The Heaven Sword and the Dragon Sabre – Chapter 32

Being driven mad by unredresssed Mongol injustice.

Zhang Wuji waited until the crowd of beggars had gone far and not the least bit of noise was to be heard in the temple before he leaped out of the big drum. Zhao Min followed behind him, brushing her clothes while looking at him with an expression that is a mixture of happiness and anger on her face.

“Humph,” Zhang Wuji angrily said, “You still have a face to see me?”

“What?” Zhao Min’s countenance dropped, “When did I offend Zhang Jiaozhu?”

It was as if Zhang Wuji’s face was covered with frost as he shouted angrily, “You wanted to steal that Yitian Sword and Tulong Saber, I won’t blame you! You abandoned me on that desolate island, I still won’t blame you! But Miss Yin was seriously injured, why did you still treat her ruthlessly? A vicious woman like you is truly rare in the world.” Speaking to this point he was unable to restrain his grief and indignation; moving one step forward, he slapped Zhao Min four times left and right.

Being enshrouded by his overwhelming power, how could Zhao Min evade? ‘Slap, slap, slap, slap,’ both of her cheeks were immediately swollen. Zhao Min was hurt and angered, beads of tears rolled down her cheeks. With a choking voice she said, “You said I stole the Yitian Sword and Tulong Saber, who has seen it? Who said I treated Miss Yin ruthlessly? Tell her to come and confront me directly.”

Zhang Wuji was even angrier, “All right!” he shouted, “I’ll send you to the netherworld to confront her directly.” His left hand circled and his right hand hooked across the back of her neck, while he exerted all his strength.

Zhao Min could not breathe, she stretched out her finger to pierce his chest, but her finger felt like a cotton wool, her strength vanished without a trace. In an instant her face turned purple and she passed out.

Remembering Yin Li’s enmity, Zhang Wuji was about to strangle her to death, but looking at her face like that, his heart suddenly softened and he relaxed his grip. Zhao Min fell backward. ‘Boom!’ the back of her head struck the dark green flagstone of the temple’s hall.

It was quite some time later that Zhao Min finally regained her consciousness. She saw Zhang Wuji was staring at her with an anxious look on his face. Seeing her opening her eyes, he let out a relieved breath. Zhao Min asked, “Did you say Miss Yin has passed away?”

Zhang Wuji’s anger flared again, he snapped, “After you slashed her seventeen, eighteen times, she … how could she stay alive?”

With a trembling voice Zhao Min said, “Who … who said I slash her seventeen, eighteen times? It was Miss Zhou, wasn’t it?”

“Miss Zhou will not say anything bad about anybody behind their backs,” Zhang Wuji said, “She is not her relative, she won’t bring a false charge against you.”

“Was it Miss Yin, then?” Zhao Min asked.

Almost shouting Zhang Wuji said, “Miss Yin had already been unable to talk early on. There were only five of us on that desolate island; are you saying that Yifu did it? Or I did it? Or perhaps Miss Yin did it to herself? Humph, I know what’s in your heart, you were afraid I might marry my cousin hence you committed this violent treachery. Let me tell you: I don’t care whether she is dead or alive, I have already considered her my wife.”

Zhao Min hung her head without saying anything. After being silent for half an afternoon, she asked, “How did you return to the Central Plains?”

With a cold laugh Zhang Wuji said, “It was due to your generosity. You sent your navy to pick us up. Fortunately, my Yifu is not gullible and worthless like me; we have seen through your devious scheme. You dispatched some artillery ships to wait for us on the sea to sink our ship. Your plan has failed.”

Zhao Min was gently stroking her red, swollen cheek; she looked at him with a shock, but after a moment her eyes gradually showed pity and affection toward him, and she heaved a long sigh.

Zhang Wuji was afraid his own heart would succumb to her beautiful face and her tempting tender affection; he turned his head around to avoid her eyes, stomped his foot and said, “I have made an oath to avenge Biaomei [female younger cousin]. Just consider me weak and worthless that I am not able to do that today. You committed all kinds of evil and there will come a day you will fall into my hand.” Speaking thus, he walked toward the temple gate in big strides.

He had walked away for about a dozen ‘zhang’s when Zhao Min pursued and called out, “Zhang Wuji, where are you going?”

“What does it have to do with you?” Zhang Wuji replied.

“I want to speak to Xie Daxia [great hero Xie] and Miss Zhou,” Zhao Min said, “Please take me to see them.”

“My Yifu will act without mercy, aren’t you going to deliver your life away?” Zhang Wuji asked.

Zhao Min sneered and said, “Your Yifu may be cruel and merciless, but he is not muddle-headed like you. Besides, if Xie Daxia killed me, your Biaomei’s enmity would be avenged, wouldn’t your wish come true?”

“What do you mean I am muddle-headed?” Zhang Wuji asked, “I only don’t want you to see Yifu.”

Zhao Min smiled and said, “Zhang Wuji, you are muddle-headed. In your heart, you really do not want to lose me; you don’t want Xie Daxia to kill me. Am I right, or am I right?”

As his heart’s deepest secret was revealed, Zhang Wuji could not help but blush. “Don’t talk rubbish!” he snapped, “I let you get away with so many unrighteousness without killing you. It would be best if you stay far away from me, or else I would lose control over myself and kill you personally.”

Zhao Min slowly walked near and said, “I must clear something up with Xie Daxia and Miss Zhou; I do not dare to say anything bad behind anybody’s back, I need to talk clearly with them face to face.”

Zhang Wuji was curious, “About what do you want to talk to them?” he asked.

“Naturally you’ll know it when I see them,” Zhao Min said, “I am not afraid to take my chances; are you afraid?”

Zhang Wuji said rather doubtfully, “It is you who wanted to go, I will not save you if my Yifu do not show mercy on you.”

“You don’t have to worry for me,” Zhao Min said.

“Worry for you?” Zhang Wuji was angry, “Humph! I am looking forward to the day you die.”

Zhao Min laughed and said, “Kill me, then.”

“Pei,” Zhang Wuji spat, ignoring her remark. He quickly walked toward the town. Zhao Min followed him behind.

As they arrived in town, Zhang Wuji halted his steps, turned around and said, “Miss Zhao, I have given you my promise that I will do three things for you. The first was to find the Tulong Saber for you. We can consider this task accomplished. I still owe you two things. If you see my Yifu, you will certainly die. Please leave. Let me handle those two things for you. It won’t be too late to see my Yifu afterwards.

Zhao Min smiled sweetly and said, “I know the real reason you do not want to kill me is because you can’t bear to lose me.”

Zhang Wuji angrily said, “Granted, I don’t have a heart to kill you, so what?”

“I am very happy,” Zhao Min replied, “I’ve always wondered if you love me, but now I know.”

Zhang Wuji sighed and said, “Miss Zhao, I beseech you, please leave now.”

Zhao Min shook her head and said, “I definitely must see Xie Daxia.”

Since she was adamant, Zhang Wuji had no choice but entered the inn and went to Xie Xun’s room. He knocked twice on the door and called out, “Yifu!” while he positioned himself in front of Zhao Min.

He called out twice without receiving any answer from inside the room. Zhang Wuji tried to push the door open, but it was actually locked. He felt strange; his Yifu possessed a very keen pair of ears, as soon as he arrived at the door, his Yifu would most certainly be awakened. If he was somewhere else, why was the door bolted from the inside? He pushed the door exerting a little bit more force and ‘crack!’ the latch broke. The door swung wide open but Xie Xun was not inside. He saw that one of the window panes was half open; he thought his Yifu must have left from the window.

He went to Zhou Zhiruo’s room and called out, “Zhiruo!” two times without receiving any answer. Pushing the door open, he also did not see Zhou Zhiruo inside, but her clothes were folded neatly on the ‘kang’ [heatable brick bed of northern China].

Zhang Wuji was alarmed, “Could it be that they met some enemies?” he mused. He called the innkeeper to inquire, but the innkeeper said he did not see those two people go out, he also did not hear any noise which would suggest there was some dispute or even fighting.

Zhang Wuji was somewhat relieved; he thought, “Most likely they heard some suspicious noise and went out to track down the enemy.” He also thought that although Xie Xun’s eyes were blind, his martial art skill was strong; it was a rarity to find someone who could be his match in the present age. Besides, he had the cautious and prudent Zhou Zhiruo as his company, so it was unlikely for them to meet any mishap. Leaping out from Xie Xun’s window, he looked to all directions without seeing anything unusual, thereupon he returned to the room.

Zhao Min said, “Why do you look relieved to see that Xie Daxia is not here?”

“Still talking nonsense,” Zhang Wuji said, “When did I look relieved?”

Zhao Min smiled, “Can’t I see it on your face?” she said, “As you open the door, you were tense, but now the skin on your face is relaxed.”

Ignoring her, Zhang Wuji leaned against the ‘kang’. With a chuckle Zhao Min sat on a chair and said, “I know you were afraid Xie Daxia might kill me, luckily he is not here so you are saved from a difficult situation. I know you really cannot bear to lose me.”

“What if I really cannot bear to lose you?” Zhang Wuji angrily said.

“I am very happy,” Zhao Min replied.

Zhang Wuji bitterly said, “Then why are you repeatedly trying to harm me? Can you bear to lose me?”

Suddenly Zhao Min blushed, “You are right,” she said quietly, “Previously I was determined to kill you, but after the Green Willow Manor incident, if I ever have the intention to harm you, let the Heaven punish and the Earth destroy me, Minmin Timur. After I die, let me perish forever in the eighteenth level of hell, never to be reincarnated for tens of thousands of years.”

Listening to her speaking very seriously, Zhang Wuji interrupted, “Then why did you abandon me on that deserted island for the sake of a sword and a saber?”

“Since you said so, I can’t dispute it even if I have a hundred mouths,” Zhao Min said, “Let us wait for Xie Daxia and Miss Zhou to come back, so that the four of us can sort things out clearly.”

Zhang Wuji said, “Your mouth is full of sweet but insincere words. You have deceived me one person, must you also deceive my Yifu and Miss Zhou?”

Zhao Min laughed and said, “Why are you resigned on being deceived by me? Because in your heart you like me, do you not?”

“What if I do?” Zhang Wuji vehemently said.

“I am very happy,” Zhao Min replied.

Zhang Wuji saw her talking and laughing as sweet as a flower, moving the hearts of those who watch her. Noticing that her cheeks were still red and swollen from his four heavy slaps earlier, he could not restrain from feeling regret and pity; therefore, he turned his head around to avoid looking at her.

Zhao Min said, “We were delayed in the temple for half a day, I am starving.” She called for the innkeeper. Producing a small ingot of gold, she told him to quickly prepare a set of the highest quality dish and wine. The innkeeper repeatedly obeyed, and in an instant he had some fruits and light appetizers delivered to their room, followed by the wine and the main course.

Zhang Wuji said, “Let’s wait for Yifu to come back, then we’ll eat together.”

“My life might be gone as soon as Xia Daxia is back,” Zhao Min said, “I’d rather be a ghost with a full stomach.” Zhang Wuji noticed that although she said such a thing, her manner and her face showed confidence. Zhao Min continued, “I still have plenty of gold here, we can always tell the innkeeper to prepare another set of banquet.”

Zhang Wuji coldly said, “I do not dare to eat and drink together with you. Who knows when you are going to apply the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’.”

Zhao Min’s face sank as she heard that, “You don’t want to eat, then don’t eat,” she said, “Otherwise you will be killed by my poison.” Without waiting for an answer, she started to eat.

Zhang Wuji called for the kitchen to deliver some flatbread, and then staying as far as possible from her, he sat on the ‘kang’ to gobble his food.

There was a very sumptuous dish of broiled lamb and roasted chicken, fried beef and chopped fish, on Zhao Min’s table. She ate for a while before tears starting to drip on her rice bowl. She managed to control herself and ate some more before she finally put the chopsticks down and she dropped her head on the table, sobbing.

After crying for half a day, she wiped off her tears, apparently she felt better. Looking out the window, she said to herself, “It will be dark in a couple of hours. I wonder how that Han Lin’er is. Once we lost his track, it would not be easy to rescue him.”

Zhang Wuji’s heart turned cold. “That’s right,” he said while standing up, “I need to rescue Han Xiongdi first, and then I’ll come back.”

“Shameless,” Zhao Min said, “Nobody speaks to you, who wants you to interfere?”

Seeing her angry at one time and bashful at another, happy at one time and anxious at another, Zhang Wuji could not help to feel both hatred and affection toward her at the same time; truly he did not know how to deal with her. Hastily he finished the half flatbread in his hand in three mouthfuls, and then went out the door.

“I’ll go with you,” Zhao Min said.

“I don’t want to take you,” Zhang Wuji replied.

“Why?” Zhao Min asked.

“You are the murderer of my Biaomei,” Zhang Wuji replied, “How can I be together with an enemy?”

“All right,” Zhao Min said, “Go alone, then!”

Zhang Wuji went out the door, but suddenly he turned around and asked, “What are you doing here?”

“I am going to wait for your Yifu to come back,” Zhao Min said, “I’ll tell him that you are going out to rescue Han Lin’er.”

“My Yifu hates evil people as if they are his personal enemy,” Zhang Wuji said, “How can he spare your life?”

Zhao Min heaved a deep sigh. “Then that is my cruel fate,” she said, “What can I do?”

Zhang Wuji hesitated for a moment before saying, “You’d better avoid him for now, we’ll talk when I come back.”

Zhao Min shook her head, “I don’t have any good hiding place.”

“Very well!” Zhang Wuji said, “We’ll go save Han Lin’er together, and come back here to face him together.”

Zhao Min laughed and said, “This time it is you who wants me to accompany you; definitely it is not me who clings for dear life to you and insists on going out with you.”

“You are my black star,” Zhang Wuji said, “Just consider it my bad luck to come across you.”

Zhao Min gave him one of her captivating smiles, “Wait here for a moment,” she said, as she slipped out the door.

Quite some time later, Zhao Min opened the door, now wearing woman’s clothing, with mink fur coat and scarlet embroidered garment inside; she looked extremely stunning. Zhang Wuji did not expect she would bring such exquisite and expensive clothing inside her bundle; he thought, “This woman is very shrewd, her actions are beyond anybody’s expectations.”

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Zhao Min asked, “Do these clothes look nice?”

“Face like a peach blossom, heart like a viper,” Zhang Wuji said.

Zhao Min burst out in laughter and said, “Many thanks for Zhang Da Jiaozhu’s [great cult leader] highest compliment. Zhang Jiaozhu, why don’t you change into some nice clothing?”

Zhang Wuji sounded hurt, “I have always been wearing tattered clothes since I was little. If you don’t like my ragged attire, you are free not to travel with me.”

“Don’t be overly sensitive,” Zhao Min said, “I only want to see how you look wearing some nice clothes. Wait here, I am going out to buy some clothes. Those beggars must have entered the great wall anyway, with our speed, I am not afraid we cannot overtake them.” Without waiting for his answer, she slipped out the door again.

Zhang Wuji sat on the ‘kang’, while secretly scolding himself for not able to stand firm and letting this girl play with him on her palms. “Obviously, she was my Biaomei’s murderer, yet I talked and laughed with her. Zhang Wuji, oh, Zhang Wuji, what kind of man are you? How can you have a face to be the Ming Cult Jiaozhu, in command over all those warriors?”

He waited for a long time and Zhao Min had not returned, the sky gradually turned dark. “Why do I have to wait for her?” he thought, “I’d better go alone to rescue Han Lin’er.” But as soon as he had that thought, he remembered something else. What if she returned, bringing all those clothing, and bump into Xie Xun? What if with one slap Xie Xun strikes the top of her head, bursting her skull open and scattering her brains, and she died a violent death? He saw it in his mind clothes and shoes scattered around the room. Thinking about this possibility, he broke into a cold sweat.

He sat down, and stood up, sat down, and stood back up, while letting his imagination run wild, until at last he heard dainty footsteps and delicate fragrance assaulting his nostrils as Zhao Min entered the room with two large packages on her hands.

“What took you so long?” Zhang Wuji said, “No need to change, let us go pursue the enemy!”

Zhao Min smiled and said, “You have waited this long, what harm does it have to wait a little bit longer just to change you clothes? I have also bought a pair of horses, so we can pursue all night long.” While saying that she untied the packages and produced clothes, shoes and socks. “This is such a small town,” she said, “There is nothing nice to buy. You’ll have to make do with it. Wait till we get back to Dadou [grand capital, modern day Beijing], we’ll buy mink fur coat and some nice clothing.”

Zhang Wuji’s heart turned cold, “Miss Zhao,” he grimly said, “If you think I am after riches and honor by submitting to the royal government, you’d better give up that idea now. I, Zhang Wuji, am a descendant of Han people, even if conferred the title of prince, there is no way that I would surrender to the Mongols.”

Zhao Min sighed and said, “Zhang Da Jiaozhu, look closely, is this Mongolian clothing, or Han clothing?” While saying that she lifted up a set of gray leather-lined garment. As he saw that she had bought Han people’s attire, Zhang Wuji nodded his head. Zhao Min turned around and said, “Look carefully, am I wearing a Mongolian Princess’ attire, or a common Han woman clothing?”

Zhang Wuji’s heart was thumping madly, previously he only noticed that her clothes was exquisite and expensive, he did not pay attention whether it was Mongolian or Han clothing. Now that she mentioned it, he realized that she was dressed up as a Han girl. He saw her cheeks were blushing, while her eyes were moist. Suddenly he understood her heart clearly. “You … you …” he stammered.

In a low voice Zhao Min said, “Now that I know you don’t want to lose me, I don’t care about anything else. I don’t care about Mongol or Han. You are a Han, I am also a Han. You are a Mongol, I am also a Mongol. In your mind you are always thinking about important matters such as army and country, the difference between Chinese and barbarians, and about their rise and fall, their influence and military prowess. Wuji Gege [big brother Wuji, term of endearment], in my heart I only have one thing: you. I don’t care whether you are a good man or a scoundrel [lit. bad egg], to me it doesn’t make any difference.” [Translator’s note: before I offend anybody, the dictionary gives the character ‘yi’ a definition of ‘non-Han people, especially to the east of China, or barbarians.’]

Zhang Wuji was touched listening to her expressing her infinitely tender feeling, he was dizzy with confusing thoughts and was dumbfounded for a long time before he finally able to speak, “Did you kill my Biaomei because you were afraid I was going to take her as my wife?”

Zhao Min said, nearly shouting, “I did not kill Miss Yin. You believe me, fine. You don’t believe me, fine. I am telling you the truth.”

Zhang Wuji sighed. “Miss Zhao,” he said, “You love me this much; I am not a piece of wood nor am I a stone, how can I not appreciate it? But why is it that to this very day you are lying to me still?”

Zhao Min said, “I used to think that being intelligent and shrewd, I would gain an upper hand on everything; who would have thought that the things of the world are difficult to predict? Wuji Gege, let us not go out today, you wait for Xie Daxia here, I wait for Miss Zhou in her room.”

“Why?” Zhang Wuji wondered.

“Don’t ask me why,” Zhao Min replied, “You don’t have to worry over Han Lin’er, I assure you that we will rescue him alive.” Finished speaking, she whisked out the door, walking toward Zhou Zhiruo’s room, and closed the door.

Zhang Wuji did not immediately understand what she was saying. He sat on the ‘kang’, pondered deeply. Suddenly he a thought came into his mind “Is it possible that she found out that Zhou Zhiruo and I are engaged, and thus feeling that harming my Biaomei one person is not enough, is she thinking to harm Zhou Zhiruo as well? Could it be that after leaving the Mi Le Fo Temple, the Xuanming Elders came to this inn to deal with Yifu and Zhiruo?”

Once he remembered Xuanming Elders, he was panic-stricken. Lu Zhangke and He Biweng were very strong martial art-wise, even if Xie Xun’s eyes were not blind, he might not necessarily be able to fight them one against two. He leaped up and briskly walked toward Zhao Min’s door. “Miss Zhao,” he called out, “Where did your subordinates, the Xuanming Er Lao, go?”

From behind the door Zhao Min replied, “Most likely they thought I managed to escape and withdraw inside the Wall, so they pursue to the south.”

“Are you telling me the truth?” Zhang Wuji asked.

With a cold laugh Zhao Min said, “Why do you ask? Since you don’t believe what I say…”

Zhang Wuji was at a loss for words; he stared blankly at the door. Zhao Min said, “Supposing that I told you I sent the Xuanming Er Lao to this inn to kill Xie Daxia and your beloved Miss Zhou, would you believe me?”

Her last words had touched the most sensitive spot on Zhang Wuji’s mind; immediately his foot flew up to kick the door open. With the veins on his forehead bulging out and a trembling voice he shouted, “You … you …”

Seeing him like that, Zhao Min was scared; she regretted having said such things. “I was just scaring you,” she hastily said, “There is no such thing. You must not take it seriously.”

Staring hard at her, Zhang Wuji slowly said, “You are not afraid of coming to this inn to see my Yifu. You kept saying that you want to confront them directly. Could it be that it was because you knew they are no longer alive?” While saying that, he moved two steps forward until he was less than three feet away from her. He raised his palm high, ready to strike her to her death.

Looking directly into his eyes, Zhao Min gravely said, “Zhang Wuji, let me tell you this: in the matters on this earth, you cannot rashly believe what other says unless you witness it with your own eyes. Furthermore, you cannot let your own imagination run wild. You want to kill me, fine, just do it. But what if your Yifu comes back? How would you feel then?”

Listening to her reprimand, Zhang Wuji was somewhat ashamed; he said, “As long as my Yifu is safe and sound, I’ll consider myself very fortunate. You must not joke about my Yifu’s safety and well-being.”

Zhao Min nodded. “I shouldn’t say those things, I only have myself to blame; you should not feel bad.”

Hearing her admitting her own mistake, Zhang Wuji’s heart softened. Smiling slightly he said, “I was too rude and rash, and thus offended you.” Finished speaking he returned to Xie Xun’s room.

He waited all night, but until dawn neither Xie Xun nor Zhou Zhiruo came back. Zhang Wuji was even more anxious. He took a quick breakfast then had a discussion with Zhao Min about where they would go next. Zhao Min creased her eyebrows and said, “This is really strange. I think we’d better try to overtake Shi Huolong and his company, and think of a way to eavesdrop.”

Zhang Wuji nodded. “Let’s do it.” Immediately they settled their room bills, and left a message with the innkeeper that if Xie Xun and Zhou Zhiruo return, they were to wait in that inn. The inn helper led a pair of red steeds from the stable.

Zhang Wuji saw that the steeds’ hides were smooth and shiny, with long slender legs and strong bodies, the signs of top quality horses. He could not restrain from clucking his tongue in admiration, thinking that these horses must belong to the people under her command who were trailing the Beggar Clan to this place. She must have fetched them when she went out to buy some clothes the previous day. Zhao Min showed a faint smile as she mounted the horse.

Two riders galloped side by side heading south. To the onlookers, their horses looked like dragons, the two riders, a man and a woman, were wearing exquisite and expensive-looking clothes, their appearances smart and beautiful, they must be a young couple from a rich, high-ranking government official’s family who were out travelling.

That day they galloped for more than two hundred ‘li’s [1 li is approximately 0.5 km], and after spending the night en route, they continued their journey at daybreak the next morning. By midday, they felt the north wind was blowing stronger on their backs, with overcast clouds seemingly hanging over close to their heads. After twenty more ‘li’s, big, goose down-like snowflakes started to fall. Along the way, Zhang Wuji did say almost nothing to Zhao Min. Seeing that the snow was getting heavier, he still did not utter a single word from his place in the front. That day, they were actually riding through a remote mountainous path. By nightfall the snow had reached over a foot deep, although their mounts were divine steeds, they could not go further. Zhang Wuji realized the sky was getting darker and darker. He stood on the saddle and looked around, but did not see a single building; he was indecisive.

“Miss Zhao,” he said, “What do you think? I am afraid our horses won’t be able to take it anymore if we hurry along.”

With a cold laugh Zhao Min said, “You only know the horses won’t be able to take it anymore, but you don’t care whether the people will live or die.”

Zhang Wuji was regretful; he thought, “I have Jiu Yang Shen Gong [divine energy from the Nine Yang Manual] in my body, I don’t feel weary or cold. In my eagerness to save people, I am being inconsiderate towards her.”

Traveling a little bit more, he suddenly heard a cracking noise, a roebuck fled from their left, running toward the mountain. “I’ll catch it for our dinner,” Zhang Wuji said.

Leaping down from his saddle, he followed the roebuck trail on the snow, chasing it straight down the mountain. After circling a small hill, under the dim evening fog he saw that roebuck was running straight into a cave. Exerting his strength, he flew like an arrow toward the roebuck, and caught it by the back of its neck before it entered the cave. The roebuck turned its head around trying to bite Zhang Wuji’s wrist. Zhang Wuji exerted all his strength to his fingers and ‘crack’ he snapped the roebuck’s neck.

He noticed that although the cave was not too big, it could easily give shelter to the two of them for the night. Carrying the roebuck, he returned to Zhao Min and said, “There is a cave over on that side, let us spend the night here. What do you think?”

Zhao Min nodded, but suddenly she blushed. Raising the reins, she steered the horse toward the cave.

Zhang Wuji led the horses towards the slope and tied them underneath two big pine trees, to protect them from the snow, and then he looked for some dried branches to build a fire on the cave entrance. The cave was clean, with no trace of filthy animal excrement inside. Looking toward the inside, all he could see was impenetrable darkness. Thereupon he skinned the roebuck, washed it with snow, and roasted it on the fire.

Zhao Min took her mink fur coat and spread it on the ground. Under the blazing fire, the cave was as warm as springtime. Zhang Wuji happened to turn his head around. Under the flickering fire light, he saw her pretty face was even more stunning. They looked at each other and smiled; it was as if the hunger and cold of the day melted in that one smile.

When the roebuck was done, each of them ripped the hind leg and ate. Zhang Wuji heaped more firewood to the fire. Leaning against the wall of the cave he said, “Why don’t you sleep?” Zhao Min smiled sweetly. Leaning against the opposite wall, she closed her eyes. Zhang Wuji’s nose caught an intermittent whiff of fragrance coming from her body. He saw her cheeks were rosy, and he felt a strong urge to kiss her, but he held back the thought and closed his eyes to sleep.

They slept until midnight when suddenly they heard hoof beats from a distance. Zhang Wuji woke up with a start. Cocking his ears he could hear four horses coming from the south running to the north. The snow was still falling heavily outside the cave. He thought, “In the middle of the night, under a heavy snowfall, rushing along braving cold weather, they must have an extremely urgent matter to attend.”

The sound hoof beats suddenly stopped as they came near to their place. A moment later the hoof beats started again, surprisingly, the sound turned toward their cave. Zhang Wuji was alarmed, “This cave is remotely located on the back of the mountain, if I did not chase that roebuck, I would not have found this place. How can they find their way over here?” But immediately he realized, “That’s right, we left our tracks on the snow. The tracks must still be visible although it has been snowing heavily for half a night.”

By now Zhao Min was awake; in a low voice she said, “Perhaps some enemy are coming. Let us hide and see what kind of people they are.” As she was saying that, she grabbed some snow outside the cave and quenched out the fire with it.

By that time the sound of hoof beats ceased, but they heard four people walking on the snow toward the cave. In a short while they have came within a dozen ‘zhang’s away [1 zhang is approximately 10 ft or 3.3 meters] from the cave mouth.

In a low voice Zhang Wuji said, “These four people’s movement is very agile, they must be very high skilled martial art masters.” If they went out to cave to seek hiding place, they would definitely be detected by these four people. Without argument Zhao Min pulled his hand to enter further into the cave.

The deeper they went, the narrower the cave became, but surprisingly the cave was very deep. About a ‘zhang’ later there was a bend on the passageway. Suddenly they heard one of the people outside say, “There is a cave here.”

The voice sounded very familiar to Zhang Wuji, since it belonged to his Si Shishu [fourth martial (younger) uncle] Zhang Songxi. While he was pleasantly surprised, the other man said, “The hoof prints and footprints are indeed heading towards this cave.” It was Yin Liting.

Zhang Wuji was about to call when Zhao Min reached out to cover his mouth. She whispered in his ear, “It would be very awkward if they saw you and I in this cave together.”

Zhang Wuji realized she was right; Zhao Min and he did not do anything shameful, but if the various martial uncles saw a young man and young woman pair sleeping together in a cave, how could they explain? Moreover, Zhao Min was a Mongolian princess who had held Zhang Songxi, Yin Liting, and the others captive at the Wan An Temple, where they were disgraced. It would be extremely awkward if the enemies meet here. He thought, “I’ll wait until Zhang Sishu [fourth (younger) uncle Zhang, Yin Liushu [sixth (younger) uncle Yin] and the others leave the cave, and then I’ll appear alone and meet them; and thus avoiding this awkward situation.”

He heard Yu Lianzhou’s voice saying, “Uh! There is a remnant of some firewood in here. Hmm, and some blood-soaked roebuck skin too.”

Another voice responded, “My heart has always been disturbed. I hope nothing bad happened to Qidi [seventh (younger) brother].” It was Song Yuanqiao’s voice.

Learning that his four martial uncles, Song, Yu, Zhang and Yin, were going out at together to find Mo Shenggu, and hearing from the tone of their voices, Zhang Wuji deduced that his Qi Shishu [seventh martial (younger) uncle] must have met some powerful enemy; he was somewhat anxious.

He heard Zhang Songxi laugh and say, “Da Shige [first martial (older) brother] always takes a good care of Qidi, just like when he was the inexperienced, teenage martial brother; while in fact, for the past few years Mo Qixia [seventh hero Mo] has earned an awe-inspiring fame for his fighting prowess. He has early on surpassed his own former prestige. Even if he met a powerful enemy, Qidi alone would not necessarily be unable to deal with it.”

Yin Liting said, “I do not worry over Qidi as much as I worry over that child Wuji. His whereabouts is unknown. Currently, he is the Ming Cult Jiaozhu. A tall tree invites strong wind. A lot of people want to deal with him. Although his martial art skill is high, he is too naïve, he does not understand the sinister crisis of the Jianghu. I am afraid he might fall into some villain’s wicked scheme.”

Zhang Wuji was touched, thinking that his martial uncles’ kindness to him was very deep; they kept thinking about his safety all the times. Zhao Min put her mouth on his ear and whispered, “I am a villain and at this moment you have fallen into my wicked scheme. Do you know it?”

He heard Song Yuanqiao say, “Qidi is heading north to look for Wuji. Apparently, he has picked up some scents on his whereabouts. Only, the eight-character message he left in a hurry in that Tianjin’s inn is confusing.”

Zhang Songxi said, “’A change in our Sect, needs to be taken care of urgently’. [men2 hu4 you3 bian4, ji2 xu1 qing1 li3 – eight characters] Could it be that there is a scum in our community? Could it be that that child Wuji …” Speaking to this point, he suddenly stopped. His voice was filled with deep anxiety.

Yin Liting said, “This child Wuji is not the kind who would corrupt his own Sect, I am sure of that.”

“I am afraid that little witch Zhao Min is too treacherous for him,” Zhang Songxi said, “Wuji is still too young and hot-blooded; he might be seduced by a pretty face like his father, who in the end brought ruin and shame upon himself …”

Four men no longer talked; they all sighed deeply. A moment later, Zhang Wuji heard the sound of flint as they lighted the wood to build a fire and cook their meals.

The fire light reached the back of the cave. Although they were hidden behind the bend, Zhang Wuji was still able to see Zhao Min’s face vaguely. Her expression showed resentment and anger; he thought Zhang Songxi’s words earlier must have angered her very much. Zhang Wuji understood her resentment, yet he was also startled, “What Zhang Sishu said is reasonable. My mother did not do anything evil, yet my father was implicated by her actions. This Miss Zhao has killed my Biaomei, disgraced my Tai Shifu [grand master] and my numerous martial uncles. But how can she be compared to my Mama?” Thinking to this point, his heart was thumping madly, he thought, “If they find out Miss Zhao and I are in here, the entire water of the Yellow River would not wash me clean.”

He heard Song Yuanqiao speak with a trembling voice, “Sidi [fourth brother], there is suspicion in my heart, but I feel uncomfortable to say it out loud. I am afraid I am offending our own deceased Wudi [fifth (younger) brother].”

Zhang Songxi slowly said, “Is Dage [first brother] afraid that Wuji might suddenly harm Qidi?”

Song Yuanqiao did not answer, but although Zhang Wuji could not see him, he thought that Song Yuanqiao must have nodded his head slowly.

He heard Zhang Songxi continue, “This child Wuji is honest and generous. Reasonably speaking, that is very unlikely. I only worry that Qidi is hot-tempered and acts rudely. He might force Wuji and put him into a difficult position. Add to the fact that little witch Zhao Min is very crafty, she might incite those two against each other. If that happens, then … then … Ay, a man’s heart is unfathomable, the matters of this world are difficult to predict. Till from the ancient times, it is difficult for a hero to resist a beautiful face. I only hope Wuji will be able to control his emotions well when facing important matters.”

“Dage, Sige,” Yin Liting said, “You are talking empty talk, isn’t that a groundless fear? [lit. 杞人忧天 – the man of Qi fears the sky falling] Qidi might not necessarily face a grave danger.”

“But after seeing the sword Qidi used to carry, I cannot help but feel fearful and apprehensive; I can’t eat and sleep in peace,” Song Yuanqiao said.

“This matter is very unclear,” Yu Lianzhou said, “For people like us, martial arts practitioners, we can’t casually leave our weapon anywhere. Let alone this sword was given by Shifu. The sword exists the person exists, the sword perished, the person …” Speaking to this word ‘person’, he suddenly stopped; he could not endure to say the word ‘perishes’.

Hearing that Mo Shenggu abandoned the sword given by his master and that his four martial uncles suspected he had something to do with it, Zhang Wuji was very concerned, but he was also angry.

A moment later, he faintly smelled a whiff of aroma coming from inside the cave, mixed with the smell of wild beast. Apparently, the cave was very deep and either at that moment there was a wild beast hiding inside, or the cave was actually some wild beasts’ den. He was afraid that Song Yuanqiao and the others might also smell the aroma and investigate and then he would be found out. Without daring to open his mouth, he pulled Zhao Min’s hand, quietly taking her deeper into the cave. He stretched out his left hand forward to guard against bumping into some protruding rocks.

They only walked for three steps when they rounded another turn. Suddenly Zhang Wuji’s left hand bumped into something soft and smooth; it felt like a human body. He was shocked, as if a lightning stroke him, “It doesn’t matter whether this person is a friend or foe, as soon as he makes the slightest noise, Da Shibo [first martial (older) uncle] and the others will know we are here.”

Immediately his left hand moved downward to press the five vital acupoints on that person’s chest and abdomen, followed by a grab towards that person’s wrist. To his surprise, Zhang Wuji felt as if he was touching an ice-cold object. It turned out that person had given up his breath for a long time. Under the very dim light from outside, he focused his eyes to look at that man’s face and vaguely recognized this lifeless body as his Qi Shishu [seventh martial uncle] Mo Shenggu. In his shock, without thinking whether Song Yuanqiao and the others might hear him, he carried the corpse several steps toward the mouth of the cave. Under the brighter fire light, he could see clearly that it was indeed Mo Shenggu. He saw that Mo Shenggu’s face was bloodless and his eyes had not been closed yet, as if he was afraid of what he saw before death. Zhang Wuji was shocked and grieved, and stared blankly for a moment.

As he was walking, Song Yuanqiao and the others heard the noise. “There is someone inside!” Yu Lianzhou shouted. Cold rays flashed as the Four Heroes of Wudang unsheathed their swords at the same instant.

Zhang Wuji groaned inwardly. “I am carrying Mo Qishu’s [seventh uncle Mo] body while hiding in here. I cannot escape the accusation of being his murderer in any way.” Recalling how Mo Shenggu had always treated him lovingly, and now he had lost his life in such a miserable state, Zhang Wuji’s mind was extremely sorrowful. Within that short period of time, 1,100 thoughts flashed in his mind; he actually did not give any thought on how he was going to defend himself against Song Yuanqiao and the others.

Zhao Min was able to think a lot quicker than Zhang Wuji; brandishing her sword she dashed out toward the exit. ‘Swish, swish, swish, swish!’ four times, she executed Emei Pai’s staking-it-all sword stances toward the Four Heroes of Wudang. While the Four Heroes raised their swords to parry, Zhao Min had already broken through the cave entrance, and leaped on one of the horses the Four Heroes rode. As Song Yuanqiao’s sword arrived, she blocked it backhandedly while giving the horse’s stomach a good kick. The horse neighed in pain and galloped away.

While Zhao Min was still basking in her successful attempt to escape, suddenly she felt so much pain on her back that she saw stars and was not able to breathe, as Yu Lianzhou flew and struck his palm down. She heard the Four Heroes of Wudang utilizing their qing-gong [lightness kungfu] to pursue. She thought, “If I can escape farther, he’ll have time to get away from the cave. Otherwise, how can we wash away this undeserving injustice? Luckily all these four people are pursuing me, they do not think that there is someone else in the cave.” Yet she felt the pain on her chest was unbearable. Stretching the sword behind, she pricked the horse’ butt; the horse let out a long neigh and ran even faster.

At first Zhang Wuji was startled to see Zhao Min break through, and then he realized she was luring the tiger out of the mountain to give him a chance to escape. Thereupon he hurriedly went out the cave carrying Mo Shenggu’s body. He heard Zhao Min and the Four Heroes of Wudang were heading east; thus he ran to the west.

After running for about two ‘li’s, he hid the body behind a large rock, before returning to the main road, and then jumped to the top of a big tree. His heart was still beating madly even after a long time. He thought about Mo Shenggu’s tragic death and could not restrain his tears from flowing down his cheeks.

“Our Wudang Pai has never experienced a disaster like this,” he thought, “I wonder who might have killed Qi Shishu? The ribs on his back are broken, obviously he was killed by a palm strength.”

About an hour later, he heard three horses coming from the east. By the light reflected from the snow, he could see Song Yuanqiao and Yu Lianzhou each riding a horse, while Yin Liting and Zhang Songxi shared a mount. He heard Yu Lianzhou said, “This witch has eaten my palm. Both the rider and the horse fell into a ravine, I don’t think they are going to live.”

“Only today can we pay back the disgrace of the imprisonment at the Wan An Temple,” Zhang Songxi said, “To think that she was unexpectedly hiding in that cave, human affairs are like a fantasy, totally beyond anybody’s guess.”

“Sige [fourth brother],” Yin Liting said, “What do you think she was doing, sneakily being alone in that cave?”

“That is hard to guess,” Zhang Songxi said, “Killing that witch is nothing; we will be really happy if we can find Qidi.”

Four people went farther and farther away, until their voices could not be heard anymore. Zhang Wuji waited until Song Yuanqiao and the others went far before he hastily jumped down the tree and rushed to the east, following the horse hoof prints on the snow. All along, his anxiety was unbearable, he thought, “Although she is crafty, this time she was risking her life to save me. If because of this she met her fate, I … I …” He ran faster and faster that in a short moment he had covered four, five ‘li’s until he finally reached the edge of a cliff.

He saw blotches of dark red blood on the snowy ground, with random footprints all around him. There was a large indentation, where a large rock was perched by the edge of the cliff. It seemed like when she reached this place, in her confusion Zhao Min could not see the way, and thus both she and her horse had fallen together into the ravine below.

“Miss Zhao, Miss Zhao!” Zhang Wuji called out. He repeated his call four, five times, but there was no answer. He was even more anxious. Looking down from the edge of the cliff, he saw a deep ravine, but in the dark of the night, he could not see the bottom. The cliff wall was very steep; there was no place for him to set his feet on.

Taking a deep breath, he stepped over the edge with his face against the cliff wall, and then slid down. After sliding about three, four ‘zhang’s, he slipped even faster. Immediately he exerted his strength on his ten fingers, trying to grab the snowy cliff wall, and thus he manages to slow down before coasting down again.

By doing this five, six times, finally he reached the bottom of the ravine. He felt his feet were landing on a soft object. Hastily he leaped sideways. Turned out he was stepping on the horse’s belly. He saw Zhao Min was still seated on the saddle, with her hands tightly grabbed the horse’s neck. Zhang Wuji reached out to feel her breath, and to his relief he felt a slight breathing, but she was unconscious.

The bottom of the ravine was dark, the winter snow had not yet melted, and the accumulation of snow actually reached his waist. He presumed since Zhao Min was seated on the saddle, the horse took the full brunt of the falling momentum and died from the impact, but Zhao Min’s live was saved, she only fainted. Zhang Wuji checked her pulse and found out that although she was heavily injured, her life was not in danger. Thereupon he embraced her in his bosom with their four palms holding each other, and he transmitted his internal energy to treat her internal injury.

Since the injury Zhao Min received was from his own Wudang Sect, treating it was not too difficult. In less than an hour she slowly squirmed and regained her consciousness. Zhang Wuji kept sending out the Jiu Yang energy steadily into her system.

In more than an hour later, the sky gradually brightened. ‘Wah!’ Zhao Min vomited a mouthful of blood. “Are they gone?” she said in a weak voice, “Did they see you?”

Zhang Wuji was very appreciative and grateful that her main concern was whether he could escape the undeserved accusation. “They did not see me,” he said, “You … you have suffered a lot.” His mouth was speaking, but the stream of energy flowing out did not stop.

Zhao Min closed her eyes. Although her limbs were void of any strength, her chest and abdomen felt very warm and comfortable. After the Jiu Yang energy circled her system several times, she turned her head and smiled. “Take a rest, I feel much better,” she said.

Zhang Wuji’a arms encircled her waist and pressed his right cheek to her left cheek. “You have saved my reputation,” he said, “That is more important than saving my life ten times.”

Zhao Min giggled and said, “I am a treacherous, evil little witch. To me, reputation is nothing; life is more important.”

Right at that moment, they suddenly heard an angry voice from above the cliff, loud and clear, “Damn witch! So you have not died yet. How did you kill Mo Qixia [seventh hero Mo]? Quickly admit it!” It was Yu Lianzhou’s voice.

Zhang Wuji was very shocked; he did not expect his four martial uncles would return. Zhao Min said, “Turn your head around, don’t let them see your face.”

“Thief witch!” Zhang Songxi shouted, “If you don’t answer, we’ll smash you with big rocks!”

Zhao Min looked up and saw Song Yuanqiao and the others, four people, were all holding a big rock in their hands. They only need ready to throw the rocks down, and Zhang Wuji’s and her own lives would be difficult to protect. She whispered into Zhang Wuji’s ear, “Tear off your leather coat, cover your face, and carry me out of here.”

Following her instruction, Zhang Wuji tore off a piece of his leather coat and covered his face by tying a knot behind his head; he also pushed down his fur hat on his forehead, until only his pair of eyes was exposed.

The Four Heroes of Wudang had been successful in chasing Zhao Min and forcing her to fall into the ravine, but these four men were veterans of the Jianghu; they were vastly experienced and well-informed. They knew with her honorable position as a princess, she would not wander alone without any bodyguard. Four people pretended they went far away on horsebacks, but after several ‘li’s, they tied the horses on a tree by the roadside, and then quietly came back. They returned to the cave first and lighted some torches to explore the inside. They saw the carcasses of two ‘fragrant deer’ [香獐, xiang1 zhang1 – I don’t know what kind of animal this is], which were covered with blood after being bitten by some wild beast, the fragrance from their bodies was still lingering in the air. Four people continued exploring around the cave, and finally found Zhang Wuji’s tracks. They followed the tracks and found Mo Shenggu’s body, but saw his hands and feet were badly bitten by some wild animals. The Four Heroes’ grief and indignation was indescribable; Yin Liting broke out in crying.

Wiping the tears from his eyes, Yu Lianzhou said, “This witch Zhao Min’s martial art is not weak, but she could not possibly kill Qidi based on her skill alone. Liu Di [sixth (younger) brother), don’t be too sad. We will look for all the murderers, and kill them one by one to avenge Qidi’s life.”

Zhang Songxi said, “Let us wait in hiding around the cave. Come daybreak, that witch’s subordinates might come here looking for her.” His thought was usually full of wisdom and strategy, Song Yuanqiao and the others had always listened to his counsel; therefore, suppressing their sadness, they looked for large rocks on either side of the cave and went hiding.

When dawn came and they still did not see anybody looking for Zhao Min, the Four Heroes returned to the cliff where Zhao Min fell to take a look. They faintly heard voices from down below, and when they looked down, they saw a man in brocade clothes was holding Zhao Min in his arms; turned out this witch had not died yet. The Four Heroes wanted to find out the cause of Mo Shenggu’s death, hence they did not want to kill these two with the rocks.

This snow covered ravine was shaped like a deep well, with steep cliff all around it. The only way out was a narrow crevice on the northwest corner. Zhang Songxi shouted, “Yuan dogs! Hurry up and climb from that crevice. If you tarry, we’ll throw the rocks down.”

Zhang Wuji realized his Si Shibo [fourth martial (older) uncle] did not recognize him and thought he was a Mongolian, which was not surprising, considering he was wearing a fancy-looking clothes, also because he was with Zhao Min. But looking around, he did not see any place he could hide; if the Four Heroes threw the rocks down, he might be able to jump and escape, but Zhao Min’s life would be difficult to protect. Therefore, his only choice right now was go up and take whatever comes one step at a time. Consequently, he carried Zhao Min and slowly crawled up via the narrow crevice.

He made deliberately made his martial art skill look weak, he would walk several steps, then slipped back down again. It turned out that this narrow crevice was really difficult to climb, he pretended to be even weaker by loudly gasping for breath and looked to be in a very difficult situation. Within an hour he had fallen down seventeen, eighteen times, before he finally reached the level ground.

Initially he was thinking of running away with Zhao Min as soon as they were out of the snowy valley. He thought relying on his qing gong, although he carried one person, the Four Heroes might still not able to catch up with him. But Zhang Songxi was very smart, he had already noticed that the way this man climb up the mountain in a distressed manner was somewhat artificial; he then informed his three martial brothers to spread out on four corners; as soon as Zhang Wuji set his foot on the ground, the tip of four unsheathed swords were less than half a foot from his body.

“Thief Tartar,” Song Yuanqiao hatefully said, “Do you think you can escape alive by covering your face with fur? Who killed Wudang Pai’s Mo Qixia? Quickly tell us! If you lie even for half a word, I am going to cut your Tartar dog’s flesh a thousand slashes, ten thousand pieces; open up your belly and split open your chest.”

Actually, Song Yuanqiao was a calm and composed man, but seeing how Mo Shenggu died in such a wretched way, he could not bear not to use such hateful language; which did not happen too often in the last dozen of years.

Zhao Min sighed and said, “General Yalupuwa, things have come this far, you can just tell them!” And then she whispered in a low voice, “Use the martial art from the Sheng Huo Ling.”

Zhang Wuji did not want to fight his four martial uncles, but looking at their current state, he truly did not have any other way to escape this awkward situation. Thereupon he gritted his teeth and rolled on the ground, while tossing Zhao Min toward Yin Liting. He shouted and grunted in a hoarse voice while leaping to the air, somersaulting, and stretched out his arm to grab Zhang Songxi. Yin Liting caught Zhao Min without any trouble. He hesitated for a moment before sealing her acupoint and put her down to the ground.

In this very short period of time, Zhang Wuji had unleashed the strange martial art from the Sheng Huo Ling; his fist struck Song Yuanqiao, while his leg kicked Yu Lianzhou. At the same time his head hammered toward Zhang Songxi, while his hand reached backward to snatch the sword in Yin Liting’s hand. His movements were as swift as a falcon catching a rabbit, very fast and very strange.

The Four Heroes of Wudang’s martial arts were refined and strong, they could be considered as first class fighters of the Wulin world; but facing these successive seven, eight strange attacks, they were thrown into confusion and were forced to defend themselves with difficulty. On the Lingshe Island, although Zhang Wuji’s martial art skill was high, he could not hold up against the Persian’s Liuyun, three emissaries’ martial art from the Sheng Huo Ling. By this moment, he had already mastered the martial art from all six Sheng Huo Ling tablets; his skill was several levels higher compared to the Liuyun, three emissaries, how could the Four Heroes hold up against him?

Actually, the martial arts contained in the Sheng Huo Ling were not the most profound or even intricate martial art techniques, only, they was very strange and unpredictable. If they were fighting one on one under normal circumstance, it would not be a match for Wudang Pai’s orthodox martial art based on strong inner power. But Zhang Wuji was using the Jiu Yang Shen Gong as his foundation, Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi as the general scheme of his movements, on top of that he possessed a profound knowledge of Wudang Pai’s martial art; stance by stance, form by form, he attacked the weakest point on Four Heroes’ defense.

After about twenty stances or so, the Sheng Huo Ling’s martial art was getting more and more fantastical. Lying down on the snowy ground, Zhao Min called out, “General Yalupuwa, these Han people are always proud of their own ability; they did not know we, the Mongolians, have inherited this divine wrestling technique, let them taste it today!”

“Use Taiji fist technique for self defense!” Zhang Songxi called out, “This Tartar’s fist technique is very strange.” Immediately the four people’s fist technique changed; they all used the Taiji fist technique to create a watertight defense.

Suddenly Zhang Wuji dropped down and sat on the ground, both of his fists fiercely pounding his own chest. During their entire lifetime, the Four Hero of Wudang had fought countless powerful enemies, and they had encountered countless strange stances. Zhang Wuji’s Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi could be regarded as the pinnacle of martial art study, yet not only they had never seen something like this Tartar sitting down on the ground and beating his own chest, they had never heard about it as well.

The Four Heroes were using swords to form a tight defense line with the Taiji Fist technique. This time, with a sudden movement the three swords of Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou and Zhang Songxi were thrust into Zhang Wuji’s torso. Yin Liting’s sword was snatched by Zhang Wuji earlier, but he had Mo Shenggu’s thin saber on his side, which he pulled out and thrust toward Zhang Wuji. Suddenly Zhang Wuji’s leg swept horizontally, scattering the snow on the ground toward the Four Heroes.

It was one of weird martial art stances recorded on the Sheng Huo Ling, which originated from the Old Man of the Mountain, Hassan-i-Sabah. Before founding his Hashhashin Sect, he used to rob and plunder merchants traveling along the Persian desert. Whenever he saw a caravan from the distant, he would sit on the ground and beat his on chest, while crying out to the Heaven. The passing caravan would then stop to inquire. Hassan would suddenly kick the sand toward their eyes, and immediately his long saber would kill dozens of merchants, spilling their blood on the yellow sand, scattering their corpses on the great desert. It was a truly malicious technique.

This time Zhang Wuji kicked the snow, but the efficiency was the same as if he was kicking sand. The Four Heroes of Wudang suddenly felt snow flying into their faces, rendering them blind for an instant. Four people reacted fast by leaping back immediately, but Zhang Wuji moved even faster; he rolled around and grabbed Yu Lianzhou’s legs. His hand reached out and sealed three major acupoints on his legs. After that he somersaulted and while his body was still mid-air, his right knee knocked the top of Yin Liting’s head, unexpectedly hitting the ‘wu chu’ [lit. five spots] and ‘cheng guang’ [lit. light receiver] acupoints on the top of his head. Yin Liting was dazed and fell to the ground.

Song Yuanqiao flew to the rescue, but Zhang Wuji stepped backward and bumped into his chest. Song Yuanqiao could not use his sword, his left hand withdrew the sword and his right palm struck out, but before his palm reached its target, his chest had already been numbed, as both of Zhang Wuji’s elbows hit his acupoint.

Zhang Songxi was shocked; in a blink of an eye, from four people, he was the only one still standing. He realized he was not this man’s match, but his martial brothers were in distress, he determined not to escape alone. Raising his sword straight up, ‘swish, swish, swish’ he thrust it toward Zhang Wuji three times. Zhang Wuji noticed that although he was facing a difficult situation, his steps were unflustered, the sword stance was not in the least chaotic; these three attacks came swiftly and fiercely, but each stance strictly followed Wudang principle.

Zhang Wuji secretly acclaimed, “If I have not learned this strange martial art, resisting four martial uncles’ converging attack would have been not an easy matter at all.”

Suddenly Zhang Wuji moved his head randomly, swaying back and forth, and making circles. But Zhang Songxi remained unmoved; he was not affected by Zhang Wuji’s attempt to distract his attention. With a ‘chi’ noise his sword was splitting the air, straight toward Zhang Wuji’s chest.

Zhang Wuji lowered his head, aiming his skull toward the tip of the incoming sword. Suddenly he dropped to the ground and pounced forward; all acupoints on Zhang Songxi’s lower abdomen and left leg were sealed and he fell down to the ground. The acupoints Zhang Wuji sealed could disable only the lower part of Zhang Songxi’s limbs; he was about to reach the ‘zhongshu’ [lit. center or hub] acupoint on Zhang Songzi’s back when suddenly Zhang Songxi cried out miserably, his eyes turned white and his upper body convulsed, and then he dropped down stiffly.

Zhang Wuji was scared out of his wits. He thought he did not use too much force in sealing the acupoints just now; certainly it was not a deadly attack, it would not even cause any minor injury. Could it be that Si Shibo [fourth martial (older) uncle] suffered an unmentionable illness, and the hit he suffered just now had caused it to break out? He broke out in cold sweats and hastily reached out to check Zhang Songxi’s breath. Suddenly Zhang Songxi’s left hand moved and pulled the fur covering his face.

Two people looked at each other in blank dismay. After a long time Zhang Songxi said, “Good Wuji, turns out … turns out … it is you. We have treated you with love in vain.” His voice broke, his face was full of anger, tears streaming down, but it was unclear whether he was angry or grieved.

It turned out that he realized he was not the enemy’s match and thought that he would die without seeing the enemy’s face. If the Four Heroes of Wudang were defeated by an unknown enemy, they would die with their eyes still open. Therefore, first he faked death, and then pulled the fur covering the enemy’s face.

First of all, Zhang Wuji was naïve, secondly, he cared about his Si Shibo very much, hence he had never guarded against him. At this moment, he felt worse than if he were put to death by the sword; he felt as if his soul had left him, and he was completely dumbfounded. He only stammered, “Si Shibo, it wasn’t me, it wasn’t me … Qi Shishu, it wasn’t me … I did not harm him …”

Zhang Songxi laughed a bitter laugh and said, “Very good, very good. Hurry up and kill us all. Dage, Erge, Liudi [first brother, second brother and sixth brother, respectively], look clearly: this Tartar dog is not an outsider, he is none other than our beloved child, Wuji.” Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou, and Yin Liting were immobilized; they only stared at Zhang Wuji in disbelief.

Zhang Wuji was completely at a loss; all he could think of was picking up a sword on the ground and slashing his own neck. Zhao Min suddenly called out, “Zhang Wuji, a real man can endure a momentary injustice; what’s the big deal about it? Nothing in this world can be kept secret forever. You must find the ominous criminal who killed Mo Qixia and avenge his death then the Wudang Heroes’ love to you won’t be in vain.”

Zhang Wuji’s heart was stirred; he realized what she said was very reasonable. “What are we going to do now?” he asked, while walking toward her and massaged the acupoints on her back and waist to unseal them.

In a tender and consoling voice Zhao Min said, “Don’t be so sad! You have so many experts within your Ming Cult; I am also not short of warriors with wisdom and ability. With our combined effort, we will capture the real criminal.”

“Zhang Wuji!” Zhang Songxi called out, “If you still have any conscience, just kill us four people. I cannot bear to see you and this wicked witch showing affection to each other.”

Zhang Wuji’s face turned ashen, he had no idea how to respond. Zhao Min said, “We must save Han Lin’er first, then come back to find your Yifu, while investigating the real criminal who killed your Mo Qi Shu along the way, and looking for your Biaomei’s murderer.”

“Wh … what?” Zhang Wuji was taken by surprise.

Zhao Min coldly said, “Did you kill Mo Qixia? Why do your four martial uncles insist it was you? Did I kill Yin Li? Why do you insist it was me? Don’t tell me you have the right to treat others unjustly and won’t allow others to do the same to you?”

These words were like a thunder in a broad daylight, shaking Zhang Wuji’s eardrums and straight into his heart. At this moment he realized, based on his personal experience that human affairs are often difficult to judge. Deep in his heart, he knew he was a victim of an ignorant grievance; he thought, “Could it be that Miss Zhao, she … she … is also going through the same thing that I do? Is she being wronged by others?”

“The acupoints you sealed on your four martial uncles; can they unseal them?” Zhao Min asked.

Zhang Wuji shook his head, “I was using the strange technique from the Sheng Huo Ling; Shibo and Shishu will not be able to unseal the acupoints themselves. But after 24 hours, the sealed acupoints will loosen themselves.”

“Hmm,” Zhao Min said, “In that case, let us take them to the cave before we leave. You cannot see them again before the real criminal is found.”

“There are some wild beasts in that cave,” Zhang Wuji said, “They will be ripped badly just like the roebuck and Mo Qishu’s body.”

Zhao Min sighed, “I can see that you are muddle-headed and cannot think straight. If one of them can move his upper body, and he has a sword in his hand, what wild beast can bother them?”

Zhang Wuji could only say, “That’s right, that’s right.” Immediately he carried the Four Heroes of Wudang and set them behind a big rock to shelter them from the wind and the snow. The Four Heroes continuously shot abusive words at him. Zhang Wuji could only keep his mouth shut with tears on his eyes.

Zhao Min said, “The four of you are the Wulin experts, but are completely ignorant. If Mo Qixia was killed by Zhang Wuji, at this time he only needs to pick up a sword and kill you all to shut your mouths; how difficult is that? If he has the heart to kill Mo Qixia, do you think he will not have a heart to harm you, four people? If you keep shouting malicious talks, I, Zhao Min, will give each of you a slap in your face. I am a treacherous wicked witch; I am capable of doing what I say. At the Wan An Temple, it was because I looked at Zhang Gongzi’s face that I treated you with respect. I cut the fingers of the experts from Shaolin, Kunlun, Emei, Huashan, and Kongtong, five Sects; but have I ever shown even half of disrespect toward the heroes of Wudang?”

Song Yuanqiao and the others looked at each other. They still believed Zhang Wuji killed Mo Shenggu, but they were afraid Zhao Min would really slap them. Real men could be killed but could not be disgraced; if this little witch did indeed give them a slap in their faces, they would suffer the disgrace for the rest of their lives. Hence, they shut their mouths immediately.

Zhao Min smiled faintly and said to Zhang Wuji, “Go get our mounts to take them to the cave.”

Zhang Wuji hesitated before answering, “I can carry them.”

Something clicked in Zhao Min’s mind; she knew what he was thinking. With a cold laugh she said, “Even if your martial art skill is higher, do you think you can carry four people simultaneously? You are afraid as soon as you are away, I would harm your four martial uncles. You have never believed me. Fine, I’ll go get the horses; you stay here to guard them.”

Zhang Wuji blushed as what she said was right on target, but he really did not dare to leave the fate of his four martial uncles’ lives in the hands of this temperamental, unpredictable girl. He simply said, “I’ll be obliged if you’ll go get the animals. I will stay here to guard the four martial uncles. How is your injury? Are you sure you can walk without any problem?”

Zhao Min laughed coldly and said, “Even if you were more attentive and had more good intentions, others still don’t believe you. You are baring your heart and intestines, other people still think you have a wolf’s heart and a dog’s lungs.” With her speech over, she turned around to fetch the horses.

Zhang Wuji pondered on what she said. It was as if she was speaking about his martial uncles’ suspicion towards him, but he also felt that she was speaking about his own suspicion towards her. He turned his gaze to her, and noticed that she was limping; her footsteps were slow and unsteady. Apparently, her injury had made her walk with difficulty. In his heart he took pity on her, also could not bear to let her go like that.

Zhao Min had not walked too far when suddenly they heard rapid hoof beats on the main road, coming from the north. There were three riders: one in the front and two at the back. Zhao Min quickly retreated as she heard the hoof beats. “Some people are coming!” she said.

Zhang Wuji beckoned to her. Zhao Min went to the back of the large rock in a hurry and crouched down next to him. She noticed that half of Yu Lianzhou’s body was protruding outside the rock; she pulled him behind the rock.

Yu Lianzhou glowered and barked, “Don’t touch me!”

With a cold laugh Zhao Min said, “I want to touch you. What are you going to do with me?”

“Miss Zhao,” Zhang Wuji snapped, “Don’t be rude to my Shibo!” Zhao Min stuck out her tongue and made faces toward Yu Lianzhou.

By this time, the horse in the front was not too far away, while the two riders chasing behind him were flying close to him, perhaps about twenty, thirty ‘zhang’s away from him. As the first rider got closer, in a low voice Zhang Wuji said, “It is Song Qingshu, Song Dage [big brother]!”

“Stop him, quick!” Zhao Min said.

“What for?” Zhang Wuji was surprised.

“Don’t ask too much,” Zhao Min replied, “Have you forgotten what they said in the Mi Le Temple?”

Zhang Wuji’s heart was stirred; he picked a chunk of ice from the ground and flicked it out. ‘Swish!’ the chunk of ice flew straight to the front leg of Song Qingshu’s mount. The horse neighed in pain and knelt down to the ground. Song Qingshu leaped up and tried to pull his horse back up, but as the horse fell, it broke its left leg.

Seeing the pursuers were getting closer, Song Qingshu hastily ran to the side. Zhang Wuji flicked another piece of ice and hit the acupoint on his right leg. Zhao Min reached out and successively sealed the Four Heroes’ mute acupoints, to stop Song Yuanqiao from calling out.

“Ah!” they heard Song Qingshu cry out and tumble down on the snowy ground. Because of these two hindrances, the two riders quickly overtook him; they were none other than the Beggar Clan’s Chen Youliang and Zhang Bo Longtou.

Zhang Wuji felt strange, “The three of them are going to Mount Changbai together to get the necessary poison to make the drug; how come one was running away and the other pursued to this place?” he thought, but then he remembered, “That’s right, it must be that Song Dage was pricked by his own conscience and was not willing to do this unfilial and unrighteous thing. Fortunately he came across me, so I can save him.”

Chen Youliang and Zhang Bo Longtou dismounted their horses. They only knew that Song Qingshu had been riding the horse for a long time, perhaps he was exhausted, so that when the horse stumbled, Song Qingshu also fell down from his mount. But they also thought that Song Qingshu’s martial art was not weak; even if he was injured, his injury must be light. Two people came close with their weapons pointed toward Song Qingshu’s body.

Zhang Wuji had prepared another piece of ice in his hand, ready to be flicked toward Chen Youliang. Zhao Min touched his arm and shook his hand. Zhang Wuji turned around to look at her. Zhao Min placed her own left palm on her ear, and then pointed her finger toward Song Qingshu. Her meaning was clear, she wanted to listen to what they were going to say.

“Surnamed Song,” they heard Zhang Bo Longtou indignantly said, “You sneaked out in the middle of the night, what is your intention? Are you going to leak our secret by telling your father?” In his hand was a purple-gold eight-trigram [ba gua] saber, which he brandished above Song Qingshu’s head, ready to be chopped down.

Hearing the wind the Ba Gua saber produced, Song Yuanqiao was concerned over his beloved son’s safety; he grew exceedingly anxious. Zhang Wuji happened to turn his head around and saw the anxious look on his face, which very soon turned into a pleading look. Zhang Wuji nodded his head, meaning, “Don’t worry, I will in no way let Song Dage suffer any harm.” While thinking in his heart, “The love parents have for their children is very profound [lit. as high as the sky, as thick as the earth]. Da Shibo [first martial (older) uncle] is very angry with me; if he could, he would chop me into thousand pieces, yet as he sees Song Dage is facing a danger, he immediately asks me for help. If it was Da Shibo himself who is facing a danger, as a brave warrior, he would never show any weakness by asking somebody else’s help.” Almost instantly he also thought that Song Qingshu was very fortunate to have people who cherished and showed loving care to him, while he was an orphan without any parents’ love.

He heard Song Qingshu reply, “I am not about to tell my Father.”

Zhang Bo Longtou said, “Bangzhu [Clan Leader] ordered you to come with me to Mount Changbai to pick some medicine, why are you disobeying the order by leaving?”

“You were also born from your parents,” Song Qingshu said, “You want me to harm my own father, how can my heart endure it? I refuse to do this beastly act.”

In a stern voice Zhang Bo Longtou said, “You have made up your mind to defy Bangzhu’s order, then? Do you know what punishment we impart to those who revolt against the Clan?”

“I am a criminal in this world,” Song Qingshu replied, “I do not hope to be alive. In these past few days, as soon as I closed my eyes, I saw Mo Qishu come to demand my life. His ghost does not want to go away, it keeps entangling me. Zhang Bo Longtou, please just chop me dead, I will be very grateful to you.”

Zhang Bo Longtou lifted his Ba Gua Saber high, and shouted, “Very well! I will help you!”

“Longtou Dage,” Chen Youliang stopped him, “If Song Xiongdi is not willing, killing him won’t do us any good. Let’s just let him go.”

“Are you saying we should let him go in just like that?” Zhang Bo Longtou was surprised.

“That’s right,” Chen Youliang said, “He has killed his own martial uncle Mo Shenggu, there will be people from his own Sect who’d kill him. This kind of injustice involves a sinful disciple’s blood, do not defile our chivalrous weapons.”

At the Mi Le Temple, Zhang Wuji had heard Chen Youliang bringing up Mo Shenggu’s name to Song Qingshu, he said something about ‘a junior defying his senior’. At that time, Zhang Wuji suspected that Song Qingshu had offended his martial uncle, but never in his wildest imagination Zhang Wuji would guess that Mo Shenggu died under Song Qingshu’s hands. Although Song Yuanqiao and the others were hidden behind a large rock, they were able to hear Song Qingshu clearly; they were all greatly shocked. Zhao Min was the only one who had guessed about 30% of the story; a smile of disdain appeared on the corners of her mouth.

“Chen Dage,” they heard Song Qingshu’s trembling voice, “You have given me a heavy oath that you will never divulge this secret. How can my father find out as long as you do not say anything?”

Chen Youliang smiled dryly, “You only remember my oath, but you don’t remember your own even heavier one. You said that from that day forward, you would obey what I say. Was it you who break your promise first, or was it I who did not keep my word?”

Song Qingshu hesitated for half a day before saying, “You wanted me to put poison in Tai Shifu and my Father’s food; I would rather die than obeying your word. Just get your sword and kill me.”

“Song Xiongdi,” Chen Youliang said, “There is a saying that to understand the directions of the age is an outstanding talent. We do not want to murder your father and elders, we only want to drug them so they will lose consciousness. Didn’t you agree to it at the Mi Le Temple?”

“No, no!” Song Qingshu said, “I did agree to drug them, but the poison Zhang Bo Longtou gathered was from vipers and centipede; this is a poison to kill people, not a common drug to lose someone’s consciousness.”

Slowly and unenthusiastically Chen Youliang raised his sword, saying, “Emei Pai’s Miss Zhou is as beautiful as a goddess, there is no other girl like her, yet you resign to the fact that she is going to fall into that guy Zhang Wuji. This is really strange. Song Xiongdi, that day, deep into the night, you went to peep into the room occupied by Emei Pai’s female disciples. Your Qi Shishu caught you doing that, and he pursued you down. You fought him by the rocky ridge, and thus a nephew killed his uncle. Why did you do that? Wasn’t it for the sake of this gentle and tender, good-looking Miss Zhou? This matter has come this far, once you have done it, you can’t stop. Can the horse turn back once it enters a narrow pathway? I see that you have climbed the mountain 90% of the way, but fail for lack of a final effort. It’s a pity! It’s a pity!”

Song Qingshu stood up shakily. “Chen Youliang,” he angrily said, “Your words are sweet but insincere! You have forced me. That night I was defeated by Mo Qishu; I was not his match. I have brought disgrace to Wudang Pai. It would be a hundred times better if I died under his hands; who wanted you to interfere by giving me a hand? I have fallen into your scheme so deep that my reputation is swept away and I cannot free myself.”

“Fine, fine!” Chen Youliang laughed, “Mo Shenggu died because of the ‘zhen tian tie zhang’ [iron palm shaking the heaven] on his back; was it you who hit him, or was it me, Chen Youliang who hit him? Isn’t it your Wudang Pai’s martial art? Certainly I cannot do that. That night I helped you, not only I saved your life, but protected your reputation as well; so you say I was wrong? Song Xiongdi, you and I came across each other, let’s not raise the matters of the past up. About you killing your uncle, my mouth is as tight as a drum; I will never leak even for half a word. The mountain is far, the river is long, we will see each other again in the future.”

In a trembling voice Song Qingshu said, “Chen … Chen Dage, you … what are you going to do to me?” His voice was full of doubt and uncertainty.

Chen Youliang laughed. “What am I going to do to you?” he said, “I am not going to do anything. Let me show you something. What is this?”

From their hiding place behind the rock, Zhang Wuji and Zhao Min were dying to stick out their heads to see the thing Chen Youliang took out, but in the end they decided against doing so.

“Ah!” they heard Song Qingshu cried out in alarm, “This … this is the iron ring of Emei Pai’s Sect Leader,” his voice was trembling, “It is Miss Zhou’s … You … you … where did you get it from?”

In his heart, Zhang Wuji also shuddered, he thought, “When I left Zhiruo, I plainly saw her still wearing this Sect Leader iron ring; how did it fall into Chen Youliang’s hand? Most likely it is a fake one, he forged it to swindle other people.”

But he heard Chen Youliang laugh lightly and said, “Look carefully, whether this is the real thing or a fake one.”

A moment later Song Qingshu said, “In the Western Region I asked Miejue Shitai for some pointers in martial art, I saw this ring on her finger. I believe this is real.”

A ‘clang!’ noise was heard, a sound of metal striking against metal. Chen Youliang said, “If it was fake, this sword should cut it into two. Look here, there is an inscription inside the ring, ‘liu yi xiang nu’ [bestowed to daughter Xiang] four characters, it can’t be fake, can it? This is the Emei Pai founder, Guo Xiang Nuxia’s [heroine Guo Xiang] xuan tie [black/mysterious iron – Yang Guo’s heavy sword] ring.”

Song Qingshu said, “Chen Dage, you … where did you get it from? Miss Zhou, she … is she all right?”

Chen Youliang laughed again, he said, “Zhang Bo Longtou, let’s go. From now on, the Beggar Clan has nothing to do with this person.” Footsteps were heard, the two of them turned around and left.

“Chen Dage, come back!” Song Qingshu called out, “Has Miss Zhou fallen into your hands? Is she still alive, or is she dead?”

Chen Youliang came back. With a smile on his face he said, “That’s right. Miss Zhou is in my hands. A beautiful woman like her, no man’s heart in this world will not be moved upon seeing her. Until now I am still single. I am thinking of asking Bangzhu earnestly to grant me Miss Zhou as my wife, chances are, Bangzhu will grant my request.”

Song Qingshu mumbled indistinctly, apparently, he was at a loss of what to say. Chen Youliang continued, “Actually, a gentleman should not take someone else’s prized possession. In order to win this Miss Zhou, Song Xiongdi has braved a grave disaster; how could for the sake of a beauty Chen Youliang ruin the ‘yi qi’ [spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice/code of brotherhood] between brothers? But since you have revolted against the Clan, there is no more kindness and righteousness between us; nothing is out of question anymore, right?”

Song Qingshu mumbled some more. From the corner of his eye, Zhang Wuji noticed there were two streams of tears flowing down Song Yuanqiao’s cheeks; it was obvious that the grief in his heart had reached its peak. Suddenly they heard Song Qingshu say, “Chen Dage, Longtou Dage, as your little brother, I was confused; I beg your forgiveness. I hereby admit my guilt.”

Chen Youliang laughed out loud and said, “Right, right! Now, that is my good brother. I put my hand on my heart to guarantee you that you only need to take this drug [orig. ‘meng1 han4 yao4 – a medicine to knock someone’s consciousness] to Mount Wudang, and then quietly put it into everybody’s cup of tea. Your honorable elders’ lives will not be harmed; the beautiful Zhou Zhiruo will certainly be your wife. We only want to coerce Zhang Sanfeng, Zhang Zhenren [respectable term to address a Taoist priest] and the Wudang heroes into forcing Zhang Wuji to listen to our command. Supposing that we harmed Zhang Zhenren and your honorable father’s lives, Zhang Wuji will only come to the Beggar Clan to exact the revenge; what good will that do to us?”

“That’s correct,” Song Qingshu said.

Chen Youliang continued, “Wait till the Beggar Clan has subdued the Ming Cult, driven out the Tartars, and ruled the earth; our Bangzhu will ascend to the throne [orig. long2 wei4 – dragon position], you and I will render meritorious service to the founder of the kingdom, needless to say, not only our wives and descendants will enjoy titles and positions, but your honorable father will benefit from your bright face.”

With a bitter smile Song Qingshu said, “My Father does not seek fame and fortune. I only hope he will not kill me; then I will be satisfied.”

“How can your father know about the party before it is over?” Chen Youliang said with a smile, “Unless he is a deity who can predict the future. Song Xiongdi, is your foot injured from the fall? Come, we can share the ride. We’ll buy another horse in the next town.”

Song Qingshu said, “A chunk of ice has bumped my calf because I was in such haste. As bad luck has it, it hit right on my ‘zhu bin’ [lit. building visitor] acupoint. There is indeed such a coincidence in this world.” Because he was so preoccupied by Zhang Bo Longtou and Chen Youliang who were pursuing him, he had never thought that there were people who were plotting against him behind the large rock ahead. He only knew that he was being careless and the piece of ice happened to strike him on his acupoint.

“What bad luck?” Chen Youliang laughed and said, “I’ll say it was Song Xiongdi’s lucky day, to marry a beautiful woman as your wife. If there was no such strike, we would not be able to overtake you, and then you would be lost in your own confusion. Not only your reputation would be swept away, but you would ruin our major undertaking. If this sweet smelling, tender Miss Zhou become Chen Youliang’s possession, wouldn’t it be like a phoenix married a crow, a fresh flower stuck into a pile of manure?”

“Hmm,” Song Qingshu said, “Chen Dage, it’s not that Xiongdi is unable to tell good from bad, and does not believe you …”

Without waiting for him to finish, Chen Youliang cut him off, “You want to see Miss Zhou, don’t you? That’s easy. At this moment Bangzhu and the elders are in Lulong [a city in Hebei], Miss Zhou is with them. As soon as we get to Lulong, you can see her. When the Mount Wudang task is accomplished, your Gege [elder brother] will hold the wedding celebration for you, to fulfill your greatest desire; and then you will be grateful to your Chen Youliang Dage for the rest of your life. Ha ha, ha ha …!”

“All right,” Song Qingshu said, “Let us go to Lulong. Chen Dage, how did Miss Zhou … how did she join our Clan?”

Chen Youliang laughed and said, “That was to Longtou Dage’s credit. That day Zhang Bang Longtou and Zhang Bo Longtou went eating and drinking in a restaurant. They saw three strangers who dressed like our Clan disciples, mingled among us. Later, they sent some people to investigate, and unexpectedly found one of them is this lovable and charming Miss Zhou. Zhang Bo Longtou then sent someone to invite her to come with us. Don’t worry, Miss Zhou is auspiciously well; not a single strand of her hair is injured.”

Zhang Wuji groaned inwardly, “Turned out that we were already detected on the restaurant that day. If only Yifu were not blind, he would certainly raise the alarm. Ay, to think that all along Zhiruo and I were not aware. But I wonder if Yifu is also well?”

However, all throughout the conversation, Chen Youliang did not mention a single word about Xie Xun. He said, “Miss Zhou and you are engaged, Emei and Wudang two Sects will be under the Beggar Clan’s command, add to that the Ming Cult; just how powerful can we be? We only need to defeat the Mongolians, and then this beautiful country [orig. jiang1 shan1 – river and mountain], heh, heh, will change its master.”

His voice was full of smugness, as if not only the Beggar Clan had already conquered the world, but he, Chen Youliang, had already ascended to the throne, and was sitting comfortably in the imperial courtyard. Zhang Bo Longtou and Song Qingshu followed him laughing ‘heh, heh’, hollow laughs.

“Let’s go,” Chen Youliang said, “Song Xiongdi, Mo Qi Xia died around here; the cave where we hid his corpse is not far from this place, is it? You ran to this place and suddenly stumbled, could it be that Mo Qi Xia’s spirit showed up? Ha ha, ha ha!” Song Qingshu did not reply. The three of them walked toward the horses and then left that place.

Zhang Wuji waited until they had gone far before he quickly unsealed Song Yuanqiao and the others’ acupoints, and then he knelt to the ground and kowtowed over and over again. “Shibo, Shishu,” he said, “Nephew was under suspicion and could not explain myself. I have offended you heavily, please punish me.”

Song Yuanqiao heaved a deep sigh, tears streaming down from his eyes; he looked up to the sky without saying anything. Yu Lianzhou busily raised Zhang Wuji up and said, “We all have wrongly accused you. It was our own fault. We are as close as a flesh and blood family, let’s not talk about this anymore. I just can’t believe Qingshu … ay, if we did not hear it with our own ears, who could have believed it?”

Song Yuanqiao pulled his sword out and said, “Turned out Qidi came across Qingshu, that little animal … when he was peeking into Emei heroines’ bedroom. We must put our school’s internal affair in order. Three Shidi’s, Child Wuji, let us pursue them; let me slay that animal with my own hand.” Finished speaking, he launched his qing gong and ran to the direction Song Qingshu went.

“Dage, come back!” Zhang Songxi called out, “Everything needs to be considered further.”

In his disturbed mind, Song Yuanqiao ignored his call; he kept running with the sword in his hand. Zhang Wuji lifted up his feet to give a chase. Several leaps later, he cut off in front of Song Yuanqiao. Bowing down he said, “Da Shibo, Si Shibo wants to talk to you. Currently, Song Dage is under other’s influence; someday, he will come to his senses. If Da Shibo wants to punish him, you don’t have to do it right away.”

Song Yuanqiao sobbed, “Qidi … Qidi … your big brother has done you wrong.” Suddenly he remembered how Zhang Cuishan had killed himself because he felt he had done Yu Daiyan wrong; right at this moment he suddenly understood the depth of his Wu Di’s [fifth brother] feeling. Raising up his sword, he slashed it across his own neck.

Zhang Wuji was startled; using the Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi to the fullest, he snatched the sword from Song Yuanqiao’s hand. But the blade had already cut the neck, creating a long strip of bloody cut. By this time Yu Lianzhou and the others had already caught up.

“Dage,” Zhang Songxi persuaded, “Qingshu is going astray by committing this kind of treason and betraying his own Sect, Wudang people will hold him responsible; but cleaning up our school is a small matter, our country’s safety is big. We can’t lose sight on the big matter for the sake of a small one.”

Song Yuanqiao’s eyes grew big; he was angry. “You … you said cleaning up our school is a small matter? I … I fathered this disobedient son …”

“Listening to that Chen Youliang,” Zhang Songxi said, “The Beggar Clan wants to borrow Qingshu’s hands, scheming to harm our En Shi [benevolent master] and gain control over the major Sects of Wulin world, and conspiring against our country. En Shi’s safety and well-being is the number one priority of our Sect; whether the Wulin world and the common people will have disaster or good fortune is even more important. This child Qingshu has done too much injustice; he will get his retribution sooner or later. We still need to discuss important matters.”

Song Yuanqiao realized Zhang Songxi was very reasonable, he bitterly put the sword back into its sheathe and said, “My mind is troubled, I’ll hear what Si Di has to say.”

Yin Liting took out some cut-wound medication and wrapped it around Song Yuanqiao’s neck. Zhang Songxi said, “The Beggar Clan has already sought to cause En Shi harm, and at this moment En Shi still does not know the facts. We must travel day and night to return to Wudang. Although that Chen Youliang is going to use Song Qingshu, we will never know; perhaps this devious villain will make his move sooner than what is planned. Right now our most urgent task is to protect En Shi. En Shi is advanced in years; if that fake-Shaolin-monk-pretending-to-be-a-news-bearer case is repeated, we can’t redeem it as his disciples even if we were to die ten thousand times.” While saying that, he cast a glance toward Zhao Min, who was standing some distance away; he still resented how she had sent someone to assassinate Zhang Sanfeng.

Song Yuanqiao broke in cold sweats. “That’s right, that’s right!” he said in a trembling voice, “In my eagerness to kill that disobedient child, I pushed En Shi’s safety and well being to the back of my brain. I truly deserve to die to put the cart before the horse. Such a muddle-head.” And then he called out, “Let’s go, let’s go!”

“Wuji,” Zhang Songxi turned toward Zhang Wuji, “We’ll leave the rescuing of Miss Zhou to you. Come to Wudang whenever you are finished, then we’ll talk again.”

“I receive and obey Shibo’s instruction,” Zhang Wuji said.

Zhang Songxi continued in low voice, “This Miss Zhao has a heart of the wolf, you must be very careful. Song Qingshu is a bad example of a real warrior who cannot resist a beauty. You should not follow his example.” Zhang Wuji nodded with his face blushing.

Immediately the Four Heroes of Wudang and Zhang Wuji buried Mo Shenggu behind a large rock. The five of them kowtowed and cried bitterly in front of his grave. And then Song Yuanqiao and his martial brothers, four people, left.

Zhao Min slowly walked towards Zhang Wuji and said, “Your Si Shibo told you to be careful and do not get deceived by this witch, and that Song Qingshu is a bad example, didn’t he?”

Zhang Wuji’s face turned completely red and he bashfully asked, “How do you know? Do you a superpower ear?”

“Humph,” Zhao Min said, “Let me tell you this: After considering this matter, Song Daxia and the others will not blame Song Qingshu for having an animal heart, instead, they will blame Zhou Jiejie [older sister Zhou] as the source of trouble [lit. red face muddling the water], by destroying a Wudang young hero.”

In his heart Zhang Wuji silently agreed that she might be right, but his mouth said, “Song Shibo and the others are reasonable gentlemen; how could they recklessly blame others?”

With a cold laugh Zhao Min said, “The more they are gentlemen, the more they will blame others recklessly.” She was silent for a moment before laughing and saying, “Quickly go and save your Miss Zhou; it would be terrible for you if she fell into Song Qingshu’s hand.”

Zhang Wuji blushed again and asked, “Why would it be terrible?”