Third Uncle Yu’s disciple.” Kong Xiang said:“Even though Third Hero Yu’s arms and legs have been injured, his mind is still clear. Let me speak to him.” The Taoist said:“Alright.” He turned around and went inside.

Kong Xiang paced back and forth impatiently. From time to time, he tilted his head and listened intently,worrying that the enemy had arrived. Not long later, the priest hurriedly came out. He bowed and said: “Third Uncle Yu invites you in. He requests that the Reverend excuses him for being unable to come out and greet you.” The priest’s behaviour was now even more respectful than before. This was probably because on hearing that a Shaolin monk of the “Kong” generation,Yu Daiyan ordered him to be very polite. Kong Xiang nodded his head and went along with him to Yu Daiyan’s room.

Zhang Wuji pondered: “Third Martial Uncle’s four limbs are paralysed buut his eyes and ears are still very sharp. If I listen outside his window, he might detect me.” He walked towards Yu Daiyan’s room but stopped outside. A short while later, the Taoist priest hurriedly came out of Yu Daiyan’s room. He said in a low voice: “Qing Feng, Ming Yue! Come here.” Two novice priests came up to him and called:“Martial Uncle!” The priest said:“Third Martial Uncle wants to come out. Get the carry chair ready. ” The two novices complied. Zhang Wuji had lived on Wudang Mountain for a few years. That priest was Yu Lianzhou’s new disciple so he had never met him. However, he recognized Qing Feng and Ming Yue. He knew that when Yu Daiyan was carried on his chair by novices whenever he left the room. He watched the two go to the wing where the carry chair was kept and silently followed them. He waited till the two entered the room before suddenly calling: “Qing Feng, Ming Yue, do you recognize me?” The two of them jumped in fright. Looking at Zhang Wuji, they thought he seemed vaguely familiar but they failed to recognize him. Zhang Wuji laughed, and said: “Have you forgotten me? I’m Little Martial Uncle Wuji.” The two of them then remembered the past, and were very happy. They said:“Ah, Little Martial Uncle, you’ve come back! Have you recovered from your illness?” The three of them were around the same age and used to play together. Zhang Wuji said: “Qing Feng, let me pretend to be you and go carry Third Martial Uncle. Let’s see whether he notices it’s me.” Qing Feng hesitated, saying:“That…that is not a very good idea!” Zhang Wuji said: “When Third Martial Uncle sees that I have recovered from my illness and returned, he’ll be very happy. Why would he scold you?” Both of them knew that Zhang Sanfeng and the Wudang Six Heroes all love Zhang Wuji very much. His recovery and return to Wudang was a very happy thing. He only wanted to play a little joke to cheer Yu Daiyan up; there was no harm in it. Ming Yue laughed: “Let’s do what Little Martial Uncle says!” While giggling, Qing Feng took off his Taoist robe and shoes, and exchanged them with Zhang Wuji. Ming Yue tied his hair in Taoist fashion. He now looked like a little novice priest.

Ming Yue said:“You want to impersonate Qing Feng but you don’t look like him. We’ll say that you are a newcomer and that Qing Feng broke his leg so you replaced him.” Zhang Wuji laughed:“Good idea……” The priest outside the room scolded:“What are you two giggling about? Taking so long to get here.” Zhang Wuji and Ming Yue stuck out their tongues and carried the chair into Yu Daiyan’s room. The two of them lifted Yu Daiyan into the carry chair. Yu Daiyan had a solemn expression on his face and he paid no attention to who the novices who carried him were. He said:“Go to the small compound at the back of the mountain to see grandteacher!” Ming Yue answered: “Yes!” He lifted the front end of the carry chair while Zhang Wuji lifted the back end. Yu Daiyan could only see Ming Yue’s back; Zhang Wuji was hidden from his view. Kong Xiang went along with them but the priest did not dare follow without Yu Daiyan’s orders. The small compound where Zhang Sanfeng meditated was deep in the bamboo forest at the back of the mountain. The forest is dense and dark – other than the sound of birds chirping, not the slightest sound could be heard. Ming Yue and Zhang Wuji carried Yu Daiyan to the front of a small compound and stopped. Yu Daiyan was about to call out when suddenly they heard Zhang Sanfeng say:“A eminent reverend from Shaolin comes to my humble residence. Please forgive this old Taoist for not coming out to welcome you.” With a ‘ya’ sound,the bamboo door was shoved open and Zhang Sanfeng came out. Kong Xiang wore an astonished expression on his face, he was shocked that Zhang Sanfeng already knew he was a Shaolin monk. But then he assumed that the priest had already come to report. Yu Daiyan knew his Master’s martial arts were growing more and more profound. By the sound of Kong Xiang’s footsteps alone, he could tell which sect he belong to. Zhang Wuji could hide his presence from Zhang Sanfeng because his inner power was much grater that Kong Xiang’s. He saw that though his grandteacher’s face was glowing with health, his bread and eyebrows are completely white. He had aged quite a lot since their separation. He was both happy and grieved. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he hurriedly turned his head away.

Kong Xiang put his palms together and said: “Kong Xiang of Shaolin pays his respects to Master Zhang of Wudang.” Zhang Sanfeng returned his salutations saying:“There’s no need to be so polite. Please come in.” The five of them entered the small compound. On the table was a teapot and a teacup. There was a rush cushion on the floor and a wooden sword hanging on the wall. Other than that, the room was bare. Kong Xiang said: “Master Zhang, Shaolin Sect has suffered the greatest catastrophe in its history. The Demon Cult launched an unexpected sneak attack on us. From the abbot Kong Wen downwards, all have either died in battle or have been captured. I barely managed to escape. The Demon Cult is now heading for Wudang. Today the fate of the martial world rests in Master Zhang’s hands.” After saying this he cried. Zhang Wuji was shaken, he knew Shaolin had met with a tragedy, but he never imagined the whole sect was destroyed.

Though Zhang Sanfeng had been seeking enlightenment for a hundred years, this sudden sad news shocked him and he was momentarily speechless. Collecting himself, he said: “The Demon Sect is really savage. How did the Shaolin experts fall to the Demon Cult?” Kong Xiang replied:“Martial brothers Kong Zhi and Kong Xing and their disciples, together five main sects besieged Brightness Peak. The monks who stayed behind waited calmly everyday for good news. On that day, there was a report that they had returned from a great victory. Abbot Kong Wen was delighted with the news. Accompanied by the temple disciples, he went out to welcome them. We saw martial brothers Kong Zhi and Kong Xing leading the disciples who had gone along, returning to the temple. They had even captured several hundred prisoners. When they entered the main courtyard, the Abbot asked about details of the victory. Brother Kong Zhi gave yes, no answers. Brother Kong Xing stared at the ground and said:‘Brother look out, we have fallen into the enemies’ hands. The prisoners are our captors…’ At the moment of the Abbot’s shock, the prisoners took out weapons and suddenly attacked. My sect’s people were caught off guard. Also, the most skilled fighters went on the Western expedition, those who remained behind were weak fighters. The escape routes from the courtyard blocked by the enemy. After a fierce fight, we were finally defeated. Brother Kong Xing died for our cause at the scene…” After saying up to here, he broke off sobbing. Zhang Sanfeng said sadly: “The Demon Sect is really ruthless. How can anyone be prepared for such an evil trick?” Only to see Kong Xiang open the yellow cloth bundle he had carried on his back. Inside was an oil-cloth. He opened the oil-cloth to reveal human head. The eyes were wide open and the face angry. It was one of the three Divine Reverends of Shaolin, Kong Xing. Zhang Sanfeng and Zhang Wuji both knew Kong Xing’s appearance. As soon as they saw it, they could not help exclaiming in shock. Kong Xiang sobbed:“I risked my life to retrieve martial brother Kong Xing’s body. Master Zhang, how do you think we should take revenge? ” So saying he placed Kong Xing’s head on the table, and prostrated himself on the ground. Zhang Sanfeng bowed back.

Zhang Wuji thought back to the fight on Brightness Peak. Divine Reverend Kong Xing was generous and heroic, a worthy great master of Shaolin. Now that he had suffered death in the hands of an evil person, his head and body separated, Zhang Wuji was sad.

Zhang Sanfeng saw that Kong Xiang knelt on the ground crying for a long time. He helped him up saying:“Brother Kong Xiang,Shaolin and Wudang are one family. This blood debt must not…” Just as he said that,there was a loud ‘wham’ sound as Kong Xiang’s two hands hit him on the stomach.

This happened extremely suddenly. Though Zhang Sanfeng’s martial arts were profound and amazing,he never expected that a top Shaolin expert who had come from far to bring news would attack him. At this moment, he even thought that Kong Xiang had lost his mind momentarily due to grief, and imagined he was an enemy. The next moment he realized that this could not be. The palm used to hit him was Shaolin’s “Diamond Prajna Palm”. Kong Xiang had attacked with full force, using all his internal energy. His face was pale but there was a hint of a fierce smile.

Zhang Wuji, Yu Daiyan and Ming Yue were so shock they were rooted on the spot. Yu Daiyan was paralysed, so he could not help his Master. Zhang Wuji was young and inexperienced, he did not realize that Kong Xiang had struck a lethal blow. The two of them could only let out an exclaimation. Only to see Zhang Sanfeng stretch out his left palm and tapped Kong Xiang lightly on the head. Though this tap was soft and gentle, it was as hard as iron. Kong Xiang’s skull was smashed and he dropped dead to the ground without uttering a sound. Yu Daiyan said urgently: “Master, you…” As he said this, he stopped. He saw Zhang Sanfeng sit down with his eyes closed. White mist was coming out of his head. Suddenly he opened his mouth and coughed out fresh blood.

Zhang Wuji was shocked. He knew his grandteacher’s injuries were not light. If the blood had been black or purple, with his unparalleled internal energy, he would be able to recover within 3 days. But the blood he coughed up was fresh and it spurted out. This meant he had suffered severe internal injuries. At this time, he wondered: “Should I reveal myself to help grandteacher?”

Just at this time,the sound of footsteps approaching could be heard, someone had arrived outside. From the hurried sound of the footsteps, the person was very anxious. But he did not dare rush in or make a sound. Yu Daiyan said:“Is that Ling Xu?What is the matter?” The welcoming priest Ling Xu said:“Third Martial Uncle, there is a big group of Demon Cult outside. They say they want to meet Grandmaster. They swore with vulgar words, saying they want to annihilate Wudang Sect……” Yu Daiyan shouted:“Shut up!” He was afraid Zhang Sanfeng would be distracted, causing his injuries become worse. Zhang Sanfeng slowly opened his eyes and said:“Shaolin’s Diamond Prajna Palm is really powerful. Unless I have 3 months to take care of my injuries it’ll be difficult to make a complete recovery.” Zhang Wuji thought:“It looks like Grandteacher’s injuries are more serious than I thought.”

Only to hear Zhang Sanfeng say:“The Ming Cult is launching a large attack on us. Ai, I wonder if Yuanqiao, Lianzhou and the others are safe?Daiyan, what do you think we should do?” Yu Daiyan did not reply. He knows that except for his Master and himself, all the third and forth generation disciples remaining on the mountain had mediocre martial arts. Going out to fight would be the equivalent of suicide. The only thing to do would be to sacrifice his life facing the enemy to give his master a chance to escape and recover, and take revenge in the future. So he said:“Ling Xu, go and tell those people that I’m coming out to meet them. Let them wait in the Hall of Triple Clarity.” Ling Xu obeyed and left. Zhang Sanfeng and Yu Daiyan’s master-disciple relationship was very old and they understood each other very well. Hearing this, Zhang Sanfeng understood his intentions. He said:“Daiyan,life of death, victory or defeat, these are unimportant things. But Wudang’s martial arts legacy must not disappear just like that. During my meditation in the past eighteen months I have comprehended the essence of martial arts and created Taiji Fist and Taiji Sword. I’ll teach it to you now.”

Yu Daiyan was stunned. He had been paralysed for such a long time, how could he learn martial arts? Moreover the enemies were already at their doorstep – there was no time to learn martial arts. He could only say:“Master!” Beyond that he was speechless. Zhang Sanfeng laughed a little and said:“Since the founding of Wudang, we have done many good deeds. If there is any justice in the world we will not be destroyed like this. This Taiji Fist and Taiji Sword that I have created are completely different from all other kinds of martial arts. Stillness defeats movement, and that which moves first overcomes that which moves later. Your master is already more than a hundred years old. Even if I don’t run into a powerful enemy, how much longer can I live?I am happy that I have created these martial arts at the twilight of my life. Yuanqiao, Lianzhou, Songxi, Liting and Shenggu are not here now. Except for Qingshu, there are no extraordinary talents among the third and fourth generation disciples. Moreover he is not here too. Daiyan, you are the one who can bear this heavy burden. It matters not that Wudang Sect is humiliated today. So long as Taiji Fist and Taiji Sword survive, Wudang Sect’s name will live on for thousands of years.” After saying this, his spirit lifted up heroically, the presence of powerful enemies no longer bothered him. Yu Daiyan obeyed, he understood his master wanted him to bear the enemies’ insults. The main priority is to ensure Wudang’s martial arts survive.

Zhang Sanfeng slowly stood up. He lowered both of his hands, with the back of his hands facing outwards and his fingers relaxed. His feet were slightly apart. He then raised his arms to chest height. His left hand faced upward in the Yin Palm position and the right hand in the Yang Palm position. He said:“This is the Taiji Fist opening stance.”Then he demonstrated each form one by one, calling out their names:- Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail, Single Whip, Lifting up the Hand, White Crane Spreads its Wings, Brushing the Knee and the Twisted Step, Playing the Pipa, Step Forward Deflect Parry and Punch, Apparent Closure, Crossing Hands, Carrying the Tiger Returning to the Mountain……
*These are the actual names of Taijiquan forms.

Zhang Wuji watched attentively, not taking his eyes away. At first he thought his grandteacher was deliberately demonstrating the moves slowly so Yu Daiyan could see them clearly. But when he saw the seventh stance “Playing the Pipa (a Chinese musical instrument)”- the left hand embodiying Yang and the right hand Yin,eyes fixed on the back of his left hand, both hands pushing slowly. This push was as heavy as a mountain but as light as a feather. Zhang Wuji finally understood:“This is about the slow beating the swift, about stillness overcoming movement. I never imagined such amazing martial arts to exist in this world.” He could understand this because his martial arts foundation was very firm. The more he watched the more amazed he felt. Both of Zhang Sanfeng’s hands moved in circular form. Each stroke encompassed Taiji’s Yin and Yang. It was so incredible, like nothing ever seen in the world before. After a while, Zhang Sanfeng stopped. Even though he had just suffered severe internal injuries, he seemed stronger and more energetic going through the fist techniques. With his two hands holding the Taiji circle, he said “The essence of this fist technique is 16 words -‘Xu Ling Ding Jin, Han Xiong Ba Bei, Song Yao Chui Tun, Chen Jian Zhui Zhou’ (*). Use intention not strength. The form and spirit become one. This is core of the fist technique.” Then he went on explaining the details.

Xu Ling Ding Jin-Empty the neck, let energy reach the crown
Han Xiong Ba Bei-Sink the chest, lift the back
Chen Jian Zhui Zhou-Sink the shoulders, drop the elbows
(From “The Way of Qigong” by Kenneth S. Cohen, thanks to dustbiter)
and Song Yao Chui Tun – Loose waist, bend at the buttocks.

Yu Daiyan did not say a word and listened. He knew that time was pressing, he did not have the leisure to ask questions. Although there were parts he did not understand completely, he memorized everything. In the event that any calamity should befall his master, he would still be able to pass the theory on. In the future there will be some intelligent and talented disciple who would be able to understand it. By contrast, Zhang Wuji could understand most of it. He could figure out Zhang Sanfeng’s every word and each stance and was extremely happy. Zhang Sanfeng saw that Yu Daiyan looked confused. He asked:“How much do you understand?” Yu Daiyan said:“Your disciple is stupid. I can only understand 30-40 percent. But I have memorized each stance and all the theory.” Zhang Sanfeng said:“It is difficult for you. If Lianzhou were here he would be able to understand about 50 percent. Ai, your fifth brother’s comprehension was the greatest. It’s a pity he died young. If I had 3 years to teach him, I would be able to pass my legacy on.” Listening to him talk about his father, there was a sour feeling in Zhang Wuji’s heart. Zhang Sanfeng said:“The key to this fist technique is its loose yet not loose, spread out yet not spread out, broken yet uninterrupted……” As he was talking, there was a yell:“That old Taoist Zhang Sanfeng is hiding. Let us kill all his disciples and grand-disciples.” Another coarse and heroic voice said:“Great! First let us burn this place down. ” Yet another person said:“Burning the old Taoist to death is letting him off easily. We should catch him, tie him up and parade him in front of every sect. Let everyone see how this Mount Tai and North Star is brought down.”

Though the small compound was two li away from the main hall, everyone could hear those words clearly. The enemies must be showing off their internal energy, which was very powerful. Listening to these insults on his master, Yu Daiyan was furious and his eyes flared up. Zhang Sanfeng said:“Daiyan,why do you forget what I told you so easily?If you can’t bear some insults, how can you accomplish the important task? ” Yu Daiyan said:“Yes, I accept your teachings.” Zhang Sanfeng said:“Your whole body is paralysed so the enemy won’t be wary against you. Whatever happens, you must not lose your temper and act rashly. This technique has been created with much sweat and blood. If it fails to be passed on, you will be the worst sinner of Wudang Sect.” When Yu Daiyan heard this, he broke out in cold sweat. He knew the meaning behind his master’s words – no matter what the enemies do to humiliate them, he must seek to preserve his life so the techniques can be passed on.

Zhang Sanfeng took out a pair of Lohan figurines and gave them to Yu Daiyan (I’m not sure how Yu Daiyan received them with his crippled hands ) saying:“Kong Xiang said that Shaolin has been annihilated. We don’t know if that is true. This person is a top expert from Shaolin and yet he has surrendered to the enemies. This means Shaolin must have suffered from some great danger. These Lohan figures were give to me by Heroine Guo Xiang a hundred years ago. In the future you should return them to Shaolin. Hopefully parts of Shaolin martial arts will be preserved through them.” He then waved his sleeve and walked out the door.

Yu Daiyan said:“Carry me and follow Master” Ming Yue and Zhang Wuji lifted up the carry chair and followed behind Zhang Sanfeng. When the four of them arrived at the Hall of Triple Clarity, they saw there were about three to four hundred people there. Zhang Sanfeng walked to the centre and nodded a greeting but remained silent. Yu Daiyan said loudly:“This is my Master, the Venerable Master Zhang. Why did you come to Wudang Mountain?” Zhang Sanfeng’s reputation had shaken the martial arts world, for a moment everyone looked at him. They only saw a man with tall stature with silver coloured hair and beard and wearing a dirty grey Taoist robe, there was nothing special about him. Zhang Wuji saw that around half of the people present were wearing Ming Cult’s clothes. Their ten leaders were wearing ordinary clothes, probably because they were too proud to impersonate other people. There were tall and short, monks and ordinary people, hundreds of people crowded into the hall. It was difficult to judge them based on their appearance. At this moment,suddenly someone called out:“Cult leader has arrived!” Immediately the hall fell into a respectful silence. The ten leaders and their followers rushed out to greet their leader. In just a short time, the hall was completely empty. Then footsteps signaled the return of those people. They halted outside the hall. Zhang Wuji looked through the door and was startled. He saw eight people carrying a yellow satin sedan chair and seven or eight bodyguards. They stopped at the entrance. The people carrying the sedan chair were the Eight Divine Archers from Green Willow Village.

Zhang Wuji was shaken. He rubbed both his hands on the dusty floor and then smeared the dust on his face. Ming Yue only thought that he was terrified seeing a powerful enemy arrive and so tried to hide his features. He too panicked and followed Zhang Wuji. In a flash, the two novice priests’ faces were both grey, making it difficult to make out their features. The sedan chair’s door opened and a young man got out. He was wearing a white robe embroidered with a blood red flame and carrying a fan. It was Zhao Min disguised as a man. Zhang Wuji thought: “So it is her who is behind all this, no wonder Shaolin was so utterly defeated.” Only to see her enter the hall followed by around 10 people. A tall and powerfully-built man steps forward, bowed and said: “Reporting to Sect Leader, this is Wudang Sect’s Zhang Sanfeng and that paralysed man should be his third disciple Yu Daiyan.” Zhao Min nodded, took a few steps forward, folded her fan, cupped her hands and bowed to Zhang Sanfeng, saying: “Ming Cult Leader, Junior Zhang Wuji, is fortunate to meet the North Star of the wulin today!” Zhang Wuji was furious. He scolded in his heart: “It’s bad enough that you pretend to the Ming Cult leader. How dare you use my name and come to trick my Grandteacher!” When Zhang Sanfeng heard the words “Zhang Wuji”, he thought it was very strange: “How is it that the Demon Sect’s leader such a young girl? And why does she have the same name as Wuji?” Nevertheless he returned her salutation and said:“I did not know that Sect Leader was coming so I didn’t come out to greet you. I hope you’ll forgive me!” Zhao Min said: “You flatter me!”

Ling Xu directed the novice priests to serve tea. Zhao Min sat down. Her subordinates stood a distance behind her, not daring to come within five feet of her for fear of offending her.

Zhang SanFeng had practiced Taosim for a hundred year, it had been a long time since anything affected him emotionally. However, he had a deep bond with his disciples. With the safety of Song Yuanqiao and the others unknown, he was extremely worried, so he immediately asked: “The disciples of this old Taoist overestimated their own abilities, they even dared to challenge top experts from your cult. To date, they’ve not returned. Would you be so kind as to inform me of their whereabouts?” Zhao Min laughed and said:“Eldest Hero Song, Second Hero Yu, Fourth Hero Zhang and Seventh Hero Mu have fallen into my cult’s hands. All of them have suffered some injuries, but their lives are not in danger.” Zhang SanFeng said:“Suffered some injuries?More likely they have been poisoned.”Zhao Min laughed:“Master Zhang has great confidence in Wudang’s kungfu. If you say they have been poisoned, then they are poisoned.”

Zhang Sanfeng knew that his disciples were top-class experts of their time. Even if they were outnumbered and defeated, at least a few would have made it back to report. Since all of them were capturured,it was definitely because they had been poisoned. Zhao Min saw that he had guessed what happened, so she casually admitted it. Zhang Sanfeng then asked:“What about my disciple surnamed Yin?” Zhao Min sighed:“Sixth Hero Yin fell into Shaolin’s ambush. His four limbs have been broken with Shaolin’s Golden Silver Fingers. He won’t die but he can no longer move!” From her expression, Zhang Sanfeng knew that this was not empty talk,he was deeply grieved. With a ‘wa’ sound, he coughed out a mouthful of blood. Zhao Min’s followers behind her were delighted, they knew Kong Xiang’s sneak attack must have been successful and this Wudang master had suffered a serious injury. Their only fear had been Zhang Sanfeng, now there was nothing left to worry about.

Zhao Min said: “Junior has some advice to give. Would you like to hear it Master Zhang?” Zhang Sanfeng replied: “Please speak up.” Zhao Min said: “All land under heaven belongs to the Emperor, the Emperor and his ministers lead the country. The Mongol emperor’s power stretches over the whole world. If Master Zhang chooses to serve, His Majesty will surely reward you and Wudang will be greatly honoured. Eldest Hero Song and the rest too will come to no harm.” Zhang Sanfeng looked up to the ceiling and coldly said: “Though the Ming Cult has walked the unrighteous path and has committed all sorts of atrocities, you have always opposed the Mongols. When did you submit to the government? This old priest must be really isolated since I have heard nothing about this.” Zhao Min said:“Leaving the darkness and embracing the light,it is the mark of a hero to follow the trend of the times. Shaolin’s Kong Wen, Kong Zhi and the others have all submitted and pledged their loyalty to the government. My sect is just following the way the wind is blowing, what’s so strange about that?”

Zhang Sanfeng’s eyes flashed, he stared directly at Zhao Min and said: “The Yuan (ie Mongol dynasty) are brutal and do great harm to the common people. At present all the heroes of the world have risen up to drive out the barbarians and reclaim our land. It is the aspiration of every descendent of the Yellow Emperor (ie Chinese) to do so – that is the way the wind is truly blowing. Though I am a priest,I still understand the meaning of righteousness. Kong Wen and Kong Zhi are enlightened monks of our time, how could they bow to power? How can your words be so confused?”

Suddenly, a man came out from behind Zhao Min, yelling:“Stupid old monk, you don’t know what you are talking about! Wudang Sect is about to be annihilated. Though you’re not afraid of death, can it be that the hundred plus priests and disciples on this mountain are not?” This person’s speech is full of vigour,with his tall stature and powerful build,he cut an intimidating figure. Zhang Sanfeng recited:“Since olden days, which man has lived and not died? I’ll leave a loyalist name in history!
(
Translation from http://www.chinapage.org/poet-e/wentian2e.html).

This was two lines from a poem by Wen Tianxiang. At the time Wen Tianxiang died,Zhang Sanfeng was still very young. He deeply respected this heroic prime minister. Later on he regretted that at the time his martial arts were still undeveloped,otherwise he definitely would have risked his life to save him. Faced with this difficult situation, he naturally recited the poem. He paused for a moment then continued: “Actually Prime Minester Wen was somewhat obstinate. As for me, I’ll just remain loyal,it doesn’t matter what the history books say!” He looked at Yu Daiyan thinking:“And yet I hope that my Taichi Fist and Taichi Sword will managed to be passed on to future generations. Wouldn’t it be the same result as Prime Minister Wen taking into consideration his reputation after death? As long as I have a clear conscience, why worry whether my Taichi Fist can be passed to future generations or whether Wudang Sect survives!”

Zhao Min waved her left arm gently. That man bowed and retreated. She smiled faintly and said:“Since Master Zhang is so stubborn, there is no need to say anything else for now. Will you all please come with me!” So saying, she stood up. Four people standing behind her immediately surrounded Zhang Sanfeng. These four people are the powerfully built man, a man in rags, a skinny monk, and a bearded foreigner with blue eyes. Zhang Wuji saw from the way they moved that this four men were no pushovers. He was startled: “How is it that this Miss Zhao has such powerful fighters working for her?” He saw that if he refused to go along with her; the four of them will attack. Zhang WuJi thought: “The enemy are in large numbers, plus they are immoral and shameless people. They’re not comparable to the six major sects which attacked Brightness Peak. It won’t be easy for me to protect grandteacher and third martial uncle. Even if I defeat a number of them,they won’t admit defeat and will definitely attack together. Still, the situation is such that I’ll have to risk everything to do so. The best thing to do would be to capture Miss Zhao to force them to give in.”

He was just about to step forward to deal with those four when a long laugh was heard from outside. A green man-shaped shadow darted into the hall. This man’s movements were as stealthy as a ghost and a swift as lightning. In a flash, he was behind the powerfully built man, and launched a palm attack. The powerfully built man returned a palm without turning around, intending to compete strength. The man in green didn’t wait for this move to be completed, his left hand had already tapped the foreigner’s shoulder. The foreigner swiftly dodged sideways and kicked at his lower abdomen. That man had already turned to attack the skinny monk while tilting his body to the side his left palm hit out at the person dressed in rags. In a split second, he had made four attacks, each against a top fighter. Though none of them found it’s target, the speed of his techniques was truly beyond imagination. These four people knew they were facing a formidable opponent. Each leapt a few steps backwards, focusing the full attention on the battle.

That person in green ignored the enemy, bowed to Zhang Sanfeng and said: “Ming Cult’s Sect Leader Zhang’s subordinate, junior Wei Yixiao pays his respects to Master Zhang!” This man was really Wei Yixiao. After dealing with the enemies’ obstructions, he had doubled his speed to catch up.

Zhang Sanfeng heard him refer to himself as “Ming Cult’s Sect Leader Zhang’s subordinate”. So he assumed that he was part of Zhao Min’s party, and suspected that the forcing of those four people to retreat was just a trick. He said coldly: “Mr. Wei doesn’t have to be so polite. I have long heard that the Green Wing Bat King’s lightness kungfu is without peer in the world. Now I see that you really live up to your reputation.” Wei Yixiao was delighted. He rarely came to the central plains so he was not well known there. Who would have thought that Zhang Sanfeng knew of his lightness kungfu. Bowing, he said: “Venerable Zhang is the North Star of the martial arts community. It is a great honour for me to receive your praise.”

He turned around, pointed at Zhao Min and said: “Miss Zhao, what is your purpose in impersonating the Ming Cult and ruining our reputation? Should a real man be so sly and crafty?” Zhao Min giggled: “I am not a man to begin with. So what if I’m sly and crafty – what can you do about it?” The very first thing Wei Yixiao said was already a mistake. He was unable to come up with a reply. Instead he said: “What do you mean by “first attack Shaolin, then harass Wudang? If you have a enmity with Shaolin and Wudang, the Ming Cult shouldn’t interfere. But as you use our name and impersonate us, I, Wei Yixiao cannot ignore it!”

All along, Zhang Sanfeng had not believed that the Ming Cult would surrender to the government after being mortal enemies for a hundred years. After hearing Wei Yixiao’s words he understood, thinking: “So this girl is actually pretending to be someone she’s not. Though the Demon Cult has a bad reputation, when it comes to major matters they are clear on what has to be done.” Zhao Min turned to the powerfully built man and said: “Listen to him blow his own trumpet! Go and try out his skills.” The man bowed and replied:“Yes!” Tightening his belt, he walked to the middle of the hall and said: “Bat King Wei, let me have the pleasure of seeing your Cold Ice Cotton Palm!”

Wei Yixiao was startled: “How does this guy know about my Cold Ice Cotton Palm? Since he knows that I have this skill and yet still challenges me, he can’t be an easy opponent.” He said:“May I know your name?” That man replied:“We are here impersonating Ming Cult, so you think we will reveal our real names? Bat King Wei, you are really stupid to ask this.” The people behind Zhao Min burst into laughter. Wei Yixiao said coldly: “That’s right,I was stupid to ask. You’re simply a running dog of the government, a slave of the foreigners, it is better you don’t tell us your real name in order not to disgrace your ancestors. ” The man’s face turned red and he struck out at Wei Yixiao’s chest in anger.

Wei Yixiao dodged quickly and moving as fast as lightning, he stretched out his arm to poke the man’s back. He did not use his Cold Ice Cotton Palm yet because he wanted to test out his opponent’s skills first. The man blocked with his left arm and counter-attacked. The man’s palm strokes grew faster and more aggressive as the fight progressed. Though Wei Yixiao’s internal injuries had been cured by Zhang Wuji, and he no longer has to drink blood to suppress the cold poison, nevertheless he only had had a short time to recover. Now faced with a powerful opponent, coupled with the fact he was fighting in front of the legendary Zhang Sanfeng, he did not dare get careless. So he started to use his Cold Ice Cotton Palm. Their palm strokes gradually slowed as they shifted to competing internal strength. Suddenly there was a yell and a greenish-black object shot through the door heading for that man. This object was larger than a rice sack – it is really odd that there such an enourmous weapon even existed. The man’s right palm shot out hitting the object about ten feet away. As his hand made contact, he realised the object was soft yet he could not put a finger on what it was. But a scream was heard – it turned out that there was someone inside. This person has been hit by that man with full power and no mercy, how could his muscles not be smashed and his bones broken? The man was startled and froze in place for a moment. Noiselessly, Wei Yixiao moved up behind him and struck his Da Tui acupoint with his Cold Ice Cotton Palm. The man turned around angrily using his full strength to hit Wei Yixiao’s head.

Wei YiXiao laughed and surprisingly he did not move. In the middle of his strike, the man’s hand felt weak. Though he made contact with his opponent, the effect was like being gently stroked. Wei Yixiao knew that once the Cold Ice Cotton Palm energy enters the body, the person’s strength will dissipate. Nevertheless, in a battle between expert fighters, to allow a powerful opponent to hit his head was an extremely daring thing to do. Therefore, all the spectators were astonished. In the event that the man had been able to resist the Cold Ice Cotton Palm Wei Yixiao’s skull would have been crushed. Wei Yixiao had been a strange person all his life. If there was anything other people are afraid of doing or would refuse to do, he would be more than happy to do it. He had taken advantage of that man’s distraction to launch a sneak attack, which was underhand thing to do. Therefore, he daringly let the man hit his head as compensation.

The man dressed in rags tore open the sack and pulled a person out. His face was blood-red having met a violent death under the hand of that powerfully built man. This person is dressed in black and was a member of their party. Somehow he had been caught and imprisoned in the sack. The man in rags was furious, he yelled: “Who was it who cunningly……” Before he could finish, a white sack floated onto his head. He leapt backwards to avoid it, only to see a fat monk grinning at him. Cloth Sack Monk Shuo Bu De had arrived.

Since Shuo Bu De’s Qian Kun Yi Qi Sack was thorn to shreds by Zhang Wuji on Guang Ming Peak he had no weapon. He could only quickly fashion a few cloth sacks to use. These were only ordinary sacks unlike the Qian Kun Yi Qi Sack with was impenetrable by swords and sabers. Though his lightness kungfu could not match Wei Yixiao, it was still quite good. Added to the fact that he faced no hindrance along the way, this meant he managed to catch up. Shuo Bu De saluted to Zhang Sanfeng and said: “Ming Cult’s Sect Leader Zhang’s subordinate, Wanderer Cloth Sack Monk Shuo Bu De pays his respects to Venerable Zhang.” Zhang SanFeng returned his salute saying:“You must be tired from your long journey.” Shuo Bu De said: “My humble cult’s sect leader’s subordinates the Emissary of Guang Ming, White Browed Eagle King, as well as the other four Wanderers, Five Flags Leaders and other forces have already arrived at WuDang. Master Zhang can just relax and watch the Ming Cult deal with these shameless imposters.”

He was actually bluffing. Such a large group of Ming Cult’s forces could not have arrived so quickly. But when Zhao Min heard it, she could not help frowning slightly while thinking:“Who would have thought that they could arrive so quickly? Who leaked our secret?” Unable to bear it any longer she asked: “Where is your Sect Leader Zhang? Ask him to come and see me.” So saying she turned to Wei Yixiao and looked him in the eye. Her gaze was questioning – asking him where his Sect Leader was. Wei Yixiao laughed and said:“Now you are no longer trying to impersonate us, right?” He too wondered:“Sect Leader has definitely arrived, but where is he right now?” Zhang Wuji was hidden behind Ming Yue,he knew Wei Yixiao and Shuo Bu De have yet to recognize him. He was relieved seeing that these two helpers have arrived. Zhao Min laughed coldly and said: “One venomous bat, one stinking monk, what can you do?”

Just as she said this, a long laugh was heard from the roof on the east of the building, asking: “ Reverend Shuo Bu De, has Left Emissary Yang arrived?” This person’s voice resonated loudly. The White Browed Eagle King Yin TianZheng had arrived. Shuo Bu De had not yet answered when Yang Xiao’s laughter was heard from western roof. Only to hear him laughingly say: “Eagle King, you keep improving as you grow older. You reached here a step faster.” Yin TianZheng laughed: “No need to be so polite, we both arrived at the same time. It’ll be splitting hairs to decide who’s faster. I fear that you gave way to me for Sect Leader Zhang’s sake.” Yang Xiao said: “Definitely not! I’ve given it my best shot but still failed to beat you.” Enroute to Wudang the two of them had decided to compete to see who was faster. Yin TianZheng’s inner power was profound but Yang Xiao’s steps were quicker. As a result they were neck to neck with each other from the start to finish. Laughing, both men jumped down from the roof.

Zhang Sanfeng had long heard of Yin Tianzheng’s reputation. Moreover he was Zhang Cuishan’s father-in-law. Yang Xiao was also a famous person in the martial world. He took three steps forward, cupped his hands and said: “Zhang Sanfeng respectfully welcomes Brother Yin and Brother Yang.” In his heart he wondered: “Yin Tianzheng is the Heavenly Eagle Sect’s leader. Why did he say ‘for Sect Leader Zhang’s sake’?” Yin and Yang bowed to him. Yin Tianzheng said: “I’ve long heard of Master Zhang distinguished name, but never had the opportunity to meet you. Today, I am very fortunate to do so.” Zhang Sanfeng said: “You are both great masters of the era. The arrival of you both has truly made this a great occasion.”

Zhao Min saw that more and more Ming Sect experts were arriving and she became even angrier. Though Zhang Wuji had not showed up, she was worried about any schemes he might have put in place. It looked like it would be difficult for her carefully laid plans to succeed. But they had managed to seriously injure Zhang Sanfeng, there woould not be another opportunity as good as this. If they did not wrap up matters at Wudang today, once his injuries recover he will be a thorn in their side. With her eyes sweeping around, she sneered: “It is said in the martial arts world that Wudang is a top righteous sect, but how can hearing stories beat seeing with our own eyes? In reality Wudang has ganged up with the Demon Cult. The Demon Cult has simply been lending a land in all battles, Wudang’ martial arts is really nothing worth talking about.” Shuo Bu De said:“Miss Zhao, you’re only a little girl. When Master Zhang shook the martial arts world, your grandfather probably wasn’t even born yet. What does a little kid know?” The ten or so people behind Zhao Min stepped forward glaring at him. Shuo Bu De smiled: “Do you think my words are unfit to be said? My name is Shuo Bu De (ie cannot to be said), but when I want to saw something I’ll say it. What can you do about it?” The skinny monk yelled angrily: “My lady, let your subordinate deal with this big-mouthed monk!” Shuo Bu De called out: “Wonderful! Wonderful! You are an unruly monk, I am also a unruly monk. Let us compete with each other. If Master Zhang gives us some pointers, it’ll be more beneficial than 10 years of our own dedicated practice.” So saying, he pulled a cloth sack out. The onlookers saw him take out one sack after another, there seemed to be no limit to the nimber of sacks inside his robe.

Zhao Min shook her head slightly, saying: “Today we have come to seek pointers from Wudang. No matter which fighter from Wudang comes forward, we will gladly compete him. Let’s see if Wudang’s martial arts are really great or whether it’s just an empty reputation. We can settle our differences with the Ming Cult another time. That little devil Zhang Wuji, I want to rip his flesh and peel off his skin to vent my anger.” When Zhang Sanfeng heard this he was surprised: “Is Ming Cult’s Leader really called Zhang Wuji? And why ‘little devil’?” Shuo Bu De laughed and said: “Our Sect Leader Zhang is a young hero. Miss Zhao is just worried that since you’re a few years younger than our Sect Leader Zhang, you won’t be able to marry him. In my opinion, you’re a perfect match……” Before he could finis his sentence, the followers behind Zhao Min yelled out angrily: “Total nonsense!” “Shut up!” “The unruly monk is farting rubbish!” Zhao Min blushed. Her appearance was gentle and delicate, really like a shy young girl. However, this side of her was only seen for a moment. In a split second, her expression turned frosty. Turning to Zhang Sanfeng she said: “Master Zhang, if you’re not willing to fight, you only have to admit that Wudang has been deceiving the world all along. We will then clap our hands and leave. Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou and the rest will also be returned to you.” At this moment, the Iron Hat Priest Zhang Zhong and Yin Yewang arrived. Not long later, Zhou Dian and Peng Yingyu too arrived. The Ming Cult now has four more fighters to help them.

Zhao Min realized that if they fight, victory is not assured. The most worrying thing is what sort of scheme Zhang Wuji had hatched. Her gaze swept over the Ming Cult members, thinking: “Zhang Sanfeng is a threat to the government because of his reputation and prestige. He is the figure the martial arts community looks to, the Mount Tai and the North Star. As long as he remains the enemy of the government, they will continue to resist us. But then again, he’s already an old man, how much longer can he live? There’s no need to take his live today. All we need to do is to disgrace him and destroy Wudang Sect’s reputation. Our mission will then be successfully accomplished.” She said coldly: “Our purpose for visiting Wudang is to see if Master Zhang’s martial arts are real or not. If we want to destroy the Ming Cult, we would have gone to Guang Ming Peak. There would have been no need to come to Mt Wudang to compete matrial arts. Can it be that in this world only you Master Zhang who can decide on a winner? I have three servants – one of them has learnt some basic swords skills, another has some shallow inner power, and the last one has learnt some mediocre boxing. Ah Da, Ah Er and Ah San come out. If you defeat my three servants, I’ll recognise that Wudang Sect’s martial arts really live up to its name. Otherwise the wulin will form its own opinion, there’s no need for me to say any more.” So saying, she clapped her hands. Three men came out from behind her.

Ah Da was a dried up old man. In his hands was a long sword -this sword was the Heaven Sword. This man’s body was slender, his face was set in a frown and full of wrinkles. His expression was one of a person who had just been defeated in a fight or a person whose wife and children had recently died. Just looking at his face made the onlookers feel sad and want cry for him. Ah Er was fellow of short stature. His head was smooth and oily and totally bald, the Tai Yang pressure points on both sides were depressed to about half an inch deep. Ah San was a strong-looking man with the power of a tiger. His face, hands and neck were bulging muscle. His whole body was full of energy, just like it was about to explode outwards. There was a mole with long hairs growing out of it on his left cheek. Zhang SanFeng, Yin TianZheng, Yang Xiao and the others were startled on seeing these three people.

Zhou Dian said: “Miss Zhao, these three are top experts of the martial arts world. I, Zhou Dian, am not a match for them. How is it that they lower themselves to pretend to be your servants to play a joke on Master Zhang?” Zhao Min replied: “When did I say that they are to experts of the martial arts world? Do you know what their names are?”Zhou Dian paused, then laughed saying: “This is‘Revealing a Sword to the World’ the Frowning Divine Gentleman and this is‘Qi Master of All Directions’ Bald Heavenly King. As for the other one, the whole world knows he is, hehe..he is…‘Unrivalled Divine Fist’ Honourable Elder of Great Strenght.”

Zhao Min could not help laughing a little after hearing such rubbish. She said: “How can my cooks and menial servants be a divine gentleman, a heavenly king and an honorable elder? Master Zhang, you compete with Ah San first.” Ah San took a step forward, cupped his fist and said: “Master Zhang, please!” He stamped his left foot. With a “kala” sound, three tiles broke. Breaking the tile his foot stepped on was nothing unusual. What was amazing was how the two tiles next to it also broke. Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao glanced at each other, thinking: “What a powerful guy!” Ah Da and Ah Er lowered their heads and retreated without a glance at the crowd. From the moment they entered the hall, these three only stood behind Zhao Min, their gaze lowered to the ground and with a humble expression on their faces. Because of this, nobody paid any attention to them. Unexpectedly, they are truly amazing experts. And yet when they retreated, they changed back into humble looking servants.

Ling Xu was worried about Zhang Sanfeng’s injury. He could not take it anymore and shouted: “Can’t you see that my grandteacher is injured? How…how can you…” As he said this, he started crying.

Yin Tianzheng thought: “So Master Zhang has been injured. Who was it who injured him? Even if he is not injured, at his age, how can he fight with this person? This person’s martial arts are entirely of the hard style. Let me take Master Zhang’s place.” So he said in a clear voice: “With Master Zhang’s position, how can he fight the younger generation? Wouldn’t he be the laughing stock of the world?Hrmph, these slaves are not even worth of fighting with me.” He knows Ah Da, Ah Er and Ah San are definitely no ordinary people, yet he deliberately tried to infuriate them to gain an advantage for himself. Zhao Min said: “Ah San, what did you do most recently? Tell them. Let’s see if you aren’t worthy to fight Wudang experts.” She emphasized on the word “Wudang”. Ah San said:“I didn’t do anything much recently. I only fought with a Shaolin monk named Kong Xing defeated his Dragon Claws and cut of his head.”

These words caused a sensation within the hall. The Ming Cult members had seen the Divine Monk Kong Xing fight with Zhang Wuji on Guang Ming peak. It was unimaginable that he had been killed by this person. He was definitely a match for Zhang Sanfeng. Yin Tianzheng said loudly: “Great! You even killed Shaolin’s Kong Xing, let me try out your skills.” So saying he took two steps forward and took a stance with white eyebrows sticking out, exhibiting awesome power.

Ah San said: “White Browed Eagle King, you are from an evil and unorthodox background, I am also from an evil and unorthodox background. We cannot fight our own people. If you want to fight, we can choose another day to compete. Today my master orders me to try out Wudang’s martial arts.” He turned to Zhang Sanfeng and said: “Master Zhang, if you don’t want to come forward, you only need to say so. We won’t force you. Once Wudang Sect concedes defeat, there’ll be no need to take your life.” Zhang Sanfeng smiled faintly. Even though he was severely injured, using his newly created Taiji Fist’s philosophy of ’emptiness overcoming fullness’, he might not necessarily lose. The difficulty was that after defeating Ah San, he would then have to compete inner power with Ah Er. There was no way out of the situation, he could only focus on the present. He would have to defeat Ah San first then decide what to do.

He walked slowly to the centre of the hall. Turning to Yin Tianzheng he said: “I appreciate Brother Yin’s good intentions. In the past few years I’ve created a new set of fist techniques called ‘Taiji Fist’. I believe it is quite different from other forms of martial arts. This benefactor wants to verify that Wudang’s martial arts are real. If Brother Yin defeats him, he won’t be satisfied. Let me exchange a few stances with him and take the opportunity show you the result of my painstaking work over these years.”

When Yin Tianzheng heard this he was happy and yet worried. Zhang Sanfeng spoke with full confidence in his Taiji Fist. He would not have spoken if he could not back up what he said. But he had just suffered a serious injury, even if the fist technique was excellent, his inner power might be insufficient. Still, he merely cupped his fists and said: “Junior respectfully defers to Master Zhang’s divine skill.” On seeing Zhang Sanfeng unexpectedly come forward, fear struck Ah San’s heart. But he turned his face and said: “Today I’ll fight a battle of life or death with this old Taoist. Neither one of us will escape uninjured. This will shake the martial arts world.” He immediately drew his breath while staring at Zhang Sanfeng’s face. As he held his breath, the sound of bones cracking was heard from all over his body. Everyone was startled. They knew this meant he had achieved the highest level of orthodox Buddhist martial arts. It was the Defeating Demon Diamond Skill.

When Zhang Sanfeng saw this he was startled: “This is no ordinary person! I wonder if my Taiji Fist can defeat him.” He slowly lifted up both hands in readiness to fight. Suddenly a disheveled and dirty-looking little novice priest came out from behind Yu Daiyan saying: “Grandteacher, this benefactor wants to witness our Wudang’s fist skills. But there’s no need for grandteacher to show him yourself. It’ll be enough for this disciple to demonstrate a few stances for him.” This dirty-faced novice was Zhang Wuji. Yin Tianzheng, Yang Xiao and the rest parted with him only a short time ago. So even though his appearance was now completely different, after hearing his voice they recognized him. The Ming Cult members were overjoyed on seeing their sect leader had been there all along. How could Zhang Sanfeng and Yu Daiyan even imagine this?

Zhang SanFeng could not see his face clearly, and so assumed he was Qing Feng. He said: “This benefactor uses Shaolin’s Defeating Demon Diamond Skill, an extremely powerful external skill. He is probably a top expert of Western Shaolin. He’ll simply crush you to pieces with one blow.” Zhang Wuji’s right hand pulled Zhang Sanfeng’s sleeve and his left hand gently held Zhang Sanfeng’s right hand. He said: “Grandteacher, the Taiji Fist you taught me has never been used before, we don’t know if it will work or not. This benefactor is a hard style expert. Let me try out our philosophy of softness overcoming hardness and using the void to resist the solid. Wouldn’t that be great?” After saying this, he used his palms to transfer his Art of 9 Yang chi into Zhang Sanfeng’s body. At that moment, Zhang Sanfeng felt that the chi emitting from his palms to be so powerful that it without comparison in the whole world. Though it was far from being as refined as his own, the chi was firmly grounded yet soft and was limitless. He started and stared into Zhang Wuji’s face. Only to see that his eyes did not shine brightly but had a soft, crystal-like layer in them. This meant that his inner power had reached the ultimate level. Except for his master Reverend Jue Yuan and Hero Guo Jing and a few others, he has never seen the same in anybody else. Of the top experts of the era, except for himself, he can think of no other person who has achieved this stage. In this instant, he mind was plagued with doubts and questions. However, this youth’s abundant inner power was being used to treat his injury, he had no evil intentions. So he made his decision. He smiled while saying: “I am feeble and muddle-headed. How can I have any great kungfu to teach you? If you want to learn from this benefactor’s super-hard kungfu, that is fine. Be careful.” Thinking that this young novice priest is a top expert from another sect sent to help out Wudang, his speech was humble and polite.

Zhang Wuji said: “Gradnteacher, I am greatly indebted to you. Even if my body is smashed to powder, I’ll not be able to repay my debt to Grandteacher and Martial Uncles. Even though we do not dare claim Wudang’s kungfu is matchless, it will not necessarily lose to Western Shaolin. Martial Grandfather, don’t worry.” He spoke very earnestly, saying “Grandteacher” a few times. Even Zhang Sanfeng found it strange: “Could it be that he is a Wudang disciple? Cultivating himself secretly just like my master Reverend Jue Yuan?” He slowly released Zhang Wuji’s hand, retreated and sat down. Glancing at Yu Daiyan he saw that he was equally bewildered.

Ah San saw Zhang Sanfeng send out this little novice to fight, it was like regarding him with disdain. But if he killed this little novice in one blow, agitate the old Taoist and then only fight with him, there will be a higher chance of coming out victorious. So he just said: “Little kid, watch out!”

Zhang Wuji said: “This fist technique I’ve just learnt is the product of my grandteacher’s sweat and blood. It’s called ‘Taiji Fist’. I’m only a beginner so I may not have fully comprehended its key points. I’m afraid I won’t be able to defeat you within thirty stances. But that is because I’m not yet proficient at it, nothing to do with its inadequacies. This is something you must understand.” Instead of getting angry, Ah San laughed, turned to Ah Dan and Ah Er and said: “Eldest Brother, Second Brother, this kid is really barking mad.” Ah Er laughed heartily. Ah Da saw that this little novice priest was nobody to be trifled with. He said: “Third Brother, don’t take your enemy lightly.” Ah San took a step forward, and punched Zhang Wuji’s chest with a yell. This move was a quick as lightning. Midway through his strike, his left fist struck out even more quickly, reaching there first, aimed at Zhang Wuji’s face. The stance was quite unusual, a true rarity.

Zhang Sanfeng had demonstrated and explained his Taiji Fist about an hour ago. Since then, Zhang Wuji had pondered about and understood its principles. On seeing Ah San’s left fist heading his way, he countered with the Taiji Fist stance “Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail”. With his right leg solid and his left leg empty, he used the “squeeze” technique and stuck with him. His right palm reached his opponent’s left wrist,released his energy at full power. Unable to take the force, Ah San retreated two steps to the side.

The watching crowd gasped in astonishment. With this “Grasping the Sparrow’s Tail” stance, the world had seen Taiji Fist used in combat for the first time. Zhang Wuji already had the Art of 9 Yang and Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, now he suddenly made used of Taiji Fist’s “sticky” technique. Though he learnt the skill no longer than two hours ago, it appeared as if he has studied it all his life. Ah San felt as if his punch which carried with it the force of a hundred thousand catties had simply entered an ocean and disappeared without a trace. At the same time, the force of his punch was directed back at him. At first he was startled but amazement quickly turned to fury. His fist attacked very quickly, the speed was such that it looked like he had more than ten arms with ten fists attacking all at once. His attacks descended like hurricane and rain. The watchers all though: “No wonder Kong Xing, despite his powerful martial arts, died under his hand.” Everyone apart from Zhao Min and her followers were worried for Zhang Wuji’s safety.

Zhang Wuji intentionally wanted to show off Wudang’s power and prestige. So he did not use his own martial arts. Each stance he used was Zhang Sanfeng’s Taiji Fist – Single Whip, Lifting up the Hand, White Crane Spreads Its Wings, Brushing the Knee and the Twisted Step. He executed the stance “Playing the Pipa”, with the right pushing down and the left accepting. In this instance, he understood the essence of the Taiji Fist. His stance became just like the moving clouds and flowing water, natural and unrestrained. Ah San felt like he was completely enveloped by Zhang Wuji’s hands. He was unable to flee or resist. He could only direct his energy to his back to receive this strike with hard force. At the same he lashed out with his right fist, hoping that both of them would hit each other intending to
take his enemy down with him. Unexpectedly, Zhang Wuji’s hands formed a circle, like carrying the cosmos. From this came out a revolving force which was powerful any comparison, making Ah San spin round seven or eight times. Ah San has to use his “Thousand Catties Falling” skill to stop spinning. He was in a wretched state, his face red with embarrassment. The Ming Cult members applauded loudly.

Yang Xiao called out: “Wudang’s Taiji Fist is so wonderful. It’s a real eye-opener.” Zhou Dian laughed: “Ah San, I advice you to change your name to ‘Ah Zhuan’ (Note: “Zhuan” means to spin/turn)!” Yin Yewang said: “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about if you spin a few more circles. Didn’t the ancients say of the Thirty-sixth Stratagem is ‘spinning is the best strategy’?” (Note: this is a clever play on words by JY. The 36th Stratagem is “zhou wei shang ji – running away is the best option. Yin Yewang changed the word “走 zhou” which means “run” to “转 zhuan” which mean spin.) Shuo Bu De said: “Among the Heros of Mt Liang was Black Whirlwind. That whirlwind spun around too!” (Note: This is from Water Margin/Outlaws of the Marsh. The Black Whirlwind refers to Li Kui. I’m not familiar with the story, so don’t ask me for details )

In his fury, Ah San’s face changed from red to green. Yelling angrily, he threw himself forward in attack. His left hand switched between a fist to a palm and back again irregularly. His right hand used purely finger techniques – snatching and poking, hooking and digging, all five fingers extended like judge’s brushes, like pressure point sealing pegs, like sabers and swords, like spears and lances, all extremely offensive moves. Zhang Wuji was not yet familiar with the Taiji Fist techniques. Faced with this barrage, he was unable to cope and his movements became erratic. Suddenly, part of his sleeve was torn off. He could only utlise his lightness kungfu to dash out of the way. Faced with this strange finger technique he only thing he could do was dodge. Ah San yelled and chased him. There was no where for Zhang Wuji to escape his fingers combined with lightness kungfu. While dodging, Zhang Wuji thought: “If I keep running without fighting, wouldn’t that be losing? Since I’m not yet proficient at Taiji Fist, I’ll have to use Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi.”

He turned around, both hands executed Taiji Fist’s defensive stance “Wild Horse’s Mane”. His left hand unleashed Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi techniques. Ah San’s right hand was moving to jab Zhang Wuji’s shoulder. Instead, there was a sound of laughter as he ended up poking his own left arm. The pain was so great that he saw stars, he almost could not move his left arm.Yang Xiao saw that this was not a Taiji Fist stance so he hurriedly yelled: “Taiji Fist is really amazing!” Ah San shouted in pain and anger: “What Taiji Fist? That was sorcery!” He then attacked three times consecutively. Zhang Wuji jumped away, he saw Ah San stretch out his arm to jab him, he again used his Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. With a “tuo” sound, he redirected Ah San’s two fingers straight into a pillar, embedding them deeply. Everyone was shocked and yet found it very funny.

Amidst the laughter, Yu Daiyan said in a harsh voice: “Stop! Is that Shaolin’s Diamond Finger?” (Note: Diamond Finger = Golden Steel Finger in Meh’s translation). Zhang Wuji jumped when he heard the words “Shaolin’s Diamond Finger”. He remembered that Yu Daiyan was injured by Shaolin’s Diamond Finger. For the past twenty years, Wudang Sect had harbored a deep resentment towards Shaolin. It looked like the real perpetrator was this man. Only to hear Ah San say coldly: “So what if it is the Diamond Finger? It’s your own fault for being so stubborn and not giving up the Dragon Sabre. How does it feel to be paralysed for the last twenty years?” Yu Daiyan harshly said: “Thank you for revealing the truth today. So it is Western Shaolin who is responsible for maiming me. It’s a pity…it’s a pity about fifth brother.” As he said these words, he choked with a sob.

Zhang Cuishan committed suicide because he could not face his martial brother after finding out that Yu Daiyan was injured by Yin Susu’s silver needles. In actual fact, after Yu Daiyan was injured with the silver needles Yin Susu entrusted the Dragon Gate Escort Agency to send him back to Wudang. After a month’s treatment, he would have recovered from the poision. Unfortunately, his four limbs were broken with the Diamond Fingers. If they had found this culprit at that time,Zhang Cuishan and his wife would not have died a tragic death. Yu Daiyan was filled with grief about his innocent martial brother’s death while also hating his crippled condition. He heart was filled with hatred. When Zhang Wuji heard their words, he immediately understood what had happened. When he was young he heard his father say a ‘Huo Gong Tou Tuo’ of Shaolin Temple secretly learnt martial arts and killed the head of the Damo Hall Reverend Ku Zhi. The top Shaolin experts then had a huge argument. As a result, Reverend Ku Wei went to the Western Regions and set up Western Shaolin. It seemed that
this person was a descendant of Ku Wei.

Zhang Sanfeng said: “This benefactor is excessively vicious. We never imagined that there is a person like you among Reverend Ku Wei’s descendants.” Ah San grinned ferociously and said: “What kind of thing is Ku Wei?”

When Zhang Sanfeng heard this, he struck with sudden realization. After Yu Daiyan had been injured by the Diamond Fingers, Wudang Sect sent people to ask Shaolin for an explanation. The Abbot of Shaolin resolutely denied any involvement. They then suspected Western Shaolin. But after a few years of making enquiries, they got to know that Western Shaolin had now changed. All disciples only studied Buddhism and did not know martial arts. He knew that if Ah San was a Western Shaolin disciple, he would never curse the founder of his sect. So he said in a clear voice: “No wonder! This benefactor is Huo Gong Tou Tuo’s (the kitchen worker monk – see Athena’s translation of Chapter 2 for details) descendant. Not only did you learn his martial arts, but you also picked up his evil nature! Is Kong Xiang your martial brother?”

Ah San replied: “Right! He is my martial brother. His name is not Kong Xiang, but is Gang Xiang. Master Zhang, how does my Diamond Prajana Palm compare with your Wudang palm skills?” Yu Daiyan said harshly: “Not even close! His skull was crushed with one palm strike from my master. With his mediocre skills how dare he come up against my master! Death is really too light for him!”

Ah San let out a yell and rushed out to attack. Zhang WuJi used the “Apparent Closure” stance of the Taiji Fist to block him and said: “Ah San, give me the ‘Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment!” So saying he stretched out his right hand. Ah San was shocked: “Our sect’s bone healing medicine is such a closely kept secret that even our sect’s ordinary disciples don’t know about it. Where did this little novice priest hear about it?”

How could he know that Hu Qingniu’s “Medical Classic”, stated that in the Western Regions there existed an external school of martial arts which branched out from Shaolin. Its techniques were extremely weird, no medicine can treat bones broken by it. The only exception was the school’s “Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment. However, no one else knew how to make this ointment. Zhang Wuji only wanted to test him by saying this. When he saw Ah San’s expression change, he knew he had guessed correctly. He said clearly: “Give it to me!” He thought about his parent’s deaths as well the suffering of his two martial uncles. Feeling great hatred, he had no desire to continue talking to him. Even though Ah San’s martial arts were slightly inferior, when he executed the powerful Diamond Fingers, Zhang Wuji could only avoid his strokes but was unable to counter-attack. As long as he remained careful towards Zhang Wuji’s weird techniques he should win this fight. He stepped forward and yelled: “Kowtow to me three times and I’ll spare you, or else you’ll end up like the one named Yu.” Zhang Wuji wanted to wrest his “Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment”away from him. However, he had no idea how to deal with the Diamond Fingers. Though he could use Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi to injure Ah San, he would still be unable to force him to hand over the ointment. Then Zhang Sanfeng said: “Child, come here!” Zhang Wuji replied: “Yes, Grandteacher.” He walked over to stand in front of him.

Zhang SanFeng said: “Use intention not force. Taiji is circular and continuous, it does not break off. Take control of the situation and let your opponent break his own form. Each stance and each form is linked together like the Chang Jiang (ie Yangtze River), a never-ending torrent. ” He realized that Zhang Wuji had understood the secret of Taiji. The problem was that his martial arts were too powerful so his stances contained distinct edges and corners rendering him unable to accomplish the Taiji Fist concept of “continuous circles”. This was the crux of Taiji philosophy. Zhang Wuji’s martial arts were profound, after hearing Zhang Sanfeng’s words, he immediately understood. He envisioned the circular Taji Diagram (ie the famous Yin-Yang symbol) and the philosophy of Yin and Yang.

Ah San laughed coldly: “Isn’t that too late to learn martial arts now?” Zhang Wuji raised his eyebrows and said: “There’s just enough time. Let me test out a few moves with you.” As he said this he turned around, his right hand moving in a circular manner, sweeping at Ah San’s face. This was Taiji Fist’s “Tall Mounted Scout” stance. Ah San’s five fingers came together, assuming the shape of a knife, chopping towards him. Zhang Wuji countered with the “Double Wind Piercing Ear” stance, his two hands formed a circle. He now understood and used the “continuous circles” concept that Zhang Sanfeng had taught him. He executed left circles and right circles, circles within circles, large circles, small circles , flat circles, vertical circles, perfect circles, slanting circles – each one a Taiji circle, surrounding Ah San and pushing him. Unable to withstand it, Ah San staggered around like a drunkard.

Suddenly, Ah San’s five fingers shot out violently. Zhang Wuji used the “Cloud Hand” stance, right hand high and left hand low forming a circle surrounding his arm and applied the Art of Nine Yang power. With a “krak” sound, all the bones on Ah San’s right arm were broken. The power of the Art of Nine Yang was really frightening. In one moment, Ah San’s arm was broken in six or seven places. The Taiji Fist alone without the Art of Nine Yang was not capable of generating such power. Zhang Wuji hated his wickedness so he employed the “Cloud Hands” stance repetitively. Before the first circle was completed, the second circle began. With another “krak” sound, Ah San’s left arm was broken. This was followed by more “krak” sounds as both his legs were also broken. In his whole life, Zhang Wuji has never been so vicious to his opponents. But this person caused his parent’s deaths and his third and sixth uncles’ suffering. If he had not wanted to obtain the “Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment” from Ah San, he would have taken his life.

Ah San screamed and fell to the ground. One of Zhao Min’s subordinates rushed out, picked him up and retreated. The spectators were totally astonished by Zhang Wuji’s power. Even the Ming Cult experts forgot to applaud. The bald Ah Er then dashed forward, his right palm shot out towards Zhang Wuji’s chest. Before the palm arrived, Zhang Wuji felt his breath constricted. He immediately used the “Slant Flying Form” to redirect the palm. Without a sound the bald old man landed firmly on the ground. With full concentration he launched one palm attack after another, each attack accompanied with incomparable inner power.

Zhang Wuji saw his palm strokes were of the same origin as Ah San’s. From his age he is probably Ah San’s older martial brother. Though he was not as quick and agile as Ah San, he was steadier. Zhang Wuji used Taiji Fist’s “stick”, “divert” and “push” forms intending push Ah Er off balance. Unexpectedly, this person’s inner strength was extremely powerful, he himself ended up stumbling. Zhang Wuji thought: “Let me see whether your Western Shaolin’s inner power is greater or my Art of Nine Yang is greater.” Seeing a palm coming towards him, he used brute force to meet that palm directly. Both palms met with a thunderous clash, both their bodies swayed. Zhang Sanfeng inwardly yelled: “Not good! When fighting with brute force, the more powerful one will win. It’s completely opposite to the principle of Taiji Fist. This baldie’s inner power is very powerful, rarely seen in the martial arts world. The kid will suffer severe injuries under his palm.” At this moment, the combatant’s palms came crashing together a second time. Ah Er’s body wobbled and he retreated one step while Zhang Wuji stood firm and steady.

At the pinnacle of both arts, the Art of Nine Yang and Shaolin internal energy were equal. But the founder of the “Diamond School” was a kitchen worker monk who learnt martial arts on the sly without proper instruction. It is possible to learn external forms and weapons techniques by watching. However, inner power is practiced within the body. No matter how long a person watches, he will still be unable to see how energy is regulated and moved through the body. That i why it is possible to secretly learn external martial arts but impossible to learn internal arts. The Diamond School’s external arts were extremely powerful, on par with orthodox Shaolin. However, their internal arts are very far behind. Ah Er was a unique member of the “Diamond School”. Born with powerful strength, he took a different course from the rest and cultivated profound inner power. His achievements in this category have long surpassed that of his school’s founder, the kitchen worker monk. Few people have managed to last more than three stances against him. Now while fighting hard against hard, he was forced a step backwards by Zhang Wuji. He was both shocked and angry. He took a deep breath and used both palms to attack Zhang Wuji. Zhang Wuji called out: “Sixth Uncle Yin, watch me help you vent your anger.” It turned out that Yin Liting, Yang Buhui and Xiao Zhao have already arrived at Wudang Mountain.

Zhang Wuji yelled and brought his right fist out. With a thunderous crash, the bald Ah Er retreated three steps, his eyes bulged out and blood gurgled within his chest. Zhang Wuji called: “Sixth Uncle Yin, was this baldie among your attackers?” Yin Liting said: “Yes! This person was the leader.” Only to hear cracking sounds coming from the bones in Ah Er’s body as he gathered his energy. Yu Daiyan knew Ah Er’s inner strenght was very powerful. By generating his energy like that, his palm force will be no trivial matter and extremely difficult to deal with. He yelled: “Attack while he is crossing the river!” His meaning was not to wait for Ah Er to finish gathering his strength but to attack first. Zhang Wuji replied: “Yes!” He took a step forward but did not strike. Ah Er raised his arms, and with earth-shattering force struck out. Zhang Wuji inhaled and circulated his internal chi, his right palm swept out, received the attack, and redirected the force back to him. These two forces combined to become one. Ah Er yelled, his body was flung backwards right through the wall as if thrown by a catapult. The shocked onlookers turned pale. A man carried Ah Er through the hole in the wall and laid him on the ground. This person was short and fat, as round as a drum. His appearance was very comical. Yet, his movements were very agile. He was the Ming Cult’s Earth Banner Chief Yan Yuan. Ah Er’s arms, ribs and shoulder joints had been broken by his own hard energy. After putting Ah Er down, Yan Yuan turned to Zhang Wuji and bowed. He then excited through the hole in the wall looking like a fat mouse.

When Zhao Min saw that this little novice priest defeated two of her to experts, she had become suspicious. After seeing Yan Yuan bow to him, recognition dawned onto her. He secretly scolded herself: “I deserve to die! I thought I had arrived ahead of him. I never expected that he’ll go as far as to pretend to be an apprentice priest, causing trouble here and spoiling my great plans.” She immediately said gently: “Sect Leader Zhang, why do you lower yourself by disguising as a little apprentice priest? You keep saying grandteacher this and grandteacher that, yet you’re not embarrassed.”

Zhang Wuji saw that she had recognized him. So he said clearly: “My late father Cuishan was Grandteacher’s fifth disciple. If I don’t call him ‘Grandteacher’, what can I call him? What’s there to be embarrassed about?” He turned around, faced Zhang Sanfeng, knelt down and kowtowed saying: “Zhang Wuji pays his respects to Grandteacher and Third Martial Uncle. Because of the urgent situation, I didn’t have time to report to you. Please forgive me for deceiving you.” Zhang Sanfeng and Yu Daiyan were filled with joyous shock. Never in their wildest imagination did they think that this youngster was the same sickly child of many years ago. Zhang Sanfeng laughed loudly, stretched out his hand to help him up, saying: “Good boy, you didn’t die. Cuishan has a descendant.” The fact that Zhang Wuji’s martial arts were so amazing was secondary. Believing that Zhang Wuji had died long ago, Zhang Sanfeng was happiest over the fact that he was still alive. His heart overflowed with joy. He turned to Yin Tianzheng and said: “Brother Yin, congratulations for having such a great grandson.” Yin Tianzheng laughingly replied: “Master Zhang, congratulations on having such a wonderful grand-disciple.”

Zhao Min cursed: “What wonderful grandson? What wonderful grand-disciple? Just two old men bringing up a cunning and sly little devil. Ah Da, go and try out his sword skills.” The frown-faced Ah Da answered: “Yes!” With a brushing sound, he pulled out the Heaven Sword. Everyone stared at the gleaming sword radiating in power. Zhang Wuji said: “This sword belongs to E-Mei. How did it fall into your hands?” Zhao Min spat: “Little devil, what do you know? The old nun Mie Jue stole this sword from my family. The sword has simply been returned to its true owner. What has the Heaven Sword got to do with E-Mei Sect?” Zhang Wuji had no knowledge of the origins of the Heaven Sword. He was unable to answer her. So he immediately changed the subject: “Miss Zhao, please give me the ‘Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment’. Once my third and sixth martial uncles’ broken limbs are healed, we can just let bygones be bygones” Zhao Min said: “Hrmph! Let bygones be bygones? Talk is cheap. Do you know where Shaolin’s Kong Wen and Kong Zhi; Wudang’s Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou and the rest are?” Zhang Wuji shook his head saying: “I don’t know. Could you please tell me?”

Zhao Min laughed coldly: “Why should I tell you? Are you going to repeat your disgraceful conduct in the Green Williow Manor prison?” As she said this she blushed. Thinking about the incident made her furious and yet bashful at the same time. Zhang Wuji blushed when heard her say “disgraceful conduct”. That day, in order to save the Ming Cult fighters he had had no choice but to resort to such tactics – he had tickled the base of her foot with his hand. Actually he had had no inappropriate thoughts however, there was a barrier between men and women. This incident had to be kept a secret from the crowd – it would be a disaster if they assumed that he had violated a young girl. Instead of offering an explanation he said: “Miss Zhao, are you going to give me the ‘Black Jade Bone Fracture Healing Ointment’?” Zhao Min laughed coldly and said: “I can easily give you the ‘Black Jade Bone Fracture Healing Ointment’. If you do three things for me, I’ll offer it up to you with both hands.” Zhang Wuji asked: “What three things?” Zhao Min replied: “I haven’t thought of them yet. When I think of them I’ll tell you what to do.” Zhang Wuji said: “That won’t do. What if you ask me to commit suicide or become a pig or dog?” Zhao Min laughed: “I won’t ask you to commit suicide. I also won’t ask you to become a pig or a dog. Hehe… even if you’re willing to you lack the ability.” Zhang Wuji said: “You’ll have to tell me what you want first. As long as it’s not anything dishonourable and within my abilities, there can be no harm obliging you.”

Zhao Min was just about to reply when she caught sight of an pearl ornament in Xiao Zhao’s hair. It was none other than the hair ornament that she had given to Zhang Wuji. She couldn’t help but become furious. She saw that Xiao Zhao was a beautiful girl with a sweet smile. Though she was still young , she was like a lotus flower in the glow of dawn, raising feelings of tender affection in people’s hearts. Her heart was filled with even greater hatred. Gritting her teeth she said to Ah Da: “Go and cut off both his arms!” Ah Da replied: “Yes!” He raised the Heaven Sword, took a step forward and said: “Sect Leader Zhang, my lady orders me to cut off both your arms.”

Zhou Dian had been controlling himself for a long time. But now he was unable to bear it anymore. He cursed: “Your mother’s farting crap! Why don’t you cut your own arm off?” Ah Da’s expression was one of worry and anxiety. He bitterly said: “You do have a point there.” Zhou Dian was delighted. He said loudly: “Cut it off then.” Ah Da said: “There’s no need to rush.” Zhang Wuji was quietly fretting. The Heaven Sword was extremely sharp, any weapon that collides with it will break. The only thing to do was to use Qian Jun Da Nuo Yi to snatch the sword from him. However, it was extremely risky to use his bare hands to do so. If his opponent’s sword technique was unusual and he was unable to anticipate the moves he would be in trouble. No matter which part of his arm comes into contact with the sword edge, it will immediately be chopped off. He had no idea what to do.Suddenly Zhang Sanfeng said: “Wuji, you’ve already learned Taiji Fist, I also have a Taiji Sword skill. There’s no harm in teaching it to you so you can use it to match swords with this benefactor.” Zhang Wuji said joyfully: “Thank you Grandteacher.” He turned to Ah Da and said: “Elder, I’m not familiar with swordsmanship. I’ll have to ask my grand-teacher for some pointers before crossing swords with you.”

Ah Da was actually secretly afraid of Zhang Wuji. Despite the advantage of having the Heaven Sword, he could not be sure of victory. He was delighted to hear that Zhang Wuji was just about to learn swordsmanship. In his heart he felt that however wonderful the sword techniques were, Zhang Wuji would definately be unfamiliar with it. Sword techniques required careful and diligent study. It would take at least ten to tewnty years of dedicated practice before a person could proficiently use it in a fight. He nodded his head and said: “Go and learn. I’ll wait here for you. Is four hours enough?” Zhang Sanfeng said: “There’s no need to go elsewhere. I’ll teach him here, that way everything will be fresh in his mind. It’ll take less than an hour.” At these words, with the exception of Zhang Wuji, everyone was stunned. They could not believe their ears and thought: “No matter how profound and mysterious Wudang Sect’s Taiji Sword Art is, an enemy watching him teach would be able to pick up and understand its intricacies. The skill will no longer be a secret.” Ah Da said: “That’s fine. I’ll go outside and wait.” He did not want to gain an advantage this way. Despite his position as a servant, he conducted himself as an eminent master of the martial arts world.Zhang Sanfeng said: “That won’t be necessary. This is the first time this new sword skill of mine sees action. I’ve no idea whether it will be any use at all. You’re a famous swordsman – I invite you to point out the flaws of this sword art.” At this time Yang Xiao suddenly realized something. He said clearly: “So you’re the ‘Eight Arm Divine Swordsman’ Fang Dongbai. You were once an elder of the Beggar Sect – how did you become a lowly servant?” The Ming Cult members listened with shock. Zhou Dian said: “Aren’t you supposed to be dead? This…this…how is this possible?”

Ah Da sighed, lowered his head and said: “The old beggar is almost dead. Why bring up the past? I am no longer a Beggar Sect Elder.” Those of the older generation know that Eight Arm Divine Swordsman Fang Dongbai was the head of the four elders of the Beggar Sect. He was famous throughout the martial arts world for his swordsmanship. He was so unusually fast with the sword that it seemed like he had seven or eight arms, this earned him his nickname. He was said to have died of a serious illness over ten years ago. At that time everyone thought it was a great pity. It was quite a shock to see that he was still among the living. Zhang Sanfeng said: “It is an immeasurable honour for the Eight-Armed Divine Swordsman to give a few pointers. Wuji, do you have a sword?” Xiao Zhao stepped forward and presented the wooden Heaven Sword Zhang Wuji had taken from Zhao Min to him. Zhang Sanfeng pick it up and laughed: “A wooden sword?Isn’t this used for drawing talismans and expelling demons?” He stood up with the sword in his left hand and his right hand forming sword forms. Both hands made a loop and he slowly raised them. This opening form was followed by “Encase the Moon with Three Rings”,”Biggest Star in the Big Dipper”, “Swallow Skims the Water”, “Left Block”, “Right Block”…each form smoothly following the other. At the fifty-third stance “The Compass” his hands simultaneously drew a circle followed by the fifty-fourth form “Grasping the Sword and Returning to the Begining”. Zhang Wuji did not try to remember each stance and form. Instead, he focused on the spirit of the unbroken, flowing sword. At the end of Zhang Sanfeng’s demonstration, not a single person applauded. Everyone was thinking: “How can such a slow and gentle sword art be used to fight an enemy?” Then they thought: “Master Zhang must have deliberately slowed down for Zhang Wuji to learn.”

Only to hear Zhang Sanfeng say: “Have you seen everything clearly” Zhang Wuji answered: “Yes.” Zhang Sanfeng asked: “Do you remember everything?” Zhang Wuji answered: “I’ve already forgotten a small portion.” Zhang Sanfeng said: “Good. Think about it for a while.” Zhang Wuji lowered his head in contemplation. After a while, Zhang Sanfeng asked:“What about now?” Zhang Wuji replied:“I’ve forgotten a large portion.”

Zhou Dian yelled out:“Damm!He’s forgetting more and more as time passes. Master Zhang,this sword art of yours is too profound. How can anyone remember it all after seeing it only once? Please demonstrate it once more for our sect leader.” Zhang Sanfeng smiled and said: “Alright, I’ll demonstrate it once more.” He picked up the sword and went through the moves again. After watching a few stances, the spectators were surprised. The stances in the second performance were completely different from the stances in the first. Zhou Dian yelled: “Damm, damm!This will make him even more confused.” Zhang Sanfeng drew a full circle, then he asked:“Child, what about now?” Zhang Wuji replied: “I still haven’t forgotten three stances.” Zhang Sanfeng nodded his head, put down the sword and returned to his seat. Zhang Wuji paced slowly in a circle. He contemplated a while, then slowly turned a half-circle. He then lifted his head up and with a joyous expression, said: “I’ve completely forgotten it all, not a trace is left.” Zhang Sanfeng said:“Not bad, not bad!You forgot it very quickly. You can now ask the Eight Armed Divine Swordsman to give you some pointers!” After saying this he gave the wooden sword to him. Zhang Wuji accepted it with a bow. He turned to Fang Dongbai and said: “Elder Fang please.” Zhou Dian scratched his head, his heart heavy with worry. Fang Dongbai stepped forward and said:“Sorry for offending you!” His gleaming sword stabbed forward with a ‘chi’ sound. His internal strenght was not inferior to Ah Er’s. The onlookers were shocked, thinking that even wihout the Heaven Sword, an ordinary sword weilded with such powerful inner strenght would be extremely destructive. The “Divine Swordsman” was really not an empty name.

Zhang Wuji drew a half-circle to counter, pushing his wooden sword against the flat of the Heaven Sword while channelling his inner strenght. The Heaven Sword was forced downwards. Fang Dongbai praised: “Great sword skills!” He turned his wrist and stabbed at his left arm. Zhang Wuji countered with a circular movement. With a clapping sound, the two swords met and both parties leapt backwards. Fang Dongbai’s Heaven Sword vibrated with a ‘weeiiing’ sound, it continued for sometime without stopping. One weapon was a precious sword and the other a wooden sword. Yet when they collided there was no difference between the two swords. With this stance Zhang Wuji used bluntness to defeat sharpness, displaying the essence of the Taiji Sword. What Zhang Sanfeng taught him was “sword intention”, not “sword techniques”. He had to forget all the stances completely in order to grasp the essence. During combat, intention directs the sword producing countless variations with no limits. However, if one or two techniques remained in the memory, they will restrain the mind and the sword skills will not be pure. Top experts like Yang Xiao and Yin Tianzheng vaguely understoond the concept. Zhou Dian’s lack of understanding was the cause of his anxiety. At this time the sounds of the battle echoed through the hall. Fang Dongbai’s aggressive sword technique and deep internal strenght utilised the sharp sword to produce extremely exquisite swordplay. Sword chi rippled through the hall unrestrained. The onlookers felt like they were caught in a snow-storm, the cold energy chilling them to the bone. Amid all this Zhang Wuji’s sword drew one circle after another. Each stance, whether attacking or defending, within a circle. His mind was clear, using intention to guide the sword. The wooden sword seemed to give out thin threads, winding round and round the Heaven Sword. More and more of these threads appeared forming a ball around the Heaven Sword. After more than two hundred stances, Fang Dongbai’s sword was becoming more sluggish. The sword in his hand felt heavier and heavier – five cattys, six cattys, seven cattys…… ten cattys, twenty cattys…… He thrusted the sword but had no strenght to back it up. The wooden sword forced it to spin a coupl of circles.

The longer he fought, the more afraid Fang Dongbai became. After three hundred or more stances the two swords had not clashed. Such a thing had never before happened in his whole life. It was as if his opponent had unfurled a gigantic net which was getting smaller and smaller. Fang Dongbai alternated between six or seven different sword styles. The variations were so complex that the spectators felt dizzy just watching him. Throughout the battle Zhang Wuji simply drew circles with the sword. With the exception of Zhang Sanfeng, none of the spectators could see which of his stances were offensive and which were defensive. This Taiji Sword was comprised of all sorts of cirlces. It was really made up of only one stance but there was no limit to its uses. A loud hiss was heard from Fang Dongbai. He thrusted the Heaven Sword forward with every once of evergy he had left, putting everything into this one strike.

Recognising the danger of the situation, Zhang Wuji used his sword to block. With great skill, Fang Dongbai adjusted his stance slightly. The Heaven Sword now attacked from the side. With a ‘qing’ sound, six inches of the wooden sword was cut off. The minor obstruction was not enough to hold back the Heaven Sword and it stabbed straight at Zhang Wuj’s chest.

In shock, Zhang Wuji shot his left land out and caught the sword between his index and middle fingers. At the same time, the broken wooden sword in his right hand chooped down on Fang Dongbai’s right arm. Though it was a wooden sword, when backed with the power of the Art of 9 Yang it was no different from a steel blade. Fang Dongbai tried to pull his right arm back but Zhang Wuji’s two fingers held onto the Heaven Sword with an iron-grip. In this circumstances, his only option was to let go of the Heaven Sword and jump away. Only to hear Zhang Wuji yell: “Let go!” Fang Dongbai gritted his teeth but held on to the sword. In a blink of an eye a ‘pa’ sound was heard. His arm, still holding on to the sword, was cut off by the wooden sword. Fang Dongbai refused to let go of the sword because he wanted to protect it. He stretched out his left hand and snatched the falling right arm out of the air. Though the arm had left its body, its five fingers still held on firmly to the Heaven Sword. Zhang Wuji was stunned at this display of courage. He also felt regret. So he did not try to take the sword. Fang Dongbai walked in front of Zhao Min, bowed and said: “My lady, your servant is useless. I should be punished.” Zhao Min completely ignored him. She said: “Today we’ll give Sect Leader Zhang face and let Wudang Sect off.” She waved her right hand saying: “Let’s go!” Her subordinates carried Fang Dongbai, Ah Er and Ah San and left the hall. Zhang Wuji yelled: “Hold on! If you don’t leave the Black Jade Bone Fracture Healing Ointment behind, don’t even think about leaving Wudang Mountain.” He jumped forward and made a grab for Zhao Min’s shoulder.

His hand was about a foot away from Zhao Min’s shoulder when he felt palm wind heading towards the left and right side of his body. These palms were soundless and appeared out of no where. In shock, Zhang Wuji brought both his palms out. His right hand met the palm attacking on his right and his left hand met the palm attacking from the left. The four palms clashed at the same time. Only to feel a strange powerful energy. The palm force contained a matchless cold yin energy he knew well. It was no other than the “Xuan Ming Divine Palm” which tormented him in his youth. Startled, Zhang Wuji channelled his Art of 9 Yang chi. Suddenly, two palms hit him simultaneously on the left and right side of his body. With a grunt, Zhang Wuji was thrown backwards. He saw that his attackers were two tall and skinny old men. With one hand, they clashed palms with Zhang Wuji and while the other soundlessly struck his body. Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao yelled in anger and rushed forward. The two old men struck out again. There was a crahsing sound. Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao retreated a few steps, their chests feeling constricted and cold energy penetrating their bones. The bodies of the two old men swayed a little. The man on the right laughed coldly: “The famous names of Ming Sect are really nothing!” Turning around, they left protecting Zhao Min.

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