Graceful movements of three pines in the lush green forest.
Under the heavy rain, the patrols on rooftops and everywhere else were considerably slackened off. Zhang Wuji followed close after Yuanzhen by hiding behind the building corners and behind big trees. He saw Yuan Zhen leap over the back wall of the Temple. “Turns out Yifu is imprisoned outside the Temple,” he thought, “No wonder I can’t find any clues inside the Temple.”
He did not dare to jump openly over the wall; creeping along the wall, he climbed up slowly to the top of the wall, and then after the patrolling monks passed by, he jumped down to the ground. In the rain, he saw that the top of Yuan Zhen’s umbrella was already more than a hundred ‘zhang’s to the north of the Temple, and then it turned to the left toward a small hill. Yuan Zhen climbed to the top of the hill with an exceptional speed
By this time Yuan Zhen was already around seventy years of age, but his agility was still extraordinary; during the ascend to the peak, the umbrella in his hand did not seem to sway at all. His movements were so smooth that it was as if someone was pulling him up with a rope.
Zhang Wuji quickly ran toward the foot of the hill. He was about to climb up when suddenly his eyes caught a glittering light by the mountain path; there was someone with open blade lying in ambush by the roadside, hastily he halted his step. After waiting for only a short moment, he saw from the cluster of trees four people, three in the front and one in the back, came out and ran toward the peak. From a distant, Zhang Wuji saw there were several pine trees on the peak, but he did not see any buildings. He wondered where Xie Xun could be imprisoned.
After looking around for and not coming across any other people, he followed to the peak. The ‘qing gong’skills of the four people ahead of him were excellent. He picked up speed until he was only about twenty ‘zhang’s behind them. In the darkness he could still see that among the four, one was a woman, the other three were men, all of them wearing regular clothes. He thought, “Most likely these four came to give my Yifu some trouble. I’ll let them fight a life and death battle against Yuan Zhen first. There is no hurry for me to interfere.”
Arriving at the peak, the four people picked up their speed. Suddenly Zhang Wuji recognized two of them, “Ah, those two are Kunlun Pai’s He Taichong and Ban Shuxian, husband and wife.”
He heard Yuan Zhen let out a long and fierce cry, turn around abruptly, and dash back down the hill. Immediately Zhang Wuji dove down and hid among the grass by the roadside. He crawled several ‘zhang’s to the left and heard the ringing noise of clashing weapons, as Yuan Zhen and the newcomers had begun to fight.
From the sound of the clashing weapons, it sounded like only two people were fighting Yuan Zhen. “The other two are not fighting,” he mused, “Obviously, they proceed to the peak to find Yifu.” Right away he crept faster among the thick patch of grass to the peak of the hill.
As he arrived at the peak, he only saw a bare stretch of flat land; there was no building, only three tall pine trees arranged in triangle, their branches looked like soaring dragon, reaching up to the sky. He felt strange, “Could it be that Yifu is not being held here?” he thought.
He heard some rustling noise coming from the underbrush on his right, as someone was creeping along; followed by Ban Shuxian’s voice, “Move quickly, our two Shidi’s may not necessarily able to hold that Shaolin monk.”
“That’s right,” He Taichong replied. Two people rose up and charged toward the three pine trees.
Zhang Wuji was afraid Xie Xun was really around here, so he did not dare to act rashly; he crawled forward among the thick grass. Suddenly he heard He Taichong exclaim, ‘Hey!’, as if he was hurt. Raising his head, he saw that He Taichong was standing among the pine trees, brandishing his sword fiercely like he was fighting with somebody, but actually no one else was visible. He only heard occasional ‘bang, bang, bang’, as if He Taichong’s sword was colliding with some strange weapon. Zhang Wuji was even more perplexed. He crawled several steps forward and focused his eyes to have a closer look; he could not help but gasp in shock.
It turned out that the trunks of the two pine trees diametrically opposite to him were hollow. The cavities’ size was just enough to accommodate one person. In each cavity sat an old monk, each monk held a black long rope in his hand, with which they were attacking He Taichong, husband and wife. The third three was right in front of Zhang Wuji. A black long rope also came out from this tree, so he knew that this tree also had an old monk inside its trunk.
In the dark night, the three black ropes did not reflect any light, hence, they were almost invisible in their movements. He Taichong, husband and wife, anxiously brandished their swords in tight defense. But because they could not see the direction of the enemies’ weapons, they did not have the leeway to launch any counterattack. These three long ropes appeared to move slowly, but in reality they were very fast, yet they did not create any wind at all. Under the heavy rain, in the middle of the night, on a lone hill peak, the three ropes moved like ghosts or as if by magic; it was unspeakably weird.
Mr. and Mrs. He repeatedly shouted their frustrations. They tried to get away from the encirclement these trees, but each time they charged outward, the ropes would always push them back in. Zhang Wuji was secretly amazed; these ropes moved noiselessly, the people who drove them must have had profound internal energy, clear, pure and without any ruggedness in its utilization, might not be inferior to his own. He was astonished. “Yuan Zhen said that Yifu is being guarded by his three Tai Shishu [grand martial uncles]; obviously, they are these three old monks. Their power is extremely profound!”
“Ah!” suddenly he heard a miserable cry, as He Taichong’s back was hit by the rope and was thrown out from the encirclement; his life was gone right away.
Ban Shuxian was shocked and saddened. While she is losing her concentration ever so slightly, the three ropes struck together to burst her skull and break her four limbs, making her lose her human form. One of the black ropes shook and threw Ban Shuxian’s corpse out from the encirclement.
Yuan Zhen was fighting and stepping backwards, luring his opponents toward the peak. “Come!” he called out, “You dare to come here, receive your death.”
Although his two opponents were Kunlun Pai’s masters, with his level of martial art skill, Yuan Zhen would not necessarily lose, but it would be difficult to kill both of them at once. At best he would be able to injure only one of them, and then the other one would unavoidably escape. Therefore, he led them toward the pine trees.
The two of them were still several ‘zhang’s away from the trees, when suddenly they saw He Taichong’s body. They both halted their steps, and in that split second, two long ropes came noiselessly from behind their heads and wound around their waists. The ropes jerked, and two people were thrown down from the peak, which was more than a hundred ‘zhang’s tall. Needless to say, they died as soon as their bodies struck the foot of the hill, but they cried out wretchedly when they were still midair, and the echo of their cry was still heard even after they were dead.
In a short moment the three old monks had killed four masters of Kunlun Pai. They were able to lift heavy objects as if they were very light, and accomplished the task with ease; the level of their martial art skill was rarely seen. Zhang Wuji believed they were superior to Lu Zhangke and He Biweng, although not as good as Tai Shifu [grand master] Zhang Sanfeng, whose skill was immeasurably deep; but they had definitely reached the boundary of divinity. Shaolin Pai unexpectedly still had this kind of old expert, perhaps even Tai Shifu and Yang Xiao were not aware of it. His heart was beating fast; he crouched down in the thick grass and did not dare to make the slightest movement.
He saw Yuan Zhen kick twice in succession, sending the bodies of He Taichong and Ban Shuxian into the deep valley below. As the corpses fell, it was a moment later that they heard two dull thuds as the bodies crashed into the bottom of the valley. Zhang Wuji mused, “He Taichong repaid my kindness with evil. Today he came here to harm my Yifu and steal the precious saber away; his conduct was despicable. But he was a martial art master, truly an expert in the martial art study, and a leader of his school. I did not expect for him to end his life this way.”
He heard Yuan Zhen respectfully say, “Three Tai Shishu’s divine skill is truly matchless; just by raising your hands, you have killed four masters of the Kunlun Pai. Yuan Zhen’s respect is endless. Words truly cannot express it.”