“Humph,” one of the old monks snorted, but did not say anything.
Yuan Zhen continued, “Yuan Zhen received Fangzhang Shishu’s [abbot martial uncle] order to come and wish three Tai Shishu well, and also to talk with the prisoner.”
One raspy voice said, “Kong Jian Shizhi [martial nephew] was very virtuous and highly skilled. The three of us are very fond of him. We were hoping he would develop Shaolin’s martial art study. It was unfortunate that his life was lost in this villain’s hands. The three of us have lived in seclusion for decades and for a long time did not encumber ourselves with the mundane affairs of this world; yet because of Kong Jian Shizhi we came to this hill peak. This criminal is worthy of death for his many sins. One chop of the blade will take his life away. Why should you waste your breath and disturb our peaceful meditation?”
Yuan Zhen bowed respectfully and said, “Tai Shishu’s instruction is right. However, Fangzhang Shishu also said, my En Shi [benevolent master] was harmed by this villain, but what kind of martial art my En Shi possessed? How could this villain, alone, have the power to injure him? For that reason, we imprison him here and trouble three Tai Shishu to guard him. First, to lure his comrades to come and save him; we hope to destroy the enemies who help him harm my En Shi one by one. Second, we want him to hand over the precious Tulong Saber, so it won’t fall into other sect’s hands, and thus usurp our position as the most revered in the Wulin world, which we have held for thousands of years.”
Listening to this point, Zhang Wuji could not help but gnash his teeth in anger. He mused, “This evil thief Yuan Zhen truly deserves to be cut in pieces for all his crimes. His words are sweet but poisonous. He persuaded these three monks, who have lived in seclusion for decades, to come out, and borrow their hands to slaughter the martial art masters of the Wulin world.”
“Hmm,” he heard one of the old monk said, “You can speak with him.”
By this time, the heavy rain had not stopped, thunders were still rumbling incessantly. Yuan Zhen walked toward the center of the triangle and kneeled on the ground. “Xie Xun,” he said toward the ground, “Have you thought about it? You only need to say where you keep the Tulong Saber, I will let you go.”
Zhang Wuji felt strange, “Why did he speak to the ground?” he thought, “Could it be there is some kind of dungeon down there, and my Yifu is held captive in it?”
Suddenly, with a loud and clear voice one of the old monks said angrily, “Yuan Zhen, Buddhist monks [orig. chu1 jia1 ren2 – people who leave their homes] do not tell lies. Why do you deceive him? If he did tell you the place where he hid the Saber, would you really let him go?”
“Tai Shishu, please understand,” Yuan Zhen replied, “Disciple thinks that my En Shi’s enmity is deep, yet if we consider it carefully, our Sect’s prestige is more important. If he would tell us the precious Saber’s whereabouts for our Sect to obtain it, then we would let him go. After three years, disciple will find him to avenge my En Shi.”
“So be it,” the old monk said, “In the Wulin world, good faith is of priority. Our words are like arrows. Even toward big criminals or the most evil people, Shaolin disciples should not break our promise.”
“Respectfully received Tai Shishu’s instruction,” Yuan Zhen said.
Zhang Wuji thought, “These three Shaolin monks not only possess outstanding martial art skill, they are also virtuous eminent monks; too bad they unconsciously fell into Yuan Zhen’s sinister plot.”
He heard Yuan Zhen shout to the ground again, “Xie Xun, did you hear my Tai Shishu? Three Seniors have agreed to let you go.”
Suddenly from underground came the reply, “Cheng Kun, do you still have a face to talk to me?”
As Zhang Wuji heard this heroic, but bleak voice, which he recognized as his Yifu’s voice, his heart was shaken. He fought the strong urge to dash forward, kill Cheng Kun and rescue Xie Xun, knowing that as soon as his presence was detected, three Shaolin eminent monks’ black ropes would immediately strike him. Even without Cheng Kun joining the fight, he knew he could not match the collaboration of these three monks. He thought, “I will wait for that evil monk Yuan Zhen to go, then I will step forward to pay my respect to the three monks. Then I will explain the entire complicated story. They are enlightened Buddhists, they must know how to tell right from wrong.”
“Xie Xun,” he heard Yuan Zhen say with a sigh, “You and I are old, why do you still painfully hang on to those past events? At most in twenty more years, you and I both will return to the yellow earth. I know I have wronged you, but I have also done you some good. Let the matter of the past go.”
As he was rambling on, Xie Xun did not pay him any attention. He simply waited until he was done speaking, then he said, “Cheng Kun, do you still have a face to talk to me?”
Yuan Zhen talked repeatedly for half a day, but the answer was always, “Cheng Kun, do you still have a face to talk to me?”
Yuan Zhen coldly laughed and said, “I give you three days to think it over. After three days, if you still do not want to tell the Tulong Saber’s whereabouts, you know with what method I will deal with you.” As he said that, he stood up, paid his respect to the three monks, and walked down the hill.
Zhang Wuji waited until he walked far. He was about to arise to greet the three monks when suddenly he felt something different on the air around him. This sneak attack did not have the least bit of forewarning. He was shocked and immediately rolled away, while feeling two long objects from above of his face coming horizontally across, perhaps no more than half a foot in front of his face. It was a swift and marvelous attack, but did not carry the least bit of wind. These objects were precisely the long black ropes.
As he rolled a little more than a ‘zhang’ away, another black rope was pointing toward his chest. This black rope was as straight as a lance or a staff, coming fast to pierce his body. At the same time, the other two ropes wound around from behind him.
Only a moment ago he had seen four masters of Kunlun Pai, in short succession, lost their lives under these three black ropes. So he knew that these strange weapons were very fierce. Feeling the danger he was facing at this precise moment, he was even more shocked.
Flipping his left hand, he caught the black rope piercing his chest, thinking he would fling it to the side. But suddenly the rope shook and a whiff of mountain-moving, ocean-stirring internal energy attacked the pit of his stomach. If this attack hit its target, all his ribs would be broken and his five internal organs would be crushed.