The Heaven Sword and the Dragon Sabre – Chapter 39

Secret manual and military treatise are hidden within.

Taking Xie Xun by the hand, Zhang Wuji was about to walk away when suddenly Xie Xun said, “Hold on!” Pointing to an old monk among the Shaolin crowd he called out, “Cheng Kun! Come out! In the presence of the heroes from all over the world, I want you to clearly explain all kinds of gratitude and grudges of the past.”

The crowd of heroes was startled; they only saw a hunchback old monk with a nondescript face. Definitely he did not look like Cheng Kun. Zhang Wuji was about to say, “He is not Cheng Kun.” But he heard Xie Xun say, “Cheng Kun, you might change your appearance, but you can’t change your voice. I only heard your cough, but I know who you are.”

The old monk grinned fiendishly and said, “Who would listen to such nonsense from a blind man like you?”

As soon as he opened his mouth, Zhang Wuji recognized him immediately. That day on the Brightness Peak, when he was held captive inside the cloth sack, he had heard Cheng Kun’s lengthy speech. He clearly remembered his voice. This time Cheng Kun deliberately made his voice sound throaty and his disguise was perfect, but in the end he could not change his voice.

Zhang Wuji leaped up to cut Cheng Kun’s escape route. “Yuan Zhen Dashi, Cheng Kun Qianbei [senior, older generation],” he said, “A real man is straightforward and upright. Why don’t you show your true face?”

Turned out Cheng Kun had disguised himself and mingled among the crowd. All along he managed to hide his true identity. But when the lady in yellow subdued Zhou Zhiruo, which he did not anticipate, he could not restrain from coughing lightly. Ever since he turned blind, Xie Xun’s ability to distinguish sound grew. Besides, he harbored a deep hatred toward Cheng Kun; naturally, he would remember Cheng Kun with an ‘inscribed in the heart, engraved on the bone’ kind of memory. To Xie Xun’s ears, this light cough was no less than a thunder in the midst of a clear blue sky; he recognized him immediately.

Cheng Kun realized his plot had fallen through and he had been exposed. Straightening his back up he shouted, “Shaolin monks, listen to this: The Devil Cult has come to disturb the holy place of Buddha. They are here to despise our Sect. Everybody must fight together. Show them no mercy.”

His followers immediately responded; they unsheathed their weapons and charged forward to fight.

Because his martial brother, Abbot Kong Wen, had fallen into the hands of the Temple’s rebels, Kong Zhi was forced to suppress his anger for quite a long time. This time, hearing Yuan Zhen issue an order to fight against the Ming Cult, he knew that his temple’s monks would suffer countless damage if a tangled battle ensued. Taking everything into consideration, in the end, the lives of the monks in his temple were more important. Thereupon he shouted, “Kong Wen Fangzhang has fallen into this rebel Yuan Zhen’s hands. All disciples must capture this traitor first then we’ll save Fangzhang.” All of a sudden there was great confusion on the peak.

Zhang Wuji saw that Zhou Zhiruo was still kneeling on the ground; she looked utterly dejected, he felt sorry for her. Zhang Wuji came to her, unsealed her acupoints, and helped her get up. Zhou Zhiruo pushed his arm away and leaped toward the crowd of Emei disciples.

They heard Xie Xun say in loud and clear voice, “Everything that happens today is between Cheng Kun and I, two people only. All kinds of gratitude and grudges ought to be concluded by us, two people, alone. Shifu, my entire skill came from you; Cheng Kun, my whole family was murdered by you. Your great kindness and deep animosity, we will settle it between us today.”

Cheng Kun realized that Kong Zhi had disregarded everything by giving the order; he also knew that the honest Shaolin Temple monks were simply too numerous compared to his followers, which were only about a tenth of the entire Shaolin disciples. It looked like his ambition to become the Shaolin Abbot had also turned into an illusion. He thought, “Xie Xun has committed all kinds of evil deeds. If I subdue him, I can push all the blame on him. His martial art came from me, plus he is blind; I don’t see any reason why I cannot defeat him.” Therefore, he said, “Xie Xun, I don’t know how many heroes and warriors of Jianghu lost their lives in your hands. Today, you are taking the bunch of Devil Cult’s devil heads to come to Shaolin and create trouble in Buddhist paradise, going against the heroes of the world. I regret teaching you martial art in the past. Now I have to clean up my own school; I have to punish you, a renegade disciple who betrayed his school’s forefathers.” He then strode toward Xie Xun.

Xie Xun raised his voice, “All heroes hear me: Xie Xun’s martial art was taught by this gentleman Cheng Kun. But because he failed to defile my wife, he murdered my father and mother, my wife and my son. Although I must love and honor my master, I must love and honor my parents more. I want to seek revenge on him, do you think I deserve to do it?”

All around the heroes thundered their response, “You deserve to seek revenge, you deserve to seek revenge!”

Without saying anything, Cheng Kun sent out his palm to hack Xie Xun’s head. Xie Xun leaned his head sideways to avoid the strike on his vital point. ‘Bang!’ the palm hit his shoulder.

Xie Xun grunted, but did not hit back. “Cheng Kun,” he said, “When you passed on this move, ‘chang hong jing tian’ [long rainbow traverse the sky], you said that as soon as you hit the opponent’s body, you must immediately send out the ‘hun yuan’ [originating formation] chi to injure the enemy; why didn’t you send out any strength? Are you getting old that your strength is gone?”

Actually, Cheng Kun’s first move was a fake one; he did not anticipate that the opponent did not even make any effort to evade so his strike was on target. But he did not send any power with this move therefore Xie Xun was not injured at all.

Cheng Kun’s right palm followed his fake left hand strike. Xie Xun leaned his head sideways again, but still he did not hit back. Cheng Kun sent out a chain-kick attack with his both legs. ‘Bang, bang!’ Xie Xun received these two kicks on the side of his body. These two kicks carried an extremely fierce force that even though Xie Xun’s physique was sturdy, he could not withstand it. ‘Wah!’ he spurted out a mouthful of blood.

“Yifu!” Zhang Wuji anxiously called, “Fight back! Why do you take a beating without retaliating?”

Xie Xun’s body swayed several times. With a bitter laugh he said, “He was my Shifu, I ought to take a couple of kicks and a palm from him.” With a sudden long whistle, Xie Xun flipped his palm and hack down on Cheng Kun.

“Bad luck! Bad luck!” Cheng Kun silently cried out, “I only knew that his hatred to me was as deep as the ocean, and that he would stake everything he has as soon as he sees me. If I had known that he was willing to take my first three moves, I would have strike him with killer strike and thus I would not have missed this good opportunity.”

Seeing the swiftness and fierceness of Xie Xun’s palm, Cheng Kun immediately swept his left hand diagonally to fend off Xie Xun’s palm power, while he moved a half turn toward Xie Xun’s back. Taking advantage of Xie Xun’s blindness, Cheng Kun’s palm silently pressed on Xie Xun’s back. But it was as if Xie Xun could see; he sent a kick backward. Cheng Kun leaped up gently. Like a big predatory bird, he swooped down from the sky. He was more than seventy years old, but his agility was not inferior to those of the younger people.

Xie Xun raised both of his hands to block. Cheng Kun’s downward strike met Xie Xun’s palms. Borrowing the momentum from the impact, Cheng Kun’s body shot up once again. He made a gentle maneuver in the air and struck down again.

The two men exchanged blow after blow. They fought faster and faster that they had exchanged seventy, eighty stances in a very short period of time. Although Xie Xun’s pair of eyes could not see a thing, his martial art skill came from Cheng Kun, so he knew Cheng Kun’s fists and kicks by heart. No matter how many times Cheng Kun changed his style, Xie Xun was able to anticipate his movements without difficulty. After decades of separation, both men had enjoyed tremendous advancement in terms of their internal energy cultivation, but the styles and stances were still their martial art school’s techniques.

Xie Xun did not need to use his eyes; as he launched a strike, he knew exactly how the opponent would react, as well as by which stance, or at least the most likely variation, the opponent would counterattack. In addition, he was more than ten years younger than Cheng Kun; his physique was considerably stronger. The many years he spent on the extraordinarily cold and extremely hot Bing Huo Island had given his internal energy cultivation a tremendous advantage. For these reasons, he did not show the slightest sign of defeat even after fighting for more than a hundred stances.

Xie Xun’s animosity toward Cheng Kun was as deep as the ocean. He had waited bitterly for several decades. This time as he met his archenemy, at first Zhang Wuji thought that Xie Xun would disregard everything and fought Cheng Kun with all he had so that both sides would perish together. Contrary to his expectation, each style and every stance Xie Xun launched was exceptionally steady and calm, his line of defense was also very tight. Initially Zhang Wuji was astonished, but after watching the battle progress for dozens of moves, he finally understood.

Cheng Kun’s martial art skill was not inferior to Du E, Du Nan, three monks. If Xie Xun brazenly attacked with all he had, he might not be able to last more than three hundred moves. It was evident that the deeper Xie Xun’s hatred toward Cheng Kun, the more cautious he was in his movements. He was afraid that he would be destroyed under Cheng Kun’s hands before he was able to avenge his father, mother, wife and son’s blood debt.

After about two hundred moves, Xie Xun gave a loud shout. His fist struck out with a strong gust of wind.

“Qi Shang Quan! [seven-injury fist]” Guan Neng of Kongtong Pai called out. He saw Xie Xun’s left and right fists continuously move with matchless overwhelming power. The elders of Kongtong Pai looked at each other with amazement; they could not help but feel ashamed of their own inferiority.

Cheng Kun subsequently evaded three fists. As Xie Xun’s forth fist arrived, Cheng Kun swept his right palm horizontally. ‘Bang!’ The fist and the palm collided. With loose hair and beard, Xie Xun stood motionless; while Cheng Kun was forced to withdraw three steps back.

Many of the heroes watching the fight were cheering inwardly. By this time, it was already clear to the Jianghu people how the enmity between Xie Xun and Cheng Kun started, and how it escalated. Although the people were angry with Xie Xun because he was too ruthless, excessively harming the innocents, they understood the cruel fate Xie Xun met. On the other hand, they thought Cheng Kun was too malicious and evil. Therefore, other than a few people whose close friends and family were killed by Xie Xun, most of the people present hoped he would triumph.

Xie Xun rushed three steps forward. Again, with strong gusts of wind his fists punched left and right. Cheng Kun parried with his pair of palms, while he took three more steps backward.

“Not good!” Zhang Wuji cried out silently, “Cheng Kun is using the Jiu Yang Gong [nine ‘yang’ energy], which he learned after he entered Kong Jian Shen Seng’s [divine monk] tutelage. He did not pass it on to Yifu.”

Xie Xun trained the Qi Shang Quan in a rush. As a result, he had suffered internal injury. His fist strength was actually flawed. Cheng Kun had a deep knowledge of this fist technique’s crucial keys; therefore, he deliberately showed weakness, but in actuality, he was sending out his Jiu Yang Gong to counterattack the opponent. With each fist Xie Xun sent, Cheng Kun received about 70% of the force and neutralized it with his Jiu Yang Gong, while he sent the remaining 30% back to Xie Xun.

‘Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!’ Xie Xun sent out twelve punches. Cheng Kun took a dozen or so steps backward. It appeared that Xie Xun was gaining the upper hand; however, the internal injury he suffered was actually getting heavier. Zhang Wuji was extremely anxious, but he knew this was his Yifu’s lifelong dream to finally have the opportunity to exact his revenge; obviously, he could not meddle by giving him a hand. Yet if Xie Xun continued fighting like this, in a few dozen moves he would inevitably vomit blood and die.

“Yuan Zhen,” with a cold voice Kong Zhi suddenly said, “Did my Shixiong [martial brother] teach you this Shaolin Jiu Yang Gong to harm others?”

Cheng Kun sneered and said, “My En Shi [benevolent master] lost his life under the Qi Shang Quan. I am avenging En Shi today to wipe out a disgrace.”

Suddenly Zhao Min called out, “Kong Jian Shen Seng’s Jiu Yang Gong cultivation was far above yours. How come he could not withstand the Qi Shang Quan? Kong Jian Dashi was harmed by your traitorous hands. You deceived the Senior to come forward and resolve your enmity; you deceived him to take a beating without hitting back. Hey, hey, look, look! Who’s that standing behind you? His face is full of blood; he looks at your back with angry glare. Isn’t that Kong Jian Shen Seng?”

Cheng Kun knew perfectly well that she was blabbering nonsense, but what he had done had been weighing his conscience down, so he did feel guilty and he shivered involuntarily.

Right this moment, Xie Xun sent another punch. Cheng Kun used his palm to block. Surprisingly, he did not retreat. Because of Zhao Min’s distraction, his concentration was divided and his ‘chi’ did not flow properly. Xie Xun’s punch made the ‘chi’ and blood in Cheng Kun’s breast turned upside down. He was forced to use his ‘qing gong’ to run around Xie Xun for a while until he could regulate his breathing.

“Kong Jian Shen Seng,” Zhao Min called out, “Nail him! That’s right! Just like that! Blow your breath on the back of his neck! You died under your disciple’s hands, he must also die under his disciple’s hands. It is called ‘karma’. Lao Tian Ye [lit. old master of the sky – a reference to God or the Heaven] has eyes, the just retribution is coming.”

The hair on Cheng Kun’s back stood up. He did not believe in ghosts, but at that time he indeed felt a puff of cold wind on the back of his neck. He was flustered. He did not remember that the wind had always been blowing on that peak all year long. Besides, Xie Xun and he were leaping up and down in their fight; naturally his back was blown by the wind.

Zhao Min could see doubt was starting to grow in Cheng Kun’s mind, she shouted, “Aiyo! Cheng Kun, watch your back! You don’t dare to turn your head? Look down to the shadow on ground. There are only two people fighting, where did the third shadow come from?”

Cheng Kun could not help but look down. He did see that between the two shadows, there was another dark shadow. His heart skipped a beat. Xie Xun’s punch arrived. Cheng Kun did not have enough time to evade; he was forced to use his fist to meet the incoming fist head-on. ‘Bang!’ Two enormous forces collided. They were both shaken and they were both pushed one step backward. Then Cheng Kun could see clearly that the extra shadow was actually a broken pine tree trunk.

When the battle dragged on with him unable to achieve the victory, Cheng Kun had already been impatient. “He is my disciple,” he thought, “And he is blind; yet I still cannot deal with him. My followers watching from the side won’t accept it. Too bad my special skill ‘huan yin zhi’ [lit. fantasy ‘yin’ finger] was broken by the pure ‘yang’ energy of that extremely loathsome little thief, Zhang Wuji, that night; otherwise, how could I fight such a long fight with Xie Xun right now? Currently, the situation is dangerous. I must subdue this renegade disciple as quickly as possible. Only then can I hold the Ming Cult at bay and also provoke those people who have grudges against him. At least I can still escape with my life.” As he made this decision, his footwork changed. Making his steps as quiet as possible, he took two steps backward toward the broken pine tree.

Xie Xun sent three punches in succession while he took two steps forward. Cheng Kun retreated two steps. He wanted to entice Xie Xun so that he would stumble on the broken pine tree. Xie Xun was about to chase Cheng Kun forward when Zhang Wuji called out, “Yifu, watch your steps!”

Xie Xun shivered; he stepped sideways to avoid the obstacle. But as he was hesitating, Cheng Kun seized the opportunity to launch his silent punch, aimed at Xie Xun’s chest. Cheng Kun suddenly sent out his force and Xie Xun fell backward. Cheng Kun raised his foot to kick Xie Xun’s skull. Xie Xun rolled away and quickly stood up. Blood trickled down from the corner of his mouth.

Cheng Kun stood motionless. His right palm stretched out slowly.

When Xie Xun fought Cheng Kun, he relied on his knowledge of Cheng Kun’s techniques, but also by listening to the wind to distinguish the direction. This time Cheng Kun stretched out his palm without using any particular technique, slowly reaching out toward Xie Xun’s face. Suddenly his palm struck Xie Xun’s shoulder. Xie Xun staggered a few steps and braced himself to stop.

A lot of the heroes on the side were not happy; they shouted one after another, “A sighted person fighting a blind, and still using this despicable trick!”

Cheng Kun paid no attention; he slowly raised his palm to strike again. Xie Xun focused his attention to listen. As he felt the enemy palm was coming, he raised his hand to block.

Seeing the yellow hair on Xie Xun’s head flutter, the corner of his mouth was daubed in blood, Zhang Wuji was very angry and anxious at the same time. He knew that if this kind of fight continued, Xie Xun would undoubtedly die under Cheng Kun’s hands. Yet if he stepped forward to lend a hand in this situation, even if he managed to kill Cheng Kun, his Yifu would certainly regret it for the rest of his life. Grabbing Zhao Min’s hand, he anxiously said, “Quickly think of a good way to help him.”

“Can you stealthily launch secret projectiles to blind that old thief’s eyes?” Zhao Min asked.

Zhang Wuji shook his head. “Yifu will not let me do such thing even if he has to die!” he said.

Meanwhile, he that saw Cheng Kun was slowly raising his palm again. Zhao Min suddenly shouted, “Chest!”

Xie Xun sent a jab straight out. Cheng Kun pulled back his palm without making any contact. Again and again he launched several slow attacks, but each time Zhao Min foiled his attacks by shouting his target. Seeing his tactic fail, Cheng Kun changed plan. He raised his palm slowly toward Xie Xun’s right shoulder.

“Right shoulder!” Zhao Min called out.

Cheng Kun’s left shoulder moved slightly. Zhang Wuji immediately understood his intention. “Back!” he shouted.

When Xie Xun heard Zhao Min’s shout, he waved his right arm to block the palm threatening his right shoulder. To his surprise, Cheng Kun’s palm was an empty move; when he followed Zhao Min’s warning by moving his right arm, Cheng Kun’s left palm entered Xie Xun’s open defense. ‘Slap!’ His palm heavily struck Xie Xun’s back. Although Zhang Wuji’s warning came in time, Cheng Kun’s palm was simply too swift. By the time Xie Xun heard the warning, it was already too late to change his move.

The crowd shouted in alarm. Xie Xun vomited a mouthful of blood, most of it sprayed onto Cheng Kun’s face.

“Ah!” Cheng Kun cried out while reaching up to wipe his face. Xie Xun rolled down on the ground. Suddenly they both screamed and disappeared together.

Turned out as soon as Xie Xun rolled down, he grabbed both of Cheng Kun’s legs and furiously pulled him down that both of them fell into the underground dungeon together.

The dungeon was filled with water reaching to their necks. It was also pitch black inside that Cheng Kun immediately became like a blind person. Hastily he leaped back to get away from the enemy, but the dungeon was very narrow that as he leaped, his back crashed heavily onto the rock wall. He wanted to jump up, but his lower abdomen was struck by Xie Xun’s Qi Shang Quan. Severe pain rushed into his heart instantly.

Cheng Kun realized his injury was not light. If he continued leaping, he would be hit again. Thereupon he changed his tactic. He used the ‘xiao qin na shou’ [lit. little ‘grab and capture’ or grappling technique] to fight the enemy.

This ‘xiao qin na shou’ was very effective to use in close combat in the darkness. It possessed an exquisite ability to adapt to changes in a marvelous and rapid way. Although the eyes could not see, the fingers, palms, arms and elbows could be used to detect the enemy, and then grabbed, clawed, hit, tore, poked, hooked or struck the enemy’s body.

Xie Xun gave a loud shout and also used the ‘xiao qin na shou’ to fight back.

The crowd only heard shouts coming out of the dungeon again and again, mixed with rapid noise of fists and palms collided with each other or with the opponent’s body, just like the noise of firecrackers. Large sheets of water splashed out of the dungeon. It appeared that the two men were attacking each other at full speed.

Zhang Wuji’s heart was thumping madly as he thought that if right this moment his Yifu met a dangerous situation, he would be helpless to render his assistance, since he obviously could not jump into the dungeon to save his Yifu. In his anxiety, his back was wet with cold sweat.

Xie Xun had been blind for more than twenty years; his ability to distinguish shape from listening to the noise was very well trained. He was accustomed to rely on his ears instead of his eyes. On the other hand, Cheng Kun fought like a blind person amidst the splashing water; he hit and grabbed randomly, so the table was turned in that now he was at a disadvantage.

Cheng Kun panicked. He could not think of anything else except moving his arm rapidly like a gust of wind under a sudden downpour. He increased the speed of his ‘xiao qin na shou’ while using only killer moves with this thought in his mind, “I am going to stake everything I have; whatever happens, we must return to fighting above the ground.”

Step by step the crowd of heroes approached the dungeon. Their palms were wet with cold sweats, while their ears heard continuous shouting of Cheng Kun and Xie Xun from underground. It seemed like victory and defeat had not been decided yet.

Suddenly Cheng Kun’s scream was heard from underground, followed by the two men jumping out of the dungeon together. Under the sunlight, everybody could see that both Cheng Kun and Xie Xun’s eyes were bleeding. The two men stood still, facing each other.

What happened was: during the fierce battle, with arms open wide, Xie Xun’s palms struck down toward Cheng Kun. Cheng Kun was delighted. “Got you!” he shouted, while the two fingers of his right hand struck Xie Xun’s eyes. It was the move ‘shuang long qiang zhu’ [a pair of dragons fight over a pearl], which was quite common. However, because it was launched in the midst of ‘xiao qin na shou’, it carried an enormous power. He expected the opponent to lean sideways to evade, and then his left hand would sweep across the opponent head. He was certain the opponent’s vital ‘tai yang xue’ [sun acupoint, located on the temples] would be hit. Contrary to his expectation, Xie Xun neither evaded nor blocked his strike; he also shouted, “Got you!” with the same ‘shuang long qiang zhu’ his two fingers poked Cheng Kun’s eyes.

As soon as Cheng Kun’s fingers pierced Xie Xun’s eyes, like a flash of lightning a thought came into his mind, “Bad!” followed by stabbing pain as his own eyes were pierced by Xie Xun’s two fingers.

Both men suffered the same injury. However, Xie Xun had been blind for a long time. As he was pierced by Cheng Kun’s fingers, he only suffered some superficial wound. Cheng Kun, on the other hand, had turned blind.

With a cold laugh Xie Xun said, “Does it feel good, being a blind man?” With a loud shout he launched another punch.

Cheng Kun could not see anything; he was unable to evade. The ‘Qi Shang Quan’ hit him squarely on the chest. Xie Xun followed with a left hand punch. Cheng Kun staggered several steps backward until his back was against the broken pine tree; blood gushing out from his mouth.

Suddenly Du E opened his mouth, “Just retribution! Shanzai, shanzai!”

Xie Xun stopped dead on his track; he had concentrated his power on the third punch, but right now it stopped midway. “I should have punched you thirteen times with the ‘Qi Shang Quan’; but your martial art skill is gone and you are blind, henceforth you have become a handicapped person and thus will not do wicked things on the earth anymore. You need not receive the remaining eleven punches.”

Seeing that Xie Xun achieved a total victory, Zhang Wuji and the others cheered. But suddenly Xie Xun sat on the ground; the bones on his entire body were cracking.

Zhang Wuji was shocked, knowing that Xie Xun was using his own internal energy to destroy his own martial art skill. “Yifu,” he hastily said, “Don’t!” He rushed forward and stretching out his hand, using the Jiu Yang Shen Gong, he pressed Xie Xun’s back to stop him.

Xie Xun suddenly leaped up and fiercely punched his own chest; blood gushing out from his mouth.

Zhang Wuji busily reached out to support him, but he felt that Xie Xun’s hand was feeble. His martial art skill had definitely gone, and would be very difficult to recover.

Xie Xun pointed his finger toward Cheng Kun and said, “Cheng Kun, you murdered my entire family. Today I destroyed your eyes and wiped out your martial art skill. We are even now. Shifu, my martial art skill was taught by you. Today I willingly destroyed it; I am giving it back to you. From now on, there is no gratitude nor grudges between me and you. You will never see my face again and I also will never see your face.”

Cheng Kun pressed his hands on his eyes. He was groaning from the pain, but did not say anything. The crowd of heroes looked at each other; who would have thought that this battle between master and disciple would end up like this?

In a loud and clear voice Xie Xun said, “I, Xie Xun, have done much wickedness; I have never hoped I would live until today. If there is anyone among the heroes of the world whose family or martial brother died under the Old Xie’s hands, you are free to take the Old Xie’s life. Wuji, you must not stop them, nor you must avenge me in the future and thus adding to your Yifu’s guilt.”

Zhang Wuji consented with tears in his eyes.

Although there were quite a number of heroes who harbored deep enmity with Xie Xun, they all saw how Xie Xun had avenged his entire family only by destroying Cheng Kun’s martial art skill. However, Xie Xun’s own martial art was also gone. Therefore, if anybody went forward and stabbed him with a sword, or punched him with a fist, his action would be considered a hero or a warrior’s bad deed.

Suddenly a man stepped out from among the crowd. “Xie Xun,” he said, “My father, ‘Yan Ling Fei Tian Dao’ [The Wild-Goose-Plume-Flying-to-the-sky Saber] Qiu Lao Yingxiong [old hero Qiu] lost his life under your hands. I am here to avenge my Xian Fu [deceased father]!” Finished speaking, he walked toward Xie Xun.

“That’s right,” Xie Xun sadly said, “Your honorable father died under my hands. Qiu Xiong [brother Qiu], you may proceed.”

The man surnamed Qiu drew his saber and took two more steps closer.

Zhang Wuji could not think straight; if he did not act, his Yifu would lose his life under this man’s saber, but if he stopped this man, he was afraid that he would add to the agony his Yifu had to endure for the rest of his life. Much less, Yifu was blind and had lost his martial art skill; it was difficult to say whether Yifu would live a happy life or not. His body shook; he took two steps forward without intending to do so.

“Wuji,” Xie Xun roared, “If you stop anybody from exacting their revenge, you are being greatly unfilial to me. After I die, go down into the dungeon and take a look. You will understand everything.”

The man surnamed Qiu lifted his saber in front of his chest. Suddenly tears started to flow down from his eyes. He spat on Xie Xun’s face and said with a choking voice, “My Xian Fu was a hero. If his spirit in Heaven saw me killing a blind man whose martial art skill has gone, he would be angry with me for being unworthy …” ‘Clang!’ his saber fell to the ground. Covering up his face, he rushed back into the crowd.

Next, a middle-aged woman came out and said, “Xie Xun, I am here to avenge my husband, ‘Yin Yang Pan Guan’ [‘pan guan’ is a mythological judge of the underworld], Yin Dapeng.” Walking toward Xie Xun, she also spat on his face; then she walked away while crying loudly.

Seeing his Yifu was being humiliated in succession, outwardly, Zhang Wuji was standing unperturbed, but inwardly, his heart was like being sheared by a knife. The heroes and warriors of the Wulin world considered death lightly, but they would never take any insult. It was called ‘a warrior can be killed, but not disgraced.’ These two people’s spittle on Xie Xun’s face was the greatest insult, but he endured it patiently. It was clear that he acknowledged his sins in the past and that he was pained with regret, and thus he took the repentance seriously.

One by one people were coming out from the crowd; some slapped Xie Xun on the face, some kicked him, some opened their mouths in curses, but Xie Xun only sit with bowed head, enduring everything in silence. He did not withdraw, he did not even try to talk back.

In this manner, more than thirty people came out one by one to humiliate Xie Xun. Finally, a Taoist priest with long beard stepped out. He bowed and said, “Pin Dao [lit. impoverished Daoist – referring to self] Taixu Zi [Translator’s note: I am not an expert in Daoism, but it seems to me that many Taoist priest used ‘Zi’ (lit. son or male child) as the last part (suffix?) of their title. Remember the Seven Quanzhen priests? Anyway, this priest’s name means ‘great emptiness’]. My two Shixiong lost their lives under Xie Daxia’s fists. Looking at Xie Daxia’s character today, Pin Dao is deeply ashamed. Pin Dao’s sword has also killed innumerable warriors, both from the black and white worlds. If I came to you to seek revenge, other people would also come to me to seek revenge.” Having said that, he drew his sword, his left hand reached up and plucked the blade of the sword with his fingers. ‘Clang!’ the sword broke into two. He tossed the broken sword to the ground, saluted Xie Xun, turned around and left.

The crowd of heroes broke into soft murmurs. This Taixu Zi was not very well known in the Jianghu, yet his martial art skill was actually superb. However, what was harder to come by was his broadmindedness; his ability to rebuke himself.

After he left, it seemed like no one else would come out to make things difficult for Xie Xun. To everybody’s surprise, while they were still talking among themselves, a middle-aged nun stepped out from among the Emei Pai’s crowd. She walked toward Xie Xun and said, “To avenge my husband’s murder, I also will resolve it by spitting on you!” As soon as she said that, she opened her mouth and spat toward Xie Xun’s forehead. Who would have thought that this spittle carried a strong gust of wind? Turned out it was not spittle, but a date stone steel nail.

Xie Xun heard the difference in the sound of the wind. He smiled bitterly, but did not evade at all. He thought, “If I die right now, it can be considered already too late.”

Suddenly a yellow shadow flashed by. The lady in yellow dashed forward. Her sleeve swished, and the date stone nail was rolled inside the sleeve. “How must we address Shitai by your Buddhist title?” she asked sternly.

As the nun saw her attack fail, a slightly frightened expression appeared on her face. “I am called Jing Zhao [lit. still/calm/quiet illumination],” she said.

“Hmm, Jing Zhao, Jing Zhao …” the lady in yellow said, “Before you left home to become a nun, what was your husband’s name? How did he die under Xie Daxia’s hands?”

Jing Zhao angrily said, “What does it have to do with you? Why do you meddle in other people’s business?”

The lady in yellow replied, “Xie Daxia repents from his former sins. If anybody wanted to avenge his father, brother, martial family or friends, even if he is cut into thousand pieces, Xie Daxia would accept his fate willingly; other people have no right to interfere. But if there are people with malicious intention, trying to fish in the muddled water, trying to kill him to shut his mouth, then it becomes everybody’s business.”

Jing Zhao said, “Between Xie Xun and I, there are no grudges and no enmity; why would I want to kill him to shut his …” The last word ‘mouth’ had not come out of her mouth when she suddenly realized she had blundered. She stopped abruptly. Her face turned deathly pale; and she could not help but cast a glance toward Zhou Zhiruo.

“That’s right,” the lady in yellow said, “You have no grudges and no enmity with Xie Daxia, then why did you want to kill him to shut his mouth? Humph, among the twelve Emei Pai’s ‘Jing’ generation nuns, Jing Xuan, Jing Xu, Jing Kong, Jing Hui, Jing Jia, and Jing Zhao, are all virgins when they left home. Where did the husband come from?”

Without saying anything, Jing Zhao turned around and walked away.

“Do you think it’s this easy to walk away just like that?” the lady in yellow barked.

Rushing two steps forward, her palm reached out to grab her shoulder. Jing Zhao turned her shoulder to evade. The lady in yellow’s right index finger pierced toward her waist, followed by a kick to hit the ‘huan tiao xue’ [‘hop the loop’ acupoint] on her thigh. Jing Zhao grunted and fell down to the ground.

“Miss Zhou,” in a cold voice the lady in yellow said, “This ploy of killing someone to shut his mouth is very cruel.”

In the same cold voice Zhou Zhiruo replied, “Jing Zhao Shijie is seeking revenge against Xie Xun. What ‘killing someone to shut his mouth’?” Waving her left hand she said, “There are countless disciples from prestigious upright sects in here who fail to distinguish the just from the evil, willingly associate themselves with unorthodox demonic sects. It’s not worthwhile for Emei Pai to be involved with the murky water. Let’s go.”

The Emei Pai crowd responded together and stood up immediately. Two female disciples helped Jing Zhao. The lady in yellow did not stop them. Zhou Zhiruo led her fellow disciples going down the peak.

Zhang Wuji walked toward the lady in yellow. Cupping his fists, he said, “I have received many help from Jiejie; my gratitude is beyond words. I wish to know your illustrious name, so that Zhang Wuji can cherish it in his heart day and night.”

The lady in yellow showed a faint smile. She said, “Behind the Mount Zhong Nan, the Tomb of the Living Dead, the Divine Eagle and Gallant Knights vanished from the Jianghu.” [Translator’s note: it was like a poem of four characters each: Zhong Nan Shan Hou, Huo Si Ren Mu, Shen Diao Xia Lu, Jue Ji Jiang Hu.] Finished speaking, she tucked her gown and returned the salute. Her hand beckoned, the eight young maidens wearing black and white followed her floating away.

Zhang Wuji took a step forward and said, “Jiejie, please stay.”

Unexpectedly, the lady in yellow did not pay him any attention; she continued going down the peak.

“Yang Jiejie, Yang Jiejie!” the young Clan Leader of the Beggar Clan, Shi Hongshi called out.

From the waist of the hill came the lady in yellow’s reply, “I am asking Zhang Jiaozhu’s unreserved involvement in helping the Beggar Clan solving their important matters.”

“Wuji accepts the order,” Zhang Wuji replied in loud and clear voice.

“Many thanks, then!” the lady said. These three words ‘duo xie le’ came from a distant, since she had been far away, but her voice was still very clear. Zhang Wuji could not help but feel a sudden emptiness in his heart.

Kong Zhi went to Cheng Kun and sternly shouted, “Yuan Zhen, quickly tell your followers to release the Fangzhang. If there is any unexpected misfortune to the old Fangzhang, you will heap more sin to your head.”

Forcing a smile, Cheng Kun said, “Since things have come this far, everybody will perish together. Even if I want to release Kong Wen He Shang [monk Kong Wen] now, I am afraid we are already too late. You are not blind, are you? Can’t you see the blazing flame?”

Kong Zhi was taken aback, he turned his head to look down from the peak and saw black smoke and tongues of fire rising up from the Temple complex. Startled, he said, “The Damo Hall is on fire! Quickly put out the fire!”

The crowd of monks was thrown into confusion; they scrambled down the hill at once. Suddenly they saw from all around the Damo Hall columns of water like white dragons rose up and poured down on the blaze, suppressing the flame.

“Amituofo,” Kong Zhi joined his palms and chanted the name of Buddha, “The ancient Shaolin Temple has once again escape disaster.”

Not too long afterwards, two monks rushed up the peak to give their report, “Reporting to Shishu [martial (younger) uncle], the rebel followers of Yuan Zhen set fire to burn down the Damo Hall. Fortunately, for the sake of justice and loyalty, the heroes under the Hong Shui Flag of the Ming Cult have extinguished the raging fire.”

Kong Zhi went toward Zhang Wuji, joined his palms and said, “The thousand years old ancient temple Shaolin is spared from the fire, all thanks to Zhang Jiaozhu’s great kindness and virtue; one the old monk will never be able to repay even if my body is ground to powder.”

Zhang Wuji returned the salute and answered modestly, “We only did what we ought to do; Da Shi need not be overly courteous.”

Kong Zhi said, “Kong Wen Shixiong is being held prisoner in the Damo Hall by this traitor. Although the fire is out, I do not know Shixiong’s safety yet. Zhang Jiaozhu and the other heroes please wait here for a moment, Laodi [lit. old younger brother – referring to self] must go and see.”

Cheng Kun laughed out loud and said, “Kong Wen’s entire body is smeared with butter and lard, as soon as he met the fire, he would turn into charcoal immediately. Hong Shui Flag can save the Damo Hall, they cannot save the Old Fangzhang.”

From the waist of the hill suddenly came a voice, “If Hong Shui Flag failed, there is still Hou Tu Flag.” It was Fan Yao’s voice. He had just finished speaking when he appeared with Hou Tu Flag Leader, Yan Yuan, on the peak, each holding the hand of an old monk walking between them. It was none other than the Shaolin Temple Abbot, Kong Wen. However, the three men’s clothes were scorched; their eyebrows were partially burned. They looked battered and exhausted.

Kong Zhi rushed forward to embrace Kong Wen. “Shixiong,” he called out, “Are you well? Shidi is incompetent, I am guilty and deserve ten thousand deaths.”

Kong Wen smiled and said, “If not because of these Fan Shizhu [benevolent master, donor] and Yan Shizhu came out from the tunnel, you and I would have to say goodbye to each other today.”

Kong Zhi was astonished. “The Ming Cult’s Hou Tu Flag’s ability to dig tunnels is divine.” He bowed deeply to Fan Yao and Yan Yuan to express his gratitude, and then said, “Fan Shizhu, Laoseng [old monk – referring to self] was rude and offensive to you; please forgive me. Laoseng does not dare to go to the appointment at the Wan An Temple of Dadu.”

When a Wulin character made an appointment for a martial art competition and ate his own words by not showing up, the loss of face he would experience would be ten thousand times worse than if he lost because of inferior skill. Kong Zhi was endlessly grateful toward Fan Yao for risking his life in saving his Shixiong’s life; hence he was willing to break his own promise. These two men admired each other to begin with. After this incident, their respect for each other grew. From now on, they became the very best of friends.

Turned out Cheng Kun had made a comprehensive arrangement in advance. On the eve of the Great Heroes Assembly, he caught Kong Wen off guard and sealed his acupoint, and held him prisoner inside the Damo Hall. The Hall was filled with sulfur, firewood and other flammable material. Then he assigned his trusted aides to stand guard. He coerced Kong Zhi to do everything he commanded, or else he would set the fire and burn Kong Wen to his death. When things did not turn out the way he planned later, when everything did not happen as he anticipated, when he believed his plan had failed completely, he issued an order to his cronies to set the fire as his last gambit to ‘break the cauldrons and sink the boats’. He was hoping that when the crowd of heroes and monks were busy putting off the fire, his cronies might have a chance to help him escape down the mountain.

Unexpectedly, Yang Xiao and the Ming Cult army arrived at the Shaoshi Peak a few days early. The Hou Tu Flag was immediately ordered to dig a tunnel toward the Shaolin Temple, originally, it was to rescue Xie Xun, but Xie Xun was not imprisoned inside the Temple at all.

As the Hou Tu Flag people looked everywhere with no avail, they took the opportunity to erase the writing on the back of the sixteen Luohan images. Later on, after Zhang Wuji and Zhou Zhiruo battled the Jin Gang Fu Mo Quan, and Cheng Kun’s real identity was revealed and he was confronted in front of Kong Zhi and everybody else, Zhao Min and Yang Xiao immediately guessed thru his plan.

After a short discussion, they asked Fan Yao to lead Hong Shui and Hou Tu, two Flags, to infiltrate the Temple and find Kong Wen. However, Cheng Kun’s arrangement was extremely thorough and ominous; sulfur and firewood were piled high inside and outside the Damo Hall. As soon as a fire was ignited, the Hall caught in a blazing inferno, burning five Hou Tu Flag disciples to their deaths. Fan Yao and Yan Yuan moved quickly through the smoke and fire to rescue Kong Wen. Still, the three of them suffered some burns on their clothes, hair and eyebrows. If not for the tunnel, they would not escape and would be buried under the burning hall.

Damo Hall, as well as several adjacent buildings, suffered heavy damages from the fire. Fortunately the fire did not spread further, the Da Xiong Bao Dian [great heroic precious hall], the library, the Luohan Hall, and other important places did not suffer any damage.

After a short discussion, Kong Wen and Kong Zhi issued an order for Cheng Kun and his followers to be detained in the rear hall, waiting for further instructions. Cheng Kun had been staying in the Shaolin Temple for quite a long time, he had made a lot of friends and gathered quite a bit of followers, but as the leader was apprehended and the Abbot escaped from danger, Cheng Kun’s supporters realized their cause was lost. They did not offer any resistance and were led down the peak by the monks, under the leadership of the Luohan Hall’s chief monk, with their head hung low in dejection.

Zhang Wuji came near Xie Xun and could only call out, “Yifu!” while tears streaming down his face like rain.

“Silly Child!” Xie Xun laughed, “Your Yifu is enlightened by the three eminent monks and has passed through to great awakenings. My lifetime of crimes have been resolved, every single one of them. You should be very happy for me, why would you be grieving? Why would you feel sorry that I lost my martial art skill? Do you want me to use it to do evil again in the future?”

Zhang Wuji could not think of anything to answer, but there was pain in his heart; he called out again, “Yifu!”

Xie Xun went toward Kong Wen and kneeled down saying, “Disciple’s sin is grave, I hope for Fangzhang to offer a shelter by taking me under your discipleship.”

Kong Wen had not answered when Du E said, “Come, let Laoseng take you as my disciple.”

Xie Xun said, “Disciple does not dare to hope for such good fortune.” He asked Kong Wen to be his master, because then he would be a ‘Yuan’ generation disciple. If he entered Du E tutelage, then he would have a ‘Kong’ generation rank, which was at the same level of seniority with Kong Wen and Kong Zhi, two martial brothers.

“Rubbish!” Du E barked, “’Kong’ is empty, ‘Yuan’ is also empty. I would have thought that you’d understand it by now!”

Xie Xun was startled, but he understood immediately. Master-disciple relationship was a mere distinction of the Buddhist title; it was all illusory for Buddhist followers. Thereupon, he recited a Buddhist verse, “Master is empty, disciple is empty, no guilt no responsibility, no virtue no merit!”

Du E laughed out loud and said, “Shanzai, shanzai! You have become a disciple of our school, yet you are still called Xie Xun. Do you understand?”

“Disciple understands,” Xie Xun replied, “Xie Xun is ox dung. Everything is but a shadow, the body does not exist, let alone a name?”

Xie Xun was skilled in both pen and sword [orig. ‘wen wu cuan cai’], there wasn’t any ‘zhu zi bai jia’ [lit. many sages, hundred schools, a general term for all the pre-Han schools of thought] he did not pry into. With a little enlightenment from Du E, he became aware of the essential meaning of Buddhism. Henceforth he entered Buddhism and eventually became an eminent monk himself.

“Enter the rest, enter the rest!” Du E said, “Only by comprehending the way one will avoid devil’s traps!” Taking Xie Xun by the hand, he went down the peak unhurriedly with Du Jie and Du Nan following behind.

Kong Wen, Kong Zhi, Zhang Wuji, and the others bowed to send them off. The Golden-Haired Lion King’s name shook the Jianghu thirty years ago by doing countless deeds which offended the whole society. Today he entered the empty gate, there wasn’t anyone among the crowd of heroes who did not sigh with mixed feelings. Zhang Wuji’s heart was filled with joy mixed with sorrow.

Kong Wen said, “The presence of the heroes has brightened our humble Temple. We are ashamed that there was a sudden change in the Temple that we have offended many people and were not able to perform our duty as the host. The heroes from all over the world have gathered here. We do not know when we will meet again. Therefore, we would like to invite you all to stay in our Temple for a few more days.”

The crowd of heroes went down the peak to enter the Temple. Shaolin Temple prepared vegetarian banquet for the guests. The monks immediately performed a religious ceremony on behalf of the heroes who were unfortunate to lose their lives during the great assembly. One by one the crowd of heroes also offered sacrifices to express their condolences.

As the important matters were resolved, there remained many unclear businesses in Zhang Wuji’s heart. Since Xie Xun left in a hurry, he did not have time to inquire about doubts and suspicions troubling his heart. He only had a feeling that the key to this mystery was somewhat related to Zhou Zhiruo. Thinking about their former relationship, he felt that he did not need to scrutinize everything and thus damage her reputation.

After dinner, Zhang Wuji visited Shi Hongshi and the Beggar Clan elders at the western chambers to discuss important matters within the Beggar Clan. Suddenly a Ming Cult disciple rushed in with a report, “Jiaozhu, the Wudang Zhang Si Xia [fourth hero Zhang] has arrived. He has an important matter to discuss with you.”

Zhang Wuji was startled, “Could it be that Tai Shifu has met some mishaps?” He quickly went out and walked toward the main hall.

He knelt down in front of Zhang Songxi, but did not see anything different on his expression, thereupon he felt relieved. “Is Tai Shifu well?” he asked.

“Shifu is well,” Zhang Songxi replied, “At Mount Wudang I received information that the Yuan cavalry, twenty thousand strong, is heading to the direction of Shaolin Temple. Obviously, they do not have good intentions toward the Heroes Assembly. Therefore, I come here in the middle of the night to inform you.”

“We must let Fangzhang know as soon as possible,” Zhang Wuji said. Two men immediately went to the rear courtyard and informed Kong Wen.

Kong Wen thought for a moment. “This matter implicates a lot of things; we must discuss it with the crowd of heroes.” Thereupon he ordered a monk to sound the alarm, inviting everybody to the Da Xiong Bao Dian.

As soon as they were alerted, the crowd of heroes discussed the matter at hand. The hot-blooded among them said, “While the heroes from all over the world gather here, let us go down the mountain to catch them off guard and slaughter them.”

The more experienced among them said, “The Yuan army is always on the move. Perhaps this is one of their routine relocation operations. They might not necessarily come to give us trouble.”

Zhang Songxi said, “I understand Mongolians; I heard it with my own ears the Tatar officer ordering his troops to attack the Shaolin Temple.”

By that time, the Mongolians had been occupying the Central Plains for more than a hundred years; the number of Han people who understand Mongolian language was not small. Zhang Songxi was intelligent and experienced; he understood a considerable number of dialects from different towns and villages, and was quite fluent in Mongolian.

“Gentlemen Heroes,” Kong Wen said, “It appears that the imperial court has found out about our assembly in here, and they decided our meeting is not beneficial to the imperial court, and thus they dispatch an army to suppress us. We are all martial art practitioners, and we are not afraid of the Tatars. We are ready to cope with anything, we will resist by whatever means available, we …” He had not finished his speech when some people started cheering and clapping.

Kong Wen continued, “However, we are Jianghu’s warriors who are accustomed to fight one on one; if not using a blade or fists and kicks, then using internal energy and secret projectiles. We are not experts in fighting on horseback or using long spear and double-ended lance. In Laoseng’s opinion; how about the heroes go down the mountain and disband?”

The crowd of heroes looked at each other in silence. Zhang Wuji said, “If we go down and disband, first, the Tatars would think we are afraid of them and we will unavoidably crush the spirit of the people. Second, what will happen to the masters in the Shaolin Temple?”

Kong Wen smiled and said, “If the Yuan army come to the Temple and only see a bunch of monks and not Jianghu warriors, they would certainly leave us alone. This is called ‘arrive in high spirit, return in disappointment.’”

The crowd of warriors knew that Kong Wen said this out of his good intention. The crowd of heroes was invited by Shaolin Pai; of course they did not want their guests to face disaster and shed their blood on the Shaoshi Peak. But this crowd of heroes was all people of courage and uprightness; they would not flinch in front of the enemy, naturally, they were unwilling to leave. Besides, the imperial government had already dispatched their troops. They simply would not return empty-handed. They would definitely trouble the Shaolin Temple. Most likely, they would kill most monks and capture the rest, and then they would probably burn the Temple down. The Mongolian soldiers were well known of their brutality; killing and burning were not foreign to them.

Yang Xiao said, “The Tatars kill without mercy. It is the duty of all Han people to fight the enemy. In my humble opinion, we have no other choice but to fight. We must battle them someplace else so that this thousand-year ancient Temple will be spared of the catastrophe of war.”

The crowd of heroes applauded in agreement. “Let it be so,” they said.

When they were still talking, from outside the gate suddenly came the sound of hoof beats; two riders galloped near. The horses stopped with a neigh outside the door. Two men, ushered by the monk in charge of visitor reception entered the hall in a hurry. As soon as the crowd of heroes saw the riders’ clothes, they knew these men were Ming Cult disciples.

The two men walked before Zhang Wuji, bowed in salute and one of them reported, “Reporting to Jiaozhu: Tatar vanguard army of five thousand troops has arrived to attack Shaolin Temple. They say the Shifus in the Temple are gathering a crowd to rebel, so they are here to flatten Shaolin. All shiny … shiny …”

Kong Wen smiled and said, “You were about to say ‘shiny head monks’, weren’t you? Those words are not taboo. Please continue.”

The man said, “Along the way, the Tatars have killed many monks. The Tatars say: ‘Shiny heads are not good people, those with hair are also not good people; they all deserved to be put to death by the blade.’”

A lot of people raised their voices, they all said, “If we don’t fight a life and dead battle against the Tatars, we are ashamed to be the descendants of the Yellow Emperor.”

Although by that time the Song dynasty had been subjugated by foreign power for almost a hundred years, the mainstream heroes and warriors had always considered Mongolians soldiers and officers as barbarians. They were unwilling to be the foreigners’ subjects. This time hearing how the Mongolian troops went on a killing spree, their blood boiled and everybody wanted to go to battle.

“Gentlemen, the heroes,” in a loud and clear voice Zhang Wuji said, “Today is the day we, the Han men, kill the enemy to serve our country. The name of the Great Assembly of Shaolin Temple will go down the history for thousands of years!”

The Great Hall shook with the deafening cheers of the people.

Zhang Wuji continued, “We can’t go back now even if we want to. I am asking Kong Wen Fangzhang to give us the order. We, the Ming Cult, from top to bottom will follow with all our hearts.”

“Zhang Jiaozhu, what are you talking about?” Kong Wen said, “Although our humble Sect’s monks have learned a little bit punching and kicking, we know nothing about marching in the army and going to war. In the last several years the Ming Cult has initiated such a great undertaking; who in the Jianghu has not heard about it? Only the Ming Cult has the resources to fight Tatars’ large army. We nominate Zhang Jiaozhu to hold the commander position and lead the heroes from all over the world to fight the Tatars.”

Zhang Wuji tried to decline modestly, but the crowd of heroes had already cheered loudly. It was true that Zhang Wuji was young and inexperienced, but his martial art skill was strong. His power in fighting the three Shaolin monks had been witnessed by everybody present. In addition, the success of Han Shantong, Xu Shouhui, Zhu Yuanzhang and the other Ming Cult generals in staging rebellions, attacking cities and capturing territories in such places as Huai Si River, Hunan and Hubei, and other areas had shaken the world. Earlier, the people had also seen the Five-Element Flags displaying their full capabilities in the arena. No other school or sect possessed these kinds of skills. The warriors from various sects and clans all agreed that nobody else fit to take such a big responsibility other than the Ming Cult.

Zhang Wuji said, “I [orig. zai4xia4] have never learned how to manage soldiers. Please elect other capable person to be in charge.”

While he was still declining modestly, from the foot of the mountain came the rumbling noise of people shouting and fighting. Two Shaolin monks rushed into the Hall and reported, “Reporting to Fangzhang: the Mongolian army has attacked our mountain.”

Zhang Wuji said, “Rui Jin, Hong Shui, two Flags, are going to be the first to engage the enemy. Mr. Zhou Dian, Tie Guan Daozhang [Priest Tie Guan (‘hard hat’)], you are to assist these two flags.” Zhou Dian and Priest Tie Guan complied and quickly left.

The situation this time was so urgent that it did not allow Zhang Wuji to decline anymore. He had no choice but issue his orders: “Shuo Bude Shifu, please take my Sheng Huo Ling and go to our Cult’s encampments in the surrounding area. Tell them to go up the mountain to lend their assistance.” Shou Bude took the tablet and left.

As the crowd of heroes in the Great Hall heard about the Yuan’s army arrival to destroy them, they drew their weapons and rushed out.

“Jiaozhu,” in a low voice Yang Xiao said, “If you don’t take command, these people will fight randomly, and they will certainly be defeated.”

Zhang Wuji nodded and ran out the Hall. He went to the pavilion halfway down the mountain and saw thousands of the Mongolian vanguard troops had arrived at the waist of the mountain. The Rui Jin Flag drove them back down by a salvo of arrows and javelins.

As far as eyes could see, the Mongolian troops were creeping up; their power looked so intimidating. Although their prestige was far below Genghis Khan’s army, whose power overawed foreign lands, the Mongolian cavalry, after all, was very well trained and was still holding their reputation as unmatched elite troops.

Suddenly from the left came loud shouts as a large number of nuns, men and women ran up the mountain. They were the Emei Pai contingent, which was on their way down the mountain when they met the Mongolian army and was driven back up. About a dozen or so men were carrying stretchers and other things. They were surrounded by the Mongolian soldiers.

Leading Jing Xuan, Jing Zhao, and several other senior disciples, Zhou Zhiruo charged and killed the enemy. But although they had killed dozens of Mongolian officers and soldiers, they still could not penetrate the enemy’s siege and save their fellow disciples.

“Not good!” Zhang Wuji groaned inwardly, “One of the stretchers must be carrying Song Shige!”

“Hong Shui, Lie Huo, two flags, cover us!” he shouted, “Fan and Yang two Emissaries, Wei Xiong [brother Wei], follow me to save people!” He jumped and rushed down.

Two Mongolian soldiers thrust their lances straight toward him. With one hand Zhang Wuji grabbed one lance; exerting his strength he shook the lance and the two Yuan soldiers were thrown down the mountain. He turned the lance over and like a pair of dragons diving into the sea, the pair of lances plunged into the crowd.

Yang Xiao, Fan Yao, Wei Yixiao, Peng Yingyu, and the others followed. The Mongolian soldiers scattered and a passageway has opened behind Zhou Zhiruo’s group.

Fan Yao threw a punch, crushing the face of a Yuan army’s Shi Fu Zhang [leader of a ten-man unit]. He then snatched the person on the stretcher and turned around to leave.

Zhang Wuji saw that Zhou Zhiruo’s body and face were covered in blood; he charged back into the Yuan soldiers’ encirclement. “Zhiruo, Zhiruo!” he called out, “Song Dage is saved!”

Zhou Zhiruo did not pay him any attention; she kept wielding her whip and charged ahead, but the mountain pathway was too narrow. Moreover, it was crammed full of soldiers so that after a while she could not charge anywhere anymore. Zhang Wuji saw two more Emei disciples carrying another stretcher were being caught up in the encirclement; they were brandishing their swords in a desperate struggle against the Yuan army.

“Looks like Song Shige is on that stretcher,” Zhang Wuji thought. Dodging an attack, he jumped into the encirclement. He pulled two spears, which hit the rock wall and stuck, and then moving his hands and feet, he used the spears as stilts. When he was still a little more than a ‘zhang’ away, he saw the two Emei disciples were hit one after another by a saber and an arrow. They fell and both disciple and the stretcher rolled down the mountain. Zhang Wuji flew in; with the spear in his left hand he stopped the stretcher. He saw the person on the stretcher was wrapped in plain cloth from head to toe; only the face was exposed. It was indeed Song Qingshu.

Zhang Wuji threw the spears and carried Song Qingshu horizontally in his arms. He was surprised to feel Song Qingshu was exceptionally heavy. Apparently, there was a hard and stiff object inside the plain cloth wrap. Zhang Wuji did not have time to think about it, he was afraid that all this twisting and turning would break Song Qingshu’s skull. Dodging to the left and evading to the right, he tried to stay away from the rain of sabers and spears of the Yuan cavalry, while keeping his steps exceptionally smooth and stable.

Tang Wenliang and Zong Weixia of Kongtong Pai charged together, protecting Zhang Wuji on either side. Their pair of swords stabbed and blocked, the Yuan troops fell one by one under their swords. Carrying Song Qingshu in his arms, Zhang Wuji made a steady progress going up the mountain. Several hundreds of Yuan soldiers arranged themselves in formation.

“Lie Huo Flag, move to action!” Peng Yingyu called out.

The Lie Huo Flag men spurted oil from their spray guns, followed by shooting the rockets one by one. Raging flames rolled in waves, burning more than two hundred Yuan soldiers. Their burning bodies rolled down the mountain like balls of fire.

On the other side, the Hong Shui Flag’s hoses belched out poisonous water, spraying several hundred Yuan troops. The dead and the injured scattered on the mountainside. The Yuan army’s Wan Fu Zhang [leader of ten-thousand-man unit] ordered his troops to retreat. The front end of the formation changed into the rear. Shooting the arrows to prevent the enemy from pursuing, the army drew back slowly.

Peng Yingyu sighed and said, “Although they are defeated, the Tatars army does not get chaotic. They are truly world caliber elite troops.”

The Yuan army withdrew to the base of the mountain, and then spread out in a fan-shaped formation. It appeared they were not going to attack again, at least for the time being.

Zhang Wuji issued his order, “Rui Jin, Hong Shui and Lie Huo, three flags to defend the major road going up the mountain. Ju Mu and Hou Tu, two flags to quickly cut lumber and construct barriers to guard against the enemy attack.”

All the Five-Element Flags leaders accepted the order in one voice, and then went separate ways to lead their people laying out a defense.

Previously, the crowd of heroes thought that although they might not be able to completely kill Tatars troops, defending themselves certainly would not be too difficult, would it? However, in the battle just now they experienced the power of the Yuan army first hand. Now they realized that large-scale battle was substantially different than fighting one-on-one in a martial art competition. With thousands upon thousands soldiers surging in like a tide of people, even someone excelled in martial art like Zhou Zhiruo would not have the opportunity to unleash her full potential. In a forest of sabers, spears, swords and lances, where everybody was chopping and killing everybody else, the skill they learned in normal time, be it weaponry or bare fist bare foot, internal or external strength, everything lost its usefulness. If the Ming Cult’s Five Element Flags did not use troops formation to fight troops formation, at this moment there would be wretched mourning on the Shaoshi Peak; while the Shaolin Temple would turn into charred rubble under the raging fire.

Actually, Shaolin monks were also following some kind of discipline. They were divided into teams of younger monks, armed with monk staves and sabers, under the leadership of more senior monks. These teams spread out all around the Temple to guard all strategic locations. However, their number was simply too small; it was impossible for them to withstand the attack of twenty-thousand Mongolian elite troops.

The crowd of heroes broke into discussion with one another as they saw Yuan army retreat. Now they understood why the previous dynasty, which was defended by a large number of heroes and warriors with superior martial art skill, was still unable to prevent their ‘river and mountain’ [‘jiang shan’ – country] from falling into the Tatars’ hands.

Zhang Wuji gently placed Song Qingshu on the floor and looked for his breath. Luckily, he was still breathing. Turning his head, he wanted to talk to Zhou Zhiruo, but he did not see her anywhere.

“Where is Mrs. Song?” he asked. But everybody was busy fighting the Yuan force; nobody paid any attention to where Zhou Zhiruo was going. By this time, Emei Pai disciples’ hostility toward the Ming Cult had been reduced substantially, yet they also said that they had not seen their Sect Leader.

Zhang Wuji was afraid that Song Qingshu’s injury had worsened in the confusion of the battle just now; he decided to take off the wrapping on Song Qingshu’s body and examine him carefully.

There were three layers of wrapping cloth on Song Qingshu’s body. By the time Zhang Wuji had loosened the second layer, ‘clang, clang, clang,’ four pieces of broken weapon fell down. Zhang Wuji was startled. “Tulong Saber, Yitian Sword!” he called out.

One after another the crowd of heroes came near and stood around him. They saw the blades of both the Tulong Saber and the Yitian Sword were broken into two parts each. Zhang Wuji picked the half Tulong Saber, which still felt rather heavy in his hand. At that moment, all sorts of feeling welled up in his heart. He remembered his own parents lost their lives because of this Saber. For the last twenty years or so the Jianghu was in continuous trouble, all because of this Saber. The primary intention of the crowd of heroes gathered in Shaolin was also for this treasured saber. He could not imagine that this Saber suddenly reappeared broken and turned into a useless thing.

As he lifted the Saber closer, he noticed that the broken part was hollow; large enough to conceal something. The Yitian Sword was also hollow. However, both holes were empty. Someone must have taken whatever object that was previously hidden inside.

Yang Xiao sighed, “Turned out Miss Zhou’s astounding martial art skill came from these Saber and Sword.”

Looking at the appearance of the broken sections of the Saber and the Sword, Zhang Wuji suddenly realized that when the Saber and the Sword went missing on that little island, they were taken by Zhou Zhiruo. Somehow she managed to banish Zhao Min, kill Yin Li, and strike the Saber and the Sword to each other, and thus two sharpest weapons in the world gave up and broke. She then took the concealed secret martial art manual and trained surreptitiously.

“That’s right,” he thought. The more Zhang Wuji thought, his mind grew clearer, “On that island, when I tried to use the Jiu Yang Shen Gong to drive the poison out from her body, I felt a strange internal energy vaguely resisting my strength. Later, this strange energy grew stronger. Obviously her internal energy cultivation has made some advancement. Ay! Because of her impatience to get a quick result, she did not cultivate a strong internal energy foundation, but took a shortcut by training a ruthless and evil martial art skill. In the end, she will not be able to reach the perfection of the martial art study. She had defeated Yu Er Bo and Yin Liu Shu, but it was because she was relying on strange moves, thus gaining the advantage of surprise, just like when I was defeated under the Central Cult’s Wind and Cloud, three Emissaries’ hands in the past. Zhiruo’s real skill is still far inferior to Yu and Yin, two uncles. If they fight again in the future, she will certainly die under the hands of Wudang Heroes …”

When he was still deep in thought, the Rui Jin Flag Leader, Wu Jingcao stepped forward and said, “Reporting to Jiaozhu: your subordinate came from a blacksmith family. I have learned how to forge metal into saber and sword. Let subordinate give it a try. Perhaps I can fix these treasured Saber and Sword.”

Yang Xiao was delighted. “Wu Qishi’s [flag leader Wu] skill as a swordsmith is unparalleled in the world. Jiaozhu, there is no harm in letting him try.”

Zhang Wuji nodded. “It is indeed a pity that these sharp weapons are broken like this. Wu Qishi, you might as well give it a try.”

Wu Jingcao turned toward the Lie Huo Flag Leader, Xin Ran, and said, “The most important ingredient in sword making is the fire. I will need Xin Xiong’s wholehearted assistance. From the look of it, the Tatars will not going to attack the mountain for a while; what do you say we two brothers start working together rightaway?”

Xin Ran said with a laugh, “Making fire is actually Xiongdi’s [brother, general term] expertise.”

Thereupon the two of them ordered their subordinates to build a blast furnace, with an opening not more than one foot wide. Laying bricks, Wu Jingcao firmly clamped the top section of the Tulong Saber inside the furnace with the broken end toward the fire. There were all kinds of fuel and flammable materials in the Lie Huo Flag that in an instant the furnace was blazing hot with raging fire.

Wu Jingcao had lost his right arm, only his left arm was left. He arranged a dozen or so swords and sabers by his side. His eyes were fixed on the fire. Each time the fire changed color, he put a blade inside the furnace to test the strength of the fire. When the fire turned from blue to white, his left hand quickly grabbed a pair of steel pliers and pinching the other half section of the Tulong Saber, he joined it with the top section, and held it in the fire. He was bare-chested; sparks landed on his body, but he seemed oblivious, his attention was focused completely on the task at hand.

Zhang Wuji thought, “Although being a swordsmith is a humble occupation, it actually requires great knowledge and great ability. An ordinary blacksmith would not be able to endure even this blistering hot furnace.”

Suddenly, ‘bonk, bonk’, the two Lie Huo Flag men who were pumping the bellows fainted and fell on the floor. Xin Ran and the Lie Huo Flag’s Vice Flag Leader quickly stepped in. They pulled their two fainted men and then took their place in pumping the bellows. These two men’s internal energy cultivation was not bad; as they exerted their strength, blast of air made the fire inside the stove blazing high, reaching about a ‘zhang’ above the smokestack, creating quite a spectacle.

About half the time to burn an incense-stick later, Wu Jingcao suddenly cried out, “Aiyo!” and jumped backwards with disappointment on his face. Everybody was stunned; when they looked at his hand, they saw the steel pliers in his hand had melted and deformed beyond recognition, while the Tulong Saber did not show the slightest bit of melting.

Wu Jingcao shook his head and said, “Subordinate is incompetent; this treasured Tulong Saber’s reputation is truly justified.”

Xin Ran and his second in command stopped pumping and stepped aside. Their clothes were soaking wet with perspiration, as if they had just swam in the water fully clothed.

“Wuji Gege,” Zhao Min suddenly said, “Wasn’t even the Tulong Saber not able to chop the Sheng Huo Ling tablets?”

“Ah, that’s right!” Zhang Wuji said.

Out of six Sheng Huo Ling tablets, one was taken by Shuo Bude going down the mountain to call for reinforcement; there were still five tablets left. Zhang Wuji took these five tablets and handed them over to Wu Jingcao, while saying, “If the Saber and the Sword cannot be fixed, that’s all right. Sheng Huo Ling is our Cult’s most precious object. We simply must not damage it.”

“Yes!” Wu Jingcao replied, while bowing down to receive the tablets. He looked at the five tablets and noticed that the tablets were made neither of steel nor iron; they were hard like nothing he had seen. He estimated the weigh to be about more or less a catty [approx. 1 lb or 0.5kg]. Lowering his head, he pondered deeply.

“If you are unsure, you don’t have to take a risk,” Zhang Wuji said.

Wu Jingcao did not reply. After a while, he awoke from his deep thought and said, “Subordinate did not promptly reply, begging Jiaozhu’s pardon. This Sheng Huo Ling was cast using ‘bai jin, xuan tie’ [lit. white gold – platinum, black/mysterious iron (same material as Yang Guo’s heavy sword)], blended with ‘jin gang sha’ [lit. very hard steel (or diamond) powder/granule] and other materials; ordinary blaze would not smelt it. Subordinate was pondering deeply how it was made in the past. It was truly unthinkable; thereupon I was lost in thought for a while.”

Zhao Min cast a sidelong glance toward Zhang Wuji. Pursing her mouth, she laughed and said, “When Jiaozhu needs to go to Persia to meet with a certain important character in the future, you can go with him to consult their master artisan.”

Zhang Wuji was bashful. “Why would I want to go to Persia?” he asked.

Zhao Min smiled and said, “Do I have to spell it out in front of everybody?” To Wu Jingcao she said, “Have you looked? There are engravings of characters on the Sheng Huo Ling. If sharp weapons like Tulong Saber and Yitian Sword cannot damage it the least bit, what kind of tool did they engrave the characters with?”

“Actually, to engrave the characters is not difficult,” Wu Jingcao replied, “You can apply a layer of white wax [here’s from the dictionary: white wax from Chinese white wax bug] to the Sheng Huo Ling; and then engrave the characters on the wax. Next, apply a strong acid. Within several months, the acid will corrode the tablets. When the white wax is scraped, the characters stay on the tablets. What Xiao Ren [humble one, lowly one – referring to self] do not understand is how the metal was cast.”

“Hey,” Xin Ran called out, “Are we going to do it or not?”

“Jiaozhu, set your mind at ease,” Wu Jingcao said to Zhang Wuji, “Although Xie Xiongdi’s raging fire is fierce, it will not damage the Sheng Huo Ling the least bit.”

Xin Ran, however, was apprehensive, “I will make every effort to fan the fire, but if it burns our Cult’s most precious object, I may take the blame.”

Wu Jingcao smiled and said, “I don’t think you have the ability to do so. But even if you do, I will take the blame.” Thereupon he used two Sheng Huo Ling tablets to clamp the half section of the Tulong Saber, and then took a new pair of pliers to grip the Sheng Huo Ling tablets and returned the treasured Saber into the furnace.

The fire was blazing hotter and higher. After burning continuously for more than an hour, Wu Jingcao, Xin Ran and the Lie Huo Flag’s Vice Flag Leader seemed to be beaten down by the heat; their faces showed signs of weariness, it looked like they would not be able to hold much longer. Priest Tie Guan signaled Zhou Dian with his eyes, while his left hand made a circle in the air. The two of them rushed forward to take Xin Ran and Lie Huo Flag’s Vice Flag Leader’s place in pumping the bellows. These two men’s internal energy was much higher than those two they were replacing; inside the furnace, a white flame rose straight up.

Suddenly Wu Jingcao shouted, “Gu Xiongdi [brother Gu], do it!”

The Rui Jin Flag’s Vice Flag Leader rushed toward the furnace with a naked blade in his hand. A white ray flashed, the blade stabbed Wu Jingcao in the chest. The multitude faces of heroes watching from the side changed, they all cried out in shock. Blood spurted out from Wu Jingcao’s naked chest toward the Tulong Saber. As the blood met the fire, blue smoke rose gracefully.

“It’s finished!” Wu Jingcao shouted. He retreated several steps and fell sitting down on the ground. There was a deep black big saber in his right hand. The two broken pieces of the Tulong Saber had been fused together into one piece.

Now everybody understood. Turned out when a swordsmith failed to forge a saber or a sword, they would drip blood on the blade. There was an old legend about a certain husband and wife, Gan Jiang and Mo Xie, who had to jump into the furnace before an extremely sharp weapon could be forged. With his action, Wu Jingcao might have followed a master artisanship custom handed down from the ancient times.

Zhang Wuji rushed toward Wu Jingcao; he looked carefully at the wound, and saw that the saber only entered the flesh shallowly, the injury was not life threatening. Immediately he applied cut wound medicine and wrapped up the wound, while saying, “Wu Xiong, why did you do this? It’s not important whether this Saber can be fixed or not. Why did Wu Xiong have to suffer such pain?”

“What’s the big deal about this superficial wound that it has caused Jiaozhu anxiety?” Wu Jingcao replied. He stood up and raised the Tulong Saber to take a closer look. Upon seeing that the broken part was mended flawlessly with only a faint trace of blood on it, he could not help but feel very proud.

Zhang Wuji examined the two Sheng Huo Ling tablets, which were used inside the furnace and as expected, he did not see the slightest sign of damage. Receiving the Tulong Saber, he chopped it on two spears, which were snatched from Yuan troops earlier. With a light ‘Swish!’ sound, the two spears were cut smoothly, as if they were made of mud, cut by ordinary iron.

The crowd of heroes applauded loudly. “Excellent Saber! Excellent Saber!” they praised.

Wu Jingcao took the two-piece Yitian Sword in his hands. His mind wandered to the moment when the former Rui Jin Flag Leader, Zhuang Zheng, as well as dozens of his brethrens of the Rui Jin Flag, lost their lives under this Sword. He could not restrain tears from flowing down his eyes.

“Jiaozhu,” he said, “This Sword has killed my Zhuang Dage. It has killed not a few of my good brothers. Wu Jingcao hates this Sword to the bone. I can’t fix it. I am ready to accept responsibility for this offense.” While saying that, his tears poured down like rain.

“That only shows Wu Xiong’s ‘yi qi’ [loyalty, code of brotherhood],” Zhang Wuji said, “What offense are you talking about?” Taking the two pieces of the Sword, he walked toward Jing Xuan of Emei Pai and said, “This Sword originally belonged to your precious Sect. I would like to ask Shitai to pass this on to Miss … to Mrs. Song.” Jing Xuan did not say anything, but she accepted the two pieces of broken sword.

Zhang Wuji held the Tulong Saber in his hand; he thought for a moment and then brought the Saber to Kong Wen.

“Fangzhang,” he said, “This Saber was my Yifu’s. Now that Yifu has entered the ‘three precious’ [orig. ‘san bao’ – Buddha, Dharma (his teaching) and Sangha (his monastic order)] and joined Shaolin, it is only fit that this Saber should be under Shaolin Pai’s power.”

Kong Wen shook both of his hands and said, “This Saber has already exchanged hands many times over. Last time it was Zhang Jiaozhu who snatched it away from among the thousand troops and ten thousand horses; everybody can bear witness to it. And then it was Wu Dage from your precious Cult who mended it. In addition, today the heroes from all over the world have agreed to elect Zhang Jiaozhu to preside over the honorable position. Therefore, it is a question of ability and virtue, of origin and relationship, of prestige and position, this Saber should be under Zhang Jiaozhu’s control. This is perfectly justified.”

The crowd of heroes echoed in chorus; they said, “This is the will of the people, Zhang Jiaozhu does not need to decline.”

Zhang Wuji had no choice but to accept; he thought, “If I can command the heroes of the Wulin world with this treasured Saber, we can drive the invaders together and complete the big current task.”

He heard somebody started to recite, followed by the multitude of heroes, “The most treasured in the Wulin world, precious Saber slaying the dragon, ruling under the heavens, no one dares to disobey!” The next line was ‘Yitian [relying on Heaven] does not appear, who can match its sharpness?’ but since everybody had seen the Yitian Sword was broken and was not going to be mended, nobody recited these last two sentences.

The Rui Jin Flag of the Ming Cult harbored a deep hatred toward the Yitian Sword. Today, seeing the Tulong Saber was restored to its original form while the two pieces of Yitian Sword stayed broken, they all expressed their delight.

Everybody had been busy for half a day; their stomachs were growling. The Ming Cult’s Five Element Flags and half of the Shaolin Temple monks were dispatched to guard all vital points. The rest of the people followed the monks to enjoy vegetarian dishes inside the Temple.

As the sky turned dark, Zhang Wuji leaped onto a tall tree to scout the enemy’s movements at the bottom of the mountain. He noticed a cluster of encampments to the west, where smoke was rising up everywhere; it looked like they were cooking their dinner on the fire pits dug on the ground.

Zhang Wuji leaped down the tree and said to Wei Yixiao, “Wei Xiong, as soon as it is dark enough, go down and spy around the enemy’s camp. Find out whether they are going to attack tonight or not.” Wei Yixiao received the order and left.

“Jiaozhu,” Yang Xiao said, “After being defeated at the front of the mountain today, I think the Tatars will not attack again tonight. What we must guard against is their sneak attack from the back of the mountain.”

“That’s right,” Zhang Wuji said, “I am asking Yang Zuo Shi and Fan You Shi to stay and take charge in here, while I am going to the other side of the mountain to look around.”

“I am coming with you,” Zhao Min said.

The two of them went to the peak where Xie Xun was held captive; they looked far toward the back of the mountain, but did not see anything astir. Zhang Wuji ran his fingers gently on the three broken pine trees, and then he looked at the dark mouth of the dungeon, while in his mind he replayed the fierce fight earlier that day. He shivered at the thought of extremely dangerous situation he was in. Suddenly he remembered something, “Yifu told me to look at the rock wall of the dungeon. I almost forgot.”

“Min Mei,” he said, “Stay up here and stand watch; I am going down to take a look.”

Jumping down into the hole, he took a torch [orig. ‘huo zhe’ (lit. fire folded document) – folded paper used as torch] and lit a fire. By this time, the water inside the dungeon had receded, but the wall and the ground were still wet. He saw on all sides, the wall was full of pictures. The pictures were apparently engraved on the rock wall using a sharp rock. The lines were simple, yet graceful and rather vivid.

On the eastern wall, the drawing depicted three women. One was lying on the ground; one was kneeling next to her as if she was tending to the woman on the ground. The third woman’s right hand was at the kneeling woman’s bosom. Next to the picture were two characters ‘qu yao’ [fetching the medicine].

On the south side, there was a picture of a big ship. One woman was throwing another woman into the ship. The caption said ‘fang zhu’ [banish].

Cold sweats broke out on Zhang Wuji’s forehead. “Turn out it really happened this way,” he thought, “When Min Mei was attending to my Biaomei [younger female cousin], Zhiruo stole the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’ from her pocket to be mixed in our food and drink. And then she threw Min Mei into the Persian ship and forced them to leave immediately. But why didn’t she simply kill Min Mei? Hmm, perhaps if she left Min Mei’s body behind, she would not be able to cover up her track, plus she could not shift the blame to her. That being the case, then Biaomei was also killed under her ruthless hands.”

Just below the picture, a bit to the left, was another picture of two men. One was sleeping, the other, with a head full of long hair, was inclining his head to listen. Zhang Wuji was startled, “Turn out when Zhiruo was performing this bloody atrocities that cry out to Heaven, Yifu heard everything. The Senior’s self-control was indeed very strong; he did not reveal anything on the island. Ah, right. At that time Yifu and I were already drugged by the ‘shi xiang ruan jin san’; our internal strength were gone. Our lives were in Zhiruo’s hands. No wonder at that time Yifu adamantly said that it must be Min mei’s doing, and that he was very indignant toward her. He knew I was naive and muddle-headed; if he told me the secret, I would inadvertently divulge it through my speech or my demeanor.”

He saw the pictures were splattered with blood, a reminder of the bloody battle between Xie Xun and Cheng Kun during the day, making the pictures more forlorn and terrifying.

Looking at the third picture on the western wall, he saw Xie Xun was sitting, and Zhou Zhiruo was attacking him from the back. There was a crowd of beggars of the Beggar Clan lurking outside the room. This scene was exactly the same as was depicted in the tableau sponsored by Zhao Min during the ‘Tour of the Imperial City’ at Dadu.

When he was about to look at the fourth picture, the torch in his hand suddenly went out. “Min Mei,” he called out, “Could you come down and let me use your fire?”

Zhao Min lighted her torch and jumped down. As she saw the drawings, she understood immediately. The fourth picture depicted Xie Xun was being taken by several men. There was a woman peering from behind a tree in a distant. The stroke of these drawing was excellent; however, other than Xie Xun’s own face, the other people’s faces were indistinct, Zhang Wuji could not tell who the woman was.

He pondered about it for a moment and then he understood, “When Yifu became blind, I have not even been born yet. He recognizes Min Mei, Zhiruo, Biaomei, and me by our voices, but actually he does not know what we look like. Naturally he could not draw our faces.” Pointing to the young woman, he asked, “Was it you, or Miss Zhou?”

“It was me,” Zhao Min replied, “When Cheng Kun snatched Xie Daxia away from the Beggar Clan, he had someone else to take Xie Daxia to be imprisoned in the Shaolin Temple. He himself went around leaving the Ming Cult’s mark along the way, leading you on a wild goose chase around a big circle. I did try to seize Xie Daxia by force several times, but I failed every time. In the end I had to stop you from being the bridegroom. I am truly sorry.”

At that time, Zhang Wuji’s heart was filled with extreme remorse. He stared blankly at Zhao Min, looking at her wan and sallow countenance, and her thin cheeks; knowing that in the last several months she had endured suffering beyond any normal person can bear. Overwhelmed by compassion, he reached out to embrace her, and said in a trembling voice, “Min Mei, I … I have wronged you.” As soon as he embraced her, the fire went out and the dungeon turned into a pitch-black cave.

He continued, “If not because of your intelligence and quick-thinking, the muddle-headed Zhang Wuji would have killed you; wouldn’t that be terrible?”

Zhao Min laughed and said, “Do you have a heart to kill me? You insisted that I was the murderer, yet when you saw me, why didn’t you kill me?”

Zhang Wuji was silent with a blank expression on his face. After a moment, he sighed and said, “Min Mei, my feelings toward you have made me lose control over my own actions. Supposing you did kill my Biaomei, I still do not know what I should do. Now that the truth is being gradually revealed, even though I feel sorry for Zhiruo, I must say that deep in my heart I am happy.”

Zhao Min could hear the sincerity in his voice; she leaned on his bosom. For a long time nobody said anything. When she looked up, she saw that the crescent moon was hanging low on the eastern horizon, while all around them nothing was astir.

“Wuji Gege,” Zhao Min said in a tender voice, “When we first met at the Green Willow Manor, we fell into the dungeon together. Don’t you think our circumstance today is more or less the same as the one we were then?”

Zhang Wuji snickered. He reached down to grab her left foot and then took her shoe off.

Zhao Min laughed. “A big man like you bullying a weak girl like me,” she said.

“You, a weak girl?” Zhang Wuji replied, “You are so crafty that even ten grown men are not your match.”

“Thank you for your praise, Zhang Da Jiaozhu [Big Cult Leader Zhang]!” Zhao Min laughed, “Little girl does not dare to accept.”

Speaking to this point, both of them broke out in laughter. The exchange between them was exactly what they were saying when they were trapped in the Green Willow Manor’s dungeon together a few years ago. Only, the first time they said that, the words were filled with hostility, while this evening, the words were full of unbounded tender love.

Zhang Wuji smiled and said, “Aren’t you afraid I might scratch the bottom of your foot again?”

Zhao Min laughed and said, “No, I am not!”

Zhang Wuji grabbed her foot again, but suddenly they heard faint shouts from the direction of northwest. Leaning their heads to listen, they heard clashing gusts of wind; obviously, there were people fighting in the distance.

“Let’s go take a look!” they said to each other.

Taking Zhao Min’s hand, Zhang Wuji leaped up from the dungeon. Following the direction of the noise, they saw three shadows speeding away to the west. Their feet were exceptionally swift; they were definitely first class martial art masters. Zhang Wuji held out his arm to grab Zhao Min’s waist, and then unleashing his ‘qing gong’ he dashed on a chase. From the distant he noticed that the one in the front was running away, while the other two in the back were pursuing vigorously.

Zhang Wuji picked up his speed trying to close the distance. Under the moonlight he saw that the pursuers were two old men. They were none other than Lu Zhangke and He Biweng. He saw He Biweng wave his left hand, throwing a crane-beak pen forward toward the one in the front. The one in the front swept a sword backward to parry. ‘Bang!’ the crane-beak pen was thrown to the sky.

Because of this slight delay, Lu Zhangke was able to leap nearby that person, and immediately thrust his deer-antler staff forward. That person leaned sideways to evade and counterattacked with a palm. The moon shone onto that person’s face. Her face was pale, her loose long hair fluttered in the wind. Turned out she was Zhou Zhiruo. Zhang Wuji was startled. Hastily he took Zhao Min and hid behind a tree.

He Biweng caught the crane-beak pen as it fell from the sky. He circled toward Zhou Zhiruo’s left and launched a converging attack together with Lu Zhangke.

Clenching her teeth, Zhou Zhiruo said, “Why do you, two old ghosts, painstakingly chase me?”

Lu Zhangke replied, “Today we have seen it with our own eyes; Zhang Wuji of the Ming Cult managed to seize the Tulong Saber and Yitian Sword, but the secret martial art manual inside the Saber and the Sword was already gone. It must be in Mrs. Song’s possession.”

Zhang Wuji was shocked. “Turned out when I was snatching the blades and saving others, these two old chaps were close by. But why couldn’t I know their presence?”

He heard Zhou Zhiruo say, “There is indeed a secret martial art manual, but I destroyed it as soon as I finished training.”

With a cold laugh Lu Zhangke said, “Did you say ’finished training’? That easy, huh? These Tulong Saber and Yitian Sword were known as ‘the most treasured in Wulin world’; how can the secret hidden inside them be that superficial? Although Mrs. Song’s martial art skill stands out above the others, I don’t think you have reached the pinnacle yet. Otherwise, with one wave of your hand you would have killed us, two brothers. Why would you run away?”

“If I said I have destroyed it then I have destroyed it,” Zhou Zhiruo said, “Who has so much spare time to chat with you? I am taking my leave now!”

“Hold it!” Lu Zhangke and He Biweng shouted together. They raised their hands at the same time and attacked Zhou Zhiruo from left and right.

Zhou Zhiruo brandished her sword; it looked like a silver snake dancing wildly under the moonlight. The Xuan Ming Elders parried her attacks with a staff and a pair of pens.

Zhang Wuji had seen Zhou Zhiruo’s whip technique. This time he saw that her sword emits a mysterious ray, moving in and out in defense and offense in the midst of two martial art masters’ converging attack. Her stances irregularly varied between fake and real; it seemed like her movements were full of tricks.

After fighting for more than several dozens stances, Zhou Zhiruo’s sword moves were growing even stranger. At least seven of the ten stances were swift and fierce offensive strikes. Zhang Wuji knew that she wanted to get away from the enemies, but her internal energy would actually deplete faster by fighting like this. If she were a bit careless, she would face a mortal danger. Zhang Wuji was deeply concerned. He stepped out from behind the tree and quietly walked several steps closer.

Suddenly Zhou Zhiruo let out a shout and swiftly stabbed Lu Zhangke three times. Lu Zhangke stepped sideways to evade. Right this moment, He Biweng threw his pair of pens toward her back with a full force. The pens clashing with each other midair and changed course; one flew towards the back of her head, the other flew towards the back of her waist.

Zhou Zhiruo heard the wind of the weapons behind her back and ducked; but she did not expect the pens would collide in midair and change their courses. As she ducked, one pen struck her forehead. Needless to say, she could not avoid the crane-beak pen threatening her waist.

Hastily Zhang Wuji leaped to catch the crane-beak pen, while sweeping his palm horizontally toward He Biweng. In her shock, Zhou Zhiruo was at a loss for a split second, and Lu Zhangke’s palm came floating lightly toward her lower abdomen. It was not a small matter, as it was the ‘xuan ming shen zhang’ [black/mysterious divine palm]. Zhou Zhiruo stopped breathing and fainted at once.

Zhang Wuji was greatly shocked; throwing the crane-beak pen in his hand, he reached backward to catch Zhou Zhiruo, and then leaped more than a ‘zhang’ backwards.

“Xuan Ming Er Lao!” he roared, “Don’t you have any face?”

Lu Zhangke laughed out loud and said, “I was wondering who dares to come and meddle with our business; turns out it is Zhang Da Jiaozhu [great cult leader]. Where is our Junzhu Niangniang [princess]? Where did you take her after kidnapping her?”

Zhao Min stepped out from behind the tree; taking Zhou Zhiruo from Zhang Wuji’s arms, she softly laughed and said, “Mr. Lu, you are head over heels longing after me; aren’t you afraid Father might be angry with you?”

“Little witch,” Lu Zhangke angrily said, “You sowed dissension between us, brothers. We have severed any relationship with your father early on. Why would Ruyang Prince being angry or not concern me?”

Seeing how Lu Zhangku struck a vicious blow to injure Zhou Zhiruo, and then spoke rudely to Zhao Min, Zhang Wuji also recalled how these two men had caused him countless sufferings with their ‘xuan ming shen zhang’when he was a child; his old hatred was rekindled. In that moment, his blood was boiling inside his chest. “Min Mei, back off,” he said, “Just looking at these two old chaps is making me angry. I must fight them well today.”

Seeing that Zhang Wuji was barehanded, the two elders laid down their weapons and waited with focused attention.

“On guard!” Zhang Wuji shouted and launched the ‘lan qiao wei’ [seizing the bird’s tail] stance; his palms struck out together. This stance was part of the Taiji Fist technique, the movement was very slow, but the power behind it was from his Jiu Yang Shen Gong.

Although Taiji Fist is common for the later generations, not too many Wulin people were even aware of its existence at the time right after Zhang Sanfeng developed it. Lu Zhangke had never seen this kind of soft, seemingly powerless palm technique; naturally, he did not know what kind of trick was hidden in this palm attack. He was extremely afraid of Zhang Wuji, hence he did not dare to meet his palm and leaned sideways to evade.

Zhang Wuji turned around and with ‘bai she tu yan’ [white snake spitting words] his left palm struck He Biweng, while his right palm shook in and out randomly. He Biweng pointed his left hand index finger to the center of Zhang Wuji’s palm, his right palm swept diagonally down toward Zhang Wuji’s lower abdomen.

Zhang Wuji had fought the Xuan Ming Elders several times; he knew these two men were not his match. Compared to Du E and the other, the three monks whom he encountered in his most recent three battles, these two were a level below in terms of their depth in martial art skills. So if he wanted to defeat these two, he should have more than enough to spare. However, these two’s skill was, after all, not superficial. Therefore, Zhang Wuji did not dare to be reckless. He launched Taiji Fist to its fullest potential; creating circle after circle, with Jiu Yang Shen Gong struck out from sometimes straight, sometime slanting circles.

The Xuanming Elders gradually felt the ‘yang’ energy burning fiercely; while the ‘yin’ and cold energy of their own ‘Xuan Ming Shen Zhang’ was frequently forced back by the opponent.

After fighting for more than a hundred stances, by chance Zhang Wuji turned around and saw two dark shadows shiver on the ground. The moon had cast its shadow on Zhao Min and Zhou Zhiruo. His heart skipped a beat. Zhao Min appeared to be shaking uncontrollably while she was fighting to keep Zhou Zhiruo in her arms.

“Not good!” Zhang Wuji was secretly alarmed, “After taking Old Lu’s ‘xuan ming shen zhang’, I am afraid Zhou Zhiruo cannot withstand it. The energy cultivation she trained was ‘yin’ and cold in nature. Now that she received Xuan Ming Shen Zhang which is the world’s coldest and most poisonous energy, cold on top of cold, apparently even Min Mei is not able to endure it.” Thereupon he increased his effort to press Lu Zhangke.

Lu Zhangke noticed the change in Zhang Wuji’s fist technique; he guessed Zhang Wuji’s intentions correctly. Leaping sideways to evade, he called out, “Shidi, surround him; that woman surnamed Zhou is having a cold-poison attack. Don’t let him help her.”

“Certainly,” He Biweng replied. Leaping out of the circle, he picked up his pair of crane-beak pens and with the ‘tong tian che di’ [going through the sky and penetrating the earth], his pens smashed in from top and bottom.

Zhang Wuji smiled slightly and said, “With or without weapons, it’s all the same!” With a shout his palm struck; the gust of wind generated was so strong that He Biweng was gasping for breath.

Lu Zhangke reached back for his deer-antler staff and swept it toward Zhang Wuji’s waist. Zhang Wuji successively changed his fist techniques; now he launched the thirty-six style (or form) ‘long zhua qin na shou’ [dragon claw ‘grab and capture’ or grappling technique] he learned from Shaolin Divine Monk Kong Xing, the ‘fu qin shi’ [zither playing form], ‘gu se shi’ [drum beating form], ‘bu feng shi’ [wind grasping form], and ‘bao can shi’ [destruction carrying form], all with very strong offensive power.

“This Dragon Claw skill is very well trained,” Lu Zhangke called out, “Later on it will be very useful to dig a hole in the ground; no mistake about it.”

“Shige,” He Biweng replied, “Why do we need a hole in the ground?”

Lu Zhangke laughed, “That Miss Zhou is going to die; of course we need a hole to bury her!”

As he spoke, his attention was slightly divided; Zhang Wuji flew in and kicked his left leg. Lu Zhangke staggered. He quickly braced himself and brandished his deer-antler staff, creating a defense so tight that even the wind and the rain would not be able to penetrate.

Zhang Wuji turned his head to see Zhao Min and Zhou Zhiruo; he saw these two women were shaking even more violently. “Min Mei,” he asked, “How do you feel?”

“Very bad!” Zhao Min replied, “I feel very cold!”

Zhang Wuji was shocked. He thought for a moment and then understood. When Zhou Zhiruo was hit by the Xuan Ming Shen Zhang, as fierce as the ‘yin’ and cold energy was, it only attacked her, one person. But now even Zhao Min was feeling cold. He thought it must be because of Zhao Min’s good intention that she transmitted her own energy to help Zhou Zhiruo resisting the cold. However, these two women’s strengths differed considerably; Zhou Zhiruo’s internal energy was also very strange, so strange that instead of helping her, Zhao Min’s own energy was depleted.

Zhang Wuji moved his fists furiously, hoping that he would force these two Elders as quickly as possible. But the two Elders kept their distance; they moved to his front and to his back, but did not dare to fight him directly, as their intention was only to prolong the battle.

Zhang Wuji was getting impatient. “Min Mei,” he called out, “Lay Miss Zhou on the ground, and do not hold her.”

“I … I can’t,” Zhao Min replied.

“What?” Zhang Wuji was puzzled.

“She … her back … is stuck to my palm,” Zhao Min said. Her teeth chattered and her body swayed as if she was going to fall down any minute. Zhang Wuji was even more shocked.

“Zhang Jiaozhu,” he heard Lu Zhangke say, “This Miss Zhou is very cruel; she is passing on the cold poison in her body into Junzhu Niangniang that Junzhu Niangniang is almost dead. What do you say we make an agreement?”

“What agreement?” Zhang Wuji asked.

Lu Zhangke said, “We stop fighting. We get the two books from Miss Zhou, you get to save Junzhu Niangniang.”

“Humph,” Zhang Wuji snorted. He thought, “These Xuan Ming Elders’ martial art is already this good; if they also train Zhiruo’s sinister martial art and then they do much evil, nobody will be able to control them.”

While still thinking, he turned his head to look at Zhao Min again and saw that a shade of greenish blue had already appeared on her jade-like beautiful white cheeks, while her face showed an extreme pain. Zhang Wuji took two steps backward and grabbed her right palm with his left hand. Immediately he transferred his Jiu Yang Shen Qi in steady stream via his palm.

“Attack together from the front!” Lu Zhangke called out. With a staff and a pair of pens, like a flurry of torrential rain the Xuan Ming Elders charged together.

Zhang Wuji was using most of his energy to save Zhao and Zhou, two women; he was unable to move his body, he only had one palm with which to block the enemy’s attack, so in an instant he found himself in a very precarious situation.

‘Rip’, He Biweng’s crane-beak pen cut a long slit on the pants on his left leg; blood immediately dripped out of his leg.

At first, Zhao Min was almost frozen stiff by the cold ‘yin’ chi from Zhou Zhiruo’s body; she felt as if her blood was slowly coagulating. As soon as the Jiu Yang Shen Qi flushed in, gradually her body warmed up. But as Zhang Wuji used his other palm to fight Xuan Ming Elders, he was straining just to make ends meet; consequently, his transfer of Jiu Yang Zhen Qi toward Zhao Min weakened. Zhao Min started to feel cold again.

‘Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!’ Lu Zhangke struck three times with his deer-antler staff, with the tip of the antler aiming toward Zhang Wuji’s eyes. Zhang Wuji raised his palm to parry, deflecting the head of the staff away. He Biweng rolled on the ground. The pen in his left hand launched the ‘cong xin suo yu’ [lit. ‘whatever you like’ or ‘do as you please’] toward Zhang Wuji’s waist.

Zhang Wuji was unable to evade; he had no choice but to use the Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi trying to neutralize the pen’s strength. But He Biweng’s pen carried a tremendous force and Zhang Wuji did not have the confidence that he would be able to neutralize the incoming force. Suddenly a loud ‘Dang!’ was heard; his waist shook, but he did not feel any pain. Turned out by chance He Biweng’s pen hit the Tulong Saber hanging on his waist.

Zhang Wuji did not normally fight his opponent using any weapon. Even battling Du E, three monks, he only used Sheng Huo Ling tablets, which were not real weapons. He had never used a sword or a saber, and thus although the Tulong Saber was hanging on his waist, he had not thought of using it to fight the enemy.

This pen strike by He Biweng awakened him; with a loud shout his left leg kicked, forcing He Biweng to withdraw three steps back. He pulled the Saber out right when the deer-antler staff was stabbing again. Zhang Wuji swept his Tulong Saber. With a light swishing noise the antler from the staff fell down. Lu Zhangke was stunned. “Aiyo!” he cried out.

He Biweng’s pair of pens rolled in. Zhang Wuji swept the treasured Saber again. ‘Swish, swish!’ Two crane-beak pens broke into four pieces. Zhang Wuji turned the Saber around, creating a circle of black light. The Xuan Ming Elders did not dare to get close anymore; finally Zhang Wuji was able to transmit his Jiu Yang Zhen Qi into Zhao Min’s body.

With this infusion of full-strength energy, the critical condition of the cold Xuan Ming poison attack on Zhou Zhiruo has finally passed. However, when two different types of energy, yin and yang, intersect inside the body, especially if they were of different strength level, the strong would subdue the weak. After the cold Xuan Ming poison was repelled, Jiu Yang Zhen Qi also offset the internal Jiu Yin energy, which Zhou Zhiruo trained for.

After Zhou Zhiruo acquired the Jiu Yin Zhen Jing [Nine Yin Manual] hidden inside the Yitian Sword, she only trained surreptitiously in the night because she was afraid Xie Xun and Zhang Wuji might find out. But time was running out. Since she was unable to build a strong foundation by training the manual step-by-step, her internal energy cultivation was not too deep. Actually, she only trained the lower and easier-to-train sinister martial art from the Manual. When she was hit by the Xuan Ming Shen Zhang, she was thinking of transmitting the cold ‘yin’ chi to Zhao Min. When Zhang Wuji interfered, she only felt her entire body was enveloped with a warm and cozy feeling. As she felt the incoming energy grow, she wanted to take her body out of Zhao Min’s palm; unexpectedly, as she struggled, she felt as if a whiff of very strong sucking force was holding her so that she was not able to escape. Before, she was sucking Zhao Min’s palm with her back; now, her back was stuck on Zhao Min’s palm. It was because of the difference in internal energy strengths. Zhou Zhiruo could not help but feel utterly shocked.

As Zhang Wuji was driving the cold poison out, he felt his Jiu Yang Zhen Qi was flowing out, while from Zhao Min’s palm continuously came an opposing cold chi. He thought the cold poison of Xuan Ming Shen Zhang had not been completely neutralized, so he kept increasing his power. He did not know that with each part of Jiu Yang Zhen Qi he sent out, he neutralized one part of the Jiu Yin Zhen Qi Zhou Zhiruo had painstakingly cultivated.

Zhou Zhirou was groaning inwardly, but she must not say anything, since she knew that as soon as she opened her mouth, blood would immediately spurt out like crazy, her chi would be drained and she would die.

Zhao Min felt warm and comfortable; she laughed and said, “Wuji Gege, I am all right now. You can focus your attention to fight the Xuan Ming Elders!”

“Very well!” Zhang Wuji replied, and withdrew his internal energy.

Zhou Zhiruo felt as if she had just received pardon; she quickly pulled away from Zhao Min’s palm. She realized that although the cold poison of Xuan Ming Shen Zhang had been completely repelled, her own Jiu Yin internal energy had also suffered a heavy damage. As soon as Zhang Wuji brandished the Tulong Saber to attack the enemy, she stretched out her five fingers to strike the crown of Zhao Min’s head.

“Aiyo!” Zhao Min cried out loudly. She felt a severe pain on the top of her head, and thought that she was going to die this time. But she heard ‘crack, crack’ noise instead, as Zhou Zhiruo was groaning in pain and hurriedly retreated.

Zhang Wuji was shocked; hastily he turned his head and asked, “What is it?”

Zhao Min reached up to touch her forehead and was so scared that she felt her soul had left her and flown to the heavens that she was unable to say anything. Zhang Wuji only knew that she was hit by the ‘Jiu Yin Bai Gu Zhua’; he was also scared out of his wits. With his right hand he brandished to Saber to block the two elders, with his left hand he felt the top of her head. He felt the stickiness of blood, but luckily did not find any broken bone. He felt as if a large boulder burdening his heart had just fallen down.

“It’s all right,” he said, consolingly, “Your wound is only skin deep.” While in his heart he mused, “Strange, very strange!”

He did not know that when Zhou Zhiruo attacked, the Jiu Yang Zhen Qi he sent out earlier had not completely left Zhao Min’s body. Moreover, Zhou Zhiruo’s own internal energy had suffered substantial damage. When she attacked, not only she failed to harm the opponent, her own fingers experienced quite a shock.

As Zhang Wuji’s attention was diverted, the Xuan Ming Elders’ attack came by, but this time Zhang Wuji had the world’s sharpest weapon in his hand. Aware of the outstanding character of this weapon, he did not want to take advantage over the opponent, so he handed the precious saber over to Zhao Min instead. Quickly he circulated his breathing one round and focused his attention. Then, retracting his left hand, he thrust out his palm using the Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi to divert He Biweng’s incoming palm.

This ‘pull and push’ was the most profound technique of the seventh level of Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi; backed by concentrated power of the Jiu Yang Shen Gong. This technique required the most amount of internal energy and could not have the slightest degree of negligence in its execution. If he failed, he would suffer fire deviation. For this reason he did not dare to use it earlier even though when faced with a desperate situation, because his mind was still occupied by trying to repel the cold poison from Zhao and Zhou, two women.

The Xuan Ming Elders were first class martial art masters; if he had used the fifth or the sixth level of Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, he might not be able to deal with them. As He Biweng’s right palm struck by, ‘whoosh!’ it changed course to strike Lu Zhangke’s shoulder.

Lu Zhangke was startled and angrily said, “Shidi, what are you doing?”

Although He Biweng’s martial art skill was high, his natural disposition was rather slow; he had to think for quite a while before he could understand anything. This time, things happened so quickly that he himself was baffled. In his shock, he was unable to give Lu Zhangke any explanation. He only knew that Zhang Wuji had played a trick on him. He thought that if he increased his effort in attacking the enemy, he might appease his Shixiong; therefore, sending out his strength to his right leg, he kicked Zhang Wuji, hard.

Zhang Wuji’s left hand whisked this kick, hooked He Biweng’s leg and directed it toward Lu Zhangke’s lower abdomen. Lu Zhangke was shocked and angered. “Are you insane?” he roared.

“That’s right!” Zhao Min called out, “Mr. He, quickly capture this rebellious, lecherous, greedy and kinky Shixiong of yours, my Father will certainly reward you heavily.”

Zhang Wuji secretly laughed. “This ‘driving-a-wedge-between-them’ idea is really marvelous,” he mused. Originally, he wanted to use Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi to divert He Biweng’s attack toward Lu Zhangke, and redirect Lu Zhangke’s strike toward He Biweng. But as he listened to Zhao Min, he only diverted He Biweng’s fists and legs, but used Taiji Fist to deal with Lu Zhangke.

“Mr. He, don’t worry,” he called out, “With our combined effort, we will certainly be able to butcher this pervert deer [‘Lu’ of Lu Zhangke means ‘deer’]. The Ruyang Prince has already bestowed to you … bestowed to you …” In that instant, he could not think of an appropriate government position for him.

“Mr. He,” Zhao Min called out, “The official letter of your appointment to a high official position is here.” While saying that she took a bundle of paper from her bosom and waved it up, reading, “Hmm, it is ‘Da Yuan Hu Guo Yang Wei Da Jiang Jun’ [the Great Yuan’s Protector of the Country, Great General with Rising Power]. Hurry up, you must try harder!”

Zhang Wuji struck with his right palm, forcing Lu Zhangke to lean to the left; right at this moment, he diverted He Biweng’s left palm from attacking Zhang Wuji’s left to Lu Zhangke’ right, so that Lu Zhangke was attacked from left and right.

Lu Zhangke and He Biweng had been together for several decades; their love to each other was like blood brothers. At first Lu Zhangke did not believe that He Biweng would betray him, but at this moment he had seen it with his own eyes how He Biweng successively attacked him for five stances; all aimed at his vital points, all with full-powered punches or kicks, apparently with the desire to take his life, without the least bit of friendship. His resentment had reached its peak. He roared, “You are after riches and honor, and do not have any regard about ‘yi qi’?”

“I … I am …” He Biweng hurriedly said.

“That’s right,” Zhao Min cut him off, “You have no choice because you are going to be the ‘Da Yuan Hu Guo Yang Wei Da Jiang Jun’; therefore, you cannot say anything about offending your Shixiong.”

Zhang Wuji put his entire strength in his right hand and focused his entire attention to lead He Biweng’s palm strike toward Lu Zhangke. ‘Bang!’ Lu Zhangke’s shoulder was squarely hit. In his anger Lu Zhangke slapped backward, striking He Biweng’s left side of his jaw that several of his teeth fell down.

He Biweng was already old; he only had several teeth left inside his mouth. Naturally, he cherished these remaining few teeth on his left cheek. Unable to restrain his anger, he shouted, “Shige, you really can’t tell the good from the bad. I did not hit you on purpose.”

Lu Zhangke was also angry. “Who started the fight?” he said. Although his knowledge was vast, he did not know that in this world there existed the seventh level of Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi with such a formidable power. He thought that based on the level of martial art skill He Biweng and he possessed, Zhang Wuji might be able to defeat them or even kill them, but never in his wildest dream would he expect Zhang Wuji to use such technique as ‘borrowing strength to fight strength’, reversing his partner’s palm force to strike him. Therefore, he had never suspected he had fallen into Zhang Wuji’s trick.

Venting up his frustration, He Biweng cursed, “Little bastard, you have played trick on me!”

“That’s right!” Zhao Min called out, “You don’t need to call him ‘Shige’, just call him ‘Little bastard’.”

As Zhang Wuji’s left palm was pressing Lu Zhangke’s palm power, his right hand diverted He Biweng’s palm to hit Lu Zhangke’s right cheek that his cheek was swollen immediately.

Noticing that Lu Zhangke was fuming; his eyes were red and his palm attacked He Biweng like crazy, Zhang Wuji knew his plan worked. “Mr. He,” he shouted, “I’ll leave this pervert deer into your hands.” His left foot kicked, he flew out of and took Zhao Min to leave. He saw the Xuan Ming Elders were still intensely fighting ‘you punch me, I kick you’ each other.

“Mr. He,” Zhao Min called out, “After you arrest your Shige, you may borrow the secret martial art manual from the Tulong Saber for a month. Quickly set up a great merit; don’t miss this good opportunity.”

Lu Zhangke was getting angrier; he attacked He Biweng without showing any mercy. These two men were of the same school; there was not much difference in their martial skill level [orig. ‘ban jin ba liang’ – half a pound is eight ounces]. It was hard to say when this kind of fierce battle would end.

Zhang Wuji and Zhao Min returned to the Shaolin Temple. Examining the top of Zhao Min’s head, Zhang Wuji saw that the injury was superficial. Suddenly he remembered something. “Min Mei,” he said, “Luckily you bring that bundle of paper; otherwise, Lu Zhangke would not believe.”

With a chuckle, Zhao Min took two bundles of thin papers from her bosom. She waved it in front of Zhang Wuji’s face and said with a laugh, “Can you guess what this is?”

Zhang Wuji smiled and said, “If you tell me to guess, I will never guess correctly in my lifetime. So, why would I want to take the trouble?”

Zhao Min placed the two bundles of paper in his hand. Zhang Wuji took a candle to examine the paper. He found out that it was not paper, but thin sheets of silk, as thin as cicada’s wings. The sheets were densely populated with tiny characters, with each character as small as the head of a fly. The first bundle began with this line of four characters, ‘wu mu yi shu’ [Wumu Legacy; lit. ‘the book (or letter) left behind by Wumu’]. It explained the key in deployment of troops in a war, battle formation, and other fine points of military strategy.

Looking at the second bundle, he saw it started with these four characters, ‘Jiu Yin Zhen Jing’ [Nine Yin Manual; lit. ‘nine yin (negative/feminine/moon) true/real scripture’]. Inside were all kinds of mystical and strange martial arts. Flipping toward the end of the bundle, he found ‘Jiu Yin Bai Gu Zhua’ [Nine Yin White Bone Claw] and ‘Cui Xin Zhang’ [heart destroying palm] among other things.

Zhang Wuji’s heart turned cold. “You … did you take all this from Miss Zhou?” he asked.

Zhao Min laughed. “When she was immobile, why can’t I take advantage of her [orig. shun shou qian yang’ – lead away a goat in passing’]?” she said, “This kind of malicious martial art, I don’t want to learn, but I do want to destroy it, since left in her hands it might be used to harm others.”

Zhang Wuji browsed through the Jiu Yin Zhen Jing. A few pages later, he realized that the lesson inside was very profound and difficult to decipher in a short while. He also knew that the martial art skill toward the end of the book was not malicious, he said, “The martial art in this manual is actually very deep. If trained properly, I believe ten, twenty years later, the result will not be a small matter. But if it is trained rashly, the result will be superficial. Not only it will harm others, but will inflict self injury as well.” After pausing for a moment, he continued, “That Jiejie wearing yellow gown’s martial art is obviously of the same school, yet her movements were upright without any sign of maliciousness, very pure and honorable. It seems that her skill also came from this Nine Yin Manual.”

“She said something like ‘Behind the Mount Zhong Nan, the Tomb of the Living Dead, the Divine Eagle and Gallant Knights vanished from the Jianghu’, what do these four lines mean?” Zhao Min asked.

Zhang Wuji shook his head. “When we see Tai Shifu in the future, we will ask the Senior. Perhaps he could shed some light on this affair.”

They chatted for some time. After making sure that there was no change in troop activity at the bottom of the mountain, they went their separate ways to take a rest.

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