All over the world, no one can be a hero.
Very soon it was the Duan Yang Festival. Zhang Wuji led the Ming Cult warriors to Shaolin Temple. The Shaolin Temple’s front hall, rear hall, left and right side rooms, everywhere was overflowing with heroes and warriors from all kinds of martial art schools. Among these Wulin characters, some had enmity toward Xie Xun, so they anxiously came to kill him to avenge their grievance. Some others were there for the Tulong Saber, so they were dreaming of snatching the precious saber away and becoming the ‘most revered in the Wulin world’ [wulin zhi zun]. Yet some others were having a grudge against each other, so they came to seize the opportunity to avenge their grievances. But the majority came just because they loved the festivities bustling with noise and excitement.
The Shaolin Temple prepared more than a hundred monks as ushers; they directed the guests to their respective places. Wudang Pai had sent Yu Lianzhou and Yin Liting as their representatives. Zhang Wuji quickly stepped forward to welcome them and inquired about Zhang Sanfeng’s well-being.
Yu Lianzhou quietly said, “Did you hear anything about Qingshu and Chen Youliang?”
Zhang Wuji briefly told him what happened since they parted, and was relieved to learn Song and Chen, two men, had not stirred up any trouble on Mount Wudang, and that at this moment, Song Yuanqiao and Zhang Songxi did not come because they were guarding their Shifu and their monastery against the traitors’ evil plot. Yu Lianzhou also mentioned that ever since Song Yuanqiao heard with his own ears how his own only son was plotting against him, he was heart-broken and did not have any appetite for food and drink. Right now, he was half as thin as he was. They did not dare to tell their Shifu anything, for fear that Shifu would be grieved.
Zhang Wuji said, “I do hope Song Shige [martial (older) brother] realizes his wrong path very soon and repents, so that he can be reunited with Song Da Shibo [first martial (older) uncle].”
“That is so,” Yu Lianzhou said, “But this renegade has killed Mo Qidi [seventh (younger) brother], we cannot let him off lightly.” His voice was full of bitter hatred.
Within the next two hours, more and more Wulin characters arrived. The Twin Evil of Hejian and the Qinghai Pai swordsmen who fought the Jin Gang Fu Mo Quan the other day had also arrived. Huashan Pai, Kongtong Pai and Kunlun Pai also sent out their masters to attend the meeting. Only nobody from Emei Pai went up the mountain.
Zhang Wuji was hoping he would see Zhou Zhiruo; he wanted to explain to her why he did what he did the other day. However, as he imagined her face and her gaze, he became anxious from a mixture of fear and shame.
The Ming Cult warriors were assigned the west side room. They did not mingle with the other heroes, because they simply had too many enemies. They were afraid that as personal enemies meet, a big fight would ensue even before the Great Assembly was officially opened.
As the seventh hour [between 11am – 1 pm] arrived, the usher monks invited the guests to gather on a large open space to the right of the Temple. It was actually a several hundred ‘mu’ [1 mu is approximately one fifteenth of a hectare] vegetable garden on which the monks grew their food. But this time the field was leveled, and several dozens wooden shelters were erected on it.
The warriors sat on their assigned seats as directed by the monks. Any school, sect, clan or society with a large group of warriors occupied one shelter; while those with fewer numbers of delegates shared the shelter with other warriors. Peng Yingyu reported the name and origin of each and every warrior on the field for Zhang Wuji’s benefit.
When all the warriors had gathered, it was obvious that this meeting would be a grand occasion. Many characters who normally did not roam the Jianghu too often, who had lived in the privacy of the remote mountains and forests, also made their appearance one after another. Peng Yingyu estimated that not including the Ming Cult, there were about 4,600 people on the field that day. Seeing these numerous assembly participants, most of them were not friendly toward the Ming Cult, Zhang Wuji, Yang Xiao, and the others were anxious.
After the audience had been seated, the Shaolin monks began to appear. Beginning with the Yuan generation, followed by Hui, Fa, Xiang, and Zhuang, they bowed toward the audience. Finally Kong Zhi Shen Seng appeared, followed by nine senior monks from the Damo Hall. Kong Zhi walked toward the middle of the field, clasped his palms in respect, uttered some praises to Buddha, and then said, “The arrival of the world’s heroes in acceptance to our invitation today has brought great honor to Shaolin Pai. However, Fangzhang Shixiong is suddenly ill that he does not have the good fortune of seeing the virtuous guests. He therefore, asked Lao Na to convey his deepest regret.”
Zhang Wuji felt little bit strange, “When Kong Wen Dashi attended Grandfather’s funeral the other day, he did not look sick at all; he looked spirited and bright. With the kind of internal energy he has, how can he fall sick so suddenly? Could he be injured?” He looked around but saw neither Yuan Zhen nor Chen Youliang; he thought, “That night I exposed Yuan Zhen’s treachery to Du E, three eminent monks; I wonder if Shaolin has taken care of him or not. I wonder if Kong Wen Dashi’s sudden illness has anything to do with it.”
At the end of the Southern Song Dynasty, after Guo Jing and Huang Rong, husband and wife, had scored several major victories, they invited the world’s heroes and warriors to Xiangyang to discuss plans and strategies to withstand the Mongolian invasion. And now, almost a hundred years later, another great assembly of world’s heroes and warriors, the biggest grand occasion in the Jianghu, was being held; but all of a sudden the host was ill. It is no wonder the crowd of warriors could not help but feel disappointed.
They heard Kong Zhi continue, “Jin Mao Shi Wang Xie Xun has wreaked havoc in the Wulin; he has committed a very serious crime. Luckily, our humble Temple has captured him. Shaolin Pai does not dare to make the decision on our own. Therefore, we respectfully invite all honorable Wulin warriors to discuss how we are going to handle this matter.”
His face was long ever since he made his appearance; by now, he sounded lethargic. As soon as he finished speaking, he clasped his palms again and withdrew.
A man stood up on the southeast corner, his stature was big and tall, the black beard on his face was interspersed with white, and it was fluttering in the breeze, he swept his gaze on the warriors with a bright and fiery pair of eyes; in short, he looked imposing. Peng Yingyu quietly informed Zhang Wuji that this person was Shandong’s old pugilist master, Xia Zhou. They heard his thunderous voice say, “This Xie Xun has done too much evil. Your precious Sect unexpectedly able to capture him, the benefit you bring to the Wulin world is not small. Kong Wen, Kong Zhi, two Shen Seng [divine monks] are too modest. This kind of evil person deserves to be executed immediately with a blade. End of story. Why do you have to ask others? Today, the heroes from all over the world are gathered here, and we call this assembly ‘tu shi da hui’ [lion-slaying great assembly]. Let us put this Xie Xun to death, and then everybody eat his flesh and drink his blood, as a revenge for our innocent friends and relatives who died under his hands. Won’t we all be happy?”
His own older brother was killed by Xie Xun, so for the last dozens of years he always wanted revenge. As his words, several hundred people around the field echoed his sentiment; they all wanted to kill Xie Xun as soon as possible.
Amidst the commotion, suddenly a sad sounding voice was heard. “Xie Xun is the Ming Cult’s ‘hu jiao fa wang’ [see my note in Chapter 30 earlier]. If Shaolin Pai were not afraid to offend the Ming Cult, they would already have put Xie Xun to the sword early on; why would they invite everybody here to share the blame? I think, Xia Dage [big brother Xia], you are a bit muddle-headed. Let your brother here tell you something: you’d better watch out for your own life.”
His voice might be sad and high-pitched, sounded like a man, but also like a woman, but as it reached everybody’s ears, the words were very clear. Everybody turned their heads toward the voice, but they could not see who it was. Apparently, that speaker was short, and when he talked, he did not stand up. Sitting among the crowd, nobody could see him.
Xia Zhou loudly said, “Is that ‘zui bu si’ [drunken but not dead] Brother Situ? I have an enmity with that Xie Xun for killing my brother. A real man is not afraid of his own actions. I can ask the Shaolin eminent monks to take him out; I will kill him personally. If the devil heads of the Devil Cult want revenge, they can come to look for the man surnamed Xia of Shandong.”
The man with the sad voice laughed and said, “Xia Dage, everybody in Jianghu knows that the ‘most revered in the Wulin world’, the precious Tulong Saber, has fallen into Xie Xun’s hand. Since Shaolin Pai has acquired Xie Xun, how can they not be interested in the treasured Saber? Killing Xie Xun is secondary; lifting up the Saber to show their prestige is the priority. I’ll say: Kong Zhi Dashi, you don’t need to put an act; just take that precious Tulong Saber and hold it high in your hands, let us broaden our horizons. For thousand of years, you, Shaolin Pai, have been the head and brain of the Wulin world. With the Saber you won’t achieve much, without the Saber you won’t lose much; you will always be the ‘most revered in the Wulin world’.”