In the time of split seconds, Zhang Wuji moved his right hand to the back, warding off the two black ropes threatening his back, while his left hand launched the Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, backed by Jiu Yang Shen Gong. One hand pulled the other pushed and he let his body follow the force. With a ‘whiz!’ he flew up to the sky.
Right that moment, three, four flashes of lightning lit up the sky. Two of the eminent monks grunted, as if they were amazed at his martial art skill. These lightning illuminated Zhang Wuji. Three eminent monks lifted up their heads, only to see that the martial art master whose skill had reached the pinnacle of perfection was actually a peasant young man with a filthy face. They were even more surprised.
Three black ropes flew up menacingly like three black dragons, aiming Zhang Wuji from three different directions. Taking advantage of the lightning, Zhang Wuji looked down to see clearly the three monks’ appearances. The one sitting on the northeast corner had a black face, as black as the bottom of a wok. The one on the northeast corner had a sickly yellowish face, the same color of a dry wood. The monk sitting on the south had a deathly pale, paper-white face. All three monks had deep cheeks. They were so thin that it looked as if they did not have any flesh on their bodies. The yellow-faced monk only had one eye. The five eyes of the three old monks sparkled under the lightning so that they looked even more mysterious.
As he saw the three black ropes curling toward the upper part of his body, Zhang Wuji pushed to the left and reached to the right. One hand swept, the other tangled as he borrowed these three monks’ forces to wind the three black ropes together. This move was based on Wudang Pai’s Taiji technique, which he learned from Zhang Sanfeng. The force was like a vortex, the three black ropes were wound into one.
The lightning flashed, the thunder rumbled continuously; the Heaven was showing off its soul-shaking power. Zhang Wuji made several somersaults midair, before his left foot landed on a pine-tree branch. As he steadied his footing, in between the crashing thunder he said in a clear voice, “Junior [orig. hou4 xue2 wan3 bei4 – younger generation who studied later] Ming Jiao Jiao Zhu [the Ming Cult’s Cult Leader] Zhang Wuji, pays his respect to three eminent monks.”
His left foot was treading on the tree branch, his right foot high up in the sky, while he bowed in respect. As he bowed down, the pine-tree branch followed his movement, bobbing up and down slightly like a wave. Zhang Wuji stood steadily, his body appeared graceful. Although he was bowing down, he was up on the tree looking down, so he did not degrade his position.
As the three monks felt their ropes were wound up by Zhang Wuji’s internal energy, they shook their hands and the ropes separated. In this short exchange, the three monks had used the three different stances of nine different styles [san1 zhao1 jiu4 shi4]; each style concealed dozens of variations, dozens of killer moves. Who would have thought that each one of these three stances of nine styles was warded off by the opponent? Each style was extremely dangerous. If the opponent missed even a fraction of a hair width, his flesh would be crushed and his bones broken, he would die a violent death. However, Zhang Wuji appeared to stay composed, as if he was crossing a ravine like flat ground. The three eminent monks had never faced this kind of superior opponent. No wonder they were very amazed.
They actually did not know that to neutralize these three stances of nine styles, Zhang Wuji was forced to exhaust his entire strength. So as he was standing on the fluctuating pine-tree branch, he took the opportunity to regulate the troubled internal energy [orig. zhen1 qi4 – genuine breath] in his ‘dan tian’ [pubic region].
The martial arts Zhang Wuji used just now consisted of Jiu Yang Shen Gong, Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, and Taiji Quan, three major divine skills, but for the final somersault in midair, he used the technique he learned from the engraving of the Sheng Huo Ling.
Although the three Shaolin eminent monks possessed unique skill in martial arts, they had been living in seclusion for decades; they did not follow the human affairs. Obviously, they had never seen even one of these four martial arts. They vaguely felt, however, that his internal energy was somewhat similar to Shaolin Jiu Yang energy, yet it also felt far superior to Shaolin’s divine energy in a subtle way. As they heard him introducing his own name, who was unexpectedly the Cult Leader of the Ming Cult, the admiration and surprise they felt earlier immediately turned into rage.
The old monk with deathly-pale face spitefully said, “Lao Na [lit. old cassock – referring to self] was wondering which martial art expert descended down to pay us a visit; turns out it is the big devil head of the Devil Cult. Lao Na, three brothers, have shut ourselves up for dozens of years, ignoring the mundane affairs of this world. Even our own Sect’s important business usually eludes our attention. Today by chance we get to meet the Devil Cult’s leader; that is truly the good fortune we couldn’t even hope for in our lifetimes.”
To hear him mentioning the words ‘devil head’ and ‘Devil Cult’ left and right, it was obvious to Zhang Wuji that they bore a very deep grievance against his Cult; he could not help hesitate greatly, and was at a loss as how to reply.
He heard the yellow-faced monk with one eye say, “The Jiaozhu of the Devil Cult is Yang Dingtian!
How can it be Sire?”
“Yang Jiaozhu has passed away almost thirty years ago,” Zhang Wuji replied.
“Ah!” the yellow-faced old monk exclaimed, but did not say anything. He sounded shocked, as if he was utterly crushed and broken-hearted.
Zhang Wuji thought, “He looks exceedingly grieved to hear about Yang Jiaozhu’s death. His friendship with Yang Jiaozhu in the past must be very deep. Yifu was Yang Jiaozhu’s subordinate. Perhaps I can bring up the old friendship and then tell them how Yuan Zhen bore a deep hatred toward Yang Jiaozhu, and I’ll see what happen.” Thereupon he said, “Da Shi [reverend – grand master] must have known Yang Jiaozhu then?”
“Of course I do,” the yellow-faced old monk replied, “If Lao Na did not know the great hero [the word here is ‘da ying xiong’] Yang Dingtian, how could I turn into a one-eyed man? Why would we, three martial brothers, have to sit in suffering for more than thirty years?”
He said those words matter-of-factly, but the extreme pain and deep hatred behind those words were obvious. Zhang Wuji groaned inwardly, “Bad! It’s bad!” He understood that this old monk’s eye went bad under Yang Dingtian’s hands, so the three martial brothers lived in seclusion for the last thirty years of their lives, making a painstaking effort, was to avenge this enmity. No wonder they were greatly disappointed to hear the death of their archenemy.
The yellow-faced old monk suddenly let out a clear whistle and said, “Zhang Jiaozhu, Lao Na’s Buddhist name is Du E [lit. crossing distress]. This white-faced Shidi [younger martial brother] is Du Jie [lit. crossing calamity]. This black-faced Shidi is Du Nan [lit. crossing difficulty]. Since Yang Dingtian [his given name means ‘top of the sky’] has died, our three people’s deep hatred and great resentment must fall into the current Jiaozhu. Our martial nephews, Kong Jian and Kong Xing have died under your honorable Cult’s hands. Since you dare to come over here, you must be a fearless man. As for the dozens of years gratitude and grudges, let our martial art skills be the judge.”
Zhang Wuji said, “Junior [wan3 bei4] does not have any enmity against your precious Sect. I come here to rescue Yifu, Jin Mao Shi Wang Xie Daxia. Although Kong Jian Shen Seng [divine monk] accidentally perished under my Yifu’s hands, the background story is rather complicated. As for Kong Xing Shen Seng’s death, it has nothing to do with my humble Cult. The three of you cannot listen only to one side of the story. You must be able to discern right from wrong.”
The white-faced old monk, Du Jie, said, “So according to you, who harmed Kong Xing?”
Zhang Wuji frowned and said, “According to Junior’s understanding, Kong Xing Shen Seng died under the imperial family’s Ruyang Palace’s warrior.”
“Who is the leader of the Ruyang Palace’s warriors?” Du Jie asked.
“The daughter of the Ruyang Prince,” Zhang Wuji replied, “Her Han name is Zhao Min.”