The Heaven Sword and the Dragon Sabre – Chapter 27

Hundred-feet tall tower prevents passage.

Following Zhao Min, Fan Yao went out of the Wan An Temple complex. He was both anxious and feeling strange; did not know where Zhao Min would take him. Zhao Min pulled her cloak over her head, covering her beautiful hair. “Ku Dashi,” she quietly said, “We are going to look for that guy Zhang Wuji.”

Fan Yao was startled; he cast a sidelong glance to her but she averted his gaze. Her cheeks blushed; as if she was 70% shy and 30% happy. She did not look like she already knew about him. His heart was relieved. He recalled the situation of the previous night, when she met Zhang Wuji in the Wan An Temple; where they were facing each other as archenemies. As soon as the word ‘archenemies’ came into his mind, his heart was stirred. “Enemy?” he thought, “Could it be that Junzhu [Princess] fell in love secretly with my Jiaozhu [Cult Leader]?” But then another thought came into his mind, “Why does she want me to go with her? Why didn’t she take her trusted subordinates, the Xuanming Elders? Ah, right! It must be because I am mute, so I won’t leak her secret.” Having this thought he nodded his head, with a strange-looking smile on his face.

“What are you laughing at?” Zhao Min angrily asked.

Of course Fan Yao could not tell her what he thought was funny; thereupon he busily gesticulated, telling her that Ku Toutuo would do his best to protect the Princess, that he would accompany the Princess even going to the dragon’s pool or tiger’s cave. Zhao Min did not speak anymore; she quietly led the way, and very soon they had arrived at the gate of the inn where Zhang Wuji stayed.

Fan Yao was secretly surprised, “Junzhu is really resourceful, she knew exactly where Jiaozhu stays,” he thought, while following her entering the inn.

Zhao Min asked the innkeeper, “We are looking for a guest by the surname of Zeng.” Turned out when he checked into the inn Zhang Wuji was using his fake name, Zeng Aniu. The innkeeper went inside to inform the guest.

Zhang Wuji was sitting in meditation, circulating his internal energy, waiting for the fire signal at the Wan An Temple to render his assistance; when suddenly he heard someone was looking for him. He felt strange, but he went out anyway. Arriving at the reception room he saw the visitors were Zhao Min and Fan Yao. “Not good!” he silently groaned, “Looks like Miss Zhao has exposed Fan Youshi’s identity and now she is here to deal with me.” He had no choice but step forward and cup his fists, “I didn’t know Miss Zhao was here; please forgive me for not welcoming you,” he said.

Zhao Min said, “It’s not convenient to talk in here. What do you say we go to the small restaurant over there and have three cups of wine?”

“Very well,” Zhang Wuji did not have any choice but to agree.

Zhao Min was still leading the way; she was the first to leave the inn. They walked past five shops before they finally arrived at a small restaurant. There were several tables made of rough wood planks scattered sparsely inside the restaurant, with wooden tubes of chopsticks on the tables. It was already late in the evening; there was no other guest inside the restaurant. Zhao Min and Zhang Wuji sat facing each other. Fan Yao made some hand signals, saying that he was going to drink some wine on the outer hall. Zhao Min nodded her head; she called the waiter and ordered a bowl of hot pot with three catties of fresh mutton, plus two catties of white wine.

Zhang Wuji’s heart was full of suspicions; he thought she was a princess, yet she went to this dirty little restaurant to eat mutton soup with him. He wondered what kind of trick she was playing.

Zhao Min poured out two cups of wine. She took the cup in front of Zhang Wuji; drank it a little and said with a smile, “There is no poison in this wine; set your heart at peace and have a drink.”

Zhang Wuji said, “Miss invites me here, I wonder what instructions do you have for me?”

“Please drink three cups, then we’ll talk,” Zhao Min replied, “I’ll dry my cup first to honor you.” She raised her cup and drank it dry.

Zhang Wuji also raised his cup. Under the light from the coal of the hot pot stove he faintly saw lipstick mark on the edge of the cup, while his nose caught a soft and sweet smelling fragrance. He did not know whether the fragrance came from the lipstick mark on his cup, or it was the perfume she was wearing. With a shaken heart he drank the wine.

“Please drink two more cups,” Zhao Min said, “I know you are suspicious toward me, so I’ll drink each cup first.”

Zhang Wuji knew she was very shrewd; he certainly must set up his guard. Although she was unexpectedly willing to taste the wine in advance, he would still be braving a great danger. In the end he drank three cups anyway. He tried to feel if there was anything unusual, but he could not find any. Raising his head he saw a faint smile on her graceful face, the wine had made her cheeks blush a little bit; truly it was a tender and extremely beautiful face. Zhang Wuji did not dare to look at her too long, hastily he turned his gaze somewhere else.

In a low voice Zhao Min said, “Zhang Gongzi [young master, a respectful term to address a young man], do you know who I am?” Zhang Wuji shook his head. Zhao Min said, “Let me tell you today. My father holds authority over the imperial armed force, the Ruyang Prince. I am a Mongolian girl, my real name is Minmin Temur. The Emperor granted me the title of Shao Min Junzhu. ‘Zhao Min’ two characters, is the name I chose to be my Han name.”

If Fan Yao did not tell him that morning, Zhang Wuji would have been shocked; but listening to her revealing her true identity without concealing anything was also beyond his expectations. Only he was not used to pretend, so he did not show an expression of great surprise.

“What?” Zhao Min was surprised, “So you have already found out?”

“No, I haven’t. How can I?” Zhang Wuji replied, “But I know that you are but a young girl yet you command that many Wulin masters, your position must be unusual.”

Zhao Min gently stroked the wine cup in her hand. She was silent for half a day. Lifting up the wine pot she poured two cups of wine and then slowly said, “Zhang Gongzi, I have a question I would like to ask you. Please answer me truthfully. If I killed that Miss Zhou of yours, what would you do?”

Zhang Wuji was startled. “Miss Zhou has never offended you; how could you kill her for no reason at all?” he asked.

“There are some people I don’t like, so I have them killed. Do you think I only kill those who offended me?” Zhao Min replied, “Some people continuously offend me, yet I did not kill them. Take you, for example, how many times have you offended me?” While saying this, her eyes were smiling.

Zhang Wuji heaved a deep sigh and said, “Miss Zhao, I offended you because I did not have any other choice. You have given me the medicine I need to save my San Shibo [third martial (older) uncle] and Liu Shishu [sixth martial (younger) uncle]; for that I will be eternally grateful.”

Zhao Min laughed and said, “I think a third part of you is muddleheaded. Yu Daiyan and Yin Liting received their injuries from my subordinates. You did not blame me, but thank me instead?”

Zhang Wuji smiled and said, “My San Shibo was injured twenty years ago; at that time you haven’t been born yet.”

“Those people are my father’s subordinates; therefore, they are also my subordinates. So what’s the difference?” Zhao Min asked, “Anyway, don’t divert the subject, I asked you: If I killed your Miss Zhou, what would you do? Would you kill me to avenge her?”

Zhang Wuji was silent for half a day before answering, “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know?” Zhao Min pressed, “You just don’t want to say it, do you?”

Zhang Wuji said, “My father and mother were forced to their death by some people. They are from Shaolin Pai, Huashan Pai, Kongtong Pai [‘pai’ = Sect] and the others. When I got older my reasoning also grew; but the more I think, the more I don’t understand: Who was my parents’ real killer? I should say it was not Kong Zhi Dashi [Reverend Kong Zhi], Tie Qin Xiansheng [Mister Iron Qin], those people; I can’t even say it was my (maternal) grandfather or my uncle; so much so that I can’t say it was your subordinates, Ah Er, Ah San, the Xuanming Elders, and so on. All I can say is that it was fate; I have thought it over yet I could not come to the clear truth. Let’s just say that those people were the killers; then I would kill them all one by one. What do I gain? My father and mother would not come back to life. Miss Zhao, these past several days I have been thinking: If everybody does not kill somebody else, live in harmony with each other, love each other as friends, won’t that be good? I don’t want to seek revenge by killing someone; I also hope others would not kill and harm other people.”

He had had this thought for a long time, only he had not told Yang Xiao, he had not told Zhang Sanfeng, he had not told Yin Liting, yet suddenly in this small restaurant he told it to Zhao Min. Once it came out of his mouth, suddenly he felt weird.

Listening to him pouring out his heart Zhao Min paused to ponder, and then she said, “You are very kind-hearted. I can’t do that. If someone killed my father or my brother, not only I would kill him and his whole family, I would also kill his relatives, his friends, everybody who is related to him. I will wipe them clean.”

“Then surely I must stop you,” Zhang Wuji said.

“Why?” Zhao Min asked, “Are you going to side with my enemy?”

“You kill one person, you will add one guilt to your life,” Zhang Wuji said, “To the person you killed, after he died he won’t know anything, so that was that. But how about his parents, his children, his brothers or sisters, his wife; won’t they feel unbearable grief? When you recall what you did in the future, your conscience will not be peaceful. My ‘yi fu’ [godfather] has killed many people. Although he has never said anything, I know he feels deep regrets in his heart.”

Zhao Min did not say anything; she quietly pondered over what he said. Zhang Wuji asked, “Have you killed anybody?”

Zhao Min smiled and said, “I have not. But when I am older, I will kill a lot of people. My ancestor is Genghis Khan the Great Emperor, Tuolei, Badou, Xuliewu, Khubilai, those heroes. I regret that I was born female. If I were a man, hey, hey, I would certainly accomplish great undertakings.” She poured out one more cup of wine, drank it, and said, “You have not answered my question.”

“If you killed Miss Zhou, or anybody related to my subordinates, then I will no longer consider you as my friend; I will never see you again, nor will I speak to you,” Zhang Wuji said.

Zhao Min laughed, “Then do you currently consider me as your friend?” she asked.

“If I hated you in my heart, then I would not sit together and drink some wine with you,” Zhang Wuji said, “Ah! It is so difficult for me to hate anybody. All my life the person I hated most was that ‘hun yuan pi li zhang’ [Lightning Palms of the Originating Formation] Cheng Kun. [Translator’s note: previously it was ‘shou’ (hand) instead of ‘zhang’ (palm); perhaps Jin Yong ‘forgot’?] Yet now that he died, I feel sorry for him. I actually wish he did not die.”

“If I die tomorrow, what would you think?” Zhao Min asked, “I bet you will say: Thank the Heaven and thank the Earth, my wicked and fiendish enemy has died; from this time on I will be spared of many troubles.”

“No, no!” Zhang Wuji loudly said, “I am not looking forward to your dying; not in the least bit. Wei Fuwang [Bat King Wei] has scared you by threatening to cut your face several times. Later on when I think about it I am very anxious.”

With a captivating smile Zhao Min blushed and lowered her head.

“Miss Zhao,” Zhang Wuji said, “Please don’t make things difficult for us. Why don’t you release the six major sects’ masters; then we all can live happily as friends, won’t that be good?”

“Very good,” Zhao Min delightfully said, “That’s what I was hoping for. You are the Cult Leader of the Ming Cult, your words carry a lot of weight. Go and talk to them, tell them to surrender to the royal government. Wait till my father becomes the Emperor, then he will grant rewards to everybody.”

Zhang Wuji slowly shook his head, “Our Han people all have a wish: to drive you, Mongolians, from invading our land,” he said.

Zhao Min abruptly stood up and said, “What? You dare to say such preposterous thing, defying your superior? Don’t you realize you are blatantly rebelling against the government?”

Zhang Wuji replied, “I am a rebel. Don’t tell me you realized it just now?”

Zhao Min fixed her gaze at him for a long time; the anger and shock on her face slowly dissipated, turning into tenderness and despair. Finally she sat back down and said, “I have already known for a long time, but I want to hear it from your own mouth before I can believe it was absolutely true. You are really beyond any help.” These words were spoken with intense bitter feeling.

Zhang Wuji’s heart was soft to begin with; this time he could not bear to hear her grieving even more, he almost blurted, “I will listen and obey you.” But this thought disappeared in a flash; he tried to control his mind, but could not find some comforting words.

Two people sat facing each other silently for a long time. Finally Zhang Wuji said, “Miss Zhao, it is late, let me walk you home.”

“You don’t want to accompany me much longer, do you?” Zhao Min asked.

“No!” Zhang Wuji frantically said, “If you want to sit here, drinking and talking, then I’ll accompany you.”

Zhao Min smiled slightly, then slowly said, “Sometimes I am thinking: if I am not a Mongolian girl, also not a Junzhu, but a common Han girl just like Miss Zhou, then perhaps you will treat me a lot better. Zhang Gongzi, what do you say: am I prettier, or Miss Zhou is prettier?”

Zhang Wuji had never expected this kind of question to ever come out of her mouth; but he remembered that after all, barbarian women were frank and did not guard their speech too much. Under the lamp light he saw her to be sweet and extremely pretty; he could not help but blurted, “Of course you are prettier.”

Zhao Min reached out with her right hand to hold the back of Zhang Wuji’s hand, her eyes showed happiness. “Zhang Gongzi,” she said, “Would you like to see me often? If I invite you from time to time to come over here and have a drink, would you come?”

As his hand was being touched by her soft and tender palm, Zhang Wuji’s heart was thumping madly. Calming his heart down he said, “I can’t stay here for too long. In a few days I am going to the south.”

“What do you do in the south?” Zhao Min asked.

Zhang Wuji sighed and said, “Even if I don’t tell you, you will be able to guess; if I do, I’ll make you angry …”

Zhao Min averted her gaze toward the round moon outside the window; she suddenly said, “You have made a promise to do three things for me. Have you forgotten your promise?”

“Of course I haven’t forgotten,” Zhang Wuji said, “As soon as Miss tells me, I will do my utmost to fulfill it.”

Zhao Min turned her head back, looking straight at his face. She said, “Only now do I have my first request. I want you to accompany me to get that Tulong [Slaughtering Dragon] Saber.”

Zhang Wuji had already guessed that her three requests would not be easy to do; but never in his life would he guess that the first request was already a very difficult matter to do. Zhao Min saw his distress look and said, “What? You are not willing? This request certainly does not violate the way of the chivalry; it is also not something you are unable to accomplish.”

Zhang Wuji thought, “The Tulong Saber is in the hand of my Yifu; this fact is well-known in Jianghu [river and lake – martial art world], I don’t have to hide the truth from her.” Thereupon he said, “The Tulong Saber belongs to my Yifu, ‘Jin Mao Shi Wang’ [Golden Mane Lion King], Xie Daxia [Great Hero Xie]. How can I betray my Yifu by taking his saber and give it to you?”

Zhao Min said, “I do not meant for you to steal or snatch or take it by deceit; I also do not want to own this saber. All I want is for you to tell me your Yifu’s whereabouts, so I can borrow it and play with it for a couple of hours, and then I will return it to him right away. You are Yifu-yizi [foster-father, foster son]; don’t tell me he won’t allow you to borrow it even for a couple of hours? I want to take a look at it, not to swindle his possession; I won’t use it to kill anybody, do you think I am violating the way of the chivalry?”

Zhang Wuji said, “Although this saber is talked-about in the martial world, but actually it doesn’t have anything worth looking about it except it is very heavy and unexceptionally sharp.”

“There is a saying,” Zhao Min said, “’Wu lin zhi zun, bao dao tu long, hao ling tian xia, mo gan bu cong. Yi tian bu zhu, shei yu zheng feng?’ [Martial world’s most venerable, Prized saber dragon slaying, Controlling all under Heaven, None dares not to follow. Power of heaven not appear, who can possibly compete? – Meh’s translation] The Yitian Sword is in my hand; I surely must see what this Tulong Saber looks like. If you are concerned, you can stay by my side while I am examining the Saber. With your current skill level, I should not be able swindle you in any way.”

Zhang Wuji considered carefully, “My original plan was leaving immediately to fetch Yifu after rescuing the six major sects’ masters, to ask him to hold the Jiaozhu position. Miss Zhao promises to take a look at the Saber only for a couple of hours. I know it’s hard to say whether she has some crafty trick under her sleeves, but if I guard by her side, she won’t be able to seize the Saber. Only Yifu once said that the Tulong Saber holds a big martial art secret. Yifu has taken possession of this treasured Saber before his eyes were blinded, yet by his intelligence and wisdom he still could not penetrate the details of this secret. Given only a short couple of hours, how could this Miss Zhao uncover the secret? Besides, Yifu and I have not seen each other for more than ten years; perhaps on that isolated island he has succeeded in understanding the Saber’s secret.”

Seeing he was hesitating and not answering, Zhao Min laughed and said, “It’s up to you if you are not willing. I can think of something else for you to do, and it surely will be much more difficult.”

Zhang Wuji realized this woman was extremely cunning; if she presented another difficult problem, he might not be able to do it. Thereupon he busily said, “Very well, I agree to borrow the Tulong Saber for you. But let me get it clear: you can only borrow it for a couple of hours. If you change your mind and want to steal it, I will not let you go.”

“That’s right,” Zhao Min laughed, “I can’t use a saber, especially a heavy one. What’s good it is for me? You are respectfully presenting the Saber to me so I will not dare to offend you. When are you going to leave?”

“Within these next several days,” Zhang Wuji replied.

“Nothing could be better,” Zhao Min said, “I am going to pack now. When it’s time to leave, come and get me.”

Zhang Wuji was startled. “Are you going to come?” he asked.

“Of course,” Zhao Min answered, “I heard your Yifu lives on an isolated island far away. If he is not willing to return to the mainland, will you take tens of thousands ‘li’s journey to bring the Saber to me, let me look at it for a couple of hours, then take another tens of thousands ‘li’s journey to return the Saber back to him, and then take tens of thousands ‘li’s journey again to go back home? There is no such logic in this world.”

Zhang Wuji remembered the dangerous great billows of the ‘Bei Hai’ [Northern Sea]; whether they would be able to find the ‘bing huo dao’ [Ice and Fire Island] in the vast and boundless ocean was still a great uncertainty. There was no guarantee if they would not meet any accident during the three times voyage back and forth to the island, so what she said was right. Moreover, his Yifu had lived on ‘bing huo dao’ for more than twenty years; he might not be willing to return to the mainland in his sunset years. “The wind and the waves on the ocean are merciless,” he said, “Are you sure you want to brave this danger?”

“If you can brave the danger, why can’t I?” Zhao Min replied.

With uncertainty in his voice Zhang Wuji asked, “Will your father let you go?”

Zhao Min replied, “Father has given me the authority to command the Jianghu warriors. For the last several years I have wandered to the east and journeyed to the west; Father has never forbidden me.”

Hearing the words ‘Father has given me the authority to command the Jianghu warriors’ Zhang Wuji’s heart was moved, “My journey to the ‘bing huo dao’ to fetch Yifu might take years or at least months,” he thought. “Supposing she is executing the luring-the-tiger-to-leave-the-mountain trick, then she might launch a large scale attack on my Cult while I am gone. But if she goes with me, her subordinates might lose command and spare me unnecessary worries over those I leave behind.” Thereupon he nodded and said, “Very well, I’ll come and get you when it’s time for us to leave.”

He had not finished speaking when suddenly they saw bright red light from beyond the window, followed by a faint clamoring noise of commotion coming from a distance.

Zhao Min went to the window to take a look. “Aiyo!” she cried out in alarm, “The Wan An Temple Pagoda is on fire! Ku Dashi, Ku Dashi, come here, quick!” She called out several times, but Ku Toutuo did not answer. She went to the outer hall but Ku Toutuo was nowhere to be seen. She asked the waiter and was told that that Toutuo went away as soon as they arrived; he did not even sit down, and he had left for a long time. Zhao Min as astonished; suddenly she recalled his strange smile earlier and could not help blushing. She lowered her head and stole a glance toward Zhang Wuji.

Zhang Wuji saw the fire was getting bigger by the minute; he was afraid his Da Shibo [first martial (older) uncle] and the others’ internal strength had not recovered and they died inside the burning Pagoda. “Miss Zhao,” he said, “I have to go!” Before finished speaking he had rushed out the restaurant.

“Wait!” Zhao Min called out, “I am coming too!” But by the time she reached the door, Zhang Wuji had disappeared.

.o0o.

When Ku Toutuo was taken away by the Princess, Lu Zhangke decided to take Concubine Han into his disciple, Wuwang Apu’s room. The Wan An Temple Pagoda had a total of thirteen floors, so the total height was about thirteen ‘zhang’s [1 zhang is approximately 10ft or 3.3m]. The top three floors were consecrated to house the image of Buddha, Buddhist literature, and other religious articles; nobody could stay in these floors. Wuwang Apu was in charge of guarding the Pagoda, so he occupied a room in the tenth floor; from which he could see all around and thus had a better control over the overall situation.

As he entered the room, Lu Zhangke told Wuwang Apu, “Go and guard outside the room, don’t let anybody enter in.” As Wuwang Apu went out the room Lu Zhangke immediately closed the door, untied the bundle to let Concubine Han out. Her beautiful face showed both shocked and hurt expression; her sad eyes were pleading. Lu Zhangke quietly said, “Now that you have arrived here, you don’t have to be afraid. I will treat you well.”

He did not want to unseal her acupoints yet, fearing she would cause a commotion. Thereupon he gently laid her down on Wuwang Apu’s bed, pulled up a quilt to cover her up; and then took another cotton-quilt to replace the bundle and set it aside. With Concubine Han safely tucked in the bed Lu Zhangke started to attend to other businesses. He did not dare to stay inside the room for too long; he went out hurriedly, forbidding Wuwang Apu from entering the room or allowing others from doing so. He knew his main disciple had always regarded him with respect and fear, so it was unlikely for him to disobey his master’s order.

Lu Zhangke thought, “I need Ku Toutuo to help me keeping the secret. If I want to win his favor, I must rescue his old lover and his daughter first. Luckily the Cult Leader of the Devil Cult made such disturbance last night, precisely over that girl by the surname of Zhou. I can always put the blame on him by saying the Devil Cult’s Jiaozhu rescued Old Nun Miejue and Miss Zhou. Truly the Heaven is on my side; Junzhu will not suspect anything. This little devil head’s martial art is superior, Junzhu cannot blame us from failing to stop him.”

All Emei Pai’s female disciples were imprisoned on the seventh floor. Miejue Shitai, being a Sect Leader, was imprisoned alone inside a smaller room. Lu Zhangke ordered the guard to open the door and then walked in. He saw Miejue was sitting cross-legged on the floor, her eyes were closed in meditation. She had been on a hunger strike for several days, but although she looked thin and pale, her countenance still showed her proud and valiant character.

“Miejue Shitai, how are you?” Lu Zhangke greeted.

Slowly Miejue Shitai opened her eyes. “It’s not good in here, what good are you talking about?” she asked. [Translator’s note: It was a play on words: ‘How are you?’ in Chinese is ‘ni3 hao3’, with literal translation ‘you good’]

“You are so stubborn,” Lu Zhangke said, “My master said keeping you alive is useless, I am ordered to send you to heaven.”

Miejue Shitai had determined to die anyway, so she said, “Very well. Only I do not need to bother Sire to do it; just lend me a knife and I will do it myself. I only request Sire to bring my disciple Zhou Zhiruo, I have something I need to talk to her.”

Lu Zhangke turned around and went out the room, ordering the guard to bring in Zhou Zhiruo; he thought, “The feeling between a mother and a daughter is really unusual; otherwise why didn’t she ask for her other main disciples, but ask for her instead?”

Not long afterwards Zhou Zhiruo entered her master’s room. “Mr. Lu,” Miejue Shitai said, “Please wait outside, I only need to speak a little bit with her.”

Zhou Zhiruo waited until Lu Zhangke left the room before she pushed backward to close the door, and then she threw herself at her master’s bosom and wept. For all her life Miejue Shitai had been strong and firm; this time she was going to die, she could not restrain to be emotionally touched; she stroked Zhou Zhiruo’s hair gently. Zhou Zhiruo knew her time to speak with her master was not long; immediately she narrated how Zhang Wuji came to rescue her the previous night. Miejue Shitai wrinkled her brows and was silent for half a day before she finally said, “Why did he only rescue you and did not rescue other people? That day on the Brightness Peak you stabbed him; why did he repay it by rescuing you?”

Zhou Zhiruo’s cheeks blushed and she softly said, “I don’t know.”

“Humph,” Miejue Shitai indignantly said, “That kid is so wicked. He is the leader of the Devil Cult; how can he have good intentions? I think he is setting a trap and he is luring you to enter in.”

“He … he is setting a trap?” Zhou Zhiruo wondered.

“We are the Devil Cult’s archenemy,” Miejue Shitai said, “I don’t know how many devil disciples died under my Yitian Sword. The Devil Cult hates Emei Pai to their bones; how could they come over to rescue us? This surnamed Zhang’s devil-head must have been looking at you and took a liking; he wanted you to fall into his snare. He ordered some people to capture us then he would deliberately rescue you to curry your favor, so that from this time on you will always be grateful to him.”

“Shifu,” Zhou Zhiruo weakly said, “I think … I think he was sincere.”

Miejue Shitai was very angry; in a loud voice she said, “You are just the same as that good-for-nothing Ji Xiaofu; captivated by Devil Cult’s disciples. If I had my internal energy, I’d strike you dead with my palm.”

Zhou Zhiruo was so scared that her whole body trembled. “Disciple does not dare,” she said.

In a stern voice Miejue Shitai said, “You really do not dare, or was that just sweet-talk to deceive your master?”

With tears in her eyes Zhou Zhiruo said, “Disciple simply does not dare to disobey ‘En shi’s [benevolent master] instruction.”

Miejue Shitai said, “Kneel on the floor. Make a heavy oath.”

Following her command, Zhou Zhiruo knelt down but she did not know what to say. Miejue Shitai said, “Say it like this: ‘Xiao Nuzi [lit. little/young woman – this is kind of hard to translate without losing the real meaning] Zhou Zhiruo make an oath against the Heaven: if in the future my heart adores Zhang Wuji, that evil Cult Leader of the Devil Cult, if I become husband and wife with him, let the bones of my departed parents bodies in the ground do not have peace; let my Shifu Miejue Shitai’s departing soul becomes restless spirit, haunting me night and day for the rest of my life; and if I give birth to sons and daughters with him, let my sons become slaves and my daughters prostitutes.”

Zhou Zhiruo was shocked; her natural disposition was meek and gentle. She had never thought of making such a sinister oath; not only cursing her dead parents and cursing her benevolent master, but cursing the children who had not even born yet. She saw her master’s eyes were staring fiercely at her face with a malicious gleam. Suddenly she felt dizzy; yet she did not have any choice but repeating what her master said, word for word.

As she listened to this heavy oath Miejue Shitai’s countenance softened. “All right, you can stand up,” she warmly said.

Zhou Zhiruo’s tears fell like rain; she stood up with a heavy and hurting heart. Miejue Shitai’s face turned serious when she said, “Zhiruo, I did not deliberately force you; I am doing this for your own good. You are a young and naïve girl. Later on your Shifu wouldn’t be able to look after you anymore. If you repeat your Ji Shijie’s [martial (older) sister] mistake by treading on the road to disaster, your Shifu in the next world will not rest in peace. Moreover your Shifu is relying on you to carry the heavy responsibility of our Sect; you must not be careless.” While saying that she took out the iron ring on her left index finger, stood up, and said, “Emei Pai’s disciple Zhou Zhiruo, kneel down to receive my order.”

Zhou Zhiruo was startled; she knelt down immediately.

Miejue Shitai lifted the iron ring high above her head and said, “The Third Generation Sect Leader of Emei Pai, ‘Nu ni’ [lit. female (Buddhist) nun] Miejue, hereby passes the Sect Leader position to the Fourth Generation ‘nu di zi’ [female disciple] Zhou Zhiruo.”

After she was compelled by her master to make that heavy oath, Zhou Zhiruo’s mind was still confused; now that suddenly hearing the Sect Leader position was being passed on to her, she was so shocked that she did not know what to think.

Slowly, word by word, Miejue Shitai said, “Zhou Zhiruo, receive this iron ring of our Sect; held out your left hand.”

Still stupefied, Zhou Zhiruo held out her left hand, Miejue Shitai put the iron ring on her index finger. With a trembling voice Zhou Zhiruo said, “Shifu [Master], disciple is young, I joined the sect not too long ago, how can I bear this heavy responsibility? You, Senior, must not be desperate; please don’t say such thing. Disciple really cannot …” Speaking to this point, she hugged her master’s legs and cried.

Waiting outside, Lu Zhangke was already impatient for a while; hearing the weeping noise he banged the door and called out, “Hey! Are you done talking? Your talking days in the future are still long!”

Miejue Shitai shot back, “What kind of nonsense are you talking about?” To Zhou Zhiruo she said, “Do you dare to disobey your Shifu’s command?” Immediately she proceeded by telling Zhou Zhiruo the Sect Leader’s rules and regulations, wanting her to commit them in her memory.

Zhou Zhiruo could see through her master’s words; it was like she was leaving her death wish; Zhou Zhiruo was alarmed and scared. “Disciple cannot do this, disciple is not able …”

In a stern voice Miejue Shitai said, “If you don’t do what I said, you are disobeying your Sect’s ancestors.” Noticing Zhou Zhiruo pitiful face and remembering about her impending departure from this world, she thought about how she was placing this heavy responsibility on this mild-mannered, soft and weak female disciple’s shoulder; Miejue Shitai was afraid her disciple would actually not able to withstand this heavy load. But among the Emei disciples she was the one with the highest comprehension and the one most likely to reach the pinnacle of their martial arts and brighten their reputation. Other than her there was no other disciple worthy of this position. Miejue Shitai also realized that in the days to come this young disciple would inevitably experience innumerable difficulties and dangers; she could not help but feel heartbroken.

Miejue Shitai raised Zhou Zhiruo up and embraced her in her bosom; in a soft voice she said, “Zhiruo, I picked you to be the next Sect Leader instead of your numerous Shijies [martial (older) sisters], not because I am biased toward you. It was because the Emei Pai has always dominated by women; the Sect Leader’s martial art must be outstanding. Only then will we be able to stand among the heroes of the Wulin world.”

“How can disciple’s martial art exceed those of numerous Shijies?” Zhou Zhiruo asked.

Miejue Shitai smiled and said, “Their accomplishment is limited; once they reach certain level, it would be very difficult for them to make a good progress. This is the Heaven-given natural ability and no power on earth can change it. Right now you are inferior to your Shijies, but in the future your progress will be unlimited. Hmm, unlimited, truly unlimited. That’s exactly what you will be.”

Zhou Zhiruo was confused; she looked at her master with eyes full of questions. Miejue Shitai put her lips close to Zhou Zhiruo’s ear and in a very low voice said, “Since you are now our Sect Leader, I am going to tell you our Sect’s greatest secret. The founder of our Sect was Guo Nuxia [Heroine Guo]; she was the youngest daughter of Daxia [great hero] Guo Jing. In those days Guo Daxia’s name shook the world; all his life he was known to possess two kinds of special skills: the first one was military strategy, the second was martial art. Guo Daxia’s wife was Huang Rong, Huang Nuxia; she was known as the most intelligent and quick-witted person. She had realized early on that the Yuan army’s power was unstoppable; that in the end Xiangyang could not be defended. They, husband and wife, had made up their minds to sacrifice their lives for their country as a token of their patriotism and loyalty. But would they bring Guo Daxia’s special skills down to the grave? Moreover, she had predicted correctly that although the Mongolians would occupy China for a moment, in the end the Han people would not be willing to live in slavery under the Tartars’ rule; that there would be bloody battles on the Central Plains [‘zhong yuan’] in the future. At that time the military strategy and the martial art would play a very significant role. For that reason she hired a very skilled craftsman to melt the black steel sword Yang Guo, Yang Daxia gave to our founder Guo Zushi [martial art ancestor], mixed it with refined gold from the western area, and forged it into the Tulong [slaughtering dragon] Saber and the Yitian [relying on Heaven] Sword.”

Zhou Zhiruo had long ago heard about the names of Tulong Saber and the Yitian Sword; but it was only now did she find out that this pair of Saber and Sword was forged by the mother of her own Sect’s Founder, Guo Nuxia.

Miejue Shitai continued, “While these weapons were forged, Huang Nuxia and Guo Daxia two people toiled for a whole month writing the military strategy and the martial art manuals and hid them inside the weapons. The Tulong Saber held the military strategy manual. It was called ‘tu long’ with the wish that someday someone would obtain the military strategy book, then drives out the Tartars and kills the Tartar Emperor. Among the martial art secrets concealed in the Yitian Sword, the most precious are the Nine Yin Manual and the Eighteen Dragon-subduing Palm Techniques, hoping that the later generation who study the martial arts from the Sword would enforce justice on behalf of Heaven and rid the people of evil.”

Zhou Zhiruo listened with eyes wide open; the more she listened, the more marveled she became. Meanwhile her master continued the story, “After Guo Daxia and his wife finished forging the Sword and the Saber, they gave the precious Saber to their son, Guo Gong Polu [Translator’s note: the word ‘gong’ here denotes respect or honor; there is no English equivalent to this way of addressing other people]; while the precious Sword was passed on to our Sect’s Guo Zushi. It goes without saying that Guo Zushi was taught martial arts by her parents, as Guo Gong Polu was also instructed in military strategy. But when the Xiang Yang’s city wall was broken, Guo Daxia husband and wife, as well as Guo Gong Polu died together as patriots. Guo Zushi’s character did not go very well with her father’s martial art style; for this reason our Sect’s martial art style differs from that of Guo Daxia of the past.”

After a short pause Miejue Shitai continued, “Over the last one hundred years the Wulin world was shaken repeatedly; these Saber and Sword have changed hands several times. The later generation only knows that the Tulong Saber is the Wulin world’s most venerable, and only the Yitian Sword is worthy to be its match; but why is it most venerable, nobody knows. Guo Gong Polu died for his country in his youth; he had no descendant not disciple, so only our Sect’s Guo Zushi alone knew the Saber and the Sword’s secret. Before her death, the Senior had spent considerable amount of effort to find the precious Tulong Saber, but she had not succeeded. On her death bed she passed on this secret to my ‘en shi’ [benevolent master], Feng Ling Shitai. Upon receiving Zushi’s commandment, my ‘en shi’ also looked for the Tulong Saber, but to no avail. In turn when she died she passed on this Sword and Guo Zushi’s commandment to me.

It was not too long after I took over the Sect Leader position of our school when your Shibo [martial (older) uncle] Gu Hongzi made an appointment for a martial arts match with a young master from the Devil Cult. They agreed to fight one-on-one, not allowing anybody to receive help from anybody else. Your Shibo knew that although his opponent was young, his martial art skill was actually very profound. Thereupon he came to me to borrow the Yitian Sword.”

As Zhou Zhiruo heard the phrase ‘a young master from the Devil Cult’ she could not help her heart thump madly, and her face involuntarily blushed; but she immediately remembered, “It was not him, I am afraid at that time he was not even born yet.”

Meanwhile Miejue Shitai continued, “At that time I wanted to go along and help him, but your Shibo insisted that he wanted to keep the good faith; saying he stated clearly with that devil-head that no third-party participation was allowed; therefore, he was firm in not letting me go along. In that martial art match your Shibo’s skill was certainly not below his opponent; but because the devil-head employed a dirty trick, in the end he managed to land a palm on your Shibo’s chest and snatched away the Yitian Sword before it even came out of its sheathe.”

“Ah!” Zhou Zhiruo exclaimed, remembering how Zhang Wuji snatched away the Sword from Miejue’s hand on the Brightness Peak.

Her Shifu continued, “That devil-head laughed coldly several times and said ‘What a big reputation Yitian Sword has! In my eyes it is no different that scrap copper and rusty iron!’ Casually he threw the Sword to the ground and swaggered away. Your Shibo picked the Sword up and went back to the mountain to return it to me. Who would have thought that because of his proud character, the more he thought about the lost, the more he was grieved. He only managed to take a three-day journey when he caught an illness along the way and was not able to get up again. The Yitian Sword fell into the hands of the local authorities who in turn presented it to the royal government. Do you know who was this evil disciple of the Devil Cult who angered your Shibo Gu Hongzi to his death?”

“No …” Zhou Zhiruo replied, “I wonder who that was?”

“It was he who later on harmed your Shijie Ji Xiaofu; that devil-head Yang Xiao!” Miejue Shitai replied.

Right at that moment Lu Zhangke banged the door and shouted, “Are you done talking? I can’t wait much longer!”

“Don’t be impatient,” Miejue Shitai said, “We will be done very soon.” Quietly to Zhou Zhiruo she said, “We don’t have much time; we can’t talk too much. This Yitian Sword was later on granted by the Tartar Emperor to the Ruyang Prince so I went to the Ruyang Palace to steal it back. It is so unfortunate that by an evil plot the Sword has fallen into the hand of the Devil Cult.”

“No, it was that Miss Zhao who stole it,” Zhou Zhiruo said.

Miejue Shitai stared at her and said, “This surnamed Zhao girl is obviously in cohort with that Cult Leader of the Devil Cult. Don’t tell me that up to this point you still don’t believe your Shifu?”

In all honesty it was hard for Zhou Zhiruo to believe her; but she did not want to argue with her master. Miejue Shitai continued, “I have a strong reason why I want you to take over the Sect Leader position. This time I fall into the crafty villains’ hands, my reputation is falling down the drain; I do not want to get out of this Pagoda alive. That lecherous man surnamed Zhang has dirty thoughts toward you, but I believe he won’t harm your life. You may pretend to get close to him, and then seize the opportunity to take back the Yitian Sword. The Tulong Saber is in the hand of his foster father, that wicked bandit Xie Xun. This kid will not reveal Xie Xun’s whereabouts no matter what; but I know there is one person in this world who will be able to get this Saber.”

Zhou Zhiruo knew her Shifu was talking about her; she was startled and shy, and happy but scared at the same time.

Mie Jue Shitai said, “That person is you. I want you to use your beauty to obtain the treasured sword. I know this is not a very chivalrous thing to do, but for an important matter I don’t want to worry about little things. Just think about it: presently the Yitian Sword is in that surnamed Zhao girl, while the Tulong Saber is in that wicked bandit Xie Xun’s hand. Both have close relationship with him. If by any chance he acquires both the Sword and the Saber, and if by chance he obtains Guo Daxia’s military strategy and martial arts manual; then it will be catastrophic for the common people. I don’t know how many innocent people in the world will lost their lives, families will be broken, not to mention the great undertaking of driving out the Tartars will be more difficult to accomplish. Zhiruo, I know perfectly well that this matter is too difficult, in all honesty I don’t want you to bear it; but what is the purpose of us training martial arts all our lives? Zhiruo, I beseech you for the sake of the common people in the world.” Speaking thus, she suddenly stood up, and then bent her knees and bowed in front of Zhou Zhiruo.

To say that Zhou Zhiruo was mildly shocked is certainly an understatement; she hastily knelt down and called out, “Shifu! Shifu! You …”

“Quiet!” Miejue Shitai said, “Don’t let the wicked bandit outside hear. Do you agree? If you don’t, I won’t get up.”

Zhou Zhiruo was utterly confused; in just a short moment her Shifu had just asked of her three very difficult matters. The first was to make the heavy oath that she would not to fall in live with Zhang Wuji, the second was for her to take over the Sect Leader position; afterwards she wanted her to utilize her beauty to entice Zhang Wuji to obtain the Tulong Saber and the Yitian Sword. Each one of these three might take her ten years to decide. Based on her gentle and warm character, chances are she would not agree to any of them, much less she was given just a short time to accept. Her head was spinning and she passed out, losing her consciousness completely.

Suddenly feeling a sharp pain on her upper lip she opened her eyes and saw her Shifu was still kneeling in front of her. Crying she said, “Shifu, please get up.”

“Do you agree to my request, then?” Miejue Shitai asked.

Bursting into tears Zhou Zhiruo did not have any choice but nodding her head; she almost fainted again. Miejue Shitai grabbed her hands and in a low voice said, “After obtaining the Tulong Saber and the Yitian Sword, here is how you’ll get the secret inside: With one hand holding the Saber and the other the Sword, exert your internal energy and strike the Saber and the Sword to each other. Both the Sword and the Saber will break simultaneously, and then take the secret scrolls from inside the Saber’s body and the Sword’s blade. This is the only way to take the secret out of those precious Sword and Saber, and to destroy them at the same time. Do you understand?” She spoke in low voice, but her tone was very urgent.

Zhou Zhiruo nodded her head. Miejue Shitai continued, “This is our Sect’s greatest secret; ever since Guo Daxia husband and wife passed it on to our Sect’s Guo Zushi, only the Sect Leaders of our school are aware of it. To think that the Tulong Saber and the Yitian Sword are weapons with matchless sharpness, let’s just say that someone getting hold of these precious sword and saber at the same time; who would dare to strike the Sword and the Saber to each other and thus risking the destruction of these valuable weapons? After you obtain the military strategy book, go and find a good and honest warrior, a patriot who is undoubtedly loyal to the country; give the book to him, tell him to make an oath to drive the invaders away. Take the martial arts manual and train yourself in it. The Eighteen Dragon Subduing Palm is a pure positive, hard and ferocious technique; it is not suitable for you. You may learn the Nine Yin Manual. According to my ‘en shi’ [benevolent master], Guo Zushi said that the original Nine Yin Manual was so broad and deep that it would be impossible to master it in a short period of time. But Huang Nuxia had thought that obliterating the Tartar’s fierce and ruthless government is an urgent matter; accomplishing it one day sooner means sparing the common people one less day of suffering. For that reason among the secrets inside the Yitian Sword she had written some chapters that can be learned intensively. However, after the important matter is accomplished, you must go back and revisit the prescribed path to strengthen your foundation. Those intensive courses can only be used temporarily. It was created from Huang Nuxia’s profound intelligence and wisdom to provide a quick fix. It is by no means a true matchless-under-the heaven’s martial art method. You have to keep this firmly in your mind.”

Zhou Zhiruo nodded her head absentmindedly. Miejue Shitai continued, “Our Sect has two greatest desires: the first is to drive out the Tartars and get our mountains and rivers back; the second is to make Emei Pai the leader in the martial arts world, surpassing Shaolin, Wudang, and the other schools, to become the Number One Sect in the Wulin world of the Central Plains [zhong yuan]. These two goals are very difficult to achieve; but now we have a way. As long as you comply with your Shifu’s injunction, you can achieve it one by one. At that time your Shifu in the next world will be very grateful to you.”

As she finished speaking Lu Zhangke again knocked on the door. “Come in!” Miejue Shitai said.

The door opened and to their surprise instead of Lu Zhangke it was Ku Toutuo who walked in. Miejue Shitai did not think differently; she thought these people were the jackals from the same lair anyway, so whoever came in did not make any difference. “Please take this child out,” she said. She was not willing to commit suicide in Zhou Zhiruo’s presence, to spare her from grieving.

Ku Toutuo came closer and in a low voice he said, “This is the antidote; take it quick. As soon as you hear commotion outside, everybody get out and join hands to kill the enemy.”

Miejue Shitai was surprised. “Who are you, Sire?” she asked, “Why are you giving the antidote to me?”

“I am the Ming Cult’s ‘guang ming you shi’ [Brightness Right Emissary] Fan Yao,” Ku Toutuo replied, “I managed to steal the antidote and come here to rescue Shitai.”

“Devil Cult traitor!” Miejue Shitai was angry, “You still want to play joke on me!”

Fan Yao smiled and said, “All right! Let’s just say I am playing a joke on you. This is a poison to add the effectiveness of the poison in your system. Do you have the guts to take it? Once it goes into your belly, within a couple of hours your intestines will ruptured and you will die miserably.”

Without saying anything Miejue Shitai reached out into his hand, took the powder, and swallowed it.

“Shifu … Shifu …” Zhou Zhiruo called out in alarm.

“Quiet!” Fan Yao said, stretching out his other hand, “You must also take this poison.”

Zhou Zhiruo was shocked, but Fan Yao had already grabbed her cheeks and poured the powder in her mouth, followed by a cup of water; very soon the powder had entered her throat.

Miejue Shitai was shocked too; she thought with Zhou Zhiruo’s death her meticulously planned scheme would go down the drain. Disregarding her own safety she threw herself with an open palm toward Fan Yao. Unfortunately her internal energy was lost; although her palm technique was exquisite, but it was devoid of any strength. With only a light push Fan Yao sent her body flying to the wall.

Fan Yao laughed and said, “All Shaolin monks and all Wudang heroes have taken my poison. Whether our Ming Cult is good or evil, you’ll find out really soon.” With a big laugh he turned around, went out the room and slammed the door closed.

When Zhao Min took Fan Yao for a rendezvous with Zhang Wuji, his mind was still fully occupied by how to steal the antidote. As soon as Zhao Min told him to wait in the outer hall of that small restaurant, he left immediately, rushing toward the Wan An Temple, straight to the Pagoda. When he reached the tenth floor, he saw Wuwang Apu was standing on guard in front of his own room. As Wuwang Apu saw Fan Yao, he greeted him respectfully, “Ku Dashi.”

Fan Yao nodded while laughing in his heart. “Good!” he thought, “The Old Lu disregards the honor of his own school; he is hiding inside, having a good time with Wangye’s [Prince, lit. King Master] beloved concubine, while he orders his disciple to guard the door. I’d better rush in and seize the antidote while this old man is doing the Heaven-knows-what.” Slanting his body sideways he slipped through Wuwang Apu’s side and suddenly stretched out his finger, sealing the acupoint on Wuwang Apu’s lower abdomen.

It would still be very difficult for him to avoid this attack even if he was completely alert not to mention Wuwang Apu was taken by surprise. Once his acupoint was sealed, his body went numb and he was paralyzed. Inwardly he was feeling very strange; when did he offend this mute Toutuo? Could it be that his ‘Ku Dashi’ greeting just a moment ago was not respectful enough?

Fan Yao shoved the door open and quick as lightning he plunged into the bed. Before his feet even touched the floor his palm had already struck toward someone on the bed. He fully realized the level of Lu Zhangke’s martial art skill; if he failed to inflict serious injury with this one palm strike, then it would not be easy to determine victory or defeat in a life and death fight, hence he had exerted his whole strength in this one strike.

“Splat!” the quilt burst open; cotton fibers flew everywhere. Fan Yao opened the cotton-waded quilt and as he looked, he saw Concubine Han with blood coming out of her mouth and nose. She was as dead as a jade statue. But Lu Zhangke’s shadow was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly Fan Yao got an idea; he turned around and went out the room. He pulled Wuwang Apu inside and stuffed him underneath the bed. He had just closed the door when he heard Lu Zhangke’s angry voice outside, “Apu! Apu! How dare you leave your post?”

Turned out Lu Zhangke had been waiting outside Miejue Shitai for quite a while; he wondered how long these mother and daughter would fussily talk to each other. He did not dare to offend Ku Toutuo, so he did not dare to crash in. His heart wandered toward Concubine Han and he missed her already; thereupon he returned to Wuwang Apu’s room, only to see that his always-obedient main disciple was unexpectedly not guarding outside the door. He was really angry. Shoving the door open he was relieved not to see anything unusual. Concubine Han was still lying on the bed facing inward, her body was still covered by the cotton quilt.

Lu Zhangke bolted the door behind him before turning around and smiled, “Pretty girl, I am going to unseal your acupoint, but you must not make any noise.” While speaking he stretched out his hand toward the bedding, his finger aimed toward Concubine Han’s spine. Suddenly a strong hand, with its five fingers as hard as a pair of iron pliers, grabbed the main artery on his wrist; at once his body weakened, not a bit of strength was left in his body. He saw from the cotton quilt a head covered in long hair came out; it was none other than Ku Toutuo.

With his right hand Fan Yao held tight Lu Zhangke’s main artery, while at the same time his left hand moved like the wind, sealing nineteen major acupoints all over Lu Zhangke’s body. Lu Zhangke was paralyzed; he lay on the floor with his eyes full of anger. Fan Yao pointed his finger to him and said, “The Old Man here has never changed his surname, nor has he changed his name. I am the Ming Cult’s Right Emissary of the Brightness; surnamed Fan, given name Yao. Today you have fallen into my hand. You are always proud of your peerless intelligence, but you are actually a stupid and useless man. If I kill you now, I am neither a hero nor a real man; therefore, I am going to spare your life. If you have the ability, look for Fan Yao to seek your revenge in the future.”

He was not done yet; he stripped Lu Zhangke naked and lay him down next to Concubine Han’s dead body, and then he covered both people, one dead the other alive, under the cotton quilt. Now at last he took the antler staff, unscrewed the tip of the antler to get the antidote; and then went to the prisoners’ room one by one to distribute the antidote to Kong Wen Dashi, Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou, and the others. In doing so he had spent a lot of time; especially since he had to explain everything to the prisoners again and again. Finally he reached Miejue Shitai’s room, and when she did not believe it was the real antidote, he bluffed her by saying it was another poison. Fan Yao hated her for killing so many of his Ming Cult brethrens, so if he could hurt her some, he was very pleased.

Finished distributing the antidote Fan Yao felt very pleased of himself, but suddenly he heard clamoring noise of people shouting outside the Pagoda; among those people He Biweng’s voice was the loudest, “This Ku Toutuo is a spy, get him down here, quick!”

Fan Yao groaned inwardly, “This is bad, really bad!” he thought, “Who helped this fellow out?” Poking his head outside he saw He Biweng leading a large number of warriors surrounding the Pagoda.

As they saw Ku Toutuo’s head, Sun Sanhui and Li Sicui shot their arrows while cursing, “Wicked thief Toutuo, you harmed us really bad!”

Actually, when He Biweng and the other two’s acupoints were sealed, they should not be able to get out of trouble for a while; moreover, they were hidden inside Lu Zhangke’s room, so normally nobody would dare to rashly go in. Who would have thought that Ruyang Palace dispatched a lot of warriors everywhere, including to the Wan An Temple. When they failed to see the Prince’s beloved concubine’s track, someone remembered Lu Zhangke’s lecherous nature. But these warriors were always afraid of him; although they suspected the missing of the Prince’s beloved concubine was somewhat related to him, who would dare treading on a tiger’s head by offending him? After contemplating for a long time, the captain of the guards, Captain Ha, finally made up his mind. He sent a low ranking soldier to knock on Lu Zhangke’s door; he figured out that a person of his rank, although Lu Zhangke was angry, he would not stoop so low as to harm this lowly soldier.

The soldier knocked on the door several times, but nobody answered. Captain Ha clenched his teeth and ordered the soldier to just shove the door open and take a look. To their surprise they saw He Biweng, Sun Sanhui and Li Sicui were lying on the floor. By this time He Biweng had managed to circulate his internal energy, trying to unseal his acupoints. He had unsealed three, four passages; and then Captain Ha helped him unseal the rest. Very soon he was able to move about freely.

He Biweng’s anger had reached the heaven; he inquired about Lu Zhangke and Ku Toutuo’s whereabouts and was told that they went to the Pagoda. Thereupon he led the warriors to surround the Pagoda and then shouted loudly, calling Ku Toutuo to go down and fight to the death.

Fan Yao was secretly alarmed, “Fight to the death then fight to the death, do you think the one surnamed Fan is scared of you?” he thought, “Only these stinky monks and old nun have not taken the antidote for too long; they will still need about one and a half hour to recover their internal strengths. This He Biweng has heard my conversation with Lu Zhangke; although I kill the old Lu, I still cannot close his mouth. What should I do?”

At a loss of what to do Fan Yao paced back and forth for a while. He Biweng called out again, “Deserve-to-die Toutuo, if you don’t get down, I am going up!”

Fan Yao returned to the room to get Lu Zhangke and Concubine Han who were still bundled inside the cotton quilt; he brought them to the railings and lifted them high in the air. “Old He!” he called out, “If you come near the gate even for one step, I am going to throw this old lecher Lu down.”

The warriors were carrying torches high in their hands, which made the surrounding area as bright as day; but the Pagoda was too tall that the light could not reach Fan Yao. However, in spite of the dim light they could still recognize Lu Zhangke and Concubine Han’s faces.

He Biweng was greatly shocked. “Shige [martial (older) brother], Shige, are you all right?” he called out. After calling out several times without hearing Lu Zhangke’s reply, he started to think that his Shige was killed by Ku Toutuo. “Thief Toutuo, you killed my Shige. I swear I won’t live on the same earth as you do.”

Fan Yao unsealed Lu Zhangke’s mute acupoint. Immediately Lu Zhangke shot some abusive words, “Thief Toutuo, you are the enemy’s spy! I am going to cut you into thousand pieces …” Fan Yao let him shout curses for a while before sealing his mute acupoint again.

Seeing his martial brother did not die, He Biweng was somewhat relieved; he was afraid Ku Toutuo would really throw his martial brother down, so he did not dare to come near the gate.

This deadlock situation dragged for quite a while; He Biweng did not dare to rescue his martial brother, while Fan Yao only hoped to gain as much time as possible. Half an hour by half an hour passed by, Fan Yao stood by the railings and laughed loudly, calling out, “Old He, your Shixiong [martial brother] has such nerve that he dared to kidnap the Prince’s beloved concubine. I caught them red-handed and captured them on the spot. You are still thinking of protecting your Shixiong? Captain, Sire, quickly arrest this old man. These two martial brothers are staging a rebellion, committing a capital crime. If you arrest him, I am sure the Prince will heap you with rewards.”

Captain Ha cast a sidelong glance toward He Biweng; he wanted to take an action, but lack the courage to do so. He felt strange to suddenly see Ku Toutuo open his mouth and speak, but the evidence in front of his eyes was that Lu Zhangke and Concubine Han were wrapped together in one cotton quilt. Besides, he had already had some previous suspicions, so in his heart was 90% believed what Fan Yao said. “Ku Dashi, please get down,” he loudly called out, “Let us go together to the Prince and sort this thing out. The three of you are senior masters, Xiao Ren [lit. little/lowly person] does not dare to offend any of you.”

Fan Yao was very bold and he thought that while he went to the Prince’s palace to sort out right from wrong, the prisoners would have had enough time to recover from their poisoning. “Wonderful! Wonderful!” he called out immediately, “I am just about to go to Wangye to receive the reward. Captain, Sir! Please look after this Old Man He, don’t ever let him escape!”

While he was still speaking suddenly they heard sound of hoof beats, a rider was coming fast toward the temple, straight to the Pagoda. The surrounding warriors immediately bowed to pay their respect, “Xiao Wangye! [Young Prince]” they greeted.

From the Pagoda looking down Fan Yao saw that the crown on this person’s head glittered under the flame light. When he was dismounting from a big and tall white horse, Fan Yao noticed that that person was wearing an embroidered gown. He was none other than the Ruyang Prince’s crown prince, Kuku Temur, whose Chinese name was Wang Baobao.

“Where is Concubine Han?” in stern voice Wang Baobao asked, “Fuwang [father king] is extremely angry; he ordered me to come over and investigate.”

Captain Ha stepped forward to give his report; he said that Lu Zhangke and Concubine Han did indeed in the temple and were currently in Ku Toutuo’s hands. He Biweng hastily said, “Xiao Wangye, don’t listen to this rubbish; that Toutuo is a spy, he frames my Shige …”

Wang Baobao raised his eyebrows and called out, “All of you, get down here to talk!”

Fan Yao had been serving in the palace for a long time, he knew Wang Baobao was very astute and competent; he was not inferior to his father. Fan Yao might be able to deceive others, but it would be difficult to hide the truth from this young prince. If he went down, the young prince might be able to see through his scheme in just a few sentences. Then if the young prince ordered the warriors to besiege him, He Biweng alone would give him enough trouble, making it difficult to escape, not to mention rescuing the imprisoned heroes on the Pagoda. In loud voice he said, “Xiao Wangye, I have Lu Zhangke in my hand. His Shidi [martial (younger) brother] hates me to the bones. If I came down, he would surely kill me.”

“Just get down quickly, Mr. He will not kill you,” Wang Baobao said.

Fan Yao shook his head and shouted, “It is still safer for me to stay on this Pagoda. Xiao Wangye, for all my life Ku Toutuo has never spoken; today the circumstance has forced me to open my mouth. I am doing it all to repay Wangye’s kindness to me. If you don’t believe me, Ku Toutuo would rather jump into the ground to meet my death to show my loyalty to you.”

Listening to him, Wang Baobao knew that 70, 80% of what he said was nonsense; so it was obvious that he was trying to stall. In a low voice Wang Baobao asked Captain Ha, “What conspiracy is he in? He is deliberately stalling. Is he waiting for someone to come?”

“Xiao Ren does not know …” Captain Ha replied.

“Xiao Wangye,” He Biweng cut him off, “This bandit Toutuo has stolen my Shige’s antidote; he must be planning on rescuing the rebels imprisoned in the Pagoda.

Wnag Baobao realized it immediately. “Ku Dashi,” he called out, “I know your loyalty. Quickly get down here; I am going to heap rewards on you.”

“My legs were kicked by Lu Zhangke earlier,” Fan Yao said, “Both legs are broken. I must not move now. Xiao Wangye, please wait a moment, as soon as I can move, I’ll come down immediately.”

“Captain Ha,” Wang Baobao barked his order, “Send some men to go up and carry Ku Dashi down.”

“No, no,” Fan Yao said, “As soon as I move, my two legs will be crippled.”

This time Wang Baobao did not have any suspicion anymore. With his own eyes he saw Concubine Han and Lu Zhangke were wrapped together inside the cotton quilt. Even if there was nothing going on between the two, he was certain his father king would not want to have Concubine Han anymore. In a low voice he said, “Captain Ha, set the Pagoda on fire. Set your men around with their bows and arrows. Whoever jumps down from the Pagoda, shoot him dead.”

Captain Ha complied; he passed the order around. His archers surrounded the Pagoda with bows and arrows, ready to shoot; while the other warriors spread around to gather firewood and grass to light up the fire.

He Biweng was shocked. “Xiao Wangye,” he called out, “My Shige is up there.”

Wang Baobao coldly said, “This Toutuo can’t stay up there forever; as soon as the Pagoda is on fire, he will come down.”

He Biweng called out, “What if he throw my Shige down? Xiao Wangye, please don’t light the fire.”

“Humph,” Wang Baobao snorted, ignoring his plea.

A short moment later the warriors had gathered enough kindling material and they set the Pagoda on fire.

He Biweng had always enjoyed good reputation in the Wulin world; even when he entered the service in the Ruyang Palace he had always been highly revered. Unexpectedly today not only he had fallen into Ku Toutuo’s sinister plot, he was also ignored by the Young Prince. Seeing his martial brother in grave danger he did not care anymore whether it was the ‘Xiao Wangye’ or the ‘Da Wangye’ [lit. old king master]. Raising his pair of crane-beak pens he charged toward the warriors who were lighting the fire. ‘Bang, bang!’ two warriors were thrown away.

Wang Baobao was very angry. “Mister He,” he shouted, “Are you defying my command?”

“If you did not set the Pagoda on fire, I would not dare to defy your command,” He Biweng replied.

“Set the fire!” Wang Baobao shouted. With a wave of his left hand five foreign monk wearing red robes jumped from behind his back; they snatched away the torches from the warriors’ hands and tossed them to the firewood and grass on the base of the Pagoda. As soon as the kindling material was lit, the fire was raging wild.

He Biweng was very anxious. He snatched a spear from a warrior’s hand and frantically beat the wood and grass, trying to extinguish the fire.

“Arrest him!” Wang Baobao shouted.

Those five foreign monks in red unsheathed their sabers and surround He Biweng immediately. He Biweng was very angry; he dropped the spear and snatched the saber of a foreign monk to his left. Eluding his hand the foreign monk flipped the saber over and hacked his shoulder. He Biweng moved sideways to elude, while from behind came a gust of saber wind; as a result two sabers struck each other.

There were a total of eighteen foreign monks with high level of martial art under Wang Baobao’s command; they were known as the ‘Shi Ba Jin Gang’ [eighteen Buddha’s warrior attendants], consisted of Five Sabers, Five Swords, Four Staves, and Four Cymbals. These five monks were the ‘Five-Saber Buddha’s Warriors’. Each one of them alone was far below He Biweng in term of martial art level; however, with five of them fighting together, they complement each other in defense and offense. Furthermore, He Biweng’s martial art level was high, but Zhang Wuji struck him until he vomited some blood the previous day; his internal energy suffered serious damage. On top of everything right in front of his eyes the fire was raging wild, his martial brother was in a precarious condition; unavoidably he could not keep himself calm and steady. As a result, it was difficult for him to score a quick victory.

In the meantime, Wang Baobao’s subordinates kept adding wood and grass to make the fire even bigger. The Pagoda was constructed of brick and wood. Very soon the first several lower floors were starting to burn. Fan Yao dropped Lu Zhangke and dashed toward the room in which the Wudang heroes were imprisoned. “The Tartars are burning the Pagoda,” he called out, “Has everybody’s internal energy recovered?” But Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou and the others were still sitting cross-legged, cultivating their internal energy in full concentration. Nobody replied; apparently they were at a critical moment of their recovery process.

Several guards came to attack him. Fan Yao struck and grabbed them one by one; throwing them to their death at the bottom of the Pagoda. The rest of the guards scrambled downstairs over the fire, trying to save themselves.

A moment later the fire had reached the fourth floor, where the people from Huashan Pai were being imprisoned. They did not have time to wait for the recovery of their internal energy; in this dangerous situation everybody fled to the fifth floor. But the fire kept creeping upward to the fifth floor, causing the Kongtong Pai people also ran to the sixth floor. Some were rather slow, resulting in their clothes to catch fire. Fan Yao was at a loss.

Suddenly he heard someone calling out, “Fan Yaoshi [Right Emissary Fan], catch!” It was Wei Yixiao’s voice.

Fan Yao was greatly delighted; looking toward the direction of the voice he saw Wei Yixiao was standing at the rooftop of a big building behind the Wan An Temple. Wei Yixiao swung his arms to throw a long rope toward Fan Yao and Fan Yao caught it.

“Tie it on the railings, we’ll make a rope bridge,” Wei Yixiao called out.

Fan Yao had just tied the rope to the railings when ‘swish!’ Zhao Yishang of the ‘Shen Jian Ba Xiong’ [Eight Divine Archers] shot an arrow and cut the rope. Simultaneously Fan Yao and Wei Yixiao opened their mouths to curse; they knew that if they want to build a rope bridge, they would have to get rid of these Eight Divine Archers.

“Shoot your granny,” Wei Yixiao cursed, “If that one does not drop his bow and arrow, the Old Man will butcher him first.” While cursing he drew his sword and jumped down.

His feet were barely touching the ground when five foreign monks wearing dark green robes surrounded him with swords in their hands. They were the ‘Five-Sword Buddha Warriors’ from the ‘Eighteen Buddha Warriors’ under Wang Baobao’s command. The swords in their hands glittered, their sword moves were strange; and they attacked Wei Yixiao together.

He Biweng brandished his pair or crane-beak pens, fighting a fierce battle. “Xiao Wangye,” he loudly called out, “If you don’t order your men to put off the fire, don’t blame me for being impolite to you.”

Wang Baobao did not pay any attention to him. Four foreign monks with long Buddhist staves in their hands stood around the Young Prince, guarding him from any possible sneak attack.

He Biweng’s anxiety rose up; his double-pen suddenly moved in ‘heng sao qian jun’ [sweeping a thousand soldiers], forcing the three foreign monks in front of him to retreat two steps. He Biweng anxiously rushed toward the Pagoda. The five foreign monks ran after him. He Biweng’s feet kicked the ground and he flew to the eaves of the first floor. Seeing the fire was raging wild, the five foreign monks did not pursue.

He Biweng jumped from floor to floor. When he reached the eaves of the fourth floor Fan Yao poked out his head from the seventh floor; lifting high Lu Zhangke’s body he loudly called out, “Old He, stop! If you move one more step, I am going to throw the Old Lu down, let him become deer mince meat.” [Translator’s note: the ‘Lu’ of Lu Zhangke means ‘deer’]

He Biweng obediently did not dare to move again. “Ku Dashi,” he called out, “We, martial brothers, have never offended you in the past, we still don’t have any enmity against you today, why do you make things difficult for us? If you want to save your old sweetheart Miejue Shitai and your beloved daughter Miss Zhou, then rescue them. I will not stop you.”

After taking the antidote from Ku Toutuo, Miejue Shitai thought that she had taken a poison and would die soon; but then Zhou Zhiruo had also taken the poison. Her lifetime hopes were shattered; how would her heart not bitter? While she was grieving suddenly she heard commotion at the base of the Pagoda; she heard Ku Toutuo and He Biweng’s argument, then she also heard Wang Baobao issued an order to set the Pagoda on fire. She heard it all, one by one, clearly. She felt strange, “Could it be that this devil-like Toutuo is really rescuing us?”

She thought she might as well try, whether good or bad. Immediately she felt warm energy flowing up from her ‘dan tian’ [pubic region]; which was different from when she was still under the influence of the poison. She would rather starve herself to death than obeying Zhao Min’s order to get out to the mail hall and contend in martial arts, as a result, she had been fasting for six, seven days. Her stomach was completely empty; therefore, as the antidote entered her belly, it rapidly entered the blood and neutralized the poison in her system. Her recovery was faster than everybody else. Furthermore, her internal energy was profound; it was even higher than Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou, He Taichong and the others, perhaps it was somewhat inferior only to the Abbott of Shaolin Pai, Kong Wen Shen-seng [divine monk].

As the effect of the ‘Ten Fragrance Muscle-weaken Powder’ was gradually dispersed by the antidote, her own internal energy was able to push the toxicity away. In less than an hour later her internal energy had been recovered 50, 60%. She was still cultivating her internal energy intensively when suddenly from outside came He Biweng’s voice; each word was like an arrow piercing her ear, “…If you want to save your old sweetheart Miejue Shitai and your beloved daughter Miss Zhou, then rescue them. I will not stop you.”

How could she not get angry hearing this ‘Old Sweetheart’ and the other nonsense? In big strides she walked out of her room toward the railings. “What nonsense are you blabbering about? Such a dirty mouth!” she shouted angrily.

He Biweng looked at her imploringly, “Lao Shitai [Old Shitai], please tell your old … old friend to let my Shige down. I guarantee your family of three will be able to leave safely. Xuanming Elders always say one as one, two as two; in no way we will fail to keep our words.”

“What family of three?” Miejue Shitai asked angrily.

Although he was in a precarious situation, Fan Yao could not help to laugh aloud. Feeling very proud of himself he said, “Lao Shitai, this old man said I was your old sweetheart, and that Miss Zhou was our daughter.”

Miejue Shitai was really, really angry, that under the flickering light of the fire downstairs her face looked terrifying. “Old He,” she roared, “Come up here! I want to exchange a hundred palms with you before we talk again.”

If it was different time, when He Biweng was challenged to come up, he would come up; he was not scared of the Sect Leader of Emei. But this time his martial brother had fallen into the enemy’s hand; he did not dare to act recklessly. “Ku Toutuo,” he called out, “It was you who said that; I certainly would not talk irresponsibly.”

Miejue Shitai shifted her gaze toward Fan Yao and in stern voice she asked, “Did you say such thing?”

Fan Yao laughed heartily; he was about to take that opportunity to ridicule her when suddenly he heard loud shouts at the bottom of the Pagoda. He looked down and saw by the flames a shadow was dancing like a fluttering butterfly among the flowers. That shadow moved around the warriors and the foreign monks. ‘Bang! Clank! Clank! Bang! Clank! Clank!’ everywhere he went a weapon fell down to the ground. The Cult Leader Zhang Wuji had arrived.

Zhang Wuji attacked the five wielding-swords foreign monks who were surrounding Wei Yixiao; sending their swords flying high into the air. Wei Yixiao was delighted; like a flash of lightning he dashed toward Zhang Wuji. “I am going to set the Ruyang Palace on fire,” he said in a low voice.

Zhang Wuji nodded; he understood his intention. They had only a few people on their side; if they failed to rescue the masters of the Six Major Sects in a short period of time, the enemy might send more reinforcement. With the Green-winged Bat King went to set the Ruyang Palace on fire, the enemy would be forced, first and foremost, to protect the Prince. It was an excellent ‘luring the tiger out of the mountain’ or ‘removing firewood from under the pot’ plan.

Wei Yixiao’s dark green shadow flashed by and flew over the tall wall surrounding the Temple. Zhang Wuji looked around him to assess the situation. “Fan Youshi,” he called out loudly, “How are you?”

“It’s bad!” Fan Yao called back, “The escape route is completely on fire; we are trapped here.”

By this time, fourteen out of the eighteen foreign monks under Wang Baobao’s command had spread our and surrounded Zhang Wuji. Zhang Wuji thought that to defeat the enemy he had to capture the leader first; thereupon he turned his attention to that young Tartar prince wearing a golden helmet. If he could capture him, than he could force the Prince to order his people to put off the fire and release the prisoners. Immediately he leaned sideways and slipped from among the foreign monks; he went straight to Wang Baobao fast and fluid like a fish swimming in the water.

Suddenly out of the blue a sword came from his left side, the blade carried a cold gust of wind; in a flash the sword tip was moving toward his chest. Hastily Zhang Wuji drew a step backward, only to hear a woman’s voice said, “Zhang Gongzi, this is my brother. Don’t hurt him.”

The sword in her hand moved in graceful and elegant way; the blade was colder than water. It was the Yitian sword; a sword as beautiful as a flower. The bearer was of course Zhao Min. She hastily followed Zhang Wuji, it was just that she was a bit slower.

Zhang Wuji said, “Please order your people to put out the fire and let the people go; otherwise I will not be polite toward the two of you.”

Zhao Min called out, “Shiba Jin Gang, this man’s martial art is high; all Jin Gang are to fight him together.”

Those eighteen foreign monks had just suffered under Zhang Wuji’s hand; they did not need their Junzhu [Princess] to remind them. They knew their opponent was fierce. ‘Bang! Bang!’ the eight copper cymbals in the Four-Cymbal Buddha Warriors’ hands crashed together. Eighteen foreign monks moved together in front of Wang Baobao and Zhao Min, separating them from Zhang Wuji.

Zhang Wuji took a glance; he saw eighteen foreign monks walked in circle around him. Their footwork was strange, eighteen people formed a human wall; apparently their movement contained many changes. His interest was piqued; he wanted to see if he could break this ‘Jin Gang Zhen’ [Buddha Warrior Formation]. But right at that moment a loud bang was heard, one of the big pillars on the Pagoda broke and fell down. Turning his head around he saw the fire had reached the seventh floor. Amidst the blood-red flickering tongues of fire two people were engaged in an intense battle; they were Miejue Shitai and He Biweng.

Looking further up he saw the corridor by the railings of the tenth floor was full of people; they were the masters from Shaolin, Wudang, and the other Sects. Their martial arts were not recovered yet; but even if they were, the Pagoda was over ten ‘zhang’s tall [over 100 feet tall], even if their internal energy and qing gong [lightness skill] were not the slightest bit lost, they would certainly plunge to their deaths if they jumped down.

An idea came into Zhang Wuji’s mind; he pondered over it for a moment, “I can’t possibly break this Jin Gang Zhen in a short period of time. Even if I did, the other warriors are certainly going to attack me. It won’t be easy to capture Miss Zhao’s brother. Miejue Shitai has been fighting He Biweng all this time without showing any sign of defeat. It appears that her internal energy has already been restored. Then Da Shibo [first martial (older) uncle] and the others must also be recovered. Only the Pagoda is too high, they are unable to jump down.”

As soon as his mind was made, he moved around the courtyard in lightning fast speed; his hands struck and snatched, slapped and grabbed the Eight Divine Archers and the warriors around the Pagoda. He either knocked down the bows and arrows from their hands, or sealed their acupoints. In a short moment there was no one standing with neither bow nor arrow around the Pagoda. “Seniors on the Pagoda!” he called out, “Please jump down! I will catch you down here.”

The people on the Pagoda were stunned; they thought, ‘This Pagoda was over ten ‘zhang’s tall, the force of their bodies falling down would be tremendous, although you have thousand catties strength, how could you catch us?’ Immediately some people from Kongtong, Kunlun and some other Sects blurted out, “Surely we cannot jump down; don’t listen to this kid! He wants to deceive us so that we will meet our cruel deaths.”

Zhang Wuji saw the smoke and fire filled the air, it almost reached near the place where those masters were standing. If they did not jump soon, they would inevitably become barbequed meat. Raising his voice he shouted, “Yu Erbo [second martial (older) uncle], your kindness to me is like a mountain, do you think Xiao Zhi [little nephew] would deliberately harm you? Why don’t you jump first?”

Yu Lianzhou trusted ZhangWuji completely; besides, he thought that although his martial art skill was stronger, he would still not be able to save himself. Therefore, rather than being burned to death, wouldn’t it be better to plunge to death? “All right!” he called out, “I’ll jump down!” Without hesitation he jumped from the Pagoda down to the ground.

Zhang Wuji’s eyes followed his uncle closely; he waited until they were about five feet apart before his palm gently patted his uncle’s waist. In this one palm he had unleashed the ultimate power of the ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ [the great shifting and moving of the universe]; by absorbing and releasing energy he dispersed the falling down momentum from top to bottom to from left to right, and thus sending Yu Lianzhou flying horizontally several feet to the side. By that time his internal energy had been recovered 70, 80%; flipping his body midair he landed steadily on the ground. In one fluid motion his palm struck a Mongolian warrior that he spurted blood from his mouth.

“Da Shige [first martial (older) brother], Si Shidi! [fourth martial (younger) brother],” he loudly called out, “Jump down!”

The people on the Pagoda cheered as they saw Yu Lianzhou land safely on the ground. Out of his deep love toward his son, Song Yuanqiao wanted him to jump down first. “Qingshu,” he said, “You jump down!”

Ever since they came out of their prisons, Song Qingshu had always been standing up next to Zhou Zhiruo. “Miss Zhou,” he said, “Quickly jump down.”

Zhou Zhiruo’s internal strength had not been recovered yet; she was unable to help her master, yet she was unwilling to escape alone. Hearing Song Qingshu, she shook her head and said, “I am going to wait for Shifu!”

By this time He Taichong, Ban Shuxian, and the others had jumped down one after another; they were all intercepted by Zhang Wuji using the marvelous power of the ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ to the fullest; breaking the vertical force of the drop, turning it horizontally, delivering them all one by one from danger.

These people’s internal energy had not been fully recovered yet, but although their strength was only 50, 60% of their normal level, they had already given the foreign monks and the warriors a lot of trouble. Yu Lianzhou and the others snatched some weapons and they formed a fence around Zhang Wuji.

Wang Baobao’s and Zhao Min’s subordinates were trying to stop Zhang Wuji, but Yu Lianzhou, He Taichong, Ban Shuxian and the others blocked them. One more person jumped down from the Pagoda meant one more person was protecting Zhang Wuji. Ever since these people were being held captives by Zhao Min, they had suffered innumerable humiliations and a lot of them even lost their fingers. This time they were freed from their bondage, all of them were staking whatever they have, venting their anger. In a short moment the ground around the Pagoda was littered by more than twenty warriors’ corpses.

Seeing the unfavorable situation, Wang Baobao issued an order, “Get my special archer force over here!”

Captain Ha was just turning his body around to carry out the Young Prince’s order when he saw the sky toward the southeast corner was bright with fire. He was shocked and immediately called out, “Xiao Wangye, the Palace is on fire! We must hurry to save Wangye!”

Wang Baobao was concerned over his father’s safety, he could not be bothered by catching or killing some rebelling thieves. “Meizi, [younger sister – term of endearment]” he hastily said, “I am going back to the Palace. You must be careful!” Without waiting for Zhao Min to answer he turned his horse around and galloped away to the exit.

As Wang Baobao left, the Eighteen Buddha Warriors followed; as did most of the palace guards. They saw the Palace was on fire and thought that a large number of rebels had attacked the Palace, they were very anxious; nobody guessed it was a trick played by Wei Yixiao, one person.

Meanwhile Song Qingshu, Song Yuanqiao, Zhang Songxi, Mo Shenggu, and the others had jumped down from the Pagoda. Very soon the situation was reversed, the warriors were outnumbered. A little later Kong Wen Fang Zhang [Abbot Kong Wen], Kong Zhi Dashi [Reverend Kong Zhi], as well as the senior monks from the Damo Hall and Luohan Hall had also jumped down. Zhao Min’s warriors lost any chance to gain victory.

Zhao Min thought that if they did not escape now, they would change from captors to captives. Therefore, immediately she issued an order, “Everybody, get out of Wan An Temple!” Turning toward Zhang Wuji she said, “At dusk tomorrow, I will be waiting for you to have some drinks. I hope you’ll come.”
Zhang Wuji was startled; but before he could answer Zhao Min flashed one of her captivating smiles, and hurriedly retreated toward the hall at the rear of the Wan An Temple.

He heard Fan Yao, still on top of the Pagoda, shouted loudly, “Miss Zhao, quickly jump! Your eyebrows are burned. You don’t want to jump, do you want to be a beautiful-woman charcoal?”

“I want to be with Shifu!” Zhou Zhiruo replied.

In the meantime, Miejue Shitai was still in fierce battle against He Biweng. When the floor they were on was burned down, they jumped to the higher floor. Very soon they were fighting in the room at the corner of the tenth floor. Her internal energy had not 100% recovered, but from the beginning she had disregarded her life by concentrating all her strength in offense without thinking about defense at all. On the other hand, He Biweng was first of all anxious over his martial brother’s safety, so he could not focus his attention to the battle. Secondly, his previous injury from Zhang Wuji’s palm had not been healed completely. Thirdly, he had just recovered from the poison administered by Fan Yao, plus his acupoints were sealed for quite a long time, his limbs were not as agile as at normal time. Therefore, the two of them fought for a long time without clear winner or loser.

Miejue Shitai heard her disciple’s voice; “Zhiruo,” she called out, “Quickly jump down! Don’t mind me! This old thief has humiliated me too much, how can I let him live?”

He Biweng was groaning inwardly, he thought, “This old nun is disregarding her own life fighting me; while I must save my martial brother. Must I lose my life together with her in this hell hole?” He shouted loudly, “Miejue Shitai, it was Ku Toutuo who said that, what do I have to do with it?”

Miejue Shitai held her palm and turned around, “Stinky Toutuo, was it you who said all those crazy talk?” she asked Fan Yao.

Fan Yao was amused, he deliberately asked, “What crazy talk?” He wanted Miejue Shitai to say it with her own mouth, ‘He said that I am your old sweetheart, and that Zhou Zhiruo is our daughter.’ But how could she say such thing? However, hearing Fan Yao’s answer, Miejue Shitai knew He Biweng was telling the truth. She was so angry that her body trembled.

As Miejue Shitai was turning her back toward him, suddenly a burst of black smoke rolled in; He Biweng saw this was a good opportunity to launch a sneak attack. Thereupon amidst the smoke he launched a palm strike toward Miejue Shitai’s back.

Zhou Zhiruo and Fan Yao saw it clearly; they shouted together, “Shifu, watch out!” “Old Nun, watch out!”

Miejue Shitai quickly struck her left palm backward to counterattack, but He Biweng’s yin-yang palms had already arrived. Her left palm blocked He Biweng’s left palm, but her back was struck by his right-hand Xuanming Shen Zhang [Xuanming Divine Palm]. This Xuanming Divine Palm was the exact same palm he exchanged with Zhang Sanfeng at Mount Wudang a few years back. Miejue Shitai staggered; she almost fell down.

Zhou Zhiruo was greatly shocked; she rushed ahead to support her Shifu. Fan Yao was very angry; “Wicked despicable coward!” he roared, “You are not worthy to live!” Lifting the cotton quilt containing Lu Zhangke and Concubine Han, he threw the bundle down.

He Biweng loved his martial brother very much; without thinking he jumped, trying to catch the bundle, but it was already too far outside the Pagoda that He Biweng only managed to grab the corner of it. Because of the weight, He Biweng was also dragged down.

Zhang Wuji was standing at the base of the Pagoda. Because of the smoke, he could not see clearly the battle high on the Pagoda. He saw a big object followed by a man was falling down. He did not know what the bundle was, but amidst the smoke he saw vaguely there was somebody inside the bundle. He could see clearly however, that the man was He Biweng. He realized this man had caused him endless suffering, even his parents’ death was closely related to him. But in the end Zhang Wuji just could not bear to see him falling down to meet his cruel death. Immediately he flew up and with both palms he struck the bundle and He Biweng, sending each one of them flying about three ‘zhang’s to the right and to the left.

He Biweng flipped his body midair and landed on the ground. “Really dangerous!” he inwardly called out in alarm. Never in his life would he expect Zhang Wuji to render good for evil by saving his life. As he turned his head around to look for his martial brother he was shocked. Turned out Zhang Wuji’s palm strike had caused the bundle to burst open, throwing two naked bodies into a pile of burning wood. Lu Zhangke’s acupoints were still sealed; he was unable to move that his beard and hair was burned immediately.

“Shige!” He Biweng called out in panic and rushed toward the fire.

As he landed on the fire, before his feet were steady, Yu Lianzhou had called out, “Eat my palm!” followed by a left palm strike toward He Biweng’s shoulder.

He Biweng did not dare to block, he shrank his shoulder to evade. It seemed like Yu Lianzhou’s palm had lost its momentum, but as He Biweng’s shoulder shrunk, the palm followed and ‘slap!’ He Biweng was so much in pain that his forehead was drenched in cold sweats. Yet rescuing his martial brother was more important that ignoring the pain He Biweng hastily embraced Lu Zhangke and took him flying over the tall wall surrounding the temple.

At that moment a burning big pillar of the Pagoda fell down, crushing Concubine Han’s body and in a short moment her body was caught on fire. The people on the ground shouted repeatedly, “Quickly jump down! Quickly jump down!”

Fan Yao fled to the east and leaped to the west to avoid the fire. As the main pillars burned down, the bricks and tiles from the Pagoda started to fall down like rain. The Pagoda was starting to sway, looked like it would collapse anytime.

In stern voice Miejue Shitai said, “Zhiruo, jump down!”

“Shifu, you jump first, then I’ll jump!” Zhou Zhiruo replied.

Miejue Shitai suddenly leaped and hacked Fan Yao’s left shoulder with her palm, while shouting, “The Devil Cult’s thief, I can’t let you go!”

Fan Yao let out a long laugh and jumped down. Zhang Wuji received him with a slap of his palm, let him gently landed on the ground.

“Fan Youshi,” Zhang Wuji praised him, “You have successfully accomplished a very difficult task!”

Fan Yao steadied his feet before answering, “If not because of Jiaozhu’s matchless skill, everybody would become roast pork on top of that Pagoda. Fan Yao’s way of handling affair was improper; what merit do I have?”

Miejue Shitai stretched out her arm to grab Zhou Zhiruo and take her jump down. When she was about a little over a ‘zhang’ away from the ground, she sent all her strength to her arms and threw Zhou Zhiruo several feet upward. That way she broke the momentum of Zhou Zhiruo’s fall that she only had about a ‘zhang’ to fall to the ground, while at the same time her own falling down momentum was actually strengthened.

Zhang Wuji dashed forward to pat her waist with the ‘qian kun da nuo yi’. Who would have thought that even in her death Miejue Shitai was not willing to receive any kindness from the Ming Cult. Seeing Zhang Wuji’s palm was about to reach her, she gathered all her remaining strength to launch an attack. Two palms collided. ‘Bang!’ Zhang Wuji’s palm was shifted sideways. ‘Crack!’ Miejue Shitai crashed on the ground; her spine, as well as several bones on her body, broke immediately.

On the other hand, Zhang Wuji was hit really hard from her palm strength plus the falling down momentum; blood bubbled up in his chest and he staggered several steps backward. He did not understand because with this one palm attack Miejue Shitai obviously was trying to kill herself.

Zhou Zhiruo threw herself on top of her Shifu’s body while crying out, “Shifu, Shifu!” The rest of the Emei disciples, both males and females, all gathered around their master’s body in great confusion.

“Zhiruo,” Miejue Shitai said, “From this day on, you are our school’s Sect Leader. The things I want you to do, you won’t disobey all … all of them?”

Zhou Zhiruo cried and said, “Yes, Shifu, disciple does not dare to forget.”

Miejue Shitai showed a faint smile and said, “Then, I can die with closed eyes …”

Right away Zhang Wuji came forward to check on her pulse, but suddenly Miejue Shitai flipped her right hand and grabbed Zhang Wuji’s wrist. In a stern voice she said, “Devil’s Cult evil disciple, if you dare to violate my beloved pure disciple, even being a ghost I will not spare …” The last ‘you’ word had not been uttered, she had already breathed her last; yet her grip was not loosened up, her five fingernails dug Zhang Wuji’s flesh until he was bleeding.

Fan Yao called out, “Everybody, come follow me; we are going out from the western gate. If we tarry, that scoundrel king’s cavalry would catch us here.”

Carrying Miejue Shitai’s lifeless body in his arms Zhang Wuji said in low voice, “Let’s go!”

Zhou Zhiruo gently pried her master’s fingers from Zhang Wuji’s hand, she held out her hand to take her master’s body, all the while she avoided Zhang Wuji’s eyes; and then she quietly walked out of the temple.

By then the masters from Kunlun, Kongtong and Huashan had already swarmed out the temple. Only Shaolin Pai’s Kong Wen and Kong Zhi, two ‘shen seng’ [divine monks], did not lose their seniority demeanor; they came to Zhang Wuji with clasped palms to express their gratitude. And then they exchanged some modest greetings with Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou and the others before finally they left the temple together.

Zhang Wuji had spent a lot of energy in using the ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ to rescue the masters from the Six Major Sects; his internal energy was depleted. Last of all he exchanged a palm with Miejue Shitai that he suffered a major internal injury; by now he was so weak that he could not walk. Mo Shenggu took him and carried him on his back. Zhang Wuji took that opportunity to silently cultivating his ‘jiu yang shen gong’ [the Nine Yang divine strength/energy] that at last his strength was recovered.

Meanwhile it was almost dawn; as the crowd of heroes reached the western gate, they dispersed and went out the city separately to avoid the gate guards. Several ‘li’s outside the city they met Yang Xiao who had already prepared several large mule and horse carriages. He congratulated them on escaping the danger.

Kong Wen Dashi [Reverend Kong Wen] said, “If not for the Ming Cult’s Zhang Jiaozhu and gentlemen’s help today, it is difficult to say what our Central Plains’ [zhong yuan] Six Major Sects’ fate would be, our gratitude of your kindness is unspeakable. Now about next step, how we are going to proceed, please Zhang Jiaozhu gives us instruction.”

“My knowledge is shallow,” Zhang Wuji answered, “I don’t have any plan, so I invite Reverend Abbot of the Shaolin Pai to give us orders.” But Reverend Kong Wen strongly refused.

Zhang Songxi said, “This place is not too far from the city. Today we have made an earth-shattering disturbance inside the Tartar’s capital; how could that evil king let it go? As soon as the fire in the palace is extinguished, he would certainly dispatch a cavalry to pursue us. Let us leave this place first before deciding on our next action plan.”

He Taichong said, “If that evil king sends a cavalry to pursue us, then that would be best. We can kill them all to vent our several days of built-up anger.”

“Our internal strength is not completely recovered yet,” Zhang Songxi said, “Killing the Tartars right now is not our priority; we’d better avoid them first.”

“Zhang Sixia [fourth hero Zhang] is right,” Reverend Kong Wen said, “We could kill many Tartars today, but our own casualty would not be small. We’d better withdraw for the time being.” Certainly the words of Shaolin’s Abbot carried a different weight. As soon as he opened his mouth, nobody dared to raise any objection anymore.

Reverend Kong Wen asked again, “Zhang Sixia, according to your respected opinion, where should we go to temporarily avoid the enemy?”

Zhang Songxi replied, “The Tartars would certainly expect us to go if not to the south, then to the southeast. We will go to the opposite direction; to the northwest. What do you think?”

Everybody was stunned; yet Yang Xiao actually clapped his hands and said, “Zhang Sixia’s plan is really marvelous. The people of the northwest is sparse, we can look for any uninhabited mountain and hide there for a while. The Tartars would not think of looking for us there.” The more the rest of them think, they more they realized Zhang Songxi’s plan was indeed marvelous. Thereupon they turned their carriages around and went northwest.

About fifty ‘li’s later the group of heroes stopped at a valley to take a rest and eat. Yang Xiao had already prepared dried provisions, dried meat and wine; nothing was lacking. They were talking about the rescue operation they had just undergone and they all agreed that Zhang Wuji and Fan Yao were in charge of the entire battle and the rescue operation.

On the side Zhou Zhiruo and the Emei disciples were cremating Miejue Shitai’s body. Kong Wen, Kong Zhi, Song Yuanqiao, Zhang Wuji, and the rest of them, one by one, offered their last respect. Miejue Shitai was a great hero; although her temperament was peculiar she had always upheld chivalry and justice. Her character was imposing; there was no one in the Wulin world who did not respect her. The Emei disciples cried and wept loudly, the rest of the people were also mournful.

In a loud and clear voice Reverend Kong Wen said, “The dead cannot go back to live. The heroes of Emei must carry on the will Shitai had left behind; hence although Shitai died, she will also live. This time we fell under evil people’s poisonous hands; everybody suffered a great defeat. Even our own Sect’s Kong Xing Shidi [martial (younger) brother] had died under the Tartars’ hands. This debt must be settled, but as how we are going to do this, we need to discuss it further.”

Reverend Kong Zhi said, “Initially the Six Major Sects of the Central Plains and the Ming Cult are enemies to each other; but Zhang Jiaozhu has forgotten this animosity and lent a hand to rescue us. This way the enmity between us is to be forever eradicated. From now on we are of one heart and mind, driving the invaders together.”

Everybody voiced their agreement at once. However, speaking of revenge, each sect’s opinion differed with one another; it was difficult to reach decision. Finally Kong Wen said, “We cannot decide on this matter, let us take a rest for several days, and then separately go back to our places. Someday when we are ready to launch a large attack of vengeance, then we will slowly talk it over.” Everybody nodded their heads in approval.

Zhang Wuji said, “Now that this important matter is done, I have some personal business I have to attend; I need to return to Dadou. Hereby I bid everybody farewell. Later on we will work hand in hand, fighting the Tartars to the death together.”

Everybody raised their voices together, “We will work hand in hand, fighting the Tartars to the death together.” Their shouts shook the sky, the valley reverberated with their cry; and then they send Zhang Wuji off to the mouth of the valley. Zhang Wuji raised his hands in salute and said goodbye.

“Jiaozhu,” Yang Xiao said, “The heroes of the world look up on you; you have to take a really good care of yourself in everything.”

“Xiongdi [brother] will remember that,” Zhang Wuji said. Mounting his horse he galloped to the south.

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