A Deadly Secret Chapter 6-10

Chapter 6 Blood Sabre Elder

Di Yun saw as more and more people gathered around and knew that his chances of escaping were slim to none. He raised his blade and said: “Get out of my way!” With his left underarm supported by a paddle, he headed eastward. The bystanders on the streets shouted and dispersed in all directions.

The four officers yelled: “Perverted monk, where do you think you’re going?” They boldly ran after him. Di Yun tilted his blade slightly and with the flip of his wrist he wounded the arm of one of the officers. The officer said: “This murderer resists arrest! This murderer resists arrest!”

Shui Sheng prompted her horse to move away. Wang Xiaofeng followed through with his horse. He unleashed his horse whip and twirled it around Di Yun’s blade then flung it away. Di Yun did not have any strength on his hand so the blade flew away instantly. Wang Xiaofeng stretched his left arm forward and grabbed him by the collar, picked him up and said: “Perverted monk, you have committed many crimes in Lianghu, you do not deserve to live!” Then with his right hand he unsheathed his sword with a flash intending to behead Di Yun.

The bystanders cheered in unison: “Excellent! Excellent! Kill this perverted monk!”

Di Yun was suspended in midair and could not resist in any way. He sighed deeply to himself and thought: “I am destined to be treated with injustice, there is nothing that can be done.” He saw Wang Xiaofeng’s long sword was already raised and he laughed bitterly. “Brother Ding, it is not that I did not try, only that I am much too unfortunate.”

Suddenly, from the distance came an old and withered voice that said: “Stay your hand! Do not hurt him!” Wang Xiaofeng turned around and saw a monk dressed in a black robe. This monk was extremely old and his face was covered with wrinkles. The texture and color of the monk garment he wore was exactly the same as Di Yun’s. Wang Xiaofeng’s expression changed for the worse as he knew that this person was a blood sabre monk from the Dark Qinghai Cult. Then followed that he raised his sword to slash Di Yun’s neck, intending to first kill the perverted monk, then deal with the older monk. The tip of the sword was within a foot of Di Yun’s neck, when suddenly he felt his right elbow became numb, he had already been hit at an acupoint by a hidden weapon. The sword on his hand fell forward. Although there was not much energy to this fall, the edge of the sword was still sharp, and left a scar on Di Yun’s left cheek.

The old monk’s figure was like that of the wind, he came close and with one palm he knocked Wang Xiaofeng off his horse. With his left hand he grabbed Di Yun and with the help of his right leg he got on top of the yellow horse. Usually, when someone gets on a horse, they set their left foot on the left stirrup and then use their right leg to climb on the horseback. However, this old man did not jump or use the stirrup, he simply lifted his right leg and got on the saddle. He moved the horse towards Shui Sheng’s direction.

When Shui Sheng heard Wang Xiaofeng’s cry of alarm, she immediately reined her horse. Wang Xiaofeng said: “Biaomei, get away!” Shui Sheng hesitated then turned around with her horse, but the old man had already caught up with the yellow horse. He put Di Yun behind the white horse’s saddle and released, with the intention of throwing Shui Sheng off the horse. However, Shui Sheng already readied her long sword and prepared to stab at his head. When the old monk saw her beautiful appearance he stared blankly and said, “Very pretty!” and with his arm he sealed the acupoint on her waist.

Shui Sheng’s sword missed its target and she felt as if she had no energy left in her entire body and at once the sword fell on the ground. She was startled and frightened. She wanted to get off the horse but felt numbness around her waist and she could not move her legs.

The old man pulled the reins of the white horse with his left hand and with both legs he coerced both the white horse and yellow horse, the sounds of jingling bells could be heard as he got away.

Wang Xiaofeng was on the ground and yelled: “Biaomei! Biaomei!” He looked helplessly as her cousin was captured by the two perverted monk; he knew the consequences would be severe. However, his entire body was numb, and even though he exhausted all the energy in his body, he could not even move an inch.

He heard the officers yell: “Capture the perverted monk!” Another said: “The evil blood sabre monk has escaped!” Another said: “They are denying arrest!”

Di Yun was on the horse and the ride was shaky and unstable. Naturally he grabbed onto something, it felt like a soft tentacle. He looked down and saw that what he grabbed was Shui Sheng’s garment on the back of her waist. Shui Sheng was startled and reprimanded: “Evil monk, let go of me!” Di Yun was also startled and immediately released his hold and grabbed onto the saddle. But he sat behind Shui Sheng and the two of them could not help but make bodily contact. Shui Sheng shouted: “Let go of me! Let go of me!” The evil monk was fed up with her complaints and extended his hands to seal her speech acupoint. From then on, Shui Sheng did not utter another word.

The old monk was on the yellow horse and constantly found himself staring at Shui Sheng’s face and body. He praised: “Very beautiful! Extraordinary! This old monk has been blessed with good fortune!” Although Shui Sheng could not speak, she could still hear. She was so afraid of his words that she was spooked out of her mind and nearly passed out.

The old monk followed the road heading westward, trying to find the most secluded place. After travelling some distance, he felt that the jingling noises of the luan bells on the horses were hurting his ears and may also lure people to chase after them, so he ripped off each gold bell one by one from the horse. These bells was made from gold and silver threads and hung around the horse’s neck, he pulled it all away and put it in his bosom piece by piece.

The old monk did not allow the horses to rest and continued to travel until night. They reached a riverbank on top of a hillside by a precipice. He looked all around and saw that the area was desolate and without buildings, so he carried Di Yun down the horse and let him rest on the ground. Then he took Shui Sheng down as well, and then pulled the two horses under a huge tree. He looked at Shui Sheng in great detail and sneered: “Wonderful! This old monk has good fortune!” He sat down at the direction of the river, closed his eyes and began to channel his energy.

Di Yun was sitting opposite of Shui Sheng and thought: “There were sure many strange occurrences today. Two benevolent people wanted to kill me, and this old monk saved me. This old monk most likely belongs to the same clan as Bao Xiang, so he is definitely not a good person. If he violates this young lady, what am I to do?”

The sky was gradually getting darker and the sounds of the river flow and wind blowing against palm trees could be heard; the nocturnal birds began chirping. Once in a while when he lift his head he could see the old monk with the expression akin to that of a corpse, and his heart started beating faster. He looked to the side and saw a corner of silk clothes exposed, Shui Sheng had passed out. He wanted to speak out to the old monk several times, but upon seeing his solemn expression while channelling his energy, he did not dare to disturb him.

After a long time, the old monk stood up gently and raised his left foot; the sole of his foot facing upwards while his left foot remained on ground. Both his hands spread out to the bright moon above the mountains. Di Yun thought: “Where have I seen this position? Right, it was from Bao Xiang’s little booklet, there was this odd diagram.” When he saw the old monk stood this way like a statue without the slightest sign of movement. After a while he heard a shout, the old monk jumped up and turned his body around. Both his hands on the ground and with a push, the top of his head on the ground and his two hands stretched evenly, his two legs against each other in the air.

Di Yun thought this was interesting and took out the booklet from his bosom. He searched for the diagram and under the moonlight he saw that it was exactly the position of this old monk. He realized: “This must be the cultivation method of their sect.”

When he saw that the old monk had his eyes closed and his complete attention focused on his training, with each and every stance becoming more intense, he knew that it would be some time before his training would be completed. He put the booklet back in his bosom and thought: “Although the old monk saved my life, he belongs to an evil sect and harbours malicious intentions toward the young lady. I should take the chance to escape with the lady on horse while the monk is focused on his training.”

He knew that this endeavour was extremely risky, but he could not allow a benevolent lady like Shui Sheng to be taken advantage of. At once he turned around and quietly crawled away. Back in prison he used to train with Ding Dian a lot; he knew that during training, whenever one was meditating like that, one would have to focus their complete attention and their senses would be reduced. As long as this old monk is focused on his training, he should be able to rescue the lady without being noticed.

When Di Yun turned around, his broken leg hurt so much that it was unbearable. He could only use the energy of his body on his hands and slowly crawl in the grass. Fortunately the old monk indeed did not notice. His head was lowered and the moonlight precisely shone on Shui Sheng’s face. She opened her eyes and saw a pair of round eyes in front of her, she was very afraid. Di Yun was afraid of alerting the old monk so he did not speak up, but with a gesture indicated that he was here to rescue her.

Di Yun extended his arm to help her up. He pointed to the horses by the tree with the intention of escaping with her. Shui Sheng felt weak all over and did not know what to do. If Di Yun had recovered from his leg injury, he could have carried her, but he could barely manage to get there by himself, there was no way he could take her with him. The only way was to wait for her acupoint to unseal itself, she did not know how to unseal her own acupoint. All he could do was give her gestures, pointing at the various pressure points in her body, hoping that she would understand how to unseal her acupoint.

When Shui Sheng saw that he was pointing at various acupoints in her body, she could not help but feel ashamed and resentful. “This evil monk must be trying to torture me with some weird techniques. As soon as I am able to move, I will ram my head against the wall to prevent their harassment.”

Di Yun saw that her expression was strange and thought: “Most likely she doesn’t understand what I’m doing.” But besides having her unseal her acupoint, there was no second option to escape. However he could not say a word, and hinted: “Young lady, I am only trying to help you escape. Please forgive my rudeness.” And at once he extended his hand and massaged several parts of her back.

He massaged her back several times, but it did not unseal her acupoint in the least bit. But Shui Sheng’s was alarmed and became even more angry. Her cousin Wang Xiaofeng had practiced martial arts together under her father since they were small, they could be considered childhood sweethearts. Her father had long suggested to betroth her to her cousin. The two of them travelled the realm together and treated each other with utmost respect, they did not even hold hands. When Di Yun touched her like this, tears began to fall from her eyes.

Di Yun was startled by her reaction. “Why is she crying?” Hmm, it must that when I touched her sealed acupoint it caused her pain, that’s why she cried. I will try to unseal the acupoint on her waist instead.” As he said this he moved his hand to the back of her waist and gently began to knead it. Shui Sheng began to cry even more, and Di Yun became anxious and perplexed. “So it turns out that the acupoint on her waist is causing her pain as well, then what should I do?” He knew that females valued their sanctity the most, he did not even dare to look at her chest or legs or neck, much less touch it. “I have no good way of unsealing her acupoint and if I try arbitrarily, that could have negative consequences. I can only carry her downhill and attempt to escape.” At once he held both her arms intending to carry her on his back.

Shui Sheng was extremely furious at his actions and nearly fainted several times. When she saw him move his hands, she thought he wanted to remove her clothing, she was so mad her breath was stuck in her chest and would not exhale. Di Yun put her arms together and was about to move her body when the congested breath of air rushed out of her chest; her mute acupoint was unsealed and she immediately shouted: “Villain! Let go of me! Don’t touch me!” When she shouted so abruptly, Di Yun was startled. He let go of her and she fell on the ground. He could not balance himself and fell on top of her.

Her shout also caused the evil monk to awake at once. He opened his eyes and saw the two of them on top of each other, and heard Shui Sheng yell: “Evil monk, just kill me! Let go of me!”

The old monk grinned: “Little scoundrel, why so impatient? You dare taste your senior’s ladies?” He came forward and grabbed Di Yun from behind, moved back a few steps and put him down on the ground and sneered: “Very good! Very good! I admire the courage of young men such as yourself. Even though your broke one of your legs, you do not care about the pain, you only want woman! Wonderful! Wonderful! You have guts! Your style suits my appetite.”

Di Yun’s intentions were misunderstood by the two of them. He did not know whether to laugh or cry. He thought: “If I speak the truth, the evil monk can easily kill me in one strike. I should improvise and find another way to escape with the lady.”

The old monk said: “You are the newest disciple of Bao Xiang, are you not?” He did not wait for Di Yun’s answer and continued: “Bao Xiang must like you a lot, he even gave you his blood sabre monk garment. Did he give you the Blood Sabre Sutra?”

Di Yun thought: “I wonder what this Blood Sabre Sutra is?” He trembled and took out the yellow booklet from his bosom. The old monk browsed through it and gave it back to him. He gently patted him on the head and said: “Very good! What is your name?”

Di Yun replied: “My name is Di Yun.”

The old monk replied: “Very good! Has your teacher taught you the techniques of self-cultivation?”

Di Yun replied: “He has not.”

The old monk said: “Hmm, that is not a problem. Where is your teacher now?”

How would Di Yun dare to tell him that Bao Xiang was not his teacher, much less tell him that he was already dead? He only uttered: “He… he is travelling on a ship.”

The old monk asked: “Has your teacher told you the name of your grand-teacher?”

Di Yun replied, “No.”

The old monk replied: “My name is the ‘Blood Sabre Elder’. You little scoundrel have won my delight. If you follow your grand-teacher, I can promise that you can get your hands on any beautiful woman you want in the world.”

Di Yun thought, “So he is Bao Xiang’s teacher,” and asked “They called you the ‘evil blood sabre monk’, grand… grand teacher, we belong to this sect?”

The Blood Sabre Elder replied: “Hehe, that little scoundrel Bao Xiang sure is tight with words. He did not even tell of our clan’s history to his beloved disciple. We are a branch of the Dark Qinghai Cult called the Blood Sabre Clan. Your grand-teacher is the fourth generation leader of the clan. You should focus on practising your martial arts. Who can say? Maybe the position of sixth generation leader will fall into your hands. Hmm, so your leg is broken. No big deal, I will fix it for you.”

He inspected the Di Yun’s injury carefully and adjusted his leg tendons, then he fetched a porcelain bottle from his bosom and produced some medical powder and smeared it on his wound. “This medicine is produced by our clan and it is used to treat these kinds of injuries; within a month your broken leg should fully recover. We will go to Jingzhou tomorrow, your teacher will be there as well.”

Di Yun became startled. “I cannot go to Jingzhou.”

After the Blood Sabre Elder finished bandaging Di Yun’s wounds, he turned to look at Shui Sheng and sneered: “Little scoundrel, this little girl is pretty… not bad… truly not bad. She declares herself what ‘Twin Knights of Bell Sword’. Her father Shui Dai belongs to a righteous sect and considers himself to be a top and renowned figure in the martial world, but he overestimates his capabilities and dares to cross paths with the Blood Sabre Clan. Yesterday, he killed one of your martial uncles. Damn it! He would not have guessed that I have now captured her beloved daughter, hehe. We will tarnish the reputation of her father. Let us strip this girl of all her clothes and put her on the horse and take a tour around the city. Let everyone see what the daughter of the great Hero Shui really looks like.”

Shui Sheng’s heart began to beat at an alarming rate and she nearly vomited. She thought: “The young monk is vicious, but the older monk is even more vicious! How can I kill myself to preserve my chastity and my daddy’s prestige?”

Suddenly the Blood Sabre Elder laughed: “As soon as you speak of Cao Cao, Cao Cao has arrived[1]! People are here to save her!”

Di Yun felt pleased and asked: “Where are they?”

The Blood Sabre Elder replied: “They are within five li. Hehe, there are 17 of them in total.”

Di Yun listened closely for any sounds and he could faintly hear the sound of horses approaching from the southeast direction. But the distance was so great that even these sounds were barely audible, it was impossible to distinguish the number of riders in total. But the old monk only needed to listen once and was able to point out exactly how many people there were. His attentiveness was startling.

The Blood Sabre Elder said: “Your broken leg has been applied with medicine, within six hours you cannot move, otherwise you will be crippled. However, within the distance of one or two hundred li I did not hear of any profound people. These 17 people are coming after me on horses, I will kill them all.”

Di Yun was unwilling to let him kill members of righteous sects, so he hurriedly said: “If we just stay here and remain quiet, they may not be able to find us. They are the majority, grand… grand teacher, you should be more careful.”

The Blood Sabre Elder was delighted by his remark and said: “You little scoundrel have a good heart, it is indeed hard to come by. Your grand-teacher I really like you.” He reached for his waist and pulled out a flexible steel sabre. The blade of the sabre trembled violently like that of a serpent. The moonlight reflected the gloomy red color of the edge of the blade; the distinct hint of blood could be seen, it was quite disturbing.

Di Yun shivered and asked: “This… this is a blood sabre?”

The Blood Sabre Elder replied: “On the night of the full moon, this precious blade must be used to behead people as an offer of sacrifice, otherwise its sharpness will diminish and would be unfavourable to its owner. Tonight is the night of the full moon and these 17 people are coming just at the right time to be sacrificed for my blade. Oh precious sabre, tonight you will be able to eat your fill of human blood.”

Shui Sheng listened as the sound of horses gradually drew closer and she rejoiced. But when she heard the Blood Sabre Elder’s words she felt guilty, as if anyone who came would meet certain death. However, she did not believe it entirely and felt concerned. She wondered: “Did my daddy and Biaoge come too?”

After a while, the moonlight shone as horses approached up the mountain path. Di Yun counted the number of people and it indeed totalled 17. But the 17 riders were in travelling in great haste and rapidly passed through the sloping path of the mountain, not bothering to come up the mountain to take a look.

Shui Sheng raised her voice and yelled: “I am over here! I am over here!” When the 17 riders heard her voice, they immediately turned around.

One man shouted: “Biaomei! Biaomei!” It was none other than Wang Xiaofeng. Shui Sheng wanted to cry for help again when the Blood Sabre Elder, with a flick of his finger, sent a piece of rock flying her direction and sealed the speech acupoint on her body.

The 17 people got off their horses and got together for a discussion. The Blood Sabre Elder suddenly reached for Di Yun and helped him up. He said in a very clear voice: “The fourth generation clan leader the Blood Sabre Elder and the sixth generation disciple Di Yun of the Blood Sabre Clan of the Dark Qinghai Cult are here!” Then he bent over and grabbed Shui Sheng’s clothes from behind and shouted: “Shui Dai’s little girl has become my grand-disciple Di Yun’s eighteenth concubine! Whoever wants to drink at their wedding feast can come up here! Haha! Haha!” He intentionally displayed his profound internal energy; his laughter vibrated across the valley and could be heard from far away. All 17 riders were overwhelmed with shock and turned pale.

Wang Xiaofeng saw that his cousin was at the hands of the evil monk without any ability to resist and even heard him say that she had become the “eighteenth concubine of his grand-disciple Di Yun”. He was afraid that she had been violated and his insides began to burn at the thought of this. He roared loudly and with rushed up the hillside with his long sword in hand. The other 16 all shouted: “Kill the evil blood sabre monk! Rid the realm of this villain! Such a savage and perverted monk cannot be forgiven!”

Di Yun watched as he knew a battle was about to ensue. He felt completely awkward and embarrassed and thought: “These people treat me as a monk belonging to the Blood Sabre Clan. Even if I had a hundred mouths I would not be able to justify myself. I can only hope that they can kill the old monk and rescue Lady Shui, but… but… if the evil monk dies, then I will perish as well.” On one hand he wished that the heroes of the Central Plains would kill the monk, but on the other hand he wanted the monk to win as well. He did not know which side to root for.

He glanced over at the Blood Sabre Elder and only saw him laugh coldly, not in the least bit worried about the overwhelming majority. He carried a person in each hand with the blood sabre across his lips, giving off a sinister appearance. When the majority was within a distance of 200 feet or so, he gently put Di Yun aside, being careful not to damage his legs. After another 100 feet or so, he put Shui Sheng beside Di Yun, still biting on the blood sabre with both his hands pushing against his waist. The night wind blew against his oversized monk garment.

Wang Xiaofeng shouted: “Biaomei, are you alright?”

Shui Sheng wanted to yell out for her cousin, but how could she speak out? But as she saw her cousin was getting closer and closer, she felt a mixture of emotions; happiness, worry, regret, and gratefulness. All she wanted to do was be embraced and cry heartily, she wanted to explain to him the suffering and humiliation she had been through.

Wang Xiaofeng focused his complete attention on finding his cousin, looking in all directions. He slowed down his pace and saw seven or eight people caught up to him. Under the moonlight he saw the Blood Sabre Elder up at the highest part of the hill in a fierce composure. When the majority reached within 50 or 60 feet, they all stopped at once. The two parties opposed each other, then with a loud shout, two men rushed forward together. One wielded a gold whip while another wielded twin sabres.

The two men rushed forward several dozen feet. The one who wielded the twin sabres was agile and quickly arrived behind the Blood Sabre Elder, one on each side. They shouted loudly and attacked together in unison. The Blood Sabre Elder turned his body to evade the twin sabres, dodging left and right; his blood sabre still remained in his mouth. Suddenly, with his left hand he grabbed the handle of the sabre and with a slash he cut the head of the gold whip user in half. After he killed this man, he immediately put the sabre back in his mouth. The one wielding the twin sabres was extremely frightened and sad, his twin sabres danced around like snowflakes as he rushed forward. The Blood Sabre Elder intercepted the two sabres with his bare hands , then unexpectedly with his right hand he took the own sabre out of his mouth and with one slash, he cut his opponent from the top of his head down across to his waist.

The majority was startled at this performance and retreated several steps. They saw the sabre filled with fresh blood dripping from the corner of his mouth.

Although they were all afraid of the Blood Sabre Elder, their hearts were still filled with desires of revenge. With a loud shout, four more people attacked from the left and right sides. The Blood Sabre Elder ran westward and the four of them shouted in pursuit. They followed for a few dozen feet and the speed of each individual could be differentiated as the Blood Sabre Elder came to a halt. Two people attacked from the front while two attacked from behind. The Blood Sabre Elder turned around and rushed forward and with a red flash, the two people in front of him were killed immediately by his sabre. The two people behind him hesitated for a moment before they were immediately killed by a slash across the neck.

Di Yun hid behind the bushes and saw that the monk had already killed six people. His craftiness and technique was very violent, it was truly unfathomable. He thought: “With the way things are going, the remaining 11 people will be killed in no time at all. What can I do?”

Suddenly he heard someone shout: “Biaomei! Biaomei! Where are you?” It was Wang Xiaofeng of the Twin Knights of Bell Sword.

Shui Sheng was lying beside Di Yun. Because her speech acupoint was sealed she could not speak out, but in her heart she called: “Biaoge! I am over here!”

Wang Xiaofeng scurried around searching through bushes relentlessly. Suddenly the mountain wind fluttered and revealed a corner of Shui Sheng’s garment. Wang Xiaofeng shouted: “She’s over here!” Shui Sheng was so happy that she shed tears, her entire body was trembling. Wang Xiaofeng shouted: “Biaomei! Biaomei!” He rushed forward and embraced Shui Sheng tightly. When the two of them reunited under such circumstances, formalities and etiquette was hardly a concern.

Wang Xiaofeng asked: “Biaomei, are you alright?” He saw that Shui Sheng did not reply and became suspicious. He put her down and noticed that her feet were on the ground and she was facing upward. Wang Xiaofeng knew the technique of sealing acupoints but was not proficient at it, though he did practise the fundamentals. He immediately extended his hands and reached for the three acupoints located on her waist and back, releasing them at once.

Shui Sheng shouted: “Biaoge! Biaoge!”

When Di Yun saw Wang Xiaofeng approach, he knew that his life was in jeopardy. He slowly crawled away as Wang Xiaofeng released her acupoints. Shui Sheng heard the rustling sounds of bushes and recalled the humiliation that the vicious monk gave her. She pointed at Di Yun and said to Wang Xiaofeng: “Quick, kill that vicious monk for me!” As soon as he heard this, Wang Xiaofeng unsheathed his sword at once and rushed towards Di Yun. When Di Yun heard Shui Sheng’s cries, he knew that he was in trouble. He did not wait for the sword to approach him and quickly rolled away. Fortunately, he was on an incline and took the opportunity to roll downhill.

Wang Xiaofeng followed and tried to stab Di Yun. Just as he was about to reach him, he suddenly heard a loud voice as his vision was blurred by a red flash. In extreme urgency he reacted with the nine stances of “Peacock Spreads its Tails” and his sword danced like a ray of light as he stroke in self-defense. He heard the sound of jingling bells, the clashing sound of sword and sabre like a string of pearls. In an instant, it had collided more than 30 times.

Wang Xiaofeng’s swordplay had already received the true teachings of his teacher Shui Dai. This technique of “Peacock Spreads its Tails” tossed and turned relentlessly and consisted of nine stances in total. He had practiced this thoroughly during his training. However, at this moment it was a matter of life and death, and his opponent’s stances were executed with extreme speed, how could he simply block every stance as it came his way? Therefore, he could only execute the nine stances out of a sense of urgency and necessity. The Blood Sabre Elder attacked him 36 times with his sabre, each strike faster than the last. Unexpectedly, all his attacks were deflected by his opponent.

The other fighters watched and were dazzled by this brilliant display of speed. At this time, of the 17 people, nine were already killed by the Blood Sabre Elder. Including Shui Sheng, only nine people remained. Everyone’s hands were drenched in cold sweat and they all had the same thought: “The Twin Knights of Bell Sword live up to their reputation. Only he is able to withstand the lightning-fast attacks of the Blood Sabre Elder.”

In actuality, all the Blood Sabre Elder had to do was reduce the speed of his attacks, and within a dozen stances or so, Wang Xiaofeng would most certainly lose his life. However, the Blood Sabre Elder did not consider this at the moment, and his opponent’s technique of self-defense was merely a result of extremely well-practised swordplay. He thought: “Hmph, little fellow. Let us compete. Let’s see who’s faster?” And with that he increased the speed of his attacks.

The others wanted to jump in to assist to kill the Blood Sabre Elder, but the speed of the two fighters was much too fast, how could they find an opening to attack?

Shui Sheng was worried for her cousin’s safety. Her arms became sour and her legs became numb. She could not wait any longer. From a nearby corpse she grabbed a long sword and rushed forward to attack. Whenever she and her cousin would join forces against an opponent, their attacks were coordinated very well. Wang Xiaofeng focused on obstructing the Blood Sabre Elder’s attacks while Shui Sheng aimed to attack her opponent’s vital areas.

As the Blood Sabre Elder could not defeat Wang Xiaofeng in several dozen stances he became impatient. Suddenly, he let out a huge roar and with his right hand he brandished his blood sabre and with his left hand he grabbed his long sword. Wang Xiaofeng was startled and increased the speed of his attacks, hoping to sever his fingers. But he did not expect that the Blood Sabre Elder’s left hand was not afraid of his sword and even managed to reduce more than half of his sword stances. At this point, Wang Xiaofeng and Shui Sheng were surrounded by perils.

One of the old men amongst the remaining fighters saw that things turned for the worse and knew that tonight the Twin Knights of Bell Sword would lose their lives. Under the assumption that they would all die today, he shouted in desperation: “Everyone, we will fight together to defeat this evil monk!”

Suddenly, from the northwest direction a shout could be heard: “Luo—hua liushui!” Then from the northeast direction someone shouted: “Luohua—Liushui!” The two words “luo hua” was not finished when from the southwest direction another voice said: “Luohua Liu—Shui!” These three people came from three different directions, their voices were loud and profound and melodious; each tone was different, but it was full of energy and one could tell that they had profound internal energy.

The Blood Sabre Elder was startled. “Where did these three experts come from? Judging by their voices, the martial arts of each individual are not below mine. If the three of them fight together, it would be difficult to handle.” He tried to come up with a plan to meet the attack while his sabre stances did not slow down in the least bit.

All of a sudden, another voice was heard from the southern direction, shouting: “Luohua Liushui—“ The sound of the “shui” character was extended and relentlessly traveled to their direction like the expanse of the Yangtze. This voice was closer than that of the other three.

Shui Sheng was delighted. “Daddy! Daddy! Come here quickly!”

All the fighters in the group were delighted and shouted: “The Four Elders of Jiangnan are here! Luohua Liushui!” Ha—“ They could only utter a “ha” when they were immediately cut down by the blood sabre, fresh blood spurting from their stomachs.

The Blood Sabre Elder heard as another person was approaching and it was Shui Sheng’s father. He suddenly recalled: “My disciple Shan Yong once told me of the greatest martial artists in the Central Plains. Apart from Ding Dian, there is what is known as the Four Marvels of the South and the Four Freaks of the North. The Four Freaks of the North are called ‘Fenghu Yunlong[2]’ while the Four Marvels of the South are called ‘Luohua Liushui’. At that time when I heard this I told him to get lost; a nickname of ‘Luohua Liushui’, how can they have any sort of decent background? But now that I hear the echoes of their voices, it seems that they do have a bit of tricks up their sleeves.”

He did not come to a decision yet when the four men from the distant all yelled out “Luohua Liushui!” from all four directions, the vibration of their sounds echoed in the valley. The Blood Sabre Elder heard that these four voices were some distance apart from each other, the furthest one within a distance of five li. If he were to finish off the remaining fighters and the four of them team up against him, it would be very hard for him to escape. He thrust his lips and whistled: “Luohua Liushui, I will kill you until you are Luohua Liushui![3]” With a flick of his finger he aimed for Shui Sheng’s sword. She could not keep a good hold of her sword and it was flicked out of her hands and cast into the distance.

The Blood Sabre Elder ordered: “Di Yun, get ready to mount the horse. We have to get out of here.”

Di Yun could not immediately comply with his demand. He felt a sense of difficulty in his heart. If he were to escape with him, he would be digging an even deeper hole for himself of never being able to prove his innocence. Yet if he remained here, he would most certainly be killed without so much as a chance to explain himself.

He heard the Blood Sabre Elder call out again: “Grand-disciple, get on the horse!”

Di Yun began to have second thoughts. He reasoned: “The most important thing is to preserve my life. Have I not been falsely accused enough times in my life already? Why should I still care what others think of me?” By the time the Blood Sabre spoke out the third time, he agreed at once. He picked up a short spear on the ground and used it as a crutch and made his way to the horses by the tree.

A club-wielding fat person yelled: “Oh no! The evil monk wants to run away. I will go and chase him.” He lifted his club and rushed forward to attack Di Yun.

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed at his remark. “Hah, if you chase after him, I will chase after you!” With a swipe of the blood sabre, along with the club, the fat person was sliced into four pieces. The others saw how violently this person died and cried out in terror. The truth was that the Blood Sabre Elder wanted to take the opportunity to scare away the remaining fighters. He extended his arms and carried Shui Sheng and ran to the direction of Di Yun.

Shui Sheng shouted: “Evil monk, let go of me!” She began pounding his back with her fist. Although her sword techniques weren’t bad, her fists were powerless, and furthermore, the Blood Sabre Elder was a man of strong build, so he hardly felt her attacks. With one stride of his legs he could cross a distance of five feet. In no time at all he was beside Di Yun.

When Wang Xiaofeng executed the nine stances of “Peacock Spreads its Tails” in a daze, he could not immediately withdraw his attack, and executed the stances of “Brocade Feather Spreads East”, “Jade Feathers Pick West”, “Colorful Sun Sets South”, and “Morning Wind Returns North” in succession. When he saw Shui Sheng being carried away, he scurried forward, the long sword in his hand remained brandished relentlessly.

The Blood Sabre Elder set Di Yun on top of the yellow horse and put Shui Sheng in front of him. He whispered: “Whatever these four devils are called, they are formidable opponents and can’t be taken lightly. This little girl is our hostage, you cannot let her get away.” As he said this he got on the white horse and rode east.

The sounds of the men chanting “Luohua Liushui” drew closer and closer, sometimes it was chanted by one person, while sometime two or three or four chanted altogether.

Shui Sheng yelled: “Biaoge! Biaoge! Daddy! Daddy! Save me!” However, she could only watch as her cousin once again trailed behind the horse. The yellow horse and white horse of the Twin Knights of Bell Sword were prized steeds picked from Dayuan amongst thousands of horses. During peaceful times the two of them were arrogant, always bragging about how the speed and strength of their two steeds could not be matched by a third horse in this world. Who would have thought that these horses would now be used by their enemies? These creatures were ignorant and could only gallop forward. The faster the horses were, the farther Wang Xiaofeng trailed behind.

Wang Xiaofeng saw that he could not catch up to the horse, he could only yell out, “Biaomei! Biaomei!”

One shouted “Biaoge!” while the other shouted “Biaomei!” their voices filled with immense sorrow. When Di Yun heard of this tragedy, he could not bear to keep Shui Sheng on the horse and wanted to knock her off, but upon recalling the Blood Sabre Elder’s words of “These opponents are formidable and cannot be taken lightly. This girl is our hostage, you must not let her get away” he knew that if he released Shui Sheng, the Blood Sabre Elder would be extremely furious. This monk was incredibly vicious and ruthless, for him to kill someone would be no different than slaughtering a chicken. He further knew that should Shui Sheng’s father and the other heroes catch up, he would lose his life for sure.

He hesitated and did not know how to act. Upon hearing Shui Sheng’s sad voice calling for her cousin, his heart became sour. “The two of them are deeply in love, yet they were separated by force. Yet me and my martial sister… sigh, me and my martial sister, did we not suffer the same fate? However, the way she treats me, can it be compared with the way Lady Shui treats her cousin?” As he thought up to this point, he grieved deeply and thought, “Go then!” and pushed her off the horse.

Even though the Blood Sabre Elder was focused on running away, he still paid attention for any activity behind him. When he no longer heard the cries of Shui Sheng, followed by an “Aiyo!”as she fell on the floor, he knew that since Di Yun had a broken leg, he could not keep good hold of her, and immediately turned the horse around.

Shui Sheng fell on the ground, but immediately jumped up and continued running towards Wang Xiaofeng. The two of them were separated a distance of over five hundred feet; one was travelling from west to east while the other was heading east to west and they drew closer together. As they ran, one yelled out “Biaoge!” while the other yelled out “Biaomei!” It was truly a sight of happiness that could not be described.

The Blood Sabre Elder smiled faintly and reined the horse after her. He saw Wang Xiaofeng and Shui Sheng were now only separated by a distance of about two hundred feet and increased his pace.

Di Yun was startled and prayed: “Run faster! Run faster!” The remaining fighters all shouted, “Run faster! Run faster!” as they saw the Blood Sabre Elder chasing after her, sabre in mouth.

Shui Sheng heard as the sound of horseshoes drew closer. The two of them ran as fast as they could and the distance between her and Wang Xiaofeng was ever closer. She ran so fast she felt that her heart was about to explode; her knees were bent and weak and felt as if she would slip at any time, but she managed to endure and continued to run.

All of a sudden, she felt the breath of the white horse right behind her, and she heard the Blood Sabre Elder sneer: “You think you can get away?” Shui Sheng extended her hands forward to grab Wang Xiaofeng. The two were within a distance of twenty feet when the Blood Sabre Elder grabbed her by the shoulder.

She cried out in alarm and could not hold the tears in her eyes, when all of a sudden a familiar and affectionate voice called out: “Sheng’er, don’t be scared! Daddy is here for you!”

When Shui Sheng heard this, she knew that her father had arrived. She was so delighted that her spirits abruptly increased and she gathered up the strength in her legs and with all her might, she leapt forward several dozen feet. Originally, the Blood Sabre Elder had already caught her by the shoulder, but unexpectedly, she got away. Wang Xiaofeng pushed forward and the two of them held their left hands together. He thought: “Heaven has pity, teacher arrived just in the nick of time, we no longer need to be afraid of this evil monk.”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed coldly and unleashed his blood sabre. Wang Xiaofeng hurriedly rushed forward to block with his own sword, but all he could see was a sparkling red flash heading towards him and making a turn. It followed the momentum from the edge of his sword and slashed downwards, the tip of the sabre aiming towards his fingers. Had Wang Xiaofeng not immediately released his sword, his hand would have been crippled immediately. This move was incredibly fast; his palm stuttered as the long sword flew out of his hands toward his opponent.

The Blood Sabre Elder flicked the sword westward with his left finger. The sword pierced in the direction of one of the old fighters. With the blood sabre on his right hand, he rushed forward to chop down Wang Xiaofeng. Wang Xiaofeng had no choice but to release his hold on Shui Sheng in order to avoid the attack. The Blood Sabre Elder’s left arm made a turn and in one fell swoop he once again grabbed Shui Sheng and put her on the saddle. He did not bother to turn the direction of his horse and rushed forward to attack the other fighters at the scene.

The remaining fighters who watched him rush forward all yelled out at once and split to two sides. The Blood Sabre Elder laughed as he cut one of them down, then circled once with his horse and rushed towards Di Yun.

All of a sudden, a grey flash approached from the left, the long sword reflected by the dazzling moonlight, a cold and threatening sword flash heading to his chest. The Blood Sabre Elder countered with his own sabre. The two weapons clashed and vibrated violently, the web between his thumb and forefinger felt slightly numb. The Blood Sabre Elder thought: “Very profound internal energy!” At this time, another long sword approached from the right. The stance was somewhat unusual; the tip of the sword rotated in a circular motion and he could not see clearly which direction his opponent intended to strike. The Blood Sabre Elder was startled as he thought: “The renowned Taiji Sword practitioner is here.”

Channelling energy to his right arm, the Blood Sabre Elder too brandished his sabre in a circular motion. The two weapons clashed. Ting! Ting Ting! Ting Ting Ting! The weapons sparkled upon contact, splashing in all directions. His opponent complimented: “Excellent sabre techniques!”

The Blood Sabre Elder looked to the side and saw a Taoist dressed in a yellow gown and replied: “Your swordplay is remarkable as well!”

The person on the left hand side shouted: “Let go of my daughter!” On one hand he stroke out with his sword while with the other he attacked with a palm, two forces unleashed simultaneously.

From afar, Di Yun saw that the Blood Sabre Elder had held Shui Sheng captive once again and was now being attacked on both sides. The man on the left hand side was old and majestic, his appearance slivery white, giving off an elegant and delicate appearance. This man said “Let go of my daughter!” so naturally he must be Shui Sheng’s father. He saw that every time the Blood Sabre Elder blocked a stance, his body would tremble slightly, which suggested that his internal energy was slightly inferior. Di Yun saw another two men were approaching up the hill. Their movements were quick as the wind, obviously extremely powerful fighters. Di Yun thought: “Once the other two arrive as reinforcements and the four of them attack at once, there is no way the Blood Sabre Elder can handle it, he will most certainly die. I should run for my life while I still can.” But he reconsidered: “If not for him, I would have died by the sword of Wang Xiaofeng a long time ago. For me to only care about myself would be being ungrateful; a much shameless and despicable act.”

The Blood Sabre Elder shouted, “Take your daughter back!” and threw Shui Sheng high up in the sky over Shui Dai’s head, then rushed to Di Yun.

This move came as a surprise to everyone. High up in the air, Shui Sheng cried out in alarm and the onlookers all exclaimed at once.

Di Yun saw as Shui Sheng flew towards his direction, the momentum strong and swift. If he did not support her, she would most likely fall on the ground and sustain injuries, so he opened his arms to catch her. The force of the fall was quite strong. Fortunately, Di Yun was still on the horse and a good portion of the force was alleviated by the horse. When the Blood Sabre Elder threw Shui Sheng, he had already sealed her acupoint, so all she could do was cry out in alarm without any way to retaliate. She yelled: “Little monk, let go of me!”

The Blood Sabre Elder attacked Shui Dai twice with the sabre, then fiercely attacked the old Taoist with another two strikes of the sabre. These attacks were reckless without any intent of self-defense, it was extremely severe. He shouted: “My good son Di Yun, get away now! You don’t have to wait for me!”

Di Yun was at a loss and did not know what to do. He heard as Wang Xiaofeng and the other fighters rushed forward, declaring “Kill the little perverted monk!” while the Blood Sabre Elder shouted again: “Run away! Run away!” Immediately, he reined the horse and rushed outward. Originally, the Blood Sabre Elder and he intended to head east, but under such extreme urgency he had no time to think and headed west instead.

The sword of the Blood Sabre Elder increased in speed the more he attacked, circular movements of red flashes enveloped around his body. He laughed: “I have to spend time with your good daughter now, not an old fellow like you!” He soared into the air and landed squarely on the white horse.

Shui Dai was anxious to save his daughter and was unwilling to tangle with him. At once, he executed the lightness martial arts “Rising Duckweed Passes through the Water”. His body felt as if it was floating on water, rushing rapidly towards Di Yun. However, the horse Di Yun was riding was a remarkable steed purchased that he had purchased for five hundred taels of silver many years ago; the speed of the horse was unmatched. Apart from the white horse that the Blood Sabre Elder was currently riding, in the present age there is unlikely to be a horse which could compete. Even though there were two riders on the yellow horse, Shui Dai could still not overtake them.

Shui Dai shouted: “Stop! Stop!” Although the horse recognized his voice, Di Yun had a strong hold on its reins and it could not stop easily. Shui Dai declared: “Vicious little monk, if you do not get off this horse, this old man will cut you into 17 or 18 pieces!”

Shui Sheng yelled out: “Daddy! Daddy!”

Shui Dai felt the pain in his heart as if it was being cut apart, he yelled: “My child, don’t be scared!”

In an instant, Shui Dai had chased the horse for over a li. Although Shui Dai’s lightness martial arts were impressive, he was after all getting old and did not have as much stamina. The yellow horse ran farther and farther away from him. Suddenly, a shout was heard, a blade striking him from behind. He flipped his hand over to counter the Blood Sabre Elder’s attack with his sword. A gust of wind swept past him; the Blood Sabre Elder laughed heartily as the white horse galloped into the distance.

The Blood Sabre Elder and Di Yun ran for a good while. When the Blood Sabre Elder saw that they were much too far away for their enemies to catch up, he was afraid of overworking the horse and ordered Di Yun to hold its reins and walk slowly. He could not find the words to praise Di Yun’s good conscience. He knew that the situation was critical yet Di Yun did not leave him behind.

Di Yun smiled bitterly and gave a sideways glance at Shui Sheng. He saw that her expression was filled with fear and hatred and knew that she loathed him greatly. He decided that he would never be able to explain himself at this point, so he thought: “You can think whatever you want. Call me a vicious and perverted monk. Curse me to your heart’s content.”

The Blood Sabre Elder said: “Hey, little girl, your father’s martial arts is really not bad. Hehe, but your grandfather I have scored a victory over him. He exerted all his strength but still could not catch me.” Shui Sheng glared at him in contempt but did not reply. The Blood Sabre Elder continued: “Who is the one who uses a sword? Which member of ‘Luohua Liushui’ is he?” Shui Sheng decided that no matter what he asked, she would not pay any attention.

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed: “My grand-disciple, what is the most valuable asset of a woman?”

Di Yun was taken aback by his question and his heart skipped a beat. He thought: “Oh no! The old monk wants to tarnish the lady’s purity? How can I save her?” He replied: “I don’t know.”

The Blood Sabre Elder said: “The most valuable asset of a woman is her face. Since this little girl won’t talk to me, I will cut across her face horizontally seven times and slash vertically eight times. This technique has a name, it is called ‘Seven Horizontals and Eight Verticals’. Hehe, don’t you think it’s great?” As he said up to this point, he pulled out the blood sabre from his waist and held it firmly in his hands.

Shui Sheng had long cast away her life. She no longer harboured any hope of returning alive, but the thought of her faultless face being disfigured by the monk sent shivers down her spine. But she thought that if she were to be disfigured, she would likely be able to keep her purity, which could be considered a fortunate event amongst unfortunate events.

The Blood Sabre Elder flashed the sabre beside her face a few times and threatened: “I ask you: Who is that old Taoist? If you don’t answer me now, I will slash you across the face! Answer me!”

Shui Sheng spat in disgust and said: “Just kill me!”

The Blood Sabre Elder slashed with his right hand, a flicker of red light flashed in front of her as it swiped down her face.

Di Yun let out an “Ah!” and turned his head around, not daring to look. Shui Sheng passed out immediately. The Blood Sabre Elder burst into laughter and urged his horse forward. Di Yun could not help but turn around to look at Shui Sheng. He saw that her face was unaffected without a single scar and was delighted. He knew that the Blood Sabre Elder’s sabre techniques had reached the stage of being able to do whatever he pleased with the precision of a thousandth of a point. The edge of the sabre barely grazed her cheeks and only managed to cut off very miniscule strands of hair on her temple, her skin was unaffected.

Shui Sheng eventually woke up, tears dropping out of her eyes. When she saw Di Yun’s smile, she became even more furious and scolded: “You… you take joy in calamity and delight in disaster… you… you are really an evil person.” She had originally intended to scold him with a much harsher phrase, but she was not used uttering profanities so she could not immediately come up with something malicious to curse.”

The Blood Sabre Elder raised his sabre again and said: “If you don’t answer, I will slash you again.”

Shui Sheng decided that since she had already been slashed once, it would not make a difference even if she was slashed a few more times, and replied: “Just kill me now! Kill me now!”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed maliciously. “Do you think it’s that easy?” As he said this he swiped the blood sabre across her face once again.

This time Shui Sheng did not pass out. She felt the sabre sweep across her face yet she did not feel any pain, nor was there any blood dripping from her wound. She realized that the monk only meant to scare her and that her face remained intact. She rejoiced and exhaled a breath of relief.

The Blood Sabre Elder said: “My clever grand-disciple, what do you think of your grandfather’s two strikes?”

Di Yun replied: “Your sabre technique is extremely profound, truly impressive!” He really meant this from the bottom of his heart.

The Blood Sabre Elder asked: “Do you want to learn it?”

Di Yun thought: “Just when I could not come up with a way to protect the girl’s chastity…. if I learn the techniques of this old monk, as long as he teaches me without any malicious intentions, I may be able to save her. But to do this I must get on his good side.” He replied: “Your grand-disciple shows utmost respect for your sabre techniques. If you teach me several stances, in the future, if I encounter petty foes like her cousin, I will not be bullied, so as to prevent grandfather’s reputation from being tarnished.” In his whole life he had hardly told a lie, but at this point in order to save the girl, he could not help but feel corny and his face flushed red when he called him “grandfather”.

Shui Sheng scolded: “Bah! Have you no face? You are shameless!”

The Blood Sabre Elder was delighted and laughed: “My profound blood sabre techniques cannot be learned in such a short time. Very well, I will begin by teaching you the stance of ‘Slicing Paper, Scraping Tofu’. When you practice, find one hundred pieces of tissue and fold it into a group and put it on the table. Slash horizontally across the pile, slicing the first piece of paper without moving the second. Then slice the second piece of paper without moving the third. Continue to do this until you finish all 100 pieces.”

As Shui Sheng was still a brash youngster, she could not help but interrupt and scoffed: “Yeah right!”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed: “You think I’m bluffing? We can try it for ourselves.” He reached for her head and pulled out a strand of hair.

Shui Sheng felt a slight pain and asked: “What are you doing?”

The Blood Sabre Elder ignored her and placed the strand of her on the tip of her nose and began reining the horse. The acceleration caused Shui Sheng’s body to curl up and recline in front of Di Yun’s horse. She felt a slight tickle as the strand of hair was placed on her nose. She did not know what he was trying to do, and was about to open her mouth to blow away the hair when the Blood Sabre Elder said: “Don’t move! Watch carefully!” He reined the horse and turned it back around, the horse slightly rubbed against the other horse as it passed through.

Shui Sheng saw a flash of red light and her nose felt a slight cool sensation, following which the strand of hair placed on her nose disappeared. Then she heard Di Yun exclaim: “Amazing! Amazing!” The Blood Sabre Elder extended his blood sabre and she saw the strand of hair placed firmly on the edge of the blade. Both the Blood Sabre Elder and Di Yun were bald, so this strand of hair definitely belonged to her.

Shui Sheng felt both startled and impressed by this display of brilliancy. She thought: “This old monk’s martial arts is really impressive. Had his sabre been raised higher by even half an inch, the strand of hair would not have been sliced from my nose. If the sabre was lower by half an inch, then my entire nose would have been cut off. Furthermore he was riding a horse, which makes his feat is over a hundred times more impressive than simply practicing on a stationary target.”

Di Yun intended to get on the Blood Sabre Elder’s good side and wanted to utter words of flattery, but he was clumsy and slow with words. He tossed and turned and could only say: “Your sabre technique is very good! I have never seen something as impressive before.” Shui Sheng had personally witnessed the technique of the Blood Sabre Elder, and even upon hearing the compliments of Di Yun, she did not feel it was excessive. However, she thought that since he was quite despicable for stooping to such low levels of flattery only to get on his grand-teacher’s good side.

The Blood Sabre Elder turned his horse around toward Di Yun and said: “As for the part about ‘Scraping Tofu’, you must place a piece of tofu on top of a wooden board and scrape it into thin pieces with your sabre. A two inch long tofu must be scraped into 20 equal pieces, each piece completely intact. If you can do this, then you have successfully completed the preliminaries.”

Di Yun said: “That is only the preliminaries?”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed: “Of course! Think about it, what is harder: to slice a piece of stable and stationary tofu, or to slice off a strand of hair on the girl’s nose while galloping on your horse?”

Di Yun flattered: “Grand-teacher is naturally gifted, such a feat cannot be replicated by the average person. If your grand-disciple I can learn even a tenth of your skills, I would be completely satisfied!”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed out loud while Shui Sheng scolded: “Fulsome! Despicable!”

At first, it was not easy for an honest person like Di Yun to give such excessive compliments of flattery, but once the first phrase was uttered, the rest followed naturally. However, the Blood Sabre Elder did indeed possess martial arts abilities that could not be matched by the ordinary person, so these compliments were not necessarily false. It’s just that Di Yun was naturally not the type of person to say these kinds of things.

The Blood Sabre Elder said: “Your martial arts aptitude is not low. If you put in the effort, you can definitely complete this. Well then, give it a shot!” As he said this he pulled another piece of hair from Shui Sheng and placed it on top of her nose.

Shui Sheng was startled and immediately blew away the piece of hair. She complained: “This little monk does not even know the technique, how can you simply let him try?”

The Blood Sabre Elder said: “If he does not practice, how will he learn it? If he does not get it the first time, he will try it a second time. If he does not succeed the second time, then he will try ten times!” As he said this, he pulled out yet another piece of hair and placed it on top of her nose and passed the blood sabre to Di Yun, saying: “Give it a try!”

Di Yun took the blood sabre and give a glance at Shui Sheng, her face full of resentment and her eyes full of fear. She knew that Di Yun had never practiced this type of sabre technique. If he were to attempt to replicate what the Blood Sabre Elder did, the best case scenario would be that her nose would be sliced off; in the worst case scenario, her entire head would be sliced in half. She thought: “Maybe this is not so bad. Just let the vicious little monk kill me, it is much better than having to suffer their humiliations.” She held on to this thought and no longer feared her impeding death.

Di Yun did not dare to strike so rashly, so he asked: “Grand-teacher, how much energy do I need to use for this attack?”

The Blood Sabre Elder answered: “The lower back channels energy to the shoulder and the shoulder channels energy to the arm. Your arm must be without energy and your wrist must be without strength.” Then he explained what he meant by “the lower back channels energy to the shoulder”, and how “the waist channels energy to the arm”. Then he fetched the blood sabre and demonstrated what he means by “overcoming power without power” and “exuding strength without strength”. As Shui Sheng listened to his profound martial arts philosophy, she could not help but nod in approval.

Di Yun listened attentively and nodded repeatedly. Then he said: “Unfortunately, your grand-disciple I was wronged in the past, my scapula was pierced and my tendons have been severed. I cannot exert any strength in my arms.”

The Blood Sabre Elder asked: “Why was your scapula pierced? How are the tendons in your arm severed?”

Di Yun replied: “Your grand-disciple I suffered many injustices during my time in prison.”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed heartily; their horses next to each other. He asked Di Yun to undo his shirt and expose his shoulder. Indeed, he saw that Di Yun’s shoulder was subsided, his scapula on both sides had a hole pierced through by an iron chain. The wound did not close yet and furthermore, all the fingers on his right hand were sliced off and the tendons in his arm were cut off. In terms of effectiveness in practicing martial arts, it could be said that he was useless. And even more, his leg had been trampled over by a horse, although it did not wound him internally. The Blood Sabre Elder could not help but laugh at the sight of this. Di Yun thought: “I have suffered so much, yet you still find a way to be amused.”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed: “Gee, how many women did you harass? Haha. Little child was horny and luscious without a care for his own well-being and failed in one of his attempts, am I right?”

Di Yun replied, “No.”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed: “Be honest now! The reason you were in prison was because of women doing you injustice, am I right?”

Di Yun was stumped for words but he thought: “I was framed by the concubine of Wan Zhenshan who said I stole money and wanted to kidnap her, so it is indeed true that women caused me injustice.” He clenched his teeth and angrily replied: “Correct. This ***** caused me so much pain. The day will come when I take my revenge.”

Shui Sheng could not help but scold: “You have done so many terrible deeds yet you say other people implicate you. Of all the shameless people in this world, you… you little monk must rank at the top.”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed: “You wanted to call him a ‘little horny monk’ but you could not utter the word ‘horny’, am I right? This little doll has some nerve. My child, why don’t you strip off all her clothes and expose her completely? We will show her how ‘horny’ we really are, let’s see if she ever dares to insult us again?” Di Yun could only vaguely agree to his demand.

Shui Sheng scolded: “Little thief! Do you dare?” At this moment she could not move a single muscle in her body. If Di Yun really did what the Blood Sabre Elder asked him to, how could she get away? The words “you dare” were uttered as a desperate attempt to intimidate him.

Di Yun watched as the Blood Sabre Elder gave a dirty laugh while he stared at Shui Sheng constantly. He thought: “How can I make him change his mind about harassing the girl?” Then he asked: “Grand-teacher, your grand-disciple I am completely crippled, how can I still practice martial arts?”

The Blood Sabre Elder said: “How is it not possible? Even if both your legs and arms were crippled, you can still practice the techniques of my Blood Sabre Clan.”

Di Yun replied: “That is good to hear!” He said this with utmost sincerity and joyousness.

The two of them discussed together and eventually rode their way to a large road. Suddenly, the sound of gongs could be heard followed by an entire band of instruments; a group of escorts for a bride was heading their direction. There were about 40 or 50 people in total surrounding a marriage sedan. Behind the sedan a man was draped in red silk with flowers, appearing fresh and bright. That person was the groom and he was riding a white horse.

Di Yun pushed his horse to the side to make way. He was worried that they would all be killed by the Blood Sabre Elder. The majority yelled: “Hey! Get out of the way! What are you doing? Stinking monk, this is a happy occasion, if you don’t move away, would you not be wishing bad luck upon us?”

The Blood Sabre Elder rushed forward and stopped 20 feet in front of the escorts. He pushed against his waist with both hands and asked: “Hey, that bride of yours, is she pretty?”

From the group of escorts emerged a large person who fetched a pole from the sedan and declared: “You bald bastard, are you tired of living?” This pole was even thicker than his arm and was over 10 feet long. The man held it sideways with both hands and demonstrated impressive power.

The Blood Sabre Elder looked at Di Yun and said: “Look closely at this technique.” Then he moved forward and unleashed his blood sabre which slithered like a serpent and went past the sedan pole, then he put the sword back it its sheath and laughed.

Amongst the bride escorts one yelled out: “You old bald thief! Are you blind? Now’s not the time for your prayers!” This person did not even finish reprimanding him when the big man approached and, with sedan pole in hand, let out an alarming scream. Cracking sounds were heard in succession; the sedan pole was cracked in half and fell on the ground. What he held in his hand was only two pieces of several inch thick wooden block. It turns out that in that instant when the Blood Sabre Elder attacked, the ten feet long sedan pole was already sliced into more than a dozen pieces.

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed out loud and unsheathed his blood sabre once again. Immediately, he rushed forward and cut the large man into four pieces and declared: “You should feel honoured to let me take a look at the bride. Why are you so worried?”

When everyone saw how vicious this man was in broad daylight, they were completely terror-stricken. The braver ones shouted back before running away. More than half of them felt their legs tremble as they dispersed in four directions. Some people were so scared that they pissed or shit themselves on the spot without even moving.

The Blood Sabre Elder swung his blood sabre and cut down the curtains in the front of the marriage sedan. He grabbed the bride by the chest with his left hand and pulled her out. The bride screamed and yelled for help but could not struggle free. The Blood Sabre Elder raised his sabre and pricked in front of her face. The bride was so frightened she turned ghostly pale. When he saw that this bride was only 16 or 17 years old with an ugly appearance and the figure of a child, he spat out in disgust on her body and yelled: “Such a clown of a girl, how dare you become a bride!”

Di Yun had acted the role of the blood sabre monk all along, firstly because he was afraid, and secondly because this old monk did save his life so he was grateful. But when he saw how he could be so vicious even against people he had never met before, he felt resentful and angry. He shouted: “You… you… how can you wilfully slaughter the innocent like this? What have they ever done to you?”

The Blood Sabre Elder turned his head and laughed: “I have always loved slaughtering innocents. If only the guilty can be killed, how many people are guilty in this world?” As he said this, he raised his sabre and with one slash, splattered the brains of another escort.

Di Yun rushed forward with his horse and demanded: “You… you must not kill anymore.”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed: “Little child, you are afraid of seeing blood aren’t you? Then what use are you?”

At this precise moment, sounds of approaching horses could be heard; over a few dozen people were approaching from afar. One shouted: “Blood sabre monk, let go of my daughter and we will let the matter drop, else even if you escape to the remotest of places, I will chase you to the ends of the earth!”

The sounds of horses were still somewhat distant, yet Shui Dai’s voice was clear and distinct. Shui Sheng was delighted and yelled, “Father is here!”

Another four people were heard chanting at once: “Luohua Liushui! Ah—Shuiliu Hualuo! Luohua Liushui! Ah—Shuilui Hualuo!” The voice of each person was distinct; somewhat old but powerful and majestic. The sounds were drawn out and reverberated through the air. In terms of internal energy, they were each profound in their own way.

The Blood Sabre Elder creased his eyebrows and yelled: “Bastards of the Central Plains, trying to overwhelm me with the majority!”

He heard Shui Dai reply: “Even if your martial arts were higher, it would be a disaster to face the Four Marvels of the South ‘Luohua Liushui’ at the same time. Let go of my daughter. An honourable man is true to his word, I will not pursue you.”

The Blood Sabre Elder contemplated: “I had just witnessed the martial arts of Shui Dai and that old Taoist. In a one-on-one battle, I do not have to fear. If they attack two-on-one, I will lose most the time and have no choice but to escape. If they attack three-on-one, I will lose miserably without even a chance to escape. If all four of them attack, I will die without a burial site. Haha, these bastards of the Central Plains, how can their words be trusted? If I keep this little doll with me as hostage I would still have some leverage, but if I let her go, they will have complete control of the situation!” At once he whipped Di Yun’s horse to speed westward. He gathered his internal energy and yelled out: “Old Shui, two monks of the Blood Sabre Clan have become your son-in-law. The fourth generation clan leader has become your son-in-law, and the sixth generation disciple is your son-in-law as well. The father-in-law chases the son-in-law. Excellent! Excellent!”

As soon as Shui Dai heard this, he felt as if his heart was about to explode of anger. He already knew that the vicious monks of the Blood Sabre Clan were notorious for committing adultery and arson and murder. With the two monks together with her daughter, not even considering the possibility that what the Blood Sabre Elder said was true, even if it was a hoax he would still be overwhelmed with vast and limitless obscenities. For the daughter of a renowned hero of the Central Plains of several dozen years to suffer such a fate, if he did not swear to slash the two blood sabre monks into ten thousand pieces, how could he ever have any face again? He immediately pursued with his horse.

At this point, besides the three elders Lu, Hua, and Liu who shared the name of the ‘Four Marvels of the South’ with him, there were additionally another 30 or so fighters consisting of experts, constables, or fighters of various societies. In recent times, the many vicious monks of the Blood Sabre Clan had turned the heaven and earth upside down with their deeds; without even a care to separate right from wrong, they offended members of both righteous and criminal societies. When the various martial artists of the martial world were notified, they were outraged and acted as reinforcements, not only to help Shui Dai rescue his daughter, but also to kill the two vicious monks of the Blood Sabre Clan. There was no one in the martial world who did not detest these blood sabre monks.

The majority journeyed together to chase after the monks. Whenever they reached a small town they would switch horses and continue pursuit. They ate and drank while riding and pursued in great haste. Although the Blood Sabre Elder tried to act leisurely, sitting on the horse in high spirits, they would only stop by a restaurant to replenish themselves and take a short rest, they did not dare to spend the night. Because the various fighters of the martial world were in hot pursuit, Shui Sheng managed to retain her chastity over the days.

After many days, they had pursued from Hubei to the borders of Sichuan. The martial artists of Lianghu and Bashu had always been on good terms, so when they received the news, they joined the pursuit as well. When they reached the area of Yu Province, the heroes in that area, although were not personally involved in this affair, decided that the battle was a guaranteed victory and decided to get in on the action to meet new friends as well as to look honourable and brave. By the time they crossed Yu Province, there were at least two or three hundred people chasing them. The martial artists of Sichuan were wealthy and had large quantities of horses and supplied the majority with rations. However, by the time these martial artists received the news, the Blood Sabre Elder, along with Di Yun and Shui Sheng, had already headed westward and they could not intercept in time.

When the martial artists of West Sichuan heard that the monks passed through, they expressed their sympathies to the majority and sighed: “If we knew this beforehand, we would have obstructed their path and not let those two perverted monks escape at any cost, as well as rescue Lady Shui.”

Shui Dai expressed his thanks but in his heart he resented: “What’s the use of speaking this trash? Judging by your capabilities, do you honestly think you can stop the two monks?”

By now, the chase had lasted over 20 days. Several times, the Blood Sabre Elder had to change his path to cast away his pursuers, but from amongst the majority there was a horse thief from Guandong who was adept at pursuit. No matter where the Blood Sabre Elder twisted and turned, he would still be able to follow relentlessly. However, because the Blood Sabre Elder kept changing his course, the majority was reduced as they branched off in different directions. Furthermore, he had reached the ranges of Mount Chong in Western Sichuan. The majority knew that the Blood Sabre Elder was planning to return to his home in Qinghai. Should he be successful, there would be many blood sabre monks compounded by a clique of traitors and obscene friends, their power would be quite formidable. If that were to happen, even if the warriors of the Central Plains battled against them, it would be a case of the fierce dragon being unable to overcome the local serpent, the outcome of the battle would be indecisive.

After another two days it suddenly started to snow. At this time they had reached the border area of Western Sichuan and continued to travel west towards Qinghai. This location was in the range of the Bayankala Mountains, the terrain was high and steep and the ice and snow caused the roads to be slippery and wet. The cold was felt to the bone and even breathing proved to be difficult. Unless one had especially high internal energy, one would feel weary all over and would have no choice but to rest for several hours.

However, the majority that chased after them could all be considered formidable people who had made a name for themselves. No one dared to show any signs of weakness for fear of ruining their reputation. Nonetheless, in the past few days the majority had been reduced greatly, with many suggesting that they abandon the pursuit altogether. Over half of the group had returned home, especially members from Eastern Sichuan and Central Sichuan, there were also some honourable and strong men from wealthy families with decent martial arts who could endure the suffering. Others saw that the terrain was dangerous and used that excuse to fall behind. Furthermore, some people simply sneaked out of the majority and ran home.

One mid-afternoon, as the majority chased them to a precipitous road by the mountain, they saw a yellow horse lying dead on a pile of snow. It was the yellow horse of Wang Xiaofeng. Shui Dai and Wang Xiaofeng cheered: “The villain has lost one of his horses! If we make haste, the perverted monk won’t be able to escape!” The majority was delighted and inspirited by this news and cheered loudly as they pursued. However, amidst their cheers they saw on the mountain peak on the west side a large pile of snow was slowly coming down.

One old man from Western Sichuan shouted: “No good, an avalanche is coming. Everyone get away!” He did not even finish speaking when the distinct thunderous sound of snow rushing down from the mountains gradually increased in volume.

The majority was confused: “What?” “What’s the big deal about an avalanche?” “Everyone get away!” “Faster!” “Faster!” “Let’s cross this mountain ridge first and then talk!”

In a moment, the faint thunderous sounds of snow became rumbling roars deafening to the ear. The majority became scared. At first the avalanche was still quite some distance away and gradually fell from the peak downward. Along the way there was a lot of snow accumulated which hindered their path, the force of the avalanche increased to half the mountain. If the entire mountain were to erupt like a raging tide, the consequences would be unthinkable.

It had long been the case that many people in the group had ran away, but now when they heard the thunderous sounds of an approaching avalanche, it felt as if the sky was about to fall on them, they became so frightened and lost all courage. Many turned their horses and sprinted away. Some horses were so shocked it could not even move, and their riders had no choice but to get off and exercise their lightness martial arts to escape.

However, the speed of the avalanche was much quicker than that of horse or human, in a split second it had already tumbled down the mountain. The ones who were too slow were immediately buried by an ocean of snow and their cries could not even be heard. Even if their martial arts were higher, there would be no chance for them to escape.

The remaining people crossed the hillside and saw that the accumulation of snow caused by the avalanche hindered their path but did not accumulate further. Everyone ran their separate ways dozens of feet before stopping. When they saw the snow was rising like an exploding mountain flash flood or a bursting dam, in a flash the entire mountain path and valley was covered in snow, towering several dozen feet tall, the ground became steep like the mountain peak.

The majority felt blank and discussed amongst themselves and said that the two blood sabre monks were strung through and filled with evil and were likely buried by the avalanche and decided that although it was a happy occasion, they died too easily without punishment for their deeds, and even worse, the flower and jade-like Shui Sheng had to suffer the same fate. There were some people that expressed their sympathy for those who died in the avalanche. However, as the survivors just escaped a natural disaster, their thankfulness and delight greatly exceeded the pain they suffered from the loss of their comrades.

In a panicked state, it was counted that 12 people were missing, including the ‘Twin Knights of Bell Sword’ Wang Xiaofeng and the four members of ‘Luohua Liushui’. Shui Dai cared greatly for his daughter and Wang Xiaofeng missed his lover dearly so naturally they were at the front of the pack in pursuit. The other three marvels followed in account of their friendship with Shui Dai and did not lag behind. It was hard to imagine that despite the peerless martial arts of the Four Marvels of the South, they were buried by the avalanche on the snowy mountain between Sichuan and Qinghai.

The majority sighed and decided it was time to go home. It was agreed that the snow—over a thousand feet tall—would not melt before the summer of next year. If the family members of the deceased wanted to reclaim the corpses, they would have to wait over half a year.

Some people also held onto a thought that they dared not speak out: “The Four Marvels of the South and the Twin Knights of Bell Sword were the most renowned martial artists over many years, strutting around with insufferable arrogance. They deserved to die!”

*****

The Blood Sabre Elder ran westward with Di Yun and Shui Sheng. Their enemies accumulated but he was not far from his nest in Qinghai. However, as the result of travelling endlessly for days compounded by wind and snow as far as the eye could see and the mountain range was rugged, even if the two horses were more powerful, it would not have done them any good. One day, the yellow horse died on the side of the road and white horse was crippled on one leg and knew that it would soon suffer the same fate as the yellow horse.

The Blood Sabre Elder creased his eyebrows and thought: “I could escape by myself without difficulty, but my grand-disciple is crippled on one leg and cannot move easily. And if I let them take this beautiful doll, that would be such a pity.” As he thought up to this point he became enraged and turned around at once. He held Shui Sheng in his arms and wanted to tear off her clothing.

Shui Sheng shouted in alarm: “What… what are you doing?”

The Blood Sabre Elder scolded: “Your daddy I will not take you with me, do you understand?”

Di Yun shouted: “Grand-teacher, our enemies are approaching!”

The Blood Sabre Elder yelled: “Why are you so troublesome?” Suddenly, the sound of a distinct trembling noise could be heard from the top of his head. He looked up and saw that the accumulated snow on the mountain peak was about to fall on them.

The Blood Sabre Elder was from Qinghai and had seen many vicious avalanches in the past. Even if he was ten times more perverted, he would not dare to go against this natural disaster, and shouted: “Let’s go! Let’s go!” He looked around and saw that only the southern valley had a mountain peak that may not be affected by the avalanche. In such a critical situation, he had no time to think and pulled the white horse towards the southern valley. Even though he was undisciplined and out of control, he too turned pale at the sight of this. The valley on the mountain peak on the side was also accumulated with snow. The snow could not withstand the vibrations and started the avalanche, causing the peaks in all four directions to come down as well.

The Blood Sabre Elder used his lightness martial arts to travel while Di Yun and Shui Sheng travelled on the half-crippled white horse making its way to the valley. At this time, the sound of the avalanche increased in volume. The Blood Sabre Elder looked at the mountain peak on the side and realized that their fate could only be submitted to the will of heaven. There was nothing he could do. If the snow on that mountain peak were to come down as well, then it would be all over.

Then the avalanche came to halt. In only the span of time it took one to drink a cup of tea[4], the Blood Sabre Elder, Di Yu, and Shui Sheng were deathly pale and stared at each other blankly, their eyes revealing extreme fear. Shui Sheng did not even remember that only a while ago she wanted to kill herself to prevent herself from being humiliated by the monks, she only knew that at this point circumstances were different and she had no choice but to rely on the Blood Sabre Elder and Di Yun for support in order to escape this disaster.

All of a sudden, a small piece of rock slipped down from the mountain peak. Shui Sheng was startled and yelled out in alarm. The Blood Sabre Elder immediately covered her mouth with his left hand and gave her two hard slaps with his right hand. Both cheeks of Shui Sheng were immediately swollen red.

Fortunately, this mountain peak was facing south and was affected the most by sunlight and the snow was not thick. After that piece of rock fell from the peak, there was no more activity and the avalanche gradually halted. The Blood Sabre Elder withdrew his hand from Shui Sheng’s mouth and together with Di Yun breathed a sigh of relief. Shui Sheng covered up her face with both hands, not knowing if she should be relieved, angry, or afraid.

The Blood Sabre Elder reached the mouth of the valley and inspected before returning. An angry expression stretched across his face as he sat down on a large piece of rock without saying a word. Di Yun asked: “Grand-teacher, what is the situation outside?”

The Blood Sabre Elder reprimanded: “What? It is all your fault!”

Di Yun did not dare to question him further as he knew that the situation was not good. However, after a long while, he could not help but ask: “Is our enemy guarding the entrance to the valley? Grand-teacher, you don’t have to worry about me, you can leave by yourself.”

In his whole life, the Blood Sabre Elder associated with treacherous and malicious people. Not only has he never made a friend he sincerely cared for, even his very own disciples like Bao Xiang, Shan Yong, or Sheng Di, who although treated their teacher with utmost respect on the outside, it was nothing but mutual deception. Their relationship consisted of nothing more than personal gain at the expense of others. At this point, when he heard Di Yun tell him to leave by himself, he could not help but feel gratified and revealed a smile on his face. “My good child, you really have a good conscience! It is not the case that our enemies are guarding the entrance, just that the accumulation of snow has sealed the entrance. The snow is several hundred feet high and several thousand feet wide. There’s no way we can get out of here before the snow melts next season. And what is there to eat in the valley? How can we survive until spring?”

As Di Yun heard this, he realized that the situation was critical, but at least the most dangerous crisis had already passed, so that was fortunate. He said: “Don’t worry, the boat will be straight by the time it reaches the bridge. Even if we starve to death, it is better than being tortured to death by our enemies.”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed: “My good child, you speak true words!” Then he fetched the blood sabre from his waist, stood up, and walked towards the white horse.

Shui Sheng was startled and yelled: “Hey, what are you doing?”

The Blood Sabre Elder grinned: “Take a guess.”

Obviously, Shui Sheng already knew that he wanted to kill the white horse for food. But the white horse grew up with her and she treated the horse as her best friend, and shouted: “No! No! The horse is mine, you can’t eat it.”

The Blood Sabre Elder replied: “After I’m done eating the horse, I’ll eat you next. Your daddy I can even eat human flesh, what does a horse mean to me?”

Shui Sheng said: “I beg you, please don’t hurt my horse.” Without any other options, she turned to Di Yun and pleaded: “Please beg him to not kill my horse.”

Di Yun could not bear to see her pitiful appearance, but desperate times call for desperate measures, there really is no other choice. After they eat the horse, they will probably have to cook and eat the saddle as well. He was unwilling to look at Shui Sheng and turned his head around.

Shui Sheng cried: “I beg you, please don’t kill my horse.”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed: “Very well, I won’t kill your horse!”

Shui Sheng was delighted and said, “Thank you! Thank you!” But at that same moment she heard the sound of something drop on the ground; the Blood Sabre Elder had already sliced off its head, fresh blood spurting in all directions. Shui Sheng had already become weary after the chase, and now she was so shocked that she passed out.

After a while, she woke up to the aromatic smell of roasted meat. She had been starving for a long time, and her natural instinct was to be delighted that there was food. But as she became more conscious, she remembered that it was her most beloved horse being cooked. As she opened her eyes, she saw Di Yun and the Blood Sabre Monk sitting on top of a rock, each eating away at a large piece of cooked yellow meat. On the side was a fire and on top of a thick firewood dangled a horse leg being roasted on the fire. Shui Sheng was overcome with grief and cried out silently.

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed and asked: “You wanna eat some too?”

Shui Sheng cried: “You two vicious fellows killed my beloved horse. I… I will definitely take my revenge!”

Di Yun felt very apologetic and said: “Lady Shui, there is nothing to eat in this snow valley. If we don’t eat the horse, we will starve to death. If you are looking for a good horse, in the future when we get out of this place, you will be able to find one.”

Shui Sheng cried: “You are a little vicious monk who pretends to be a good person. You are even worse than the older monk. I hate you. I hate you!”

Di Yun was at a loss for words. If he did not eat the horse he would have suffered starvation. He thought: “You can hate me all you want, but there’s no way I’m not eating this horse.” As he said this, he opened his mouth and swallowed a piece of horse meat.

As the Blood Sabre Elder chewed on his piece of horse meat, he fixed his gaze on Shui Sheng and said: “The taste is not bad, really not bad. Hey, in a few days when we cook the little doll to eat, she may not be as aromatic as the horse.” He thought further: “After I eat the little doll, I will have no choice but to eat my beloved grand-disciple as well. This person is kind-hearted, what a pity. Meh, to save him for last could be considered doing him a favour.”

After the two of them finished their horse meat, they added more branches to the fire and slept on the rock. Amidst his dreams, Di Yun heard the continuous sobs and sniffles of Shui Sheng. He felt a slight pain in his heart as he thought: “She cries continuously over the loss of her favourite horse, yet I am alive in this world and nobody cares about me. When I die, I won’t even be able to compare to a beast. Nobody would shed a tear for me.”
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[1]In reference to Cao Cao, a renowned ruler during the Three Kingdoms period.

[2]風虎云龍; literally Wind Tiger Cloud Dragon

[3]A play on words, the original text, 落花流水, when translated means “to be utterly defeated”. So he is mocking them by saying he would beat them until they are utterly defeated.

[4]The time it takes to drink a cup of tea is the time it takes before the tea gets cool, around 10-15 minutes.

Chapter 7 Luohua Liushui

In the middle of the night, Di Yun was suddenly awoken by two taps on the shoulder. The Blood Sabre Elder whispered: “Someone is coming!”

Di Yun was startled but delighted at the same time. He thought: “If someone can come in, that also means we can go out.” Then he asked: “Where are they?”

The Blood Sabre Elder pointed south and replied: “Hide over there and don’t make any noise. Their martial arts are very powerful.” Di Yun listened attentively for anyone approaching but did not hear a sound.

The Blood Sabre Elder held his blood sabre in hand and crouched down, then rushed outside without making a noise. His shadow made a turn on the hillside and disappeared. Di Yun was impressed as he thought: “This person’s martial arts is truly impressive. If Brother Ding was still alive, I wonder who would be better?” As he thought about Ding Dian, he felt the package of ashes on his bosom was still fully intact. Although the valley was extremely cold, when his fingers touched the package of ashes he felt a warm sensation inside.

In the quiet of the night, the sounds of swords clashing were suddenly heard. After two noises, it became silent again. It was silent for a long time before another two clashes were heard. Di Yun guessed that the Blood Sabre Elder was discovered by his opponent and the two were now fighting. Judging by the sound of the sword clashes, his opponent’s martial arts were at least as good as his.

Another four clashes were heard, now even Shui Sheng was awoken by the noise. The view outside the valley was covered in snow as far as the eye could see, shining a tint of silver under the moonlight reflecting the white clouds; it was approaching daybreak. Shui Sheng glanced over at Di Yun and moved her lips as if she had something to say, but she loathed him greatly and thought that he may not answer, so she did not speak out.

The sounds of sword clashes grew louder and more intense. Di Yun and Shui Sheng both raised their heads to follow the direction of the sound. Under the moonlight, two shadows could be seen spiralling around; a sabre and sword collided with intensity in the upper northeast section. The cliff was arduous and steep with a large accumulation of snow, it was difficult to get up there. However, the two fought intensely without stopping in the least, the luminous lustre of the sword and sabre was reflected by the valley as they battled each other on top of the cliff.

Di Yun looked closely at the cliff and saw that the man fighting with the Blood Sabre Elder wore a Taoist garment and wielded a long sword; it was one of the members of Luohua Liushui. Di Yun did not know how this person managed to venture into the valley after the avalanche covered the mountain.

At the same time, Shui Sheng saw the Taoist as well and was overcome with joy. She blurted: “It is Uncle Liu. Uncle Liu Chengfeng is here! Daddy! Daddy! I’m over here!”

Di Yun was taken aback and thought: “The Blood Sabre Elder and this old Taoist are closely matched, it will be hard to say who will come out on top. If her father hears her voice and comes for her, wouldn’t he kill me immediately?” Then he hurriedly said: “Hey, don’t yell! If the avalanche comes down on us again, we will all die!”

Shui Sheng retorted: “I am trying to get you killed along with me.” Then she yelled again: “Daddy! Daddy! I’m over here!”

Di Yun reprimanded: “If the avalanche comes down, your father will die too. You want him to die?”

Shui Sheng realized that what he said was true and did not yell out again, but she thought: “How can my father’s abilities be compared? Anyone who escaped the avalanche would have run home, yet Uncle Liu Chengfeng rushed into the valley. If Uncle Liu is here, then naturally my daddy is here as well. Even if an avalanche comes down, the worst that can happen is that I die, but my father will be unharmed. This old vicious monk is so formidable, if he kills Uncle Liu, I will have to suffer.” Then she yelled again: “Daddy! Daddy! I’m over here!”

Di Yun did not know how to stop her from yelling. He looked up at the Blood Sabre Elder again and saw that he was in a critical moment of battle against the Taoist Liu Chengfeng. The Blood Sabre Elder danced around like a gloomy red magnificence, prancing and spiralling about in the vastness of white snow. Liu Chengfeng did not execute his sword stances with remarkable speed, instead he fought rather cautiously. As these two formidable opponents clashed, Di Yun could not figure out who would be victorious. However, as he heard the constant yell of Shui Sheng for her “daddy” and then switching to yelling for her “Biaoge”, he became distraught with anxiety. He warned: “Little girl, if you don’t shut up, I’m going to cut off your tongue.”

Shui Sheng replied: “I insist on yelling! I insist on yelling!” Then she yelled: “Daddy! Daddy! I’m over here!” But she was afraid that Di Yun would really take action, so she grabbed a large piece of rock in self-defense. After a while, she saw him sit on the ground without saying a word, and suddenly recalled: “This vicious monk had his leg broken by my Biaoge. If the old monk had not rescued him, he would have been killed a long time ago. He can’t even move, what do I have to be afraid of him for?” Then she thought further: “I am really stupid! The old monk is preoccupied in battle, why can’t I just kill the little monk?” Then she raised the large piece of rock over her head and approached Di Yun, intending to smash his head.

Di Yun had no way of resisting and could only roll away, the rock scraped past his face, narrowly missing its target. Shui Sheng saw that she failed in her first attempt and bent over to pick up another piece of rock. This time, she hit her target on the stomach. Di Yun tried to roll away but his broken leg was ineffective; he screeched as he was hit on the calf.

Shui Sheng was delighted and immediately picked up another piece of rock to throw. Di Yun knew that he was powerless to resist her attack and was hit seven or eight times consecutively, how could he keep himself alive? Immediately, he picked up a piece of rock and shouted: “If you hit me again, I’m going to crush you to death first.” But only saw her launch another rock at him and immediately rolled to evade the blow. Then with all his might he threw the rock in hand toward her.

Shui Sheng dodged to the left. The rock flew past her ear and scraped some skin and flesh off her face. She was taken aback and did not dare to hurl another rock at him. She turned around and picked up a twig, then executed a stance of “Push the Boat Along the Current” and aimed to stab at Di Yun’s shoulder. Her sword skills were taught by her family and were somewhat brilliant. Even though she only held a twig in hand, if she were to attack, even if Di Yun was fully recovered, in terms of swordplay, he would not be her match. As he saw the approaching twig he slanted his shoulder to evade the attack, but Shui Sheng had already changed stances and at once his forehead was stabbed.

If it was a real sword, Di Yun would have lost his life right then and there. However, that was after all just a twig, but Di Yun was still in so much pain that his vision was filled with gold stars. Shui Sheng scolded: “You vicious monk has been torturing me this entire time and even wanted to cut off my tongue! Why don’t you cut it off and show me!” She lifted her twig and began smacking him hard on the shoulder and forehead and yelled: “Tell your grand-teacher to come save you! I will kill you, you vicious monk!” As she said this, her attacks became faster and more intense.

Di Yun was powerless to resist and could only shield face with his shoulder. In an instant, he was beaten so badly that it was as if his flesh was lacerated from corporal punishment, blood splattered everywhere. He was both startled and in pain. Then he exerted all his strength to grab the twig and threw it to the side. Shui Sheng was taken aback by this move, but she moved back a few steps and reached behind to grab another twig to attack again.

In the case of such an emergency, Di Yun suddenly recalled the scoundrel technique that country folks would use after losing a fight. He shouted: “Stand there! Move another step and I’ll take off my pants!” With both hands he held onto his pants and made a gesture as if he was about to pull them off.

Shui Sheng was alarmed and immediately turned her head around, both her cheeks flushed red. She thought: “This evil monk is really not above any crime, he is resorting to such a despicable method to humiliate me.”

Di Yun said: “Move away five steps, the farther the better.”

Shui Sheng’s heart was thumping intensely and sure enough, she really did move away five steps. Di Yun was delighted and shouted: “I have taken off my pants. If you still want to hit me, then go ahead!”

Shui Sheng was so shocked that she ran away several dozen feet, her heart beating rapidly. She accidentally stumbled over the slippery ground but hastily got up again and ran. She did not dare to turn around to look and ran all the way to the rear of the hillside.

Di Yun did not actually take off his pants. He thought it was funny but also sighed at his own misfortune. To be still alive yet still suffering beatings, he was hit 30 or 40 times and his calf was also smashed by the rock, causing him excruciating pain. He thought: “Had I not resorted to this tactic, I would have most likely been killed already. I Di Yun could be considered a gentleman, yet today I have to resort to such despicable means. Ai, I am really unfortunate!”

He turned his attention to the battle on the overhanging cliff between the Blood Sabre Elder and Liu Chengfeng. As a piece of rock fell from the top of the cliff, judging by the wind, he could tell that it was at least 700 or 800 feet high. From afar he could only see the slippery ice on the ground and the snowfall. It was evident that should any one of the two slip and fall, no matter how high their martial arts were, their bodies would be torn and their bones would be crushed. Di Yun could make out the movements of the two fighters; the sleeves of their garments fluttered in the air like that of two supernatural entities soaring amongst the clouds. In the sky were two eagles soaring through the wind. In comparison, the movements of the two fighters were very much faster.

From the back of the hillside, Shui Sheng yelled: “Daddy! Daddy! Come quickly!”

She yelled several times, when suddenly from the southeast an old voice responded: “Is it Niece Shui? Your father suffered some minor injuries, he will be here soon!”

Shui Sheng heard that this was the voice of the second member of Luohua Liushui, Hua Tiegan. She was delighted and shouted: “Uncle Hua! Where is my daddy? How badly is he hurt?”

In an instant, Hua Tiegan made his way towards Shui Sheng and said: “During the avalanche, a large piece of rock fell on your Uncle Lu. Your father deflected the rock away with his palm, but the rock was really heavy and hurt your father’s upper arm, but it is only a minor injury.”

Shui Sheng said: “There’s a vicious monk hiding over there… he took off his… Uncle Hua, kill him quickly.”

Hua Tiegan said: “Alright, where is he?”

Shui Sheng pointed at the direction of Di Yun, but she was afraid that she would catch a glimpse of his naked body and accidentally pointed forward a few extra steps.

As Hua Tiegan was about to kill Di Yun, suddenly the clang of metal sounds were heard from the overhanging cliff. He looked up and saw the Blood Sabre Elder and Liu Chengfeng engaged in battle, neither of them made a move as if they were suddenly frozen. He knew that at this point of the battle they had to resort to an internal energy struggle and thought: “This Blood Sabre Elder is very fierce, Brother Liu may not necessarily be able to gain the upper hand. If I do not rush in for support, then when will I? Even though I have made a prestigious name for myself in the martial world, I am still unwilling to share this title with others. When the heroes of the Central Plains chased after the two blood sabre monks on such a large scale, this news had spread everywhere. If I kill the Blood Sabre Elder personally, I will most definitely see a substantial increase in my reputation, it would be enough to offset the dishonourable act of having to win “two-against-one.” He held on to this thought and at once he turned around and made his way up the cliff.

Shui Sheng was confused and asked: “Uncle Hua, what are you doing?” But she already knew the answer. She saw Hua Tiegan climb up the cliff silently, his right hand holding a pure steel spear, the tip of the spear attached against the wall of the cliff for support which allowed him to jump a surplus of ten feet every leap. When he dropped, he would use the spear for support, he made his way up the cliff a lot faster than when the Blood Sabre Elder and Liu Chengfeng fought their way up there.

When Di Yun heard that this person’s footsteps was becoming more and more distant, he became more relaxed, but he saw that the man was leaping his way up the cliff and could not help but yell out in surprise. At this point, the only hope would be that the Blood Sabre Elder could kill Liu Chengfeng before Hua Tiegan reached the top of the cliff, then he could focus his attention on Hua Tiegan. Otherwise, if he were to face them one-against-two, he would most certainly be defeated. Di Yun thought: “Liu Chengfeng and Hua Tiegan can both be considered honourable heroes. The Blood Sabre Elder is clearly a thoroughly cruel and evil person, yet I am hoping that this evil person will kill these good people. Ai, this… this is really immoral.” He blamed himself yet he was full of worry. His heart was jumping around in a state of confusion.

Then Hua Tiegan reached the top of the cliff.

The Blood Sabre Elder channelled his energy to compete with Liu Chengfeng, both increasing their internal energy layer by layer, like the great waves of an ocean, pushing forward one after another. Liu Chengfeng was a renowned practitioner of Taiji, in his life he had studied meticulously into the idea of using softness to conquer strength. While the Blood Sabre Elder’s internal energy rushed forth like that of a flood, he channelled his internal energy into a circle in an attempt to dissolve the offensive energy of his opponent; he first wanted to secure an invincible position before focusing on attack. The Blood Sabre Elder’s force was remarkable, when his internal energy pushed forward it dissipated into various directions of his opponent, fluctuating irregularly. However, after being deadlocked for such a long time, he was eventually going to be defeated. By now, they had focused their attention completely on the fight and had long turned a blind eye to external distractions. They could not hear nor smell. When Hua Tiegan leapt his way to the top of the cliff, it was not completely without sound, only that they could not hear it.

Hua Tiegan saw that steam was rising from the top of their heads and knew that their internal energies had already been stressed to the max. He stealthily made his way behind the Blood Sabre Elder and raised his steel spear, gathering energy on both his arms ready to strike. The tip of the spear flickered under the light and its momentum was supported by strong winds as he stabbed him on the back.

The tip of the spear was reflected by the icy walls of the cliff and emitted a flash of light. The Blood Sabre Elder took notice of this as he felt a very strong wind coming from behind. At this time, his blood sabre was in the middle of a clash with Liu Chengfeng’s long sword, it was difficult for him to even move forward an inch, much less change stances and protect his back. His thoughts changed rapidly as he pondered: “I will die either way. Better to fall to my own death than let my opponents kill me.” He bent both knees then slanted to the side and pounced outward intending to jump off the cliff.

Hua Tiegan had intended to kill the Blood Sabre Elder with a single spear strike and executed a stance of “Conquering the Four Barbarians”, using his utmost power into this attack. How would he have guessed that the Blood Sabre Elder, in such a critical moment, would decide to jump off a cliff? A loud piercing sound was heard; the tip of the spear had pierced completely through Liu Chengfeng’s chest and came out on the other side. Hua Tiegan did not have time to relinquish his attack, nor did Liu Chengfeng ever expect something like this would happen.

As the Blood Sabre Elder fell off the cliff in midair, he propelled himself forward and with a loud scream, raised his sabre and slashed downward, precisely stabbing on top of a large piece of rock. With a loud bang, the blood sabre stabbed into the piece of rock but did not break. The Blood Sabre Elder borrowed the momentum to lift himself upward, with both hands he brandished his surroundings, cracking the nearby ice and snow, then followed that he rolled more than a dozen times on the ground. He tried to stop himself with repeated slashes and palm strikes. After 18 flips, he managed to stop the downward force and landed firmly on the snow as he burst into laughter.

All of a sudden, from behind someone shouted: “Watch my sabre!” The Blood Sabre Elder recognized the sound of a sabre. He did not turn around but flipped his sabre over to defend from behind, with a loud clang, the two sabres clashed dead on. He felt his chest was in pain and the sabre nearly flew out of his hands which was definitely no small matter. He thought: “This person’s internal energy can actually be so powerful!” He turned around and saw a tall and sturdy old man who appeared a light white shade and gave off a bold and powerful appearance. This man wielded a thick square-headed ghost-head sabre. The Blood Sabre Elder jumped backwards and retreated, amidst his haste, he did not realize that he had already used up over half his internal energy as a result of fighting Liu Chengfeng for over half a day. Furthermore, he managed to survive the fall of the cliff thanks to exerting his arm strength to stab against the rock. He tried to channel his energy but felt that his pubic region had a distinct pain. He could no longer channel any more internal energy.

From the left side a person shouted: “Brother Lu, this perverted monk killed… killed Brother Liu. We must… must…” The one who spoke was Hua Tiegan. He accidentally killed Liu Chengfeng and was filled with grief and indignation. He climbed down the cliff in great haste and was determined to engage in a fight to the death with the blood sabre monk. As it turns out, the leader of the Four Marvels of the South, Lu Tianshu arrived at this precise moment, and it was going to be a battle of two-against-one.

The Blood Sabre Elder saw as Hua Tiegan approached to his direction. He could not even handle Lu Tianshu in his current state, what more of an additional expert? The only way was if he were to hold Shui Sheng hostage so that they would not dare to attack, then come up with another plan.

He kept this thought in his mind. Lu Tianshu brandished his ghost-head sabre and slashed forward. The Blood Sabre Elder ducked and swiped the lower half of his opponent’s body twice. Lu Tianshu was naturally tall and sturdy, the lower half of his body was also firm and steady, although his legs were quite long and at once he moved his sabre to defend his lower half. The two swipes of the Blood Sabre Elder were actually false attacks. However, in false attacks were also a sense of truth; had Lu Tianshu been even slightly careless during his defense, this false attack could have become a real attack and would have been capable of taking his life at once. When the Blood Sabre Elder saw that Lu Tianshu defended so remarkably without any sign of weakness he immediately rushed forward a big step, then all of a sudden leapt backwards. Such a technique of misdirection enabled him to break away from the range of the ghost-head sabre.

He sprinted his way toward Di Yun and Shui Sheng was nowhere to be found. He immediately asked: “Where is that little doll?”

Di Yun replied, “She’s over there,” as he pointed toward her direction.

The Blood Sabre Elder was enraged. “You let her get away, why didn’t you catch her?”

Di Yun said: “I… I could not catch her.”

The Blood Sabre Elder was extremely furious. He was already a very rude and unreasonable person by nature; now in a situation of life and death, he vented his anger to its utmost extreme and with his right leg kicked Di Yun hard on the waist. Di Yun groaned bitterly and was immediately sent flying outward. They were currently in a deep valley of a peak, yet this valley composed of yet smaller valleys. When Di Yun was sent flying outward, he fell straight down below the valley.

Shui Sheng heard the noise and turned to look and saw that Di Yun was falling to the bottom of the valley. She was startled as she saw the Blood Sabre Elder pounce himself towards her. At this precise moment, someone shouted: “Sheng’er! Sheng’er!” Her father had arrived.

Shui Sheng was delighted and shouted: “Daddy! Daddy!” At this moment she was still somewhat far from her father and the Blood Sabre Elder rushed forward in great haste, he was about 30 feet or so away from her. Had she not just yelled out in delight, upon seeing her father, she definitely would have turned around and ran towards him which would have furthered the distance between her and the Blood Sabre Elder. However, she still lacked experience and amidst her joyous shouts of “Daddy!” she forgot that she was being pursued by the Blood Sabre Elder.

Shui Dai yelled: “Sheng’er, come over here quick!” Shui Sheng immediately woke up and began running forward. Shui Dai ran forward as well.

The Blood Sabre Elder said to himself: “No good!” He immediately rushed to the entrance, bent over and made a snowball in each hand. He channelled his energy and with his right hand threw the first snowball toward Shui Dai while he threw the second snowball toward Shui Sheng at the same time.

Shui Dai raised his sword to block the snowball which impeded his movements slightly. The second snowball hit Shui Sheng right on the “Lingtai” acupoint and sealed it. The sound of wind blowing could be heard as a sharp spear made its way toward the scene. Hua Tiegan had arrived.

Hua Tiegan had reached the utmost extreme of grief and repentance for accidentally killing his sworn brother Liu Chengfeng. At this point, he no longer cared for Shui Sheng’s safety, and attacked with his spear in both arms with utmost intensity. The Blood Sabre Elder raised his sabre and slashed, then a loud sound was heard as the blood sabre was repelled. It turns out that Hua Tiegan’s pole and tip of the spear were both made of the finest of steel and could not be broken even by precious sabres or swords.

The Blood Sabre Elder cursed, “Damn it!” and grabbed Shui Sheng and retreated one step, but saw that the ghost-head sabre of Lu Tianshu was about to strike. He was surrounded by his enemies and could go forward. His eyes glared across the scene in search of an exit. He caught a small glimpse of Di Yun sitting at the bottom of the valley and thought: “The snow down there is so deep and that little kid did not even fall to his death!” Immediately, he extended his arm to grab Shui Sheng and jumped down.

Shui Sheng let out a sharp cry as the two of them fell to the bottom of the valley. The accumulation of snow in the valley was more than a hundred feet thick, and the snow down there had frozen to ice, but the outermost layer was soft and served as a cushion. The two of them did not sustain the slightest bit of injury from this fall. The Blood Sabre Elder came out of the pile of snow and looked around. He stood on a large piece of rock, raised his sabre and laughed: “If you have the guts, come down here and we will fight to the death!”

The piece of rock that the Blood Sabre Elder was standing on was stationed right at the entrance. If Shui Dai and the others were to come down, they would definitely have to make their way past this rock, and they would most certainly be cut in half should they try to do so. While they were suspended in midair, even if their martial arts were ten times more superior, they still could not glide with the freedom of a bird.

Lu Tianshu, Hua Tiegan, and Shui Dai had gone to such lengths to chase after the blood sabre monk, to let him get away would be utmost unforgivable. Furthermore, Shui Dai’s daughter was being held hostage by the perverted monk, and Hua Tiegan was further enraged from mistakenly killing his sworn brother. The three of them got together for a discussion.

Lu Tianshu’s nickname was “Righteous Sabre Lu”; Hua Tiegan’s nickname was “Zhongping Undefeated”, dominating the martial world with his Zhongping Spear; Shui Dai’s nickname was “Cold Moon Sword”; and together with Liu Chengfeng whose nickname was “Soft Cloud Sword”, together they were known as “Luohua Liushui”. What is so called “Luohua Liushui” is actually “Lu Hua Liu Shui”, each character representing their ranking and respective surnames. Although in terms of martial arts, Lu Tianshu may not necessarily be considered number one in the group, he was the eldest and most popular. Hence, he was also the leader of the “Four Marvels of the South”. His temperament was like that of a raging inferno and hated anyone who was unjust or offended public morals greatly, which was further accentuated when he saw the Blood Sabre Elder standing on top of the rock trying to show off his power while Shui Sheng’s body was reclined next to Di Yun. He did not know that Shui Sheng’s acupoint was sealed and could not move and thought that her personality was chaste or upright, that when she fell into the hands of the blood sabre monks she did not even resist. Under extreme anger, he picked up several pieces of small rock and threw it at them.

His heavy arm strength was further supported by the long distance to the bottom of the valley; when he threw the rock, it gained more speed and energy as the downward force increased. A loud crashing sound echoed through the four walls of the valley, snowflakes splashing around at the bottom.

The Blood Sabre Elder bent down and pulled Di Yun and Shui Sheng behind the large rock. At this moment he was temporarily out of danger so he no longer felt angry at Di Yun. He straightened himself and stood firm on top of the large rock. He pointed at his three enemies above and began to curse profusely. Whenever they threw a rock at him he would simply dodge it, how could they damage him? From the distant he saw Liu Chengfeng motionless on top of the overhanging cliff and recalled their battle. He inferred that it must have been Hua Tiegan who accidentally killed his comrade with his failed sneak attack.

Di Yun saw that the walls behind the large rock had a depression which looked like a cave. The large rock blocked the entrance and inside the cave there was not much snow and could be considered a safe haven. He further saw that rocks kept falling towards them from above and feared that one of them would hit Shui Sheng. At once he hugged carried her sideways and placed her inside the cave. Shui Sheng was alarmed and shouted: “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed and shouted: “My good grand-disciple! Your grand-teacher will stay outside and hold back our enemies. Go in the cave and satisfy your lustful desires!”

Shui Dai and the others above heard his words very clearly and became so mad that their chest almost exploded of anger.

Shui Sheng thought that Di Yun really intended to rape her so she was extremely frightened. She saw that his clothes were hardly intact and barely fit him. She recalled how he claimed to have taken off his pants and realized that it was a lie in order to scare her away. As she thought of this her face flushed red and she yelled: “Deceiving vicious monk, stay away from me!”

Now that Di Yun placed her inside the cave, she would no longer risk being injured by any rocks, so he moved out of the way. However, his thigh was still broken and his calf was still damaged, how could he walk? He could only crawl his way out.

The three men on top and the Blood Sabre Elder had been deadlocked for some time and it was the middle of the night, the sky gradually brightened. The Blood Sabre Elder made use of this time to gradually recover some of his energy. He wondered: “How can I get out of this place?” In front of him were three people whose martial arts could be considered to be on par with his, as soon as he moves away the large rock he would no longer have the advantage of position and would have no way of defending himself against their combined attack. He could not think of a way to escape and remained on top of the rock, punching and prancing around in awkward positions so as to make fun of his enemies and amuse himself.

Lu Tianshu became increasingly enraged as he watched and cursed profusely. Hua Tiegan suddenly came up with an idea and whispered: “Brother Shui, head to the east and pretend to slide down the valley. I will head west and pretend to attack to lure the monk out of the way. Brother Lu can take advantage of this and jump down.”

Lu Tianshu remarked: “This is a wonderful idea.”

Shui Dai said: “If he does not come forward to defend, then we will really fall down the valley!” At once, the he and Hua Tiegan ran off in their respective directions.

In the vicinity of over a thousand feet they were surrounded by cliffs. If one were to actually slide down the valley, one would first have to travel a full circle and a long distance. The Blood Sabre Elder saw the two of them headed in opposite directions, clearly trying to take a roundabout route into the valley. However, he could not immediately come up with a way to stop them, and thought: “Damn it! This is not good. The two of them are trying to enter through a roundabout. But the circumference is very long and it will take them upwards of two hours before they get here. If I do not run away now, when can I find a better opportunity? If they can turn a circle to attack me, then I can turn a circle to escape.” Immediately, without even notifying Di Yun, he quietly slipped down the rock.

Lu Tianshu watched as his two brothers went their separate directions. When he lowered his head to look, the Blood Sabre Elder was nowhere to be found, but he could see a path of footprints heading toward the northwest direction. He yelled: “Brother Hua, Brother Shui, the evil monk is trying to escape! Come back!” The two of them heard this and immediately turned around.

In great haste to pursue his opponent, Lu Tianshu rushed forth and jumped down the valley and was immediately drowned by the large accumulation of snow. However, when he jumped he had already held his breathe, but he felt as if he was constantly sinking down until his foot touched the ground, then immediately he exerted his strength and jumped back up. As the top of his head made its way out of the pile of snow, he suddenly felt a pain in his chest, he was ambushed by his opponent. Taken aback and completely startled, he immediately unleashed his sabre and began slashing around mindlessly. He felt as if he had wounded his enemy. However, his enemy only suffered minor injuries and beneath the snow slashed forward with his sabre.

It turns out that the Blood Sabre Elder heard Lu Tianshu’s yell and knew that he would drop down the valley to pursue him, therefore he turned around and hid himself in the pile of snow behind the large rock. Not only were Lu Tianshu’s martial arts high, he also had much experience. To be able to set up a sneak attack on him like this was extremely unlikely. However, at that moment he fell down into a pile of snow over a hundred feet deep, it was a scenario which he had never experienced before. Naturally, he concentrated his attention completely on breathing and exerting energy so as to not hurt himself. He definitely saw the Blood Sabre Elder run off, how would he have guessed that his enemy would conceal himself in the pile of snow? It was truly a case of an unexpected occurrence amongst unexpected occurrences.

But nonetheless, he was still a figure in the martial world of the Central Plains and could be considered cream of the crop. Although he was wounded in the chest, he was still able to counterattack and slashed out three times in succession inside the pile of snow. He knew that the Blood Sabre Elder was incredibly sneaky; in a match against him, he could not afford to relax his efforts in the slightest. So even though these three slashes were executed mindlessly in self-defense, it still harboured great strength.

After the Blood Sabre Elder was wounded, he increased his efforts further. He backed up one step but did not realize that where he was standing, the snow had yet to be frozen to ice so it felt a bit hollow and he began to sink down.

Lu Tianshu had executed three slashes consecutively without the slightest hint of allowing his opponent any leisure. Then he followed with another three slashes. He knew that under the force of six slashes his opponent would have no choice but to retreat, and immediately pressed forward to attack. However, he felt his feet began to sink into the pile of snow.

The two of them were currently in the most strange and unlikely situation, with nothing but snow covering their entire vision. Furthermore, they could not even hear the wind or distinguish the sound of weapons. Effectively both blind and deaf, they could not even utilize their martial arts that they normally could in the darkness of the night. As soon as their feet touched the bottom of the ground, the two of them began to execute the greatest sword stances that they had ever learned. The pile of snow covered them over one hundred feet deep; besides one killing the other, neither of them dared to venture back to surface. Whoever held back even slightly would immediately be slashed and lose their life immediately.

Di Yun heard loud shouts from outside the cave followed by silence and was curious and took a peak outside. The Blood Sabre Elder was nowhere to be found, and the pile of snow beside the large rock had faint signs of fluctuation. He was curious and after watching for a while, realized that inside pile of snow was an intense battle. He looked up and saw Shui Dai and Hua Tiegan standing on the side, looking at the bottom of the valley with an anxious expression. Since the two of them were up there, the one fighting inside the snow must be Lu Tianshu. Shui Sheng extended her head outside and saw her father’s expression of undivided attention. They were separated by a great distance and she did not dare to yell.

The two on top of the valley both wanted to join in the battle but were hesitant. Shui Dai said: “Second Brother Hua, I will jump down now.”

Hua Tiegan said: “You can’t do that! If you sink inside the pile of snow, how can you fight? You can’t see anything down there, you might… might accidentally hurt Brother Lu.” He did not dare to say that he was the one who accidentally killed his close brother Liu Chengfeng and felt really sorry. However, Shui Dai did not know this.

In such a situation, there was no way for Shui Dai to offer his assistance. If he went inside the snow, besides slashing around mindlessly, how could he differentiate friend from foe? He had two opportunities to kill either the Blood Sabre Elder or Lu Tianshu. However, he would also have two opportunities of being killed by either of them as well. Hence, even though there were two experts watching from the sidelines, they could only watch with folded arms as their Brother Lu fought the Blood Sabre Elder single-handedly. It was truly a case of being unable to find a solution. No matter how they jumped down, they would sink into the accumulation of snow and join the battle. And furthermore, based on the movements of snow on the surface, if they just jump down, they might accidentally land on top of Lu Tianshu.

Eventually, the snow on the surface stopped moving. From Hua Tiegan and Shui Dai who were on top of the valley, to Di Yun and Shui Sheng who were watching inside the cave, all of them were overcome with anxiety, not knowing the outcome of the battle. The four of them held their breaths in anticipation, their gaze fixed completely on the pile of snow.

After a long while, the snow on the surface began to bulge as someone’s head emerged from the snow. However, this person’s head was covered completely in snow and they could not distinguish who it actually was. As this person gradually made his way back to the surface, one could make out that it was a head full of white hair. It was Lu Tianshu!

Shui Sheng was delighted and cheered in private. Di Yun scoffed: “What is there to be happy about?”

Shui Sheng replied: “Your grand-teacher is dead now, it looks like you will be joining him soon.” Even if she did not say this aloud, would Di Yun not know this? In his recent past, he had joined up with the Blood Sabre Elder; a case of “the one near vermillion becomes red”. Some of the Blood Sabre Elder’s violent and unreasonable temper had unwittingly rubbed off on him. Now that Lu Tianshu had emerged the victor, he would most definitely fall victim to his enemies, how would he have any chance of explaining himself? He was surprisingly angry and shouted: “If you speak again I will kill you immediately.”

Shui Sheng sealed her lips and did not say another word. Her acupoint was sealed by the Blood Sabre Elder; even though Di Yun was crippled, he would still be able to kill her without much difficulty.

As Lu Tianshu’s head reached the surface, he gasped loudly for breath. He had to struggle with great effort to pull himself out of the snow. Shui Dai and Hua Tiegan shouted in unison: “Brother Lu, we’re coming for you!” The two of them threw themselves down into the pile of snow and immediately scuttled their way out beside the large rock.

Suddenly, they saw Lu Tianshu’s head submerge into the pile of snow again as if he was pulled down with a great force. After he sunk down again, he did not come back up, but the Blood Sabre Elder was nowhere to be seen.

Shui Dai and Hua Tiegan looked at each other and were filled with worry and anxiety. They saw how Lu Tianshu was pulled into the pile of snow at such a speed without anyway to retaliate, a good chance that he had been ambushed by his opponent.

All of a sudden, a large ripple erupted as another head emerged from the snow. This time, the head belonged to the completely bald blood sabre monk. He laughed heartily and submerged into the snow again. Shui Dai cursed, “Bald thief!” and raised his sword intending to join the fray, when suddenly another head blasted out of the snow.

This head was separated from the body; covered with white hair, it was none other than the severed head of Lu Tianshu. The head flew outward several dozen feet before it landed on the pile of snow and submerged again. Shui Sheng was so startled by this horrific scene that she nearly passed out without even being able to cry out.

Shui Dai was overwhelmed with grief and indignation. He cried: “Brother Lu, you gave your life away for your brothers. Your brother I will avenge you.”

Immediately he was about to jump out when he was pulled on the left arm by Hua Tiegan who said: “Hold on! This evil monk is hiding inside the snow. He has the advantage of being hidden while we are plain as day, if we jump in without caution, he will ambush us for sure.”

Shui Dai knew that Hua Tiegan spoke true words and sighed: “Then… then what do we do?”

Hua Tiegan said: “How long can he stay submerged in snow? He will have to come back up eventually, and when he does, we will attack him together. We will cut off throat and gouge out his heart as a sacrifice to our two fallen brothers.”

Shui Dai tried to hold back his tears as it slowly dropped down his cheeks. He thought: “I must cool down and regain my composure. I mustn’t cry! Facing a powerful enemy in such circumstances, I can’t let my emotions cloud my judgement.” However, he had lost two friends whom he had known for over a dozen years on the same day, how can he not be sad? How can he keep his emotions under control?

The two of them knew that the Blood Sabre Elder would eventually resurface. They moved alongside each other and leapt past one rock then another, gradually making their way to Di Yun and Shui Sheng. Shui Sheng looked askance at Di Yun and schemed inside her head. As soon as her father was another several dozen feet closer, she would scream out so he can rescue her. If she screams too early, she was afraid that Di Yun would kill her first. Di Yun could tell from her expression that her gaze was unfixed and knew her intentions. He pretended to close his eyes to recuperate. Shui Sheng began to ignore him and fixed her gaze on her father. Suddenly, Di Yun jumped up and pounced himself behind Shui Sheng. He raised his left arm and choked her throat.

Shui Sheng was taken aback. She was just about to yell, but how can she let out any noise? She only felt Di Yun’s arm choking her and made her breathing difficult. Then she heard him whisper to her ear: “If you promise not to yell, I won’t choke you to death!” As he said this, he lessened his grip on her slightly and let her breathe. However, his rough and strong arm was clutched against her delicate skin. Shui Sheng reviled him deeply in her heart, but there was nothing she could do.

Shui Dai and Hua Tiegan crouched down behind a nearby rock but saw that there was absolutely no activity in the valley and felt somewhat perplexed. They did not know what trick the Blood Sabre Elder was scheming, how could he remain under the snow for so long?

Overwhelmed with grief and sorrow, they did not remember that the Blood Sabre Elder grew up in a world of ice and snow and was quite well acquainted with his surroundings. Previously, when he hid beneath the snow, he immediately carved a large hole with his blood sabre and packed the snow firmly with his palm and created breathing room for himself. Lu Tianshu did not know of such an ingenious method. When he resurfaced to gasp for air he slashed around mindlessly. Although he had an abundance of internal energy, it was not enough to overcome the Blood Sabre Elder’s advantage of not having to hold his breath. So when the two of them fought beneath the surface, one of them had to occasionally resurface to take a breath while the other remained underneath indefinitely. Eventually, Lu Tianshu could not hold his breath any longer and took a great risk to resurface. Immediately, he was hit consecutively three times and lost his life.

Shui Dai and Hua Tiegan became more and more anxious as they waited. The time it took to burn one incense stick had already passed, yet there was no sight of the blood sabre monk. Shui Dai said: “It is likely that the vicious monk suffered internal injuries and perished beneath the snow.”

Hua Tiegan said: “I think this is likely as well. How would Brother Lu be killed by him without returning two slashes of his own? Furthermore, the evil monk had previously fought a tedious battle against Brother Liu, he should not be Brother Lu’s match.”

Shui Dai said: “He must have used some sort of trick to defeat Brother Lu.” As he said this, he could not hold back his sorrow and declared: “I will go down and take a look.”

Hua Tiegan said: “Alright then, but you must be careful. I will stay here and keep watch.”

Shui Dai held his long sword firmly in hand, inhaled a large breath of air and executed his lightness martial arts. He slid across the surface of the snow for several dozen feet before his feet began to sink beneath the surface and he moved even faster. The accumulation of snow all around this mountain peak was extremely deep and would not see the light of day for thousands of years. Although the bottom of the valley amassed a lot of snow, it had long been mixed with ice. It was like that of wet mud and one would immediately sink should they jump on it. He used his lightness martial arts to slide across the surface in order to not sink in. Shui Dai’s lightness martial arts were indeed impressive and he began sliding faster and faster across the surface. He heard Hua Tiegan compliment: “Excellent lightness martial arts! Brother Shui, the evil monk is nearby, be careful!”

He did not even finish speaking when someone emerged several dozen feet in front of Shui Dai. It was indeed the blood sabre monk. However, the blood sabre monk was empty-handed without his sabre and shouted “Ayo!” and did not dare to confront Shui Dai head on. He floated westward several dozen feet and said urgently: “A gentleman seeks fairness in a competition. You have a weapon in hand but I am empty-handed, how can we fight?”

Shui Dai did not yet reply when Hua Tiegan blurted: “Just kill the evil monk! Who needs to speak of fairness or unfairness at this point?” His lightness martial arts was not as good as Shui Dai’s and did not dare to jump into the snow. He manoeuvred himself around the large rock and attacked from the side.

Shui Dai thought that the evil monk must have lost his blood sabre in the snow during the battle with Brother Lu. This pile of snow was hundreds of feet deep, how could retrieve it? When he saw that his opponent was without a weapon, he took extra caution for he knew that victory was in sight. However, he could not let him run too far away and hide in the snow again, disappearing without a trace. He shouted: “Shameless evil monk! Where is my daughter? If you tell me, I will kill you in one slash and give you a quick and painless death! Otherwise, you will suffer endlessly.”

The Blood Sabre Elder replied: “The place that this little doll is hidden, even if you search for upwards of half a month, you still won’t be able to find her. But if you let me go, I will tell you.” As he said this, he continued running without stopping.

Shui Dai thought “I will deceive him into telling me first.” and said: “We are surrounded by peaks in all four directions. Even if I let you go, where can you run off to?”

The Blood Sabre Elder said: “This location is extremely odd. However, I have lived here for several years in the past and know this place like the back of my hand. If you kill me, you won’t be able to find your way out and will have no choice but starve to death. Why don’t we let go of our past differences and work together? I will return your daughter to you and lead you out of this place, what do you think?”

Hua Tiegan scoffed: “How can the words of a vicious monk be trusted? Kneel down and beg for mercy, we will decide how to deal with you. Do you think you still have any leverage?” As he said this, he continued his pursuit.

The Blood Sabre Elder replied: “Very well then, your father I must be excused!” He increased his speed and ran in the northeast direction.

Shui Dai shouted: “Where do you think you’re going!” He raised his sword and pursued in great haste.

The Blood Sabre Elder ran away in great haste. After running for several hundred feet, he was about to reach the edge of the peak with nowhere left to go. At once he turned around and went the other way, slanting his body running past Shui Dai. Shui Dai brandished his sword to attack but missed his target by about a foot. The Blood Sabre Elder continued running the northwest direction. Shui Dai saw as he was retracing his path and thought: “He is just running back and forth around the valley, where can he go? However, to chase him around vigorously like this, both of our lightness martial arts are impressive, it will be no easy task. And I still don’t know where Sheng’er is.”

He became anxious and increased his pace, closing the gap between his opponent by about a foot, when all of a sudden he heard the Blood Sabre Elder shout “Ayo!” and fell forward, both hands clawing wildly as he attempted to get back up. It must be that his internal energy was completely exhausted, he could not even get back up after his fall.

Di Yun and Shui Sheng watched everything closely from the cave. One was in a state of panic while the other was delighted. Di Yun looked askance at Shui Sheng and saw her face full of joy and he became resentful. He could not help but increase his strength and tighten his arm around her.

Shui Dai watched as the Blood Sabre Elder could not even get up, how could he let go of such a golden opportunity? Immediately he pressed forward and raised his sword to stab him on the butt. The intent of this was not to kill him, but rather injure him so that he cannot run away, and then torture him until he reveals his daughter’s location. His long sword only moved about a foot when suddenly the ground beneath him collapsed and brought him down. He was standing on a deep hole.

This was definitely a strange occurrence, how was the Blood Sabre Elder still able to execute such devious methods of sorcery? Hua Tiegan, Di Yun, and Shui Sheng watched as Shui Dai nearly reached his target but disappeared all of a sudden without a trace. Then followed that a long and miserable shriek was heard from beneath the surface; it was the voice of Shui Dai. He must have fell victim to some kind of extremely terrible trick.

The Blood Sabre Elder jumped up at once, looking completely vigorous and nimble. It goes without saying that his struggles to get back up earlier were completely bogus. At once he jumped into the hole with both feet and just as quickly got back up again, carrying a person whom he tossed across the expanse of snow. This person was completely drenched in blood, it was none other than Shui Dai. Both his legs including his knees were completely cut off, it was not easy to tell whether he was dead or alive.
When Shui Sheng saw her father in such a horrific state, she cried: “Daddy! Daddy!”

Di Yun could not bear to look at such a sight. He was so startled that he released his hold on Shui Sheng and comforted: “Lady Shui, your father is not dead, he… he is still moving.”

The Blood Sabre Elder brandished and raised his left hand, a dark red light shone brilliantly on top of his head spiralling in a circle; he was holding his blood sabre once again. It turns out that when he hid in the snow for such a long time, he secretly cut up a well in the snow and set up a trap. He put the blood sabre horizontally across the hole, the edge of the blade facing upwards. Then he emerged from the snow and pretended to have lost his blade, casting away his opponent’s suspicions. Then he boldly ran away and succeeded in luring his enemy to the trap.

Shui Dai had roamed the realm for several dozen years, he was definitely not lacking in experience. It could be said that he knew of all traps that could be employed on land or water. However, in the land of ice and snow he could not protect himself effectively. When he fell into the hole at such a speed with the blood sabre placed across the diameter, his legs were immediately sliced off.

The Blood Sabre Elder held his blood sabre high in the air and shouted to Hua Tiegan: “Do you have any guts yet? Let us fight for 300 stances!”

Hua Tiegan watched as Shui Dai rolled around the surface in excruciating pain and became so intimidated and frightened that his heart nearly cracked open. How could he dare to press forward and attack? He held his short spear close to him and slowly retreated. The red tassel on the tip of the spear trembled repeatedly, revealing how afraid he truly was. The Blood Sabre Elder screamed ferociously and rushed forward two steps. Hua Tiegan immediately retreated two steps, his arms trembling so much that he actually dropped his spear on the ground. He quickly picked it up and moved another two steps back.

The Blood Sabre Elder had consecutively battled three experts without rest, surviving by the skin of his teeth each time. It was truly the case that he was completely exhausted. If he were to fight Hua Tiegan now, he probably could not even last a single stance. Hua Tiegan’s martial arts were definitely not inferior; if he were to immediately press forward and attack, the blood sabre monk would definitely die. However, after he mistakenly killed Liu Chengfeng, he was completely dejected and his spirits decreased greatly. Now upon seeing Lu Tianshu beheaded and Shui Dai’s legs cut off, he was so scared that his gall nearly exploded, he had not the slightest degree of fighting spirit left in him.

When the Blood Sabre Elder saw how frightened his opponent was, he became even more complacent. “Haha! I have 72 evil ruses, today I have only used three and that was already enough to kill three of your Jiangnan elders. I still have 69 evil ruses left for you!”

Hua Tiegan had experienced many crises in the realm. The exaggerations and boasts of the blood sabre monk actually did not swindle him, but at this point he had already become the bird afraid of the bow. He felt as if every word his enemy uttered and every action he took was full of extreme cruelty and viciousness. He heard the blood sabre monk say he had 69 evil ruses that he intended to use on him, shouting: “I have 69 ruses, 69 ruses!” Hua Tiegan trembled even more as he heard this.

At this point, the Blood Sabre Elder was completely exhausted and found it difficult to continue his bluff. He only wished he could collapse immediately and sleep for a full day and night. But he knew that he was in a life and death situation of utmost intensity and ferocity, definitely not less than what he experienced against Liu Chengfeng or Lu Tianshu. If he were to reveal his weakness even slightly, his opponent would see through his scheme and attack, which would cause him to exhaust his internal energy completely. At this point if his opponent were to press forward with his spear, all he could do was have a vigorous state of mind and fight to the end. He began spiralling his blood sabre in a playful manner, appearing completely at ease. He saw that Hua Tiegan still did not run away and secretly urged: “Coward, run away! Just run away!” But the truth was that Hua Tiegan did not even have the courage to run away.

Shui Dai’s legs were completely sliced off from the knee, he lied down on the floor dying and gasping for breath. When he saw how scared Hua Tiegan was, he was further filled with grief and indignation. Although he suffered fatal injuries, he could still tell that the blood sabre monk had clearly exhausted all his internal energy and only pretended to be vigorous. He gathered up his strength and urged: “Second Brother Hua, fight him. This evil monk has truly exhausted all his energy, killing him would be as easy as flipping your palm. It would be as easy as…”

The Blood Sabre Elder thought: “This old man can see through my weakness, that is not good.” He increased his spirit and pressed forward two steps and boasted to Hua Tiegan: “He’s right. My internal energy is truly exhausted, let us go over to that cliff and battle for 300 stances! Whoever doesn’t go is a turtle bastard’s son!”

Suddenly, from the cave behind him he heard Shui Sheng cry: “Daddy! Daddy!”

The Blood Sabre Elder schemed in his head: “If I kill Shui Dai right now, I will only show my weakness. I should capture the little doll first and force Shui Dai to surrender. Then the one with the surname Hua will have even less will to fight.” He grinned at Hua Tiegan and said: “Are you going or not? How ‘bout 500 stances?”

Hua Tiegan shook his head and retreated another step.

Shui Dai shouted: “Fight with him! Fight with him! Are you not going to avenge Big Brother Lu and Third Brother Liu?”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed heartily and shouted: “Fight me! Fight me! I still have 69 evil traps ready to be unleashed onto you.” As he said this, he moved closer to the cave and grabbed Shui Sheng by the hair and dragged her across the floor. Even doing this caused him to breathe deeply and he could not even say a word.

He knew that Hua Tiegan had impressive martial arts, so he had no other choice but to execute all kinds of cruelty towards Shui Sheng and her father in an attempt to scare Hua Tiegan away from fighting him. At once he pulled Shui Sheng in front of her father and shouted: “You said I am out of life energy. Very well then, I will show you if I am really out of life energy!” As he said this he exerted his strength, and with a pull, ripped off a large portion of Shui Sheng’s right sleeve, revealing her snow white skin. Shui Sheng shouted in alarm, but because her acupoint was sealed, she was powerless to resist.

Di Yun ran off from the cave and upon seeing such a tragedy, he felt really disturbed and shouted: “Don’t… don’t hurt Lady Shui!”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed: “Haha, my obedient grand-disciple, you don’t have to worry, your grand-teacher I will not take her life.” He turned around and slashed with his sabre, cutting off a piece of flesh from Shui Dai’s shoulder and asked: “Is my energy exhausted yet?” Shui Dai’s shoulder immediately began to spray out fresh blood. Hua Tiegan and Shui Sheng both cried out in alarm.

Although Hua Tiegan saw that the blood sabre monk’s movements were hindered, he thought: “He could be feigning weakness in an attempt to trap me. This evil monk crafty and cunning, I must exercise extreme caution.”

The blood sabre monk swiped with his sabre and cut off another piece of flesh on Shui Dai’s shoulder, leaving a very deep scar. He yelled: “Why don’t you call me ‘grandpa’?”

Shui Dai was in so much pain that he nearly passed out, but shouted: “I surnamed Shui would rather die than submit! Just kill me now!”

The Blood Sabre Elder said: “I won’t let you die so easily. I will cut the flesh off your arm inch by inch. If you call me ‘grandpa’ three times and beg for mercy, I will spare your life!”

Shui Dai scolded, “Not even in your mother’s wildest dreams!”

The Blood Sabre Elder saw that he was incredibly stubborn and presumed that even if he were to torture him further, he would not surrender, so he yelled: “Very well then, I will torture your daughter, let’s see if you call me ‘grandpa’ then!” As he said this he turned his hand and sliced off half of Shui Sheng’s lower garment.

Shui Dai was extremely furious. His vision was covered with darkness and he nearly passed out. He thought: “Brother Hua is scared out of his wits, I cannot die yet. No matter how much the evil monk harasses Sheng’er in front of me, I must keep my emotions in check and prevail to the very end.”

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed maliciously and said: “If the one surnamed Hua kneels down and begs for mercy, I will spare his life and allow him to tell everyone in the realm of how I stripped off Lady Shui’s clothes completely! Haha, wonderful! Wonderful! Hua Tiegan, you want to surrender? Alright, alright, I will spare your life! The Blood Sabre Elder never harms the ones who surrender!”

When Hua Tiegan heard these words, his fighting spirit became even weaker. He fully intended to flee for his life, but to kneel down and beg for mercy would be much too shameful, although it is still better than having his flesh cut off piece by piece by his enemy. What he did not realize was that if he were to fight right now, he would kill his opponent at once. He only felt that the blood sabre monk in front of him was horrifying and frightening to the extreme. He heard the blood sabre monk assure him: “Don’t worry, you don’t have to be scared. If you surrender to me, I will spare your life. I assure you I will not hurt you in the slightest.” These words were spoken like gold to Hua Tiegan, who felt an unspeakable amount of relief and comfort.

The Blood Sabre Elder saw that his opponent’s face showed a bit of hope and did not let the opportunity pass. At once he let go of Shui Sheng and walked towards him with his sabre and said: “A gentleman can submit or stand tall as the situation demands it, very good! If you want to surrender, throw down your spear first. Very good, I will not take your life. I will be your friend, my good brother! Throw down your weapon.” His voice was somewhat soft and comforting.

His words were spoken with an irresistible force. At once, Hua Tiegan let go of his spear and it dropped on the ground. Now that he dropped his weapon, it was clear that he had surrendered. The Blood Sabre Elder smiled and said: “Very good! Very good! You are a good person. Your spear is not bad, let me take a look! Move back three steps. Good, you are very obedient, I definitely won’t kill you, be completely assured. Move back another three steps.” Hua Tiegan obeyed his every command and moved backwards. The Blood Sabre Elder bent down and picked up the spear. When his fingers made contact with the spear, he felt as if all the energy in his body was decreasing. He tried to channel his energy twice but to no avail. He was worried as he thought: “I have fought three consecutive battles against experts, I am truly exhausted. I’m afraid that it will take at least half a month for me to regain my vitality.” Even though he now had spear in hand, he was still nervous. For even if Hua Tiegan was to attack him bare-handed, he would still be defeated immediately.

Shui Dai could only watch as Hua Tiegan surrendered his weapon. He realized that there was no hope left and said softly: “Sheng’er, kill me now!”

Shui Sheng cried: “Daddy… I… I can’t do it!”

Shui Dai looked at Di Yun and said: “Little monk, do a good deed. Kill me now.”

Di Yun understood his intent. He knew that Shui Dai would eventually die anyway. Rather than stay alive and suffer endless insults and humiliations like this, it would be better to just die a quick and painless death. He could not bear to take action. He wanted to end his suffering, but feared that if he were to take action, it would enrage the blood sabre monk. He knew how vicious and cruel this person was, he could not offend him at any cost.

Shui Dai said: “Sheng’er, beg this little monk to kill me. If you delay any further it will be too late…”

Shui Sheng was in a state of conflict and did not know what to do. She said: “Daddy, you can’t die… you can’t die…”

Shui Dai scolded: “I am better off dead than alive! Can’t you see that?”

Shui Sheng was startled then declared: “Right! Daddy, I will die together with you!”

Shui Dai begged Di Yun again. “Little monk, please be benevolent and merciful; kill me now. To ask me to beg the vicious monk for mercy, how can I Shui Dai do such a thing? How can I watch my little girl suffer his humiliations?”

Di Yun saw the heroic qualities of this man and respected him greatly. He was in a state of moral indignation and finally whispered: “Very well, I will kill you. Even if the old monk blames me, I cannot care!”

Shui Dai was delighted by his words. Even though he suffered fatal injuries, his mind was still completely clear as he whispered: “I will curse you loudly, then you can kill me with one attack. The old monk will not punish you.” He did not wait for Di Yun’s reply and shouted: “Little horny monk! If you don’t change your ways, you will follow the path of this old monk and eventually suffer a slow and painful death. If you still have any conscience, then leave the Blood Sabre Clan at once! Little evil monk! Turtle bastard! Repent your past mistakes and turn over a new leaf! Become a good person from now on!”

When Di Yun heard Shui Dai’s words he could tell that he had the intention of admonishing him and thanked him greatly. He raised a large twig and swung it around several times, but did not stab him.

Shui Dai became anxious and enraged that the little monk did not take action, and began to curse him even more profusely. He looked askance and saw Hua Tiegan kneeling down and kowtowing to the blood sabre monk.

The Blood Sabre Elder gathered up the remaining energy in his body and concentrated it all on the fingers on his right hand, intending to seal Hua Tiegan’s ‘Lingtai Acupoint’. This finger was truly filled with all his energy, as soon as he sealed his acupoint he had nothing left. Hua Tiegan fainted as his acupoint was sealed, and the blood sabre monk too began to bend both knees.

Shui Dai saw as Hua Tiegan fell and his heart turned sour. He knew that once he died, there would be no one left to protect Shui Sheng and said inwardly: “My poor Sheng’er…” Then he yelled: “Bastard! Why haven’t you killed me yet!”

Di Yun saw as Hua Tiegan collapsed and thought that the Blood Sabre Elder would soon come. At once he clenched his teeth and with all his strength he stabbed the twig right on Shui Dai’s head. His skull was cracked immediately, the ill fate of the hero of his generation.

Shui Sheng cried “Daddy!” and immediately passed out.

When the Blood Sabre Elder heard Shui Dai curse repeatedly, he thought that Di Yun could not keep his cool and decided to kill him. However, since Hua Tiegan was already under his control, it did not really matter if Shui Dai was dead or alive. The Blood Sabre Elder was pleased with himself and laughed out loud. There were stutters in his laughter as he kept coughing in between and his legs became more limp and painful. He moved forward a few steps before finally collapsing on the snow.

Hua Tiegan saw this and regretted greatly. “Brother Shui was correct, this monk is truly out of energy. If I realized this sooner I would have killed him at once, why would I have been scared to such an extent? And to kowtow and beg for mercy?” He could be considered a renowned hero of the Central Plains of over a dozen years, yet he fell on my knees and yielded to this most despicable opponent. To only care about his own life was an act of a coward; truly shameless and despicable. As he thought back to this, he was so ashamed he didn’t even want to show his face. However, his “Lingtai Acupoint” was sealed and it would be 24 hours before it would release itself. Had the blood sabre monk not revealed his weakness, he would still have chances to live. But now no matter what he says is intolerable. As soon as Hua Tiegan’s acupoint is unsealed, how would he not kill the blood sabre monk at once?

Indeed, he heard the blood sabre monk say: “My grand-disciple, kill him for me. This person is vicious to an extreme, we can’t keep him alive.”

Hua Tiegan shouted: “You promised to spare my life. You said you never kill those who surrender, how can you go back on your word?” He knew that he was powerless to resist, but in a life and death situation, he had to cling on to any hopes of survival.

The Blood Sabre Elder laughed. “The monks of the Blood Sabre Clan have long turned trust and honour into that of dog shit. That you kowtowed to me and begged for mercy was your own decision. You fell into my trap, haha! My good grand-disciple, kill him now! This person cannot be kept alive, it is extremely dangerous.” He was extremely cautious of Hua Tiegan for he knew that the strength he used to seal his acupoint earlier was not even a tenth of his full power. It would not have pierced deeply into his channels. This person has formidable martial arts, so it could be the case that he would be able to break through his sealed acupoint in only several hours. At that point the tables would have turned and he would be at the mercy of his opponent.

Di Yun did not know that the Blood Sabre Elder had completely exhausted his energy and thought: “Earlier I only killed Hero Shui to end his suffering, but this Hero Hua is a good man, why should I kill him?” He replied: “He has already been subdued by you grand-teacher, I think it is better to spare him!”

Hua Tiegan hurriedly replied: “Right! Right! This little monk speaks true words. I have already been subdued without any power to resist, why would you have to kill me?”

Shui Sheng grieved unconsciously in her sleep and cried: “Daddy! Daddy!” When she heard how shameless and despicable Hua Tiegan was acting, she reprimanded: “Uncle Hua, you are also a renowned figure in the martial world, do you have no shame? You only watched as my daddy was tortured… my daddy… daddy…” Her voice was filled with sobs and did not speak anymore.

Hua Tiegan said: “These two monks have profound martial arts, we can’t beat them. We should surrender and follow them and comply with all their orders!”

Shui Sheng spat in contempt. “Bah! Bah! You are shameless!”

The Blood Sabre Elder knew that the longer he stalled the more dangerous the situation. At this point he was completely exhausted and could not even get up and move two steps. He said: “My clever grand-disciple, please listen to your grand-teacher’s instructions. Kill this man!”

Shui Sheng turned her head around and saw her father’s head was badly mutilated and died an extremely painful death. As she thought of his affection and care for her, she nearly passed out again. Although Shui Sheng heard with her very own ears how her father begged for Di Yun to end his suffering, at this point she was so sad that she forgot it all completely. She only knew that Di Yun was the one who killed her father with a stick, splattering his brains everywhere. She could no longer hold back the grief and indignation in her heart, and felt a surge of warm energy rise from her pubic region.

Those who have cultivated their internal energy to a really high degree are capable of overcoming their own sealed acupoints through a surge of energy, but to practice to such an extent is no small task. Hua Tiegan was not even capable of doing this, so how could Shui Sheng? However, when someone is faced with a calamity, an unusual extreme surge of emotions may cause one to release one’s hidden capabilities. It is often the case that in a life and death situation, someone can perform a task that they would normally find nearly impossible. At this point, Shui Sheng was so miserable that her energy surged up and unsealed her acupoint. She did not know from where she got such a surge of energy, but immediately she got up and picked up the stick beside her father’s corpse and aimed to attack Di Yun.

Di Yun urgently dodged left and right. Although he managed to protect his vital areas, his face, shoulders, ears, and the back of his head were struck 12 or 13 times in succession. He extended his arms to block and said: “Why are you hitting me? It was your father who begged me to kill him.”

Shui Sheng trembled as she heard this and realized that he was correct. She was stunned and her surge of energy dissipated as she collapsed on the floor and wailed.

When the Blood Sabre Elder heard Di Yun say “It was your father who begged me to kill him,” he understood the whole truth behind the story. He became furious and thought: “This little brat dares assist his opponent, he is going against me!” At once he wanted to pick up his blood sabre to kill him, but even the slightest movement of his arm caused his entire arm and shoulder to be filled with pain. Under such paralysis he remained calm and collected and said: “My good grand-disciple, look after this little doll and don’t let her go crazy. She is yours now, you can do whatever you want to her. Your grand-teacher will not say a word.”

Hua Tiegan came up with an idea and shouted: “Niece Shui, come over here. I have something to say to you.” He knew that the blood sabre monk was completely exhausted and was no longer cause for concern and Di Yun was crippled. Of the four people here, she was the one with most energy and he had to ask her to kill the two monks.

However, Shui Sheng despised him greatly for his despicable actions and thought: “If you did not surrender your spear, my father would not have died.” When she heard Hua Tiegan’s words, she ignored them completely.

Hua Tiegan continued: “Niece Shui, if you want to get out of this mess there is only one way. Come over here, I will tell you.”

The Blood Sabre Elder cursed: “What nonsense are you speaking? If you don’t shut up I am going to kill you with my sabre.”

Hua Tiegan did not dare to confront him directly and winked at Shui Sheng consistently to signal her. Shui Sheng scolded: “Whatever you have to say, just speak up. Why be so secretive?”

Hua Tiegan thought: “This old monk is currently trying to channel and recover his energy. If he even regains a tenth of his strength, he would be able to pick up his sabre and kill me. There’s no time, I have to speak now.” Then he said: “Niece Shui, look at this old monk. After so many battles, he has completely exhausted his internal energy, he can’t even pick himself up.” Even though he knew that the blood sabre monk was powerless to attack him, he still did not dare to disrespect him and only referred to him as “old monk”.

Shui Sheng took a look at the blood sabre monk and saw that he indeed collapsed on the floor and looked to be in a very sorry state. As she thought of taking revenge for her father’s death, she no longer cared whether Hua Tiegan spoke true words or not. At once she picked up the twig and aimed to attack the blood sabre monk.

When the blood sabre monk heard Hua Tiegan repeatedly urge Shui Sheng, he already knew what was going to happen next. With a sense of great urgency he came up with ideas in his head and thought: “If this little doll comes to attack me, what will I do?” He tried to channel his energy twice but felt that his pubic region was completely empty and even felt weaker than before. He could not come up with a plan at once as Shui Sheng approached him, twig in hand.

Shui Sheng was especially skilled with long swords and was not used to using sticks. However, urgently trying to take revenge for her father, she just concentrated on using her full strength to attack and revealed weakness on her underarm. The blood sabre monk slanted sideways intending to strike with Hua Tiegan’s short spear that he was holding in his hand. However, he was indeed much too weak; even turning the spear around proved to be a task too difficult to overcome. He could only exert all his strength to attack with the tail of the spear, aiming at her “Dabao Acupoint” near her underarm. Shui Sheng, overcome with grief and sorrow, did not expect this counterattack. The twig hit its target square on the face and lacerated his flesh, but at the same time she felt a numbness in her underarm and lost all her strength and fell forward.

The blood sabre monk was hit hard with the twig which caused him to nearly pass out. However, his trick succeeded as Shui Sheng voluntarily made contact with the pole of the spear with her underarm and sealed her own acupoint. The Blood Sabre Elder laughed heartily: “The one surnamed Hua, you said I am completely exhausted of energy, then how was I able to subdue her?” The way he matched Shui Sheng’s arm with the pole of the spear causing her to seal her own acupoint was obstructed by their two bodies, so Hua Tiegan and Di Yun did not see what happened and actually thought that he sealed her acupoint by force.

Hua Tiegan was completely startled and did not know what to say. “Elder truly has profound martial arts, I am merely an ordinary folk with the view of a frog. I truly did not expect this. Elder has such profound internal energy and could be said to be unrivalled in this world, truly unprecedented and matchless.” His words were filled with flattery and compliments, but his words trembled; he had never felt so much fear before.

The Blood Sabre Elder thought to himself: “Shameless!” He knew that he was safe for the time being, but he only sealed Shui Sheng’s acupoint with external force and not with his own finger strength. He knew that this seal could not have penetrated deeply into her acupoint and knew that her acupoint would release itself before long. Such a fortunate occurrence could only happen once and not again. If she were to pick up the blood sabre to kill him, even if he were to try and seal her acupoint with the spear a second time, he would have been beheaded a long time ago. He could only wait to regain a portion of his internal energy during this short period and kill Shui Sheng before her acupoint unseals itself. However, how could the recovery of internal energy be forced? In the face of a disaster, he did not say a word and lied down in a position to recover. At this point it was not even possible for him to sit on his knees nor did he dare to open his eyes. He was afraid of any distractions by the other three.

Di Yun’s head, shoulders, hands, and legs all suffered injuries. He could only clench his teeth and groan inwardly. His mind was in a state of chaos and he could not think clearly. Shui Sheng lied down on the ground only a few feet away from the blood sabre. At first because she was hasty, she did not know what the blood sabre monk was planning to do. Now after a good while she saw that the blood sabre monk did not move and felt relieved. She could hardly bear the sorrow in her heart and could not wait to avenge her father. After a while, she drifted into a lethargic sleep.

The Blood Sabre Elder was delighted as he thought: “Hopefully you will sleep for several hours, that will be enough.”

Hua Tiegan looked at Di Yun, not knowing whether he was feeling his own guilty conscience or confused as he did not harbour any intention of taking action, leaving all eyes on whether Shui Sheng would be able to kill the blood sabre monk before he recovers. He called out: “Niece Shui, don’t fall asleep! These two perverted monks want to hurt you!” But Shui Sheng was exhausted and moaned a few times in her sleep, how could she be awoken? Hua Tiegan yelled: “This is not good, wake up quickly! The evil monk wants to take off your pants!”

The Blood Sabre Elder was enraged and thought, “To let him shout and quarrel like this is extremely dangerous.” and at once said to Di Yun: “My good grand-disciple, kill that old man with one slash.”

Di Yun said: “This person has already surrendered, we don’t need to kill him.”

The Blood Sabre Elder reasoned: “How has he surrendered? Listen to him make a racket, he wants to hurt the two of us.”

Hua Tiegan added: “Little monk, your grand-teacher is most vicious. Right now he does not have any energy left and can’t move, that’s why he’s telling you to kill me. However, once he regains his energy he will kill you for not listening to his orders. Why don’t you make the first move and kill him?”

Di Yun shook his head and replied: “He is not my grand-teacher, only that he has saved my life and has been kind to me. How can I kill him?”

Hua Tiegan said: “He is not your grand-teacher? Then you must take action at once or it will be too late. The evil monks of the Blood Sabre Clan are ferocious and ruthless without any feelings and sensibilities. Don’t you want to live?” In a moment of desperation, he no longer cared about showing any respect to the blood sabre monk.

Di Yun hesitated to take action. He knew that Hua Tiegan spoke true words but for him to kill the blood sabre monk, he could not bear to do such a thing. But upon hearing the consistent persuasions of Hua Tiegan, he became impatient and warned: “If you keep talking I will kill you first.”

Hua Tiegan knew that the situation was unfavourable and did not dare to speak further. He only hoped that Shui Sheng would wake up soon. After a while, he shouted again: “Shui Sheng, Shui Sheng, your daddy is alive! Your daddy is alive!”

In a daze, Shui Sheng unconsciously heard someone shout “Your daddy is alive!” and full of delight, she immediately woke up and shouted: “Daddy! Daddy!”

Hua Tiegan said: “Niece Shui, which acupoint of yours has been sealed? This evil monk has no energy left, it is no big deal. I will teach you how to inhale and the technique to rush through your sealed acupoint.”

Shui Sheng said: “My left underarm and my ribs are numb, I can’t move at all.”

Hua Tiegan said: “So he has sealed your ‘Dabao Acupoint’. That is easy then, just breathe and focus on your pubic region. Slowly channel your breath to rush through the ‘Dabao Acupoint’ on your left underarm. After you unseal your acupoint, you can avenge your father.”

Shui Sheng nodded her head and replied, “Yes!” Although she still resented Hua Tiegan greatly, after all he is still on her side and his techniques are beneficial. So she did as told and inhaled, focusing on her pubic region.

The Blood Sabre Elder gazed attentively for any activity and saw that she nodded her head to Hua Tiegan’s words. He whined inwardly: “This little doll nodded and will definitely rush through her acupoint. It won’t even take the time of one incense stick before she is free.” At once he focused his eyes on his nose and his nose in his heart. Whether Shui Sheng would be able to successfully take action, that he had no control over. All he could do was focus on recuperating his own energy.

The technique of channelling your energy to rush through an acupoint is indeed profound. Even Hua Tiegan himself would not be capable of such a task, how could Shui Sheng be successful only after a few words of instructions? However, her sealed acupoint followed the flow of her blood vessels and had gradually unblocked itself automatically; it was not that she was able to channel her energy to rush through it. After a while, she was able to move her back slightly. Hua Tiegan was delighted and said: “Niece Shui, this is good. Just keep using that technique and you will be moving in no time.”

Shui Sheng nodded her head and felt the numbness in her arm gradually decrease. She exhaled a deep breath and brought herself up.

Hua Tiegan said: “Excellent! Niece Shui, you must listen to my every instruction in sequence without any mistake, otherwise it will be difficult for you to take revenge. First, pick up the curved sabre on the ground.”

Shui Sheng slowly extended her hand beside the blood sabre monk and picked up the blood sabre.

Di Yun watched her every action and knew that the next step was to behead the blood sabre monk in one slash. But he saw that the blood sabre monk’s eyes were tightly shut without paying any attention to his dangerous situation.

The Blood Sabre Elder felt the energy in his hands and feet began to recover slightly. He would need another hour or so before he was able to use any strength and move freely. However, Shui Sheng had already picked up the blood sabre and was about to attack. At once he focused all the remaining energy in his body to his left arm.

Hua Tiegan said: “The second step is to kill the little monk. Go quickly! Kill him now!”

This command caused Shui Sheng, the blood sabre monk, and Di Yun to all be taken back by surprise. Hua Tiegan continued: “The old monk can’t move. It is important that you kill the little monk first. If you kill the old monk, the little monk will try and stop you!”

Shui Sheng understood that he was correct. At once she raised her sabre and walked in front of Di Yun. She hesitated as she thought: “He helped end my daddy’s suffering against the evil monk. Should I kill him or not?” She only hesitated for a moment before she decided: “Of course I should!” She raised her sabre intending to slash Di Yun by the neck.

Di Yun urgently evaded the attack. Shui Sheng slashed a second time but Di Yun dodged again. He picked up a twig from the ground and defended against her sabre. Shui Sheng hacked with her sabre three times and broke the twig into two pieces. At once she wanted to attack again, when suddenly she felt tension around her wrist; someone had grabbed her blood sabre from behind.

The one who took her sabre was the blood sabre monk. He had limited energy and could not attack freely, but saw the urgency of the situation and exerted his energy to retrieve the blood sabre. Further beyond expectations, he followed by brandishing the sabre to slash her neck. Shui Sheng was startled as she evaded the blow.

Di Yun yelled: “Don’t kill anymore!” He pounced himself forward and with twig in hand he attacked the Blood Sabre Elder by the wrist. If it was a normal situation, how could the Blood Sabre Elder ever be stricken by his attack? However this was a special circumstance and his martial arts was not even a twentieth of what it normally was. His fingers retreated and he dropped the blood sabre. The two of them went to pick up the weapon at the same time. Di Yun was first with his palm on the ground grasping onto the handle of the sabre. The Blood Sabre Elder raised both his hands intending to snap his neck in half.

Di Yun choked and let go of his hold on the blood sabre. He extended his hands and tried to struggle free. The Blood Sabre Elder knew that he did not have much energy left. If he could not strangle Di Yun immediately, he would lose his life. He did not realize that Di Yun had no intention of hurting him and was only attacking to protect Shui Sheng. Di Yun’s neck was being strangled by the blood sabre monk and he found it increasing difficult to breathe and felt as if his chest was about to pop. He turned his hands over and exerted all his strength hoping to push the blood sabre monk away.

The Blood Sabre Elder thought that the little monk had the intention of rebelling. According to the rules of the Blood Sabre Clan, he should first kill the traitor before killing his enemies. He knew that Hua Tiegan could not join in the fight at this time and that Shui Sheng was only a girl with limited capabilities, so he focused all his remaining energy to strangle Di Yun.

Di Yun’s face turned purple as he found it difficult to breathe. He had no energy in his hands to retaliate and slowly began to hang down with only one thought in mind: “I am about to die! I am about to die!”

When Shui Sheng saw the two of them rolling about on the snow like this, she knew that it was all because Di Yun wanted to save her. However, she thought that for these two monks to massacre one another was not bad at all, hoping that the two of them would both suffer injuries and die together. After watching for a while, she saw that Di Yun’s hands and feet were dangling, he did not have any energy left to defend himself. She could not help but be startled and thought: “After the evil monk kills the little monk, he will kill me next. What can I do?”

Hua Tiegan called: “Niece Shui, this is a golden opportunity. Pick up the curved sabre!” Shui Sheng followed his instructions and picked up the blood sabre. Hua Tiegan continued: “Go over there and kill both monks!”

Shui Sheng raised her sabre and walked forward a few steps. On one hand she wanted to kill the Blood Sabre Elder, but when she saw him tangling with Di Yun, she knew that the blood sabre was capable of slicing iron like mud, if she were to strike she would kill the both of them. She recalled that Di Yun saved her life before. Even though this little monk was vicious, to kill the one who saved her was still an immoral action to take. Hence she decided to kill the blood sabre monk only, but her hands and legs were numb and she was not confident.

Amidst her hesitation, Hua Tiegan said: “You must take action now. If you delay any further you will lose the opportunity to avenge your father.”

Shui Sheng said: “These two monks are tangled together and are inseparable.”

Hua Tiegan scolded: “You are so silly. I told you to kill them both!” He was a renowned hero in the realm and was the leader of the Eagle Claw Iron Spear Clan. He was used to giving orders to people, expecting them to be followed. However, he forgot that at this moment he was helpless and Shui Sheng also resented him greatly.

When she heard such an egotistical and irritable command, she became frustrated and actually moved back three steps! She shouted: “Hmph! You are a hero and a towering figure, why did you not fight a battle to the death against the blood sabre monk earlier? If you have any skills, kill him yourself!”

Hua Tiegan knew that the situation was unfavourable and smiled. “My good niece, it is Uncle Hua who was confused, please don’t be angry. But you must kill those two monks in order to avenge your father. The Blood Sabre Elder is such a remarkable evil, if he dies by your hands and news of this spreads out, how would everyone in the realm not respect you as filial and the matchless heroine of the era?” However, the more he spoke of flattery the angrier Shui Sheng became. She glared at Hua Tiegan and moved forward. She aimed precisely at the blood sabre monk’s back intending to slash him twice. That way he would just bleed to death while Di Yun remains unharmed.

The Blood Sabre Elder did not let go of his grip on Di Yun even slightly and was also constantly turning his head, paying attention to Shui Sheng’s every movement. When he saw that Shui Sheng brandished the sabre he realized her intentions and spoke softly: “If you slash me twice from behind, you must be careful not to hurt the little monk.”

Shui Sheng was startled by these words; she dreaded and feared the blood sabre monk greatly. When she heard him encourage her to attack him, she thought that he must have harboured malicious intentions and did not listen. However, she did not expect that the blood sabre monk was only telling the truth sometimes while other times he was bluffing. She stared blankly and did not dare to attack.

Di Yun was strangled tightly by the blood sabre monk, his lungs gathered a breath of air in an attempt to exhale through his nose, but because the pathways on his throat were completely obstructed, once the breath of air reached his throat it fell back down. This breath of air crashed and dashed left and right inside his body without any way of finding an exit. If it was an ordinary person, in such a circumstance that person would have gradually fainted, eventually dying of suffocation. However, at this moment he actually had no way of fainting and only felt his entire body suffer an extremely painful feeling of being trapped within itself. He thought: “I am going to die soon. I am going to die soon!”

All of a sudden, he felt an intense pain in the area between his chest and stomach. This breath of air bloated larger and larger and warmer and warmer, like that of steam bursting out of a filled cauldron, rushing out of his body until his stomach was about to explode. Unexpectedly, the “Huiyin Acupoint” between his front and back appeared to have pierced a small hole by this warm surge of energy. He felt a faint surge of warm energy going from his “Perineum Acupoint” to the “Changqiang Acupoint” near the tip of his vertebra. In a person’s body, the two acupoints of “Perineum” and “Changqiang” were separated by a distance of no more than a few inches. However, the “Perineum Acupoint” belonged to the “Ren” meridian while the “Changqiang Acupoint” belonged to the “Du” meridian; the energies of the two meridians were simply not interlinked. However, the energy inside his body, compounded by the inability to release his own energy at this point caused a tremendous amount of energy to crash against each other. It went so far as to storming its way out in such a crucial situation, allowing him to open access and interlink his “Ren” meridian and “Du” meridian.

This breath of air ventured into the “Changqiang Acupoint” and immediately acceded to the various acupoints of his lower back; the “Yangmen”, “Mingmen”, and “Xuanshu” acupoints followed the path of the vertebra and surged upward, flowing according to the various important acupoints of the Ren and Du meridians, then it went down his spine hitting the various “Zhongshu”, “Jinsuo”, “Zhiyang”, “Lingtai”, “Shendao”, “Shenzhu”, “Taodao”, “Dachui”, “Koumen”, “Fengfu”, “Naohu”, “Qiangjian”, and “Houding” acupoints until it reached the “Baihui Acupoint” on the top of his head.

During his time in prison, Di Yun received the mnemonics to the Heavenly Glow from Ding Dian. This internal technique was utmost profound and difficult to practice and his martial arts aptitude was not exceptionally high. Later on he no longer had Ding Dian to give him pointers, he may not be able to master it even in another 20 or 30 years. Who would have thought that in a life and death situation he would be able to interlink his Ren and Du meridians? Firstly, it was because that his throat was being strangled that his breath of air could not exhale itself and had to find an exit at any cost. Secondly, he had previously practiced the unorthodox internal energy techniques in the Blood Sabre Sutra; the path through which his internal energy channelled itself was opposite that of the techniques of the Heavenly Glow Sutra and it served to help him rush through with his energy and remove the obstruction.

Once this surge of energy reached the “Baihui Acupoint”, he felt a cool sensation on his face; a surge of cool air starting from his forehead down to the bridge of his nose and his lips and down to the “Chengjiang Acupoint” on his chin. This Chengjiang Acupoint belonged to the Ren meridian and returned to the Du meridian. The various acupoints of the Ren meridian were placed at the front of the body, this surge of cool energy made its way down to the “Zilian” and “Tiantu” acupoints and followed to the “Xuanji”, “Huagai”, “Zigong”, “Yutang”, “Shanzhong”, “Zhongting”, “Jiuwei”, and “Juque” acupoints. The three internal cavities of the stomach had moisture content; the “Shenjue”, “Qihai”, “Shimen”, “Guanyuan”, “Zhongji”, and “Qugu” acupoints all returned to the “Perineum Acupoint”. For all his acupoints to link together like this without being shut caused an indescribable carefree sensation around his entire body. Initially, it was difficult for him to channel his energy this way, but with the Ren and Du meridians interlinked, the path became unhindered. The second and third time his energy was channelled at lightning speed, and an instant it had gone through his body 18 times.

The internal energy techniques of the Heavenly Glow were matchless under heaven. He had practiced this for a while since his time in prison. At this instant he felt completely unhindered, every time his energy was channelled for a whole cycle and his strength would increase by a percent. He felt the four limbs and hundreds of bones in his body all filled with vigour and strength, flourishing at copious amounts. He felt that even the roots of his hair were felt with an abundance of energy.

How would the blood sabre monk know that even with his ten fingers strangling his opponent, his body would go through such a tremendous change? He at once increased his grip on Di Yun’s throat while at the same time being cautious of the blood sabre on Shui Sheng’s hands.

Di Yun’s internal strength became stronger and stronger. He felt very afraid and only wanted to struggle himself free, he clawed and scratched frantically, eventually hitting the blood sabre monk. His left leg kicked backwards frantically several times, when all of a sudden he managed to kick the blood sabre monk on his lower stomach. This kick was filled with tremendous power, the blood sabre monk had already exhausted all his energy beforehand, how could he have any power to resist? At once his body soared in midair like that of mist amongst clouds.

Shui Sheng and Hua Tiegan were both startled by the turn of events and did not know how it happened. They only saw as the Blood Sabre Elder was sent flying, rotating in midair before landing head first on the ground. His body submerged several feet into the snow and only his legs could be seen above the surface, not moving the slightest.

Chapter 8 Feather Coat

Shui Sheng and Hua Tiegan were expressionless, not knowing from where the blood sabre monk could unleash such remarkable martial arts.

Di Yun gasped for breath as his throat was let loose. He wanted to stay alive and jumped up at once, but his right leg was still broken and he let out an “Ayo!” before falling back down again. He supported himself with his right hand and got up with his left leg. He saw the Blood Sabre Elder with both legs facing the sky and his head sunk inside the snow. He did not understand what happened and rubbed his eyes to take a closer look. All he saw was that the Blood Sabre Elder was stuck head first in the snow without the slightest trace of movement.

When Di Yun jumped up, Shui Sheng was afraid that he would hurt her and brandished her sabre in front of her a few times and retreated a few steps. She fixed her gaze on him completely and watched his every move. All she saw was a confused expression stretched across his entire face as he scratched his head in perplexity.

All of a sudden, Hua Tiegan complimented: “This little monk’s divine martial arts are matchless, truly unrivalled in this world. You managed to kill that old perverted monk with one simple kick. Such a kick must have contained the power of at least a thousand pounds! This act of chivalry has really earned my utmost respect.”

As Shui Sheng heard up to this point she could not bear it anymore and scolded: “Stop blabbering nonsense, don’t you think people will feel disgusted when they hear it?”

Hua Tiegan said: “That blood sabre monk was vicious and cruel to the extreme, everyone wants to kill him. This little monk placed righteousness before family and rid the world of such a menace, truly a remarkable accomplishment. Such an act of greatness is hard to come by and is truly gratifying.” He saw that both legs of the blood sabre monk were stiff as a corpse and it was obvious that he was dead. At once he began to flatter and praise Di Yun.

Although his personality was somewhat shady, but in his life he had done many heroic deeds and had a sense of justice, never had he committed any act of evil. Otherwise, how could he have sworn brotherhood with Lu Tianshu, Liu Chengfeng, and Shui Dai for over a dozen years? However, today he accidentally killed one of his sworn brothers Liu Chengfeng and his state of mind suffered a surge; his normal heroic spirit disappeared in a flash. Furthermore, he was humiliated greatly by the blood sabre monk, causing his many years of repressed vile and repulsive character to suddenly emerge all at once. In only the span of a few hours, it was as if he had become a completely different person.

Di Yun said: “You said… you said I… I kicked him to death?”

Hua Tiegan said: “That is without a doubt. If little monk does not believe it, you can slice off his legs with the blood sabre and then lift him up to see if he’s really dead or not.” At this point, every scheme he considered was filled with malicious intents.

Di Yun gave a sideways glance at Shui Sheng. Shui Sheng knew that he wanted to take the blood sabre from her and retreated another step in fright. Di Yun shook his head and said: “You don’t have to be scared, I won’t hurt you. Just now you didn’t kill me along with the old monk, you have my gratitude.” Shui Sheng groaned but did not respond.

Hua Tiegan said: “Niece Shui, you are acting incorrectly. This little monk wants to express his gratitude, you should thank him in return. Earlier the old vicious monk wanted to kill you, if not for the little monk’s tenderness towards women, he would not have risked his life to save you, then how would you still be alive?”

When Shui Sheng and Di Yun both heard him say the words “tenderness towards women” they both gave him a glance. Although Shui Sheng was indeed a beautiful young lady, when Di Yun saved her, he was only concerned about “saving an innocent life”. The way Hua Tiegan spoke suggested that Di Yun actually harboured malicious intentions. Shui Sheng was already extremely suspicious around Di Yun, now upon hearing Hua Tiegan’s words, it only served to reinforce her hatred towards him. She could not tell whether she hated Hua Tiegan or Di Yun more, she only knew that they were both crafty and evil people. As she gazed upon her father’s corpse, she could not help but feel heartbroken and rushed towards the corpse and began to cry.

Hua Tiegan smiled and asked: “Little monk, may I ask for your religious name?”

Di Yun replied: “I am not a monk, do not call me one. I only wore this monk outfit to disguise myself, I had no other choice.”

Hua Tiegan was delighted and said: “That is wonderful. So little monk is actually not… no, no! Damn it! Damn it! May I ask for hero’s honourable name?”

Although Shui Sheng was crying, she heard their conversation very clearly. When she heard that Di Yun was actually not a monk, she became skeptical. She heard Di Yun reply: “My surname is Di, I am an unknown nonentity, a person who has many times narrowly escaped from the brink of death. How can you call me a hero?”

Hua Tiegan remarked: “Excellent! Excellent! Hero Di is brave and courageous, a perfect match for my talented Niece Shui. Looks like I will definitely have to play matchmaker. Wonderful! Wonderful! So it turns out that Hero Di is actually not a monk. Once your hair grows back and you change your clothes, then there will be no mistake about it, and we don’t have to worry about having you leave a monastic order.” He had already affirmed that Di Yun was a monk from the Blood Sabre Clan who only cared about Shui Sheng’s beauty without even realizing it.

Di Yun shook his head and replied: “Do not speak such nonsense. If we can get out of this valley, I will never see you again, nor will I ever see Lady Shui again.”

Hua Tiegan was stumped for words and did not understand his meaning. At once he changed his attitude and laughed: “Oh, I understand. I understand!”

Di Yun glared at him and asked: “You understand what?”

Hua Tiegan spoke softly: “Hero Di must be in an intimate relationship with another beauty from your monastery so you are unwilling to take Lady Shui as your wife. Hehe, you can still be man and wife for several days, why not?”

Shui Sheng found it hard to suppress her anger when she heard these words. Slap! Slap Slap! Slap! She ran over to Hua Tiegan and slapped him hard on the face four times. Di Yun watched blankly as he thought that all of this had nothing to do with him. After a while, the Blood Sabre Elder still did not move in the slightest.

Several times, Shui Sheng watched to go forward and cut off his legs with her sabre, but she did not dare to. She only watched as her father lied motionless on the ground, knowing that she would never feel his affection ever again, and cried softly: “Daddy! Daddy!” Obviously, Shui Dai did not reply. Shui Sheng’s tears dripped on the snow and melted it slightly, thereafter it merged with the snow and became ice.

Because Hua Tiegan’s acupoint was not yet released, he flattered Di Yun to get on his good side. The more he spoke, the more sappy his words became. Di Yun ignored him and lied down on the snow to rest. After Di Yun successfully interlinked his Ren and Du meridians, he felt very invigorated, a warm current passing through the insides of his body. From the front of his chest to his back, the energy kept on channelling in a continuous cycle. Every time it completed one cycle, he would feel energy all over his body. Although he was still in great pain from the injuries he received from Shui Sheng, because his internal energy increased greatly, he could repress it somewhat. He was afraid of such a strange occurrence, coming and going just like that. At once he lied down motionless and let the Ren and Du meridians channel its energy automatically.

Shui Sheng got up and slowly moved towards the Blood Sabre Elder and saw that the monk was completely lifeless. Gathering up her courage, she brandished the sabre and sliced off his left leg. A small slashing sound was heard as the leg promptly fell on the ground. However, what was strange was that it did not bleed at all. Shui Sheng looked closely and realized that the blood had clotted to ice. It turns out that the blood sabre monk really died some time ago.

Shui Sheng was both delighted and sad. She held on to the blood sabre around her leg and thought: “Now that my daddy is dead, I don’t want to live anymore! How will this vicious little monk torture me? If he wants to violate me in any way, I will kill myself at once.”

Hua Tiegan watched closely at their actions and was delighted as he thought: “Although this little monk is vicious, he currently has no intention of killing me. As soon as my acupoint is unsealed, I will take his life, even that little doll Shui Sheng will be mine.” All these despicable thoughts rushed to his head at once.

After an hour or so, Di Yun realized that his flow of energy still did not stop channelling, so he began to channel his energy according to the methods of the Heavenly Glow taught by Ding Dian. At once, the uncontrollable surges of energy inside his body were now in his control, it was as easy as nodding his head or raising his hand. He felt both surprised and delighted.

After channelling his energy for half a day, he stood up and with the support of a twig, walked towards the blood sabre monk. He saw that his body was completely in the snow while both legs were badly mutilated by Shui Sheng. It was without a doubt that he was dead. Di Yun thought that this person was wicked and evil and deserved to die, but after all he was benevolent towards him and he could not help but feel sorry. So he decided to pull out his corpse and place it firmly on the ground, then buried it with snow. Although it was hasty, it could still be considered a burial place. As for why the blood sabre monk suddenly died, Di Yun was perplexed without the slightest clue. This person’s martial arts was profound, there’s no way that he died from one simple kick.

Shui Sheng watched Di Yun’s actions closely. She saw several bald eagles spiralling in the sky with the intention of scavenging on her father’s corpse, so she imitated Di Yun and buried her father. At first, she wanted to bury Liu Chengfeng and Lu Tianshu as well, but one died on top of a cliff and the other died on the deepest parts of the valley; she realized she was incapable of retrieving them and did not bother.

Hua Tiegan said: “Little monk, the three of us must be really tired and hungry by now. Earlier I saw there was horse meat at the top, may I request that you bring it here. After we eat we can come up with a plan to get out of here.”

Di Yun knew of his personality and did not respond. Hua Tiegan pleaded repeatedly but to no avail. Shui Sheng said: “That meat belongs to my horse, it cannot be eaten by such a shameless person.” Di Yun nodded in approval and gave a glance at Hua Tiegan.

Hua Tiegan urged: “Little monk…”

Di Yun said: “I already told you that I am not a monk, stop calling me that.”

Hua Tiegan said: “Right, right. Hero Di. Hero Di has successfully killed the blood sabre monk with one kick, you will most certainly be renowned throughout the world. When I get out of this valley, the first thing I’ll do is announce to everyone everything that happened today: The great Hero Di dashed on bravely with no regard for his own personal safety, willing to rescue Lady Shui at any cost and killed the blood sabre monk. This is an act that will be top news across the martial world.”

Di Yun said: “I am a prisoner, nameless and without reputation, who would believe your words? You should really stop talking now.”

Hua Tiegan said: “My humble name has a little bit of reputation in the realm. If I speak out, people will believe me for sure. Hero Di, may I request that you retrieve the horse meat and give me a piece to eat.”

Di Yun became fed up and scoffed: “Why should I give you horse meat? In the future you will say how worthless I am. Who do you think I am? Can I be bestowed upon such a name?” As he thought of all the injustices and cruelty he suffered throughout the years, he could not supress his anger and resentment.

Hua Tiegan did not actually want to eat the piece of horse meat. Although he was indeed hungry, but what was it to go without food with a day or so? He was only afraid that the little evil monk would flare up and kill him. To ask for horse meat is pressing by retreating, attacking by defending. He did not expect that the monk would not get the meat for him. His heart began to feel apologetic and lost all of his murderous intent.

Di Yun saw that the sky was turning dark, the west wind blowing swiftly into the valley. He said to Shui Sheng: “Lady Shui, why don’t you take a rest inside the cave?”

Shui Sheng was startled and thought he harboured malicious intent. At once she retreated two steps and held tightly onto her blood sabre horizontally in a defensive position. She shouted: “Little vicious monk, if you take another step I will kill myself!”

Di Yun stared blankly and replied: “Please do not be mistaken, how would I harbour any evil intentions?”

Shui Sheng said: “You little monk have a face of a human but the heart of a beast, a dagger hidden in smiles. You are even more vicious than the old monk. I won’t fall for your tricks.”

Di Yun was unwilling to think further and thought: “As soon as the sky turns bright tomorrow I will get out of here. What Lady Shui or Hero Hua, I will never see either of them ever again.” At once he stationed himself far away and slept on a large rock.

Shui Sheng thought that the further the monk went, the craftier and evil he was. She thought that it was a scheme and that he intended to violate her in the middle of the night. She did not dare to rest inside the cave for fear that she would not have an escape route when the monk arrives. She was so frightened and felt as if she was in a battlefield as she held the blood sabre firmly on her right hand. Her eyelids began to droop down and she reminded herself: “I can’t fall asleep, this monk is extremely vicious.”

But she was both mentally and physically exhausted, how could she not sleep? Gradually, she grew hazy and drifted into a sleep.

When she was conscious again she felt the brightness of early morning sun irritate her eyes. She woke up at once and saw that the blood sabre was no longer in her hands. She became alarmed and looked around, but saw that the blood sabre remained untouched beside her leg.

Shui Sheng picked up the blood sabre at once. She raised her head and saw that Di Yun was moving in a faraway place, holding a twig in hand, slowly making his way out of the valley. Shui Sheng was delighted, and thanked heavens that he was going to leave.

Indeed, Di Yun was trying to find a way out of the valley. However, there were no paths out from the north or northeast direction, while the other three directions were surrounded by the walls of the cliff. It was evident that there was no way out, there was no point in trying. There was a small probability that there could be an exit in the southeast direction, but the accumulation of snow was over a hundred feet deep. There would be no hope to escape until the snow begins to melt and his leg begins to heal. He had been exhausted for over half a day, and upon staring blankly at the peaks of the valley, he felt dismayed.

Hua Tiegan asked, “Hero Di, how is it?”

Di Yun shook his head and replied, “There is no way out.”

Hua Tiegan thought: “You may not be able to get out, but how can I, Hua Tiegan, be compared with a little monk like you? Come afternoon when my acupoint unblocks itself, you will witness my power.” His expression did not change the slightest as he said: “Don’t worry, wait until my acupoint unblocks itself, I will be able to us out of here.”

Shui Sheng realized that Di Yun had never violated her in any way and her anger began to diminish. However, she still remained vigilant and kept a good distance away from him without even saying a word. Di Yun did not beseech her to understand him either, but when he saw how she was treating him, he felt resentful and only hoped that he could get out of here sooner. However, the snow covered the mountain completely and there was simply no way out. He could not help but become disappointed.

When afternoon came, Hua Tiegan suddenly laughed out loud and said: “Niece Shui, your uncle wants to eat a few pounds of your horse meat. After we get out of here, I will return the favour.” He got up at once and made his way to the roasted horse meat, took a piece and began eating it. It turns out that his acupoint automatically released itself after some time.

As soon as Hua Tiegan’s acupoint was released, he became more arrogant and overbearing. He thought that since the Blood Sabre Elder was already dead, even if Di Yun and Shui Sheng were to join forces to fight him, they would not be his match. However, it would still be best to get out of the valley as soon as possible, and when that time comes, he would first kill Di Yun and then deal with Shui Sheng. Even if he were to not kill her, he would still intimate her so that she would not speak out her mind. All the despicable deeds he did yesterday, how could he let it be revealed to the outside world?

He executed his lightness martial arts to examine his surroundings. He saw that the snow from the avalanche earlier sealed the valley completely. If he and the other members of Luohua Liushui did not rush in before the avalanche, they would have been trapped outside with no way in. At this point, all the paths out of the valley were covered by piles of snow which were over a hundred feet deep and stretched over a few kilometers wide. It is possible that he could travel under the snow up to a hundred feet or so, but how could he stay under for several kilometers? Besides, it would be difficult to distinguish direction beneath the snow and he would most likely be suffocated. It was only the beginning of November and it would take over half a year until the beginning of summer. The valley was completely surrounded by snow, how could they find anything to eat that will last five or six months?

Hua Tiegan returned outside the cave and his expression was extremely serious. He sat down for a long time and took out a piece of horse meat from his bosom, chewing slowly amidst his thoughts. After he finished his horse meat completely, he spoke softly: “By the time of next year’s Dragon Boat Festival, we should be able to get out of here.”

Di Yun and Shui Sheng were situated about three dozen feet away from him on each side. Although his words were quiet, they could both hear it as if it was roaring like thunder. The two of them gazed upon their surroundings at once and only saw that snow all around. It would be difficult to find even grass or tree bark to eat. Both wondered: “How will I last until next year?”

At this time, the sounds of eagles crying were heard as they soared in the air. The three of them looked up together and saw seven or eight eagles flying in the distance and thought: “Only if I could fly like an eagle would I be able to get out of here.”

Although Shui Sheng’s horse was fat and well built, but with the three of them eating away every day, it would not even last a full month. Come another seven or eight days, even the head and all its intestines would be eaten away completely.

Hua Tiegan, Di Yun, and Shui Sheng did not say a word to each other. Occasionally, they would look at each other, but when they made eye contact, they would immediately look away. Several times, Hua Tiegan had the intention of killing Di Yun and Shui Sheng, but thought that if he were to kill the two of them, the feeling of being all alone in the valley would be unbearable. Besides, he thought that the two of them were under his control and was not in a hurry to finish them off.

After some days, Shui Sheng’s suspicion and resentment for Di Yun decreased substantially, and she finally went inside the cave to sleep. When December came around, the temperature inside the valley was even colder than before, the north wind blew against them the entire night and they trembled to the bone. As Di Yun had completed the Heavenly Glow, he continued to practice and his internal energy would increase by a percent every day. However, his clothes were thin and in this world of ice and snow, he found it difficult to endure. Sometimes, Shui Sheng would look outside the cave and see him shiver without any intention of setting foot inside the cave. She thought that although this monk was vicious, he still had courtesy.

By now, Di Yun’s various injuries had healed completely; even his broken leg was reconnected and he could walk without trouble. Sometimes, he would remember that his leg was fixed by the Blood Sabre Elder, and could not help but feel sad.

Now that the horse meat was finished, finding food became a serious problem. In the past few days, Di Yun searched laboriously around for food which became increasingly scarce and only managed to find bits and pieces. The reserves of food he saved up were rudely taken away by Hua Tiegan. Shui Sheng thought: “When a renowned hero faces a calamity, he stoops even lower than a little vicious monk from the Blood Sabre Clan!”

That night, on the third watch, Shui Sheng was awoken as she heard the sound of dispute. Di Yun scolded: “You cannot touch Hero Di’s body!”

Hua Tiegan replied coldly: “In another few days, I will eat you alive! I am eating the dead first to allow you to live for a few more days!”

Di Yun said: “We would rather eat tree barks and grassroots than eat a person!”

Hua Tiegan scolded: “Out of my way! What does it matter to you? If you annoy me further I will kill you immediately.”

Shui Sheng rushed out of the cave at once and saw that Hua Tiegan and Di Yun were standing beside her father’s corpse. Shui Sheng yelled: “Don’t touch my daddy!” and rushed forward. She saw that the snow covering her father’s corpse was already brushed aside as Hua Tiegan grabbed Shui Dai firmly by the chest with his left hand. Di Yun shouted: “Drop him now!”

Shui Sheng could only utter: “You… you…”

A flash of cold light was seen as Hua Tiegan drew his short spear from his sleeve, slanting it in front of him in an offensive position. At once, he aimed to attack Di Yun’s chest. This stroke was executed remarkably fast. Although Di Yun’s internal energy had increased substantially, his external techniques were taught by Qi Zhangfa and were nothing impressive. Now that he was suddenly attacked by an expert like Hua Tiegan, how could he endure? In a moment of hesitation, the short spear had already pierced his chest. Shui Sheng cried out in alarm and did not know what to do.

Hua Tiegan had intended to pierce the spear through him completely from front to back, but unexpectedly, when the tip of the spear met his chest, it was obstructed and would not pierce through. Nevertheless, the power of the spear was remarkable, and Di Yun fell backwards from the force of the attack. He flipped over his left hand and hit the pole of the spear with his palm. With a loud crack, the web between Hua Tiegan’s forefinger and thumb cracked as the spear flew out of his hand and into the distance. This palm was so strong that it caused Hua Tiegan to do a somersault before he tumbled backwards. The short spear was tossed into the pile of snow without a trace.

Hua Tiegan was completely taken aback and thought: “This little monk’s martial arts is marvellous, he is not worse than the old monk!” He rolled backwards several times before he got up and ran away.

What Hua Tiegan did not know was that the reason his spear could not pierce through was because it was obstructed by Di Yun’s dark silkworm vest. However, his stance was executed with much power and caused Di Yun to suffocate slightly. When Di Yun’s air could not circulate properly he fainted on the ground. If not for the fact that he had already completed the Heavenly Glow, that spear would have took his life at once. Hua Tiegan’s martial arts, in comparison with Zhou Qi who also pierced Di Yun in the chest that day in Jingzhou; although Di Yun had the protection of the dark silkworm on both occasions, the difference between the power of these two attacks was over five-fold.

The moon illuminated in the night sky. When the two bald eagles saw Di Yun lying on the snow, they began to spiral around in circles. When Shui Sheng saw that Di Yun lied on the snow lifelessly, she thought that he was killed by Hua Tiegan. She was delighted as she thought: “The little monk is finally dead. From now on I don’t have to be afraid of anyone violating me.” But she thought further: “Hua Tiegan wanted to eat my daddy’s corpse and this little monk died as a result of trying to protect him. But this little monk most likely harbours malicious intentions, he wants to deceive me… deceive me… hmph, I will not fall for his tricks. But now that he is dead, if Hua Tiegan comes back for my daddy, what can I do? Even worse, he might violate me… no, he won’t… he is my uncle after all, he would not go so far as to… but this person is so obscene… completely shameless… he will do anything. Ai… hopefully, this little monk is not actually dead…”

She held the blood sabre on her hands and slowly walked to Di Yun. She saw that he did not move in the slightest and lied facing upward on the snow, but the muscles in his face twitched slightly, it was clear that he was still alive. Shui Sheng was delighted; she bent down and extended her finger to his nose to check for his breath and felt two surges of blazing hot air blowing on her finger.

Shui Sheng was startled and retracted her hand at once. She thought that even if Di Yun was not dead, he would still have very faint breathing. How would she know that he would exhale such hot air? She did not know that Di Yun’s internal energy was profound now; even though he was unconscious, his breathing was still strong. However, as he had only recently completed such a profound internal art, he could not yet remain calm and unflustered; he had not yet reached the stage of harmonizing his energy naturally.

Shui Sheng thought: “This little monk is unconscious, but when he wakes up and sees me standing beside him, that would not be good.” She turned her head and saw that Hua Tiegan was watching the two of them from afar.

When Hua Tiegan failed to kill Di Yun and was further attacked by his palm, he became startled and frightened. But now he saw that Di Yun was lying down on the ground motionless and did not know whether he was dead or alive. After some time, he saw that Di Yun still did not get up and began to move forward step by step. At this point his right arm was slightly numb and in pain, if Di Yun were to suddenly wake up he would run away at once.

Shui Sheng became alarmed and shouted: “Don’t come over here!”

Hua Tiegan laughed maliciously and said: “Why can’t I come here? A person who is alive tastes better than a person who is dead. We may be fortunate enough to split him into two shares, why not?” As he said this, he moved closer. Shui Sheng had no way of stopping him and began to shake Di Yun heavily and said: “He’s coming, he’s coming!”

Hua Tiegan saw that Di Yun was still unconscious and was thrilled. At once he leaped over and raised his right palm to strike him. Shui Sheng brandished her blood sabre and executed a stance of “Golden Needle Escapes Calamity” to attack Hua Tiegan. What she executed was a sword stance, but the edge of the blood sabre was exceptionally sharp and there was formidable power in this strike. Hua Tiegan had lost his short spear and was now fighting bare-handed, he was afraid that he would be cut by the sabre and did not dare to underestimate his opponent. At once he executed his martial arts of battling a weapon without a weapon with the intent of taking his opponent’s weapon away.

Di Yun semiconsciously heard Shui Sheng’s shout of “He’s coming, he’s coming!” and did not understand what she meant. After hearing some more shouts and disputes, he opened his eyes. The moonlight reflected the blood sabre that was brandishing against Hua Tiegan.

Although Shui Sheng had the advantage of a weapon, firstly she did not know how to use a sabre, and secondly her martial arts were far inferior. It was not long before she began to retreat in her attacks. She did not bother trying to wound her opponent and could only hope that the weapon in her hand would not be taken away. As she fought, she kept yelling “Hey! Wake up! He wants to kill you!”

Di Yun became alert and trembled as he thought: “That was close! She saved my life. If she did not resist Hua Tiegan, I would have died a long time ago. Although I have the protection of the dark silkworm vest, if he aimed for my head, I would have died for sure.” At once he jumped up and attacked Hua Tiegan with his palm. Hua Tiegan countered with his own palm. A loud clash was heard as both of them fell on the ground. Di Yun’s internal energy was profound while Hua Tiegan’s palm techniques were brilliant; the two palms were equally matched.

Hua Tiegan had a high level of martial arts and knew how to shift gears. Once he fell on the floor, he got back up again and attacked with a second palm. Di Yun could not get up in time and could only return a palm while sitting down. Although he was sitting down, his palm strength did not suffer. Another clash was heard as Di Yun was shocked and flipped two somersaults, while Hua Tiegan was rebounded three steps. The flow of blood and energy in his chest was circulating fast and he thought: “This little vicious monk actually has such profound internal energy!” However, when the two of them clashed palms, he knew that his opponent’s technique was nothing remarkable. At once he mustered up his courage and attacked with his palm a third time.

Di Yun was still sitting down as he countered again with his palm. However, he did not expect that Hua Tiegan’s palm was light and swift and swept past his face. Di Yun’s palm only hit thin air while Hua Tiegan’s palm hit Di Yun squarely on the chest. Fortunately, Di Yun had the protection of the dark silkworm vest and did not sustain any injuries. However he could not endure the impact of the blow. As soon as he wanted to get up he fell back down. Hua Tiegan saw that his attack succeeded and immediately followed with another palm. Although he became renowned through his proficient use of the Zhongping Spear and was even nicknamed “Zhongping Undefeated”, he was also proficient at attacking with his palms and legs. At this point he executed a stance of the “Yue Family Palm”. The palm was light and swift; a palm on the left and a palm on the right, in ten strokes, four or five successfully hit Di Yun. When Di Yun tried to counter with his own palm Hua Tiegan would dodge it cleverly. The gap between their martial arts was much too great. Even if Di Yun’s internal energy was greater, he could not find a good way to execute it.

Eventually, Di Yun could only cover his head and face with both hands. He could not defend at all against Hua Tiegan’s attacks. As soon as he tried to get up, he would fall back down. Hua Tiegan wanted to finish him off quickly and increased the ferocity of his attacks. Di Yun spat out blood three times and his movements became slow and sluggish.

At first when Shui Sheng saw the two of them in such an intense battle, she did not dare to interfere. But upon seeing Di Yun on the verge of death, at once she brandished her sabre and attacked Hua Tiegan from behind. Hua Tiegan evaded the attack and flipped his hand over to seize her weapon. Di Yun exerted all his strength and stroke out with his right palm, the remarkable force of the palm wind blew on Hua Tiegan as it approached. Hua Tiegan could not dodge in time and could only counter with his own palm. In terms of a pure internal energy competition, Hua Tiegan was not his match. All of a sudden, he began to see stars and felt numbness on half his body, he felt wobbly and could not balance himself.

Shui Sheng shouted: “Let’s go! Let’s go!” She pulled Di Yun inside the cave. The two of them quickly covered up the entrance with large rocks. Shui Sheng grasped the blood sabre firmly and guarded on the side. The entrance of the cave was narrow and some of the larger rocks could not obstruct it. But for Hua Tiegan to enter the cave, he would have to shift a few pieces of rock first, and as soon as he did so, Shui Sheng would brandish her sabre and cut off his hands.

After a while there was no more activity outside. Shui Sheng said: “Little vicious… little…” She was used to calling him “little vicious monk”, but at this point they had to join hands to oppose a common enemy, if she were to continue to call him “little vicious monk” it would be quite rude. She changed her words and said: “How are your injuries?”

Di Yun said: “I’ll manage…”

All of a sudden, they heard the sound of Hua Tiegan laughing outside the cave. “The two scoundrels are hiding together in a cave doing unmentionable deeds.” Shui Sheng felt a warm sensation on her face as she heard this. In truth, she was actually a bit scared, because she had already identified Di Yun as a “perverted monk” who was extremely dishonourable. To be stuck in the same cave as him was indeed a great risk, she could not help but move a few steps to the left, trying to distance herself from him as far as possible.

She heard Hua Tiegan continue: “If you don’t stop your illicit love affair, this old man will have to roast some meat. Haha! Haha!”

Shui Sheng was alarmed and said: “He wants to eat my daddy! What do we do?”

Di Yun had already suffered so much grief and injustice in the past few years. Upon hearing Hua Tiegan’s venomous slander, how could he repress his anger? At once he pushed the rocks aside and rushed out like a wild tiger and attacked Hua Tiegan. Hua Tiegan avoided two palms and drew an arc with his left palm while his right palm came from behind his back. Not even in his dreams would Di Yun expect him to attack in such a way, and with a loud crash he was hit firmly on his upper back. Di Yun spat out a mouthful of blood and felt dizzy. He felt as if the person in front of him transformed into Wan Zhenshan, Wan Gui, the magistrate of Jiangling county, the gaolers, Ling Tuisi, and Bao Xiang… the appearance of many vicious people who had insulted and abused him in the past. At once he spread out both arms and hugged Hua Tiegan tightly.

Hua Tiegan punched Di Yun squarely on the nose. At once his nose started bleeding profusely, but it was as if Di Yun could not feel the pain, and the two arms around Hua Tiegan became tighter and tighter. Hua Tiegan found it difficult to breathe and was actually a bit frightened. He also saw that Shui Sheng was approaching with the blood sabre. Hua Tiegan became alarmed and pounded Di Yun’s flank with both fists. Di Yun felt the pain and could not use any more strength in his arms. Hua Tiegan struggled and broke himself free from Di Yun’s grip. He did not dare to tangle with this lunatic anymore and leapt backwards continuously until he was over a hundred feet away.

Shui Sheng saw as Di Yun’s body swayed back and forth, unable to keep his balance. His entire face was covered in blood. She wanted to go forward and support him but she was afraid. She approached cautiously a few steps when Di Yun suddenly shouted: “I am a vicious and perverted monk, don’t come near me. I don’t want to tarnish the daughter of the great Hero Shui. Go away! Go away!” Shui Sheng listened as he spoke in such a harsh tone and his expression was vicious. She was intimidated and retreated a few steps.

Di Yun gasped for breath as he made his way to Hua Tiegan, barely able to keep his balance. He shouted: “All of you vicious people, Wan Zhenshan, Wan Gui… you can’t harm me… can’t kill me. Come over here and let’s fight… magistrate and prefect… come fight me now! You can only bully the benevolent, if you have any guts then let us fight to the death…”

Hua Tiegan thought: “This person has gone mad, he’s a lunatic!” He backed away as far as he could.

Di Yun faced upward at the sky and yelled: “All of you evil people, all the malicious people under heaven, come fight me. Di Yun is not scared of you! You have locked me in prison, pierced my scapula, sliced off my fingers, stolen my martial sister, poisoned my Brother Ding, trampled my leg, wronged me as a perverted monk… I am not scared! Even if you cut me into mincemeat, I am still not scared!”

Shui Sheng listened to his loud cries and felt both afraid and pitiful in her heart. She heard him say how they pierced his scapula, sliced off his fingers, stole his martial sister, and trampled his leg. She was moved and thought: “It turns out that this little vicious monk has actually suffered so much injustice. I was the one who trampled his leg with my horse.” She further heard him say that they wronged him as a perverted monk and thought: “Could it be that he isn’t… supposing that he is, he has not acted rudely towards me in these days, maybe he turned into a good person?”

Di Yun cried so hard that his voice became hoarse and he collapsed on the snow. Hua Tiegan did not dare to approach him. Shui Sheng did not dare to approach him either.

Two bald eagles continued to spiral around in the air. Di Yun collapsed on the ground and did not move. Suddenly, a bald eagle descended and pecked at his forehead. Di Yun was in a state of subconscious and dizziness. When the eagle pecked at him, he immediately awoke. The bald eagle saw that he moved and hurriedly fluttered its wings. Di Yun yelled: “Even a creature like you is picking on me!” At once he gathered up his strength and stroke out with his right palm. The bald eagle was only about a meter away from him and was completely shaken up by this attack. At once it stopped fluttering and dropped on the ground.

Di Yun grabbed the bald eagle and burst into laughter. Immediately he bit the bald eagle on the stomach. The bald eagle flapped its wings and tried its hardest to break free. Di Yun only felt a mouthful of eagle blood burst into his mouth as he continued biting the eagle, as if an influx of energy was flowing into his body. He danced around and gesticulated for joy, shouting: “You want to eat me? I will eat you first! I will eat you!”

Hua Tiegan and Shui Sheng saw as he ate the live eagle like a complete lunatic. Their faces changed colors as they were overwhelmed with shock and horror.

Hua Tiegan was really afraid that this lunatic would go crazy again and try to take his life. He thought that if the lunatic were to get a hold of him again he would be in trouble, so he wanted to get as far away as possible. He looked at the east side of the valley and thought that the way this lunatic captured the bald eagle was a good method. At once he lied supine on the ground and pretended to be dead. Indeed, the bald eagle did fall for this trick, but when it came to peck at him, he could not successfully knock down the eagle with his palm strike. His internal energy was much inferior to Di Yun; although his palm technique was remarkable, the eagle was quick-witted and dodged his attack, it was much faster than he was.

After Di Yun drank the eagle blood, the energy and blood in his chest and stomach began to circulate and he passed out again. When he woke up, the sky was already bright and he felt hungry again. He naturally grabbed the dead eagle beside him without thinking twice and took a bite. As he took a bite, he felt an aromatic fragrance, the taste was not bad! He looked at the eagle and was bewildered at what he saw—all the feathers on the eagle were pulled out cleanly and the eagle was actually roasted and warm. He recalled that he drank several mouthfuls of eagle blood before he slept. Who was the one who roasted the eagle for him? If it was not Shui Sheng, could it be the vicious Hua Tiegan?

Last night when he cried and cursed so heavily, a lot of the grief and indignation in his heart was released. Now that he woke up, he felt feel from worry. He saw that Shui Dai was once again buried properly in the snow. He looked inside the cave and saw Shui Sheng resting against a rock. Di Yun thought: “She has also been without food for a few days, but she roasted the eagle for me without saving any for herself. Such good conscience is hard to come by. Hmph, she believes herself to be an honorific daughter of a renowned hero and looks down on me. If you look down on me I will look down on you, so what?” After a while he thought: “She helped me roast the eagle; even if she looks down on me, I can’t let her starve to death.”

At once he lied down on the ground looking dead as a corpse. Within an hour, he managed to strike down four eagles with his palm attacks and gave two to Shui Sheng. Shui Sheng took and prepared the other two eagles as well. Then without saying a word, she gave the two roasted eagles back to him.

There were many bald eagles in this valley that depended on scavenging corpses and carrions for food. It was such a natural instinct that even upon seeing their various comrades fall victim to Di Yun, they nonetheless continued to fall for his trick every single time. Di Yun’s internal energy and the strength of his palm strikes was increasing by the day. Eventually, he did not even need to feign death; if an eagle would land on a branch to rest or fly past him, he would be able to shoot it down with one palm. There were often snow geese coming and going, pecking at various worms and insects buried in the snow, which served as another source of food for Di Yun and Shui Sheng.

December soon approached, but Di Yun had lost his sense of time. Every eight or ten days there would be a large snowstorm and the valley would be extremely cold for the entire day and night. Apart from gathering branches and roasting eagles, Shui Sheng would spend the remaining of her time inside the cave. Di Yun never said a single word to her, nor did he ever step foot inside the cave.

A large snowstorm approached one night. When Di Yun woke up the next morning, he felt a warm sensation around his body. He looked and saw that there was a black object covering his body. He was startled and pushed it aside. He saw it was an article of strange clothing. This clothing was made by threading bird feathers one by one; the black feathers were from the bald eagles while the white feathers were from the wild geese. The coat was long and covered up to his knees, it must have taken several thousand or tens of thousands of feathers to complete.

As Di Yun held on to the feather coat he felt his face flush red. He knew that it was Shui Sheng who made it for him, the effort of threading thousands upon thousands of feathers together was truly painstaking, not to mention that there were no scissors or needles and threads in the snow, how did she complete it? He spread out the feather coat to look at the feathers and saw that a small hole was pierced at the root of each feather and the thread was light yellow. He figured that she must have used her hairpin as a needle and her light yellow garment as a thread. “Heh, women are so strange. Isn’t she just causing trouble for herself?”

Then he remembered the incident at the Wan household several years ago. He was attacked and beaten into a pulp by the eight disciples of the Wan clan, even his new garment was torn apart. When his martial sister Qi Fang saw this, she sewed and mended the garment back together for him. The events of that day were still crystal clear in his mind: Qi Fang sat next to him while she mended his garment; her hair brushed against his chin and his face became tickly. He smelled the faint fragrance of her skin which caused ripples in his heart. Di Yun called “Martial sister” and Qi Fang said: “Water Spinach, don’t talk, don’t let others wrong you as a thief.”

As he thought up to this point, his throat became clogged as tears began to drop down his face. His vision became blurry and he thought: “Indeed, they have mistaken me for a thief. Is it because when martial sister mended the garment for me, I said something wrong?” But he had already suffered so many crises and injustices in the past few years, he no longer believed in such nonsense. “Hmph, if others have the intent to wrong me, even if I was born a mute, would they not still find a way? Martial sister is truly sincere to me, but the Wan family is wealthy and prestigious and Wan Gui is much more handsome than I, so who can I blame? Even worse, when I was injured that day and hid in the firewood room, she actually told her husband to capture me for a reward. Hah!”

Suddenly, he was again filled with grief and misery that he could not repress. He began to laugh wildly. He walked in front of the cave and threw the feather coat on the ground. Then he trampled over it several times and shouted: “I am a vicious monk, how am I deserving of wearing young lady’s clothing?” With a flying kick he sent the feather coat flying inside the cave, then he turned around and laughed wildly as he strode his way out.

Shui Sheng spent an entire month to complete this feather coat. She thought that this “little vicious monk” protected her father’s body unconditionally without a single word of complaint, and they had only survived to this day because of his ability to strike down birds. When she saw that he was enduring the cold weather outside the cave she could not bear it and sewed a feather coat for him to keep him warm. However, her good intentions were not appreciated; he actually kicked the feather coat inside the cave and she had to suffer his rude humiliation. She was both ashamed and furious. Unable to restrain her emotions, she began ripping apart the feather coat, her tears dripping on the feathers.

She would never have guessed that when Di Yun turned around and laughed, the front of his garment was actually filled with many drops of tears. However, he shed tears because he grieved at his own misfortune, because of his martial sister’s coldness towards him…

When afternoon came, Di Yun killed four birds as usual and placed them in front of the cave. Shui Sheng roasted the birds and gave half to him. The two of them did not exchange a word and did not even dare to make eye contact.

Di Yun and Shui Sheng were some distance apart and each ate at their own roasted bird when suddenly from the northeast direction footsteps could be heard. Both looked up into the distance and saw Hua Tiegan carrying a ghost head sabre on his right hand while his left hand was holding a long sword and laughed heartily. Di Yun and Shui Sheng both got up at once. Shui Sheng went back to the cave and took out her blood sabre. She hesitated for a moment before saying, “Catch!” and threw the sabre toward Di Yun.

Di Yun caught the sabre and wondered: “Why does she trust me so much that she is even willing to part with her sabre? Hmph, she wants me to risk my life to battle Hua Tiegan. Hmph! I, Di Yun, am not your slave.”

At this time, Hua Tiegan increased his pace and when he got closer he laughed and said: “Congratulations! Congratulations!”

Di Yun stared at him and said: “What is there to congratulate?”

Hua Tiegan said: “I congratulate that you and Lady Shui are happy together now. She is willing to give you her sabre. Would she even be willing to give you her body? Haha! Haha!”

Di Yun scolded: “You call yourself a hero of the Central Plains, yet you are a petty fellow who thinks of such despicable and filthy deeds!”

Hua Tiegan laughed: “In terms of being despicable and filthy, how can I compare with the various members of the Blood Sabre Clan?” As he said this he approached closer. He sniffed a few times and said: “Mmm, very fragrant! Very fragrant! I would like to take a bird, is that alright?”

Had Hua Tiegan asked nicely Di Yun would have agreed for sure, but when he saw how mischievous and frivolous he was, he became angry and said: “Your martial arts is much higher than mine, don’t you know how to catch your own birds?”

Hua Tiegan replied: “I am just lazy.”

As the two of them were speaking, Shui Sheng approached behind Di Yun and shouted: “Uncle Liu! Uncle Lu!” She saw Hua Tiegan holding the long sword of Liu Chengfeng and the ghost head sabre of Lu Tianshu. The north wind blew against Hua Tiegan and flipped over his garment, revealing that he had another two layers of clothes underneath; the Taoist vest of Liu Chengfeng and the copper coloured gown of Lu Tianshu.

Hua Tiegan was calm and collected as he asked: “What is it?”

Shui Sheng said: “Did you… did you… did you eat them?” She already figured that Hua Tiegan found their two bodies and ate them.

Hua Tiegan reprimanded: “What does it matter to you?”

Shui Sheng trembled: “Uncle Lu, Uncle Liu… they… they were your sworn brothers…”

If Hua Tiegan actually had the ability to hunt birds, he would not have eaten his sworn brothers’ corpses. He tried every possible means to catch them. At first, he was able to catch one or two eagles. But after a few days, the eagles no longer fell for his trick. He did not have the internal energy of the Heavenly Glow like Di Yun so he was unable to knock the eagles down with his palm. He had no other alternative but to eat the corpses of his two sworn brothers. Now that he was finished with them, he held sword in hand with the intent of killing Di Yun and Shui Sheng. That combined with the corpses of Shui Dai and the Blood Sabre Elder may barely last him until early summer when the snow melts.

When he heard Shui Sheng say such words, his face flushed red. He also began to salivate as he smelled the aroma of the roasted bird meat. At once he raised his ghost head sabre and rushed towards Di Yun, slashing left and right. Di Yun raised his blood sabre to counter. Ting! The two sabres clashed intensely and the ghost head sabre advanced upwards and swiped down. The ghost head sabre was a remarkable sabre but it could not compare to the sharpness of the blood sabre. However, its blade was massive and the blood sabre could not cut it down. That day when Lu Tianshu clashed his sabre with the Blood Sabre Elder, the ghost head sabre was slashed three times by the blood sabre leaving three jags. Today it would happen again, another jag was left on the sabre as the blood sabre cut it.

Although Hua Tiegan was not an expert of the sabre, his martial arts was high. When he brandished his sabre Di Yun found it hard to resist. In only a few stances Di Yun had no choice but to retreat. Hua Tiegan did not pursue; he bent down and picked up the remaining half of the roasted bird on the ground and ate it. He complimented: “Very good! Very good! The taste is amazing, simply amazing!”

Di Yun looked back at Shui Sheng and both of them trembled. The last time they fought, Hua Tiegan was empty-handed, but this time he had a sabre in hand. The first time they thought, even if Di Yun was hit by his punches or kicks he would only cough up blood and sustain injuries, it was not enough to take his life. But this time he had a weapon in hand, if Di Yun were to be careless he would lose his life at once. Furthermore, Hua Tiegan brought an extra weapon for backup, so he really did have an overwhelming advantage.

After Hua Tiegan finished eating the bird, he was still not satisfied. He saw that there was another inside the cave and fetched it. He wiped his mouth and said: “Very good. Your cooking skills are really first class.” He lazily turned around then suddenly jumped and slashed his sabre toward Di Yun. This stance was executed remarkably fast and Di Yun did not guard properly against it and his head was nearly cut in half. He hastily warded off the attack with his sabre. Hua Tiegan was afraid of his profound internal energy; he knew that if he were to clash swords with him, he would be at a disadvantage and his arms would be numb. At once he slanted his sabre and slashed sideways. Within three swipes, Di Yun was already flustered. Then his left arm was scraped by the ghost head sabre.

Shui Sheng shouted: “Don’t fight! Don’t fight! Uncle Hua, I will give you some of my roasted meat.”

Hua Tiegan saw that Di Yun’s sabre techniques were extremely mediocre and could not even compare to third class fighters in the martial world. He decided that he would kill him now to save himself the trouble later. At once he intensified his attacks as he said: “Niece Shui, you love him dearly, don’t you? Have you forgotten about your cousin surnamed Wang?” Shua! Shua! Shua! He cut Di Yun three times on the right shoulder. Fortunately, he had the protection of the dark silkworm vest else his entire arm would have been cut off.

Shui Sheng shouted: “Uncle Hua, don’t fight!”

Di Yun scolded: “What are you shouting for? If I can’t fight him, then he can kill me.” In extreme anger he raised his sabre and slashed randomly. Suddenly, he passed the blood sabre from his right hand to his left hand, then flipped his hand over to attack.

Hua Tiegan did not expect that this little monk would actually be capable of such a technique. This attack came as an unexpected coincidence; Hua Tiegan turned his head to evade the blow, but with a loud slap, he was hit hard on the neck. This attack was so powerful that it shook and numbed half his body. Di Yun was startled and thought: “This is the “Slap-in-the-face Stance” that the old beggar taught me!” He realized this technique worked and executed the “Piercing Shoulder Stance” and “Releasing Sword Stance” in succession.

Hua Tiegan exclaimed: “Liancheng Swordplay! Liancheng Swordplay!”

Di Yun was startled by his words. That day when he fought the eight disciples of Wan Zhenshan in Jingzhou, he executed these three stances and Wan Zhenshan also called it “Liancheng Swordplay”. At that time he said Wan Zhenshan was speaking nonsense, but Hua Tiegan is a renowned figure in the Central Plains and is experienced and knowledgeable, yet he also said it was Liancheng Swordplay. Could it be that the three stances that the old beggar taught him was really the Liancheng Swordplay?”

He brandished the sabre like a sword and executed the same three stances numerous times. But how could the martial arts of Hua Tiegan be compared to the likes of Wan Zhenshan’s disciples? Besides the element of surprise that came with the first stance, the stances were no longer of any use against him. By the time Di Yun executed the “Releasing Sword Stance” for the fourth time in an attempt to swipe away the ghost sabre, Hua Tiegan was fully prepared for the attack, and with a flying kick he hit Di Yun on the wrist. At once Di Yun lost his grip on the blood sabre. Hua Tiegan continued with a “Push the Boat with the Current” and attacked Di Yun with both weapons.

The sabre and sword both stabbed into his chest, but the edge and tip of both weapons were obstructed by the dark silkworm vest and could not pierce through. Shui Sheng grabbed a rock and camped on the side for an opportunity. When she saw that Di Yun was in danger she threw the rock at the back of Hua Tiegan’s head. Last time when Hua Tiegan failed to pierce through Di Yun with his short spear he already felt strange and could not figure out why. He thought that he must have had a bronze or steel medal placed on his bosom that coincidentally blocked the spear head. However, this time both the sabre and sword pierced his chest and it was definitely not a coincidence. He was dumbfounded for a moment and Di Yun took the opportunity to strike back with his palm while Shui Sheng attacked from behind.

Hua Tiegan shouted: “There’s a ghost! There’s a ghost!” He started to get goose bumps as he thought: “Could it be that the spirits of Eldest Brother Lu and Brother Liu have come back to reprimand me for eating their bodies?” He began sweat coldly and retreated several steps back.

Di Yun and Shui Sheng retreated to the cave at once and shifted several pieces of large rocks to cover up the entrance. The two of them had already stuffed the entrance quite tightly before, now with the addition of more rocks the entrance was completely sealed.

The two of them had just escaped from the brink of death and their hearts were beating at an alarming rate. They heard Hua Tiegan shout: “Come out turtle bastard! You think you can hide in that cave forever? Can you catch birds from inside the cave? Haha! Haha!’ Although he laughed heartily, he was actually very scared and did not dare to dig up Shui Dai’s corpse and eat it.

Di Yun and Shui Sheng made eye contact and both had the same thought: “He’s right, what are we going to eat in here? But if we come out we will be killed at once, what can we do?”

If Hua Tiegan really wanted to pursue them, he could have easily gone in the cave. Di Yun had lost his blood sabre and would have no way of defending. However, as he could not pierce through Di Yun’s body he thought there was some otherworldly spirit causing mischief. He was trembling so hard that he did not dare approach.

Di Yun and Shui Sheng guarded the cave entrance for a while. They saw that Hua Tiegan did not attack and felt more relieved. Di Yun inspected the wound on his left arm and saw that it was bleeding. Shui Sheng ripped off a piece of her lapel and bandaged the wound for him. Di Yun had long parted with the ragged and oversized monk garment he used to wear; he covered up his chest so Shui Sheng would not have to see his bare skin. As he pulled his shirt close together a little booklet fell from his bosom. It was the “Blood Sabre Sutra” that he got from Bao Xiang.

He had just had an intense battle with Hua Tiegan. Although the fight did not last long and he did not exert much strength, he was still extremely nervous. After resting for a while, he felt extremely exhausted. He recalled the day when he encountered the Blood Sabre Sutra, how he practiced its cultivation methods by following the diagrams of the male in the booklet, and how it invigorated him. He thought that Hua Tiegan would not let the matter drop; although he would most certainly die if they were to fight, he would at least want to land a few heavy palms on his opponent, but how could he do so if he was so tired? So he flipped to a random page in the booklet and saw a diagram of a man standing upside down, his hands in an extremely awkward position. At once he followed the position of the diagram and stood on his head.

Shui Sheng saw him in such a weird posture and thought that he was going crazy again. She thought that outside was a powerful enemy but inside was a lunatic, what could she do? She could not refrain herself from crying.

Di Yun practiced for about an hour and felt his entire body was warm as if he was next to a fire, he felt an indescribable comfort. He turned to the next page and saw a diagram of a man who stood on his left hand; his body was straight while his legs were hooked against his neck. This position was originally extremely difficult, but after Di Yun completed the Heavenly Glow, he found that he had complete flexibility in his four limbs. At once he followed the position on the diagram, his internal followed the red and green pathways labeled on the diagram and channelled through various acupoints in his body.

This Blood Sabre Sutra consisted of the secrets of both internal and external techniques of the Blood Sabre Clan. The diagram in every page would take an ordinary person a year or so to learn. However, Di Yun had his Ren and Du meridians interlinked and had the matchless internal techniques of the Heavenly Glow as a foundation, even if the martial arts were harder he would still be able to learn it. It did not take him very long to get through each diagram, and he continued to follow the positions page by page. The more he practiced, the more exuberant he felt.

Shui Sheng watched as he practiced martial arts according to the manual. She was frightened when she saw how strange his positions were, and found it both funny and ridiculous. At the same time, she was astonished as she thought: “Could there actually be such a martial art under heaven?” She moved forward two steps and took a look at the Blood Sabre Sutra. When she saw that every page had a diagram of a naked man in various positions, her face flushed red. Her heart pounded as she thought: “If the little vicious monk keeps practising, will he take off his clothes too?”

Fortunately, this never happened.

Di Yun continued practising. He turned another page and saw a diagram of a man holding a curved sabre in an offensive position. Di Yun was shocked and blurted out, “Blood Sabre Art!” At once he picked up a twig and practiced according to the diagrams.

This Blood Sabre Art was truly a strange phenomenon. In every stance the sabre was brandished in an unimaginable way. Di Yun only learned three stances before he understood. It turns out that every stance was a result of various strange positions from both front and back. There were diagrams of the man turning upside-down, horizontally, extending his leg to his neck, or flipping over his hand to grab his ear. At once Di Yun picked four stances and practiced them until he was completely familiar. He thought: “I will continue practicing without rest. If I finish practicing these 20 or 30 stances, in four or five days I will be able to have a rematch with the one surnamed Hua. Alas, it is unfortunate that I did not learn these stances sooner.”

However, Hua Tiegan would not even give him half a day’s rest. Di Yun was focused on practicing the sabre arts when Hua Tiegan shouted from outside the cave, “Little monk, do you think your father-in-law’s heart and liver taste any good? It really tastes great!”

Shui Sheng was startled by his words. She pushed aside the rocks and saw Hua Tiegan digging her father’s grave with the ghost head sabre. He had not yet completely uncovered the body but it would only be a matter of time. Shui Sheng shouted: “Uncle Hua, you… do you not care about your sworn brotherhood?” She rushed outside.

Hua Tiegan had intended to lure her outside. The plan was to first knock her out and then deal with Di Yun, lest the two of them join forces in battle. Hua Tiegan’s movements were quick as lightning; in an instant, he had seized her wrist with his left hand. Shui Sheng cried, “Ayo!” and countered with her left hand. Hua Tiegan evaded to the side and with one finger he sealed her acupoint by the waist and she fell unconscious.

Di Yun still holding the twig in hand rushed out. Hua Tiegan laughed: “Little monk must be tired of living, trying to fight me with a little twig. Very well, since you are a vicious monk from the Blood Sabre Clan, I will send you to your death with your clan’s very own weapon.” As he said this he drew the blood sabre from his waist and dropped the ghost sabre on the ground. In an instant, he rushed forward and attacked Di Yun three times. This blood sabre was thin as a sheet of paper but made intense slashing sounds. Hua Tiegan thought inwardly, “This sabre is remarkable!”

Di Yun saw that the blood sabre was remarkably fast and began to tremble. He clenched his teeth and thought, “We will die together then!” and brandished the twig with his right hand and attacked from behind. With a loud clap, the twig hit Hua Tiegan firmly on the back of his neck. This stance was incredibly strange, if he had a sharp weapon instead of a branch, Hua Tiegan would have been beheaded already.

In truth, the martial arts between Hua Tiegan and the Blood Sabre Elder were just about on par. Even the Blood Sabre Elder who had practiced the blood sabre techniques thoroughly would not be able to kill him in a single stance, much less Di Yun. However, Hua Tiegan greatly underestimated his enemy and treated his opponent as someone who had no foundation of external techniques. He intended to defeat his opponent with ease; when he raised his sabre to slash downward, Di Yun counterattacked with the twig that was as fierce as the wind in a rainstorm. He brandished his weapon disorderly and occasionally he would be able to execute a stance of the Blood Sabre Art and would be able to hit him from behind. Hua Tiegan turned around and shouted: “There is a ghost! There is a ghost!” He turned around to look and he was so scared that his arms and legs became so numb and weak that he dropped the blood sabre and ran into the distance.

After Hua Tiegan ate the corpses of his sworn brothers, he felt a sense of guilt and always hallucinated that the spirits of Liu Chengfeng and Lu Tianshu were coming back to haunt him. When the blood sabre could not pierce through Di Yun he thought that it must be otherworldly spirits supporting his enemy. At that time it was obvious that Di Yun was fighting in front of him and Shui Sheng had her acupoint sealed and was unconscious, yet he was still hit from the back of his body and neck several times. How would there be another person besides the three of them? When he turned around to look, no matter what he saw he would not have been scared. But he actually saw nothing at all and was completely spooked out of his mind, how could he dare to stay any longer?

Although Di Yun hit Hua Tiegan twice from behind, the latter ran away without actually sustaining any injuries, which was much beyond anyone’s expectations.

Di Yun picked up the blood sabre and saw Shui Sheng lying on the ground. He asked, “Did he seal your acupoint?”

Shui Sheng replied, “Yes.”

Di Yun said: “I do not know how to unseal your acupoint. I can’t help you.”

Shui Sheng said: “You just have to find the spot on my waist and leg…” She wanted to tell him where her acupoint was sealed so he could release it, but when she mentioned her legs she thought of him being a “little vicious monk”, who although did not violate him recently, was nonetheless improper in the past.

Di Yun saw the fear in her eyes and thought: “Hua Tiegan is already gone, what are you afraid of?” Then he realized that she was afraid of him, and a surge of anger rushed to his heart. He yelled: “You are afraid I’ll violate you, you think I will… I will… hmph! From now on, I will never look at you again.” He was so angry he started kicking the snow as he walked away. He picked up the Blood Sabre Sutra from inside the cave and walked away without looking at Shui Sheng.

Shui Sheng felt embarrassed and thought: “Could it be that I am actually too suspicious and misunderstood his intentions?”

She lied on the floor for over two hours. A bald eagle descended from the air and began pecking at her face. She screamed in alarm when suddenly, she saw a red flash, the blood sabre flew across the air and sliced the bald eagle in half and dropped beside her.

Although Di Yun resented her suspicions, he was worried that Hua Tiegan would return and harm her. Hence he did not go very far away and kept a watch on her while practicing the blood sabre techniques. When he tossed the blood sabre across the air, it sliced the bald eagle in half and flew another hundred feet or so before landing on the ground. He had completed the blood sabre stance of “Shooting Star in Heaven”.

Shui Sheng shouted: “Di Dage, Di Dage, it is my fault. I am sorry one hundred times.” Di Yun pretended not to hear it and ignored her. Shui Sheng continued: “Di Dage, please forgive me. I lost my daddy and I feel lonely. My thoughts are inconsiderate. Please don’t be mad at me anymore, okay?” Di Yun continued to ignore her, although a lot of his anger had dissipated.

It was not until the second day when Shui Sheng’s acupoint released itself. She knew that Di Yun would not say a word to her, yet he still remained close by her side for the entire night. She felt really grateful in her heart. When she could move again, she immediately roasted the bald eagle and gave half of it to Di Yun. Di Yun waited until she got close before he closed his eyes and repeated his words inwardly, “I will never look at you again.”

Shui Sheng placed the roasted eagle on the ground and began to walk away. Di Yun waited for her to walk some distance before opening his eyes again. All of a sudden, he heard her scream “Ah!” followed by another “Ayo!” and collapsed on the ground. Di Yun immediately got up and rushed beside her.

Shui Sheng smiled sweetly as she got up and said: “I deceived you. You said you would never look at me again, yet aren’t you looking at me right now? You do not have to keep your promise anymore.”

Di Yun glared at her and thought: “All the women in this world are sly and crafty. Besides Brother Ding’s Lady Ling, any women are capable of deception. From now on, I will no longer fall for your tricks.”

Shui Sheng laughed delicately and said: “Di Dage, you rushed forward to save me, thank you!”

Di Yun gave her a sideways glance then turned around and walked away.

Hua Tiegan was so scared of ghosts that he did not dare to cause any more trouble. He could do no more than eat tree bark and grass roots in such bitter hardship. Sometimes he would throw rocks and would be lucky to hit one or two snow geese. Di Yun practised one or two stances of the Blood Sabre Art every day, both his internal energy and external arts grew with each passing day.

Winter passed and spring came. The temperature gradually grew warmer and the accumulation of snow in the valley did not thicken. Eventually, the snow started to melt to water.

In these days, Di Yun had fully practiced all of the various external fist and feet and sabre arts in the Blood Sabre Sutra. At this point he possessed both orthodox and unorthodox martial arts. Although he was still lacking experience, and he did not yet completely grasp the essence of both the unorthodox and unorthodox arts, in terms of martial arts, he had already surpassed Ding Dian. However, he only practiced the profound internal arts of the Heavenly Glow, but in terms of external arts, he had no one to give him pointers; besides the Blood Sabre Art, his fist and feet arts were extremely shallow. However, he was nimble and understood the fundamentals of fist arts, he would not be inferior to any second class fighter.

Whenever Shui Sheng spoke, Di Yun would ignore her in fear of falling for her tricks. He pretended to be mute and did not answer her even once. Apart from being together during meal times, Di Yun distanced himself as far away as he could and practiced his martial arts. After he leaves the valley, there were three desires he had to fulfill: first, he would look for his teacher in Xiangxi; second, he would return to Jingzhou and bury his Brother Ding together with Lady Ling; third, revenge!

He saw as the snow gradually melted into a creek of water constantly flowing out of the valley. The pile of snow blocking the entrance became less and less each day. He did not know how many days it was before the Dragon Boat Festival, he only knew that it would not be long before he could get out of here.

One afternoon, he picked up two roasted eagles from Shui Sheng. As he was about to turn and leave, Shui Sheng called out: “Di Dage, after a few more days, we will be able to go outside?”

Di Yun nodded in agreement.

Shui Sheng continued: “Thanks for taking care of me all these days. If not for you, I would have died by the hands of the evil Hua Tiegan.”

Di Yun shook his head and replied, “It’s no big deal,” then turned around and walked away. Then he heard the sounds of sobbing from behind. He turned around and saw Shui Sheng leaning against a rock; her back was twitching as if she was about to cry. Di Yun was perplexed: “We will be able to leave soon, she should be happy. What is there to cry about? The thoughts of a woman are really strange, I will never understand.”

In truth, even Shui Sheng did not know why she cried. She only felt unworthy and broken-hearted, she could not restrain herself from crying.

That night, Di Yun practiced a bit of martial arts before he slept on the large rock just like any other night. This large rock was not distanced too far away from the cave so he could guard against Hua Tiegan from either eating the corpse or violating Shui Sheng. However in these past many days Hua Tiegan never appeared. Di Yun presumed that all was well and no longer remained vigilant, he went into a deep sleep.

Amidst his dreams, he suddenly heard the sounds of footsteps approaching. At this point his internal energy was incredibly profound and his senses were improved, much different from the past. As the sounds of footsteps got closer, he awoke at once. He listened closely and heard the sounds of numerous people, at least 50 or 60, rushing towards the valley.

Di Yun was startled. “How can anyone get in the valley?” He did not know that the valley was a lot colder than the outside world because it was covered by peaks. In truth, the snow had already completely melted outside, but it would still take another month for the snow inside the valley to melt. Di Yun thought: “These people must be from the Central Plains. Now that the Blood Sabre Elder is dead, any desire for vengeance has been fulfilled. Sigh, Lady Shui’s cousin will come to pick her up, that would be great. However, they believe that I am a vicious monk from the Blood Sabre Clan, there is no way I can explain myself. It’s best if I don’t see them at all. I will let them take Lady Shui first, then I will get out at a later time.”

He made his way to the side of the cave and hid behind a rock. The sounds of footsteps approached closer. In an instant there was a brightness before his eyes, the group had passed through the depression. There were about 50 people or so and each of them held a torch on one hand and a weapon on the other. There was one person at the front of the pack who did not hold a torch. Instead, he held a sword and a sabre—it was Hua Tiegan.

Di Yun watched as he approached with the group. He was astonished and soon realized, “These people came from Hubei and Sichuan. Hua Tiegan is their leader, naturally he would join them. I wonder what he is saying?” He watched as the group entered the cave and at once he climbed several dozen feet closer and hid in a pile of snow. He was still some distance away from the group, but his internal energy had advanced by leaps and bounds and he could clearly hear what they were saying.

He heard a coarse voice say: “So it turns out that it was Brother Hua who killed the blood sabre monk. That is truly venerable. Brother Hua has done us all a great service. From now on he will naturally be the leader of the Central Plains, we will be ready to risk our lives for you upon your command!”

Another said: “Alas, Hero Lu, Taoist Liu, and Hero Shui has perished in such a violent way. It is truly depressing.”

Another said: “The old vicious monk is dead, but the little vicious monk has not been executed. We will search at once. We must cut the weeds and eliminate the roots to prevent future misfortunes. Hero Hua, what do you say?”

Hua Tiegan answered: “Correct, Brother Zhang speaks true words. This little vicious monk has demonic martial arts and is definitely not inferior to the older monk. He must have hid himself somewhere when he saw that we were entering the valley. My brothers, do not be afraid of trouble. We must kill this little vicious monk at any cost so that he doesn’t talk rubbish and spread rumors tarnish the reputations of the three Heroes Lu, Liu, and Shui, and Heroine Shui.”

Di Yun was alarmed. “The one surnamed Hua speaks rubbish, he is incredibly vicious. Fortunately I did not reveal myself, else if they all attack me at once, how can I defend?”

All of a sudden, a feminine voice was heard saying: “He… he is not a little vicious monk. He is an honourable and upright gentleman. Hua Tiegan is the villain!” It was Shui Sheng.

As Di Yun heard these words, he felt comfort in his heart. It was the first time he heard her call him an “honourable and upright gentleman”. In these days, even though Shui Sheng was no longer suspicious of him, but for her to call him a gentleman in front of all these people was beyond all expectations. Then tears began to from his eyes as he thought inwardly, “She called me a gentleman… she called me a gentleman!”

When Shui Sheng said these words, people in the group looked at each other in perplexity. Nobody dared to speak out. Di Yun looked afar and the illumination of the torch revealed expressions of contempt. Some were sneering as if they were taking joy in such a calamity.

After a long while, an old man spoke out: “Niece Shui, I have been friends with your father for many years. I cannot help but reprimand you… this little vicious monk was responsible for your father’s death.”

Shui Sheng said, “No… no…”

“Your father was not killed by the little monk? Then who killed him?”

“He… he…” she was at a loss for words.

“Hero Hua said that during an intense battle that day, your father was completely exhausted; the little monk killed your father by cracking his head with a twig. Am I right?”

“Right, but… but…”

“But what?”

“It was my daddy himself who… who asked to be killed!”

As she said this, many people from the group began to laugh. The laughter was so loud that it even caused the snow on top of the branches to rustle and fall. Amongst the laughs some voices were heard saying, “He asked for his own death, haha! Haha! Your lies are very comical.”

“So it turns out that Hero Shui was tired of living; stuck his head out and asked his future son-in-law to crack it open!”

“Who is his ‘future’ son-in-law? After Hero Shui passed away, that little monk already had an affair with the lady! Haha!”

“There is actually such a shameless woman in the world who would rather have a wild man than her own father. However, to tell her tramp to kill her own father is pretty horrifying.”

“I have only heard of the phrase ‘consensual adultery causes the death of the husband’, but today it is much different; there is actually a case of ‘consensual adultery causes the death of the father’!”

The group had first heard the words of Hua Tiegan and had the impression that Shui Sheng and Di Yun had a secret affair. When she defended her ‘lover’, they gave her more and more harsh words. However, in terms of words in the realm, what is really too filthy to be said?

Shui Sheng’s face flushed red and she yelled: “What… what are you guys talking about? Have you no shame?”

The group continued to laugh. One said: “So it turns out that we’re the ones who have no shame, that is really funny!”

“Alright, alright. Lady Shui, it is we who are shameless. But what about you and the little monk making love inside the cave without a care to avenge your own father, how is that for being shameless?”

Another straightforward fellow reprimanded: “Damn it! Your daddy I have travelled from Hubei all the way down here without rest, only to save a whóre like you? You are a shameless little bĺtch. Your daddy I should chop your head off!”

Another urged: “That’s not good. Brother Zhao, don’t act rashly!”

An old voice said: “Everybody please restrain yourselves. Lady Shui is still young and inexperienced. Hero Shui has unfortunately passed away, now she is lonely with no one to care for her. You do not need to feel sad for her. From now on she will be taken care of and instructed by Hero Hua. He will lead her to a path of righteousness. Everybody please do not speak out so harshly anymore, the events that took place in this valley must not spread into the realm. Hero Shui was a renowned and honourable fellow during his life, else why would we all spare no effort to save her daughter? Let us show Hero Shui some respect and not mention this incident anymore. Let us capture the little monk and cut open his heart and liver and offer it as a sacrifice to Hero Shui.”

The one who spoke was a very well-respected man with great dignity. The majority agreed with his words and said, “Right, right. Old Hero Zhang speaks true words. We will find this little monk and dismember his body into ten thousand pieces!”

Amidst the noisy clamours and hoots of the group, Shui Sheng began to cry.

Suddenly, a voice was heard from the distance, calling out, “Biaomei! Biaomei, where are you?”

Shui Sheng heard this voice and knew that it was her cousin Wang Xiaofeng. However, she had suffered injustice and was humiliated greatly, if her cousin were to hear of this, how would he react? She could not help but cry and run back inside the cave.

Someone said: “If the infatuated Wang Xiaofeng realizes the truth, he will go crazy!”

The old man surnamed Zhang replied: “Everybody, please do not panic and listen to me. The young man of the Wang family loves Lady Shui deeply. The snow had not even melted yet and he went into the valley two days before we did. However, the road was difficult and he must have been stuck in some remote place, such is more haste resulting in less speed. In fact, he even fell behind our group. This person is really unfortunate. Everybody should do a good deed and not speak to him about the scandal between Lady Shui and the little monk.”

An honourable person from the group added, “That is correct! Lady Shui took a misstep in life, she deserves a second chance to start anew. Besides, she had no other choice. In an ordinary situation, how would the daughter of a renowned hero affiliate herself with the monk of an evil sect?”

Another said: “Wang Xiaofeng is such a good fellow, but now he is forced to wear a green hat! It is really unfortunate for him! Haha!”

“One is willing to fight while the other is willing to suffer. Brother Qian, you have left your lonely wife at home for quite some time now. It might be the case that the hat on your head is turning a lush green color?”

“Damn it! Only your wife is lonely!”

“That is right, my wife is lonely. But your wife has a partner now in a romantic relationship, she is not lonely in the least bit…” He did not even finish speaking when he was hit hard on the shoulder by a fist. The group burst into laughter.

Then the sound of Wang Xiaofeng was heard shouting, “Biaomei! Biaomei!” and became more and more distant. He was separated from the rest of the group and did not know where they were.

Shui Sheng rushed out of the cave and shouted: “Biaoge! Biaoge! I am over here! I am over here!”

Wang Xiaofeng shouted again, “Biaomei! Where are you?”

Shui Sheng yelled: “I am over here!”

A shadow was seen approaching from the northeast corner. This person ran while calling out, “Biaomei!” and suddenly he slipped and fell on the wet ground. Shui Sheng let out an “ah” and was deeply concerned. She rushed forward to welcome him. It turns out that when Wang Xiaofeng heard Shui Sheng’s voice, he was so delighted that he paid no attention to the hole in the ground and fell in the depression. He got up as fast as he could and ran forward again. Shui Sheng also ran forward to meet him.

The two ran up to each other and laughed joyously. Then they embraced each other.

When Di Yun saw the affectionate and joyous circumstances of their union, he felt a slightly sour in his heart and did not know why. He still could not forget his martial sister Qi Fang, but after all he spent over half a year together with Shui Sheng; even though it could not be said that he felt an intimate relationship with her, for them to part ways after being together for so long, he could not help but feel reluctant to let go. He thought: “It is best that she leaves with her cousin. Hopefully she will be free of disasters and calamities, marry her cousin, and live the rest of her life happily ever after.”

All of a sudden, he heard Wang Xiaofeng let go and cry, he thought it must be that he figured out the news of Shui Dai’s death. After a while, he saw Wang Xiaofeng holding Shui Sheng’s hand walking towards him.

Wang Xiaofeng sobbed: “Uncle has run into misfortune. I… I was brought up by him since I was small. He treated me like his very own son.”

Shui Sheng listened to her speak of his father in such a way and could not help but cry as well.

Wang Xiaofeng said: “Biamoei, from now on I will never leave you again. Don’t be sad, I will take care of you for the rest of your life.”

Shui Sheng had always adored and admired her cousin greatly since she was young, now upon hearing him say these words, her face blushed red and felt a sense of sweetness in her heart.

The two of them gradually walked closer to the cave. Then Shui Sheng stopped abruptly and said, “Biaoge, we should leave at once. I don’t want to see anyone else.”

Wang Xiaofeng was curious and asked, “Why? So many people have risked hardships and perils to come and save you. They have waited outside the valley for over half a year and could be said to be honourable and loyal. Should we not go and express our gratitude?”

Shui Sheng lowered her head and said: “I have already thanked them.”

Wang Xiaofeng said: “The group travelled here all the way from Hubei for you. We should come and go together, is that not right? Besides, Uncle’s remains have to be taken back home. Even if you wish to bury him here, you should still seek the permission of various elders. And what about Uncle Liu, Uncle Hua, and Uncle Lu?”

Shui Sheng said: “We should leave first. I will explain to you later. Uncle Hua is an evil person, don’t listen to his nonsense!”

Wang Xiaofeng had never disobeyed her in the past and saw her grace and charm despite the darkness of the situation. When he heard her sweet and tender voice he was completely fascinated and agreed to her commands to leave first.

All of a sudden someone from near the cave shouted: “Nephew Wang, come over here!” It was the voice of Hua Tiegan.

Wang Xiaofeng replied, “Yes, Uncle Hua!”

Shui Sheng stomped her foot and interrupted urgently, “Will you not listen to what I say?”

Wang Xiaofeng thought: “Uncle Hua is the sworn brother of my teacher. How can I refuse the commands of an honourable elder? There are so many friends who have come to rescue Biaomei without fear of being laboured or vexed. If we just leave after the task is done without saying anything to the others, no matter what such an action could not be justified. My reputation will be tarnished, how can I ever step foot in the realm again? Biaomei is just throwing a little girl’s temper tantrum. I will just apologize and make it up to her later.” At once he let go of her hand and walked towards the cave.

Shui Sheng knew that Hua Tiegan was going to speak poorly of her, but she thought: “I am innocent with a clear conscience, no matter what he says, what can he do to implicate me?” At once she followed Wang Xiaofeng, her face colorless.

The two walked in front of the cave. Hua Tiegan said: “Nephew Wang, I’m glad you’re here. I have killed the vicious blood sabre monk, but there is still a little monk hiding somewhere, we have to capture and kill him at any cost. This little monk is responsible for killing your teacher.”

Wang Xiaofeng shouted in alarm. At once he unsheathed his sword and turned his head to look at Shui Sheng. Under the light of the fire he saw that her face was wan and sallow with tears coming out from her eyes. Wang Xiaofeng felt tenderness and saw her slowly shake her head and asked, “What is it?”

Shui Sheng replied: “Daddy was not… not killed by that person.”

When the rest of the group heard her utter these words, they were extremely angry and all thought: “We thought you would become a good person from now on. For the sake of Hero Shui we did not expose your scandal with the little perverted monk. But now you are siding with the little monk, this matter certainly cannot be forgiven. You don’t even dare to call him a ‘little monk’, you only call him ‘that person’, truly shameless and despicable!”

Wang Xiaofeng saw that the various people in the group scowled and revealed expressions of hate and he felt really strange. He thought the reason that his cousin did not want to meet with the rest of the group must have something to do with their hate, there must be an ulterior motive. He asked: “Biaomei, we should listen to Uncle Hua’s orders and capture the little monk. We will cut him into ten thousand pieces and honour him as a sacrifice to my uncle. Any other matter can be discussed at a later time.”

Shui Sheng said: “He… he is not a little monk.”

Wang Xiaofeng was startled. He saw that the people in the group appeared to despise her greatly and his heart shivered with cold. He had the distinct feeling that something wasn’t right. However, he was unwilling to pursue the matter further. He put his sword back in its sheath and declared: “To the various elders here today, I thank you for your efforts. This matter has now been put to rest. I surnamed Wang would like to once again express my gratitude for your good kindness and virtue.” As he said this he clasped his hands together in greeting.

The group replied: “Correct, the most important task now is to capture the little monk. We can’t let him escape the valley!” At once everyone rushed outside the cave entrance.

Someone accidentally left their torch behind in the cave. The fire fluttered against the wind in the valley. It illuminated the faces of the Twin Knights of Bell Sword, the two looked at each other intensely. They had thousands of words they wanted to say but did not know where to begin.

Di Yun thought: “The two of them must have many words they want to say to each other. I should take my leave now.”

He was about to leave when he heard the sounds of footsteps, two people were fast approaching. One said: “I will search over here, you will search over there! We will circle the area and meet up again.”

The other person said, “Good idea. This place is filled with uncoordinated footprints. It could be the case that the little perverted monk is hiding nearby.”

The first speaker lowered his voice and grinned: “Hey, Old Song, this Lady Shui is as pretty as a flower. That little perverted monk must have been blessed with good fortune over this half year, hehe.”

Another person laughed out loud and said: “Right, ah, it is not surprising that the one surnamed Wang is willing to wear a green headband.” The two of them laughed in conversation and then moved separate ways to search for Di Yun.

Di Yun listened closely from the side and felt really sorry for Wang Xiaofeng and Shui Sheng. He thought: “Hua Tiegan is really evil to an extreme. He fabricated such a shameless rumour and tarnished the reputation of Lady Shui. What good does that do for him?” He did not know that Hua Tiegan was afraid that Shui Sheng would tell everyone of his evil deeds, so he made the first move and ruined her reputation, thereafter even if she were to reveal the truth, nobody would believe her words.

Di Yun raised his head to look inside the cave, he saw Shui Sheng retreat two steps. Her face was deathly pale and she shivered and said: “Biaoge, you must not believe these rumours.”

Wang Xiaofeng did not answer, his face twitched slightly. Obviously, what the two people said earlier felt like a poisonous snake biting away at his heart. In this past half-year, outside the valley, every day and every night he had one thought in mind: “Biaomei has fallen into the hands of two perverted monks, how can she protect her chastity? But as long as she is alive and well, I will thank the heaven and earth.” However, after all a person’s desires can never be satisfied. Now that she is alive and well, he also wished that she would have preserved her integrity. When he heard the two folks say such things, he thought: “I Wang Xiaofeng can be considered a gentleman. If the people in the realm hear of these things, how can I prevent their ridicule?” But when he saw Shui Sheng’s pitiful expression, his heart softened and he sighed deeply. He shook his head and said: “Biaomei, let’s go now.”

Shui Sheng asked: “Do you believe their words or not?”

Wang Xiaofeng replied: “What people want to say is their business, how much can I care?”

Shui Sheng bit her lips and declared: “So, does that mean you actually believe it?”

Wang Xiaofeng lowered his head dimly. After a while, he answered: “Alright, I don’t believe it then.”

Shui Sheng said: “In your heart you have already believed their side of the story.” She paused for a moment and continued, “You should never see me again. Just pretend that I died inside the valley.”

Wang Xiaofeng said: “It does not have to be like this.”

Shui Sheng grieved deeply in her heart, her tears rushed down her eyes. She did not care even if everyone else in the world slandered or mistreated her, but now even her very own cousin treats her as a cheap whóre. She wanted to leave the valley and run away from all these people. She wanted to go to a place where no one knew who she was and never see any of these people again. She thought: “It turns out that in this world, the only one who believes me is that person…”

She rushed outward as far away as she could, but when she neared the exit she could not help but look back at the cave. That was the place where she felt the safest over this half-year. Every night she would sleep in that cave peacefully. She was a neat and tidy person and her fingers were clever, she weaved various mattresses with tree barks and bird feathers and sat on it as a cushion. At this point she had to leave, she had to part with the various items that had stayed with her for all this time, and could not help but feel reluctant. When she saw the feather coat that she weaved for Di Yun, she recalled the events of that day when Di Yun threw it at her. Thereafter she used it as a blanket to resist the cold. At this point she was moved and thought: “Everyone here thinks he is a perverted monk and wants to do him harm. If they find him, how can he handle all these people by himself?” At once she came to a halt and fixed her gaze at the feather coat. She was hesitant and wasn’t sure what to do. “If they actually want to kill him, should I help him or not?”

Wang Xiaofeng saw the feather coat placed on top of her mattress. This coat was large and wide, it was evidently made for a man. He could not help but become suspicious and asked: “What… what is this?”

Shui Sheng replied, “I made it.”

Wang Xiaofeng repeated, “You made it?”

Shui Sheng wanted to answer “It is not mine,” but knew it was inappropriate and did not answer.

Wang Xiaofeng questioned: “It is a man’s clothing?” His voice became more harsh and rough. Shui Sheng only nodded in reply.

Wang Xiaofeng asked: “You weaved this for him?” Shui Sheng nodded again.

Wang Xiaofeng picked up the feather coat and looked at it attentively. After a moment, he spoke coldly, “This is very well made.”

Shui Sheng corrected: “Biaoge, don’t misunderstand. We did not…” But she saw that his eyes were filled with hatred and indignance, she did not dare to speak further.

Wang Xiaofeng pulled out the mattress and asked: “His clothes were placed on your mattress…”

Shui Sheng’s heart felt ice cold. She felt that her normally gentle and understanding cousin now became a vulgar and detestable character. She did not want to explain herself further and thought: “If you want to be suspicious, if you want to misunderstand, then that is up to you.”

Di Yun watched from the outside the cave. He saw that she was misunderstood and his face was filled with extreme desolation. He thought: “I am a lowly peasant, even if I have been wronged in the past it’s nothing worth mentioning. But she is a respected and honourable lady, how can she suffer such injustice?” When he thought up to this point, he felt morally inclined to help out. He saw that outside the cave were several dozen experts searching around, everybody wanted to kill him. However, he could not overcome his dissonance and at once he stepped leapt in front of the cave and said: “Young Hero Wang, you have misunderstood her completely.”

When Wang Xiaofeng and Shui Sheng saw him abruptly appear in front of the cave, they were both startled. At this point Di Yun had grew his hair back and no longer had the appearance of a little monk. Wang Xiaofeng had to look closely to recognize him. At once he drew his sword, pushed Shui Sheng aside and aimed it at his chest. His eyes were filled with fiery hatred and his long sword relentlessly pushed forward. He only wished to cut this person into ten thousand pieces.

Di Yun said: “I am not here to fight you, I only wish to speak. Lady Shui is clear as ice and clean as jade. If you wish to take her as your wife that would be your good fortune. Do not let your imagination run wild, don’t listen to the fabrications of these villains.”

Shui Sheng would never have guessed that Di Yun would suddenly step forward so bravely. And the only reason why he did so was to prove her innocence. She was both grateful and worried, and hurriedly said: “You… you should leave. There are many people here who want to kill you, it’s much too dangerous.”

Di Yun replied: “I know, but I have to explain to Hero Wang at any cost. I cannot let you suffer injustice. Hero Wang, Lady Shui is really a good lady, you… you must not wrong her.” Di Yun was clumsy with words; even in normal times he would find it difficult to say something clearly, much less something so subtle and disturbing, he stammered seven or eight times in succession and only made Wang Xiaofeng even more suspicious.

Shui Sheng urged: “You… you must leave now! Thank you for your kindness. I can only repay you in my next life, go now! There are so many people here… they want to kill you…”

Wang Xiaofeng heard Shui Sheng’s words and saw that her face was filled with worry and concern. He became extremely jealous and yelled: “I will kill you!” He brandished his sword to pierce Di Yun’s chest.

Although this stance was executed remarkably, how could it be compared with Di Yun at this point? He had simultaneously completed the ultimate arts of the Heavenly Glow and the Blood Sabre Clan, when he saw Wang Xiaofeng approach, he evaded the attack with ease. He said: “I will not fight with you. I am asking you to marry Lady Shui, you should not be suspicious. She… she is a good lady.”

As he spoke, Wang Xiaofeng had already stroke out five times with his sword. Di Yun dodged all of these attacks without the slightest difficulty. He was perplexed and thought: “This person’s martial arts used to be formidable, but after not seeing him for over half a year, how come his swordplay is so pathetic?”

Wang Xiaofeng urgently pressed on with his attack. However, every stance was dodged by his opponent with incredible ease. He became even more enraged and violent and executed his stances even faster.

Di Yun said: “Hero Wang, if you promise not to suspect Lady Shui anymore I will take my leave. All of your friends want to kill me, I can’t stay here for very long.” Wang Xiaofeng increased the pace of his attacks; Di Yun had remarkable internal energy but his lightness martial arts was average. Although internal energy is the foundation and lightness martial arts is inessential, he further did not receive any pointers from anyone, so he found it increasingly difficult to handle the speed of his opponent’s attacks. At once he extended his fingers and with a gentle crack he flicked the sword away with his finger.

Wang Xiaofeng felt an excruciating pain on the web of his finger and his sword fell on the ground. He urgently bent over to pick it up. Di Yun extended his palm to Wang Xiaofeng’s shoulder and pushed slightly. Although there was not much energy behind this push, surprisingly, his opponent could not even withstand it and was sent flying backwards with a somersault before falling on the ground. With a loud crash, he bumped against the cave wall. Shui Sheng saw his pitiful state and immediately went over to assist.

Di Yun was shocked at what happened. He did not want to push Wang Xiaofeng, he only wanted to prevent him from picking up the sword and continue the battle. He did not expect that his opponent would fall so greatly, it was definitely beyond his expectations. He walked forward two steps and wanted to help him up and said: “Sorry, I really… I really did not mean to do that.”

Shui Sheng helped Wang Xiaofeng up by the right arm and said: “Biaoge, are you alright?” Wang Xiaofeng felt jealousy and resentment in his heart that he could not restrain. He believed that Shui Sheng was partial towards Di Yun and that after the two of them joined hands to defeat him, she came forward to ridicule him. At once he moved his left palm horizontally and slapped Shui Sheng hard on the face, yelling, “Go away!” Shui Sheng was completely startled that her cousin would actually hit her like this. It had never happened before. She extended her hands to feel her face and was expressionless.

Wang Xiaofeng followed through with another smack on her left cheek. Under extreme urgency, Shui Sheng pounced herself against Di Yun’s shoulders, knowing that at this point he was the only one who had the power to protect her.

Di Yun extended his left arm to embrace her, then he turned to face Wang Xiaofeng and said: “Why… why did you hit her?”

Then he heard the sounds of several people approaching who said: “There is some ruckus in the cave, quickly go and take a look! Could it be that the little perverted monk is hiding inside?”

Shui Sheng backed away two steps and said to Di Yun: “You should go… I… I thank you for your good kindness.”

Di Yun glanced at Wang Xiaofeng then glanced back at Shui Sheng and said: “I will leave now!” and turned around to leave.

Wang Xiaofeng shouted: “The little perverted monk is here! The little perverted monk is here! Seal the exit, don’t let him escape!”

Shui Sheng urged: “Biaoge, are you not victimizing him?”

Wang Xiaofeng continued shouting: “Seal the exit! Seal the exit!”

Seven or eight people outside the cave heard Wang Xiaofeng’s shouts and at once headed towards the entrance. Di Yun increased his pace when someone shouted: “Where do you think you’re going?” At once this person brandished his sabre to strike his head. Di Yun extended his hand and pushed against his opponent’s chest. The person fell at once. He collided with three or four people and they all fell in succession. Amidst the chaos of shouts reverberating around the valley, Di Yun quickened his pace to leave.

When the rest of the group heard the ruckus, they came from all directions, but Di Yun had ran away a long time ago. At least ten people pursued him in great haste. Di Yun was frightened and hid himself behind some bushes. He knew that in the darkness of the night, it would be impossible for anyone to discover him. The group thought that he had escaped from the valley and pursued vigorously.

After a while, Di Yun saw that Wang Xiaofeng and Shui Sheng left as well. Wang Xiaofeng was in front while Shui Sheng followed behind, the distanced themselves over a dozen feet. Their figures were soon obstructed by the hillside as they moved farther and farther away.

Just a moment ago the cave was filled with chaos and disturbances, but now it was completely quiet and at peace.

The various heroes of the Central Plains had left. Hua Tiegan had left. Shui Sheng had left. All that remained was Di Yun. Even the bald eagles that spiralled across the skies were nowhere to be seen.

It was truly lonely and isolated. The only thing left was the melting snow gently flowing out of the valley…

Chapter 9 Butterfly Lovers

Di Yun stayed in the valley for another half-month. He thoroughly practiced the sabre techniques and internal energy cultivation methods inside the Blood Sabre Sutra. When he had fully memorized it by heart, he burnt the scripture and placed the ashes on the Blood Sabre Elder’s tomb.

During this time, he continued to sleep on a large rock outside the cave. Although Shui Sheng left, he still did not dare to sleep inside the cave, much less use her mattress or cushion.

Di Yun thought: “I should leave now! I do not need to take the feather coat with me. After I complete my affairs I will return. The people in the outside are sure intelligent, I don’t understand what they are thinking. No one will ever come here, it is best if I live here.”

Thereupon he left the valley and travelled east. The first thing he wanted to do was return to the cottage in Maxi, Xiangxi to find his teacher. Since he was young he was brought up by his teacher, he considered his teacher as his only close relative in the world.

To get to Xiangxi, he would first have to pass through Sichuan. He thought that if he were to encounter any heroes from the Central Plains a battle would be unavoidable. Although he had never wronged them in any way, it all began when he shaved his head and wore Bao Xiang’s monk outfit. Although at this point his martial arts were superb, he lacked confidence and presumed that if he were to meet one or two experts from the Central Plains, he would certainly perish. Hence he bought and wore an ordinary outfit of a village person while he burnt the monk outfit. He further smeared his face with coal to disguise himself. The various commoners throughout Xiangxi and Sichuan liked to wear a white headband, supposedly a result of mourning for Zhuge Liang[1]. Di Yun too found a piece of filthy white cloth and wrapped it around his head. He continued to travel east. Once in a while he would encounter a few fellows from the realm, but nobody could recognize him.

He was most afraid of encountering Shui Sheng, Wang Xiaofeng, or Hua Tiegan. Fortunately, that never happened.

He travelled quickly. It took him about a month or so to reach his teacher’s cottage in Maxi. By now the weather had turned warm, the grain and sprouts in the fields grew over four inches tall. The closer he got to his hometown, the more nervous he felt. Slowly, his face turned warm and his heart rate accelerated.

He travelled a path that he had grown accustomed to during his youth. When he reached the entrance of his hometown, he could not help but feel shocked, as if he could not believe his own eyes. It turns out that beside the three cottages next to the willow trees, the streamlet had turned into a large house with white walls and a black roof. This house was at the very least three times larger than the old cottage. From a glance, one could tell that it was built hastily, but it nevertheless imposed a magnificent aura.

He was both startled and delighted. He looked closer at the scenery and confirmed that it was indeed his teacher’s residence. He thought: “Teacher must have become rich and returned home. That is great!” Full of delight, he shouted, “Teacher!” But he only called out once before he stopped, thinking, “I wonder if there is anyone else in there? With the way I am dressed I may make my teacher lose face. But I will go in first to have a look.”

After suffering so much hardship throughout the years, he had learned to take extra caution. He was lost in thought when suddenly someone came out of the house and glared at him. His face was full of resentment and asked: “What do you want?”

Di Yun saw that this man wore his hat at an angle and his body was filled with dirt. It did not look like this person matched the owner of the house at all. Upon further inspection, Di Yun thought that this man must be a mason boss and asked: “May I ask if Master Qi is at home?”

The man snorted and replied, “What seventh master[2] or eighth master, they are not here.”

Di Yun was startled and asked: “Is the owner of this house not surnamed Qi?”

The man countered: “What are you talking about? If you are trying to beg for food, don’t pretend to be a relative. There is nothing, there is nothing here! Little beggar, get lost!”

Di Yun was deeply concerned about his teacher. After travelling for such a long time, how could he leave solely based on this man’s words? He asked: “I am not here for food. I would like to ask you, in the past there used to be a person surnamed Qi who lived here, do you know if this elder still lives nearby?”

The man laughed coldly. “Look at you, you little beggar. So talkative are you? The owner is not surnamed Qi, nor is he surnamed eight, or nine, or ten. You should take your leave now.”

As he said up to this point, another person came out from the house. This person wore a skullcap and his clothes were fresh and bright; he had the appearance of a rich housekeeper. This person asked: “Old Ping, what are you shouting for? Who are you arguing with?”

The man replied: “Look at this little beggar and tell me if he’s wordy or not? If he wants to beg for food that’s fine, why does he have to ask for the owner’s surname?”

When the housekeeper heard this, his face changed colours and he measured up Di Yun. After a while, he said: “Little friend, why do you seek the surname of the owner?”

If this was five or six years ago, Di Yun would have gone straight to the heart of the matter, however, he was now experienced and understood the treachery of humankind. When he saw the expression of the housekeeper full of suspicion, he thought: “I will not tell him. It won’t hurt to inquire at a later date. It could be that there has been some misunderstanding.” He asked: “I only wanted to ask for the surname of the owner so that I can utter his name loudly and request him to spare me some rice. Are you the owner?” He intentionally pretended to be a fool to lower the housekeeper’s suspicions.

The housekeeper laughed heartily. Although he felt this person was foolish, he was delighted that someone would think of him as the owner. He smiled and said, “I am not the owner. Hey, young fellow, why would you think of me as the owner?”

Di Yun answered: “You… you impose the appearance of an awe-inspiring authority, the looks of a wealthy gentleman.”

The housekeeper was even more delighted and smiled. “Silly fellow, if I, Old Gao, really become rich one day, I definitely won’t forget you. Hey, little fellow, I can tell that you are young and vigorous. Why would you beg for food instead of finding a proper job?”

Di Yun replied: “No one will hire me. Rich master, would you been kind enough to offer a job to me?”

The housekeeper shook the one surnamed Ping on the shoulder and smiled. “Did you hear that? He called me a rich master. If we don’t offer him a job we would be much too rude. Old Ping, tell him to carry dirt and give him an according salary.”

The one surnamed Ping said: “Right, I will act according to your orders.”

Di Yun listened to the two of their dialects and concluded that the foreman surnamed Ping was a local of Xiangxi, but the housekeeper surnamed Gao was from the north. At once he collected his thoughts and respectfully said: “Rich master, rich master, I thank both of you.”

The foreman laughed and teased: “Damn it! You speak nonsense!”

The housekeeper was laughing so hard that he almost slipped and remarked: “I am a rich master, you are also a rich master, then… then haven’t we become your sugar daddy?”

The foreman pulled Di Yun by the ear and smiled: “Come inside! Have a good meal first, you will work during the night.”

Di Yun did not resist but wondered: “Why do I have to work at night?”

When he went inside the large house and passed through the main hall, he could not help but be startled. What he saw was extremely perplexing and out of place. In the center of the house an extremely large hole was dug; the circumference was so big that it nearly stretched across the four walls. There was only a narrow passage left to pass through. The pit was filled with iron shovels and spades and other digging equipment. It was obvious that they were still digging. When he saw the grandiose of the house from outside, how could he ever have guessed that there would be such a large pit inside?

The foreman said: “You cannot tell anyone outside what goes on in here, alright?”

Di Yun nodded. “Of course! This place must be blessed with good fortune. The owner wants to dig a tomb and doesn’t want outsiders to know about it.”

The foreman grinned and said: “Not bad, you are pretty smart for such a young fellow. Follow me to your meal.”

Di Yun ate a full meal inside the kitchen. The foreman told him to wait by the corridor without wandering around. Di Yun agreed but he was actually full of curiosity and suspicion. He saw that the interior design of the house was surprisingly ordinary and the kitchen did not even have proper place for a furnace. It only had a large furnace leaning against a boiler; the tables and benches were also of extremely low-quality and did not match the exterior of the house in the least bit.

When it was night time, fewer people went inside the house. It all consisted of young and strong village people, everyone was clamorous during mealtimes. Di Yun followed the others and ate. Although he spoke the local dialect with extreme precision, the foreman and housekeeper were not in the least suspicious, thinking that he was just a local idler without a job.

After everyone finished their meal, Foreman Ping ordered everyone to gather round the main hall. “You should all put more effort into digging. Hopefully we will be blessed with good luck tonight. Whoever digs up anything useful will be rewarded generously.”

Everyone agreed and picked up their tools. The sounds of shovels and spades digging against the earth sound filled the room. One young man spoke softly, “I have been digging for two months but haven’t got anything at all. If there is really a treasure here, you will have to be really fortunate to excavate it.”

Di Yun thought: “They want to dig for treasure? Why would there be a treasure in here?” He waited for the foreman to turn away before asking a senior fellow beside him, “Uncle, what treasure are they trying to dig?”

The senior replied: “This treasure is extraordinary. The owner of this house is hoping for good luck. He is not a local, but from afar he sensed an illumination of treasure gushing to the surface. He figured there must be a treasure here so he bought this piece of land. He was afraid that this information would be leaked so he first built a large house and ordered us to work at night and sleep during the day.”

Di Yun nodded. “So that’s how it is. Does senior know what kind of treasure this is?”

The senior said: “The foreman said that it is some sort of mythical treasure bowl. It is said that if you put one copper coin in the bowl, after one night, it will turn into a pot of copper coins; if you place one tael of gold inside the bowl, the next day it will become a pot of gold. Is that remarkable or what?”

Di Yun nodded repeatedly and said: “It really is a treasure! It really is a treasure!”

The senior continued: “The foreman told us to dig gently. It would be a disaster if one were to break the treasure bowl. The foreman said that after we dig up the treasure bowl, everyone will get to use it for one night. You can place whatever you want inside it. Young fellow, you should plan for yourself too and see what you would like to put.”

Di Yun thought for a moment and said: “I am always hungry. I will place a grain of rice and it will become a pot of white rice the next day, wouldn’t that be great?”

The senior laughed heartily and answered: “Very good! Very good!”

The foreman heard the sounds of laughter and shouted: “Don’t waste time talking! Keep digging!”

Di Yun wondered: “There is actually such a treasure bowl in this world? If the owner is not crazy, he must have fabricated this story to deceive people.” He asked: “What is the surname of the owner? You said he is not a local?”

The senior replied, “Look over there, isn’t the owner coming out right now?”

Di Yun followed the direction of the man’s gaze. He saw someone coming out from the back hall. This person was slim, his eyes glimmered lively, his apparel was extremely gorgeous. This person was about 50 years old. Di Yun glanced at him once and felt his heart bouncing around his chest. He turned his head and did not dare to look again. He repeated to himself, “I’ve seen this person before… I’ve seen him before… who is he?” He felt that this person looked awfully familiar but he could not immediately recall where he saw him before.

That person said: “Everyone, tonight you should dig another three feet deep to the west. No matter if it is a scrap of paper or tiles and bricks, you must give them all to me.”

Di Yun listened to his voice and came to a realization. At once he remembered. “Right, so it is him.” He lowered his head and looked askance at him and thought: “Indeed, it really is him.”

The owner of the house was in fact the old beggar who taught him the three sword stances.

Back then the beggar was wearing extremely ragged clothes with messy hair. His entire body was extremely filthy and sordid. Now at this point he was dressed as a luxurious rich man, his entire outfit was different, hence Di Yun could not recognize him until the man spoke out.

At once Di Yun jumped out of the pit and wanted to reunite with him. However, to tell him of everything he suffered throughout all these years in a serious manner could not be spoken impulsively. He thought: “This old beggar treated me very well. Back then I was already completely defeated by the bandit Lu Tong, it was thanks to him lending a hand. Later, he even taught me three stances of remarkable sword techniques which was why I managed to overcome the various disciples of the Wan clan. Now that I think of it, the three sword stances he taught me are really ordinary, but back then it was enough to save me from humiliation.”

Now that he had fully completed the various martial arts of the Blood Sabre Sutra his knowledge increased drastically; even the three stances of “Liancheng Swordplay” that he learned back then were considered extremely mediocre.

Di Yun thought: “When I reunite with him today, I should really thank him. However, this is my teacher’s old residence, what is he digging here for? Why did he build such a big house to deceive others? He used to be a beggar, how did he get so rich?” As he pondered further, he decided: “I should wait for another time. Although he is my benefactor, I am in no hurry to thank him. Isn’t he afraid that my teacher will return? Could it be that… that my teacher is already dead?”

He had been raised by his teacher since childhood. When he thought that it was likely his teacher had already passed away, his eyes turned red.

All of a sudden, from the southeast direction a soft sound was heard. One of the diggers had come across something. The owner ventured into the pit and bent down to pick something up. Everyone in the group stopped digging and went over to see what it was. All they saw was that he was holding a very rusted piece of iron nail. He looked at it carefully for a long while before casting it aside and said: “Get moving, dig faster! Dig faster!”

Di Yun and the rest of the group spent the entire night digging. The owner concentrated his attention completely supervising on the side and it was not until daybreak before they stopped. The various villagers returned home; seven or eight of them lived too far away and opted to sleep on a mat in the east porch. Di Yun also slept in the porch. When afternoon came, everyone ate together. Di Yun was filthy all over and nobody wanted to stay close to him. Even during dinner they stayed far away from him. Di Yun could not have asked for more. He had learned to be cautious and prudent, he would no longer trust anyone easily. However, he had to pretend to be a worker and found it difficult. He knew that as time passed he would eventually give himself away. The fact that other people did not want to get close to him worked to his favour.

After dinner, Di Yun ventured into three small villages nearby to seek the whereabouts of his teacher. He saw several of his childhood friends who had now become thick and well-built adults working in the fields. He did not want to reveal his identity and did not greet them. He found a young teenager and asked him about the situation inside the large house.

The teenager said that the house was built last autumn; the owner of the house was very rich and wanted to dig the treasure bowl. However, he still had no luck in doing so. The youngster laughed as he explained, it was evident that the case of the treasure bowl had become the laughing stock around nearby areas. The youngster said: “What happened to the small cottages? Nobody has lived there for a long time. Naturally, when the large house was built, they took these cottages down.”

After talking to this youngster, Di Yun felt depressed and full of doubts and suspicions. He could not figure out the intent behind the old beggar’s actions. He wandered aimlessly around the open fields and passed by a vegetable field. The entire field was covered in dark green, it was filled with water spinaches.

“Water Spinach! Water Spinach!”

All of a sudden, he remembered the crisp and melodious voice that called out these words. Water spinach was a very common vegetable produced around Xiangxi. It grew very thick and long, and the stalk of the vegetable was hollow. His martial sister chose this nickname for him to mock his straightforward and carefree nature. He had not seen any water spinaches since leaving Xiangxi. He stared blankly for a long while before leaning over to pick one up. He smelt the juices of the vegetable and walked westward.

The west side was covered with desolate mountain ranges. The surface was rugged and filled with rocks and rubble, even wood-oil trees and tea trees could not be grown. Somewhere in the mountain range was a cave that nobody would ever go into. That was the place that he and Qi Fang would often play. He reminisced those days and slowly wandered toward the cave. He passed through two hills and passed by a large cave before he arrived at the smaller desolate cave. There was a cluster of tall grass that reached up to his shoulders that obstructed the cave entrance completely.

He felt depressed as he went inside the cave. He saw that the various objects around the cave were exactly the same as it used to be without the slightest movement, only that it was covered in dust.

Qi Fang used clay to build a clay person and used it to as a catapult to sling at birds. She also had a trap to capture wild rabbits. The short flute that she would play when she released the oxen was still placed on top of a rock inside the cave. On the other side was a basket of threads and needles, the scissors inside the basket was yellow and rusted.

During those years, every time winter came and the fields were closed, Di Yun would always weave straw-sandals or bamboo baskets. Qi Fang would sit beside him and make shoes. She would find various fragments of cloth and make it together into the sole of the shoe, then seam it together with a needle. Di Yun and his teacher’s shoes both had dark green soles, while Qi Fang’s own shoes would sometimes have an embroidered flower on top, while other times it would be an embroidered bird. That was what she would wear during New Year’s, in ordinary times she would also wear shoes with green soles. If she were to work in the fields, then she would just be barefooted.

Di Yun casually picked up an old book from inside the basket. The title of the book was the four words “The Tang Poem Anthology”. Di Yun and Qi Fang were not very literate and did not bother reading the Tang poetry, the book was only used by Qi Fang to press the shoes together and for embroidery. He casually opened the book and took out two paper patterns. It was a pair of butterflies that Qi Fang cut out as embroidery. In his heart he still remembered very clearly all the events that took place:

A pair of large black and yellow butterflies would fly inside the cave. Sometimes it would fly east while sometimes it would fly west, but the two butterflies never separated. Qi Fang yelled: “Liangshan Bo, Zhu Yingtai !” These butterflies must be a couple and fly together wherever they went, never separating.

Di Yun was in the middle of making a straw sandal when the pair of butterflies flew next to him. He raised the unfinished sandal and swatted the butterfly. One of the butterflies died at once. Qi Fang cried out in alarm and scolded: “What… what are you doing?”

Di Yun did not expect her to be so angry all of a sudden and did not know what to do. He said: “You… you like butterflies, I… I swatted one for you.”

The butterfly dropped dead on the ground without moving while the other butterfly constantly spiralled around its body.

Qi Fang shouted: “Look at what you’ve done! You have sinned! The two of them were a couple, yet you separated them like this…”

When Di Yun saw her dim expression and heard her depressed voice, he felt very apologetic and sighed: “Ai, it is really my fault.”

Later on, Qi Fang copied the patterns on the dead butterfly and embroidered a paper butterfly on her shoes. Whenever it was Chinese New Year’s, she would embroider a small wallet for him that had a pair of butterflies on it; yellow and black wings, the part of the wing near its body had a tint of red and green strings. He carried this wallet with him the whole time, until he went to prison in Jingzhou, when it was taken away by the guards.

As Di Yun held onto the paper butterfly, he could faintly hear the sounds of Qi Fang reprimanding him, “Look at what you’ve done! You have sinned! The two of them were a couple, yet you separated them like this...”

He stared blankly for a while before placing the paper butterfly back inside the book. He turned the pages and found that there were various red paper figures, there was a carp and three goats. It was used to decorate the windows during Chinese New Year, it was all cut out by Qi Fang.

He was about to take a closer look at one of the figures when he heard the sound of rocks being thrown several hundred feet away; someone was approaching. He thought: “Nobody ever comes here, could it be a wild animal?” He put the paper figure in his bosom.

He heard someone say: “This area is very desolate, no one will come here.”

Another old voice replied: “Heh, the more desolate a place, the more likely someone will hide a treasure. We should search carefully.”

Di Yun thought: “Why would they look for treasures here?” He snuck out of the cave and hid behind a large tree.

Shortly after, more people arrived at the scene. Di Yun made out that there were seven or eight people in total. He looked out from the tree and saw the person in front wore fresh and bright clothes. This person had an oily head and a powdery face and looked quite familiar. The person following behind him was holding an iron shovel. This person was tall with an imposing appearance. When Di Yun saw this person, anger surged out of his heart and he wanted to go out and strangle him to death.

This person was the one who took away his martial sister and sent him to prison. This person was the one who caused him so much suffering. It was Wan Gui.

What was he doing here?

There was a young fellow beside him. It was his younger martial brother, Shen Cheng.

The two of them approached together. Behind them were all the disciples of the Wan clan—Lu Lu Kun, Sun Jun, Bu Yuan, Wu Kan, and Feng Tan—they were all here.

The Wan clan had eight disciples in total. Second disciple Zhou Qi was killed by Di Yun inside the abandoned garden in Jingzhou, so only seven remained. Di Yun was very perplexed. “What are they all trying to dig? Could it be the treasure bowl?”

He heard Shen Cheng say, “Teacher, there is a cave over there.”

The old voice replied: “Is that so?” His voice was filled with joy that he could hardly suppress. This person followed behind a very tall person over there. It was “Five Cloud Hand” Wan Zhenshan. Di Yun had not seen him for many years but saw that he was full of spirit and his footsteps were firm. He did not look very old at all.

Wan Zhenshan entered the cave first, then his disciples followed behind. Voices were heard inside the cave.

“There is someone living here!”

“The dust is so thick, nobody has come here for many years.”

“No, no. Look! There are new footprints over there.”

“Hmm, if there are new footprints, that means someone was here not too long ago.”

“It must be Uncle Yan, he… he stole the Liancheng Manual.”

Di Yun was both startled and laughed: “Why do they want to find the Liancheng Manual? How come they can’t find it after looking for so long? Who is Uncle Yan? My teacher said that his second martial brother Yan Daping had disappeared for many years without a trace, it’s likely that he is no longer in this world, how could he steal the Liancheng Manual? Those footprints were clearly left by me, they are guessing in the completely wrong direction.”

He heard Wan Zhenshan say: “Everyone, do not panic. Search carefully around the vicinity.”

Another said: “If Uncle Yan was here, why didn’t he take these things with him?”

“That Qi Zhangfa is really a crafty schemer. He hid the sword manual here so that people wouldn’t find it easily.”

“Of course he is a crafty schemer, else why would he be called ‘Iron Lock Across the River’?”

Wan Zhenshan said: “Just now we followed that country folk here. That person was extremely swift and disappeared quickly without a trace. That person may be up to something.”

Wan Gui said: “The locals know the mountain paths well, he probably took a shortcut somewhere. If not for him, even if we searched for another year and a half, we would still not find this place.”

Di Yun thought: “So they actually followed me here, no wonder they were able to find such a remote cave in the mountains.”

He heard booming and roaring inside the cave. The people inside were searching thoroughly, but all they did was throw around a few pieces of ragged items and move its position. Then followed that they used an iron shovel to start digging, but under the cave was completely filled with hard rocks, how could they dig? Wan Zhenshan said: “There is nothing here. Let’s go out and come up with another plan.”

Di Yun saw the various disciples follow Wan Zhenshan out of the cave. They reached a creek beside the mountain and sat on top of a rock. Di Yun did not want to be discovered so he did not dare to get too close. He could not hear what the eight of them were saying. After a while, the eight of them got up and left.

Di Yun thought: “They are looking for the Liancheng Manual and suspect that my Uncle Yan Daping has stolen it. My teacher’s cottage has become a large house and the old beggar wants to look for a treasure bowl… ah! That’s it, that’s it!”

A ray of light flashed through his mind as he suddenly came to a startling conclusion. “The old beggar is trying to find the treasure bowl, but he is actually trying to find the sword manual. He believes that the sword manual was taken by my teacher, that’s why he is digging there. Because he wanted to prevent others from noticing, he built a large house in place of the cottage and dug inside the house to prevent suspicion. The rumours that he is digging for a treasure bowl are obviously fabricated by the country folk.”

Then he thought: “That day when Wan Zhenshan celebrated his birthday, the old beggar appeared both during the day and at night. It turns out that he actually has an ulterior motive. Hmm, if Wan Zhenshan and his group cannot find the sword manual, have they tried searching inside the large house? It is likely that they have already searched there. This incident is not over yet, I should go back to the house and wait and see what happens next. There is definitely something wrong!

“But what about my teacher? His house has been completely torn down by others, how could he be unaware of this? And what about martial sister? Heh, she’s probably still in Jingzhou living a happy and prosperous life as the lady of the house. If the Wan family wants to search her father’s cottage, they would most likely not let her know about it. I wonder what she’s doing right now?”

At night, the large house was once again illuminated by oil lamps. Over a dozen country folk picked up their shovels and began digging. Di Yun mixed in with the crowd and began to dig as well. He did not put much effort into it, nor did he slack off. He wanted to be as unnoticed as possible. His hair was fluffy and he did not shave his facial hair; over half his face was covered with hair, and he also smeared plaster around his face, so he was changed beyond recognition. He recalled when Wan Zhenshan and the others followed him during the day, and wondered if they actually recognized him. Thereupon he took the white headband and the green belt around his waist and swapped its positions. Tonight, they were digging closer to the north. The old beggar put both hands behind his back and paced himself around the site. Obviously, he looked nothing like an old beggar now; his clothes were gorgeous and he wore a jasper ring on his left hand. There was also a large piece of jade hanging on his belt.

All of a sudden, Di Yun heard the sound of someone approaching from outside. There were people approaching from all directions. As these people were still some distance away, the old beggar did not notice yet. Di Yun turned around and looked askance at the beggar; he heard the sounds of footsteps approaching closer and closer. Five… six… seven… eight… eight people in total. It was Wan Zhenshan and his seven disciples. The old beggar still did not notice, but Di Yun had long listened attentively, as if the eight of them were right in front of him, but it seemed as if the old beggar was deaf.

Five years ago, Di Yun respected the old beggar like a deity. He merely learned three stances from the beggar and it was enough to utterly defeat the eight disciples of the Wan clan without giving them any leeway. But now Di Yun thought: “How could his martial arts have gotten so much worse? Could it be that this isn’t actually him? Did I mistake him for someone else? No, I’m definitely not mistaken.” Di Yun never would have guessed that his martial arts had reached such an extremely high level. What he heard as distinct sounds were merely whispers to others.

The eight of them got closer and closer. Di Yun was perplexed. “The eight of them are sure laughable, who wouldn’t be able to tell that they were coming? Yet they are still pretending to be sneaky and stealthy.” The eight of them got closer by another hundred feet or so when all of a sudden, the old beggar trembled slightly and slanted his ear to listen for any movement. Di Yun thought: “Now he hears it? Is he deaf or what?” In truth, the eight of them were still very far away. If it were one or two years ago, Di Yun still would not have heard it even if they were closer.

The eight of them gradually approached. They would walk and stop every few steps. It was obvious that they were trying to prevent themselves from being discovered. However, the old beggar had already figured it out; he turned around and picked up a crutch leaning against the wall. It was an extremely thick dragon-wood cane.

All of a sudden, the eight of them rushed forward and encircled the beggar on all sides. With a loud crash, Wan Gui was the first to strike, while Shen Cheng and Bu Yuan followed behind. The seven of them all wielded long swords and surrounded the beggar.

The old beggar laughed: “Very good, my martial brother is here too. Brother Wan, why don’t you come in?”

A long sound of laughter came from outside the house as this person slowly walked in. It was indeed ‘Five Cloud Hand’ Wan Zhenshan. The two of them were on the opposite sides of the large pit and sized each other up. After a while, Wan Zhenshan laughed and said: “Brother Yan, we have not seen each other for many years. Looks like you’re a rich man now.”

These words deeply drilled itself into Di Yun’s ears. At once he was thrown into a state of confusion. He thought: “What? This old beggar is actually… actually Second Uncle… Second Uncle Yan Daping?”

He heard the old beggar reply: “Brother, I have made a little bit of money. I take it that you have completed many good trades throughout the years.”

Wan Zhenshan said: “Thanks to your lucky influence. Hey, little brats, why haven’t you kowtowed to your martial uncle?”

Lu Kun and the others kneeled down and said: “Your disciple kowtows in salute to Uncle Yan.”

The old begger laughed: “Good… good. It is quite inconvenient to kowtow while holding a sword in hand, you may be excused.”

Di Yun thought: “This person is really Uncle Yan. Him… him?”

Wan Zhenshan said: “Brother, are you operating a coal mine here? Why did you dig such a large pit?”

Yan Daping chuckled and said: “Elder Brother has guessed wrong. Your younger brother I have a lot of enemies, I am here to seek refuge. There are two purposes to digging this pit. Firstly, if I successfully kill my enemy, I can bury him here without having to dig. And supposing that your brother I am killed by my enemies, this pit will also serve as my burial place.”

Wan Zhenshan said: “Excellent, younger brother has really thought this through. But you are not a fat person, I think this pit is large enough, you don’t have to keep digging.”

Yan Daping smiled gently and said: “It is enough to bury one person, but I am afraid it won’t be enough for eight.”

Di Yun listened as the two of them crossed verbal swords, opposing each other measure for measure. He remembered what Ding Dian once told him. “’The three of them were responsible for killing their teacher. They are ruthless enough to kill their benefactor, what sort of camaraderie would they have for each other?’ According to Brother Ding, they found the Liangcheng Manual but did not find the mnemonics. The mnemonics are a bunch of numbers; the first number is “4”, the second number is “41”, the third number is “33”, the fourth number is “53”. Brother Ding passed away before he finished saying all the numbers. Did they not already find these numbers? Why are they still searching?”

Wan Zhenshan said: “My good martial brother, we have been in the same clan for many years, I trust that you know my intentions. I have long seen past your scheme, what is the use of beating around the bush? Hand it over!” As he said this, he extended his hand forward.

Yan Daping shook his head. “I have not found it yet. The schemes of Old Qi the Third, the two of us martial siblings cannot compare. I cannot figure out where he hid the sword manual.”

Di Yun trembled again. “Could it be that the three of them combined forces to take the sword manual, but my teacher took it away from them? But after so many years, how come there wasn’t any news? Right, it must be that my teacher is extremely clever, they could not find it. Since my teacher is not here, naturally he would take the sword manual with him, why would he hide it inside the house? Wouldn’t it be foolish to search around like this?” However he knew that Yan Daping and Wan Zhenshan were not idiots, they were probably ten times smarter than he was. So what kind of scheme was hidden in this plot? He could not guess, and he knew he didn’t have to.

Wan Zhenshan laughed out loud and said: “Brother, why do you insist on playing dumb? Everyone calls third martial brother ‘Iron Lock Across the River’ and claims that he is the greatest schemer, but I say that actually you second martial brother are even more superior! Hand it over!” He extended his right hand forward again.

Yan Daping patted his pocket and said: “The three of us have been martial siblings for so many years, is there really a need to separate our belongings? Elder brother, if your younger brother I have found this manual, I would not be able to handle it by myself. I would definitely need you to take care of the situation, I can only help you from the sidelines and reap some small benefits. However, if elder brother is the one who finds it, hehe, elder brother has so many disciples in his clan who have decent martial arts, I’m afraid that even if I want to lend a hand, it would be redundant.”

Wan Zhenshan creased his eyebrows and said: “What did you get from the cave?”

Yan Daping was perplexed. “What cave? There is a cave nearby?”

“Brother, the both of us are getting up there in age now. Is there really a need to be so impolite to each other? I ask that you take it out and we can discuss it in detail together. Henceforth we will endure both fortune and misfortune together, what do you say?”

“That is strange. Why do you insist I was the one that took it? If I already found it, why would I still be digging here?”

“You are full of devilish tricks and cunning stratagems, how would I know?”

“How can the belongings of third brother be so easily recovered? From the looks of it, it’s probably not in this house. If I dig for another three days and nothing comes up, I will not persist.”

“Hah! From the looks of it, you want to dig for another half a month or so, there’s no need to pretend.”

Yan Daping’s face changed colors as if he was to become hostile. But after having second thoughts, he regained his composure and said: “What will it take for you to believe me?” At once he put his crutch on the side and took off his gown. He shook the gown hard several times, some clanging sounds were heard as two taels of silver and a snuff bottle fell on the ground.

Wan Zhenshan said: “How would you be dumb enough as to hide it on your person? Even if it was on your person, it would not be in your gown, it would be close to your skin.”

Yan Daping sighed. “If elder brother really does not believe me, then you can search around if you want.”

Wan Zhenshan said: “Excuse me then.” He signalled Wan Gui and Shen Cheng with his eyes. The two of them nodded and put their swords back in its sheaths, then walked to both sides of Yan Daping. Wan Zhenshan gave a glance at Bu Yuan and Lu Kun and the two of them walked in front of Yan Daping, tightly holding onto their sword hilt.

Yan Daping patted his shirt pocket and said: “Please search!”

Wan Gui said: “Pardon me then, uncle.” He extended his hands to feel Yan Daping’s pocket. All of a sudden, he let out a shriek and immediately withdrew his hands. Under the flame one could see a three-inch long scorpion crawling on his finger. At once he flipped his hand and smashed it against the side of the pit, and with a loud clap, the scorpion was smashed into pieces. But the back of his hand was struck with poison and swelled up at once. He wanted to flaunt heroism and did not groan, but beads of sweat were seeping out of his forehead like soya beans.

Yan Daping was alarmed. “Ow, Niece Wan, where did you find this poisonous creature? This is a mottling poison scorpion, it is extremely toxic. You cannot play with these things! Brother, quickly, do you have an antidote? If you don’t hurry, it will be too late! This is no good!”

The back of Wan Gui’s hand was swollen from red to purple, then purple to black. A thin red line slowly extended upwards toward his arm. Wan Zhenshan knew that he had fallen into Yan Daping’s trap. He could do nothing but hold in his anger and said: “Your elder brother is impressed, I surrender to you. Please take out the antidote and we will go our separate ways. I won’t bother you anymore.”

Yan Daping said: “Once upon a time I had the antidote, but it’s been so many years ago, now I have misplaced it. I will look for it in a few days, maybe I will find it. Otherwise, I can go to the Daming Prefecture and look for the prescription for you, that could work too. I greatly value our brotherhood.”

When Wan Zhenshan heard this, he was so angry he felt his chest was about to explode. The toxic of such a poisonous scorpion was extremely lethal and capable of taking one’s life in the matter of a few hours. Once the red line makes its way to a person’s heart, that person would die immediately. When he said what “I will look for it in a few days” and spoke of going to the Daming Prefecture in Hubei to find a prescription over a thousand li away, it was clearly intended to insult him and even went as far as to say “I greatly value our brotherhood”. But at this moment as he watched the life of his beloved son hang by a thread, he could do nothing but suppress his anger. When a gentleman seeks revenge, ten years is not too late.

Wan Zhenshan finally said: “Looks like I have no choice but to succumb to your requests. Why don’t you tell me what you want?”

Yan Daping slowly put his gown back on and buttoned it. Then he said: “Brother, what could I possibly want from you? You can do whatever you want.”

Wan Zhenshan thought: “Today I will let you take the advantage, in the future you will realize what I am really capable of.” Then he said: “Very well then, henceforth the one surnamed Wan will never see you again. If I ask anything of you, I will no longer be considered a person.”

Yan Daping said: “I dare not accept such a condition. Your brother only has one request: the Liancheng Manual ought to be given to me. If in the future I am lucky enough to find it, naturally there is nothing more to say, but even if you find it, you should let me have it.”

The toxicity level of Wan Gui was slowly increasing. He began to feel faint and he could not help but stagger wildly in pain. Lu Kun shouted: “Brother! Brother!” He extended his hands and ripped open his sleeves. He saw that the red line had already made its way to his underarm. He turned around to Wan Zhenshan and shouted: “Teacher! We should agree to anything today!”

Wan Zhenshan said: “Very well, the Liancheng Manual will belong to you. Congratulations! Congratulations!” The last two words were uttered with extreme feelings of injustice.

Yan Daping said: “Very well then, I will go inside and search. Who knows? Maybe I will find the antidote you are looking for. That will depend if Niece Wan has been blessed with good luck.” After he said this he turned around and went inside. Wan Zhenshan signalled Lu Kun and Bu Yuan to follow him inside.

After a long while, the three of them still didn’t come out, nor were there any noises. Wan Gui was unconscious and was supported by Shen Cheng, he couldn’t even move anymore. Wan Zhenshan became anxious and said to Feng Tan: “Go inside and take a look.”

Feng Tan replied, “Yes!” He was about to go inside when Yan Daping came outside, his face full of glee.

“Not bad! Not bad! Looks like I found it after all!” he raised a small porcelain bottle with his hands and continued: “This is the antidote best used to cure the toxicity of scorpions. Niece Wan, you are very fortunate. From now on you should not play with these things!” He walked beside Wan Gui and removed the bottle cork and smeared the black powder on the back of his hand.

This antidote was really effective. In no time at all, black blood started seeping out of the wound, slowly dripping on the ground. The more black blood that dripped, the more the red line on his arm regressed, until it turned to his elbow and back down to his wrist.

Wan Zhenshan breathed a sigh of relief and felt more relaxed. He was also very angry; although his son’s life was no longer in jeopardy, he had lost this battle miserably, already subdued by his opponent without so much as a chance to fight back. After a while, Wan Gui’s eyes slowly opened and called out, “Father!”

Yan Daping sealed the porcelain bottle and placed it back in his bosom. He got his crutch and stomped it a few times, laughing: “This is good. Niece Wan, from now on you should be a good person. Whenever you extend your hand into someone’s pocket to search, you must be extra careful!”

Wan Zhenshan said to Shen Cheng: “Tell them to come out.”

Shen Cheng said, “Yes!” He went inside the hall then shouted: “Brother Lu, Brother Bu, come out! We are leaving now.”

All he heard were sounds of moaning but they did not come out. Sun Jun and Shen Cheng did not wait for their teacher’s orders and rushed inside at once. They supported Lu Kun and Bu Yuan back outside. The two of them were deathly pale; one had a broken leg while the other had a broken foot. It was obvious that they suffered at the hands of Yan Daping.

Wan Zhenshan was extremely furious. He already had the intent of taking Yan Daping’s life, but now he felt even more justified in doing so. How could he possibly repress this surging stream of anger in his heart? At once he unsheathed his long sword, the edge of the blade glimmering a dark color as he rushed to pierce Yan Daping’s throat.

Di Yun had never seen Wan Zhenshan execute his martial arts. When he saw how this attack was so fierce and steady, he thought: “This strike does not seem to have any flaws.” At this point Di Yun’s cultivation was already at an extraordinary level. Although he was not taught by anyone, when someone attacks, he can still naturally tell if this person’s strike had any weaknesses or not.

Yan Daping slanted his body to evade, then with his left hand he grabbed the lower end of the crutch while his right hand held its dragon head. As soon as he separated his hands, a soft click was heard; a white flash of dazzling light appeared as he produced a long sword in his hand. It turns out that the dragon head of the crutch was actually the hilt of the sword, the crutch hid the sword and acted as a scabbard. Now that he had a sword, at once he countered the attack. Ting! Ting Ting! The sounds of sword clashes were relentless, the two martial brothers fought on the side of a slope and fought intensely. After exchanging several stances, they both felt that the terrain was narrow, and at once both leaped into the pit.

When the villagers saw the two of them vie against each other, they were already startled. Now that they saw they were engaged in such an intense battle, the villagers were so scared they hid in the corner of the room, not daring to make any noise. Di Yun also pretended to be afraid, but he watched his two martial uncles very carefully.

After the two of them exchanged seven or eight stances, Di Yun thought: “My two martial uncles’ internal energies are inadequate; although their stances have been exhausted, even if they receive the Liancheng Manual, I’m afraid that they won’t find any use for it, unless this manual was capable of boosting one’s internal energy. But it is a sword manual, so it is likely only for sword techniques.”

He watched another few stances and became even more perplexed. “The martial arts of Liu Chengfeng, Hua Tiegan, and the other members of Luohua Liushui are much higher than that of my two martial uncles. My two martial uncles only focus on the exquisiteness of techniques, disregarding their compatibility with internal energy, what sense does that make? When my teacher taught me swordplay, he also taught me the same way. It looks like those three martial brothers all learned the same moves. This type of martial arts will be very effective if they encounter someone much weaker than them, but if their opponent has powerful internal energy, their extremely exquisite and fluctuating techniques would be rendered useless. What’s the point of learning swords? What’s the point of learning swords?”

Then followed that Sun Jun, Feng Tan, and Wu Kan all unsheathed their swords and rushed forward, making a battle of four-against-one.

Yan Daping laughed heartily and said: “Good! Good! You have really made significant progress elder brother, resorting to gathering the younger generation to assault your younger brother.” He pretended as if it was no big deal, but it was obvious that his sword movements became more sluggish.

Di Yun thought: “In terms of swordplay, my martial uncles each have their own strong points. The ‘Piercing Shoulder Stance’, ‘Slap-in-the-face Stance’, and ‘Releasing Sword Stance’ that Uncle Yan taught me are incredibly effective in dealing with disciples of the Wan clan. However, it is completely useless when matched against Uncle Wan himself. Ai, they don’t understand that if they only focus on the exquisiteness of sword techniques, without the proper internal energy foundation, what use would it be? It is completely useless. This is really strange, even a dumb person like me understands this principle; they are incredibly intelligent, how could they not understand? Could it be that I am the one who’s confused?”

All of a sudden, a flash of light crossed his mind. “Brother Ding once told me the origins of the Heavenly Glow Manual. If my grand-teacher Mei Niansheng understands this principle, why did he not teach it to his three disciples? Could it be… could it be… could it be…” As he said repeated himself three times, a cold sweat exuded from his back, he shivered and his body trembled slightly.

An old man beside him constantly prayed. “Amitabha, Amitabha, please let there not be any casualties. Young one, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid.” The old man saw Di Yun trembling as he watched the battle and offered comforting words, but actually the old man was really scared as well.

Di Yun already realized the truth in his heart. But the truth was so treacherous and sinister that he did not want to think about it, nor did he want to establish a logical conclusion with this truth. But since he realized the crux of this scheme, naturally the bits and pieces would all come together. Wan Zhenshan, Yan Daping, Sun Jun, Feng Tan… every time these people executed a sword stance, it would further verify his conclusions. “This is right, this is right… it must be like this. But, what if it isn’t? Could my teacher really be this vicious? It can’t be, it can’t be… but, if it wasn’t like this, then how could this happen? This is extremely perplexing.”

Many pictures flashed through his mind as they pieced themselves together. “All these years, it had been the case that I would practice swordplay with martial sister while teacher gave pointers from the sidelines. Every time my teacher taught me a technique, it would be ingenious. I would practice it thoroughly; the second time my teacher taught it, it would be completely different. Although the sword techniques were profound, it would be very different from the first technique. Back then, I thought it was because teacher’s swordplay was so exquisite that it could not be predicted, why the two sword stances were completely different, I never understood.”

Then a surge of pain struck his heart. “Teacher intentionally pointed me in the wrong direction, he intentionally taught me second-rate sword techniques. His ability is actually much higher, but the sword stances he taught me were not impressive at all. His… his… Uncle Yan’s martial arts should be around the same as my teacher’s, yet the three stances he taught me were much superior to anything my teacher taught me…

“Why did Uncle Yan teach me these three sword stances? Clearly he did not harbour good intentions. Right… right, he wanted to raise Uncle Wan’s suspicions. He wanted Uncle Wan to fight with my teacher…

“Uncle Wan did the same thing. His sword techniques are much different from those of his various disciples, but… why would he even lie to his own son? Ai, obviously if he isn’t teaching his other disciples, he can’t teach his son, otherwise his scheme would be easily seen through.”

Yan Daping pushed forward and twirled the sword with his right wrist. He made seven full circles in rapid haste and attacked Wan Zhenshan’s chest. Wan Zhenshan slanted his body to dodge the attack, overcoming the circles horizontally; stabbing and slashing, he completely overcame all seven circles.

Di Yun watched from the side and thought: “These seven circles were completely redundant. The last strike was aimed to pierce the left side of Uncle Wan’s chest, but why not just pierce through directly? Wouldn’t that be faster and more intense? Uncle Wan inclined his body to strike and stab consecutively, with seven stances he managed to overcome the seven sword circles of Uncle Yan. Although it appears clever, it is actually extremely stupid. If he had just attacked Uncle Yan’s stomach, he would have won already.”

Suddenly, a scene swept past his ocean of thoughts:

When he would practise swords with his martial sister, she would have many kinds of varied sword stances. He did not remember everything that his teacher taught him and would be forced into a state of confusion, retreating constantly. Qi Fang would swipe three times with her sword in succession, causing him to be flustered and faint with blurred vision. When he saw that he could not counter his opponent’s moves, he would no longer be able to think of the stances his teacher taught him. Instead he would casually defend and then counterattack with his own strike...

When Qi Fang unleashed the two stances of “The Wind Suddenly Blows” and “The Mountain Escapes like a Cloth” and brandished her sword in a circular motion to defend, although Di Yun’s stances were simple and spontaneous, not in the least complying with his teacher’s instructions, yet Qi Fang’s complex and exquisite sword stance could actually not handle it. He would stab directly to his martial sister’s shoulder. Without having time to retract his attack, his teacher suddenly leapt into the fray and holding a stick of firewood in his hands, knocked the sword out of his hands.

He and Qi Fang were both so startled their faces changed colours. Qi Zhangfa reprimanded him greatly for not following with his teachings, saying how it was outrageous that he would just brandish and slash his sword in such a disorderly fashion.

At that time he once thought: “I did not use the sword according to his method, yet why was I able to win?” But once that thought passed he understood. “Obviously, it is because martial sister’s swordplay is not up to par. If I had encountered a formidable opponent, there is no way I would be able to win attacking in such a way.” Back then, there was no way that he could have figured out that his own simple sword techniques were actually more practical than the various complex and fancy stances taught by his teacher.

Now that he thought about it, he had a completely different mindset. With his current martial arts abilities, he could clearly see the truth: Wan Zhenshan and Yan Daping executed various fancy sword stances that were actually completely useless, and further, the stances Wan Zhenshan taught to his disciples, and the stances taught to Di Yun and his martial sister by his teacher, consisted of even more useless stances. It goes without saying that grand-teacher Mei Niansheng had long realized his three disciples were schemers, so when he passed on his swordplay, he deliberately guided them towards a devious path. And when Wan Zhenshan and Qi Zhangfa taught their disciples, whether intentionally or unintentionally, they too brought their disciples even deeper into this path.

When executing a useless sword stance during a battle, not only is it a waste of time, it also gives your opponent an opportunity to strike back and gain the upper hand. It is like putting your life at the hands of your opponent. Why are his grand-teacher, teacher, and martial uncles so vicious? Why are they so sinister?

“Would they have animosity towards their own children? Would they intentionally mislead their disciples to a devious path? That can’t be it. There has to be an even greater reason, it must be an extremely treacherous conspiracy. Could it be all for the Liancheng Manual?

“That should be it. Uncle Wan and Uncle Yan are even willing to kill their own teacher for the manual, and now they are willing to kill each other.”

Indeed, they both wanted to kill each other. The battle in the pit became increasingly pressing and intense. It was hard to tell who had better swordplay between Wan Zhenshan and Yan Daping, but with the disciples of the Wan clan assisting alongside, it obviously increased the pressure on Yan Daping. The battle made its way to the edge; Sun Jun aimed to stab Yan Daping from behind. Yan Daping returned his sword to resist, the edge of the blade following its momentum downwards. Sun Jun let out a screech as his web was injured, then followed that his long sword fell on the ground. At the same time, Wan Zhenshan seized the opportunity to strike and stabbed Yan Daping squarely on his right arm.

Yan Daping sustained injuries on his right arm and urgently switched the sword to his left hand, but naturally, he was not used to using a sword with his left hand, nor could the would on his right arm be considered minor. Blood kept spurting out of his wound and covered half his body in blood. After another seven or eight stances, he was stabbed on the left arm as well.

The crowd of villagers watched in horror and their faces turned deathly pale. They all wanted to run away from the house, yet no one dared to make a move.

Wan Zhenshan was determined to slaughter his martial brother today, and each strike was executed with increasing intensity. Chi! The left side of Yan Daping’s chest was stabbed.

It would only be a matter of another few stances before Yan Daping would be killed by the sword of Wan Zhenshan, yet he clenched his teeth and continued the battle soaked in blood, not once begging for mercy. He had been in the same clan as his martial brother for over a dozen years, and after leaving the clan, the two of them vied against each other for another dozen years. He knew his martial brother extremely well; if he were to beg for mercy, he would only be humiliated even further—it would be completely ineffective.

Di Yun thought: “That year in Jingzhou, Uncle Yan helped me defeat the bandit Lu Tong with a simple rice bowl, and he further taught me three sword stances so that I would not be humiliated by the disciples of the Wan clan. Although it is likely that it was done with a malicious intent, I still received his favour. I cannot simply let him die like this.” At once he pretended to tremble violently, then he picked up a shovel full of dirt on the ground.

Wan Zhenshan was about to stab Yan Daping again. Yan Daping’s body was swaying and would not be able to dodge this attack. Di Yun lightly shook the shovel on his hands and sent a cluster of yellow dirt towards Wan Zhenshan. This cluster of dirt was reinforced with profound internal energy; when Wan Zhenshan was hit by its force, he could not keep his balance and fell backwards on the ground.

Everyone in the room was taken by surprise. Nobody knew where this cluster of dirt came from. Di Yun followed through with another few shovels of dirt and threw it on several oil lamps on the wall. In an instant, the entire room was covered in darkness. Everyone cried out in horror. Di Yun leapt forward and rushed outside with Yan Daping.

When Di Yun made his way outside the house, he carried Yan Daping on his back and galloped his way up the mountain.

Di Yun was extremely familiar with the surrounding area. He made his way up a very desolate and difficult path in the mountain. Yan Daping rested on his back and felt a gust of wind blowing past his ears, as if he was like mist soaring above the clouds. He thought he was in a dream, he did not believe that a person with such a high level of martial arts existed in this world. Wan Zhenshan and his disciples shouted and made chase, but they trailed further and further behind Di Yun.

Di Yun carried Yan Daping on his back and climbed the highest mountain peak nearby. The peak was extremely precipitous and steep, Di Yun had never made his way up here before.

From afar, he gazed on a mountain peak with Qi Fang. This peak was completely obscured by clouds. They discussed whether there were monsters or deities on the peak. Qi Fang said: “If there comes a day where you wrong me, I will climb up this peak and never come down.”

Di Yun said: “Alright then, I won’t come down either.”

Qi Fang teased: “Water Spinach! If you are willing to stay on the peak with me and never come down, then I won’t have to climb the peak in the first place!”

Back then Di Yun laughed foolishly, but now he thought: “I am forever willing to be with you, yet you don’t want to be with me…”

He placed Yan Daping down on the ground and asked: “Do you have any pain relief medicine?”

Yan Daping bent his body to pay his respects. “May I ask for benefactor’s honourable surname? I, Yan Daping, have been graced with benefactor’s assistance today. How could I ever repay your kindness?”

Di Yun did not dare to accept his martial uncle’s courtesy and kneeled down to return his politeness. “Elder need not be too courteous, junior is not deserving of such an honour. Junior is a nameless individual, there is no need for you to repay such a small favour.”

Yan Daping wanted to know his name, but Di Yun did not want to fabricate a name, nor did he want to give out his real name.

Yan Daping figured that his benefactor would not reveal his name so he did not persist. He took out some pain relief medicine from his bosom and gently smeared it on his three wounds. He was a bit fearful as he recalled: “If he did not rescue me in time, I would no longer be in this world.”

Di Yun said: “Junior has a few things he does not understand and wishes to ask for elder’s guidance.”

Yan Daping urgently said: “Benefactor should not call me an elder anymore. If you have any questions, I, Yan Daping, will wholehearted inform you without half a word of deception.”

Di Yun said: “That is for the best then. May I ask elder, were you the one who built that big house?”

“Yes,” replied Yan Daping.

Di Yun asked: “Elder employed many villagers to dig a large pit, naturally in search for the Liancheng Manual. May I ask if this manual has been uncovered?”

Yan Daping trembled inwardly as he thought: “So he only rescued me because of the Liancheng Manual.” Then he answered: “I have spent countless efforts but have yet to find even a trace of it. Benefactor is intelligent, I do not dare to hide the truth from you. If I really had the manual, I would offer it to you at once. You saved my life, how would I dare to cherish such worldly possessions?”

Di Yun shook his hands repeatedly and explained: “I am not looking for the manual. To be honest, although my martial arts cannot be considered exceptional, I do not believe that this Liancheng Manual is capable of benefiting my martial arts progression greatly.”

Yan Daping said: “Right! Right! Benefactor’s martial arts have reached perfection, you could be considered to be matchless under heaven. This Liancheng Manual is merely an ordinary sword manual. The reason my martial brothers and I seek this manual is because it belongs to our clan and we respect it greatly. But from the perspective of outsiders, this manual is not worth mentioning.”

Di Yun could hear from his tone that it was spoken tongue-in-cheek, although he did not want to expose him at this moment. He asked: “I heard that your younger martial brother Qi Zhangfa used to live in this house. This elder’s name is ‘Iron Lock Across the River’, may I ask what this means?” He had been with his teacher since he was young and respected his teacher greatly as an honest and sincere countryman. But Ding Dian said that his teacher was extremely treacherous, he had to ask this question to confirm whether Ding Dian was misled by rumours.

Yan Daping answered: “My younger martial brother’s nickname is indeed ‘Iron Lock Across the River’. This nickname was made because others believe he is a multifarious schemer and an extremely cruel individual. He is like a long iron chain locked on a boat in the river; the meaning is that the boat can neither move forward or backwards.”

Di Yun grieved inwardly. “Brother Ding was right, my teacher is really such a person. I have been deceived by him since I was small, and he never revealed to me his true colours. But… but he has always treated me well, he didn’t really deceive me.” He held on to a glimmer of hope and asked: “This nickname that people in the realm gave to him may not be reliable, maybe it was given to him by his enemies. But you are his martial brother and practiced the same skills as him, you must know his character quite well. What is he like as a person?”

Yan Daping sighed: “I do not want to speak poorly of my martial brother, but since benefactor raised the question, I must answer truthfully. Although my Brother Qi looks like a sluggish person, he is actually an intelligent schemer, else how would the Liancheng Manual fall into his hands?”

Di Yun nodded his head. After a long while, he said: “How do you know the Liancheng Manual is in his possession? Did you see it with your own eyes?”

Yan Daping said: “I did not see it with my own eyes, but I have carefully considered and know that he definitely has it.”

Di Yun asked: “I heard that you like to pretend to be a beggar, is that true?”

Yan Daping was taken aback and mused: “This person is impressive, he even knows this.” Then he answered: “Benefactor sure has a way to get reliable information. It looks like I can’t hide anything from you. Back then I thought that if the Liancheng Manual was not in the hands of Brother Wan, then it must be in Brother Qi’s possession. Hence I disguised myself as a beggar and lived near Xiangxi and Hubei to investigate.”

Di Yun said: “Why did you think that the two of them had it?”

Yan Daping said: “Before my teacher died, he passed the manual on to the three of us…”

Di Yun recalled Ding Dian told him about the night at Yangtze. The three of them Wan, Yan, and Qi joined forces to kill their teacher, Mei Niansheng. He snorted in contempt and said: “Did he really give it to you personally? I’m afraid that… that is not likely. Did he die of natural causes?”

Yan Daping jumped up suddenly in alarm. He pointed and asked: “You… you are… Ding… Ding… Mister Ding?” The news of Ding Dian burying Mei Niansheng had eventually leaked, so when Yan Daping heard his benefactor accuse him of killing his own teacher, he thought this person was Ding Dian.

Di Yun replied calmly, “I am not Ding Dian. Brother Ding loathes injustice greatly. He… he personally saw the three of you join forces to kill your own teacher. If I was Brother Ding, I would not have saved you today. I would let you die by the hands of Wan Zhenshan.”

Yan Daping was bewildered and asked: “Then who are you?”

Di Yun replied: “You do not need to worry about that. If you do something bad, people will inevitably hear about it. After you joined forces to kill your teacher, you stole the Liancheng Manual. What happened next?”

Yan Daping trembled and asked: “Since you already know everything, why do you have to ask?”

Di Yun said: “I only know some things but not the whole story. I ask that you answer me truthfully. If you lie to me, I will have a way to find the truth.”

Yan Daping was both startled and afraid. “How would I dare to deceive my benefactor? After the three of us martial brothers got the Liancheng Manual, we looked into it and realized that we only had the sword manual but not the mnemonics, it was rendered useless. Hence we tried to pursue the mnemonics…”

Di Yun thought: “According to Brother Ding, this sword mnemonic has a hidden relation with a great treasure. Mei Niansheng, Lady Ling, and Brother Ding are no longer in this world. There is no one left who knows the secret, you guys are searching in vain.”

Yan Daping continued: “The three of us did not believe each other. Every night we would sleep in the same room, and the sword manual would be locked in an iron chest. We threw the key to the chest into the river and placed the chest inside the drawer of a table. The iron chest was also linked to three small iron chains connected to each of us. Whoever moved their iron chain, the other two would definitely know.”

Di Yun sighed. “You have really thought this through carefully.”

Yan Daping said: “We never would have guessed that chaos would ensue.”

Di Yun asked: “What happened exactly?”

Yan Daping said: “That night, the three of us slept in the same room. The next morning, Wan Zhenshan shouted loudly, ‘Where is the sword manual? Where is the sword manual?’ I was startled and woke up. I saw that the iron chest placed in the drawer had been pulled open, and the manual inside disappeared without a trace. The three of us were completely startled and searched mindlessly, but how could we find it? This matter was extremely strange; the window inside the room was locked from the inside and was never moved, so the manual was definitely not stolen by an outsider. If it was not the doing of Brother Wan, then it must be Brother Qi.”

“If that is true, why would he not open the window to make it look like an outsider did it?” reasoned Di Yun.

Yan Daping sighed. “The three of us are linked together by an iron chain. It is possible to take the case from the drawer, but the chain does not extend long enough to reach the window.”

Di Yun said: “If that is so, what did you do next?”

Yan Daping replied: “It was not easy for us to get the sword manual, of course we would not let this matter rest. The three of us blamed each other for responsibility, but after a huge argument it was still inconclusive without evidence, so we could do nothing but go our separate ways…”

Di Yun said: “There is something I still don’t understand, I ask for your guidance. Since your teacher possesses such a sword manual, he should have passed it on to his disciples a long time ago. Would he actually take it with him to his grave? Is that why you had to take strike first? Is that why you had to take his life?”

Yan Daping said: “My teacher… my teacher, ai, he… he is really muddled. He firmly believed that the three of us were malicious schemers, so he never passed the sword manual to us. When we saw that he was looking for an alternate successor, and even went as far as to pass on our clan’s sword manual to an outsider, the three of us could not bear it any longer, hence… hence we took action.”

Di Yun asked: “So that’s how it is. How did you determine that Brother Qi was the one who took the manual?”

Yan Daping explained: “At first I suspected Wan Zhenshan because he was the first one to shout and declare thievery, so he was most suspicious. I secretly tailed him for some time and realized that he was not the one, because he was also following Brother Qi. If Brother Wan was the one who took the manual, he would not need to tail someone else, he would find a desolate place somewhere deep in the mountains to practice it. However, every time I tailed him I saw that he gnashed his teeth with an extremely impatient and loathsome expression, hence I changed my target and followed Qi Zhangfa.”

Di Yun asked: “Did you find any clues?”

Yan Daping shook his head. “Qi Zhangfa is much too sophisticated, he did not leave any clues at all. I once watched his disciple and his daughter practise martial arts. He intentionally played dumb and changed the mnemonics of his Tang Poem Swordplay into a nonsensical mess. It really made me laugh my teeth out. But the more he pretended to be dumb, the more I suspected him. I followed him for three years, but he never revealed any evidence. Once he left home, I secretly went into his cottage to search. But there was no sword manual, it was difficult to even find a common book. Hmph, he is really crafty. Impressive!”

Di Yun asked: “What did you do next?”

Yan Daping said: “After that, Wan Zhenshan suddenly wanted to celebrate his birthday, and sent one of his disciples to invite Qi Zhangfa over to Jingzhou. Obviously, the birthday banquet was a scheme to test his martial brother. Qi Zhangfa brought his daughter and his foolish disciple called Di Yun or something together with him to Jingzhou. After the banquet, Di Yun fought with the eight disciples of the Wan clan and revealed remarkable sword stances which aroused Wan Zhenshan’s suspicions… benefactor, did you say something?”

Di Yun shook his head.

Yan Daping continued: “Thereafter, Wan Zhenshan brought Qi Zhangfa over to his study room to discuss. The two of them got into a heated argument and completely flipped faces. Qi Zhangfa attacked first and wounded Wan Zhenshan. After that he disappeared without a trace. It is strange, extremely strange.”

“What is so strange about it?” asked Di Yun.

“Qi Zhangfa disappeared without a trace, never to be heard from again. When Qi Zhangfa went to Jingzhou, he would definitely not carry the sword manual with him. He must have hid it in an extremely secluded place. Originally I thought that after he wounded Wan Zhenshan he would return for the manual that same night and then escape to a faraway place. So as soon as the incident occurred, I prepared a fast horse and arrived before he did. I wanted to see where he hid the manual before I made my move. However, I waited for a very long time but he never showed up. After a few years, I figured that he would never come back, so I no longer played nice with him. I turned his cottage upside down and began digging for the manual. However, all my efforts were in vain, I did not find anything at all. If not for benefactor, I surnamed Yan would have lost my life today. Heh, my Brother Wan is really a ruthless person!”

“According to you, where do you think your Brother Qi is now?” asked Di Yun.

Yan Daping shook his head. “I really don’t have a clue. Although the web of Heaven has many openings, the way of Heaven is fair, the guilty will not escape. Perhaps he contrived a sickness, or maybe he got into an accident and was eaten by a wild animal.”

Di Yun saw that his face was full of delight, as if to rejoice at the thought of his teacher’s misfortune. He became extremely angry, but upon thinking that his teacher was indeed without a trace all these years, it was actually likely that he was no longer in this world. He stood up and said: “Thank you for being honest with me. I have to take my leave now.”

Yan Daping respectfully greeted him three times and said: “I, Yan Daping, will never forget benefactor’s kindness.”

Di Yun said: “Such a small matter you need not take to heart. Besides… besides… you once… you should stay here to tend your wounds, Wan Zhenshan will never find you here. You don’t have to worry.”

Yan Daping laughed. “He’s probably as hasty as an ant on a frying pan, he will never find me.”

Di Yun asked: “Why is that?”

Yan Daping smiled. “My poisonous scorpion wounded his son’s hand. He needs to apply the medicine ten times in order to completely purge the poison. He only applied it once, what use is that?”

Di Yun was taken aback. “So Wan Gui will lose his life?”

Yan Daping appeared complacent. “The poison of a mottling scorpion is no small matter. The cleverness lies in the fact that Wan Gui will not die easily. He will cry and moan for a full month before the deal is sealed. Haha, excellent! Excellent!”

Di Yun said: “If it takes him one month to die, then he need not worry. He can find a skilled physician to cure his poison.”

Yan Daping said: “Benefactor does not understand. This poisonous scorpion was bred by me and was fed various antidotes since it was small. The scorpion understands the medical nature of various antidotes, so ordinary medicine will not be of any use. Even if he finds a very skilled physician, he would use the poison of various insects to treat the wound, what use is that? There is only one antidote that the scorpion has never eaten before, and that is the only one that can be used. Besides me, there is no second person in this world who knows the formula to produce such an antidote. Haha! Haha!”

Di Yun raised his eyebrows and thought: “This person can actually be so malicious, it is scary! It’s possible that next time I will fall victim to his scorpion. Brother Ding always said that when wandering the realm, one should not harbour malicious intents, but one must be wary of others’ malicious intents. It is best that I ask him to give me the antidote just in case.” Then he declared: “That bottle of medicine, give it to me!”

Yan Daping said: “Of course! Of course!” He could not help but ask, “May I ask why benefactor wants the antidote?”

Di Yun said: “Your scorpion is extremely lethal. If I am not careful I may be bitten as well. It is best that I have a bottle of medicine just in case.”

Yan Daping felt embarrassed and laughed: “Benefactor saved my life, why would I ever harm you? Benefactor is too skeptical.”

Di Yun extended his hand forward and said: “I must have it just in case.”

Yan Daping said, “Yes! Yes!” and at once took out the medicine and handed it over.

Di Yun descended the peak and went inside the house to take a look. The various villagers in the house had long disappeared. The housekeeper and foreman were nowhere to be seen. There was not a single person to be found.

Di Yun thought: “Teacher is dead, martial sister is married, I will never return here again.”

He left the house and followed the creek to the northwest direction. After walking several hundred feet, he turned to look at the sun rising from the east, shining on the various poplar and locust trees in front of the house, the creek too illuminated flashes of light. He had seen such a scene many times in his youth. He could not help but mutter to himself, “From now on, I will never see this place again.”

He gently felt the package on his bosom and thought: “In front of me there is still one task I have to fulfill: I must bring Brother Ding’s ashes together with Lady Ling. I will have to make a visit to Jingzhou. That little scoundrel Wan Gui has caused me so much suffering. Fortunately, an evil person will meet a tragic end, I do not need to personally take revenge. Yan Daping said that he will have to suffer an entire month before he dies, but who knows if that will happen or not. If he manages to find a skilled physician to cure his poison, then I will personally supplement his body with another strike and take his pathetic life.”

Ever since he seeing the battle between Wan Zhenshan and Yan Daping last night, he became confident in his own skills.
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[1]Zhuge Liang (181-234) was a renowned Shu strategist during the Three Kingdoms period. He is very well-respected even to this day.

[2]A pun on words; the word “seven” in Chinese is also pronounced “qi”, so that person thought he was asking for seventh teacher.

Chapter 10 The Tang Poem Anthology

Jingzhou was not very far from Xiangxi. After several days of travel, Di Yun arrived at Jingzhou. He had travelled this path once before with his teacher and martial sister. The river creek was the same. The path was also the same. That year when he traversed this path, the journey was filled with Qi Fang’s cheerful laughter. This time, when he went from Maxi to Jingzhou, there was not a single sound of laughter. Of course, people did laugh, only that Di Yun didn’t hear it.

When Di Yun reached the outskirts of the city, he inquired and found out that Ling Tuisi was still the prefectural magistrate. Di Yun smeared dirt across his face to conceal his identity when he went in the city.

“I need to see for myself how much Wan Gui is suffering. I wonder if he has recovered? It could be that he is still in Hunan treating his injuries and hasn’t returned.”

Di Yun made his way to the Wan residence. From afar, he saw Shen Cheng rush out the front door looking extremely urgent. He thought: “If Shen Cheng is here, Wan Gui is probably here as well. When night comes, I will go in and take a look.” Thereafter, he made his way to the abandoned garden.

The abandoned garden was not far away from the Wan residence. The day Ding Dian died and Zhou Qi, Geng Tianba, and Ma Daming were killed, all happened in this abandoned garden. Being in this garden made him reminiscence these events. The grass was grown tall as before, and there was rubble and debris everywhere. He made his way beside a plum tree and felt the various depressions and bumps of the tree. “That day, Ding Dian passed away beside this very tree. This plum tree still looks the same, nothing has changed, but Ding Dian has become a pile of ashes…”

Thereafter, he sat below the plum tree and slept until the second watch. Then he produced some food from his bosom and ate it. When the time came, he left the abandoned garden and made his way to the Wan residence. He leapt over the wall to get in. When he reached the garden, he could not help but feel a sense of bitterness in his heart. “That day when I suffered injuries I hid in this firewood room. Not only did my martial sister not save me, she was even heartless enough to tell her husband to come kill me.” As he was about to continue walking, he suddenly saw three sources of fire light up next to the river.

Di Yun hid behind a tree and looked toward the direction of the light. He saw that the three sources of light were actually three incense sticks lit by an incense burner. The incense burner was placed on a small table. In front of the table, two people were kowtowing to Heaven. When they got up, Di Yun saw clearly who they were. One of them was Qi Fang, the other was her daughter, Water Spinach.

He heard Qi Fang pray softly, “For the first incense stick, I pray that Heaven will bless and protect my husband from suffering, and to purge the toxic from his body so he no longer suffers from the pain of scorpion poison. Water Spinach, speak up, tell Heaven that you wish your papa will recover.”

The little girl said: “Okay mama. I ask that Bodhisattva blesses my father and alleviates his suffering so he no longer cries.”

Although Di Yun was not very close, he heard all the words very clearly. Upon hearing that Wan Gui was suffering so much, he naturally rejoiced at his misfortune, but he also resented how affectionate Qi Fang was to her husband.

He heard Qi Fang say, “For the second incense stick, I pray that Heaven will bless and protect my father. I hope that my father will be free of disasters and calamities. I hope that my father will return soon. Water Spinach, tell Bodhisattva you wish your grandpa will live a prosperous life.”

The little girl said: “Right. Grandpa, please return soon. Why haven’t you returned?”

Qi Fang said: “Ask Bodhisattva to bless and protect your grandfather.”

The little girl said: “I ask that Bodhisattva bless and protect my grandpa. Please bless and protect my papa and grandpa.” She had never seen Qi Zhangfa before. When Qi Fang asked for her prayers, she naturally only considered her father and her paternal grandfather.”

Qi Fang paused for a moment before she said: “For the third incense stick, I pray that Heaven will bless and protect him. I hope that everything goes well for him, and that he will soon find someone he truly loves and start a happy family…” As she said up to this point, her voice was filled with sobs. She raised her sleeves to wipe her tears.

The little girl said: “Mama, you are thinking of uncle again.”

Qi Fang said: “Tell Heaven you wish Water Spinach uncle will be safe and sound…”

When Di Yun heard the prayers of her third incense stick, he was perplexed. “Who is she praying for?” But when he heard her say “Water Spinach uncle”, a buzz went through his ears as he thought: “She’s talking about me? She’s really talking about me?”

The little girl said: “Mama really misses Water Spinach uncle. I pray that Bodhisattva will bless uncle with a great fortune so he will buy a big doll for me. He is Water Spinach, I am also Water Spinach. Mama, where is Water Spinach uncle? Why has he not returned?”

Qi Fang said: “Uncle Water Spinach is in a very faraway place. Your uncle abandoned your mama, your mama misses him dearly…” As she said up to this point, she carried her daughter back into the house.

Di Yun made his way in front of the incense burner. Watching the three incense sticks glisten in the dark, he became lost in thought.

He stood motionless in front of the three sticks. The sticks had burnt out into ashes, yet he still did not move.

*****

The next morning, Di Yun left the garden and began wandering aimlessly around Jingzhou. All of a sudden, he heard some banging sounds and saw in front of him a physician selling medicine on the street. Di Yun decided that he wanted to personally see how badly Wan Gui was suffering, so he took out ten taels of silver and bought the physician’s clothes, medicine box, and fucheng[1]. The physician was surprised, for he knew that all of his items were not worth more than three or four taels of silver. He was more than delighted to sell everything to him.

Di Yun returned to the abandoned garden and put on the physician’s attire. He took out some herbs from the box and smeared it on his face, he smeared especially much right under his left eye. He was changed beyond recognition. Then he began to shake his fucheng and made his way to the Wan residence.

When he neared the entrance, he shook the fucheng very heavily and walked close to the entrance and shouted with a very coarse voice, “I specialize in curing extremely difficult diseases, illnesses and nameless poisons. Insect and snake bites can be cured immediately!”

He walked back and forth for three orbits before someone came out urgently from the front door, waving, “Hey, physician, come over here.”

Di Yun recognized that this was one of the Wan clan disciples. It was actually the one who sliced off his five fingers that year, Wu Kan. But Di Yun had completely disguised his appearance so he could not be recognized. Di Yun was afraid that his voice would be recognized, so he slowly trotted over and lowered his voice even further. “What do you have to ask of me? Have you contracted any strange illnesses or nameless poisons?”

Wu Kan spat out in disgust. “Does it look like I have contracted a poison? I ask you now, are you capable of curing scorpion bites?”

Di Yun said: “The poisons of green bamboo snakes, golden feet snakes, and iron spade snakes, all of the most poisons of the most deadly snakes under heaven, I can cure. Haha, what is a mere scorpion to me?”

Wu Kan said: “Don’t be so confident. This is not an ordinary scorpion. Even a very famous Jingzhou physician shook his head when he saw it, how can you do better?”

Di Yun creased his eyebrows and said: “Is it really that deadly? The most poisonous scorpions in this world are merely gray haired scorpions, black and white scorpions, golden scorpions, pocked head scorpions, red tailed scorpions, white leg scorpions…” He spewed a bunch of nonsense and named 20 scorpions before continuing: “Every scorpion has a different kind of poison, and each has its own way of treatment. Even a famous physician may not necessarily be skilled; he may not be fully knowledgeable.”

Wu Kan saw that this person’s appearance was ugly and his clothes were shagged. Although this person was capable of naming many types of scorpions, it sounded like a bunch of inarticulately stuttered nonsense. He figured that this person was likely not very skilled at all, and said: “Very well then, go in and have a look. I will just pretend it’s a dead horse being treated like a live horse.” Di Yun nodded his head and followed him inside the mansion.

Wu Kan raised his head and shouted: “Third martial sister-in-law, there is a grass head physician here. He claims that he can cure a scorpion’s poison. Should we let him take a look at martial brother?”

With an “ah!” the window opened. Qi Fang stuck her head outside the window and said: “Yes, please! Thank you, Brother Wu. Your martial brother is suffering even more today. Please bring the physician upstairs.”

Wu Kan said to Di Yun, “Go on ahead then.” He did not go up himself.

Qi Fang said: “Brother Wu, please go up as well so you can help keep an eye.”

Wu Kan complied and went upstairs.

When Di Yun went upstairs, he saw the center by the window was placed a very large desk. On top of the desk was placed a brush and blotting paper with about a dozen books. There was also a half-sewn child’s garment. Qi Fang came out from the inner room to welcome him. She was not wearing any cosmetics and looked rather wan and sallow. Di Yun glanced at her once and did not look again. He was afraid that she would recognize him and quietly followed her into the room.

Inside the room, a person slept on a large bed, moaning in pain. It was Wan Gui. His daughter sat on a small stool beside him, gently massaging her father’s legs. When she saw Di Yun’s filthy and strange appearance, she became startled and hurriedly cowered behind her mother.

Wu Kan said: “My martial brother was bitten by a poisonous scorpion. The poison in his body will not purge. There seems to be a serious problem.”

Di Yun mumbled: “Mm, is that so?” Earlier when he spoke to Wu Kan outside he was cool and collected, but now that he saw Qi Fang, his heart was bouncing around his chest, both his cheeks felt warm, and his lips and tongue felt dry. He could not even speak properly. He went to the bed and gently patted Wan Gui’s shoulder.

Wan Gui slowly got up. When he saw Di Yun’s appearance, he became slightly startled. Qi Fang said: “San’ge[2], this is the physician that Brother Wu found for you, he… he may have some kind of miraculous antidote to treat your poison.” The way she said these words, it was clear that she had no confidence in this physician.

Di Yun did not say a word. He looked at Wan Gui’s swollen hand and saw that there were round black spots, it was extremely repulsive. He spoke in a coarse voice, “This poison was contracted from a mottling scorpion from Xiangxi. We do not have this type of scorpion in Hubei!”

Qi Fang and Wu Kan both said: “Right, this wound was indeed contracted from Xiangxi in Hunan.” Qi Fang continued: “Mister, since you are able to determine the type of poison just by looking at it, are you able to cure it?” Her voice was full of hope.

Di Yun counted on his fingers and said: “He was bitten at night, hmm, it has now been seven days and seven nights.”

Qi Fang glanced at Wu Kan then said: “Mister really has supernatural accuracy. He was indeed bitten at night, and it really has been seven days and seven nights.”

Di Yun continued: “Did this gentleman turn his hand over to crush the scorpion? If he did not do this, there would be a cure for him. But because he crushed the scorpion with his hand, its poison has completely forced itself into his hand. It is useless to help him now.”

When Qi Fang heard that this physician was even accurate enough to determine the number of days, she thought there really was a cure and her face was full of delight. But upon hearing this, she felt anxious. “Mister has spoken very clearly. But I ask that you please save his life at any cost.”

The whole point of Di Yun disguising himself as a physician was to enter the Wan residence so he could personally see how pathetically Wan Gui was suffering. He wanted to see him moaning and groaning in his pitiful state in order to relieve the accumulated anger in his heart. He really had no intention to save his life at all. But since he was small he had listened to Qi Fang’s every word, and never once did he disobey her. Now when he heard her desperate plea, his heart softened and he opened up the medicine box intending to take out the antidote he took from Yan Daping. But upon further consideration he thought: “This Wan Gui has caused me so much suffering, he even took my martial sister away from me. I am already being extremely kind for not killing him myself. How could I go so far as to save him?” He shook his head and said: “It is not that I don’t want to save him, it’s just that after so many days, the poison has slowly made its way to his brain. There is nothing that I can do now.”

Qi Fang hung her head down and began to cry. She pulled her daughter beside her and said: “Water Spinach my dear, kowtow to this uncle and beseech him to rescue your papa.”

Di Yun hurriedly shook his hand and said, “Please, there is no need…” But the little girl was very obedient and always listened to her mother’s words. She also knew that her father was gravely injured so she felt very anxious. At once she kneeled down and gave him a resounding kowtow. As Di Yun had lost the five fingers on his right hand, he hid it inside his sleeve the entire time. Instead he extended his left hand and brought the girl up. When he saw the little girl’s full body, he saw a golden locket hung on her neck. On the gold piece was inscribed the words “Virtuous Appearance, Double Luxuriance”.

When Di Yun saw this, he became confused. He recalled the day he fainted in the firewood room. When he later woke up on a boat in the middle of the Yangtze, there were various gold and silver jewelleries beside him. One of them was a little girl’s locket which also inscribed these four exact words. Could it be…?

He only looked once and did not dare to look again. His thoughts were all over the place. Eventually he cleared his mind and collected his thoughts. “I fainted in the firewood room in the Wan residence. It must have been martial sister who saved me, there can be no other person. In the past I thought she intentionally harmed me, but last night… last night she prayed to Heaven and revealed her thoughts. She still cares about me very much. There is no way she hurt me that day. Could it be… could it be that Heaven has eyes, after all the suffering that I’ve been through, can I really reunite with my martial sister?”

When he thought of the word “reunite” his heart began to bounce wildly. He tilted his head sideways to look at Qi Fang and saw that her face was full of worry and troubles, staring intensely at Wan Gui, her eyes showing great tenderness and affection.

When Di Yun saw her expression his heart came to a halt, he felt an ice-cold sensation on his back. He remembered very clearly the events that happened that day, how he fought with the eight disciples of the Wan clan, how he was completely humiliated by them, how his martial sister mended his garment back together with the same brimming tenderness in her eyes. But now her eyes were all for her husband, it was no longer for him.

“If I don’t give him the antidote, no one can blame me. I can wait for Wan Gui to die an excruciating death and then leave with her at night, who can stop me? I don’t care about the past, we… we can become man and wife. I will take her daughter along with me. Ai, this is not right. No! Martial sister has been the lady of the house all these years and lived a luxurious life, how can she go back to farming with me? Besides, I am ugly and I don’t even know past a few hundred words and my hand is crippled, how do I deserve to be with her? How would she be willing to leave with me?” He felt very ashamed of his own inferiority and became depressed.

How would Qi Fang know that this physician would have so many thoughts in mind? She could do no more but stare at him intensely, hoping that he would utter the words “There is a cure!”

Wan Gui groaned in excruciating pain. At this point the poison had already made its way to the joint of his arm, his entire arm and palm was swollen and the pain was unbearable.

Qi Fang waited for a very long time but Di Yun did not respond. She pleaded: “Mister, please give it a try. Even if you can only… only lessen his suffering, then that is fine, we won’t fault you.” The intent was that even if Wan Gui could not keep his life, she would still hope that the physician can lessen his pain. She did not want her husband to die in such an anguishing way.

Di Yun interjected and his mind came back to the moment. In a split second his mind was completely empty, completely disheartened. He wished he could just die right now. He wholeheartedly cared for his martial sister, yet she married his arch nemesis and even went as far as to plea him to rescue his own enemy. “I would rather be in Wan Gui’s position. I would rather suffer endless pain and misery. If I can have martial sister care for me this much, even if I only have a few days left to live, what does it matter?” He opened the medicine box and took out Yan Daping’s antidote bottle. He turned over the bottle and let the black powder fall on the back of Wan Gui’s hand.

Wu Kan exclaimed: “Ah… it… it is this antidote, he… he can be cured!”

Di Yun heard that there was a hidden meaning in his words. The words “he can be cured” should have been uttered with extreme happiness, yet his voice seemed to suggest a hint of disappointment and even some resentment. Di Yun felt it was extremely strange. He turned his head slightly to look at Wu Kan and saw that his expression was full of cruelty and viciousness. Di Yun was extremely perplexed. But then he thought that there was not a single good person amongst the eight disciples. If Wan Zhenshan and Yan Daping were willing to kill each other, how strange would it be if Wu Kan and Wan Gui weren’t on good terms? However, why would he waste time to find someone to cure him?

Not long after the medicine was applied, a lot of black blood began to seep out of the wound on his hand. His suffering was gradually reduced and said: “Thank you, your antidote is really effective.”

Qi Fang was extremely pleased and fetched a copper bowl to receive the blood. The blood constantly dripped into the bowl. Qi Fang thanked Di Yun repeatedly.

Wu Kan said: “Martial sister-in-law, has little brother not done a good service?”

Qi Fang said: “Right, I must also thank Brother Wu.”

Wu Kan smiled. “Just saying thanks is not enough!”

Qi Fang ignored him and asked Di Yun: “What is your surname? We must thank you greatly with a gift.”

Di Yun shook his head. “No need to thank me. The medicine needs to be applied ten times to completely cure the poison.” His heart felt very sour, he thought everything in the world was miserable. “I will give the rest to you!” He handed over the bottle.

Qi Fang did not expect that the matter would end so simply. She did not dare to accept the antidote. “We will buy it from you, may I ask how much it is?”

Di Yun shook his head. “There is no need to pay.”

Qi Fang was extremely pleased. She received the bottle with both hands and bowed respectfully, offering her most heartfelt gratitude. “Mister is really an honourable person, I really do not know how to thank you. Brother Wu, please see him out of here.”

Di Yun said: “There is no need. I will leave now.”

Qi Fang said: “No, Mister is our saviour yet we have no good way to repay you. At the very least we should treat you to a cup of wine. Mister, please don’t leave yet!”

As soon the words “please don’t leave yet!” made its way to Di Yun’s ear, his heart softened. He thought: “Looks like I won’t be able to take my revenge. After burying Brother Ding, I will never return to Jingzhou again, nor will I ever see martial sister again. If she wants to treat me to a cup of wine, it will give me a chance to look at her a few more times, nothing bad could come out of that.”

He nodded his head.

The banquet was prepared in a little guest room downstairs. Di Yun sat on the central seat of honour while Wu Kan sat opposite of him. Qi Fang repeatedly thanked the physician for his efforts and prepared the meal herself. It appeared as if everyone else in the Wan residence was not at home; the other disciples did not attend this banquet.

Qi Fang respectfully treated Di Yun to three cups of wine. Di Yun accepted all three cups. His heart became sour and his eyes started to become teary. He knew he could not hold his feelings much longer, if he were to stay any longer he would reveal himself. At once he got up and said: “I have had enough wine, it is time for me to take my leave. I will never come back again!”

Qi Fang was extremely perplexed by his choice of words, but felt that this physician was weird to begin with, so she did not take it to heart. “We will never be able to thank Mister for what he has done. Here are 100 taels of silver for mister to buy wine during his travels.” As she said this she passed on a bag full of silver with both hands.

Di Yun turned his head and laughed heartily. “I was the one who saved him! Haha! Haha! This must be some kind of joke. Is there anyone in this world who is more foolish than me?” Amidst his laughter, two streams of tears flowed down his cheeks.

Qi Fang and Wu Kan were both shocked at his expression. The little girl said: “Uncle don’t cry! Uncle don’t cry!”

Di Yun became startled. He was afraid that he would reveal his identity, so he did not dare to talk to Qi Fang anymore. He thought: “From now on, I will never see you again.” He felt the poetry that he got from the cave in Yuanling on his bosom and put his sleeve on the chair, not daring to look at Qi Fang again. He made his way downstairs without once turning back to look at her.

Qi Fang said: “Brother Wu, please escort this Mister on his way out.”

Wu Kan said, “Certainly,” and followed through.

Qi Fang held the bag of silver in her hands, her heart thumping anxiously. She thought: “Who is this person? How come this person’s smile looks so much like his? Ai, what is wrong with me? San’ge is in pain yet my heart is all over the place, I am still thinking of him…” She placed the bag of silver on the table and sat on the chair.

She sat on the chair that Di Yun sat on earlier. She felt there was something on this chair and stood up right away. She saw an old yellow book. On the cover were the three words “Tang Poem Anthology”.

She gasped slightly and picked up the book. She casually opened the book and a shoe fell out, it was the cut out that she made that year back in her hometown in Xiangxi. At this point her mouth was wide open in disbelief, both hands trembled. She turned another several pages and saw a cut out of a pair of butterflies. She remembered the events that year when she sat next to Di Yun in the cave and cut out these butterflies, all of these thoughts entered her mind at once. She could not help but gasp in disbelief and thought: “Where did this… this book come from? Who brought it here? Could it be the physician?”

The little girl saw her mother’s expression change and became startled. “Mama, what are you doing?”

Qi Fang stared blankly. She put the book in her bosom and rushed downstairs. She rushed outside and continued pursuit. Ever since she had married into the Wan family, she had been very refined and educated, but now she was running around the halls like a wild woman, something she had never done before. The various servants of the mansion saw their lady exert her lightness martial arts and went past several courtyards, rushing her way out. They were astonished.

Qi Fang made her way to the lobby and saw Wu Kan enter from outside. She hurriedly said: “Where is the physician?”

Wu Kan said: “That person is really strange, he did not say a word and just left. Third martial sister-in-law, why are you looking for him? Has something happened to martial brother?”

Qi Fang said, “No!” and rushed outside the front door. She looked all around but did not see any trace of the physician.

She stood motionless at the front door for a long time. She took the book out of her bosom and turned through the pages. Every time she saw the various figures and cut outs that she made in her youth, her thoughts rushed forth like ocean waves. She could not help but become teary.

She thought: “How can I be so foolish? Father-in-law and San’ge have recently visited Uncle Yan in Xiangxi. They may have unexpectedly ventured into the cave and took the book. That must be it. How could that physician be in any way related to this book?” But then she thought: “No! How could there be such a coincidence? That cave is extremely remote, even my father doesn’t know about it. In this world, besides me, only my martial brother knows about it. How could father-in-law and San’ge possibly find it? They only went to find Uncle Yan, why would they go in a cave? Just now when I set up the banquet I remember cleaning all the seats, how could there be a book there? If the physician was not the one who brought the book, then how did it end up there?”

She was in a haze of doubts and suspicions. She went back inside and saw that Wan Gui looked a lot better after applying the medicine. She held the book tightly in her hands and wanted to ask her husband, but thought: “I can’t be impulsive, what if that physician is really…”

Wan Gui said: “Fang’mei, that physician really is my benefactor. You must reward him gracefully.”

Qi Fang said: “Right, I gave him 100 taels of silver, but he would not accept it. He is really a strange person. That antidote… where is that antidote? Did you put it away?” After the physician gave her the antidote, she placed it on the table next to the bed, but now it was nowhere to be seen.

Wan Gui said: “I did not. Is it not on the table?”

Qi Fang searched the table, bed, vanity table, chairs, cabinets, under the bed, and other various places, but the antidote was nowhere to be found. She felt anxious. “Could it be that I unconsciously dropped it on the ground when I rushed outside? No, I remember very clearly that I placed it on the table, right beside the bowl.”

Wan Gui became anxious too. “You… you must find it, how can it disappear? Before I took a nap, I remember very clearly the bottle was placed on the table.”

When he said this, Qi Fang became even more anxious. She rushed out of the room and asked her daughter, “Just now when mama went outside, did anyone come in this room?”

The little girl said: “Uncle Wu came upstairs. He saw that papa was asleep so he left!”

Qi Fang took a very deep breath. She knew there was something wrong, but she did not want to worry her sick husband. “Water Spinach, stay with your papa. Tell him that mama went to find the physician to buy another bottle of medicine for papa.”

The little girl nodded. “Mama, come back soon.”

Qi Fang gathered her thoughts and opened the desk drawer. She took out a dagger and concealed it. Then she went downstairs. She thought: “Wu Kan must have saw that I was not around so he harboured malicious intentions. But he was the one who invited the physician, could it be that the two of them have colluded and planned some sort of crafty scheme? Otherwise, how could the bottle of antidote disappear after the physician left?”

She pondered deeply as she made her way to the garden. She reached the cloister and saw that Wu Kan was leaning against the railing, looking at the goldfish in the pond. Qi Fang said: “Brother Wu, you are here alone?”

Wu Kan turned around, a smile stretched across his whole face. “I was wondering who it is. So it is sister-in-law. You should be upstairs with martial brother, what brings you here?”

Qi Fang sighed. “Ai, I feel very bored staying beside this sick man all day. Your martial brother is in great pain and his temperament has changed for the worse. If I do not come outside to get some fresh air and find someone to talk to, I will suffocate.”

Wu Kan was very surprised to hear this. He laughed. “Martial brother is never content; he is like a snake trying to swallow an elephant. He has such a flowery and jade-like beauty to accompany him, yet he is throwing temper tantrums. He is truly hard a hard person to please.”

Qi Fang walked beside her and too leaned against the railing. She looked at the pond full of goldfish and said: “Your martial sister-in-law is an old woman, how can she be said to be flowery or jade-like? I’m afraid other people would take that as a joke.”

Wu Kan said: “What? Where? When sister-in-law was a maiden she had the elegance of a maiden, now that she is the lady of the house she has the charm of a lady. Like everyone says, the most beautiful and elegant flower lies in the Wan family.”

Qi Fang smirked and turned around and reached out with her hands. “Hand it over!”

Wu Kan laughed. “Hand what over?”

Qi Fang said: “The antidote!”

Wu Kan shook his head. “What antidote? The one used to treat Brother Wan’s injuries?”

Qi Fang said: “Yes, you were the one who took it.”

Wu Kan laughed craftily. “I was the one who found the physician. I was the one who found the antidote. Brother Wan has already applied it once, he will be relieved of pain for several days.”

Qi Fang said: “The physician said that it needs to be applied ten times.”

Wu Kan shook his head. “I repent too early. I repent too early.”

Qi Fang said: “What are you repenting for?”

Wu Kan said: “When I saw the filthy appearance of that physician no different from a beggar, I thought he was incapable. The only reason I brought him upstairs was so that I could find a reason to see you one more time. I did not expect that there would actually be a cure for this poison. This is completely against my original intent.”

Qi Fang was extremely angry when she heard this. However the antidote was on this person’s hands, so she would have to find a way to take it back before settling the score. At once she calmed herself and smiled. “According to what you said, you want your martial brother to personally thank you, then you will hand over the antidote?”

Wu Kan sighed. “Martial brother has had the benefit of your romance for so many years. He should have died a long time ago.”

Qi Fang’s face changed colours. She bit her lips and did not speak out. Wu Kan continued: “That year when you went to Jingzhou, out of us eight martial siblings, which one of us was not completely infatuated by your appearance? That little fool Di Yun followed you the entire day, the eight of us could do no more than repress our anger. We came up with a plan to beat him to a pulp.”

Qi Fang said: “So it turns out that the reason you hurt my martial brother is all because of me!”

Wu Kan laughed. “Everyone said this, but naturally the reasoning was different. We said how he meddled in our affairs to fight the bandit Lu Tong, making the disciples of the Wan clan lose face. But in fact, it was all because of you! The way you mended his clothes, the way you spoke to him so intimately, the way you treated him so affectionately, when the eight of us saw this, we were completely enraged. Which one of us did not drink until all of our teeth became sour?”

Qi Fang was startled. She thought: “Could it be that I was the cause of all this? San’ge, San’ge, why did you never tell me?” She pretended not to care and laughed. “Brother Wu, you really know how to tell a joke. Back then I was a little girl from the countryside and was nothing more than a rustic, my appearance must have been completely laughable. How could I be so worthy?”

Wu Kan said: “No! Why would a true beauty like you need make up or gorgeous attire? If you did not cause the eight of us to lose our souls for you, then…” All of a sudden he shut his mouth and did not continue.

Qi Fang asked: “What is it?”

Wu Kan said: “We kept you in the Wan family. I surnamed Wu have contributed a lot to this cause. But sister-in-law, when you see me you don’t even smile, how can I not feel indignant?”

Qi Fang spat in contempt. “I stayed in the Wan family and married your martial brother because I wanted to. What does that have to do with you? You did nothing to convince me to do such a thing. What nonsense do you speak of?”

Wu Kan shook his head and laughed. “I… I did not contribute? You really do not understand.”

Qi Fang became even more fearful. She spoke softly, “Brother Wu, tell me what you contributed. Your martial sister-in-law I will definitely not forget your grace.”

Wu Kan shook his head. “Why should such an old matter be spoken of again? Even if you know it now, it won’t make a difference. We should only speak of the future.”

Qi Fang said: “Well then, if you don’t want to talk about it that’s fine. Give me the antidote. If anyone sees the two of us here, that won’t be appropriate.”

Wu Kan laughed. “In the day of light someone would see us, but not at night.”

Qi Fang backed away one step, her face cold as frost. Her tone became very strict. “What are you talking about?”

Wu Kan laughed. “If you want to cure Brother Wan’s injuries, that is not very hard. I will meet you inside the firewood room tonight on the third watch. If you satisfy my desires, I will let you use the antidote once.”

Qi Fang clenched her teeth and scolded: “Dog thief, you actually dare to speak of such things! You have some nerve!”

Wu Kan remained calm and collected. “I have long thrown caution to the wind. This is called being willing to cut off flesh to pull the emperor off the horse. In what way does that little brat Wan Gui exceed I surnamed Wu? It is only that he is teacher’s son, he was born to a good life. All of us contributed, yet he is the only one who gets to enjoy the results?”

Qi Fang has now heard several times now of how he spoke about contribution. She became really curious but did not dare to ask. “When father-in-law returns, I will report to him everything that’s happened, let’s see if he will not tear your skin off.”

Wu Kan said: “I will stay here. As soon as teacher calls me, I will throw the bottle of antidote into the lotus pond to feed the goldfish. I have asked the physician, he told me that there is only one bottle, and it takes over a year to make another one.” As he said this he took out the bottle from his bosom. He removed the stopper and extended his hand over the pond. All he had to do was tilt his hand slightly and the bottle would fall. Wan Gui’s life would be lost just as easily.

Qi Fang spoke urgently. “Hey! Put away the antidote. We can talk this over.”

Wu Kan laughed. “What is there to discuss? If you want to save your husband, you will listen to me.”

Qi Fang said: “Even if you really treated me in the past, but… unless you tell me what happened, I won’t care about you.”

Wu Kan was delighted. He sealed the bottle and said: “So I just have to tell you the truth, then you will spend the night with me?”

Qi Fang said: “That will depend if you are lying or not. If you lie to me, what good is that?”

Wu Kan said: “I will speak nothing but the absolute truth. This plan was conceived by Brother Shen. Brother Zhou and Brother Bu pretended to be rapists and sneaked into Tao Hong’s room to lure that fool Di Yun to save her. The various jewelleries that we found under his bed were placed there by me personally. If we did not execute such a crafty scheme, how could we keep you with us?”

Qi Fang went into a daze. Her vision became dark. What Wu Kan said felt like a sharp blade stabbing into her heart. She could do nothing but say, “I… I have faulted you, I have wronged you!” All along she did not understand why her martial brother, who had grown up with her and had a deeply affectionate relationship with her, would so easily fall for a woman he didn’t even know. Could it be that she was flirting with him? Could she have ingratiated and seduced him? Brother Di had always been a faithful person. Even if it was something as small as a piece of cake or a grain of sugar, he would not dare to take it from someone else. If someone were to give it to him, without his teacher’s permission, he would definitely not take it. How would he dare to take other people’s jewellery? Could it be that when he went to a rich family and saw all this jewellery, he became overcome with greed and desires for wealth?

This was something she did not understand all along. Although she eventually married Wan Gui, she cared for her martial brother all along. Fortunately, Wu Kan had finally untied the knot in her heart this entire time.

“I… I have wronged martial brother. I must find him, I must tell him I’m sorry! I… I should die in front of him!” She swayed her body and nearly fell over. She supported herself with the railing and said: “I don’t believe you. How could such a thing happen? You are lying to me.” Her voice was bitter and astringent.

Wu Kan said: “You don’t believe me? You don’t have to ask anyone else, just ask Tao Hong. She is in the memorial hall. After you ask her, you must not tell anyone. My martial brothers and I vowed that nobody is allowed to leak out this secret. If not for our meeting at the third watch, if not for you, my sister-in-law, how would I Wu Kan reveal this to you!”

Qi Fang screamed and rushed outside. She pushed open the back door of the garden and continued running away.

Her thoughts were all over the place. She continued running past several gardens before she regained her composure. She found a small worn out memorial hall in the northwest corner and pushed open the door to go inside.

She saw that the floor was covered by a thick layer of dust and the tables and chairs were broken. She thought: “How could the concubine of father-in-law, Tao Hong, live in such a place? Wu Kan is a deceiver, could it be that… that he lied to me for some evil purpose? I should leave right away.”

All of a sudden she heard the sound of slow footsteps treading on the floor, a woman came out from the inner hall. It was a middle-aged beggar lady, her head was low and her back was crooked. Her hair was messy and drooped over her face. And her clothes were filthy and ragged.

When this beggar lady saw someone was here, she was startled. At once she turned around to leave. As she made her way inside, she turned her head to take another look and saw very clearly that it was Qi Fang. She gasped in surprise, retracted two steps and kneeled down. “My lady, please don’t… don’t tell anyone that I am here.”

Qi Fang was perplexed. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”

The beggar lady said: “What… what? I… I…” When she said up to this point she immediately got up and rushed back to the inner hall.

She heard the sound of footsteps were urgent, the beggar lady escaped through the rear door. Qi Fang thought: “I wonder what’s wrong with this lady, she was so scared when she saw me… oh! Now that I think about it, she must be Tao Hong!” As soon as she thought of this she hurriedly pursued her and rushed through the memorial hall. She stepped on debris and made her way to the rear exit, then she fetched the dagger from her waist and shouted: “Tao Hong! What are you being so secretive for?”

This beggar lady was indeed Tao Hong. When she heard Qi Fang yell out her name, she panicked. She turned and saw that Qi Fang was holding a sharp and shiny dagger in her hand and became even more afraid. Her knees trembled and she kneeled down at once. In a trembling voice she said, “Lady, please… please spare me.”

Qi Fang had only seen Tao Hong a few times before. After a while she never saw her again. Every time she saw her she would think of how Di Yun wanted to bundle up valuables and abscond with this lady, it felt like a stab in her heart. So she never cared to ask what happened to this lady. Even if someone were to bring up the topic, she would not listen, so as to prevent her heart from being traumatized further. But she did not expect that Tao Hong would hide in such a place. This memorial hall was not far away from the mansion, but ever since Qi Fang became the young lady of the house she was cautious in all matters, much different from back when she was a maiden in her hometown in Xiangxi, she would never dare to wander off away from home. A few times she saw the entrance to this memorial hall from outside, but she never once went inside.

Tao Hong had a dirty face and messy hair and looked very thin and pallid. Qi Fang had not seen her for only a few years, but it was as if she aged 20 years. Wu Kan told Qi Fang to go to the memorial hall to seek the truth from Tao Hong. Although she saw her face-to-face now, if Tao Hong had remained calm and collected, Qi Fang would not have recognized her.

Qi Fang hoisted the dagger on her hand and threatened: “Why are you hiding here? Tell me now.”

Tao Hong said: “I… I don’t know. My Lady, Master kicked me out of the house. He said that if he ever saw me in Jingzhou, he would kill me. But… but… I have nowhere to go, so I had to resort to begging for food around here. My Lady, apart from Jingzhou, there is no place that I know of. Where am I supposed to go? Please do a good deed, don’t tell Master about this.”

Qi Fang listened to her pitiful words and put the dagger away. “Why did father-in-law kick you out? How come I didn’t know about this?”

Tao Hong spoke with teary eyes, “I don’t know why Master suddenly stopped liking me. That incident regarding that man surnamed Di from Hunan, it was not my fault. Oh… I shouldn’t speak of it.”

Qi Fang said: “Very well then. If you won’t speak, I will take you to see father-in-law.” She reached for her lapel with her left hand. Qi Fang was naturally a clean person, Tao Hong’s clothes were filthy and full of grease; when she grabbed her garment it was extremely slippery and unpleasant to touch. But she urgently wanted to know the truth behind Di Yun’s unjust treatment. Even if this lady was ten times filthier she would still not care.

Tao Hong trembled and urgently said: “I will talk, I will talk. My Lady, what do you want me to say?”

Qi Fang said: “Di… Di… regarding the incident about the one surnamed Di, what is that all about? Why did you want to elope with him?”

Tao Hong was extremely startled and frightened by her question. Her eyes opened wide and she did not speak out.

Qi Fang fixed her gaze on Tao Hong and too felt frightened. In fact, what she felt was probably ten-fold greater. She did not dare to listen to Tao Hong speak the truth. If Tao Hong said that Di Yun really did want to elope with her and really did rape her, what happens then? The fact that Tao Hong did not speak out right away caused Qi Fang to turn deathly pale, and her heart skipped a beat.

Finally, Tao Hong said: “That… that wasn’t my fault. Young Master forced me to do this. He told me to hug tightly onto that countryman surnamed Di. He told me to frame him for trying to rape and elope with me. I told Master about this before. It is not that he doesn’t believe me, he only told me that I cannot speak of this to anyone. He also returned me my clothes and money. Yet… yet I did not say a word, but Master still kicked me out.”

Qi Fang felt gratefulness, broken-heartedness and pity. She thought: “Martial brother, it is all my fault. I should have known that you only cared about me all along. You have really suffered too much, you have suffered too much!” At this moment she did not hate Tao Hong, she was actually really grateful. She was happy that the tight knot in her heart was finally untied. She was even grateful to Wu Kan, it was he who spat out the truth, it was he who directed her to find Tao Hong.

Between feelings of grievance and desolation, she also felt a burst of agony and sweetness. Although she was married to Wan Gui, in her heart she loved Di Yun all along. No matter how unfaithful he was, no matter how shameless and despicable he was, even if he had a thousand faults and every possible kind of fickle, she only cared for him, she only longed for him, he was the one who Qi Fang cried and missed so dearly for.

All of a sudden, her various distresses and resentments turned into repentance and remorse. She thought: “If I had knew this since the beginning, even at the risk of being hacked to pieces, I would have rescued him from prison. He has suffered so much… he… what does he think of me?”

Tao Hong looked at Qi Fang’s expression and spoke in a trembling voice, “My Lady, thank you. Please let me go. I will leave Jingzhou and never come back.”

Qi Fang sighed. “Why did father-in-law kick you out? Was he afraid that I would find out the truth? Ai, today I have finally come to a resolution.” She let go of her hold on her sleeves. She wanted to give her some silver but she ran over here in such a hurry that she did not bring any with her.

When Tao Hong saw Qi Fang release her, her fear changed and she urgently hurried to leave, mumbling, “Master saw ghosts at night, he wanted to build a wall, can he fault me? It… it is not my assertion.”

Qi Fang caught up with her and asked: “What ghost? He’s building a wall?”

Tao Hong knew that she said something she shouldn’t have, and urgently said: “Nothing, it’s nothing. Master always sees ghosts at night, he builds a wall late in the depth of night.”

Qi Fang heard that what she said seemed like a bunch of nonsensical drivel. She thought that it must be because she had suffered so much after being kicked out that she started to go crazy. Why would father-in-law build a wall in the middle of the night? She had never seen him build a wall before.

Tao Hong was afraid that she wouldn’t believe her and said: “It is a fake wall, Master… Master wants to become a mason late at night. I talked to him before, but he got very angry at me and beat me to an inch of my life and kicked me out. He said that if he saw me again he would kill me…” She chattered garrulously as she walked away with a crooked back.

Qi Fang thought: “She could not even be ten years older than me, yet she has become like this. I wonder why father-in-law kicked her out? Speaking of seeing ghosts and building walls, this woman must be insane. Ai, because of a foolish girl, martial brother has suffered for a lifetime!”

As she thought up to this point, she could not help but become teary. Eventually she wailed loudly without restraints. She cried for a very long time leaning against a parasol tree. Eventually she calmed herself and slowly returned home. She avoided the garden and went in from the side door on the east and went upstairs.

When Wan Gui heard the sound of her footsteps, he urgently asked: “Fang’mei, have you found the antidote yet?”

Qi Fang went inside the room and saw Wan Gui sitting up and looking somewhat anxious. He put his wounded hand on the bedside, black blood seeping out the back of his hand. It took a while for the blood to finish seeping into copper bowl. The little girl was sleeping next to her father’s legs on the bed.

When Qi Fang heard the words of Wu Kan and Tao Hong, originally she resented Wan Gui extremely, she hated him for using such a despicable method to set up Di Yun. But when she saw how pale and delicate he looked, their conjugal love of several years softened her heart. She thought: “After all, it is because San’ge loves me that he set up martial brother. Although the method he used was extremely treacherous and despicable and caused my martial brother endless suffering, he did it all because he loves me.”

Wan Gui asked: “Have you bought the antidote yet?”

Qi Fang could not at that moment decide whether she wanted to inform her husband about Wu Kan’s shameless words, she casually said, “I found the physician and gave him some silver for him to buy the ingredients to formulate the antidote.”

Wan Gui breathed a sigh of relief, his heart immediately relaxed. He smiled: “Fang’mei, you saved my life.”

Qi Fang forced a smile, she saw that the air of poisonous blood inside the washbowl was extremely sensitive to her nose, hence she switched to a new bowl to take in the blood and took away the copper bowl. She only walked two steps when the odour rushed right to her nose, she felt a bit dizzy and thought: “The scorpion poison is really powerful!” She quickened her pace out of the room and placed the washbowl on the floor beside a table. She turned around and took out a handkerchief from her bosom to cover up her nose before throwing out the blood.

When she felt her bosom she also felt the Tang poem book she had with her. She was dumbfounded and her heart began to bounce around her chest. She took out the book and placed it on the table, turning it page by page. She remembered very clearly that day when she was checking on some old clothes, under a suitcase of old clothes she found this book. Her father’s knowledge of words was incredibly limited, she did not know from where he got such a book. After she finished cutting up two embroideries she conveniently put it in the book. That afternoon she went with her martial brother to the cave and took the book with her and left it there ever since. How did it end up here? Was it Brother Di who told the physician to bring it over?

“That physician, could it be… could it be… the five fingers of his right hand were sliced off by Wu Kan. That physician… that physician… why? Why did he never… never take out his right hand?” As she thought up to this point, she remembered something. She recalled how the physician helped her daughter up, how he opened the medicine box and got the bottle of antidote, how he pulled out the cork and smeared the powder. She also recalled how he accepted her wine, and how he placed the cup of wine next to his lips, all these things were done using his left hand. Only at that time she did not really pay attention and did not notice.

“Could it be… he is martial brother! Why does he look so different?” Her heart was distracted and her thoughts were in turmoil, she could not hold back her grief and her tears dripped on the book on her hands.

As the tears dripped on the page, it also dripped on the two paper butterflies. It was ‘Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai’, they could not reunite until after death…

Wan Gui said from the other room, “Fang’mei, it is extremely stuffy in here. I want to go out for a walk.” But Qi Fang was completely immersed in her thoughts and did not hear him. She thought: “That day he killed a butterfly and broke up a pair of butterflies. Is it that Heaven wants to punish him to have him suffer so much…”

All of a sudden, a voice beyond him cried out in disbelief. “That… that is… that is the Lian… Liancheng Manual!”

Qi Fang was startled. She turned her head and saw Wan Gui’s delightful expression who excitedly said: “Fang’mei, where did you get this book from? Look, ah, so that’s how it is, right, that’s how it is!” He pressed both his hands on the “Tang Poem Anthology” and saw that the title of one of the pages was “Sacred Fruit Temple”, its words revealed the number “33”, the characters were a damp yellow from Qi Fang’s tears.

Wan Gui was so happy that he lost all self-control. He shouted: “So that is the secret! The book must be wet for the words to appear! Excellent! Excellent! This is definitely the book. Water Spinach! Water Spinach!” He called out loudly and woke the little girl up. “Water Spinach! Go and find your grandpa, tell him that I have something urgent to say.” The little girl agreed and went her way.

Wan Gui held the book tightly in his hands and forgot all about the pain. He said: “This must be it. Father said that the sword manual was actually a ‘Tang Poem Anthology’, how could this not be it? No one could figure out the secret. You actually have to wet the pages in order for the secret to appear.”

When he talked in this way, Qi Fang figured out over half of the truth. She thought: “So this is the ‘Liancheng Manual’ that father and father-in-law are looking for? So it is actually my father who had it, but I did not even realize it and used it to clip together my shoes? If father lost his book, why did he not look for it? He must have looked for it but could not find it. He must have thought that it was martial uncle who took it. Why did he not ask me? That is really strange!”

If this was Di Yun, he would not be baffled at all. He knew that Qi Zhangfa was an extremely crafty and calculating man, even in front of his daughter he would not reveal his intentions. When he lost the book, he searched frantically but to no avail. He pretended as if nothing happened and slowly observed, using various methods to investigate and probe potential suspects. Was it that little brat Di Yun who stole it? Was it his own daughter who stole it? However, Qi Fang did not actually “steal” it, so she did not feel the least bit guilty. Naturally, Qi Zhangfa could not figure this out.

Wan Zhenshan returned from the streets. He was just eating dimsum at a restaurant when he heard his granddaughter calling for him. He thought that his son’s condition had changed for the worse and at once, without even finishing his bowl of beans, he put down his chopsticks and rushed home while carrying his granddaughter. He made his way upstairs and heard Wan Gui’s delightful voice. “There is actually such a remarkable technique in this world. Fang’mei, how did you splash water on the book? This is fate, it was really meant to be!”

When Wan Zhenshan heard the tone of his son’s voice he became more relaxed and made his way inside the room. Wan Gui was holding up the “Tang Poem Anthology” and called out: “Father, look at what I have!”

Wan Zhenshan saw the thin yellow book and his heart immediately trembled. He urgently put down his granddaughter and took the book from his son. His heart was bouncing all over his chest. The “Liancheng Manual” that he had been searching for for over a dozen years was right in front of his eyes.

Indeed, this really was the book! This was indeed the book that he and his martial brothers took after they combined forces to kill their teacher. The three of them tossed and turned at the inn and stared at this book day and night. But this was nothing more than an ordinary book of Tang poems, no different from any other “Tang Poem Anthology” that can be bought from the market. Their teacher had taught them the Tang Poem Swordplay, the verses of the Tang poem served as names to the sword stances. All these verses were in this book. But what does the Liancheng Manual of legend have anything to do with this?”

The three of them had once put the book under sunlight to shine trying to discover if there was some kind of hidden layer. They tried to read the dozens of poems in the book in chronological order, in reverse order, reading horizontally, reading diagonally, reading every other word, reading every other two words… they wanted to find the hidden secret in the book, but all their efforts were in vain. The three of them began to suspect each other. They were afraid that one of them had already figured out the secret but did not want to share it. At night the book would be locked inside an iron chest. The iron chest was held together by three iron chains, and each chain was tied on each of their wrists. But one morning the book simply disappeared without a trace and never appeared again.

And that was the start of their endless strife for the next dozen or so years. He tried every method to find the book, yet all of a sudden, it is right in front of his eyes.

Wan Zhenshan flipped to the fourth page. Indeed, the top left corner was slightly torn. That was the mark that he left when he took the book that year. He was afraid that Brother Yan or Brother Qi would replace the book with a fake copy and keep him in the dark.

Wan Zhenshan flipped to the sixteenth page. Indeed, the fingernail print that he left was still there. This really was the book! He nodded his head and tried his best to supress his inner happiness. He said: “This is the book. Where did you get it from?”

Wan Gui turned to look at Qi Fang and said: “Fang’mei, where did you get the book?”

Qi Fang looked at Wan Gui’s expression the entire time. She only thought of her father. “I wonder where father is? I am really an unfilial daughter—I hid his book inside a cave and caused him to expend so much effort to look for it. Father must treat this book like his most prized possession. I wonder what this book is used for? Since I took this book from my father, it naturally belongs to my father. I can’t let father-in-law take it away.”

If this had been just one day ago, she would not have known the inner story of Di Yun’s tragedy. She would be full of tenderness and consideration for her husband. Her love for her husband may not necessarily be inferior to her love for her father. Besides, she doesn’t even know where her father is, nor did she know if he would ever return. But now it is an entirely different story. “I must not let father’s book fall into their hands. Even if I am not doing this for father, I am doing this for Brother Di!”

When Wan Gui asked her where she got the book from, she only thought: “How can I take the book back?” The book was now in her father-in-law’s hands. Wan Zhenshan had outstanding martial arts and her husband was right beside her, obviously she could not simply just take it. Her thoughts changed rapidly and her eyes skated across the room.

She saw that the copper bowl was beside the book, and the bowl was half-filled with bloody water. This was the bowl that Wan Gui used to wash his face and a lot of the poisonous blood dripped from the back of his hand. The water in this book was a dark purple colour… if she quietly put the book inside the bowl, they may not be able to find it. However, she was afraid that the book would be ruined. But if she did not take the opportunity now, she would not have another chance. She would rather ruin the book than let them have their way…

Wan Gui and his father both stared intensely at Qi Fang. Wan Gui repeated: “Fang’mei, where did you get this book from?”

Qi Fang shivered and said: “I don’t know. A moment ago when I left your room I saw this book placed on the table. Is it not yours?”

Wan Gui did not understand and momentarily did not pursue further. He had to tell his amazing discovery to his father. “Father, take a look. When the page is soaked with water, the words will appear.” He extended his hand to point at the handwriting beside the poem “Sacred Fruit Temple” that was written “33”.

(If he knew that this was his wife’s tears. If he knew that she cried because she longed for Di Yun, what would he think?)

Wan Zhenshan extended his fingers to point at the poem and recited the words of the poem:

“The road follows the peak, examining the Ficus pumila.
Reaching the end of a lake, distant coasts climb over mountains.
Ancient wood clusters green mists, remote sky immerses white waves.
Underneath the city…”

The thirty-third character was “city”. Wan Zhenshan slapped his thigh and said: “Right, this is the correct way! So that is where the secret lies. Gui’er, you are really intelligent. To be able to come up with such a method! We have to use water, that’s right, we never tried using water!”

(If he knew that this was his daughter-in-law’s tears. If he knew that she cried because she missed another man so dearly, what would he think?)

Qi Fang saw that father and son were so happy that they were mad, discussing together the secrets of the book. She brought her daughter back to the inner room and hugged her. She asked: “Water Spinach, look at this washbowl, do you see it?”

The little girl nodded her head. “I see it.”

Qi Fang said: “In a moment your grandpa and your papa and mama will rush outside. Mama will place grandpa’s book in the drawer. You will take it quietly and throw it inside the bowl and let it sink in the bowl. Don’t let papa and grandpa see this so they can’t find it.”

The little girl was delighted. She thought her mama was playing some kind of amusing game and shouted: “Ya! Ya!”

Qi Fang said: “You cannot let grandpa and papa know, nor can you tell them about it!”

The little girl said: “Water Spinach will not tell. Water Spinach will not tell!”

Qi Fang walked to the outside of the other room and said: “Father-in-law, I think there is something really strange about this book.”

Wan Zhenshan turned around asked, “What is so strange?” He had already thought that it did not make much sense for this book to just randomly appear in front of him, it all seemed too easy. He was afraid that there was a bad omen. When his daughter-in-law spoke such words, it furthered his suspicions.

Qi Fang said: “It is over here!” She reached out with her hands. Wan Zhenshan handed the book over to her.

Qi Fang opened the book and took out the two paper butterflies. “Father-in-law, did this book originally have these two butterflies?”

Wan Zhenshan received the two butterflies and inspected it carefully and answered, “No!”

Qi Fang said: “Then what is the meaning? In the martial world, is there anyone nicknamed ‘Flower Butterfly’ or a Butterfly Sect? I fear that they harbour malicious intentions when leaving behind this book.”

It was very typical of realm folk to leave a warning sign of vendetta. Wan Zhenshan had committed so many crimes in his life, naturally he had many enemies. When he heard Qi Fang say these words, he saw that the pair of butterflies were cut out with extreme precision, he became slightly fearful and startled. He thought: “Do I have an enemy nicknamed ‘Flower Butterfly’ or a clan called ‘Butterfly Sect’?”

He was muttering to himself irresolutely when suddenly he heard Qi Fang shout: “Who is it? Who is being sneaky?” She pointed at something on the roof outside the window. Wan Zhenshan and his son both looked outside the window at the same time. Qi Fang turned and grabbed two long swords leaning against the wall. She gave one to Wan Zhenshan and the other to Wan Gui and shouted: “There is someone on the rooftop!”

Wan Zhenshan and his son took the weapons. Qi Fang opened the drawer and threw the book inside. She said quietly, “We can’t let our enemies take it!” The other two nodded in agreement.

The three of them jumped out the window together and climbed over the rooftops. They looked all around but there was no one to be seen. Wan Zhenshan said: “Let’s look at the back!”

The three of them rushed to the back garden and saw a shadow at the junction of two walls. Wan Zhenshan shouted: “Who is it?” He leapt forward and saw that it was his sixth disciple Wu Kan. He asked: “Did you see the enemy?”

Wu Kan saw his teacher, martial brother, and martial sister-in-law all rushing forward with sword in hand and knew that something had happened. He turned deathly pale when he heard his teacher’s inquiry. He urgently said: “Someone ran from over there, your disciple rushed forward to investigate.” He was trying to conceal his own faults but unwittingly reinforced Qi Fang’s lie as well.

The four of them rushed all the way outside the rear door. Wu Kan repeatedly called out for help and beckoned Lu Kun, Bu Yuan, and the others to join the search. However, they could not find any trace of this “enemy”.

Wan Zhenshan and Wan Gui were concerned about the Liancheng Manual and ordered Lu Kun and the others to continue searching and told Qi Fang to go back inside with them. Wan Zhenshan opened the drawer and extended his hands…

How would the book still be in the drawer?

The ones surnamed Wan were completely startled. They searched frantically around the room, but how could they find it? They asked the little girl, “Did anyone come inside?”

The little girl replied: “No one!” She turned her head and winked at her mama, extremely proud of herself.

Wan Zhenshan and Wan Gui clearly saw that Qi Fang placed the book in the drawer, and during their pursuit of the enemy they did not once leave her side. Naturally she was not the one who took it. It must have been the enemy who carried out a stratagem of “moving the tiger out of the mountain” and stole the sword manual!

The two of them looked at each other in dismay, incessantly depressed.

Qi Fang winked at her daughter. Her daughter winked back at her. It was a happy sight.
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[1]A fucheng (虎撐) is a pole with an iron hoop that emits small jingling sounds. It's a symbol that you're a physician.

[2]Qi Fang calls him “San’ge” which means “third brother” because Wan Gui is Wan Zhenshan’s third disciple.

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