Long flute, short lute, and tan clothing.
Zhang Wuji went to fetch the horses, and then together with Zhao Min, they rode across the Great Wall. He thought his Yifu must have fallen into the Beggar Clan, but since the Beggar Clan wanted to use him to coerce the Ming Cult into submission, he supposed they would not do him any harm; although some humiliation would be unavoidable. However, Zhirou was as clear as crystal and as clean as jade; if the devious and cruel Chen Youliang and the shameless Song Qingshu forced her, her only option would be to die. Thinking to this point, he wished he would grow wings and fly to Lulong. Only, Zhao Min was still injured, they could not possibly travel without any sleep or rest.
That night, the two of them spent the night at a small inn. While lying down on the ‘kang’ [a heatable brick bed common in northern China] Zhang Wuji was deep in thought; the more he thought, the more anxious he got. He went outside Zhao Min’s window; he heard her even breathing as she fell into a deep sleep, so he went to the front desk to get pen and ink. Tearing down a piece of paper from the registry book, he hastily wrote a letter, saying that because the matter was urgent, he made up his mind to continue the journey the very same night, and that he would find her after the matter is settled. He advised her to continue her journey home leisurely while she was still recuperating from her injury. He placed the paper on the table and put a piece of rock on it, and then he jumped out from the window and rushed southward.
By daybreak he managed to buy a horse, and kept changing horses along the way. After several days of traveling day and night like that, he finally arrived at Lulong. However, even by pursuing that fast, he did not see Chen, Song and Zhang Bo Longtou along the way. He figured that while he was traveling during the night, they were resting in an inn someplace, hence he missed them.
Lulong was a strategic city in Hebei province, where the Tang Dynasty’s Jie Du Shi [provincial governor; in Tang times having military and civil authority, but only civil authority during Song] took his residence. It was attacked several times during the transition between the Songs and the Jins and suffered major damages. The city had never recovered all through the Yuan Dynasty, yet it had quite a large population.
Zhang Wuji went all over Lulong’s main streets and small alleys, visited teahouses and wine shops, but surprisingly he did not see a single beggar. He felt very strange, “Such a big city, yet not a single beggar on the street; this is very unusual. Chen Youliang said that the Beggar Clan would have an assembly in here, certainly he was not lying. I think all beggars big and small within the city walls have gone to pay their respect to the Clan Leader. I must look for their meeting place, this way I can eavesdrop to find out whether Yifu and Zhiruo are really captured by the Beggar Clan.”
He then visited all the temples, ancestral halls, abandoned gardens, and any open area around the city, but did not find a single clue. He even went to the villages on the outskirts of the city, but still did not see anything unusual. When evening came, he grew impatient, and could not help but thinking about Zhao Min. “I wouldn’t be this clueless if she were here” he thought. Finally he decided on going to an inn.
After taking his dinner, he took a short nap, and then around the second hour [between 1 – 3 am], he flew out of the window and went everywhere to see if there was anything astir. But after looking to all directions, he saw the night was serene, without the least bit of sign that Jianghu characters were having a meeting.
He was disappointed; but suddenly he saw a light on a tall building toward southeast from where he was. He thought, “This building must belong to a high-ranking government official or some rich family; it has nothing to do with the Beggar Clan …” He had not finished his train of thought when he saw a shadow flash; someone was leaping out from the window on the second floor. Only, he was quite some distance away from the building that he could not see clearly. He thought, “Can it be that there are some ‘lu lin’ [lit. green wood, a term usually refers to ‘world of outlaws’] characters who are visiting this rich family house to commit a criminal act? Since I have nothing to do, I’d better check it out.”
Utilizing his ‘qing gong’ [lightness skill], he immediately rushed towards that big building. As he was leaping over the enclosing wall, he heard someone say, “Chen Zhanglao [elder Chen] is really bothersome; it was decided that we are going to assemble on the eighth of the first month in Laohekou [city in Hubei], yet he dispatched an urgent message for us to hurry along and wait over here. He is not Bangzhu, why does he have a say anyway? Ridiculous.”
The voice was loud and clear, the speaker was obviously indignant; it turned out that they were on a Beggar Clan’s business. As Zhang Wuji heard this, he was delighted. The voice came from the main hall, so he quietly crept toward it.
He heard Shi Huolong’s voice reply, “Chen Zhanglao is a genius; that damn Jin Mao Shi Wang [golden-haired lion king] Xie Xun, who knows how many Jianghu people have been looking for him in these past twenty years, yet nobody has even caught the shadow of a lion hair’s fart. But Chen Zhanglao managed to capture him just like that. Nobody in the Wulin world has ever accomplished that, let alone people within our own Clan …”
Zhang Wuji was startled, but also glad that finally he heard something about his Yifu. He believed the Beggar Clan did not have any extraordinary masters and rescuing his Yifu would not be too difficult. He scanned the room pressing his eyes against a crack in the window. He saw that Shi Huolong was sitting inside, with Chuan Gong and Zhi Fa two Elders, Zhang Bang Longtou and three eight-pouch elders sitting on the lower positions. There was another well-dressed middle-aged fat man; judging from his appearance, he looked like a rich government officer, but on his back he carried six pouches. Zhang Wuji quietly nodded his head, “No wonder” he thought, “Turns out that there is a rich Beggar Clan disciple in Lulong. Who would have thought a whole bunch of beggars will be having an assembly in a rich man’s house?”
He heard Shi Huolong continue “Since Chen Zhanglao urgently wants us to wait in Lulong, he must have a valid reason. We are planning this important matter; his granny, this … this … we must be very cautious over this matter.”
“Bangzhu,” Zhang Bang Longtou said, “Please be informed that the reason the warriors in Jianghu are looking for Xie Xun is because they want to snatch the ‘wu lin zhi zun’ [the most revered in the martial art world], the precious Tulong Saber. Presently, this precious saber is not within Xie Xun’s possession. No matter how much we persuade or threaten him, he is not willing to reveal the precious saber’s location. We are wasting our time capturing this blind man; what use do we have of him other than making him to drink our wine and eat our food? In my opinion, we’d better torture him harshly; I want to see if he’d keep his mouth shut.”
“No, that would be inappropriate,” Shi Huolong replied, “We might spoil something by using force. Let’s just wait for Chen Zhanglao and then we can talk about it at length.”
Zhang Bang Longtou’s face showed discontent; he seemed to be upset that Bangzhu always wanted to hear what Chen Youliang had to say in everything.
Shi Huolong took out a letter and handed it over to Zhang Bang Longtou. “Feng Xiongdi [brother Feng],” he said, “I want you to go to Haozhou immediately and deliver this letter to Han Shantong. Tell him that his son is with us, he is safe and sound. We only want Han Shantong to submit under our Clan’s authority, and then we will view his son in a new light.”
“Delivering a letter is a minor matter,” Zhang Bang Longtou said, “Do I need to personally take the trip to do it?”
Shi Huolong’s countenance slightly dropped, he said, “Speaking of military accomplishment, Han Shantong and his comrades have created quite a stir within this last half a year or so. I hear his subordinates, that damn Zhu Yuanzhang, Xu Da, Chang Yuchun and the others, have raised up their arms and very much all of them have some stinking ability. This time I am asking Feng Xiongdi to personally deliver this letter, first, to make sure Han Shantong will submit under our Clan; and while you are hanging around them, make sure you find out what kind of plan he and his generals are cooking. Second, I want you to investigate what kind of strange secret those damn Ming Cult people are hiding. Feng Xiongdi, the task you are bearing on your shoulder is not light; how could you say it is a minor matter?”
Zhang Bang Longtou did not dare to say anything anymore; he simply said, “I respectfully follow Bangzhu’s instructions.” He accepted the letter, saluted Shi Huolong, and then left the main hall.
Zhang Wuji kept on listening, but they were only talking about how in the future, after the Ming Cult, Shaolin, Wudang, Emei, and all other Sects were subdued, the Beggar Clan would flourish with awe-inspiring prestige. This Shi Huolong’s wild ambitions were not as lofty as Chen Youliang’s; if the Beggar Clan had a sole domination over the Jianghu and warriors in the Wulin world, he would be very satisfied. He was not thinking of ruling over the country [orig. jiang1 shan1 – river and mountain] by becoming the emperor. His language was vulgar, with a lot of dirty words.
After listening for a while, Zhang Wuji was fed up; he thought, “It seems like Yifu and Zhiruo are imprisoned here. I need to rescue them first then I’ll give this big mouth, shameless beggar, a lesson.”
His right foot moved slightly, he gently leaped toward a tall tree. Looking to all directions, he saw a dozen or so Beggar Clan disciples on the lower level. They had their weapons in their hands, going back and forth patrolling the area. Zhang Wuji thought that must be the place where they kept Xie Xun and Zhou Zhiruo prisoners. Slipping down the tree, he sneaked to the tall building nearby and hid behind a fake decorative hill. As soon as the two Beggar Clan disciples turned around and walked the other way, he leaped vertically up toward the second floor, where he saw bright light from lamps and candles. He stooped down underneath a window, trying to hear any sound of activity inside.