To his astonishment, after listening for a while, he did not hear anything inside. “How come there is nobody inside?” he thought, “Could it be that the person in here is a martial art master who is able to stop his breathing?” But after listening a moment longer and still did not hear any breathing noise, he stretched out his neck to peek into the room via a crack in the window.
He saw a pair of large candles on the table, which had been burned more than half of their original length, but there was not a single human shadow to be seen. There were three rooms on the second floor, located side by side. The one on the immediate east of him was unoccupied, so he peeked into the room on the west. This room was also brightly lit. He saw cups and bowls scattered on the table, about enough to be used by seven, eight people. The wine in the cup had not dried up, the vegetable and meat dishes had not been finished, but there was not a single human being inside the room. It looked like the people had not been eating and drinking too long when they had to leave the room in a hurry.
The room in the middle was pitch-black like a cave. He lightly pushed the door, but it was bolted from the inside. “Yifu, are you in there?” he called out in low voice. Nobody answered. Zhang Wuji thought, “Apparently, Yifu is not here. But why do the Beggar Clan people set up such a strict security? Could it be that they are running the ‘real is fake, fake is real’ tactic?”
Suddenly he caught a whiff of smell of reeking blood coming out from the middle room. He was alarmed. With his left hand pressed against the door, he exerted his internal energy and ‘crack!’ the bolt broke. Quick as a flash he darted inside to catch the broken bolt so that it would not fall on the floor and create some noise.
He only took one step forward when his foot stumbled on an object on the floor. It felt soft like it was a human body. He stooped down to touch the object and indeed it was a lifeless human body. This person had ceased breathing, but his face was still a bit warm; looked like he died not too long ago. Zhang Wuji traced the corpse’s head and found the head to be small with pointy chin, definitely it wasn’t Xie Xun’s head. He was relieved. Taking another step he bumped into two more bodies. He went to the western wooden partition and poked his finger to let the candlelight from the adjacent room passing through. He saw seven, eight Beggar Clan disciples scattered around the room, all dead. Obviously, they were killed because of heavy internal injury. He lifted a corpse up and tore the clothes off. He saw a deep fist imprint on that corpse’s chest, breaking up his ribs; apparently, the power behind the fist was extraordinarily strong.
Zhang Wuji was delighted, “Turns out Yifu unleashed his mighty power and struck these guards dead.” He looked around the room, and saw on a corner of the wall a picture of blazing fire, engraved with the tip of a sword; it was undoubtedly the symbol of the Ming Cult. He also noticed that the latch of the window was snapped off; the window was open. “That’s right,” Zhang Wuji thought, “The dark shadow I saw fleeing out the upstairs window a moment ago must be Yifu escaping. I wonder how was he captured by the Beggar Clan? It must be because his blindness made it difficult for him to guard against the Beggar Clan’s deceit. If they did not use ‘meng han yao’ [drug, see Chapter 32], then they must have used some kind of trap [orig. ban4 ma3 suo3, dao3 gou1, yu2 wang3 – large rope to trip horses, hook to topple someone, fishnet] to capture him.”
He went out the room in delight. Crouching by the door he looked downstairs and saw that the beggars were going back and forth on their patrol duty; they were completely oblivious of the accident happened on the second floor. Zhang Wuji thought, “Yifu has not left too long, I can still overtake him. And then we, father and son, will come back and make an earth-shattering disturbance here, to teach these beggars the way we Ming Cult deal with our enemies.” Thinking to this point, his spirit rose. Remembering that the dark shadow he saw earlier went out from the west side, he jumped out to the enclosing wall using a tall tree as a stepping-stone, and then rushed to the west.
Following the main road, he ran for several ‘li’s before arriving on a fork on the road. He looked around looking for clue, and saw a blazing fire mark behind a rock, pointing to the road going southwest. Zhang Wuji was very happy thinking that now his Yifu’s whereabouts was clear and he would see him very soon.
Yang Xiao had explained the markings and signs used by the Ming Cult to communicate to each other to him in detail. He noticed that although this blazing fire sign had only several strokes the lines were bold; not many people within the Ming Cult were able to produce this kind of drawing other than people of Xie Xun’s caliber who was well-versed in both sword and pen [orig. wen2 wu3 quan2 cai2].
His doubts were gone. Hurriedly he took the small lane, straight to the relay station of Shahe [city in Hebei]. It was already dawn; he stopped by any restaurant along the way to buy some steamed buns and flatbreads to satisfy his hunger and then hurriedly continued his journey westward until he arrived at the small town of Bangzi. He saw another blazing fire symbol on the lower part of a wall on the corner of the street, pointing toward an abandoned ancestral hall. He was very happy thinking that his Yifu might be hiding in that hall.
As he got near the gate, he heard a clamoring noise of people talking and shouting as rowdy characters and people of obscure background who gathered around the main hall, gambling. It turned out that this place was some kind of a gambling establishment.
The manager saw Zhang Wuji and noticed his fancy and expensive-looking attire, he knew a rich customer had arrived; busily he smiled and mumbling some welcoming words, “Gongziye [young master], come and roll the dice; your luck must be good, beat these three villagers. Turning his head he called out the crowd of gamblers, “Make room for Gongziye. Everybody, put your bet down, let Gongziye have his hands on the money!”
Zhang Wuji frowned, he knew these gamblers were not Jianghu characters. Raising his voice he called out, “Yifu, Yifu! Are you Senior in here?” He waited for a while, but nobody answered. He called out again several times.
Seeing he did not come to gamble, but shouting and creating disturbance instead, a ruffian called out, “Good child, your Senior is here, hurry up and roll the dice!” The main hall resounded with the sound of the ruffians’ laughter.
Zhang Wuji asked the manager, “Did you see an elderly gentleman, big and tall, yellow hair, and blind eyes?”
As the manager realized this person did not come to gamble, but to look for someone, he was disappointed. He said with a laugh, “What a joke! You are saying that there is a blind man who came here to roll the dice? This blind man must be crazy!”
Zhang Wuji was not in a good mood as he failed to find his Yifu. Listening to the manager and that ruffian being rude and make fun of his Yifu, he took two steps forward, grabbed the manager and the ruffian, and casually flung them to the roof. Although these two men were not injured, they were scared out of their wits and screamed like a pig being slaughtered.
Zhang Wuji pushed the crowd over and took two silver ingots from the gambling table. He said, “Gongziye is having his hands on the money.” He put the silver into his pocket, and left the ancestral hall in big strides. The ruffians froze in fear; who would dare to chase him?
Zhang Wuji continued his journey westward. Not too long afterwards he saw another blazing fire sign. It was already evening, and he had arrived at Fengrun, another big city on the northern part of Hebei. Following the sign, he found a whitewashed wall with a black gate. The copper-ring door knockers were shiny, inside the wall plum blossoms were half-blooming; it was a quiet, elegant and clean house.
He picked the doorknockers and knocked three times. A short moment later he heard footsteps approaching. With a creaking noise the black door opened. A strong fragrance immediately attacked his nostrils. The one who answered the door was a girl wearing a pink leather jacket with a small knot on top of her head. She pursed her lips, laughed, and said, “Gongziye, long time no see. Jiejie [older sister] misses you very much. Come in and drink some tea.” Her words were followed by another laugh, and then she threw a coquettish look at him.
Zhang Wuji was flabbergasted. “How did you know me? Who is your Jiejie?” he asked.
The girl laughed and said, “You still ask? Hurry up, don’t let my Jiejie die of loneliness [orig. qian1 du3 gua4 chang2 – pulling the tripe, hanging the intestines].” Reaching out, she grabbed Zhang Wuji’s right hand and pulled him in.
Zhang Wuji was greatly astonished, “Why does she act like she has known me for a long time?” he wondered. But then he remembered, “Ah, right, Zhiruo must be staying in here; she knew I was following the sign all day looking for them, so she told this girl to wait for me. Ay, we haven’t seen each other for many days now, Zhiruo must be dying of loneliness because she misses me very much.” He felt tenderness in his heart and without hesitation, followed the girl inside.
They walked through a small pathway of cobblestones, passed a courtyard, and entered a side room. He saw a parrot perched beneath the eaves, which said in throaty voice, “Qing Gege [big brother Qing, or lit. ‘passionate brother’. I am not sure whether the character ‘Qing’ here is someone’s name, or it refers to ‘beloved brother’] is here. Jiejie, Qing Gege is here.”