Chuan Gong Zhanglao turned around and said in a loud voice, “Our Beggar Clan and Shaolin Pai never had neither enmity nor grudge. Our humble Clan has always regarded Shaolin Pai as the Wulin’s number one major sect. In case of any small misunderstanding, we have always exercised self-restraint as much as we possibly can, and have never dared to offend Shaolin Pai openly. As our humble Clan’s Shi Qian Bangzhu’s [former Shi Bangzhu] subordinates, we have always admired the Four Divine Monks of Shaolin as persons of virtue and prestige; as the model warriors of the martial art study we should imitate. Shi Qian Bangzhu had long ago lived in seclusion to recuperate from his injury in peace and quiet; for dozens of years he had not made any contacts with other Jianghu characters. But somehow, he had fallen under a Shaolin senior monk’s evil hands …”
“Ah!” as he spoke to this point, the people around the field called out in shock. Even Kong Zhi was taken by surprise.
In the meantime, Chuan Gong Zhanglao continued, “We come here today to ask, in the presence of the heroes of the world, Kong Wen Fangzhang to give us directions in treading this confusing path. What did our Shi Qian Bangzhu do to offend Shaolin that that Shaolin senior monk, even after he killed Shi Qian Bangzhu, had to be so merciless toward his widow, a lone helpless woman that in the end Mrs. Shi was not able to defend her own life?”
“Amituofo,” Kong Zhi clasped his palms, “Only at this moment Lao Na learned of Shi Bangzhu’s misfortune and that he passed away. Zhanglao keeps proclaiming that it was our humble Sect’s disciple who has done it; I am afraid there is a big misunderstanding in this case. Would Zhanglao please tell us the details?”
Chuan Gong Zhanglao said, “For thousands of years Shaolin Pai has been the ‘tai shan bei dou’ [Mount Tai (Taishan) Big Dipper Constellation, ‘as weighty as Mt. Tai, as brilliant as the Big Dipper’, meaning the ultimate] of the Wulin world; how can we dare to make a false accusation? Your precious Temple has an eminent monk and a secular disciple; we request that they come out and confront us.”
“Zhanglao please tell us what to do, we will comply,” Kong Zhi replied, “I wonder which two people Zhanglao wants to come out?”
“They are …” Chuan Gong Zhanglao only uttered the ‘are’ word, and suddenly he was tongue-tied with his mouth open, unable to continue.
Kong Zhi was shocked. He hastily stepped forward and grabbed his right wrist, feeling for pulse, which, unexpectedly, had stopped. Kong Zhi was even more shocked. “Zhanglao! Zhanglao!” he called. Looking at Chuan Gong Zhanglao’s face, Kong Zhi saw a small black dot the size of the head of an incense stick between his eyebrows; apparently his fatal point was hit by some poisonous secret projectile.
With a loud voice Kong Zhi shouted, “Fellow Heroes and Warriors, please understand. This Beggar Clan elder was hit by a poisonous secret projectile and unfortunately lost his life. Our Shaolin Pai has never used this kind of evil secret projectile.”
The Beggar Clan people immediately broke into clamor; several dozen people rushed toward Chuan Gong Zhanglao’s body. Zhang Bo Longtou took a piece of magnet from his pocket and put it in between Chuan Gong Zhanglao’s eyebrows. He pulled a steel needle, as fine as an ox hair, only about an inch long. The Beggar Clan elders realized that Kong Zhi was not lying; an upright and prestigious sect like Shaolin Pai certainly would not use this kind of evil secret projectile. However, someone had sneakily and unexpectedly launched a secret projectile, under broad daylight, under the gaze of thousands of eyes without anybody seeing it, and this was certainly strange beyond anybody’s imagination.
Zhi Fa Zhanglao and the others thought that Chuan Gong Zhanglao was standing with his face to the south, so the secret projectile must come from the south. At this time, the sun was shining dazzlingly, Chuan Gong Zhanglao was indignant and excited so he must have been unguarded against this kind of fine secret projectile. With angry glare the elders looked at the people behind Kong Zhi. They saw that the eyes of the nine old monks wearing red kasaya were half-closed with their eyebrows drooping down. Behind these nine monks stood a row of monks wearing yellow robes, followed by monks in gray robes. However, although they had no doubt that the murderer was one of these Shaolin monks, they could not tell which one was the villain.
Zhi Fa Zhanglao let out a loud and long laugh, while tears rolling down like rain from his eyes. “Kong Zhi Dashi,” he said, “Are you still thinking that we have brought false accusation towards Shaolin Pai? How will you explain what has just happened?”
Zhang Bang Longtou was the most hot-tempered among the beggars; brandishing the iron staff in his hand, he roared, “We will fight to the death with Shaolin Pai today!”
‘Clang, clang, clang!’ a chaotic noise was heard as the Beggar Clan people took out their weapons and charged toward the middle of the field.
With a grieved countenance Kong Zhi turned around toward the group of Shaolin monks. “Ever since our ancestor Damo arrived from the west, for thousands of years our Temple has established a strong foundation in diligent cultivation of the teachings of Buddha and the most refined in maintaining monastic discipline. Although we train martial arts for self-defense and have been interacting with the brave warriors of the Jianghu, we have never dared to perform dishonorable deeds. Fangzhang Shixiong [martial brother Abbot] and I have long ago given up the worldly matters. How can we still feel any attachment to this red dust …” His gaze swept the faces of the monks. “This poisonous needle,” he continued, “Who shot it out? A real man who dares to do it, must also have the courage to accept responsibility. Stand up and face me.”
None of the several hundred monks opened his mouth; some of them muttered, “Amituofo, sin, sin!”
Zhang Wuji’s heart was stirred, he recalled his parents’ story how his mother Yin Susu had posed as his father, Zhang Cuishan, and used poisonous needles to kill Shaolin monks, and thus had caused his father to bear the grudge despite his innocence. But the silver needles of Tian Ying Jiao [Heavenly Eagle Cult] differed greatly from this steel needle, both in shape and in toxicity. The poison of the one taken from Chuan Gong Zhanglao’s dead body looked like that of the western region’s venomous insect ‘xin yi tiao’ [one heart beat]. It was called the ‘xin yi tiao’ because as the poison from the insect contacted the warm blood, the heart would beat only once, and then it would stop beating altogether.
Zhang Wuji knew that Shi Huolong was killed by Yuan Zhen; he also knew that hidden among the Shaolin monks were Yuan Zhen’s henchmen. Consequently, the reason Chuan Gong Zhanglao was shot with the needle must be to close his mouth from mentioning Yuan Zhen’s name. Only at that time everybody was looking at Chuan Gong Zhanglao, so nobody paid any attention on who shot the needle.
Zhang Bang Longtou shouted, “Tens of thousands Beggar Clan disciples all know who Shi Bangzhu’s killer is. You want to kill others to close their mouths? Humph, humph! Only if you kill all Beggar Clan disciples under the Heaven! The murderer is a Buddhist monk, his name is Yuan Zhen …”
Zhang Bo Longtou suddenly leaped in front of his comrade; his iron bowl moved. ‘Ding!’ he caught a steel needle with the bowl. It was still unclear from which direction the steel needle was shot, but Zhang Bo Longtou had put all his concentration guarding from the side. As soon as he saw a bluish streak of light flickered under the sun, he lifted his iron bowl to catch it. If he was half a step late, Zhang Bang Longtou would certainly meet his violent death.
Kong Zhi’s shadow circled around to the back of the nine Damo Hall monks. ‘Bang!’ He kicked the fourth old monk down, followed by a grab on that monk’s collar. “Kong Ru,” he said while lifting that monk up, “It turns out that it is you! You are also ganging up with Yuan Zhen?” His right hand pulled down the front lapel of Kong Ru’s Buddhist robe. ‘Rip!’ the robe tore, revealing a small steel tube, with a small hole on the head of the tube, on his waist.
Suddenly it became clear to everybody: there must be a powerful spring inside this steel tube. That monk only needed to reach into his pocket, press the trigger and the poisonous needle would shoot out of the hole. He did not need to raise his hand or wave his arm to do this; therefore, even if one was facing him only a few feet apart, one would not necessarily be able to see him shooting the secret projectile.
In his grief and anger, Zhang Bang Longtou raised his iron staff and swept it down, crushing Kong Ru’s brain out. Kong Ru was a peer of the Four Divine Monks; his martial art skill was on par with them, but he was seized by Kong Zhi and the acupoint on his back was sealed, so he could not move. As Zhang Bang Longtou’s iron staff swept down, he was unable to evade. The crowd of warriors cried out in alarm together.
Kong Zhi was taken by surprise; he glowered at Zhang Bang Longtou, thinking, “You are too hot-headed; you did not even investigate clearly.”