Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils Chapter 1-5

Chapter - 1 Adventures In the Mountains

A flash of green, a dark green sword is thrusted out, pointing right at the left shoulder of a middle-aged man. The young man with the sword in his hand didn't wait for the move to grow old before suddenly tilting the sword sideways as the blade swipes towards the right shoulder of the middle-aged man. The middle-aged man holds up his sword to parry. "Zeng"! The two swords meet, each individual sword vibrates, creating a slight hum. The humming did not stop before the flashes began again, another three moves have been exchanged. Suddenly, the middle-aged man's sword sliced straight down, heading towards the young man's forehead. The young man stepped to his right to dodge the blow while leading his opponent's sword on with his left hand, and then the green sword is thrusted toward the thighs of the middle-aged man.

Both fighters are quick as a flash, fighting with all of their skills.

On the east side of the atrium there sat 2 people. One is a Taoist nun of around 40 years of age, face as cold as iron, mouth closed shut. The other is an old man a bit over 50, stroking his beard with his right hand, face full of pride. They are seated about 2 meters apart, behind each stood about 20 or so male and female disciples. The west side is occupied by about 10 guests. Everyone's complete attention is on the two people fighting in the middle of the atrium.

The fight has gone on for about 70 exchanges now, the moves keep on getting faster and tighter, but no winner has emerged yet. Suddenly the middle-aged man thrusted his sword out again with great force, too much force, and he started to teeter as if he was going to fall. A young man wearing green in the west of the atrium couldn't help but let out a little laugh. However, he immediately realized that it was very out of place and quickly covered his mouth with his hand.

Right at this time, the young man in the atrium sends his left palm out, aiming for the back of the middle-aged man. The middle-aged man took a step forward to avoid the strike. He swung his sword in a circle close to the ground and shouted: "Gotcha!" The young man's left leg was hit and his leg gave out. However, he pointed his sword at the ground and used it like a crutch as he balanced himself and seemed ready to continue. The middle-aged man has already sheathed his sword, saying with a smile: "Brother Chu, thanks for letting me win, are you hurt bad?" The young man's face turned white as a sheet, biting his lips, he replied: "Thanks for pulling back, Brother Gong."

The old man with the bearded face is alit with pride. He smiled and said: "The East Faction has won three rounds, looks like the 'Sword Lake Palace' (Jian Hu Gong) is going to belong to the East Faction for another five years. Sister Xing, shall we continue with the match?" The middle-aged nun barely controlled her anger: "Brother Zuo's disciples are worthy of his name. But has Brother Zuo made any progress on the 'No Measure Jade Cliff' (Wu Liang Yu Bi)?" The bearded man shot her a look and said in a serious voice: "Has martial sister forgotten the rules of our sect?" The nun hmphed, but did not reply.

The old man's surname is Zuo, first name ZiMu, he is the head of the No Measure Sword (Wu Liang Jian) sect's East Faction. The nun's surname is Xin, Taoist name is ShuangQing (double clear), is the head of the West Faction.

No Measure Sword sect used to be in factions of East, North, and West. The North Faction in the last decades has weakened much, while the East and West has flourished. No Measure Sword was started in the No Measure Mountains in southern China during the reign of the 5th Emperor of Tang. The head of the sect resides in the Sword Lake Palace. Ever since the factions started during the rule of the Emperor Ren Zong (Benevolent Ruler) of Sung, there has been a contest every 5 years during which the disciples of the 3 factions compete in the atrium of Sword Lake Palace. First faction to three wins is declared the winner and wins the rights to reside in the palace for 5 years. In the 5 years between contests, the losing factions study and trains hard in hopes of avenging the shame of losing last time. The winner, of course, does not slack off either. The North Faction won 40 years ago but was immediately beaten in the next contest 5 years later. The head of the faction, in a fit of rage, moved disciples to the west side of the mountain range, never to compete again, as well as losing all contacts with the other 2 factions. In the 35 years since, both factions have won and lost with the East winning 4 times while the West winning twice. That round between that middle-aged man named Gong and the young man named Zu is the fourth round of this year's contest. The win by Gong is the third for the East in four matches, thus making the fifth match unnecessary.

The west side of the atrium sits guests from other sects, including invited witnesses that are invited by either faction. The rest are just guest who are here to watch a show. Everyone here has at least somewhat a name in the YuNan area with the lone exception being the young man wearing green sitting at the end, who just happened to be the one that let out that solitary laugh.

The young man came with Ma WuDe. Ma WuDe is a big tea merchant in the area. He loves company and gets along with most everyone. If anyone in the world ever came to him for help (mostly financially), he would always do all he can without exception. Hence, he is well like and well respected with many. However, his kungfu is only average. Zuo ZiMu vaguely remembers the young man being introduced with the surname of Duan. Duan is the surname of the Emperor in DaLi, inside of DaLi borders there are tens of thousands of people with the surname of Duan. Therefore, when the young man was introduced Zuo ZiMu didn't really pay much attention to it, figuring that he probably is a disciple of Ma WuDe's. This Ma WuDe's kungfu is average to begin with, how good can his disciple be? So Zuo didn't even bother with the "Much admired" phrase, just plainly cupped his fist and led them to the atrium. Who knew that this young man is so brazen as to laugh at one of Zuo ZiMu's favorite disciples.

So now, Zuo ZiMu smiles and says: "The 4 disciples of Sister Xin that fought this year all had very good sword skills. Particularly in that 4th match, our win was especially lucky. Disciple Chu's skill is at such a level at such a young age. Looks like his future is limitless. In 5 years time, it seems like East and West are going to switch places. Ha Ha Ha." Suddenly he turns his eyes to the young man named Duan: "My lacking disciple used a fake move, "Teetering Step", to win earlier. This young gentleman does not seem to be impressed. Please demonstrate to my disciple how it should done. Mr. Ma is famous throughout the area, his disciple's kungfu should be very good as well."

Ma WuDe blushed a little from that comment: "This young man is not my disciple. With the little kungfu that I know, how can I possibly be somebody's master? Please don't think too much of it Mr. Zuo. This young man came into my town, heard that I was coming to visit No Measure Mountain, so he asked to come along. He says that he has long heard of the scenic beauty of No Measure Mountain and wanted to see and experience it for himself."

This got Zuo ZiMu thinking: "If he is your disciple, then out of respect to you, I wouldn't go too hard on him. But since he is just a normal guest and visitor, there is no need to be polite. Someone is actually brazen enough to laugh at No Measure Sword East Faction's kungfu, if I do not make him regret it, then where do I put my face?" So he sneers: "Don't know how we should address you, Mr. Duan, or which famous person is your master."

The young man named Duan smiled a little: "My given name is Yu and I have never learned any kungfu in my life. But if I saw someone fall, doesn't matter if he meant to or not, I couldn't help but to laugh a little." Zuo ZiMu couldn't help but get angrier for he does not have any respect in his tone of voice: "What is so funny about it?" Duan Yu lightly flicked the fan in his hand, casually replied: "A person standing or sitting is not funny, lying in bed, no humor there at all either. Lying on the ground, on the other hand, hehe, is very funny. Unless he's a three year old baby, then we'll make an exception." The more he talked, the less respectful he seemed to become. Zuo ZiMu turns to Ma WuDe: "Mr. Ma, is this Mr. Duan a friend of yours?"

In truth, Ma WuDe just met Duan Yu as well and doesn't know a thing about Duan Yu's background or past. However, he was born friendly and Duan Yu insisted upon coming to No Measure Mountain. Ma WuDe felt awkward to refuse, so he brought him along. At this time, he could tell that Zuo ZiMu's voice is full of anger and won't hold back if he gets started. Duan Yu seems like a nice guy, no point in getting him into trouble. So he says: "Although Mr. Duan and I are casual acquaintances, we still came here together. To me, Mr. Duan seems very gentlemanly and does not know a single bit of kungfu. So his laugh a moment ago must have been just reactionary and he did not mean anything. How about this? I'm kind of hungry right now, so Mr. Zuo, why don't you get some wine and the two us then toast you 3 shots each as an apology. Such a good day today, Mr. Zuo, why fuss with someone of a younger generation?"

Zuo ZiMu plainly replied: "Mr. Duan, since you are not a friend of Mr. Ma, then if I, in any way, offend you it doesn't have anything to do Mr. Ma. GuangJie, this gentleman was just laughing at you, why don't you go and ask for some advice."

GuangJie is the given name of that middle-aged man named Gong; he had been waiting for his master to say something. At once he unsheathed his sword, jumped into the middle of the atrium, flips his sword over, and offered the handle up to Duan Yu: "Mr. Duan, please!" Duan Yu replies: "Very good, go on and practice, I'll watch." He did not move at all from his seat. Gong GuangJie's face turned purple: "You... what did you say?" Duan Yu answers: "You have a sword in your hand and is swinging it here and there, want to practice? Then go ahead and practice. I never liked watching others fight and such, but since I wanted to come here and you aren't really fighting then I guess it wouldn't hurt to watch." Gong GuangJie screamed at him: "My master is telling you to come out here and fight it out with me!"

Duan Yu lightly waved the fan in his hand and shook his head casually: "Your master is YOUR master, your master is not MY master. Your master can command you, but your master can't command me. Your master told you to fight with someone, and you have done so already. Your master told you to fight with me; first of all, I don't know how, second, I'm scared to lose, third, I'm scared it would hurt, fourth, I'm scared I might die; so no fighting. If I say we don't fight, then we don't fight."

This whole speech, full of "your master" and "my master", came out so smoothly that it seemed to be a poem. Numerous people in the atrium could not help but crack up somewhat upon hearing it. No Measure Sword West Faction is divided half male and half female and more than several female disciples start to laugh coquettishly. The serious atmosphere that so engulfed the atrium a moment ago is gone in a flash.

Gong GuangJie walked up to Duan Yu, points the sword at Duan Yu's chest, asked loudly: "You really don't know, or are you pretending?" The sword is merely inches away from Duan Yu's chest, only a small push is needed for the sword to penetrate his heart. But Duan Yu's face is still calm and shows no signs of fear: "Of course I don't know, Why would I pretend?" Gong GuangJie replies: "How dare you cause trouble here in No Measure Mountain, here in Sword Lake Palace? My guess is that you are tired of living. Who is your master? Who told you to come here? If you don't tell me the truth, don't blame me if I don't hold back!"

Duan Yu casually replies: "Hero, why are you being so ferocious? I have never liked fighting with others. Your sect is the No Measure Sword, in the middle of No Measure Mountain. It is said in Buddhist canon: 'There are four things that are of no measure: kindness, sadness, happiness, and sacrifice.' As to what that means, I think everyone knows: happiness leads to kindness; eliminating bitterness leads to sadness; being with friends and leaving bitterness leads to happiness; leaving everything so that worry and affection are equal as one leads to sacrifice. No measure is of Buddha, amida Buddha. Amida Buddha..."

{Note: I'll be using the phrase Without Measure instead of No Measure because I think it is a better translation of the original phrase.}

As he just sits there muttering to himself, Gong GuangJie has pulled back his sword. Suddenly, he threw his arm out and landed a solid slap on Duan Yu's face. Duan Yu tried to tilt his head to avoid the strike, but the slap was too quick. On his white gentlemanly looking face, one can clearly see five red fingerprints.

This caught everyone by surprise. Seeing Duan Yu's casual attitude and all the playing around he does with his talking, everyone assumed that he must be someone with spectacular skills. Who knew he couldn't even dodge a very average slap from Gong GuangJie? Obviously, he does not know any kungfu. In this world, a master pretending to be stupid, jesting with others to amuse himself is very common place. How can someone that does not know kungfu be so brazen and foolish to do so? Even Gong GuangJie stood there dumbfounded for a moment, then immediately he grabbed Duan Yu's chest and lifted him up: "I was wondering what kind of extraordinary person you are, it turns out you are just a sack of shit!" He threw Duan Yu down, Duan Yu rolled along the floor, finally coming to a stop when his head hit a leg of a table with a loud "Bang".

Ma WuDe did not have the heart to see this, scrambled over and helped Duan Yu up, all the while saying to Duan Yu: "So you really do not know any kungfu, then why cause trouble here?"

Duan Yu answered while rubbing his forehead: "I only came here to visit the mountains and to check out the landscape, who knew they were going to fight? You chop me, I chop you, what's so great about that? A monkey show would be better! Goodbye, Mr. Ma. Goodbye, I'm getting out of here!"

A young disciple of Zuo ZiMu's jumped out right in front of from behind Zuo ZiMu, blocking Duan Yu's exit: "Because you don't know any kungfu, if you leave like this, it really is no bother. But why did you say that our little contest is worse than a monkey show? Seems rather harsh don't you think? I give you 2 choices: either we spar a little and let you have a taste of this 'worse than monkey' sword skill; or you can go and kowtow 8 times to my master, and then say 'Bullshit!' three times." Duan Yu laughed: "You crapped? How come it doesn't stink?"

The young man did not take well to that comment, responding by simply throwing a ferocious punch straight at Duan Yu's face. Just as it looked as if Duan Yu is going to get his face smashed, an object came flying through the air and wrapped around the young man's arm. This object felt cold and slippery to the touch yet somehow firm, as soon as it wrapped around the young man's arm it started to slide. The young man pulled back his arm in shock, looking down he finds out that the object was a snake. The snake is about 2 foot long and green with red markings. The young man let out a huge scream and started to try to shake the snake off, however the snake seems to be quite comfortable on his arm and did not want to leave no matter what. Suddenly Gong GuangJie screamed: "Snake! Snake!" Everyone turns in time to see his face filled with fear, his hands were inside of is sleeves, reaching and grabbing for something in his back. But of course he could not reach it, so in panic he started to rip his cloth off.

This drastic change happened so quickly and was so unexpected that nobody has recovered from the initial shock when they suddenly heard a single solitary laugh coming from above their heads. All at once everyone looked up and saw a young girl sitting on a roof beam with snakes in her hand.

She had dimples like flowers. This girl looked to be around 16 or 17, dressed in green. In her hands were 10 or so foot long snakes. These snakes vary in colors, but from their triangular heads, it was obvious they were poisonous. But this girl did not seem to mind at all, as if they were toys in her hand. Everyone only glanced at her for a moment, for Gong GuangJie and his martial brother's screaming and yelping made everyone turn their eyes back on to them.

Only Duan Yu kept his eyes on the girl, the girl's feet were swinging back and forth, as if it was lots of fun sitting there on top of the beam. So he asked: "Miss, are you the one that rescued me?" The girl answered: "That bad man hit you, why didn't you hit back?" Duan Yu shook his head: "I don't know how to hit back...."

Suddenly everyone collectively let out an "Ah!" Duan Yu turned to see Zuo ZiMu holding a blood stained sword in his hand. A red snake is lying on the ground, in 2 pieces, obviously killed by him. Gong GuangJie by now is half-naked, but still jumping around like a clown. He is trying to grab a small green snake that is crawling around on his back. A couple of times it looked as if he almost got it, but he never came up with it.

Zuo ZiMu commanded: "GuangJie, stand still and don't move!" Gong GuangJie froze, and then a flash of white, and the snake is on the ground in 2 pieces. Zuo ZiMu's sword speed was blinding, most of the people present did not see what happened until the snake is on the ground, yet Gong GuangJie's back is left unharmed. Everyone present could not help but cheer.

The girl sitting on the beam shouted down: "Hey! Hey! Old man with the beard, what did you kill my 2 pet snakes for? If you keep this up I'm going to stop being so courteous."

Zuo ZiMu replied angrily: "Which household did you crawl out of? What are you doing here?" All the while secretly marveling at the girl, this girl who stealthily climbed up onto the beam without anybody noticing! Although everyone's attention was focused on the contest between the factions, but that still should not excuse letting a person climb up onto the beam unnoticed. If a word of this gets out, how much face would No Measure Sword lose? The girl's feet swung back and forth, her shoes are of light green color with a couple of delicate yellow flowers sewn on the sides, and basically dressed as a little girl. Zuo ZiMu continued: "Jump down this instant!"

Suddenly Duan Yu blurted out: "From that high?! She'll get hurt! Go tell some people to bring a ladder!" A couple of people snickered a bit at that comment. The female disciples under the West Faction all thought: "This guy has the look of a well educated gentleman, but it turns out he's as dense as a piece of wood. The girl got up there without anyone noticing, why would she need a ladder to get down?"

The girl replied: "First you have to compensate for my snakes, then I'll get down to talk to you." Zuo ZiMu answers: "What's the big deal about 2 little snakes? You can just go and easily catch 2 more just anywhere." He is not worried about the girl because of her young age. What worries him is that this girl might have someone very powerful, such as her father or master, backing her up. Therefore, he is actually reasonably polite towards her. The girl grinned and replied: "If it's so easy, why don't you go and catch them for me."

Zuo ZiMu switched the subject: "Jump down." The young girl simply answered "No". Zuo ZiMu threatened: "If you don't come down, then I'm going to have to make you come down." The girl let out a little laugh before answering: "Hehe, come and try then. If you can make me get down, then you are really something." Zuo ZiMu is still a leader of a sect, no matter what he can't be seen actually fighting a little girl. So he turned to ShuangQing: "Sister Xin, could you please send one of your female disciples up there to get her down?"

ShuangQing replied coldly: "We don't have anyone here in the West Faction with that level of Qing Gong (lightness kungfu)." Zuo ZiMu's face dropped one more shade and was just about to answer back when he was interrupted by the young girl: "If you don't compensate me for my snakes, then I'm going to show you a thing or two!" Reaching into her pouch, she took out a furry thing and tossed it at Gong GuangJie.

Gong GuangJie figured this was some weird flying weapon, so he dared not grab it with his hands and just tried to get out of the way. But who would have guessed that this furry little thing was alive? With a twist in midair, it landed squarely on Gong GuangJie's back. It is only now that everyone saw what the thing was, a gray colored marten! {A cute weasel-like creature that can climb trees} This marten was amazingly quick, crawling all over Guang GongJie's back, chest, face, and neck as if it were flat ground. Gong GuangJie tried to grab the little creature, but it was way too fast for him. So he just ended up looking like a clown with a furry ball shooting up and down his body.

Duan Yu couldn't help but laugh: "Truly amazing, now THIS is interesting."

This marten is only about a foot or so long, its eyes are blood red, and it has claws as sharp as razors. Very soon, Gong GuangJie's upper body is covered with countless streaks of scratch marks.

The young girl hissed a couple of times, a white shadow flew right at Gong GuangJie's face. Suddenly the marten has pounced onto Gong GuangJie's face and stopped there, its furry tail swiping back and forth across his eyes. Gong GuangJie immediately tried to grab the marten. But by the time his hands got there the marten was already behind his neck and Gong GuangJie almost dug his own eyes out.

Zuo ZiMu stepped up and his sword came flying in. At this time the marten has ended up on Gong GuangJie's face once again, Zuo ZiMu aimed his sword at the marten, but the marten has already scrambled to the back of Gong GuangJie's neck. Zuo ZiMu's sword stopped just in time so that it is just touching the eyelid of Gong GuangJie. Although he missed the marten, the people present gasped in admiration. For if the sword had gone just a bit further, Gong GuangJie's eye would have been gone. ShuangQing thought to herself: "Brother Zuo's sword skill is indeed extraordinary, even I can't match him. Just this 'Plundered Crossing of the Golden Needle' (Jin Zhen Du Jie) is proof enough of that."

Swish! Swoosh! Zuo ZiMu linked together 4 more moves one after another, but although his moves were fast to a rare degree, the marten is still one step faster. That young girl shouted down: "Old man with the beard, your sword skills are actually pretty good." She then hissed a couple of more times, the marten suddenly scurried downwards and disappeared. Zuo ZiMu was taken aback for a moment. Gong GuangJie suddenly start grabbing and scratching is legs, it turns out the marten has gotten into his trousers.

By this time Duan Yu has almost doubled over in laughter, clapping his hand, he commented: "Now this is a real eye-opener, this trip was worth it after all."

Gong GuangJie literally ripped his trousers off, revealing a pair of hairy legs. The young girl shouted: "Like to bully other people don't you? Well let's see how you like it if you are stripped naked!" Then she hissed twice more. This marten turned out to be quite obedient as it immediately crawled into Gong GuangJie's underwear. With all the girls present in the atrium, there is no way Gong GuangJie is going to take off his underwear. So all he could do was hop around for a bit and smacking his butt and thighs with his hands. Suddenly he let out a scream and start desperately, albeit very awkwardly, making his way out of the atrium as fast as he could.

Just as he is about to exit through the door, someone suddenly popped in from outside. Bang! Both of them were in a hurry and they ran right into one another. Gong GuangJie was knocked a step back, but the person that was entering the atrium fell back and landed in his back.

Zuo ZiMu cried out involuntarily: "Brother Rong?!"

Now, Gong GuangJie had to ignore the marten that's moving all around his pants as he reached down to try and help the person up. Suddenly the marten moved onto a particularly sensitive spot, forcing Gong GuangJie to shriek and grab for the marten, thus making the man fall down again.

The young girl let out a rather coquettish laugh: "Alright, I think you have had enough." She let out a rather long hiss. That marten suddenly appeared from Gong GuangJie's underwear, crawled up the walls, jumped on the beam, and returned to the young girl's lap. The young girl grabbed a snake by its tail and dangled it in front of the marten: "Good boy, here's your reward." The marten grabbed the snake and devoured it. Turns out that the snakes were food for the marten.

Duan Yu was simply amazed by all of this, he has never even heard of anything remotely close to this. The marten finished eating the snake and crawled back into the young girl's pouch.

Gong GuangJie helped that man up again, asked in surprise: "Martial Uncle Rong, you... you alright? What's the matter?" Zuo ZiMu ran up to his martial brother. Rong ZiJu's eyes are wide open in a stare and his face is one of indignation and hate; however, he is not breathing. Zuo ZiMu is shocked tremendously, he immediately tried to rescue his martial brother by giving him some of his own inner force. But he was not able to do anything. Zuo ZiMu knows that although Rong ZiJu's kungfu is not as strong as his own, it is still much stronger than Gong GuangJie. The fact that not only was he not able to avoid Gong GuangJie, but was killed by it, means that he must have already been gravely injured. So he immediately opened up Rong ZiJu's shirt, exposing his chest. On his chest, written in big black letters, were the words: "Divine Farmer Clan here to exterminate No Measure Sword" (Shen Yi Bang Zhu Mie Wu Liang Jian). More than just several persons screamed involuntarily.

The nine words {Note: it is actually eight characters in Chinese} were not written by ink, nor is it carved out using a sharp object. A poison that caused the flesh to rot was applied in the patterns of the words on Rong ZiJu's chest, the rotten flesh sank into his chest and formed the words.

How can Zuo ZiMu not be furious? He gave the sword in his hand a shake, making it hum, and shouted: "Well let's see if it is Divine Farmer destroying No Measure or No Measure eliminating Divine Farmer? If this murder is not avenged, how can I call myself a man?" He turns around and inspects Rong ZiJu's body; but other than the words, he shows no sign of injury. He commands: "GuangHao, GuangJie, go check outside."

Gan GuangHao and Gong GuangJie are two of his proudest disciples, they pulled out their sword and ran outside.

By now the atrium is in a mess, everyone gathered around Rong ZiJu's body discussing and analyzing the situation, completely ignoring Duan Yu and the girl on the beam. Ma WuDe commented: "Divine Farmer Clan's behavior is just getting worse and worse. Brother Zuo, how did you become enemies with them?" {Note: Ma WuDe is addressing Zuo ZiMu as a brother out of friendship, not actual martial or real brotherhood}

Zuo ZiMu thought about his martial brother's tragic and terrible death, swallowed hard, and answered: "For some herbs. Autumn of last year, four lodge heads of Divine Farmer Clan came to visit, asking access to the back mountains in our control to collect some herbs. Collecting herbs is really no big deal. Divine Farmer Clan originally started collecting and selling herbs, and there is no grudge whatsoever between us 2 clans. But Mr. Ma, you know very well that our back mountains are forbidden to outsiders. Not even the best of friends is allowed to go there, not to mention a clan that we never had any contact with like Divine Farmer. This is the rule ever since the start of our sect, we dare not disobey it. Actually, it really isn't anything serious...."

The young girl on the beam put the snakes in her hand into a little bamboo basket she has tied around her waist. She took out some melon seeds and started eating them, her 2 feet are still swinging back and forth. Suddenly, she took a melon seed and threw it at Duan Yu, hitting him right on the forehead. Laughing, she asked: "Want some melon seeds? Come on up!"

Duan Yu answered: "I can't without any ladders." The young girl replied: "Well that's no problem." She untied a green silk ribbon from her waist and dangled it down: "Grab a hold of the belt and I'll pull you up." Duan Yu answered: "I'm heavy, you can't lift me." The young girl giggled and replied: "Oh give it a try, won't kill ya." Duan Yu grabbed on to the ribbon that is by now right in front of him. The young girl cautioned: "Hold on tight." She lightly lifted her hand and Duan Yu's feet are off the floor. Hand over hand, the young girl easily lifted Duan Yu up onto the beam.

Duan Yu said: "Such an interesting marten you got, so obedient as well." The young girl took out the marten from her pouch, holding it up to Duan Yu. The marten's furs were shiny and its red eyes stared at Duan Yu in wonder, just as cute as can be. Duan Yu asked: "Can I touch it?" The young girl answered: "Go right ahead." Duan Yu started to stroke the back of the marten, feeling the smoothness and warmth of the marten.

Suddenly the marten hissed and jumped back into the young girl's pouch. Catching Duan Yu completely by surprise, he lost his balance and almost fell off. The young girl grabbed his collar and pulled him in right next to her. With a smile she said: "You really don't know any kungfu, how strange." Duan Yu asked: "What's so strange about it?" The girl answered: "Well you don't know any kungfu, and you came here all by yourself, then you are bound to be bullied by these bad people. Why did you come here?"

Duan Yu was just about to answer when footsteps interrupted him. Gan GuangHao and Gong GuangJie just came rushing back into the atrium.

By now, Gong GuangJie has put on another pair of pants, although he still hasn't put a shirt back on yet. Both of them have a look of panic on their faces. Walking up to Zuo ZiMu, Gan GuangHao reported: "Master, Divine Farmer Clan is gathered on the mountain top facing ours. They have blocked every path and say that no one is allowed to pass. We saw that the enemies are here en masse, without specific orders from our master, we did not dare to start fighting." Zuo ZiMu nodded: "Mm, how many of them were there?" Gan GuangHao replied: "Around 70 or 80." Zuo ZiMu let out a little sneer: "70 or 80, and they want to exterminate No Measure Sword? I'm afraid it might not be that easy."

Gong GuangJie held up a letter: "They have shot this arrow up with this letter attached to it."

Zuo ZiMu glanced at it, seeing that the envelope read: "Written To: Zuo ZiMu." He did not feel like touching the letter, so he commanded: "Open it up and see what it says." Gong GuangJie opened the seal and took out the letter.

The young girl leaned over and whispered in Duan Yu's ear: "That bad man that hit you is about to die." Duan Yu was quite taken aback: "Really?" The girl whispered: "There is poison on the seal and the letter." Duan Yu still can't quite believe it: "You sure?"

Gong GuangJie started to read: "Divine Farmer Clan writing to Zuo.... the person reading this letter (he dared not to speak his master's name out loud, so he stopped once he read "Zuo"). We give you 2 hours of time to cut off your own right hand, destroy all your swords and weapons, and give up the Sword Lake Palace. Or else not a dog of No Measure Sword would live."

No Measure Sword West Faction's leader ShuangQing snickered: "Who the hell do Divine Farm Clan think they are? Talking shit like that!"

Suddenly Gong GuangJie fell straight backwards. Gan GuangHao, who was standing beside him, automatically reacted by reaching down in trying to help him get up. Zuo ZiMu took two quick steps forward, placed a palm on his chest and lightly exerted some inner force, which shook Gan GuangHao back two steps. Zuo ZiMu shouted in the midst of the move: "Might be poison, don't touch him!" Looking down, Gong GuangJie's face twitched none stop, the hand that was holding the letter has already turned pitch black. His feet twitched a couple of times and then all movement stopped.

In such a short amount of time, No Measure Sword has lost two top fighters. Everyone present is struck dumb with shock and astonishment.

Duan Yu leans over and whispers: "Are you in Divine Farmer Clan?" The young girl angrily rebuked: "Pei! Of course not, why are you talking nonsense?" Duan Yu asked: "Then how did you know that there was poison on the letter?" The girl laughed and replied: "This kind of poison is kid's play, you can spot it a mile away. The only people that they can get are the clueless ones." Everyone in the atrium heard her last comment and all looked up. She is still sitting there eating the melon seeds, her feet still swinging back and forth.

Zuo ZiMu turns and inspected the letter in Gong GuangJie's hand, he could not see anything out of the norm. He tilts his head and looked even closer, finally he see that both the seal and the letter has faint traces of phosphorescence. His heart went cold all of a sudden, turning around, he addressed the girl: "May we have the honor of knowing your name?" The girl replied: "My name? Can't tell you. This is a secret of the highest degree, strictly on a 'need to know' basis." Zuo ZiMu suppressed his anger and indignation with great effort, asked again: "Then who is your father? Which hero is your master?" The girl answered with a smile: "Hehe, I'm not falling for that. If I tell you who my dad is, then you would know my surname, and then could check up on who I am. My master is my mom. My mom's name is even more top secret than mine, can't tell ya."

From her dialect, Zuo ZiMu can tell she's definitely from inside of Yu Nan province, maybe even local. Thinking to himself: "In the martial world in Yu Nan, which pair of husband and wife that's good at Qing Gong could be her parent?" The girl hasn't fought yet, so he can't make a call based on her techniques, so he turns to her again: "Miss, please come down so we can discuss this together. Divine Farmer Clan isn't letting anyone through, probably will kill you too."

The girl laughed and responded: "They won't kill me, Divine Farmer Clan will only kill No Measure Sword's people. I heard the news out there, so I came here in hopes of catching a good show. Old man with a beard, your sword skills are not bad, but you don't know anything about poison, you can't beat Divine Farmer Clan."

Her last sentence hit the nail on the head. If only real kungfu is used, the 2 factions of No Measure Sword and the 8 or so guests here in the atrium might be able to take on Divine Farmer Clan. But nobody here understands a thing about poison, so the whole situation changes when poison is thrown in the equation.

The girl's tone of voice seems to show that she is really looking forward to this, as if more of No Measure Sword dies the happier she'll be. Zuo ZiMu could not help but sneer, asked: "What did miss hear out there?" He is used to giving orders and being insufferably arrogant, so he asked this question as if the young girl better answer with the greatest humility.

The girl suddenly asked out of nowhere: "Want some melon seeds?"

Zuo ZiMu's face turned a slight purple, if it wasn't because the enemies are at the gates, he would have snapped a long time ago. So he restrained himself with the greatest of effort and answered: "No!"

Naturally, Duan Yu cut in: "What kind of melon seeds are you eating? Laurel? Rose? Pine?" The girl replied: "Woah! What's the big deal about melon seeds? Why have so many different kinds? I don't know about all those kinds of melon seeds, but these are made my mom. She made them by frying gall bladders of snakes. Eating them improves your eyesight, want to give it a try?" She gave a handful to Duan Yu and continued: "People who aren't used to them think they are somewhat bitter, but actually they taste really good." Duan Yu didn't want to go against her wishes, so he put one in his mouth. It is somewhat bitter, but there is a bit of spiciness to it with very sweet after-taste. Afterwards the back of his tongue feels clean and refreshed, so he picked up another one and put it in his mouth. He put all of the shells on the beam besides him, but the girl didn't seem to care and just casually spits them out. The random falling shells has caused quite a few people below to get annoyed and move further away.

Zuo ZiMu asked again: "Miss, what did you hear out there? If you can tell us, I... I will be forever grateful." Because he is the one in need, he tried to sound as polite as he can. The young girl asked in return: "The Divine Farmer Clan people talked about some 'No Measure Jade Cliff', what in the world is that?" Zuo ZiMu was taken aback for a moment, quickly recovered and replied: "'No Measure Jade Cliff'? Do we have some precious jade or jade stone? Never heard of it before, Sister Xin, have you heard of this before?" Before ShuangQing could respond, the young girl cut in: "Of course she never heard of it before. Stop playing around as if I'm a kid, if you don't want to say it, then don't. Hmph! Not like I really care!"

A bit awkwardly, Zuo ZiMu continued: "Oh yeah, I think I know. Divine Farmer Clan was probably talking about this smooth cliff face of the White Dragon Peak in our No Measure Mountain. This rock is very smooth like a mirror, you can even make out individual hairs in the reflection. Some people say it is a big piece of jade, but in reality, it's really nothing more than a really smooth and really clean piece of rock."

The young girl replied: "Well if that's all why didn't you say it earlier? Then how did you and Divine Farmer Clan become enemies? Why would they not even allow a dog of No Measure Sword live?"

Zuo ZiMu sees that he can't get anything out of the girl without first letting his secrets out. Because the urgentness of the situation and with all the outsiders present, he can't very well grab the girl and force her to tell can he? He suggested: "Miss, please come down so I can tell you everything." The girl's feet continued to swing back and forth again: "If you are going to tell, what difference does it make if I come down? And I don't believe more than half of what you say anyways. So go right ahead."

Rage flashed on Zuo ZiMu's face, but he quickly recovered and began: "Last year Divine Farmer Clan came to ask for access to our back mountains to collect some herbs and I refused. So they snuck in and ran into Brother Rong and a couple of disciples, who scolded the perpetrators for trespassing. They replied: "What is this place? The Imperial Gardens? Why can't we come here? Did No Measure Sword buy up all of No Measure Mountain?" Words were exchanged and the conversation became very heated until they finally started fighting. Brother Rong did not hold anything back and killed two of them. That's how it all started. Then on the banks of the Lan Cang River we two sides got together again, a couple more of lives were lost there." The young nodded: "Oh, so that's it? What kind of herbs were they looking for?" Zuo ZiMu replied: "I'm not quite sure which kind."

The young girl triumphantly replied: "Figured you wouldn't know. Since you have told me how all this got started, I should probably tell two things. That day I was out catching snakes for my marten Lightning..." Duan Yu cuts it: "Your marten's name is Lightning?" The young girl answered: "Yeah, of course. When he gets going, isn't he quick as lightning?" Duan Yu nodded in agreement: "That's right! Lightning... such a good name!" Zuo ZiMu glared at Duan Yu for interrupting, but the girl is just getting to the important part and might get mad if he goes after Duan Yu, so he kept his mouth shut.

The young girl continued to talk to Duan Yu: "Lightning loves to eat poisonous snakes, he doesn't eat anything else really. I had him since he was born, he's four now. He only listens to me and nobody else, not even my parents. If I want him to frighten people then he would, if I tell him to bite he goes and do it. Such a good boy!" She reaches into her pouch with her left hand, petting the marten.

Duan Yu isn't a complete fool: "Mr. Zuo is just as anxious as can be. Why don't you tell him what he wants to know."

The girl let out a little laugh, looked down at Zuo ZiMu, and continued: "So there I was hiding in the bushes searching for snakes, when a couple of men came walking by. One of them said: 'This time, if we don't kill all of No Measure Sword, take over No Measure Mountain and the Sword Lake Palace, all of our heads will be taking a nice little trip.' I heard that there will be some fighting, figured it would be pretty interesting, so I kept on listening. They just stayed there chatting, saying something about orders from the Nimble Vulture Palace of Misty Peak to take over Sword Lake Palace and check up on 'No Measure Jade Cliff'."

As she said this, Zuo ZiMu and ShuangQing shot a look at one another at the same time.

The girl asked: "What exactly is Nimble Vulture Palace of Misty Peak? Why does Divine Farmer Clan listen to its command?" Zuo ZiMu replied: "This is the first time we have heard of the Nimble Vulture Palace of Misty Peak. We had no idea that Divine Farmer Clan was actually obeying orders when they were stirring up troubles with us." Thinking that the Divine Farmer Clan would obey them, then that Misty Peak-whatever must be quite formidable. Of all the mountains and peaks in Yu Nan, Zuo ZiMu has never heard of one called Misty Peak. The more he thought about all of this the more worried he got.

The girl ate two more melon seeds before continuing: "So then one guy said: 'If the herb Heaven's Link of No Measure Mountain can cure the illness of our clan leader then we would gladly take on whatever hardships that may come our way to get our hands on it.' Another guy sighed: "Only the Kid Elder of Heaven Mountain (Tian Shan Tong Lao) herself can cure this Life-Death Insignia that is in me. Heaven's Link may have amazing healing powers, but I'm just hoping that it would ease some of the pain when this Life-Death Insignia breaks out, it really is worse than death itself when....' They walked away and I can't hear them anymore. Am I clear enough on what happened?"

Zuo ZiMu was deep in thought and did not answer. ShuangQing suggested: "Brother Zuo, Heaven's Link is nothing special. If Si KongXuan (head of Divine Farmer Clan) want some to numb the pain, then why don't you give him some and all would be solved?" Zuo ZiMu snapped back: "Like it would make a difference if we give them some Heaven's Link? Didn't you hear? They are after No Measure Mountain and the Sword Lake Palace!" ShuangQing hmphed at him again, but did not reply.

The girl put her right arm under Duan Yu's armpits and said: "Going down?" Before Duan Yu could answer she's already leapt off of the beam. Duan Yu just managed to let a little yelp out before he was in midair as well. The girl gently landed on the floor with Duan Yu, her left arm still around his right arm. She suggested: "Wonder what Divine Farmer Clan looks like? Let's go outside and have a look."

Zuo ZiMu jumped forth: "Hold on, I still have a couple of question I want to ask. You said that when the Life-Death Insignia on Si KongXuan breaks out, it is worse than death itself. What is Life-Death Insignia? And who is the Kid Elder of Heaven Mountain?"

The young girl replied: "First of all, I don't know the answers to your questions. Second of all, with an attitude like that, even if I knew the answers I wouldn't tell ya."

At a crucial time like this, Zuo ZiMu really don't want to make more enemies. But with the existence of No Measure Sword in jeopardy here, he can't afford not to get to the bottom of all this. So he jumped in front of Duan Yu and the girl and said: "Miss, Divine Farmer Clan is right outside, if you go out and something unfortunate happens to you then my conscience will not let me live in peace." The girl answered with a smile: "Why would you care since you didn't really invite me here? Besides, you don't even know my name, if Divine Farmer Clan kills me my parents can't really blame it on you." All the while she's tugging on Duan Yu's arm and walking towards the door.

Zuo ZiMu unsheathed the sword from his waist: "Miss, please stay." The girl asked: "Using force now?" Zuo ZiMu replied: "I just want to get some clear answers regarding the questions I asked earlier." The girl replied: "And if I don't tell you? Are you going to kill me?" Zuo ZiMu replied: "Well you have left me with no choice." He brought his sword up to chest level, blocking the exit of the two.

The girl turned to Duan Yu: "This old man wants to kill me, what do you think we should do?" Duan Yu flicked the fan in his hand, then answered: "Well, we should do whatever you think we should do." The girl asked: "If he just stabs me and kills me, then what?" Duan Yu replied: "'Share the blessings, share the hardships.' Melon seeds we ate together, sword blades we take on together." The young girl replied: "Now there's a couple of good sentences. You are turning out to be quite a friend, I guess us meeting is not in vain after all. Let's go." She started to walk toward the door, as if the sinisterly green sword in Zuo ZiMu's hand is not there.

The sword in Zuo ZiMu's hand moved toward the left shoulder of the girl. He had no intentions of harming her really, just wanted to stop her from leaving.

The young girl tapped the pouch around her waist and hissed. Suddenly a white flash leapt out of the bag onto Zuo ZiMu's right arm. Zuo ZiMu immediately tried to snatch it off with his hand. But the marten was just too quick for him; before he knew it, the marten has already bitten his wrist and jumped back into the girl's pouch.

Zuo ZiMu let out a loud cry and let his sword drop to the floor. Feeling his right wrist go numb, he screamed: "Poison, poison! You... The little bastard marten has poison!" His left hand grabbing just above his right wrist, trying desperately to prevent the poison from spreading upwards.

The disciples of No Measure Sword East Faction scrambled up, three of them went to support their master, the rest of them all drew their swords and surrounded Duan Yu and the girl. Pointing their swords at the two of them, someone threatened: "Quickly hand over the cure, or else this girl will die a most horrible death."

The girl laughed: "I don't have any cure. But you guys just need to get some Heaven's Link, fry it in some thick oil, then feed him a bowl and he should be alright. But within the next 6 hours, he is not allowed to move much, or else the poison goes straight to the heart, and that's not good. What the hell do you guys think you are doing blocking my way? Want to give my marten a try?" As she said this she reached into her pouch and took out her marten. Holding the marten up in her right hand, she started to walk out with her left arm still around Duan Yu's arm.

The disciples have all seen the sorry plight that their master is in, they know that with what little kungfu they have, there is no way they can avoid being bitten by the marten, much less catching it. So they all just stood there and watched the two of them walk out of the atrium.

All the guests that were invited saw the speed of the marten as well. Nobody walked out and tried to stop them.

The girl walked out shoulder to shoulder with Duan Yu. The disciples of No Measure Sword are either inside the atrium or just outside guarding against possible attacks. The two of them did not run into a single person since walking out of Sword Lake Palace.

The girl said quietly: "Lightning has ate upwards of thousands of poisonous snakes in his life, so his teeth are extremely poisonous. That old man that just got bit should have immediately chopped his arm off, if he waits just a couple of hours more, he would die within 8 days." Duan Yu turned to her and asked: "But you said all he needed to do was drink a big bowl of soup made from Heaven's Link?" The girl let out a little laugh and answered: "I was just messing with them. If I don't, would they have let us out?" Duan Yu was quite taken aback by this: "Wait here for me for a moment while I go back and tell him." The girl pulled him back: "Dummy, if you go back and tell them, do you think they would let us live? Lightning is really something, but he and I can't hold them off if they all came at us. You said it yourself: 'Melon seeds we ate together, sword blades we take on together.' I can't just ran away by myself and leave you here to die."

Duan Yu scratched his head: "Then why don't you just give him some cure?" The young girl replied: "Ay! What's with all the fuss? They hit you and you are still this nice to them?" Duan Yu raised his hand and felt his cheek, he replied: "It was only one slap, and it stopped hurting a long time ago, so what's the point in remembering it? Pity the person that hit me died, Mencius read: 'A compassionate heart is the epitome of humanity.' Buddha taught: Save one human life is better than the 7th level of enlightenment.' Although Mr. Zuo was very malicious, he was still very polite towards you."

That young girl let out a cute little laugh before replying: "At that time I had something that he wanted, of course he is going to be polite to me. I know you are talking for him so I can give him the cure, but I really don't have it. Only my dad has the cure. Besides, soon there won't be a dog left of No Measure Sword after Divine Farmer Clan gets through with them. By the time I get the cure from my dad and return, that Zuo ZiMu's head won't be attached to his neck anymore. At that point, I'm afraid it won't make much of a difference whether or not he is poisoned."

Duan Yu shook his head a bit, but decided to stop talking about the cure. The moon has just risen; under the moonlight, Duan Yu notices that the young girl's face, which is white with faint signs of red, is even more tender and enchanting. He had to ask: "You couldn't tell your name to that old man with a beard, but can you tell me?" The young girl smiled and answered: "My surname is Zhong, my mom and dad call me simply 'Ling-Er" , so you can call me that too if you want to. Let's go sit down over there on the hillside. So tell me, why in the world you came to No Measure Mountain."

The two of them walked side by side toward the hillside to the northwest. Duan Yu started to talk as they walked: "I ran away from home, wandered all over the place. By the time I arrived in Pu Er I have ran out of money. I heard from people there that a Mr. Ma WuDe is very good to guests and visitors, so I went to visit him to get a couple of free meals. Just so happens he was about to leave to come to No Measure Mountain. I heard many times of No Measure Mountain's beauty and serenity. So I decided to follow him here to check it out." Zhong Ling nodded her head and asked: "So why did you run away from home?" Duan Yu replied: "My dad wanted to teach me kungfu, I didn't want to learn. So he started to force me, so I had no choice but to run away."

Zhong Ling stared at him in disbelief, sizing him up over and again. Still not quite believing him, she asked: "Why don't you want to learn kungfu? Don't want to put in the hard work?" Duan Yu replied: "I don't care about putting in the hard work. It just doesn't make any sense in my head to learn it. So I disobeyed my dad, so my dad got mad and got in an argument again with my mom...." Zhong Ling smiled: "Your mom is always taking your side and argues with your dad, right?" Duan Yu answered: "Of course!" Zhong Ling sighed: "My mom is the same." She stared toward the west spellbound, as if looking at something very far away. After a long while, she asked: "Why doesn't it make sense to you?"

Duan Yu replied: "I have been studying Buddhism since I was a kid. Dad even hired a teacher to come and teach me The Four Books and the Five Classics, as well as poetry, lyrics, songs, and prose. He also invited a very wise monk to come and teach me Buddhist scriptures. For the last 10 years, I have been taught that a follower of Confucianism should have a merciful heart, pushing himself to help others. In addition, a disciple of Buddha must not kill nor rage but should be merciful and benevolent in mind and action. Suddenly my dad wanted me to learn kungfu, to learn how to beat and kill people. Naturally, I felt it was wrong and didn't listen. My dad and I debated and argued about this for 3 days and I still won't listen. He had many of scripture quotes remembered wrong, and some of his interpretations were off too." {Note: The Four Books are The Great Doctrine, The Doctrine of the Mean, The Analects of Confucious, and Mencius. The Five Classics are The Book of Songs, The Book of History, The Book of Changes, The Book of Rites, and The Spring and Autumn Annals.}

Zhong Ling added: "So your dad got really angry and beat you, right?"

Duan Yu shook his head: "My dad didn't hit me at all. He just merely hit 2 pressure points on my body and in an instant it felt like there thousands and thousands of ants and mosquitoes biting down on me. My dad said: 'How does it feel? I am your dad, so I'll stop this after a bit, but what if I was your enemy, then you are in for a fate worse than death. Just try and see if you can kill yourself.' At that time, I can't even lift a finger, how was I suppose to commit suicide? Besides, I'm doing pretty good living, why would I want to kill myself? Afterwards my mom came and started to argue with my dad and my dad released my pressure points. The next day I ran away."

Zhong Ling listened to all of this in disbelieve, suddenly she said rather loudly: "Your dad knows how to hit pressure points, not only that but it's also one of the top kungfus in the world! Did he just stabbed somewhere on your body with on finger and then you couldn't move and felt numb and itchy all over?" Duan Yu answered: "Yeah, what's so strange about that?" Zhong Ling's face is just full of shock and disbelief: "You asked me what's so strange about that? You actually asked me what's so strange about that?! People would be willing to kowtow to your dad 10000 times and beg for 10 or 20 years just to learn a fraction of your dad's pressure point hitting kungfu. Yet you actually don't want to learn it, of course it is strange!"

Duan Yu replied: "I really don't see what's the big deal about this pressure point hitting kungfu." Zhong Ling sighed: "You must not say that. And you must not let others know about this!" Duan Yu asked: "Why?"

Zhong Ling answered: "You don't know any kungfu and don't understand anything about the martial world either do you? Your family's pressure point hitting kungfu has no match in this world, it's called '1 Yang Zhi'. Other people in this world, when they hear the phrase '1 Yang Zhi', they almost drool in envy. If people knew your dad knows this, some of them probably would kidnap you and force your dad to exchange the manual for '1 Yang Zhi' as ransom. Then what?"

Duan Yu scratched his head: "Didn't even think about that. My dad will probably get really mad and go fight it out with them." Zhong Ling said: "Right, most people wouldn't dare to go fight against your family. But for the secrets of '1 Yang Zhi', you never know. Besides, you are in their hands so that really makes the situation very difficult. Tell you what, don't even tell people that your surname is Duan."

Duan Yu replied: "There are tens of thousands of people with the surname of Duan in DaLi, I don't think every single one of them knows this kungfu. Besides, if my surname is not Duan, then what is it?" Zhong Ling smiled: "Why don't you just momentarily use mine?" Duan Yu smiled back: "That works, but you are going to have to call me 'big brother' now. How old are you?" Zhong Ling answered: "16! How about you?" Duan Yu replied: "I'm 3 years older than you."

Zhong Ling plucked a piece of grass from the ground and slowly tore it to pieces. Suddenly she shook her head and said: "You actually turned down learning '1 Yang Zhi'! I still can't believe that! You are lying to me aren't you?"

Duan Yu laughed at that a bit, and replied: "You make it sound so marvelous and wonderful, but can it feed you and help you make a living? I say that your marten of yours, Lightning, is alot more formidable. I just don't like the fact that he can kill with just merely a bite." Zhong Ling sighed: "If he can't kill with just a bite, then what good is he for?" Duan Yu replied: "You are such a young girl, why are you thinking about killing and fighting all the time?"

Zhong Ling asked: "You really don't get it? Or are you just pulling my leg?" Duan Yu answered with a question of his own: "What do you mean?" Zhong Ling pointed to the east: "Look over there."

Duan Yu looked over and sees about 10 or so clouds of greenish smoke coming from half way up the mountain that she was pointing to. But he can't really figure out what that means.

Zhong Ling continued: "You don't want to kill others. But others want to kill you. You aren't going to just hand them your head on a platter are you? That smoke is coming from Divine Farmer Clan preparing their poison, which will soon be used against No Measure Sword. I don't want to get involved with this mess, let's try and get away from here."

Duan Yu shook the fan in his hand: "This kind of fighting and quarreling in the martial world is getting more and more out of hand. Somebody in No Measure Sword killed someone in Divine Farmer Clan, but now Divine Farmer Clan got Rong ZiJu and Gong GuangJie, an eye for an eye, I say they are about even. Even if there are some injustice, they should go to the local magistrate and let them handle it, not just go out and kill! Does our DaLi not have laws anymore?"

Zhong Ling clicked her tongue 3 times and a bit of disdain and scorn shown up on her face. She replied: "From what you say, you would think that you are a relative of the king or some big shot official or something. We normal people aren't going to listen to that." She looked up at the sky for a bit, pointed to the southwest, and whispered: "We'll wait until the moon goes behind a cloud, then we'll sneak out in that direction. I don't think the Divine Farmer Clan will catch us if we do that." Duan Yu replied: "No! I'm going to go talk to their leader and tell him not to kill people just because he wants to." Some pity surfaced in Zhong Ling's eyes: "Big Brother, you really don't understand how things work do you? Divine Farmer Clan is dark, evil, and mean. They are very good at using poison, you just saw how they killed 2 people back there. Let's not cause more trouble and get out of here." Duan Yu answered: "No! I'm going to have to get involved in this, if you are afraid, then just wait here for me." He stood up and started walking to the east.

Zhong Ling waited until he has walked 10 yards or so, then she suddenly chased up to him, her right hand coming out aiming for his shoulder. Duan Yu heard the footsteps and was just about to turn around when she grabbed his right shoulder. Zhong Ling followed with a slight hook with her leg. Duan Yu couldn't keep his balance and fell straight forward, his nose smashed against a rock and started to bleed. He hurriedly stood back up and angrily asked: "What the hell was that for? Damn that hurts!" Zhong Ling said: "I wanted to see once and for all whether you really don't know any kungfu or just pretending. I was doing this for your own good."

Duan Yu replied with some indignation: "What's so good about it?" He wiped his nose with his hand, immediately his hand was covered in blood. Some blood fell onto his chest and caused a couple of red spots on his shirt. He really wasn't that hurt, but seeing so much blood come out, he couldn't help but to start muttering: "Ouch! Ouch!"

Zhong Ling is starting to get a little worried as well, she quickly took out her handckerchief out and tried to wipe some of the blood off. Duan Yu is still mad at her, so he tried to push her away, saying: "Get away from me, who needs your sympathy?" He doesn't know any kungfu and his moves have no coordination. So as he naturally tried to push her away, his palm headed straight toward her chest. Zhong Ling just reacted and naturally grabbed his wrist, borrowed the force of his push, led his move by her, and added a little push of her own at the end, all in one motion. Duan Yu had no chance and fell over again, this time he banged his head against a rock and fainted.

Zhong Ling sees that he is not moving, so she shouted at him: "Get up! I'm not finished talking to you!" Seeing that he's still not moving, she starts to get worried, and quickly went over to him. Noticing that Duan Yu has fainted, she immediated pinched his philtrum, and then started to massage his chest with great effort.

After a while, Duan Yu finally started to come around. Feeling as if he is leaning against something soft and noticing a very faint, sweet, and serene smell, he slowly opened his eyes and saw the beautiful eyes of Zhong Ling looking down at him with great concern. Seeing that he has come around, Zhong Ling let out a huge sigh of relief and said: "Thank goodness you didn't die." Noticing that he is lying in her lap with his head leaned up against her stomach, Duan Yu's heart skipped a beat. However, he immediately felt the throbbing pain on the back of his head and let out a big "Ouch!"

This gave Zhong Ling quite a scare: "What's the matter?" Duan Yu answered: "My... my head hurts like hell." Zhong Ling said: "You are not dead, no need to scream bloody hell." Duan Yu replied: "If I'm dead, how could I scream bloody hell?"

Zhong Ling laughed at that comment, she held his head up. The back of his head has an egg size bump where it banged against the rock, although it's not bleeding, she figure it still hurts alot. She said: "Well who told you to make such a perverted move? If it were anyone else, I would have immediately killed him. You only got a bump on your head, you should be thankful."

Duan Yu sat up: "Me? Perverted? What in the world? Where did you get that idea?"

Zhong Ling is young and hencefore only kind of understand man-woman relationships but not really. She blushed and said: "I'm not telling you, all in all you were in the wrong. Who told you to send your palm toward th... there...." Duan Yu suddenly realized what she was talking about and felt very embarrassed, he tried to think of something to say to explain. But he decided that excuses are not right, so he said: "I... I didn't mean to do that." After saying that, he stood up.

Zhong Ling got up as well: "Since you didn't mean to, I'll guess I'll let that one slide. Good thing you finally came around, you scared the hell out of me right then and there." Duan Yu said: "Back in the Sword Lake Palace, if you didn't show up and help me, I was sure to get a couple of slaps on the face. Now that I fell twice, I say everything is even. When it comes down to it, it's all fate, I can't avoid it." Zhong Ling replied: "Why are you talking like that? Are you still mad at me?" Duan Yu answered: "Well you don't expect me to cheer: 'Great, wonderful!' or turn around and thank you when you hit me do you?" Zhong Ling grabbed his hand, said in an apologetic tone: "Please don't be mad at me. I swear I won't hit you ever again." Duan Yu said: "Only if you let me hit you really hard twice."

Zhong Ling really don't want to, but seeing how he has turned around and is about to walk off, she relented: "Alright, I'll let you hit me twice. Just... just don't hit me too hard." Duan Yu replied: "If I don't hit you hard, then how can I get my justice? It has to be hard, if you don't want me to hit you, then just forget it."

Zhong Ling sighed, closed her eyes, and quietly said: "Alright! But after you hit me, you can't be mad anymore."

After a while, Duan Yu still haven't hit her yet. So she opened her eyes and saw Duan Yu looking at her, sort of smiling but not quite. Zhong Ling asked in surprise: "What are you waiting for?" Duan Yu stuck out his right pinky, lightly flicked once on her right cheek, and then lightly flicked on her left cheek. Smiling, he said: "Alright. That's as hard as I could hit you. Did it hurt much?" Zhong Ling can't be any happier: "I knew all along that you were a good person!"

She's standing just a feet or so away from Duan Yu, her fragrance permeates the air. The more Duan Yu look at her the prettier she becomes. He didn't want to move away. After a long while, he finally said: "Alright, now that I got my revenge, I need to go find that SiKong Xuan now."

Zhong Ling anxiously said: "Dummy, don't go! You don't know a thing about the rules of the martial world, if you somehow offend him accidentally, I can't get you out of it this time." Duan Yu smiled and shook his head: "Don't worry, I'll be back soon, just wait for me here." He turns around and starts to walk toward the green smoke.

Zhong Ling stood there trying to decide what to do, then she said: "Alright, like you said: 'Melon seeds ate together, sword blades we take on together'!" She chased up to him and they walked side-by-side toward the smoke.

Soon, they see 2 men dressed in yellow running up to them. The older one on the left spoke up: "Who is it? What are you here for?" Both men had a medicine bag hanging off their shoulders, each had a wider than usual sabre in hand. Duan Yu answered: "I am Duan Yu, I wish to talk to Master SiKong of you clan." The old man asked: "What for?" Duan Yu replied: "I will tell Master SiKong when I see him." The old man asked: "May I humbly ask which sect are you from and who your master is?"

Duan Yu answered: "I'm not of any sect. My master's surname is Meng, his name is ShuSheng, and he has styled himself XuRu. My master's specialty is logic of changes, and has had some remarkable success in the field of talks of the divine and systems of diction." He was, of course, refering to his teacher that was invited by his dad to teach him the 4 Books and the 5 Classics. That old man, hearing the "talks of the divine" and the "systems of diction", thought they were some weird and strange kungfu. Duan Yu standing there casually fanning himself with the fan in his hand have all the looks of a kungfu master who does not want to show himself. Although the old man has never heard of anyone in the martial world named Meng ShuSheng, but since Duan Yu said he "has had some remarkable success" he probably isn't just some nobody. So he politely said to Duan Yu: "If that's the case, then please wait here for a second while I go and report to my master."

Zhong Ling waited until he hurriedly ran up and around the hill, then turned to Duan Yu and asked: "What was all that lie about 'logics of changes'? What kind of kungfu is that? What if SiKong Xuan tests you later? How are you going to cover that?" Duan Yu replied: "I remember most all of the 'Cycle of Changes'. It probably wouldn't be that bad if SiKong Xuan wants to test me on the meanings and philosophies within it." Zhong Ling just stared at him, not sure how to respond.

The old man came back and said with a stone cold face: "What the hell are you talking about? Master tells you to go see him!" From his looks, he probably got a good bit of scolding from SiKong Xuan. Duan Yu nodded and started to walk up with Zhong Ling.

Soon the 3 of them soon made their way around the mountain side and came up to 20 or so men sitting around in a pile of scattered rocks. Duan Yu walked up, seeing a short and skinny old man sitting on the tallest rock, he has a goatee beard and has a arrogant expression on his face. Duan Yu figured that he probably is the head of the Divine Farmer Clan SiKong Xuan, so he cupped his fist and said: "Duan Yu is honored to meet Master SiKong."

SiKong Xuan just merely nodded his head, not even getting up, he asked: "Mr. Duan, why are you coming to see me?"

Duan Yu replied: "I heard that your clan and No Measure Sword has become mortal enemies. Having just witnessed 2 people of No Measure Sword dying a most horrible of deaths, my heart could not bear it and decided to come here in an attempt to try and stop all this killing. 'Enemies are easy to make but hard to break', and besides, this kind of vigilante killing is against the law. If any governor or officials find out, it could be a lot of trouble. I hope that Master SiKong would stop before it is too late and not trouble No Measure Sword anymore."

SiKong Xuan just sat there and listened to him talked. Now that Duan Yu stopped talking, SiKong Xuan still did not respond, just looked at Duan Yu sideways.

Duan Yu continued: "What I just said is a plea for Master SiKong to think it all through before acting." SiKong Xuan is still looking at him with curiosity, suddenly he let out a hearty laugh and said: "Who do you think you are? Actually coming here and try to distract me. Who told you to come here?" Duan Yu answered: "Nobody told me to come here, I came here because I wanted to."

SiKong Xuan hmphed and replied: "I have been walking around in the martial world for 40 years, and never once has seen anyone as brazen as you little bastard. Ah-Sheng, seize these two little kids for me." The tall man besides him answered and grabbed Duan Yu's right arm.

Zhong Ling immediately shouted out: "Hold on! Master SiKong, Mr. Duan has only been trying to politely persuade you, if you don't want to listen then don't, why come to blows?" She turns to Duan Yu: "Big Brother, Divine Farmer Clan won't listen to you. We don't need to get involved in other people's business, let's go."

Ah-Sheng has already grabbed Duan Yu's arm and twisted them behind his back, he looked at SiKong Xuan, waiting for his instructions on what to do next. SiKong Xuan coldly said: "The thing that the Divine Farmer Clan hates the most is other people meddling in our affairs. There must be something more to you two babies coming here and wasting my time. Ah-Hong, seize the girl." Another man answered as he extends his hands toward Zhong Ling.

Zhong Ling stepped three steps to the side and said: "Master SiKong, in truth, I'm not scared of you. It's just that my mom and dad does not want me to make trouble. So let my Big Brother Duan go, or else when you force me to respond in kind, it would not be much fun."

SiKong Xuan laughed heartily at that comment: "Well aren't we boasting a little too much? Ah-Hong! What are you waiting for?" Ah-Hong answered again as he tries to grab Zhong Ling's wrist. Zhong Ling pulled her right arm back and sent her left palm out. The palm is like a knife as it heads toward Ah-Hong's forehead. Ah-Hong lowered his head to avoid the move, but Zhong Ling's right fist came in from underneath in an uppercut. It caught him squarely on the jaw and knocked him onto his back.

SiKong Xuan casually observed: "Seems like the girl can do a thing or two, but not enough to be able to get away with it here." He shot a look over at a tall old man besides him and waved his right hand. The old man immediately stood up and stepped up to Zhong Ling. He is a whole two feet taller than Zhong Ling and his hands came in from above, like talons, straight for her shoulders.

Zhong Ling immediately dodges out of the way, but the man's left hand merely missed her face by inches. Feeling the piercing wind caused by the move, Zhong Ling started to get a little scared, she spoke up: "Master SiKong, tell him to stop. Else don't blame me for being impolite, and when my dad scolds me for this in the future, you won't be in such a good shape either." As she is talking, she dodged three more moves from the old man. SiKong Xuan commanded: "Grab her!" The old man led on with his left hand while his right hand drew a little circle, suddenly he flipped his palm down and grabbed onto Zhong Ling's right arm.

Zhong Ling let out a little scream and squirmed in pain. She shook her left hand and hissed a couple of time. A flash white shot out. The old man let out a muted groan, let her arm go, and sat down on the ground. The marten has bit him on the back of his hand and has already jumped back into Zhong Ling's waiting hands.

A middle-aged man jumped out from beside SiKong Xuan and helped the old man up. The old man's whole body was shaking and the back of his hand has turned pitch-black. Zhong Ling hissed twice more and her marten scrambled towards Ah-Sheng's face. Ah-Sheng tried to bat it away, but the marten instead just bit him on his hand. Ah-Sheng's kungfu is not as good as the old man's, so he is even less able to tolerate it. Immediately he curled up into a ball and started to scream. Zhong Ling grabbed Duan Yu's arm, started to walk off quickly, and whispered: "We are in trouble now, let's get out of here!"

The men sitting around SiKong Xuan are all the top fighters in the Divine Farmer Clan, these men have dealt with poison for most of their lives and has seen pretty much every kind of poison there is. But this marten's lightning speed and incredible poison is something that none of them has ever heard of. SiKong Xuan shouted: "Seize this girl this instant! Don't let her get away!" Four men answered his order and jumped up. They split into 2 groups and came at the 2 of them from opposite sides.

Zhong Ling hissed several more times and the marten jumped from one person to the next. In an blink of an eye, all 4 men are either rolling on the ground or curled up into a ball.

The members of the Divine Farmer Clan all know that this little marten is indeed something to be reckoned with, but nobody wanted to seem cowardly in front of the leader. So seven or eight more men came chasing after them. Zhong Ling threatened: "If you don't want to live then come on!" The men are all holding a weapon, be it a medicine back or a short sabre, all hoping to try and bat away the marten with his weapon. But the marten is faster than any flying weapon in the world, and soon all of the men were rolling on the ground as well.

SiKong Xuan tossed off his robe, reached into his bosom and took out a small bottle. He applied the contents of the bottle to his hands and arms, and started chasing after Duan Yu and Zhong Ling. He jumped in front of the 2 of them and said: "Stop!"

The marten jumped from Zhong Ling's hands towards his nose. SiKong Xuan held his palm up vertically, but couldn't help but feel nervous. He is not sure whether or not this medicine that works against snake poison will work against this poisonous marten that he has never heard of before. If it doesn't then his life and the entire clan is destroyed. The marten was just about to bite down on his hand when suddenly it twisted in the air, and bounced back to Zhong Ling by rebounding off of his hand with its back feet. Turns out that inside the marten there is stored a great amount of snake poison, which is exactly what the medicine that SiKong Xuan applied works the best against. SiKong Xuan was delighted, immediately he struck out with his left palm. The palm wind was fierce, Zhong Ling could not get out of the way and almost fell over. Duan Yu, on the other hand, was completely overwhelmed by what is left of the palm wind and fell back on the ground.

Zhong Ling anxiously hissed a couple of more times, urging the marten to attack. The marten jumped out again, but it could not bear the medicine on SiKong Xuan's palms. So it instead went after his head and legs, but SiKong Xuan waved his arms around, protecting his body, making it impossible to get close.

SiKong Xuan is nevertheless still afraid of the marten, and he kept on giving orders to his men.

Twenty of so clan members surrounded them, each with an herb in hand. They lit the herb and smoke started to fill the air. Duan Yu just got up when he suddenly felt light headed and fell back down again. In a daze, he saw that Zhong Ling also fell down from the smoke. Two clan members stepped forth to seize Zhong Ling, but the marten, in protecting its master, bit both of them. Everyone stepped back in fear, still surrounding the 2 of them, but nobody dared to seize them.

SiKong Xuan ordered: "Start burning Manly Yellow on the east side and Deer Musk on the south side. The others get out of the way."

The clan members followed the orders and started to burn Manly Yellow and Deer Musk. There is not a herb or poison that the Divine Farmer Clan is not equipped with, not only that, all they have are the best picks of the drugs. The pure Manly Yellow and Deer Musk they burned immediately let out a mace like cloud of smoke, carried by the southeasterly wind, the smoke slowly descended upon Zhong Ling. However, the marten turned out to be immune to the smoke, still jumping back and forth among the clan members. Before anyone knew it 5 more clan members had been bitten.

Suddenly, an idea popped up in SiKong Xuan's mind. He ordered: "Start piling up dirt, let's bury this girl and her marten alive." The clan members immediately started to dig up dirt and throwing it onto Zhong Ling's body.

Duan Yu thought to himself that he is the cause of all this trouble. How could he live on if Zhong Ling is going to die. So he summoned up all his strength and flipped on top of Zhong Ling's body. Holding her tight, he shouted: "We are dying together!" The dirt kept on raining down on his head.

The words "We are dying together" hit home with SiKong Xuan. He looked around, seeing 20 or so clan members rolling on the ground in pain, 7 or 8 of them are very important members of the clan, and 2 of them are actually his martial brothers. Although his anger would be vented if he killed the girl right now, all these people would probably die too. The marten's poison is unlike anything he has ever seen before, he probably has to get the remedy from her in order to cure it. So he ordered: "Don't bury their heads, leave them alive."

Soon, the 2 of them are buried up to their heads. Zhong Ling felt like an enormous weight has been placed on her body. and Duan Yu has held on to her the entire time. Only their head is not covered by dirt, neither one of them could move an inch.

SiKong Xuan asked: "Little girl, do you want to live or die?" Zhong Ling answered: "Of course I want to live. If you kill me and Big Brother Duan here, then alot of you guys would die too." SiKong Xuan replied: "Good, then quickly hand over the cure for that marten poison of yours, that way I'll let you live." Zhong Ling shook her head: "Not just my life, both of our lives." SiKong Xuan replied: "Alright, I'll let both of you live. Where is the cure?" Zhong Ling answered: "I don't have it on me. Only my dad can cure Lightning's poison. I told you earlier not to make me to use force, or else my dad would be mad at me and you wouldn't get anything good out of it either." SiKong Xuan replied angrily: "Still bullshiting at a time like this? See if I just leave you 2 here and let you 2 die of hunger!"

Zhong Ling replied: "Everything I have told you is true, why don't you believe me? Ay! All in all, this whole matter is really troublesome. Probably won't be able to hide it from my dad, what do I do then?" SiKong Xuan asked: "What's your dad's name?" Zhong Ling answered: "You are not a baby, how come you are so unreasonable? Like I can just go around telling everyone my dad's name."

SiKong Xuan has been making a living in the martial world for decades now and has earned a name and some fame in the world. But today he has just about ran out of ideas regarding these 2 little kids. He bit down and ordered: "Bring me a torch! Let's light the little girl's hair on fire and see if she'll talk!" A clan member handed over the torch, SiKong Xuan grabbed a hold of it and walked up to the 2 of them.

In the light of the fire, Zhong Ling could not help but get scared by his hideous expression. She shouted out: "Hey! Hey! Don't burn my hair. If the hair is on fire, then the head is going to hurt like crazy. If you don't believe me, then why don't you try it on your beard?" A hideous grin appeared on SiKong Xuan's face: "Of course it hurts, I don't need to burn my beard to know that." Holding up the torch, he gave it a shake right in front of Zhong Ling's face. Zhong Ling let out a little scream.

Duan Yu hugged her tightly and shouted: "Goat beard, I started this whole mess, why don't you burn my hair instead!" Zhong Ling shouted back: "No! It'll hurt you too." SiKong Xuan offered: "Well if you are scared of getting hurt, then hand over the cure so I can start working on my brothers."

Zhong Ling replied: "How dumb are you really? I have already told you, only my dad can cure Lightning's poison, even my mom does not know how. My Lightning is very very rare, his bite is filled with strange and exotic poison. You think it's that easy to cure?"

SiKong Xuan can hear the people that have been bitten groaning all around him, so he knows that the poison is very strong. These men are care very much for face, they wouldn't even mutter a sound even if a hand or a foot is broken or cut off. The medicine for snake venom has already been applied to every one of them. But from the continued groans, it is obvious that the clan's anti-venom that has always worked before is having no effect. Several people have tried to apply some medicines that work against scorpion, centipede, or spider poisons, but that has only increased the volume of their groans. SiKong Xuan stared down at Zhong Ling with rage and shouted: "Who is your old man? Tell me his name now!"

Zhong Ling asked: "You really want me to say it? Aren't you scared to find out?"

This set SiKong Xuan off, he lifted up the torch and was just about to set Zhong Ling's hair on fire. All of the sudden he felt an incredible amount of pain coming from the back of his head, something has bit him there. Shocked, SiKong Xuan immediately took a breath to protect his head and heart, he tossed the torch away and tried to grab whatever is on the back of his head. Suddenly the back of his hand was bitten as well. Turns out that the marten has dug its way out of the dirt and taken advantage of the fact that SiKong Xuan was distracted and attacked. After being bit twice in a row, SiKong Xuan is scared nearly out of his wits. Immediately he sat down and started to try to force the poison out using his inner force. The clan members were busily trying to cover the marten with dirt again, but this time the marten jumped up and bit two more men. A couple of more white flashes in the dark and the marten has jumped into the bushes and disappeared.

SiKong Xuan's underlings hurriedly took out medicines and herbs that works against snake venom and start applying it to their master. Some of the medicines were taken orally along with a ginseng they had available. SiKong Xuan had to divide his strength against the 2 places where he was bitten and soon it became obvious to him that he can't keep this up. Biting down hard, he grabbed the dagger around his waist with his left hand and cut of his right arm at the elbow. The clan members all trembled at the sight and scrambled to put some drugs that stops bleeding on the wound. But blood gushing out of the wound washed away the medicines as soon as they were applied. Eventually someone tore a piece of clothing off and tightly bandaged up SiKong Xuan's elbow, finally stopping the bleeding.

After witnessing such a harrowing scene, Zhong Ling's face turned white as she stopped shouting. SiKong Xuan asked in a low voice: "After being bitten by that devil marten, how many days do you have?" Zhong Ling answered in a shaky voice: "My dad said up to 7 days, but... but since Master SiKong your inner strength is so strong and is so good at kungfu. Maybe... I'm sure you'll live for longer than that."

SiKong Xuan didn't reply, instead he ordered: "Pull that guy out of there." The clan members pulled Duan Yu out of the dirt pile. Zhong Ling panicked: "Hey! Hey! This has nothing to do with him! Don't hurt him!" She tried to take advantage of the moment and struggle out of the dirt pile, but the clan members immediately filled the space left by Duan Yu with more dirt. Zhong Ling sees there is nothing more she can do, so she started crying.

Duan Yu is quite scared himself, but he forced himself to calm down. Smiling, he said: "Miss Zhong, a true man faces death like it's nothing, don't show any weaknesses in front of these bad people." Zhong Ling answered between sobs: "I'm not a man! I don't want to face your death like it's nothing! I want to show weakness!"

SiKong Xuan ordered in a heavy voice: "Give this fellow some Intestine Fragmenter (Duan Chang San), give him the 7 days worth of dosage." A clan member poured out of a medicine bottle about half a bottle worth of red powder, and forced them into Duan Yu's mouth. Zhong Ling cried out: "That's poison, don't eat it!" Duan Yu knew it was a very potent poison when he heard the words "Intestine Fragmenter". But figuring that since he is in the hands of others, there is nothing he can do to refuse to take the poison. So he swallowed the powder, smacked his lips, smiled, and said: "Taste pretty sweet. Master SiKong, how about you eat the other half of the bottle?"

SiKong Xuan just hmphed at him in anger. Zhong Ling let out a little laugh in the middle of a sob, and then went right on crying.

SiKong Xuan said to Duan Yu: "This Intestine Fragmenter will break out after 7 days, splitting your intestines into inch long pieces. Go and get the cure for the marten's poison, if you get back here in 7 days, then I'll give you the cure for it and let the girl go too." Zhong Ling cuts in: "Just the drug does not work, you have to have my dad use his unique inner strength to force the poison out." SiKong Xuan replied: "Then he is just going to get your dad here to get you out." Zhong Ling replied: "Easy for you to say. Like my dad would leave the mountain, he wouldn't even take a step out of the valley." SiKong Xuan did not reply to her last comment.

Duan Yu offered: "How about this? Why don't all of us go to Miss Zhong's home? Then you can ask your dad to cure the poison, wouldn't that be fast and effective?" Zhong Ling replied: "No, no! My dad has sworn that if someone takes one step in my family valley, no matter who it is, only death awaits him."

SiKong Xuan thought to himself: "The No Measure Sword matter is not settled yet, can't leave this place. If I did, it's not like the Kid Elder of Heaven Mountain would let me live. I would only die a lot worse of a death." By now the itch and numbness from the marten bite at the back of his head is getting worse and worse, he finally let out several groans of pain.

Zhong Ling said: "Master SiKong, sorry about this." SiKong Xuan angrily replied: "Sorry my ass!" Duan Yu cuts in (he seems to have a habit of this): "Master SiKong, using such vulgar language toward Miss Zhong is not the conduct of a gentlemen."

SiKong Xuan angrily rebuked: "Your grandma wasn't one either!" However, he thought to himself: "When the 'Life-Death Insignia' in my body breaks out, the suffering is really unbearable. Better to die like this, at least it's straightforward and clear cut." So he turned to Zhong Ling: "I don't care about all the details, don't invite your dad for the cure is fine as well. We'll just all die together here." His words were filled with sadness and resignation.

Zhong Ling thought about all this for a bit and said: "Let me out of here, and I'll write a letter to my dad asking him to come here and rescue you. And you send a person who is not afraid to die to deliever it." SiKong Xuan responded: "I want this fellow named Duan to go, why send anyone else?" Zhong Ling replied: "Man you got bad memory! If someone takes one step in my family valley, no matter whom it is, that someone will die. Didn't I already tell you about this? I don't want my Big Brother Duan to die, don't you know?" SiKong Xuan answered: "He can't die, then the people in my clan should? If he can't go then don't go, let's all die together. See which one of us dies first."

Zhong Ling started to sob again: "What kind of a person are you? Bullying a little girl like me? People in the martial world will all find out about this and they all say that Master SiKong of Divine Farmer Clan has dragged his name through dirt and is not a real man."

SiKong Xuan only sat there and worried about using his inner strength to combat the poison, completely ignoring her.

Duan Yu spoke up: "Then just let me go then. Miss Zhong, since I'm going to tell him the news and telling him to save you, I don't think he would do much harm to me." Zhong Ling's face suddenly lit up: "I got it! Follow my plan. Don't tell my dad where I am, that way if he kills you, then he wouldn't know where I am. Just leave as soon as you lead him here, or else it would not be good." Duan Yu nodded: "This plan seems to work."

Zhong Ling turned to SiKong Xuan: "Master SiKong, Big Brother Duan is going to leave as soon as he arrives. So how are you going to give the cure for 'Intestine Fragmenter'?" SiKong Xuan pointed to a huge rock far to the northwest: "I'll instruct someone to wait there with the cure. When Mr. Duan gets to that rock, he'll get the cure." Since he wants Duan Yu to go and save his life, his words became considerably more polite. So he ordered his men to dig Zhong Ling out, but first they handcuffed her hands and then dug out her lower body.

Zhong Ling asked: "If you don't take the cuffs off, how can I write a letter?" SiKong Xuan replied: "A weird girl like you, writing a letter probably would lead to more tricks. Just give Mr. Duan something on you that proves that his words are true and that would do."

Zhong Ling laughed and said: "I hate writing, so happy to hear that you don't want me to write. What do I have on me? Um, Big Brother Duan, take the pair of shoes that I have on. My mom and dad will recognize those."

Duan Yu nodded and bent down to take off her shoes. As his left hand held her bare foot, feeling its fine skin and smoothness, his heart shook and he couldn't help but look up at her face. They smiled at each other. Under the fire light, he sees that there are still tears on her cheeks and yet her eyes are filled with happiness. He was spellbound.

SiKong Xuan is getting a little impatient, so he shouted: "Go already! What are you 2 kids doing staring at each other? Brother Duan, get done with it already. When you get the person here, then of course I would let the girl go so she can be your wife. Then you'll have plenty of time to feel her foot."

Duan Yu and Zhong Ling both blushed like crazy. Duan Yu hurriedly took of Zhong Ling's shoes and put them in his shirt. But he still can't refrain from taking another look at Zhong Ling. At this, Zhong Ling let out a coquettish laugh.

SiKong Xuan spoke up again: "Brother Duan, please go and come quickly! All of our lives is in your hands. If there is some hold-up then none of us will live. Miss Zhong, how long does it take to get to your dad's place?" Zhong Ling answered: "Two days if he hurries. I would say he would be back in 4 days at the most." SiKong Xuan felt a little better, but still urged: "Then go quickly!"

Zhong Ling spoke up: "I'm going to tell Big Brother Duan how to go, all of you get away. I don't want any of you listening in." SiKong Xuan waved his hand and all the clan members walked away. Zhong Ling added: "You too." SiKong Xuan thought to himself: "Once I'm cured, if I don't show you little baby a little something then SiKong Xuan has mistaken himself for a man!" But he got up and walked off.

Zhong Ling sighed: "Big Brother Duan, we have only met today, and already we have to be separated." Duan Yu smiled and replied: "It's only for 4 days, no big deal really."

Zhong Ling stared at Duan Yu with the two big eyes of hers for a while. Finally, she said: "First go see my mom, tell her about the situation and let her go talk to my dad. This way it'll be much easier." She then drew out directions to her home on the ground with her feet. As it turns out, Zhong Ling lives in a valley on the west shore of the LanCang River, not very far away. It is very well hidden and the entrance has several traps, switches, and secret codes. Without specific directions, it is very hard to find and enter the valley. Duan Yu always had a good memory and easily memorized all the direction that Zhong Ling gave him. After she finished, he said: "Alright, I'm going now." He turned around and started to walk.

After about 10 steps or so, Zhong Ling suddenly remembered something and called out: "Hey! Come back here!" Duan Yu asked: "What?" Zhong Ling said to him after he walked back: "Don't say that your surname is Duan, and especially don't say that your dad knows '1 Yang Zhi'. Because... Because my dad might start getting ideas." Duan Yu smiled and thought that this little girl is just worrying too much, but it is all in good intentions towards him. So he just said "Alright," as he turned and walked off.

Chapter - 2 The Jade Cliff Under the Moonlight

After all that mess, the moon has risen to the middle of the sky. Duan Yu kept on walking west. Even though he does not know any kungfu, his youth enabled him to keep this up. After about 10 kilometers he has already arrived in the back mountains of No Measure Mountain. He suddenly heard the sound of water running. Feeling thirsty, he went searching and found the creek. Under the moonlight the creek water looked clear and beautiful. Just as he put his into the creek, he heard sound of a branch cracking followed by the footsteps of 2 people. Duan Yu immediately lied down by the creek, not daring to make a noise.

Someone said: "There is a creek here, let's get a couple of drinks here before continuing." The voice sounded familiar to Duan Yu as he suddenly recognized it as Gan GuangHao, the disciple of Zuo ZiMu. Duan Yu became even more still. The 2 of them walked up to the creek and started drinking. After a bit, Gan GuangHao spoke up: "Sister Ge, looks like we are already out of danger. Let's rest a while before going on." The girl seemed to have agreed as it sounded like both of them sat down by the creek.

The girl spoke up: "You sure that the Divine Farmer Clan won't have anyone this way?" Her voice is shaky, obviously scared. Gan GuangHao tried to calm her: "Don't worry, this path is as hidden as can be. Even some of us in the East Faction don't know about it, not to mention the Divine Farmer Clan." The girl asked: "Then how did you know about this?" Gan GuangHao replied: "Every 5 days, my master would take some of us here to try to crack the secret of the 'No Measure Jade Cliff'. All these years, all we did was stare at the rock like a bunch of retards. Master kept on saying something to the effect of 'to get things done you must show perseverance and determination' and 'good things come to those with aspirations'. But I really just can't stand it anymore, so sometimes I excuse myself to do that kind of personal business to come out here and wander around. That's how I found this path."

The girl laughed a little and said: "So you don't want to put in the work and ran off. I say in your faction, you probably have the least perseverance and determination." Gan GuangHao laughed and replied: "Sister Ge, in the competition 5 years ago, when I lost to you...." The girl cuts in: "Don't you say that you lost to me again. You pretended that your inner strength was weaker and let me win on purpose. Others can't tell, but don't you think I know?"

Duan Yu thought to himself: "So this girl is a disciple of the West Faction of No Measure Sword."

Gan GuangHao replied: "The moment I saw you, I swore to myself that I will spend the rest of my life with you no matter what. Luckily such a rare chance came today with the Divine Farmer Clan coming to attack. Not to mention that pair of bastard guy and girl and their stinking marten. The entire Sword Lake Palace was a mess, giving us such a great opportunity to run away. Wouldn't you say that this is 'good things come to those with aspirations'?" The girl laughed a bit and tenderly replied: "I say 'good things came to those with aspirations' for me as well." Gan GuangHao replied: "Sister Ge, if you treat me this way, then I would listen to whatever you say for the rest of my life."

The girl sighed: "With us betraying our masters and running off like this, we can't ever stand in the martial world ever again. We should go as far away as we can, find a nice and secret place and hide there away from our masters and sect members. I'm scared just thinking about them finding us." Gan GuangHao replied: "I say you don't have that much to worry about. Seems like the Divine Farmer Clan came prepared this time. Besides the 2 of us, I don't think anyone else would be able to escape." The girl sighed again: "Hopefully."

Duan Yu became very angry and thought to himself: "The 2 of you becoming husband and wife and running off when seeing that there is trouble is really no big deal. But why wish death upon your master and martial brothers? Such evil hearts." But he was still wise enough to figure out that if they found out he is here they would kill him to keep this quiet. So he still did not make a noise.

The girl asked: "What is the big deal about this 'No Measure Jade Cliff'? You have lived here for 10 years now, haven't you at least found something?"

Gan GuangHao replied: "Since we are together now, I have nothing to hide from you. Master said that a long while back, at that time his master was the head of the East Faction, under the moonlight, he often sees faint reflections practicing swords on the cliff. Sometimes it's a man, sometimes it's a woman, and then other times they are sparring. The kind of sword skill they were displaying was something that he has never even dreamed of, much less heard of or seen. It is as if they were angels. He hoped to learn a couple of moves, but not only are the reflections on the cliff just too fast and too amazing, but they also seem supernatural as if nonexistent. He just can't make out anything clearly, much less learn a move or 2. The angels don't appear regularly either, sometimes they appear every night, sometimes there are months between appearances. My master's master became so obsessed with the reflections on the cliff that he actually became worse and worse at our own sect's sword skills and doesn't even train his students anymore. That's how the West Faction won later on. Sister Ge, when your master's master came to live in Sword Lake Palace, did she see anything?"

The girl replied: "I heard from my master that her master saw the images on the cliff as well. But grand master only saw the woman and never seen any of man angel. Maybe it was because her master was a woman so only the female angel appeared to her. But after 2 years, she was gone as well. Her master also said that the sword skills were incredible, but they were just too fast and the reflections were too blurry for her to see it clearly. The cliff is separated by the canyon and the Sword Lake, so she couldn't get closer to have a better look. Grand master obviously received a gift from the heavens, yet she just cannot learn even a move or 2. For that you can just imagine how she felt inside. After the reflections stopped appearing, she would spend days upon days staring at the cliff. She just got weaker and weaker until she died of illness about half a year later. She died lying on the peak, and would not let her disciples move her back to Sword Lake Palace. Master said that even as she drew her last breath she was still staring at the cliff." She paused a bit before continuing: "Brother Gan, do you really believe there are angels? Or are our grandmasters lying to us?"
 

Gan GuangHao replied: "I don't think both our grandmasters made up such a story to deceive their disciples. Even if we believed it, then what? Besides, Martial Uncle Sheng told me that he saw the images with his very own two eyes. But are there really angels in the world? That I do not know."

The girl asked: "Is it possible that it's two masters practicing swords in front of the cliff and was reflected onto the cliff?" Gan GuangHao answered: "Grandmaster thought about that as well at the time. But right in front of the cliff is the Sword Lake, and west of the lake is the canyon. Even if the 2 master martial artist knew how to walk on water and were practicing on the lake, grandmaster would have seen them. If they were practicing on this side of the lake, then they really are too far away to cast any kind of reflection onto the cliff." The girl said: "After my grandmaster died, her disciples performed rites and prayed in front of the cliff every night, hoping the angels would appear again. But they never did see it again. My master also wants to just get one glance at the angels, but it just so happens that we have lost both contests to your East Faction in the last 10 years."

Gan GuangHao replied: "From now on, there is no East or West Faction between us. We East and West is connected in marriage and merge as one...." The girl moaned a couple of times and said: "S... stop that!" Obviously Gan GuangHao is trying to get a little closer with her, but the girl is refusing. Gan GuangHao spoke up: "From this day forth, if I ever betray your heart in anyway, then let me fall into this creek and become a turtle." The girl coquettishly laughed: "You turn into a turtle? Then what does that say about me?"{Note, in Chinese street talk, a turtle is a man whose wife is cheating on him.}

When Duan Yu heard that, he can't help but let out a laugh. As soon as the laughter came out he knew he was in trouble. So he jumped up and started to run. Gan GuangHao's voice came from behind him: "Who is it?" His voice was followed by the sound of his footsteps, coming after him. {Duan Yu seems to have problems controlling his sense of humor doesn't he?}

Duan Yu can't believe his luck and ran for his life. Suddenly, a flash of white came from the west. A girl with a sword in hand is coming down the slope as if to cut him off. Duan Yu let out an "Ai-Yo!" and turned toward the east. All the while he kept on praying: "Great Benevolent and Merciful Bodhisattva, please bless and protect your humble disciple Duan Yu out of this mess!" He can still hear the footsteps of Gan GuangHao chasing after him so he kept right on running. After a while, he started having trouble keeping this up and his breathing became very hard, Gan GuangHao suddenly spoke up: "Sister Ge, block that pass over there."

Duan Yu thought to himself: "You giving your life away is really no big deal. But if you die you are taking Miss Zhong's life with you, as well as all the people in the Divine Farmer Clan. Now that indeed is a sin. Amida Buddha and Bodhisattva." Then his thoughts turned: "Duan Yu my good man, so what if they become turtles, what does that have to do with you? Why did you laugh for no reason whatsoever? With that laugh you have killed dozens of lives! Only unrivaled beauties can bring down cities with a smile or a laugh. Who do you think you are with this little laugh of yours? What are you planning on bringing down?" Even though he is blaming and scolding himself in his mind, his legs had not let up yet. By now he doesn't really care where he is going, just as long as it is deeper into the woods.

{A little commentary by me. Duan Yu here refers to a idiom saying that unrivaled beauties destroys cities and kingdoms with a smile, it comes from a true story very early in Chinese history. However, it also is a basic concept in ancient Chinese culture. As expected in such chauvinisticic society as ancient China was, many failures of kings and lords are not blamed on themselves but on women whom they associate with. There are many examples of this. In 771 BC, King Zhou You's own personal ignorance and foolishness that led to his demise was blamed on his consort Bao Si (who's famous smile was worth 1000 gold pieces). At the end of the Spring and Autumn period, the fall of the state of Wu was not blamed on the Lord of Yue, who put an end to Wu in revenge for an earlier loss, but on the fact the Lord of Wu was infatuated with Xi Shi, a girl from the state of Yue. In A.D. 755, An LuShan, a trusted official of the Emperor of Tang rebelled and almost overthrew the Tang dynasty. The Emperor of Tang's failure as a ruler was not blamed, his favorite consort, Consort Yang, was! Jin Yong himself delved into this particular phenomenon of Chinese history in Duke of Mt. Deer and its story about Chen YuanYuan. To me, the section during which Chen YuanYuan reflected on her life was the best part of all of Duke of Mt. Deer and one of the most thought provoking and poignant sections that I have ever read. Actually all of this is not really commentary but merely some observations that I have made. }

After running for a while more, Duan Yu's legs felt completely numb and soft. Suddenly he heard the sound of water running, very loud sound in fact, as if the tides were just coming in. He looked up and saw a huge waterfall falling off of a cliff to the northwest. Over the water noise, he heard Gan GuangHao's voice: "Just ahead of you is the restricted area of our sect, no one can enter. If you just go forward a few more meters, you would be trespassing and will die without a burial place!" Duan Yu thought to himself: "Even if I don't trespass into the restricted area, it's not like you'll let me go. Best I could hope for is dying with a burial place. Really not much difference between having a burial place and not having one." So he picked up his speed even more. Gan GuangHao shouted even louder: "Stop now! Don't you want to live? Just ahead is....."

Duan Yu laughed and replied back: "I want to live, that's why I'm runnin...." Before he could finish his sentence, his foot suddenly had nothing to step on. He doesn't know any kungfu and is in such a hurry, how could he possibly pull back from that? So he just fell. He screamed: "Ai-Yo!" But by now his body is already more than 20 meters below the top of the cliff where he lost his footing.

Duan Yu wildly waved his arm around, desperately hoping to be able to grab onto something. But as he is doing so, he fell another 200 meters or so. Suddenly his bottom hit something and his body was sprung back upwards. Turns out that he fell onto an old pine tree that was growing out of the face of the cliff. With a terrible rumble, the huge trunk of the pine snapped, but the force of Duan Yu's fall had been mostly cancelled out.

Duan Yu started to fall down again. This time he reached out with both his arms and grabbed onto another trunk of the pine tree. So there he is, hanging in midair, swinging back and forth. He looked down and did not see the bottom of the canyon, merely clouds. At this moment, his body has been swung against the cliff. He immediately reached out with his left hand and grabbed onto a shorter branch close to the face of the cliff and found a place for his foot to balance himself. Only now was he finally able to calm down and slowly move his body completely up against the face of the cliff. He looked up to the old pine tree and said: "Grandfather pine, thank you so much for your display of your abilities that saved my life. Back then your ancestor helped Qing ShiHuang (first emperor in Chinese history) get out of the rain and was granted the title of '5th Rank Senior Official'. But how can saving a life compare with protecting against the rain? I'm going to give you the position of '6th Rank Senior Official'. No, on second thought, definitely '7th' or '8th Rank Senior Official'!"

He looked around him carefully and saw that the cliff has a huge crack in it, one which he might be able to use to scale down. He took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself and thought: "Gan GuangHao and that Sister Ge of his surely would have thought that I am dead by now. No way in the world could they have guessed that I would be rescued by an '8th Ranked Senior Official'. They have probably already left the mountain to work on their 'merging of East and West Factions'. Who knows what kind of danger is on the bottom of this cliff, but my life is living on borrowed time anyway, doesn't really matter where I lose it again. But since Bodhisattva is protecting me, it's better not to lose it for her."

So he started to slowly descend along the crack. Inside the crack grew a lot of weeds and small plants, so there really is no danger of losing his footing and falling again. The only problem is this cliff seemed to go on forever, after a while, his clothing were full of holes and rips from the plants along the crack, not to mention his hands and feet. After what seemed like forever, he still haven't reached the bottom, but fortunately as the cliff gets to the bottom it became less and less steep, not straight down anymore. So by then Duan Yu was able to just half-roll and half-crawl down, which is much faster.

But the sound of water splashing just kept on getting louder and louder, Duan Yu started to worry again: "What if the bottom of this is white water rapids?" Large water pellets were hitting his face, which was actually kind of painful.

Before he had too much time to think all this over, and it wasn't like he had much choice in the matter, he has reached the bottom of the cliff. When he stood up, he could not help but to scream in astonishment. For on the cliff on the left side there is a waterfall falling from the sky like a jade dragon falling from the sky into a big and unusually clear lake. Despite of the waterfall, the lake is not filled up, meaning that there must be a way for the water to leave the valley. The water where the waterfall enters the lake is in turmoil; however, merely a little bit over 20 meters away from the waterfall the waters become calm and flat as a mirror. The moon shines down onto the lake as there is also a moon shining back from the lake.

Facing this scene, Duan Yu was left agaping, not even able to sigh in astonishment. He looked over to the side and saw several bushes of camelias by the lake shore, looking as if they are alive under the moonlight. The camelias of YuNan are the best in the world and Duan Yu has always loved them. So now he actually stopped thinking about the predicament he is in and walked over to get a closer look at the flowers. All the while muttering to himself: "Even though there's lots of flowers here, there are only a couple of types really. And only these few 'Feathered Shirt, Rainbow Skirt' are better than the ones at my house. These 'Lotus Every Step' over here, on the other hand, aren't pure at all."

After enjoying the camelias for a while, he walked over to the lake and drank some water. The water felt clean and soothing on the tongue with an unusual sweetness as a cool and smooth string of water went all the way into his stomach. After recovering from the drink, he stood up and walked along side the lake shore hoping to find a way out.

The lake is oval in shape, and more than half of it is hidden underneath bushes of flowers and trees. He walked from west to east and then back again to circle the lake once, which a trip of about 1 and a half kilometers. It turns out that the cliff surrounds the lake on all 4 sides with no paths out. The side that he fell from is the least steep portion of all, so it is impossible to climb on the others. Looking up, he sees that the cliff extends to above the clouds. Getting down from halfway was almost impossible, but climbing back up really is impossible. Duan Yu thought to himself: "Even someone with the best kungfu in the world won't be able to get up there, so it's obvious there is not much difference between knowing or not knowing kungfu."

By now it was getting close to dawn, but the entire place remained incredibly still. Not a single trace or sign of an animal, not to mention humans; the only thing that could be heard was a couple of birds chirping at each other. Duan Yu started to worry again: "It is no big deal if I starve to death here, but then that would mean that Miss Zong would die as well. I can't let her down like that. Not to mention my mom and dad are probably worried sick about me."

He sat down by the lake and worried in vain, unable to come up with a single idea as to what to do. In desperation, he started to imagine: "What if I can turn into a fish, then I could swim up the waterfall and get out of here." He turned to look at the waterfall more closely, suddenly he noticed that the cliff besides it is smooth like jade. He figured that this is probably due to the fact that a long time ago the flow of water was much more than it is now and wore the cliff to its present smooth state. Then the water flow decreased and exposed this smooth as glass and bright as a mirror part of the cliff.

Suddenly, the conversation between Gan GuangHao and that Sister Xin of his flashed in Duan Yu's mind: "So this must be the 'No Measure Jade Cliff' that they were talking about. They said that back then, when the moon is bright, the head of both East and West Factions often saw images of angels practicing swords on the cliff. This cliff is right besides the cliff, for the image to reflect onto it, they really have to be practicing in the middle of the lake. If I stand here on the east of the lake my image could reflect onto the cliff as well, but the cliff on this side is straight up and blocks out the moonlight, which would make that impossible. Ah! I get it! Must be because there are some waterfowls flying close to the surface of the lake so their images were reflected onto the cliff. From afar, then of course, the movements are incredible, fast, and strange. They have already assumed that it was angels practicing swords, so that is what they thought they saw everytime. Of course, they can't make anything out of the display of 'sword skills' and eventually went down the wrong path and became obsessed."

Once he figured all this out, he couldn't help but laugh a little. It has been 15 to 16 hours since the dinner at Sword Lake Palace and he is getting very hungry. So he walked over to some bushes that had greenish red wild fruits grown all over them. He picked one off and bit down, it tasted just as sour as can be. But as hungry as he was, he didn't care and ate 10 or so in a row. After filling up somewhat, he suddenly felt tired and sore all over his body. So he lied down on the grassy knoll and had a great sleep.

This was one of the best sleeps that he has ever had. By the time he woke up, the sun is already slightly to the west. There was a rainbow in the middle of the lake, just as beautiful as can be. Duan Yu knew that rainbows in this place is common because of the waterfall so he thought to himself: "To be able to see such a scene before I die means that my fortune is not bad. And to think that I would die here among the flowers on the lakeside, not bad elegance there either. Such a beautiful lake, too bad the camelias aren't really of great standards."

After sleeping, his spirits has picked up greatly: "Maybe there is an exit in this place hidden behind the trees and the bushes. I was too much in a hurry last night and might have missed it." So he once again walked alongside the lake in search of an exit, all the while humming favorite tunes of his. He carefully searched everywhere with the greatest care but behind all the bushes and trees were still just faces of the cliff, going straight up into the clouds. He didn't even find a snake hole, not to mention a real exit.

The tunes that he was humming got quieter and quieter while the heart became heavier and heavier. When he got back to where he fell asleep his legs felt weak and he had to sit down. He thought: "Miss Zhong tried to save me, but ended up giving her life away as well."

Now that he is thinking about Zhong Ling, he took out her shoes from his shirt and looked them over. Remembering back to her small and smooth feet as well as her beautiful face, he had to bring the shoes up to his lips and kiss it several times. Putting the shoes back into his shirt, he thought to himself: "Seems like I don't have a chance, and that means neither does Miss Zhong. If she was here and the 2 of us can spend what's left of our lives together here on the shore of this lake, that would be great. Too bad she is with that goat beard SiKong Xuan, no fun there. I wonder if she's thinking about me right now as well?" {I relate to Duan Yu on many levels, as I think what he thinks about here is exactly what I would be thinking as well}

Nothing to do, so he went over to the fruit trees to eat more fruits. Suddenly, he realized: "I have searched everywhere but here! The cliff might pull a 'Far as the edge of the world, but close to be in front of my eyes'!" He pulled the fruit tree branches aside, but shook his head in disappointment. Behind the tree is another bare rock covered with vines, no exit whatsoever. But a closer look revealed that this rock is smooth to the point that it looks just like a copper mirror, only it is much smaller than the one by the waterfall. Duan Yu suddenly thought to himself: "Could this be the real 'No Measure Jade Cliff'?" So he pulled some of the vines off the rock. But besides being unusually smooth, there is nothing special about the rock.

Suddenly an idea popped in his head: "Nobody would ever know that I died here. No harm in carving a couple of words on this rock. Um, how about 'Duan Yu of DaLi died at this place'. Could be quite fun."

So he pulled off all the vines off the rock. Then he took off his robe, dipped it in water in the lake, and wetted the rock. Then he used some grass to brush the rock a bit. By now the rock really does look like a piece of jade.

He found a rather sharp rock on the ground and started to carve on the rock. But this rock turned out to be unusually hard. After much work, he barely carved out "Duan", but the word was carved shallow and tilted, without the slightest trace of writing technique and skill. Duan Yu threw down the sharp rock and thought to himself: "If someone sees this later, they would think that this 'Duan Yu' doesn't even know how to write his own name. If I carve these 8 words, what kind of stinking legacy is that to leave behind?" Besides, he wrist was very sore.

After it got dark again, he ate some more of the sour fruits and fell asleep. He dreamt that a pair of flowery shoes was flying around in front of his eyes. The shoes were green with yellow flowers, Zhong Ling's pair. He immediately tried to grab them, but the shoes kept on flying around like a pair of butterflies, he can never seem to catch them. After a while, the shoes flew higher and higher. Duan Yu anxiously shouted: "Shoes! Please don't fly off!" This shock woke him up. Finding out that it was all a dream, he rubbed his eyes, felt his shirt to make sure that the pair of shoes are still where they should be, and stood up. He looked up at the full moon, the silvery light shined down onto the lake making it look like a layer of silver. His eyes followed along the surface of the lake. Suddenly his whole body shook, for on the jade cliff opposite of him was an image of a person!

Needless to say, he was surprised beyond belief. Immediately he took a deep breath and shouted: "Angel! Save me! Angel, save me!" The image shook a bit, but did not reply. Duan Yu has by now calmed down a little and looked at the image more carefully. The image is very faint and hard to see clearly, but the person is wearing a robe and a scarf, obviously a man. He ran forward several steps to the lake's shore and shouted: "Angel! Save me!" The image shook somewhat and got bigger. When Duan Yu stopped, the image stopped moving as well.

After the initial puzzlement, he immediately understood: "It's my own reflection." He jumped to the left, the image on the cliff jumped to the left as well. He took a step right and so did the image. By now there is no doubt in his mind that it is his own image, but he is still puzzled: "The moon is on the southwest, how does it manage to shine my image on to the cliff?"

He turned around, only to see that on the rock which he had carved "Duan" earlier in the day there was also an image of him. Only this image is alot smaller, but much more pronounced. He immediately understood the whole situation: "So the moon shines my reflection onto this little rock, which in turn reflects my image onto the big cliff. It is as if I was standing between 2 mirrors, the big mirror would reflect my image in the small mirror as well."

Now that he has thought about this, he can't help but think there is nothing special about this "Mystery of the Angel Images" that has puzzled "No Measure Sword" for decades: "There really were someone standing here practicing swords and their image got reflected onto the cliff. There used to be a man and a woman, but later on something happened to the guy, either he left or died, and only the woman was left here. She lived here all alone and after about 2 years she died of loneliness." Thinking about a beautiful woman losing her love, living in this canyon all alone, and finally dying in sadness, he couldn't help but be a little depressed.

Figuring all of this out, his excitement earlier has now subsided. With nothing else to do, he started to wave his arm and legs wildly, pretending to be practicing kungfu: "Hopefully Zuo ZiMu and ShuangQing just so happens to be at the top of the cliff. When they see that 'Angel' suddenly appeared on the cliff again, they would think that the angel is trying to teach them kungfu. Then they will try hard to learn this 'kungfu' that I'm showing them so they can pass it on to posterity. Hahaha!" The more he thought about it the funnier he felt, so he started laughing heartily.

Suddenly a thought popped in his head and he stopped laughing: "These 2 people only practice swords in his canyon once in a while. If they don't live here, then there must be a path in and out of here. Else no matter how good their kungfu is, it is still way too much trouble to climb the cliff twice everytime they want to practice swords. Maybe once in a long while, certainly not 'often'." A ray of hope appeared to him: "I'll go and carefully look for a way out. Didn't Gan GuangHao say: 'Good things come to those with aspirations'? Hehe, he aspires to marry his Sister Ge, then I will aspire to get out of here."

So he sat down with his arm around his knees. Looking at the moon reflected in the lake, surrounded by all this quiety serenity, he started thinking: "'Good things come to those with aspirations'. That saying is true. But Confucious also said: 'Those who like are better off than those who know, those who are happy are better off than those who like.' That saying fits my style much better. Mom and dad sometimes call me 'obsessive' because I always get obsessed about stuff when I was little. Like when I was 7, I stared at that '18 Scholar' Camelia plant from dawn to dusk, even sneaking up in the middle of the night to stare at it. All I did was think about it, even while eating and learning. When the flower wilts, I cried for several days straight. Later, when I started to learn Go, it was the same, constantly forgetting about eat and sleep. All day everyday, all I did was think about how to play the game. This time dad told me to learn kungfu, just so happens I am interested in the 'Book of Changes'. Even when I'm eating, I would wonder whether the chopsticks I'm using are 'Big Haves' or 'Colleague'. I don't want to learn kungfu, was it really because I don't want to learn how to beat and kill people? Or could it possibly because I don't want to put down 'Book of Changes'? Dad said I was 'unreasonable', maybe I really was being very unreasonable. Mom knows how I am the best, so she said to dad: 'One day when this kid gets interested in kungfu, you can't even force him to stop for a minute to eat. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. If he doesn't want to learn there is nothing you can do to make him.' Ah! It is almost impossible to make me aspire to do something. Hopefully one day I'll become obsessed with kungfu, that would make my mom, dad, and uncle all very happy. I just won't beat or kill anyone once I learn it, that's all. It's not like you have to kill to learn kungfu. My uncle's kungfu is so powerful, but he is so benevolent and merciful that I don't think he killed a single person in his life. Even if he wants to kill someone, it's not like he has to do it himself."

Sitting there by the lake, deep in thought, he lost all track of time. Suddenly, he noticed faint rainbow colors reflecting off of the smooth rock by his side. Looking at it closer, he saw an image of a sword underneath the "Duan" he carved on the rock. The image of the sword was unusually clear for a reflection, he can clearly make out the handle, hand guard, and sword point. The sword is pointing downwards, the reflection also emits a rainbowlike aura, moving and flashing around.

He wondered: "Why is there extra colors in the reflection?" He looked up to look for the moon but can't see it. Turns out that the moon has dipped below the clff on the westside. That cliff face has a hole in it, the moonlight is shining through the hole. Inside the cave itself there were some colorful likes emitting out. Suddenly, he understood: "I get it! There's a sword hanging inside of the cave, on the sword there are many precious stones and gems. The moonlight shines on the sword and the gems making the jade reflect their image. No wonder it is so amazingly spectacular and colorful."

He thought some more: "One has to hollow out the sword body to inlay it with gems, only then can the moonlight shine through the gems and create such an image. If the sword is not hollowed out, then the moonlight can't shine through the gems. Obviously, creating this sword took alot of work." The hole that the sword is in is about 20 meters above the ground, no way for him to go and get a closer look. Looking at it from the bottom, only the varied colored lights from the gems can be seen. But the reflection on the stone looked like a scene from a beautiful dream, as if something stolen from the gods.

Soon, the moon moved. The colors got lighter and lighter until it disappeared completely and the rock turned back to a gray color. Duan Yu thought: "That sword was probably placed there by that pair or masters. Such a steep and deep cliff, nobody in No Measure Sword would even dare to climb down to inspect the place. But if you stand on the top of the cliff, there is no way that you can see this hole and the sword. Even if No Measure Sword stood up there and stared at the cliff for another hundred years, they probably still won't know about this. Yet, even if you can get the sword, what's the big deal about that?" Aftre thinking about it a bit more, he fell asleep.

In the middle of a dream, he suddenly jumped up: "To place a sword at that place, how much effort and work would it take? Even if you are a kungfu master, it would still be alot of trouble. To go through so much work, there must be something behind it. Maybe there are some secrets in that hole on the cliff, maybe some secret kungfu manual is hidden there." Once his thoughts went on to kungfu, some excitement went out of his sails: "Those kind of kungfu manuals, No Measure Sword treats them like treasures, but if you put them in front of me, I wouldn't even open them up to read."

The next day, he slowly walked around the lake and enjoyed the view. This is his 3rd day inside this canyon. He figured in 4 more days the "Intestine Fragmenter" would take effect, by then there really is no point in looking for a way out anymore.

He woke up at midnight that night and waited for the moon to dip west. After 3 or 4 hours, the moonlight start coming through the hole in the cliff, once again displaying all the beautiful colors upon the little smooth rock. The image of the sword on the rock is tilted toward the north, pointing at another big rock. Duan Yu's mind lit up: "Maybe there's something about this rock." He walked over to the rock and pushed. The moss on the rock felt wet and soft, yet that rock seemed to have moved a little when he pushed. He pushed even harder, now it is obvious that the rock is rocking. This rock is chest high and weigh at least a ton if not 2. Logically he can never be able to move it. He felt around the bottom of the rock. Turns out this giant rock was sitting on top of a small piece of rock, but unsure whether this situation man-made or natural. His heart skipped a beat: "Something fishy is going on here!"

He placed his hands on the right side of the rock and pushed. The rock swayed out of place but then returned to its original position. There were some sounds of vines snapping coming out from underneath the rock as if the 2 rocks were tied together by some vines. By now there was not enough moonlight to see clearly, so he thought: "Wait until day comes, then I'll come and figure it all out."

So he laid down beside the rock and took a little nap and when he woke up, the sun had come out. He stood up and inspected around the rock. Then he laid down and got rid of all the vines and tiny stones between the 2 rocks. Once again he pushed, this time the big rock slowly rotated like a door. After a quarter turn, a meter high cave appeared behind it.

In his excitement, he did not even check whether or not there are dangers inside the cave before lowering his head and entering. After more than 10 steps, there is no longer any light in the cave. He held both of his hands out and felt around before every step. But the ground felt flat and smooth, as if he was walking on a stone path. It was as if the path was designed and made by human, he could not help but get even more excited about this. Only thing is that the path continued to head downwards, obviously he was going lower and lower. Suddenly, his hands came in contact with some cold, ring-like object. As soon as he touched it, the object let out a loud and clear "Dang!" He touched it once more, turned out the object was a door ring.

Where there's a door ring, there must be a door. His hands felt around, finding several door nails. In surprise and excitement he thought: "If there is someone living behind this door, wouldn't that be weird?" He found the door ring again and knocked 3 times. After waiting for a while, nobody came. He knocked the door ring 3 times more, still nobody. So he pushed the door. The door seemed to be made of iron and copper, heavy as can be, but it wasn't locked. So when he pushed, it slowly opened. He spoke up: "I am Duan Yu, please forgive me for showing up and barging in uninvited." No sound came from inside, so he stepped in.

No matter how hard he stared, he still could not see anything. The smell of mildew surrounded him, seemed like nobody has been living here for a very long time. He continued to walk forward. "Bang"! His head suddenly bumped into something. Luckily he was walking very slowly, so it didn't hurt much. He felt around with his hand, turns out it was another door. He slowly pushed this door open and some light hit his eyes.

He shut his eyes as his heart raced like crazy. Only after a bit did he slowly open his eyes and saw a round shaped room. The light was coming from the left, but it was too dim and hazy to be sunlight.

He walked toward the window that was the source of light. Suddenly a shrimp swam by outside of the window. Surprised and curious, he took several more steps towards it and saw a colorful carp casually swim by the window as well. He looked at the window closely and saw it actually is a huge piece of crystal that was imbedded into the wall. The crystal is about size of a tray and the light was coming through it.

He put his head up against the crystal and looked out. Fishes and shrimps swam about without any bounds being seen. He suddenly figured out where he was, actually below the lake now. It must have taken a lot of effort and work to build this room so that the light from outside would come in, not to mention this tray-size crystal. After calming down some, he immediately started to worry: "Crap! I'm below the bottom of the lake now! I couldn't see a thing the entire way down, don't know how many twists and turns I took to end up here. How am I suppose to get out now?"

Turning around, he noticed that there is a stone table in the middle of the room with a stool by it. On top of the table was a copper mirror, beside the mirror were some combs and earring type of things. It looked as if this was a beautiful woman's living place. The mirror is green with rust and the table is covered in inches of dust. Don't know how long it has been since someone been here.

Seeing this scene, he became lost in his thoughts: "A girl must have lived here many years ago. Don't know what happened to her to make her want to leave the world like this. Hmm, most likely she's the girl whose image was reflected onto the cliff." Snapping out of his trance, he looked around some more. There were mirrors all over the room and embedded into the wall as well. He did a little count, there were more than 30 mirrors in total. He thought some more: "The girl probably was an unrivaled beauty. Her partner died, so she just lived here all by herself. Only thing to do was to sit and look at herself all day everyday. Such a story, how can one not be sad?"

Walking around in the room, once in a while he would click his tongue, then other times he would let out a long sigh, only thinking about the former master of this room. After a long while, he suddenly had a thought: "Ay! I'm so busy thinking about the sadness of the former owner that I forgot about my problems." He started to talk to himself: "I, Duan Yu, am a stinking male. If I die in this place, then I could very well offend the beautiful lady. It is best to die outside by the lake. Else if others come here in the future and find my body here and mistake it for the lady's body, then isn't that... isn't that...." Before he thought about what that really is or isn't, he suddenly noticed that a mirror on the east wall was reflecting the light onto what seemed like a crack on the southwest wall. He immediate ran over and pushed hard on that piece of rock. As expected, it really was a door. As it slowly opened, it revealed an entrance. Looking into the entrance, he saw another flight of stone stairs.

In excitement, he let out a yell and danced around for a while before moving on. After walking another 10 or so steps downward, he faintly saw another door in front of him. He pushed the door open. Light hit his eyes as he let out a scream: "Ai-Yo!"

In front of him was a beautiful girl dressed in formal clothing holding a sword in her hand. The point of the sword pointed right at his chest.

After a long time, the girl did not move at all. He looked at the girl closely, noticing that even though her expression looked real, she does not seem to be alive. Summoning his courage he looked her over closely again. Only now did he see that she is a statue made from white jade. This statue is the same size as an actual human. The light yellow colored silk shirt she has on were lightly moving in the wind. The most interesting feature were her pupils, they are alive with spirit and expression. All Duan Yu could say was: "So sorry, so sorry. It is so rude to stare at miss like I am." He knew it was rude, but he still could not take his eyes off of her eyes. After staring for who knows how long, he finally figured out that the eyes were made from some kind of black gem. But the more he stared the deeper her pupils seemed to become. The fact that the statue looks so very human-like was mainly because of the spirit and delicacy of its eyes.

The white jade on the statue's face has a faint sign of redness, making it even more human like. Duan Yu stepped aside to look at the statue, but noticed that her eyes followed him as if she was alive. In shock, he leaned his head to the right, the eyes of the statue still followed him. No matter where he stands, the statue's eyes are always looking at him. The expression in her eyes were even harder to figure out, seemingly love and happiness but not really, seemingly sincerely in love, yet also seemed silently depressed.

He was spellbound for a long time. With a deep bow, he said: "Dear Goddess, Duan Yu was fortunate enough to see your beauty today, I can die without no regrets now. Goddess, you have separated yourself from the world to live here by yourself, hope it wasn't too lonely." The colors from the statue's eyes changed, as if she heard what he said and was truly touched.

By now Duan Yu was completely spellbound. It's almost as if he was possessed, as if he can't ever take his eyes off the statue again. He muttered: "Don't know how I should address dear Goddess." He thought: "I should look around to see if she left her name around here."

Looking around, he saw a lot of writings on the wall to the east but he didn't really pay attention to them and immediately went back to staring at the statue. This time he noticed that the hair on the statue is actually real human hair, curled up in a bun. The hair around her temples were like a fog. By her temple was a jade hairpin. On the hairpin was 2 pinky sized crystals, shiny and colorful. The walls of the room were full of gems and crystals as well. On the wall on the west side, 6 large crystals were embedded into the walls. Beyond the crystals was the faint glow of water, making this room several times brighter than the previous room.

He stared blankly at the statue for a long time again before turning away. He noticed that the east wall has been smoothed out and several lines of words has been carved onto it. The lines were all taken from ZhuangZi (Toaist philosopher, contemporary of Mencius, a favorite of Oscar Wilde), mostly from the books of "Carefree Travels", "Principles of Nuturing", "Autumn Waters", and "Epitome of Happiness". The calligraphy was elegant and refined. The words seemed to be carved with a really sharp tool for every stroke is about half-an-inch deep. At the end was another line: "Dedicated to Dear QiuShui (Autumn Waters) from Carefree Man. No sun and moon in this cave, truly the Epitome of Happiness in the mortal world."

Duan Yu stared at these words for a while, thinking: "This 'Carefree Man' and 'Dear QiuShui' are probably the 2 masters that were practicing swords decades ago. And this statue is probably that 'Dear QiuShui' as well. Carefree Man was able to live with her here in this serene cave, that really is the epitome of happiness in the mortal world. Actually, who says it's merely epitome of happiness in the mortal world, does heaven have such joys?"

His eyes moved onto the other lines on the wall: "Small and insignificant mountain, immortals dwell within, skin like ice and snow, graceful virgin, no need for foods, and shows joy in breeze." He turned to the statue and thought: ."Using these words by ZhuangZi to describe Dear Goddess could not be anymore appropriate." He walked to in front of the statue and stared. Seeing her ice-like skin, he did not dare to even lift a finger and touch her. It was as if his heart was possessed. He even faintly smelled some musk like incense fragrance. From love was born respect, from respect came obsession. {ZhuangZi needs to learn to write coherently, that's what I say. Hopefully my translation was not just out there.}

After who knows how long, he suddenly blurted out: "Dear Goddess, if you are willing to say even one word to me. Then I would happily and without regret die 1000, no, 10000 times." Suddenly he kneeled.

When he kneeled, he noticed that there were 2 mats in front of the statue, seemingly placed for people to kowtow to the statue. His knees were resting on the bigger mat while there is a much smaller one just in front of the statue, seeming made for people to kowtow. So he did. Suddenly he noticed that there seemed to be words sewn onto the inside portion of the statue's shoes. He looked harder and recognized that on the right shoe was sewn: "Kowtow one thousand times, then obey my orders", and the left shoes read: "Whoso follows my instructions, will never have regrets".

These 16 words were literally smaller than the head of a fly. The shoes were green like the lake, and the 16 words were sewn using a thin green line, only slightly darker than the shoes. Add in the hazy and confusing lighting of the room, there is no way these words can be seen without first kowtowing followed by a careful look. Duan Yu felt that kowtowing 1000 times was actually very natural of a thing, adding on top that he would be get a chance to obey the statue, he really couldn't ask for anything more. As for following her instructions, he wouldn't mind jumping in boiling oil or burning seas, of course he would not regret it. So without a bit of hesitation, with his mind not all there, he started to really honestly kowtowing to the statue. All the while he counted out loud: "5, 10, 15, 20...."

When he got to 500, his waist was sore, his bones hurt, and his forehead felt numb. But he told himself that he would not stop until he gets to 1000 no matter what. Can't even accomplish the first instructions he got from Dear Goddess, then how does he get off saying "will never have regret"? By the time he got to 800, the smaller mat had been worn through, exposing something underneath. He didn't bother and still went on kowtowing one after another. When he finished, he stood up. Suddenly he felt his waist give out and fell flat on his back.

He just lied there, resting. Even though he is worn and sore all over, he still felt great in his heart for he has done something that the statue asked of him. Only after a long while did he finally, and slowly, got up. He touched where the smaller mat was worn through. It felt smooth and soft to the touch, turned out there was a silk bundle underneath. He thought: "So Dear Goddess had this planned out a long time ago. If I didn't kowtow 1000 times, the mat wouldn't have been worn through, and the treasure that she has rewarded to me wouldn't have appeared." He never cared for jade, crystals, or pearls, but since this silk bundle was given to him by Dear Goddess, he would treasure it like no other even if its only a pile of dried up leaves. He grabbed it with his right hand, but immediately put his left hand on it as well, and held it up to his chest.

The silk bundle was about a foot long and on it were written these words: "You have already kowtow 1000 times, meaning that you have admitted as my subject and will listen to my command without regrets. This volume is the essence of our Carefree Sect's kungfu (Xiao Yao Pai). From this day forth, you shall, from 5am to 7am, 11pm to 1am, and 5pm to 7pm, follow and practice the instructions within. Then you can rightfully read the collection and all the kungfus of every sect in the world will be yours to use. Learn what you can and want, afterwards leave and kill all of the disciples and descendants of the Carefree Sect. If one fall through the holes, even the heavens will curse you." {Written in very fancy book Chinese, I tried to get the gist of it without breaking out with Shakespearian imitations}

His hands that were holding up the bundle could not shaking violently as the thought ran across his mind: "What does she mean? I don't want to learn kungfu, as for killing all of the disciples of Carefree Sect, I have even less urge to do that. But how can I not obey Dear Goddess's instructions? I have already kowtowed to her 1000 times, which means I am now a willing subject of hers. But she wants me to learn kungfu and kill, what should I do?" {As the Chinese would describe Duan Yu: Idiot Scholar!}

His mind was a mess as he thought to himself: "She tells me to learn the kungfu of the Carefree Sect and kill all the disciples of the Carefree Sect, how strange. Hm, probably her martial brothers and sisters did something horrible to her, so she wants revenge. Yet she was not able to before her death, so she wants to have a disciple to finish this wish of hers. Those people did bad things to Dear Goddess, then without a doubt they are the most evil and sinister people in the world. When Confucius said: 'Revenge with righteousness', he was talking about this kind of stuff. Dad also said that even if I don't want to kill bad people, when they meet me they would want to kill me, so if I don't know any kungfu, then all I can do is wait to be killed. There is a lot of sense in what he said." When his father was forcing him to learn kungfu, he whipped out all kinds of philosophies and arguments of Confucius and Buddhism to say that it's not right to learn kungfu. His father's knowledge in this subject is not on par with him, so he could not argue with him. Yet at this moment, he is obsessed with the statue, so he naturally feels that there are some sense in what his father said.

He thought some more: "Dear Goddess has been gone for several decades now, don't know if there still is a Carefree Sect in this world. As the saying goes: 'Evil only begets evil'. Maybe every single one of them have already got what's coming to them and there is no need for me to kill them anymore. If there are no more disciples of Carefree Sect, then Dear Goddess's wish has come to fruition and she need not be full of hate up in heaven where she resides."

Once he thought of this, his heart relaxed and he stopped worrying. He silently prayed: "Dear Goddess, whatever instructions you leave behind, Duan Yu will obey without a question. But hopefully your powers knows no bounds and the disciples of Carefree Sect have already met their ends." Nervously, he opened up the bundle. Inside was one single roll of silk scroll.

He unrolled the scroll. The first line read: "Divine Skill of the Northern Darkness" (Bei Ming Shen Gong). The handwriting was beautiful and elegant yet powerful, same as the words written on the outside of the silk bundle. After it was written:

"ZhuangZi's 'Carefree Travels' read: 'Beyond the northern boundaries is the sea of darkness, a sea of heaven. There are fishes within thousands of kilometers long, but no one known really how long.' Also read: 'If the accumulated water is not enough, then it is no matter that the boat's big. If the water from the overturned cup is more than that can be held by the depression, then even cabbage leaves can be a boat; set the cup inside and become as one, then if the water is little then the boat is big.' In our sect's kungfu,accumulating inner force is most important. Once inner force is strong, then all of the kungfus of all the sects are ours to use. Just like the northern darkness, able to hold all boats no matter the size, able to contain all fishes big or small. For this reason, inner force is most basic and first, while moves are last. Using the diagrams below and diligently learn inner force training and meditation."

{Note: the phrase that said "fishes within" in Chinese is "YuYan", Wang YuYan's name is a play off of this line. ZhuangZi's phrases need to make some sense, I tried to go for the literal meaning because they are supposed to be very meaningful quotes with many levels. It would be better if he had not used rare words and weird ways to say the simplest of concepts.}

Duan Yu praised: "Dear Goddess could not have made it any clearer with this passage!" He thought some more: "Since this 'Divine Skill of the Northern Darkness' is inner force kungfu, learning it should be no harm to anyone." So he unrolled some more of the scroll with his left hand. "Ah!" He suddenly screamed as his hearted raced a mile a minute. In an instant he blushed to the roots of his ears and his whole body felt like it was burning up.

For on the scroll there was a drawing of a naked female, not a single strand of clothing on her body, face exactly like that of the statue's. Duan Yu felt as if one glance would be disrespect and obscene towards Dear Goddess, so he immediately rolled up the scroll. Only after a long while did he think: "Dear Goddess instructed: 'Using the diagrams below and diligently learn.' I'm only following her instructions, can't be counted as disrespect."

His hands still shaking, he unrolled the scroll again. The face of the female was smiling beautifully and sweetly. The ends of her eyebrows, the corner of her eyes, and her rosy cheeks all exuded a seductive charm. When compared to that serious expression of the jade statue, although their looks are the same, the feeling they give off are completely different. He could almost hear his heart beating heavily as his eyes moved onto the woman's body and saw a thin green line. The line started on her left shoulders, moved horizontally until below her chin, then slanted downwards to her right breast. When he saw a slight sign of mound of her breast, his heart skipped at least 5 beats and he immediately shut his eyes. After a long wait, he slowly opened his eyes and looked down again. The green line passed underneath the armpits, followed her right arm, passing her wrist and finally came to a stop on her right thumb. The more he followed the line the more relaxed he became, figuring looking at Dear Goddess's arm and fingers is nothing bad. But even when just looking at her beautiful and shapely arm and legs, his heart could not help but start picking up again.

There was another green line that started at the base of the neck and went downwards, past the chest and stomach all the way until a few inches above the navel. Duan Yu dared not to look at that line very closely and turned his attention back to the green line on the arm. This time he noticed a lot of small words by the line, starting from "Cloudy Gate" all the way to "Less Merchant". He often listens in on his parents talking about kungfu, although he never really paid much attention to it, he has heard them talk about it too often. So he recognizes these small words as names of pressure points on the body.

He unrolled the scroll a bit further and read: "Divine Skill of the Northern Darkness is about using other's inner strength as my own. The sea of the Northern Darkness did not create itself. It said: 'All the rivers empties into the ocean, the ocean is because it can contain the rivers.' The vast open seas was accumulated. So 'Scripture of the Lunar Hand and Lungs' is the first lesson of the Divine Skill of the Northern Darkness" followed by detailed instructions as to how to practice this kungfu.

It concludes the section with: "When others practice inner strength, the path that they take is from Cloudy Gate to Less Merchant. But our Carefree Sect's kungfu is from Less Merchant to Cloudy Gate, if thumb comes in contact with others, then their inner force will gush into my body and be stored at Cloudy Gate as well as other pressure points. But if the opponent's inner force is stronger than mine, then the water of the sea will empty into the rivers and will lead to life threatening dangers, you have been forewarned. The other skills of our sect, has not been developed fully and are only able to weaken the opponent's inner force but cannot make it available for own use. It is as if stealing a fortune yet misplacing it, such a waste of something so precious."

Duan Yu let out a long sigh as some part of him felt that there is something not quite right with this skill. Using other's inner strength for your own use, isn't that just like stealing something precious from others? But then he also thought: "Dear Goddess could not have picked a better metaphor. Rivers empty into the sea because it is the rivers themselves doing the emptying, not because the sea is stealing the river's waters. My thinking Dear Goddess stealing from others, how disrespectful is that? Punishment is called for. Definitely called for!"

So he lifted his hand up and slapped himself once on both cheeks. The first slap on his left cheek was rather hard and very painful, so naturally he took off a lot of force on the second slap on his right cheek. He thought to himself: "Bad, evil people came to make trouble to Dear Goddess, so Dear Goddess took their inner strength for herself. That's only taking away bad, evil people's ability to do bad, evil things. Like grabbing the butcher knife away from the butcher, not killing him. How could a person such as Dear Goddess ever do a single bad thing?"

So he unrolled some more of the scroll. There were many many more drawings of naked females on the scroll, some standing and some sitting, some showing her frontside while others show her back. Although the face remained the same, her expressions changed as well, sometimes happy and sometimes worried, sometimes full of loving tenderness while other times filled with jealous disdain; not a single expression was the same as another one. There were a total of 36 drawings in total, every one of them have several colorful lines with pressure points clearly labeled and training instructions.

At the very end of the scroll were the words: "Minute Ice Ripple Step" (Lin Buo Wei Bu), following it were countless number of foot prints, each labeled with position names from the Book of Changes. Only a few days ago, Duan Yu was still diligently reading and studying the Book of Changes for all his worth. So upon seeing these names, his spirit and interest immediately picked up, as if he was meeting an old friend. The footprints on the scroll were densely packed and numerous, not quite sure if there are thousands of them or just hundreds. There were green lines connecting every step with another, and on the lines were arrows as well. Obviously a very complicated foot skill. At the end were written: "If suddenly meeting a strong foe, this can be used for protection as well as accumulating inner strength. Then take the foe's life."

Duan Yu thought: "Dear Goddess left this step skill, so it will no doubt be perfect and refined. If I can use it to run away when I run into a strong foe, that would be great. Then there would be no need to 'take the foe's life'."

He rolled up the scroll, clasped his hands and bowed towards it. Only then did he carefully put it in his shirt. Turning to the statue, he said: "Dear Goddess, you have instructed me to train 3 times a day, Duan Yu dare not disobey. From this day forth I'll be sure to be extra polite and courteous to everyone I meet, then others won't come at me. Of course, then I wouldn't need to steal their inner strength. As for this 'Minute Ice Ripple Step', I will definitely work extra hard on it. If things do not seem right, I'm out of there, then there would be no need to steal inner strength." As for that section about "kill all disciples of the Carefree Sect", he dared not to even think about that.

Seeing that there is a door on the left, he slowly walked through it. Inside was another stone room with a stone bed. By the bed was a small wooden cradle. He stared blankly at the cradle: "Could it be possible that Dear Goddess had a baby? No way, no way! Such a beautiful girl, how could she have a baby?" Just the very thought that this "graceful as a virgin" Dear Goddess of his actually might have a baby put him on the verge of tears because of the disappointment. But his thoughts immediately turned: "Ah! That's right! This is the cradle that Dear Goddess used when she was a baby, her mom and dad made it for her. That Carefree Man and Dear QiuShui were probably her parents. Yes, that must be it." Not willing to think about this anymore and find holes in his assumption, he immediately cheered up.

There were no quilts, pillows, or clothing in the room. There is only a 7 stringed zither hanging on a wall in this room. The strings are all broken. Left of the bed was a stone table, on which were carved a 19 x 19 square of the Go board. On the board there are about 200 or so stones. Both sides were well placed for the match, obviously this game has not ended. Zither is here, game is not over, yet the beauty is gone. Duan Yu silently stood there in the room. Before he knew it, 2 streaks of tear ran down his cheeks.

Suddenly his heart turned cold: "Ai-Yo! If there is a match, then there must have been 2 people playing. Then Dear Goddess would most likely be that "Dear QiuShui" and she would be playing against her husband Carefree Man here. Ay! This is... This is.... Ah! I got it, this game was not played by 2 people. Dear Goddess was here all by herself and play against herself out of boredom and loneliness. Dear Goddess, why didn't you call out several times then? Duan Yu would have heard your voice and naturally jumped down here to play the game with you." He walked closer and looked the game over carefully. The more he looked the more surprised he became.

The changes and turns in this game was incredible and complex, almost as if it is what a Go player would call a puzzle, traps within traps, and can lead to many different outcomes. Duan Yu has been working hard on the game of Go for years. Back when he was obsessed, he spent entire days playing against a Mr. Huo from accounting. He was born smart and in merely a year's time, he had turned a 4 stone handicap on himself to a 3 stone handicap on Mr. Huo. His skills are among the best in all of DaLi. Yet he cannot figure out how this match would turn out, it seems like the black side has the game in hand, but there is still some chance for the whites to come back. He stared for a long time as the board got blurrier and blurrier. Seeing there is 2 candle-holders on the table, each with half a candle remaining in it, he grabbed the fire knife and fire stone of the tray on the candle shelf and lit the candles so he could look at the match some more. He looked and thought about the match so much that he began to feel dizzy and nauseous.

He stood up and yawned. Astounded, he thought: "This match is really something. Even if I take 7 or 8 more days I still may not be able to figure it out. By then my life would be gone and Miss Zhong would have long been buried alive by the Divine Farmer Clan." Knowing that if he look at the table again, who knows how long it would be before he can move on again. So he turned around and reached behind him to take ahold of a candle-holder so as to make sure that he does not lay another glance on the board. Suddenly excitement shot through his heart: "That's right! Such a complicated game, must be a puzzle laid down by Dear Goddess herself and cannot be done by 2 people playing. Wonderful!"

He lifted his head up and saw that there is another cave entrance at the end of the stone bed. By the entrance were written: "Blessed Reading Ground". Remembering what Dear Goddess wrote on the outside of the silk bundle, he thought: "So 'Blessed Reading Ground' is here. Dear Goddess told me that the collection of every kungfu of every sect would belong to me. I don't want to learn kungfu, so it's no big deal if I don't look through this collection but it's an order from Dear Goddess, I can't disobey." So he walked through the door with the candle.

Once he had the chance to look around, he immediately let out a long sigh and felt a lot better. Turns out that this "Blessed Reading Ground" is a huge room, several times bigger than the room outside. Inside the room was filled with rows and rows of book shelves, but there was not a single book on the shelves. He held up the candle and walked closer. Labels dotted the shelves, all of them saying things such as: "KunLun", "ShaoLin", "QingCheng of SiChuan", "PengLai of ShanDong", etc. There is even a "Duan's of DaLi" label. But under "ShaoLin" there was a note: "Missing Sutra of Changing Nerves", under "Beggar Clan" was a note: "Missing 18 Dragon Subduing Palms", and the "Duan's of DaLi" was noted with: "Regrettably Missing 1 Yang Zhi, 6 Veined Divine Sword".

A long time ago these shelves were undoubtedly filled with diagrams and instructions on all of the kungfus of every sect but someone has moved the books away a long time ago. A burden that Duan Yu has been carrying in his heart lifted as he could not be any happier: "Now that the books aren't here anymore, I can't learn any of them. This doesn't count as disobeying Dear Goddess." But then he felt ashamed: "Duan Yu my good man, you are happy because you can't follow the instructions left by Dear Goddess, that is not being loyal to her. Not seeing the kungfu books, you should be sad, frustrated, and mad, not happy. Dear Goddess in heaven, please forgive me."

{Is there any doubt now that Carefree Sect is the most powerful sect and that Duan Yu, Xu Zhu, Li QiuShui, Tian Shan Tong Lao are about the most powerful characters in all of JY canon? The sweeper monk in ShaoLin is up there, but he seemed to be a freak of nature and had some prior knowledge and skill before joining ShaoLin, after all, he had only been sweeping for some 40 years while he looked to be much older. Also any idea where the books are moved to? It never said in the book but I am pretty certain I know where the collection is.}

Seeing no other ways out of this "Blessed Reading Ground", he returned back to the room of the jade statue. He just barely looked at the eyes of the jade statue and became spellbound once again. He stared blankly for a long time before finally clasping his hands and bowing deeply, almost to the ground. He said: "Dear Goddess, I have important matters that I must attend to, so I have to temporarily leave. After I have saved Miss Zhong, then I will come back to be with you again."

With great effort and struggle, he walked out of the room with a candle in hand looking for another exit. There was another flight of steps heading upwards on the side that he did not notice before because as soon as he entered the room his attention fell onto the statue. He quickly walked to the end of the steps. There was a door that was barely large enough to fit through a head. He stuck his head out and took a look around. What he saw sent his heart racing out with fear.

What he saw was fearsome rapids as water roared passed him with great speed and noise, for he had came upon a river. The towering and jagged cliff stood by the bank of the river. From the looks of it he had reached the LanCang River. Excited and surprised, he slowly climbed out of the hole. Looking around him, he saw that he is more than 30 meters above the rapids. So no matter how high up the water gets, it would never reach the hole and flood the cave. But to get to the river banks is no easy task either. So he put his hands and legs to full use as he awkwardly and pathetically started climbing up. All the while he was taking care to remember all the details of his surrounding, so as to be able to return here once he finished saving lives. He thought: "Every year from now on, I have got to spend several months in this cave to keep Dear Goddess company."

The banks of the river is covered by rocks, not even a small path could be found. He walked like this for about 4 kilometers when he came upon a wild peach tree. Peaches were all over this tree; he picked them and had himself a good meal. Once his stomach filled up, his spirit did as well and he walked another 5 kilometers when he came upon a small trail. Following this trail until it was almost dusk, he finally came upon an iron chained bridge. On a rock by the bridge were carved: "Well-Doer's Crossing".

He could not be happier, for "Well-Doer's Crossing" was one of the places that he had to pass according to Zhong Ling. He has made it onto the right path! So he grabbed the iron chains for support as he stepped onto to a plank of wood. This bridge is comprised of 4 iron chains, the 2 at the bottom have planks of wood laid on top to walk on while the 2 on the side are for support. As soon as he stepped onto the bridge, the chains started to shake. When he got to the middle, the shaking got even worse. Glancing down, the river was rushing by like stampeding horses below his feet. One bad step could lead to falling into the river, then no matter how good of a swimmer you are, you would not survive. He dared not to take another look down. Staring straight ahead, he nervously and shakily began to pray: "Amida Buddha! Amida Buddha!" One step at a time, he finally made it to the other end.

Only after sitting down and resting by the bridge for a while did he continue on as Zhong Ling had directed him. After walking quickly for more than an hour, he came upon a huge and dark forest. He knew he had arrived at the entrance of "Valley of Ten Thousand Calamities", Zhong Ling's home. Walking up a little closer, he came upon 9 huge pine trees lined up on the left. He counted to the fourth tree from the right. Following Zhong Ling's direction, he went around, behind the pine tree, pulling away the tall grass, and as expected, an hole appeared before him. He thought: "This 'Valley of Ten Thousand Calamity is really well hidden indeed. Had I not been told by Miss Zhong, who could have figured out that the entrance is actually inside a pine tree?"

He walked into the hole, while keeping the grass out of the way with his left hand, his right hand found a big iron ring. With a mighty pull, he lifted up the block of wood, revealing a series of steps. He walked down several steps, turned around, used both hands to gently let the wooden block fall back into place, and continued on down the steps. After 30 or so steps the path took a turn to the right, and then after several meters it turned upwards. He thought to himself: "Building stone steps in a place like this is not easy at all but when compared with the steps at Dear Goddess's place, these come up way short." After about 30 steps upwards, he reached level ground.

In front of him was a great field of grass, at the other end was another collection of pine trees. He walked over the field of grass and saw that one of the pines had a 3 meter long 1 meter wide section pared off and a layer of white paint was painted on. On it was written: "Those with the Surname of Duan will die without exception". Nine of the words were black, the word "die", however, was blood red.

Duan Yu thought: "Wonder why the master of this valley hate us Duan's so much? Even if a guy with the surname of Duan wronged him, there are thousands of Duan's in the world, is he going to kill them all?" At this time the light is dark, these 10 words looked fearsome and threatening, especially that red "die", for it looked as if it was written in blood. He thought some more: "So this is why Miss Zhong told me not to say that my surname is Duan. She told me to bang on the 6th word 3 times, meaning banging on this 'Duan' word. She didn't say 'Duan' because she was afraid that I would get mad. If I have to bang on it I'll bang on it, what's the big deal? She saved my life, not only is it ok to bang on that 'Duan' word 3 times, even if I have to bang Duan Yu's head 3 times I would do it."

Noticing there is nail nailed on the tree with a small iron hammer hanging from it, he grabbed it and banged on that 'Duan' word. "Zheng"! A loud sound of metal meeting metal came when the hammer fell. Taking Duan Yu by surprise, he was momentarily startled before realizing that behind the 'Duan' was a iron board and behind that was hollow. Because the outside was painted white, he didn't notice it. He banged the hammer twice more and hung it back up.

After a while, a young girl's voice came from behind the pine: "Miss, you are back!" Her voice was full of happiness and excitement.

Duan Yu replied: "I'm here because Miss Zhong asked me to come here to meet with the master of this valley." The girl let out a surprised "Yi!" Then she asked: "You... You are an outsider? Where's miss?" Duan Yu did not see her body, but he answered: "Miss Zhong is in danger, I came here especially to report that." That girl asked anxiously: "What kind of danger?" Duan Yu answered: "She is captured and it may be life-threatening." That girl replied: "Ai-Yo! You... You... You wait here for a little bit, I'm going to report to the Madame." Duan Yu replied: "That would be great." He thought to himself: "Miss Zhong told me to see her mother first anyway."

After waiting for a while, he heard hurried footsteps come from behind the tree. The girl from before said: "Madame request your presence." She came out from behind the tree. She was about 16 or 17 and is dressed like a servant. She spoke up again: "Honored guest... sir, please follow me." Duan Yu asked: "How do I address you?" The servant girl shook her head, meaning that she can't talk anymore. Seeing fear on her face, Duan Yu dared not say anymore.

The servant girl led him through the woods, followed a small trail toward the left, and arrived in front of a house. She pushed the door open, waved her hands at Duan Yu, and stepped to the side to let him in first. Walking in, Duan Yu noticed that he has entered a small lounge with a huge candle alit on the table in the middle of the room. Even though the room is rather small, it was very elegantly decorated. After he sat down, the servant girl came with a cup: "Sir, please try the tea. Madame will be out very soon."

He took 2 sips of the tea when he noticed that there were 4 hanging scrolls on the east wall. On them were drawings of plum, orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum (Mei Lan Zhu Ju). But they were hung in the order of: orchid, bamboo, chrysanthemum, and plum. On the west wall was 4 scrolls of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter; but their order was wrong as well: Winter, Summer, Spring, and Autumn. He mused: "Miss Zhong's parents are both martial type of people. No surprise there if they don't know much about books, paintings, and things such as those."

Hearing sounds of jewelry clanking, a mistress had walked out from the back. She was wearing a silk shirt that was of a light green color and looked about 36 or 37 years old. Seeing that her face was pretty and delicate with a faint resemblance of Zhong Ling between her eyebrows, Duan Yu knew that this was Madame Zhong. So he stood up, clasped his hands, and bowed: "Humble Duan Yu respectfully salutes to Madame." As soon as he said it he grimaced: "Ai-Yo! Why did you blurt out your real name? I was concentrating entirely on how much she looked like Zhong Ling and completely forgot about making up a fake name."

Madame Zhong was a bit taken aback, but she bowed in return nevertheless: "Many fortunes to you!" She followed with: "You... your surname is Duan?" There was surprise in her expression. Duan Yu figured that since he had already blurted out his own name, it is too late to lie about that, so he replied: "Yes, my humble surname is Duan." Madame Zhong continued with her questions: "Don't know where your hometown is or what your father is known as?"

Duan Yu thought: "Got to tell two big lies here, or else she might guess who I am." So he replied: "I am from the city of LinAn in HeNan province. My father's given name is 'Long'." There were some traces of suspicion on Madame Zhong's face: "But you are speaking in the DaLi dialect." Duan Yu replied: "I moved to DaLi 3 years ago and learned the local dialect. I'm afraid it is not very good, please excuse my bad accents."

Madame Zhong took a deep breath and replied: "Very convincing dialect, not the least bit different from the locals. Please sit down."

The 2 of them sat down. Miss Zhong kept on looking up and down nonstop, sizing him up. All this attention made Duan Yu very uncomfortable, so he spoke up: "I ran into some troubles on the way here, causing my clothing to get torn. Your daughter is in danger, that is why I came here. Only that the news was very urgent, so I had no chance to switch into something more clean and appropriate, please forgive my rudeness."

Madame Zhong seemed to have suddenly been snapped out of a trance by his words. She anxiously asked: "What's happened to my daughter?"

Duan Yu took out the pair of shoes from his shirt and said: "Miss Zhong told me to come here with these as proof and see you." Madame Zhong took the shoes over into her hand and replied: "Thank you so much, don't know what kind of trouble my daughter has run into?" So Duan Yu told her everything that has happened from Sword Lake Palace to now, leaving out only the section regarding Dear Goddess.

Madame Zhong was quiet the entire time, but her face got darker and darker. When Duan Yu finished, she sighed and said: "As soon as she leaves the house she runs into trouble." Duan Yu replied: "All of this started because of me, Miss Zhong has no fault in this matter."

Madame Zhong looked at him and then quietly said: "Yes, that's right. Not really that surprising really, back then... back then I was the same...." Duan Yu asked: "What?" Surprised, Madame Zhong's cheeks suddenly turned red. Even though she's almost at middle age, when she gets bashful and shy she looks just like a young girl. She bashfully replied: "I... I just remembered something else." After saying that, her face turned even redder, so she immediately tried to change the subject: "I... I think this matter... is a bit... a bit troublesome."

Seeing how bashful she is, Duan Yu thought: "Of course this matter is rather troublesome, but you don't need to blush like this. Compared to you, your daughter is much more natural about these things."

Suddenly, a burly male voice came from outside the door: "Everything was going well, how did JinXi-Er get killed?"

This startled Madame Zhong, she turned and whispered: "My husband is here, he... he is always suspicious. Mr. Duan, could you go hide for a bit." Duan Yu replied: "I still should really meet his acquaintance, wouldn't it be better...." Madame Zhong covered his mouth with her left hand and grabbed his arm with her right. She pulled him to the east winged room and whispered: "Stay here, don't make a sound no matter what. My husband's temper is short and violent. Just a little bit of misunderstanding could cost you your life, then even I can't help you."

Even though she looked weak and bashful, her kungfu is first rate. This little push-pull left Duan Yu no chance to refuse as he obediently followed her into the room. But he was secretly angry with her: "I came this far to tell you about your daughter, for better or worse I'm still a guest. Making me hide and sneak around like this, isn't that making me out to be a thief?" Madame Zhong smiled at him tenderly. As soon as Duan Yu saw the smile, all his rage disappeared as he nodded in agreement. Madame Zhong turned around, walked out, and shut the door on her way out.

Soon he heard 2 people walk in followed by a man calling out: "Wife!" Duan Yu peeked out from the crack between the door and the wall. He saw a man of around 30 dressed in servant clothing, face full of panic and terror; there was another tall and thin man, he was wearing black and facing outwards so Duan Yu cannot make out his face. But he could see his fan-sized hands at his side, the back of the hand was covered with veins. Duan Yu thought: "Wah! Miss Zhong's dad has got some big hands!"

Madame Zhong asked: "JinXi-Er died? How?" The servant replied: "Master send me and JinXi-Er to the north manor to welcome the guests. Master told us there would be 4 of them. At noon today one of them arrived, said his surname was Yue. Master instructed to call the one whose name is Yue as 'Third Sir'. But the man immediately went into a rage and shouted: 'I'm Yue number 2, why are you calling me 'Third'? Trying to degrade me?" And with one slap he smacked JinXiEr's face so hard he fell over bleeding." Madame Zhong frowned: "Such flagrant violence! Since when did good ol' third Yue turn to second?"

Master Zhong replied: "Yue Number 3 always had a weird and short temper, not to mention his deranged personality." As he replied, he turned around.

Peeking through the crack, Duan Yu was in for a shock. For his face was stretched out long like a horse. His eyes were unusually high with his huge, round nose and mouth squeezed closed to one another. So between his eyes and nose, there was a huge area of nothing. With Zhong Ling being as pretty and enchanting as she is, who could have guessed that her father would be this ugly? Duan Yu mused: "Thank goodness she resembles her mother and not in the least bit like her father."

Master Zhong's face was full of worry and concern, but as soon as he turned around and faced his wife, his face turned happy and tender, adding a bit of appeal to that horrid face of his. He continued on: "Yue Number 3's temperament is exactly what I thought might offend and frighten you. That's why I didn't let him enter this valley. This is a small matter, no need to fret about it too much."

This is all very strange to Duan Yu: "Just a bit ago, Madame Zhong was very frightened when she heard that her husband is coming. But from how he is treating her, it seemed like he has nothing but love and respect for her."

Madame Zhong replied: "Small matter? JinXi-Er has loyally and whole heartedly served us for all these years and now is killed by that pig of a friend of yours. My heart can't take it as well as yours can." Master Zhong smiled at her in an attempt to make her feel better: "Yes, yes. You sympathize with the servants, that's because of your kind heart."

Madame Zhong asked that servant: "LaiFu-Er, what happened after that?"

LaiFu-Er answered: "When JinXi-Er was hit onto the floor, he hadn't died yet. I immediately started to yell: 'Second Sir, Second Sir! Please don't get mad at us ignorant fools.' He laughed and seemed very happy. I helped JinXi-Er up and started setting up the table for that man named Yue. He asked: 'How come Zhong... Zhong... isn't here to see me?' I replied: 'Master haven't found out about Second Sir's honored arrival, or else he would have came here much earlier to welcome you. I'm going to report this to him right now.' He nodded, then he saw that JinXi-Er was standing there shaking, so he asked: 'I just slapped you, I bet you are cursing me deep down inside aren't you?' JinXi-Er replied: 'No, no! I wouldn't dare, never ever dare!' That man said: 'Deep down inside, you are probably calling me an evil person, so evil that I can't get any more evil, right? Hahaha.' JinXi-Er replied: 'No, no! Second Sir is a great person, not at all evil.' That man's eyebrows turned sideways and he shouted: 'You are saying I'm not evil at all?' JinXi-Er is so scared that his whole body was shaking: 'You... Second Sir... is not evil at all, not... not a trace of evilness.' That guys screamed in rage, suddenly he grabbed JinXi-Er, and snapped his neck...." His voice was shaking, obviously still shocked by what he saw.

Madame Zhong sighed and waved her hand: "You have had enough shock for one day, why don't you go and get some rest." LaiFu-Er bowed: "Yes ma'am." And walked out.

Madame Zhong shook her head and let out a long sigh: "I'm not feeling very well and would like a little bit of peace and quiet." Master Zhong replied: "Alright, I'm going to go see Yue Number 3 to make sure he doesn't cause more trouble." Madame Zhong observed: "I say it's best if you call him 'Yue Number 2' instead." Master Zhong replied: "Hmph, Yue Number 3 might be vicious, but I'm not scared of him at all. I'm not fussing over JinXi-Er's murder only because he is giving me a lot of face by coming all this way to help me."

Madame Zhong shook her head and said: "We have been living here in peace and quiet for 10 years now. In these 10 years, I have not left the valley at all, are you still not satisfied? Why must you go invite 'The 4 Arch-Villains' here to make a mess of everything? You... you give me all that sweet talk all the time when in reality you don't care about me at all!" Master Zhong immediately replied: "I... Since when did I not care about you? I invited the 4 of them here for you." Madame Zhong humphed: "For me? Well let me thank you. If you really care about me, then listen to me and send these '4 Arch-Villains' on their way."

Duan Yu was just feeling rather odd about this whole situation in the neighboring room: "That Yue Number 3 killed for no reason at all, he really is downright evil. Could there really be 3 more people who are as evil as he is?"

Master Zhong was pacing back and forth in the hall. He spoke up with a bit of anger in his voice: "That guy named Duan disgraced me too much, if I don't avenge this wrong, then how can I, Zhong WanChou, have face to live in this world?"

Duan Yu mused: "So your name is Zhong WanChou? Ten-Thousand Enmities? This name seems rather inappropriate. As the saying goes: 'Enemies are easy to make and hard to make up to.' Holding one enmity already is not a good thing, much less 10,000 enmities. No wonder your face got pulled that long. The fact that you were able to marry such a flowery and goddess-like wife with your looks means that you have about all the luck in the world. You should change your name to 'Ten-Thousand Fortunes', Zhong WanXin."

Madame Zhong frowned and coldly replied: "Actually, the one you really hate is me and not that other person. If you really wanted to cause trouble for him, why don't you go to their house and fight it out with him? Asking for help like this, there won't be much glory in it even if you win." The veins on Zhong WanChou's forehead were all clearly visible as he shouted: "He has all kinds of dogs and sidekicks under him, you know that! I wanted to duel it out with him, but he never shows his face, what can I do?" Madame Zhong lowered her head as drops of tear quietly landed on her sleeves.

Zhong WanChou panicked: "I'm so sorry, Ah-Bao. Ah-Bao, please don't get mad, I was wrong to yell at you like that." Madame Zhong did not reply, but even more tears are appearing. Zhong WanChou scratched his head in distress: "Ah-Bao, please don't get mad at me. I couldn't control myself, I'm so sorry."

Madame Zhong quietly replied: "You still can't forget that matter no matter what. What's the point of me going on like this? Why don't you just kill me and end all of this. That way, you don't have to keep on getting mad about this. Then just go marry another pretty wife and that'll be that."

Zhong WanChou lifted his hands up and slapped himself twice: "I was wrong, I need to be punished!"

Seeing the big hand of his hitting that long horse-like face, Duan Yu could not help but laugh at this comical scene. Even before he stopped laughing, he knew that he had really done it this time and hoped against hope that Zhong WanChou did not hear him. But Zhong WanChou immediately shouted: "Who's there?" "Peng!" Someone had kicked open the door and jumped into the room. Duan Yu felt suddenly felt someone grab the back of his neck and threw him into the middle of the outside room. His eyes went black from the fall as he felt as if every bone in his body had just snapped.

Zhong WanChou grabbed the back of his neck with his left hand and lifted him up: "Who are you? What are you doing in my wife's room?" Seeing Duan Yu's handsome face, he immediately became suspicious. He turned to Madame Zhong and said: "Ah-Bao, you... you... again... again...."

Madame Zhong rebuked: "'Again' this, 'again' that, 'again' what? Put him down, he is here to report an emergency." Zhong WanChou asked: "What kind of emergency?" He still had Duan Yu in midair and turned to him: "Stinking bastard, I can tell from your appearence that you are not a good person. What are you doing secretly hiding in my wife's room? Tell me, tell me now! If you even tell half a lie, I'll make sure your head end up like this table!" He brought his fist down hard onto a pear wood table, smashing half of it to bits.

After being painfully thrown on the floor, lifted up in the air, and hearing from Zhong WanChou's tone of voice that he suspect that there maybe something indecent going on between him and Madame Zhong, Duan Yu got mad instead of scared. He shouted back: "My surname is Duan! If you want to kill me then hurry it up! I don't know what kind of rubbish you are talking about!"

Zhong WanChou lifted his right fist up and shouted in rage: "Your name is Duan too? Another one named Duan, a... another one named Duan." By now, the rage in him has turned to sadness and disappointment, and tears were filling those big, rounded eyes of his.

Suddenly, Duan Yu felt very sorry for this man; figuring that he knows that his appearance does not match his wife's, and that is the reason why he gets jealous and mad for no reason whatsoever, actually a very pathetic situation for him. Unexpectedly, even though his life is in the other man's hands, he started to console him: "My surname is Duan, but I have never seen Madame Zhong before in my life. You have no need to be suspicious or sad."

Happiness returned to Zhong WanChou's face as he asked in a crackled voice: "Really? You've never seen... never seen Ah-Bao before?" Duan Yu replied: "I only came here for the first time not an hour ago." Zhong WanChou laughed sillily a couple of times and said: "Yes, of course! Ah-Bao hasn't left the valley in 10 years. Ten years ago, your were only 8 or 9, of course you can't... can't... cant...." But he still had Duan Yu up in the air.

A shade of red appeared on Madame Zhong's face as she spoke up: "Aren't you going to put Mr. Duan down?" Zhong WanChou immediately replied: "Yes, of course." He gently put Duan Yu down, but suddenly a look suspicion appeared on his face again: "Mr. Duan? Mr. Duan? Who... Who's your father?"

Duan Yu figured: "If I lie about it this time, it would actually seem like I have something to hide or whatever." So he said in an earnest tone: "Back then I did not tell Madame Zhong the truth when I shouldn't have. My name is Duan Yu, styled HeYu. I'm from DaLi. My father's given name is first-Zheng-then-Chun."

Zhong WanChou hadn't really figured out what "First-Zheng-then-Chun" meant when Madame Wang asked with her voice shaking: "Your father is... is Duan... Duan ZhengChun?" Duan Yu nodded: "Yes!"

Zhong WanChou screamed: "Duan ZhengChun!" His scream was so loud that it seemed like the whole world was trembling. His face was red with rage and his entire body was shaking as he yelled: "You... You are the son of that dog, Duan ZhengChun?"

Duan Yu was furious and shouted back: "How dare you insult my father?"

Zhong WanChou shouted back: "Why wouldn't I dare? Duan ZhengChun, you are a dog, a bastard, a turtle egg!"

Suddenly, Duan Yu pieced it together: "That's why he wrote outside: 'Those who enter with the surname of Duan will die.' Must be because he hates my dad so much that he hates everyone named Duan." So he calmly and coldly replied: "Master Zhong, if you have a grudge or hatred for my father, then you should get it over with once and for all in the view of the world. If you got guts then go and insult my father to his face. Insulting him behind his back is not the way of a real man. My father is in DaLi, if you want to find him then you'll find him easily. What's the point in putting up a sign in front of your house saying 'Those who enter with the surname of Duan will die'?"

Zhong WanChou's face turned many different shades in a row, as if every single word of what Duan Yu just said went straight into his heart. Rage shot out from his eyes as he looked like he was about to kill. After staying motionless for a while, he suddenly threw out 2 punches and smashed 2 chairs to pieces. He followed by throwing a kick at the wall, instantly creating a huge hole in the wall. All the while he screamed: "I'm not afraid of not being able to beat your father, I... I'm scared... scared that your father would find out that Ah-Bao is here...." When he got to here, there were faint traces of sobs in his voice. He covered his face with his hands and screamed: "I'm a coward, I'm a coward!" Suddenly he ran out of the room, but smashing noises kept on coming from outside as he kept on running into fences, flower pots, chairs, and such.

Duan Yu was in shock for a long time, he thought: "So what if my dad knows that your wife lives here? Would he come here and kill her?" He thought that he was way too harsh with what he said, hurting Zhong WanChou like that. Regretting what he said and feeling bad about the whole situation, he turned around and saw that Madame Zhong was staring at him.

As soon as their eyes met, Madame Zhong immediated turned her eyes away. Her pale face suddenly turned a shade of pink. After a little silence, she asked in a faint voice: "Mr. Duan, how has you father been? Is he doing ok?"

Since she was inquiring about his father, Duan Yu stood up and answered very politely and formally: "Father has been very good and healthy, he is doing great."

Madame Zhong replied: "That's great. I......... I also...."

Once again, Duan Yu saw that there were little tear droplets on her long eye lashes. She didn't even finish the sentence before having to turn away to wipe away the tears with her sleeve. Duan Yu felt sorry for her and tried to console: "Auntie, even though Master Zhong has quite a temper, he has nothing but love and respect for you. The 2 of you have a full and beautiful marriage, this is a little disagreement, no need for Auntie to be sad like this."

Madame Zhong turned around and gave him a little smile: "At such a little age, what do you know about whether or not a marriage is full or beautiful?"

Seeing the faint traces of innocence and tenderness in her smile, Duan Yu's heart shook a bit as he was immediately reminded of Zhong Ling. He turned his eyes toward Zhong Ling's pair of flower shoes on the table and thought: "Miss Zhong with that Goat Beard, she's probably suffering every moment of it. Got to get her out of there as soon as possible." He spoke up: "I was just very rude to Master Zhong, could Auntie please go on my behalf and ask Master Zhong for forgiveness. And also ask him to leave and save his beloved daughter at once."

Madame Zhong replied: "My husband is busy taking care of some friends that had just arrived from very far away. It is truly very hard for him to leave right now. I'm sure you just heard as well how peculiar these friends are, killing at the slightest provocation. If we aren't polite enough too them, who knows what kind of troubles that would bring to us? Hm. The way things are now, let me go with you instead." Excited, Duan Yu replied: "If Auntie herself can go, then there is nothing more that could be asked for." Remembering something that Zhong Ling told him, he asked: "Can Auntie cure that marten, Lightning's poison?" Madame Zhong shook her head: "No, I can't." Duan Yu hesitated: "Then... this...."

Madame Zhong walked back into her room, left a brief little note, hurriedly tied a belt around her waist, and hung a sword off of it. Returning to the hall, she said: "Let's go!" And she immediately started to walk out.

Duan Yu casually and naturally picked up the flowery shoes and put it inside his shirt. Madame Zhong shook her head in silence, as if she wanted to say something. But she finally decided against it and kept on walking.

Once the 2 of them got outside of the hole in the tree, Madame Zhong picked up her speed. Even though she looked delicate and frail, she was walking much faster than Duan Yu.

Duan Yu still did't feel assured: "Auntie, since you don't know how to cure, I'm afraid that Divine Farmer Clan might not let your beloved daughter off so easily."

Madame Zhong casually replied: "Who said we are asking them to let her go? Divine Farmer Clan dared to detain my daughter and threaten me, they must have grown tired of living. I don't know how to save someone, but that doesn't mean that I don't know how to kill someone."

Duan Yu involuntarily shuddered as he felt that the disregard for human life in these last several casual sentences were as prevalent as the actions of that Yue Number 3.

Madame Zhong asked: "How many concubines does your father keep?" Duan Yu answered: "None, he doesn't keep any. My mom won't allow it." Madame Zhong asked: "Is your father really scared of your mother?" Duan Yu laughed and replied: "Not really afraid. It is mostly love and respect, much like how Master Zhong is like to Auntie." Madame Zhong replied: "Um, does your father practice kungfu everyday? In these years, has his kungfu gotten much better again?" Duan Yu replied: "Dad practices everyday. But as for how good he is, I haven't the slightest clue." Madame Zhong commented: "He hasn't slacked off on his kungfu, then I... I can set my mind to rest. How come you don't know any kungfu at all?"

Amidst the conversation, the 2 of them had walked another half a kilometer or so. Duan Yu was just about to answer when he heard a man screaming: "Ah-Bao! Where... Where are you going?" Duan Yu turned around and saw Zhong WanChou chasing up from behind with blinding speed.

Madame Zhong grabbed Duan Yu's arm and shouted: "Hurry up!" She started to run forward with great speed. Duan Yu's foot was off the ground as he was almost being carried by Madame Zhong. The 3 of them covered 50 meters or so in a flash. Athough Madame Zhong's Qing Gong is not weaker than her husband, she was nevertheless dragging another person and Zhong WanChou gradually began to gain ground on her. After another 50 meters or so Duan Yu could have swore he can feel Zhong WanChou's breath on the back of his neck. Suddenly there was a ripping sound and he felt cold air blowing on his back. Part of the back of his shirt was torn off by Zhong WanChou.

Madame Zhong directed some inner force into her left arm and threw Duan Yu up over ten meters ahead while shouting: "Get out of here!" Her right hand had already stabbed back with the the sword. Considering Zhong WanChou's kungfu, this move naturally shouldn't hit him. Besides, Madame Zhong had no intentions of injuring her husband, she just wanted to stop his pursuit. But when she struck out with her sword, she suddenly felt some slight resistance on the sword as it had stabbed her husband in the chest.

Turns out that Zhong WanChou did not dodge nor parry, but instead leaned forward and ran onto the sword.

Madame Zhong was shocked and immediately turned around. Her husband was staring at her with a furious face but with tears in his eyes. With blood gushing out where he had been stabbed, he said in a shaking voice: "Ah-Bao, you...... are finally going to leave me?"

Even though her sword missed her husband's heart, it nevertheless was several inches deep in his chest and life-threatening. In panic, Madame Zhong immediately pulled the sword out and jumped forth to press hard on his wound. But blood was gushing out so much that they were shooting out through the little spaces between her fingers.

Madame Zhong angrily said: "I didn't want to harm you, why didn't you get out of the way!"

Zhong WanChou forced a wry smile and said: "You... You... are leaving me, I... might as well die." He then broke into a coughing fit. Madame Zhong replied: "Who said I was leaving you? I'm just going out for a couple of days and then I'll be back. I'm going to save our daughter. Didn't I explain everything in that note that I left?" Master Zhong replied: "What note?" Madame Zhong scoffed: "Ay! You are just too careless for your own good." So she briefly explained Zhong Ling's capture by the Divine Farmer Clan.

Duan Yu had been scared out of his wit by what he saw. When he had recovered from the shock, he immediately tore off a piece of clothing and tried to bandage up the wound for Zhong WanChou. Suddenly, Zhong WanChou's left foot came flying in and sent him rolling along the ground. Zhong WanChou shouted: "Little bastard! I don't want to see you ever again!" He turned to Madame Zhong: "You are lying, I don't believe you. He obviously came... came to get you. This little bastard is his son... he also insulted me...." He began coughing again, causing the blood to gush out of his chest even more. He pointed at Duan Yu and shouted: "Come on! Even though I'm wounded, I'm still not afraid of your 1 Yang Zhi! Come on!"

Duan Yu's left cheek had hit a particularly sharp rock when he fell down. So when he pitifully got back up, half of his face was covered in blood. He replied: "I don't know 1 Yang Zhi. And even if I could, I wouldn't use it on you." Zhong WanChou coughed some more before angrily replying: "Little bastard, what are you pretending to be? Go... Go get your old man here!" His coughing got even worse now that he is mad.

Madame Zhong spoke up: "You are always suspicious about everything. Since you can't trust me, then I might as well die right in front of you and end it all." She picked up the sword on the ground and brought it up to her throat.

Zhong WanChou grabbed the sword out of her hand, but happiness filled his face as he said in a shaking voice: "Ah-Bao, you really weren't running off with this little bastard?"

Madame Zhong angrily replied: "He is Mr. Duan, would you stop with the little bastard, big bastard talk? I was going with Mr. Duan to get rid of Divine Farmer Clan and save our daughter." Hearing that she wasn't leaving him, Zhong WanChou was happy beyond belief, add that on top the slightly angry expression on her face, and immediately his love and affection returned: "If that's the case, then it's all my fault. But... But since I have already chased all this way, why didn't you just stop and tell me all this?" Madame Zhong's face turned just a little redder as she replied: "I didn't want you to see Mr. Duan again." Zhong WanChou's suspicion was suddenly aroused again: "This little.... This Mr. Duan isn't your son is he?"

Angry and embarrased, Madame Zhong replied: "Pei! Why are you just talking nonsense? First he's my lover, now he's my son. To tell you the truth, he's my old man, your father-in-law." After saying that, she laughed despite of herself.

Zhong WanChou was taken aback for a moment before he realized that his wife was joking. That sent him into a wild laughter, which caused the blood to flow out even faster out of his wound.

With tears rolling down her cheeks, Madame Zhong said: "What... What should I do?" This made Zhong WanChou even happier as he put his arm around her waist and said: "Ah-Bao, with you worrying so much about me. Even if I die right now I would not feel wronged." Madame Zhong's cheeks were burning red as she lightly pushed him away: "Mr. Duan is here, how can you still act like that?" Zhong WanChou heartily laughed. After several laughs, he coughed several times.

Seeing the pale and exhausted expression on her husband's face, Madame Zhong wasdeeply worried and said: "I can't go save Ling-Er now, she caused the troubleherself, she'll just have to see what fate she is dealt." She helped herhusband up and then turned to Duan Yu: "Mr. Duan, go tell SiKong Xuan: myhusband is that 'Divine Horse King' Zhong WanChou who shocked the martial worldyears a go. I'm Chan BaoBao and have a rather unpleasant nickname: 'PrettyMedicine Fork'. If he dares to even touch a single strand of hair on ourdaughter, remind him that the 2 of us are tough and merciless." For everysentence she said, Zhong WanChou would add after it an "Yes, that's right!"

Duan Yu had figured that Zhong WanChou could not go himself and that MadameZhong cannot leave her husband to save her daughter after witnessing what hesaw. Just using Divine Horse King Zhong WanChou and Pretty Medicine Fork ChanBaoBao's name probably could not scare SiKong Xuan into submission. So it seemsthat the "Intestine Fragmenter" in his belly would not be cured. He figured:"Since things are like this, then there is no point and nothing good will comein saying anymore." So he replied: "Alright, I will go and tell themimmediately."

Seeing how he just naturally and suavely got up to leave as soon as he said hewould, Madame Zhong was once again reminded of someone in her mind, she criedout: "Mr. Duan, I have one more sentence to say to you." She gently put herhusband down and run up to Duan Yu. She took an object out of her shirt,stuffed it in Duan Yu's hand, and whispered: "Take this to your father and ask him to please save our daughter."

Duan Yu replied: "If my dad would come out, then of course Miss Zhong would besaved. But the journey to DaLi is not a short one, I'm afraid that I might notmake it in time." Madame Zhong said: "Then I'll lend you a good horse,please wait here for a bit. Please don't forget to tell your dad exactly:"'Please save our daughter'." She did not wait for Duan Yu to reply beforerunning to her husband's side, helping him up, and starting to walk back the way they came.

Duan Yu held his hand up and saw that what Madame Zhong stuffed in his hand wasa delicately made golden box. He opened it and saw that there was a piece ofpaper inside. The paper was faintly yellow, obviously very old, with severalfaint traces of spilled blood on it. On it was written: "Girl born between 1and 3am, February 5th, year of Geng-Shen". The calligraphy was soft and weak,obviously written by a female, and the style was rather lacking, other than thatthere was nothing in the box. Duan Yu wondered: "Who's birth certificate isthis? Madame Zhong wants me to give this to my dad, what for? The year ofGeng-Shen, Geng-Shen...." He did a bit of counting backwards with his fingers,that was exactly 16 years ago, ".... Could it be Miss Zhong's? Madame Zhongwants to marry her daughter off to me so that my dad would go save hisdaughter-in-law?"

Deep in his thoughts, he was suddenly interrupted by a man's voice: "Mr. Duan!"

Chapter - 3 Fast Horse And Faint Fragrance

Duan Yu turned around and saw a man dressed in servant clothing walking quickly towards him, turned to be the LaiFe-Er that he saw a bit ago on the other side of the wall. He walked up closer and bowed before speaking: "LaiFu-Er humbly came following orders from the Madame to go with sir to borrow the horse." Duan Yu nodded: "Alright, sorry to trouble you."

So LaiFu-Er walked in front leading the way as they made their way through the pine tree woods, turned north onto another small path, and after walking for another 3 or 4 kilometers, they arrived in front of a big house. LaiFu-Er went up, took the ring on the door in hand, gently knocked twice, paused, then knocked 4 times, and finally he knocked 3 more times. That door cracked open just a little. LaiFu-Er stood outside the door and whispered with the doorman for a while. By now it was dark, Duan Yu looked up at the scattered stars in the sky; suddenly his mind wandered to that cave and the Dear Goddess that lived in it.

Suddenly there came from inside the door a long and loud horse neigh, Duan Yu could not help but comment: "Excellent horse! Excellent indeed!" The door opened and a horse head poked out, the pair of horse eyes glowed in the dark as they looked around, obviously this was not an usual horse; with a couple more hoof beats, the black horse had walked out of the door. The hoof beats were landing very lightly on the ground, the horse was thin and slight but its legs were long as it had an air of proud arrogance. A little maid with her hair down was leading the horse out, in the darkness Duan Yu could not see her face, but she seemed to be around 14 or 15.

LaiFu-Er spoke up: "Mr. Duan, Madame was worried that you might not get to DaLi in time, so we came here to borrow a horse from the Young Miss here. This horse's leg power is truly amazing, this Young Miss here is a good friend with our Young Miss as well, only upon hearing that sir was going to save Young Miss did she let us borrow this horse, this really is giving us a tremendous amount of face." Duan Yu had seen quite a lot of great horses, he only needed to hear its neigh to know that this horse was truly one in a million, so he replied: "Many thanks!" He reached over to grabbed the reins. The little maid tenderly stroked the fur and mane of the horse while gently saying: "Now Black Rose, Young Miss is letting this young sir borrow you to ride for a bit, so you better be good and come back soon." The black horse turned its head and gently rubbed against her arm, showing a great amount of affection. The maid handed the reins over to Duan Yu and admonished: "Don't use whips on this horse, the better you treat it, the faster it'll run."

Duan Yu replied: "Alright!" He thought: "The horse's name is Black Rose, so it's got to be a mare." So he said: "Miss Black Rose, please forgive me for any rudeness of mine." He bowed towards the horse as he said this. The maid let out a little laugh and said: "Quite an interesting guy you are that's for sure. Hey, careful, don't fall down." Duan Yu nimbly hopped onto the horse's back and turned to the maid: "Many thanks to the Young Miss of the house!" The maid replied with a laugh: "What? No thanks for me?" Duan Yu cupped his fist and said: "Many thanks to my sweet sister. When I return I'll bring some delicious preserved fruits for you." The maid replied: "No need for the fruits. Just be careful and don't hurt the horse."

LaiFu-Er instructed: "Ride north from here and you will find the highway leading to DaLi. Sir, please take care." Duan Yu waved his hand, the horse started moving her legs, after a few gallops he was already some 50 meters away.

Black Rose did not need any urging as she was flying in the night, Duan Yu felt as if the trees at his sides were backing up as they sped past him; what's more amazing was that the back of the horse was unusually steady without even the slightest of dips. He thought: "At this rate, I am sure to reach DaLi by tomorrow afternoon."

In the amount of time to boil some tea, they had already traveled more than 5 kilometers; the cool breeze blew through the night, bringing smells of grass and trees to Duan Yu's face. Duan Yu mused: "Galloping in the night, one of the joys of life indeed." But suddenly there came a shout from ahead: "Bitch, stop!" A flash of blade being swung shot through the darkness as a sabre came flying down. But the black horse was so fast that the sabre missed by several meters. Duan Yu turned his head and saw 2 huge men, one with a sabre in hand while another had a spear, chasing after him. The 2 of them were cursing profusely at him: "Bitch! Dressing up like a man! Think you can fool your old man?" In a blink of an eye, the horse had left them way behind. Although the 2 men were fast, soon even their cursing could not be heard anymore.
 

Duan Yu thought: "Those 2 ruffians were calling me 'bitch', and saying that I'm 'dressing up like a man', what for? Oh I get it, they are looking for Black Rose's owner, so they saw the horse and didn't bother with checking out the rider, such rudeness." After galloping for a few more kilometers, a thought suddenly occurred to him: "Ai-Yo, this is not good! I was lucky that this horse was fast to be able to escape their ambush. Seems like that these 2 men's kungfu aren't that shabby, if the young miss that lent me this horse came walking out without any precaution, she might be ambushed. I have to go back and report this!" So he immediately pulled the horse to a stop and said: "Black Rose, someone wants to harm your master, we have to go back and report that, to tell her to be careful and not leave the house."
 

So he turned the horse around and started on the way back, when getting close to where the 2 men ambushed him, he urged: "Faster, faster!" Black Rose seemed to have understood him as she really did pick up her speed. But the 2 men were gone. Duan Yu became even more worried: "Maybe the 2 of them went to attack that young miss in the house, that would be even worse!" So he kept on urging "Faster", it was as if Black Rose's hooves were not even touching the ground anymore as they went flying back the way they came.

When they arrived back at the house, a pair of sticks suddenly popped out of the ground and swung towards the horse's legs. Black Rose didn't wait for Duan Yu to react and jumped over them herself, she then kicked her hind legs back and knocked down one of the men with a stick.

In one flurry, Black Rose had arrived in front of the house, 4 or 5 men jumped out from the darkness and grabbed onto Black Rose's reins. Duan Yu felt something gripping his right arm as he was dragged down of the horse. Someone demanded: "Boy, what are you doing here? Where do you think you are going?"

Duan Yu was grumbling to himself: "This can't be good, not good at all, the entire house is surrounded, I wonder if they have done anything to the owner?" Feeling the grip on his right arm tighten like a vise, so much so that the right side of his body was numb, he replied: "I'm here to see the master of this place, what do you think you are doing, acting this rudely?" Another voice, which was old and raspy, observed: "This little bastard was riding that bitch's black horse, he must be a friend of that bitch, let him go in and we can wipe all of them out in one strike." Duan Yu's mind was a mess as he couldn't calm down: "This is called asking for it. Well, since it's already like this, only thing to do is to go in and hope for the best." Feeling the grip on his right arm loosen, he adjusted his clothing a bit and walked right through the door.

He walked through a yard with roses planted on each side of the stone path that caused the whole place to permeate with a delicious fragrance; the stone path twisted and turned through a round door as Duan Yu followed the path, seeing that there were men placed here and there all along the path for an ambush. Suddenly he heard a light cough from up above, he looked up and saw that there were 7 or 8 men standing on top of the wall as well, the weapons in their hands flashed brilliantly in the night; overwhelmed, he thought: "There can't be that many men in the house, yet so many enemies showed up, are they going to kill everyone for real?" The men were staring at him murderously through the darkness, some of them had their hands on their weapons, making them even more threatening. Duan Yu could only try to stay calm and force himself to smile back. The stone path led to a huge parlor that had lamp light shining through the rows of windows. He walked up to it and spoke in a loud voice: "I humbly request an audience with the master of this place."

A very raspy voice shouted back: "Who the hell is it? Get in here now!"

Duan Yu was feeling a bit offended as he pushed open the door and walked in; he saw around 17 or 18 people in the parlor, some standing, some sitting. In the middle sat a girl wearing black, her back was facing towards the door so her face could not be seen, her body look slender and elegant, her shiny dark black hair was done in the style of a girl. Two old women sat in the grand chair on the east side, they had nothing in their hands; the rest of the men and women present all had weapons in hand. A person was lying in front of the old woman that sat closer to the door, blood was pouring out of his forehead, obviously dead; this person happens to be the person that led Duan Yu here for the horse, LaiFu-Er. Duan Yu thought how polite and respectful this person treated himself and his terrible fate of being suddenly killed here, which was partly caused by himself, he felt terrible.

The old woman that sat farther from the door was short in stature and had a head of white hair, she demanded in a raspy voice: "Hey boy! What are you doing here?"

When Duan Yu pushed open the door and stepped in, he had already made up his mind: "Since I'm in such mortal danger, if I'm able to escape then it really is fortune of fortunes, but seeing the murderous looks on these people, it would not help a bit if I tell them what they want to hear." Now he was even more determined after seeing LaiFu-Er's body on the floor, so he held his head up high and said: "Gramps had only lived a couple more years, why are you being so rude and going 'boy this' or 'boy that' all the time?"

That old woman's face was short and wide, filled with wrinkles, and her white color eye brows were slanting downwards; the pair of eyes that she had narrowed to a crack suddenly looked murderous as she sized up Duan Yu a couple of times. The old woman that sat closer to the door shouted back: "Stinking boy, how dare you! Grandma Rui was actually addressing you herself, that's giving you a lot of face already! Do you have any idea who this gramps is? You can't see Mount Tai if it was right in front of you!" This old woman was very fat, her belly stuck out as if she was 7 or 8 months pregnant, only some of her hair was white and her face was ugly and ferocious, when she talked her voice was rougher than most men; she had a wide-bladed dagger on each side of her hips, one of the daggers was covered with blood; obviously she was the one that killed LaiFu-Er.

When Duan Yu saw this, he became even angrier as he replied loudly: "From your accent I can see you are from around here, and yet you dared to cause trouble and kill here in DaLi, you have to know that even though DaLi is a small country, it still has laws. As for who Grandma Rui is, I have no clue, but even if she's the Queen Mom of the Great Song she can't come here to DaLi and kill as she pleases!"

The fat old woman was furious, she jumped up out of her chair and with a flick of her wrist, a dagger had appeared in each of her hands. She shouted: "Well I just happen to want to kill you, what can you do about it? There isn't a single decent person in all of DaLi, they should all be killed." Duan Yu yawned and snickered: "Such wonderful logic, funny, very funny!" The old woman took step forward and the dagger in her left hand came chopping down towards his forehead.

"Dang"! An iron crutch came out of nowhere and parried the dagger away; unexpectedly, it came from Grandma Rui. She said in a low voice: "Be patient Grandma Ping, let's find out what we can and then we can still kill him!" She put her iron crutch back on the side of the chair and turned towards Duan Yu: "Who are you?" Duan Yu replied: "I am a citizen of DaLi. This fat gramps here said that everyone in DaLi should die, then I guess I'm someone who should die as well." Grandma Ping was still furious: "Call me Grandma Ping, what's with all those fat comments?" Duan Yu snickered: "Why don't you take a look at your tummy, is it fat or not?"

Grandma Ping was livid: "You little bastard!" She swung her dagger hard twice at the air in front of her. The sight and sound of those 2 swings made Duan Yu suddenly break out in a cold sweat in fear, but he was still able to make his face look like he didn't care.

Grandma Rui observed: "You look rather clean and refined, are you a friend of this little bitch?" She pointed at the back of the girl in back. Duan Yu replied: "I have never seen this young miss before in my life. But Grandma Rui, I urge you to be a bit more tactful in your choice of words and not just come out cursing everyone. This young miss is showing quite a lot of character not to make a fuss over this with you, but you don't come out very well anyway." Grandma Rui replied: "Pei! How dare you tell me how to behave! If you never met this bitch before, then what are you doing here?"

Duan Yu replied: "I'm here to give her a message." Grandma Rui asked: "What message?" Duan Yu sighed: "I'm a step too late, so the message really doesn't matter anymore." Grandma Rui demanded severely: "What message? Tell me." Duan Yu replied: "When I see the master of this place, I would automatically say it, why would I tell you?" Grandma Rui faintly sneered for a while before responding: "You want to say it, then go ahead and say it. A little bit more hesitation, then both of you are going off to the nether world." Duan Yu asked: "Who is the master? I have thank the master for letting me borrow the horse."

Just as he finished saying this, everyone in the parlor's eyes turned towards the girl in black sitting in the middle.

Duan Yu was quite surprised: "Can she be the master of this place? She's a girl and is surrounded by so many powerful enemies, this is not looking good."

The girl slowly spoke up: "Letting you borrow the horse was giving someone else face, no need for you to thank me. What are you doing back here and not off to save her?" Even though she's talking, she did not turn around and her face was still facing inward.

Duan Yu replied: "I was riding on Black Rose when I was ambushed on the path by someone who mistook me for Miss. They were calling out some rude names as well. I felt that this does not seem right and had to come back and give a message to Miss."

The girl asked: "What message?" Her voice was clear and beautiful, but her tone of voice was cold without the slightest hint of warmth and unspeakably uncomfortable to the ear. As if she did not care for anything in the world, as if she was filled with hatred for everyone in the world, as if she hoped to be able to kill everyone in the world.

Feeling that she was being rather impolite, Duan Yu wasn't feeling all that great inside. But figuring that since she had fallen into enemy hands and her life hung in the balance, he forgave her for acting a little out of character. He actually felt a bit of sympathy for her as he gently replied: "Those 2 low-lives intended to harm Miss, I was able to avoid their ambush because of the speed of my ride. But I thought Miss might not know that you have enemies coming, so I came running back to report this and urge Miss to leave as soon as possible to avoid the danger. But alas, I was still too late, they are already here."

The girl sneered: "What are you trying to get on my good side and pretending to care?" This made Duan Yu quite angry as he replied much louder than he needed to: "I have never seen Miss before in my life. But how could I not get involved when I know that Miss is in danger? How could Miss say 'trying to get on my good side'?" The girl asked: "Do you know how I am?" Duan Yu replied: "Not at all."

The girl commented: "I heard from LaiFu-Er that even though you don't know any kungfu, you actually dared to go up against and argue with Master of the Valley of 10,000 Calamities to his face. You got some guts, now that you are involved in this mess, what do you plan to do?" Duan Yu was taken aback for a moment before answering: "I had planned to leave as soon as I report this matter to Miss and head straight home." When he got to here, he sighed: "But it looks like Miss is in grave danger, and I'm not much better off either. How did Miss become enemy with this lot anyway?"

The girl in black let out a snicker and said: "What right do you have to ask me?" Duan Yu was taken aback for a moment again and replied: "I shouldn't ask about other people's private business. Alright, I have told you what I wanted, so I don't owe you anything either." The girl in black asked: "You didn't think that you were going to lose your life here did you? Are you regretting coming back?" Noticing that she was obviously mocking him, Duan Yu replied, again, much louder than he needed to: "A real man only hopes to do the right thing in terms of honor and friendship and takes consequences as they come, what's there to regret about?"

The girl in black humphed and replied: "With what little that you can do, you still call yourself a real man?" Duan Yu rebuked: "The measure of a man is not in his kungfu skill. If one's kungfu is the best in the world, but his actions are despicable, then he does not deserve to be call a real man either." The girl in black sneered: "Hehe, you saw something you didn't like and came back to tell me, turns out you were trying to be a real man. Too bad in a bit when you are chopped to pieces by sabres, you probably won't look too much like a real man."

Grandma Ping suddenly cut in: "Little bitch, quit wasting time! Get up and fight!" She banged her daggers together, creating a piercing hum.

The girl in black coldly replied: "You have already lived for so long, what's waiting a couple more minutes to die? How come that old bitch Wang from SuZhou doesn't come and kill me herself if she wanted to but instead send you servants?"

Grandma Rui replied: "Even seeing a noble person like our Madame is out of the question for a little bitch like you. If you know what's good for you, then just go with us and kowtow a couple of times to Madame. Maybe Madame will be merciful and let you keep your life. Don't even think about trying to escape this time, you can't. Where's your master?" The girl in black suddenly shrieked: "My master is behind you!"

Grandma Rui, Grandma Ping, and the rest of the people were all shocked as all of them spun around. There was nobody there.

Seeing that everyone of them fell of it, Duan Yu busted out laughing. Grandma Ping angrily demanded: "What are you laughing at?" Duan Yu managed to get out in between his laughs: "Funny, funny!" Grandma Ping asked further: "What's funny?" Duan Yu replied: "Haha, so funny!" Grandma Ping asked again: "What's so funny?" Duan Yu was still laughing: "Hehe, so funny, so very funny!" Grandma Ping asked yet again: "What's so very funny?" Grandma Rui cut in: "Grandma Ping, just ignore this little bastard!" Turning toward the girl in black, she continued: "Miss, you have ran from just south of the Yangtze all the way to DaLi, and we have chased you all the way here as well. Do you think we can possibly stop this? Even if every single one of us dies by your hand, we still have to somehow bring you back there. Go ahead if you please!"

From her tone of voice, Duan Yu detected that GrandmaRui was rather scared of this girl in black, he was secretly shocked.Looking around at the other 17 or 18 people in the parlor, he noticed thatall of them were holding their weapons tightly and looking at her in anger,yet none of them dared to make a move. Grandma Ping was clutchingher twin daggers tightly and had walked almost up to the girl's back ona few occasions before hastily retreating.

The girl in black spoke up: "Ay! Messenger Boy,all these people are fighting me, any ideas what I should do?" DuanYu thought out loud: "Um, Black Rose is right outside, if you can somehowbreak through them, you can escape riding on the horse. That horseis amazingly fast, there is no way they can catch up to you." Thegirl in black asked: "Then how about yourself?" Duan Yu replied seriously:"I don't have anything to do with them, no gratitude nor revenge is owedbetween us; you never know, maybe they would leave me alone."

The girl in black snickered and said: "If they are thatreasonable, then they wouldn't gang up on me like this. Your lifeis gone; if I can escape, got any last wishes that you would like for meto do for you?"

With a tinge of pain in his heart, Duan Yu said: "Yourgood friend, Miss Zhong, is captured by Divine Farmer Clan in No MeasureMountain. Her mother gave me this box to give to my father and askhim to save her. If... If... Miss can escape, then could you do thisfor me? I would be indescribably grateful." As he was talking,he walked up and held out the delicate box. When he got to about1 meter behind her, he was suddenly hit with a sweet fragrance, very muchlike orchid but not quite and similiar musk but not. Although thefragrance wasn't strong, it was refreshing and sweet, he couldn't helpbut be dazed when he smelled it.

The girl in black still didn't turn around and asked:"Zhong Ling is very pretty, do you have feelings for her?" Duan Yuimmediately replied: "No, no. Miss Zhong is so young and so innocentand pure. How... how I can get that kind of ideas?" The girlin black reached back with her left arm and took the box out of his hand.Duan Yu noticed that she was wearing a very thin black glove so that nota single bit of her skin was exposed. He added: "My father livesin the city of DaLi, you only need...." The girl cut him off: "We can talkabout this later." Putting the box inside her shirt, she suddenlysaid: "The old man named Zhu, get the hell out of my sight!" An oldman with white beard asked in a trembling voice: "What did you say?"The girl replied: "Get out of the parlor now, I don't want to kill youtoday." The old man pointed his sword at her and shouted: "What thehell are you saying?" His voice was still trembling, although itwas unclear if it was caused by anger or by fear.

The girl in black replied: "You are not a servant of thatWang bitch, you just got dragged along by those 2 grandmas. Thisentire trip you have been pretty good to me, those guys kept on tryingto take down my mask but you kept on getting in the way. Hmph, youcan actually be considered as not deserving to die. So get the hellout of my sight!" The old man's face turned to a dirt color as thepoint of the sword in his hand slowly began to point lower and lower.

Duan Yu cut in: "Miss, if you want him to leave, thenjust tell him so, no need to be so impolite. You might anger thisgentleman named Zhu." But to his surprise, the old man with the surnameof Zhu hesitated for a bit and then looked frightened for a while beforehe suddenly dropped his sword, turned around, and actually began to runoff with his hands covering his face. Just as he was about to pushthe parlor door open, Grandma Ping flicked her right hand, and a daggercame flying out, hitting him smack in the middle of his back. Theold man fell down and crawl several of meters more on the ground beforehe finally stopped moving.

Furious, Duan Yu shouted: "Hey, fat grandma, this oldgentleman was one of you guys! Why did you have to do that to him?"

Grandma Ping took out another dagger from her waist withher right hand and, with a dagger in both hands, stared at the girl inblack, as if she didn't hear what Duan Yu said at all. All the peoplein that parlor had took a couple of steps forward as they were all preparedto pounce at the slightest provocation or command.

Seeing such a scene, Duan Yu was overwhelmed with indignationas he shouted: "All of you guys, what do you think you are doing gangingup against a completely unarmed girl?" He charged up a few steps,got between the girl and the others, and shouted: "Let's see which oneof you dares to do something now!" Even though he didn't know a lickof kungfu, this type of righteousness still carried quite a mighty andintimidating air with it.

Seeing how fearless he was, Grandma Rui couldn't helpbut wonder if this young man wasn't pretending that he didn't know anykungfu then he must have someone very powerful behind him. She wasfollowing her orders when she came all the way from just south of the Yangtzeto here in DaLi to capture this girl in black, so she was unfamiliar withlocal customs or people and did not want to make any enemies. Soshe actually sounded very polite when she said: "Why must sir meddle inthis matter?" Duan Yu replied: "That's right, I won't allow you peopleto unfairly gang up on her." Grandma Rui asked: "What sect or clandoes sir belong to? And what is sir's relationship with this littlebitch? Who's order are you following, coming here and getting inthe middle of all this?"

Duan Yu shook his head: "I have never met this girl before.But everything in this world still has to be measure in terms of reason.I urge everyone to stop all this nonsense when the time comes. Allthese people ganging up against one single girl isn't all that gloriousis it?" He then whispered: "Run Miss! I'll try and stop themsomehow."

The girl in black whispered back: "You are giving yourlife away for me, sure you won't regret it?" Duan Yu replied: "Noregrets of any kind." The girl asked again: "Aren't you scared todie?" Duan Yu sighed: "Of course I'm scared, but... but...."

The girl in black suddenly yelled: "You're not even strongenough to kill a chicken, why pretend to be a hero?" She suddenlyflicked her right arm as 2 colorful strips of cloth shot out and grabbeda hold Duan Yu's legs. Suddenly seeing her attacking Duan Yu shockedGrandma Rui, Grandma Ping, and everyone else present. While theywere still recovering from their shock, the girl in black flicked her leftarm repeatedly. "Dong", "Feng", "Bang" was all Duan Yu could hearas he thought he saw people fall down and the reflections off of bladesflashed into his eyes before all the candle-light in the parlor was putout and darkness descended. Then he felt himself flying.

All this change came too fast as he could not make outwhere he was. But all around him was screams: "Don't let her getaway!" "Watch out for her poison arrows!" "Let loose your daggers!Let loose your daggers!" What followed was sounds of metal clankingbefore his body suddenly took off again and there were hoof beats.He was on the back of a horse, but his arms and legs were tied up and hecouldn't move. There was someone leaning up against his back.There was a faint fragrance in the air, the fragrance that belonged tothe girl in black. The hoof beats were light and steady as the soundsof shouting got further and further away. Black Rose was entirelyblack and the girl was wearing only black, so they just disappeared inthe darkness of the night; the only sign of them was the faint fragrancepermeating through the air, adding a feel of mystery to them.

After Black Rose ran for a while, the shouting could notbe heard anymore. Only then did Duan Yu spoke up: "Miss, I didn't expectyou to be so amazing, can I get off now?" The girl humphed but didnot reply. Duan Yu's arms and legs were bounded very tightly andit felt as if they were getting tighter with every step Black Rose takes,causing more and more pain. On top of that his foot was above hishead as he was lying sideways on the horse, making him feeling dazed andvery uncomfortable. He had to speak up again: "Miss, let me down!"

"Pa"! The girl suddenly slapped him hard on hischeek. Coldly, she commanded: "Shut up! Do not talk unlessspoken to!" In anger, Duan Yu asked: "Why?" "Pa, Pa!"He was slapped twice more, this time even harder than the first one, somuch so that his right ear was ringing.

Duan Yu shouted: "How dare you hit people for no reason!Put me down, I don't want to be with you!" Suddenly his body flewout again and smack onto the ground. But his arms and legs were stilltied and the other end was still in the girl's hands. Duan Yu wasbeing pulled along the ground by Black Rose.

The girl in black quietly give a little command and BlackRose slowed down a bit. She then asked: "Give up? Willing toobey my commands now?"

Duan Yu shouted back: "No! No way! Never!Just a little bit ago I was about to die and I wasn't even afraid then.This little torture from you, what have I... I...." He was goingto say "what have I got to be scared of?" But right at that timehe just happened to be pulled into 2 little dirt mounds on the road; afterthose 2 little mounds, there was no way he could have finished his sentence.

The girl in black mocked: "How about now"? She gave the piece of cloth a pull and pulled him onto the horse again. Finally, Duan Yu was able to say: "What have I got to be scared of? Nothing! I don't like being pulled around by you!" The girl humphed and replied: "How dare you talk in front of me? If I want to torture you, then it would be to the point where you don't know if you are alive or dead anymore, nothing like this weak stuff!" She flicked her left arm and threw him back onto the ground again.

Furious, Duan Yu thought to himself: "So it turns out there was a good reason that those people were calling you 'little bitch'!" He shouted at her: "If you don't stop now, then I'm going to start saying some unpleasant stuff!" The girl asked: "If you dare then go ahead. I have been cursed at too many times in my life to care." Duan Yu noticed a hint of sadness in what she said, so he didn't have the heart to make himself utter the words 'little bitch' which were on the tip of his tongue.

After a little bit of waiting, the girl in black, noticing that he hadn't said anything, spoke up: "Hmph! Figured you wouldn't dare to curse at me!"

Duan Yu replied: "I pitied you and couldn't bring myself to curse at you, not like I was afraid or anything!"

The girl gave a little command to urge the horse to run faster and Black Rose began to gallop. Now Duan Yu was in for it, his face, arms, and legs were just covered with blood from cuts and scratches from rocks and stones on the path by the time the girl shouted: "Give up?" Duan Yu shouted at the top of his lungs: "You evil witch!" The girl shouted back: "I have been a witch all along, no need for you to remind me, didn't you know?"

Duan Yu yelled back: “I… I… was so… was so… so nicetowards you….” But suddenly his hand ran smack into a rock that wasjutting out of the ground and he fainted. After who knows how much time,he suddenly felt coolness around his head, causing him to wake up andswallow a mouthful of water. He immediately closed his mouth but couldn’thelp but cough from the water, causing even more water to enter his mouthand nose. Turns out that he was still being pulled by the horse, only thatthe girl noticed that he had fainted and dragged him across a small creekso that the cold water could wake him up. Luckily this creek was rathernarrow and soon he was out of it. Duan Yu was in torture, his cloths weresoaked through, the water he swallowed was making him feel bloated, andthen his body was covered with cuts. The girl spoke up: “Give up?” Duan Yuthought to himself: “There are actually this kind of unreasonable woman inthe world? It must be destined that I, Duan Yu, would suffer in her hands;if that’s the case, then there is really no need to say anything more toher.” The girl asked several more time: “Give up? Had enough yet?” Duan Yudid not reply at all and just pretended as if he didn’t hear her. The girlbegan losing her patience: “Are you deaf? Why aren’t you answering me?”Duan Yu still did not reply. The girl pulled her horse to a stop andturned around to see if he was conscious. By now dawn was drawing near andthere were hints of light from the east. But her eyes were huge as theystared at him in anger: “Oh! So you are conscious but were pretending tobe dead! Well if we are going to fight then let’s fight fair and squareand see who is more powerful!” She jumped down off her horse and, with alight little flick, grabbed a small branch off a tree and smacked DuanYu’s face with it.

This was the first time Duan Yu was face to face withher. Her face was entirely covered with a black mask and all he could seewas her eyes, a pair of bright and shiny eyes. Duan Yu smiled and mused:“Well of course you are more powerful. You are an evil witch, like thereis anybody in the world who is more powerful?”

The girl spoke up: “Didn’t think you can still smile!What are you smiling at?” Duan Yu made a face at her and smiled some more.“Pa, Pa, Pa, Pa!” The girl smacked him 7 or 8 more times with the branch.Duan Yu had already resigned to his fate so he didn’t care anymore and,with all his might and effort, kept on smiling. Now the girl wasn’tholding anything back and the branches were hitting the most painfulplaces on his body, he almost yelped several times but somehow managed tohold it all back in.

Seeing how stubborn he was, the girl was even morefurious: “Alright, you like being a deaf-mute, then I’ll grant your wishand make you a real deaf-mute!” She reached into her shirt and grabbed adagger out. The dagger was about 15 centimeters long and looked sharp andintimidating. She took several steps towards him, placed the dagger by his leftear, and asked menacingly: “Did you hear what I said? Do you want to keepthis ear or not?” Seeing that Duan Yu was still not replying, a murderouslook suddenly appeared in her eyes as she raised the dagger and brought itdown toward his ear.

In a panic, Duan Yu shouted: “Hey, hey, hey! Are you forreal? This would make me go deaf in that ear, do you know how to curethat?” The girl replied: “Pei! I can kill people and make them come backto life! Don’t believe me? Then let’s give it a try!” Duan Yu immediatelyreplied: “I believe you, I believe you! No need to try it out.”

Seeing that he finally spoke up, the girl felt as she has won and decided to stop torturing him. So she picked him up and put him on to the back of the horse and then jumped on behind him. This time she actually put him with his head up and foot down, giving him a little special treatment. Even though he wasn't upside down anymore, his hands and legs were still tightly bounded. But compared to the upside down position he was in earlier, this was heaven, so he did not dare to say anything to the girl in fear of upsetting her.

After travelling for more than an hour, Duan Yu was starting to get impatient about the fact that his hands were still tied. But he could not gesture to the girl because his hands were tied together, and he couldn't come up with a appropriate gesture even if his hands were free. So he had to speak up: "I have to go, could miss please kindly untie me?" The girl replied: "Oh! So you are not a mute anymore are you? Why are you talking to me now?" Duan Yu replied, quite frankly: "I can't help it and wouldn't dare to shame miss. Miss smells so good, but if I proceed to become "Stinky", wouldn't that really make this ride less enjoyable?" The girl could not help but let out a little peal of laughter. Figuring he has had enough, she cut loose the rope that was tied around his hands and legs and began to walk off.

After being tied up for so long, Duan Yu's arms and legs went numb a long time ago and he could not move at all. All he could do for a while was roll around on the ground before he could finally stand up. After taking care of his business, he noticed that Black Rose was just standing there eating grass, looking just as tame and obedient as can be. He thought: "What are you waiting for? Run!" So he secretly got onto the saddle as Black Rose did not show the least bit of resistance. With one jerk of the reins, the horse started to gallop northward.

Hearing hoofbeats, the girl came chasing after them. But with Black Rose's blazing speed, the girl wouldn't have been able to chase them down no matter how great her Qing Gong was. Duan Yu turned around, cupped his fist, and saluted: "Miss, we will meet again!" Just in the time he said those words, Black Rose put another 50 or so meters between them. The next time he turned around, the girl was already not in sight. Finally escaping from the clutches of this devious girl, he could not feel any happier as he continually urged on: "Good horsey, good horsey! Faster, faster!"

After running for a bit, Duan Yu calculated: "So that's a day wasted, am I still able to save Miss Zhong in time? No choice left but keep on running without stopping for food or sleep. Wonder if Black Rose could hold up?" He was still pondering that question when suddenly there came a loud and clear whistle from behind.

When Black Rose heard the whistle, she immediately turned around and started running back. Shocked, Duan Yu began to beg: "Good horsey, nice horsey! Don't go back!" He pulled on the reins as hard as he could trying to make Black Rose turn around. But even when her head was pulled almost sideways, Black Rose was still running forward, not listening to his commands at all.

In a blink of an eye, Black Rose had returned to the girl in black's side and stopped. Duan Yu wasn't sure if he felt like crying or laughing as he just sat there completely speechless with a peculiar expression on his face. Coldly, the girl said: "I didn't really want to kill you, but even if I don't count the fact that you ran away on your own, there is still the fact that you stole my horse! How do you count yourself as a real man?"

Duan Yu jumped off the horse and replied back with all the aplomb of someone who knew he was in the right: "I'm not your slave, I can leave and go whenever I want, how could you call that 'run away'? You lent me Black Rose earlier, I haven't given her back yet, so that can't be counted as stealing either. If you want to kill then go right ahead. ZenZi said: 'Reversing thyself, millions of men can't do, tis enlightenment!' I came back by myself, so of course I'm a real man!"

The girl replied: "What are you talking about? Even if you reverse thyself I'm still going to poke a hole in you with my sword!" Obviously not understanding what he said, she grabbed the handle of her sword and pulled it out halfway: "How dare you do that? Think I can't kill you? Is that why you are being so hardheaded and fighting me every step of the way?"

Duan Yu rebuked: "I have done nothing wrong towards Miss in my heart, who is the one being stubborn and antagonistic here?"

The girl stared at him with that icy stare of hers and Duan Yu stared back right back at her without the slightest hint of backing off in his stare. The 2 of them stood there staring at each other for a long time before the girl finally slammed her sword completely back into the sheath and commanded: "Go away! You can temporarily keep that head of yours for me to take whenever I feel like it in the future." Duan Yu had already figured that he was going to die and was hugely surprised that she would let him go. Still in shock, he did not say another word and started to limp off because of the numbness that was still in his legs.

After walking for several dozen meters, he still did not hear any hoofbeats; so he turned around and saw that the girl was still standing there in a trance. He figured: "She's probably thinking about how to get me next time, like what a cat does to a mouse. Only when she had enough fun with me will she finally kill me. Alright, it's not like I can escape anyway, whatever happens happens." Surprisingly, after walking for a long time, he still did not hear any hoofbeats.

After walking through several forks in the road, he began to feel safer and safer. Because of that, he began to notice the pain from all the scratches and bumps on his body. He mused: "Such weird moods that girl has, maybe it's because her parents died when she was little and she had to endure all kinds of stuff in her life... maybe it's because she is indescribably ugly, to the point that she could not face others. Either way she is a tragic character. Ai-yo! That golden box that Madame Zhong gave me is still on her!" But he did not dare to even think about going back and getting it from her, so he figured: "When I finally meet father, I'll just promise him that I'll be willing to learn kungfu and, without a doubt, father would be willing to go save Miss Zhong, even if my dad doesn't go himself, he would just send some people to do it for her. That golden box really doesn't have much use now that I think about it. Pity that I don't have a ride anymore, if I try to walk to DaLi like this, more likely than not I would just die from that poison before I even get there. Miss Zhong is probably about to die from waiting for me to go save her. When she sees that I hadn't returned and her father did not come and save her, she would probably figure that I didn't deliver my message to her. The least I should do is somehow make it back to No Measure Mountain and die with her, that way at least she would know that I did not betray her."

Now that he made up his mind, he immediately looked around to figure out which direction No Measure Mountain was and began walking in that direction. The banks of LanCang River were desolate, he did not see or meet any signs of human life for several kilometers. The entire day he had to resort to eating wild fruits and sleeping in a ditch on the side of a hill.

It was in the afternoon the next day when he crossed another iron-chained bridge and crossed LanCang River again. Afterwards he walked for another 20 or so kilometers and finally reached a little town. All the money he had were lost a long time ago, probably when he fell down the cliff. Noticing that his clothing were just absolutely ruined and feeling very hungry, he suddenly remembered that the piece of jade that was on his hat was valuable, so he tore it down and went to the pawn shop in town. The pawn shop was not an ideal place to exchange jewelry, but this was the only decent pawn shop in town. The shopkeeper did not treat Duan Yu condescendingly because he acted rather wealthy despite his appearence. Still, he did not understand a thing about jade and was only willing to offer 2 taels of silver for it. Duan Yu did not bother with arguing and took his offer. He wanted to go buy some new clothes, but there wasn't a place in town that sells clothing so he found a little restaurant and ordered some food.

As he sat down, he noticed that both of his kneecaps were protruding out of holes in his pants and that the front and back of his robe were torn off; not to mention that there was a hole in the back of his pants, revealing much of his behind, which was feeling very cold sitting on the bench. He mused: "This is really quite impolite to be like this, best to take care of this as soon as possible." The waiter brought the dishes to his table and said: "So sorry, but we don't have any meat or fish today. Please forgive us, here is some vegetable and tofu to go down with the rice." Duan Yu replied as he brought the bowl of rice up to his mouth: "It's alright, it's alright." He had been wearing the best of clothes and eating the best of foods all his life. But because he hadn't eaten anything for days, this little meal of rice and vegetables was one of the best he ever had in his life.

By the time he made it to the third bowl, he suddenly heard someone outside saying: "Dear, there's a little restaurant here, let's see what they have." A girl replied with a laugh: "What kind of look is that to give me? Looks like you haven't eaten in days."

The voices were strangely familiar to Duan Yu before he suddenly realized that they belonged to Gan GuangHao of No Measure Mountain and his Sister Ge. Panicking, he immediately turned so he faced inward, thinking: "'Dear'? Hm, they must have gotten married. It is just like that saying, this Brother Gan here gained a wife, now I'm going to get it."

Gan GuangHao laughed and replied: "Newly weds can never get enough of anything, including food." That Sister Ge laughed and replied in a light voice: "Pei! You are so bad! If we were old, then we would be full all the time?" Her voice was filled with tenderness. The 2 of them walked in the restaurant and sat down. Gan GuangHao shouted at the top of his lungs: "Waiter, bring some wine and rice, and then cook us a dish of beef... eh!"

Duan Yu heard footsteps approaching from behind followed by a huge hand slapping him on the shoulder and turning him around. Suddenly, he was staring straight at Gan GuangHao's face and vice versa. Forcing a smile, Duan Yu said: "Brother Gan, Sister Gan, congratulations. Wish you 2 would live for a 100 years and grow old together, bringing the East and West Factions of No Measure Sword together as one."

Gan GuangHao busted out laughing as he turned around and shot a glance at Sister Ge. Duan Yu followed his eyesight and saw that Sister Ge had an egg shaped face with a couple of blemishes on her left cheek. She was somewhat attractive, but the expression on her face was one of murder as she lowered her voice and instructed: "Get to the bottom of this, find out how he got here and are there anybody from No Measure Sword around here?"

The smile on Gan GuangHao's face immediately disappeared as he viciously demanded: "Did you hear what my dear said to you? Well?" Duan Yu calculated: "If I just make up some stuff, maybe I'll scare the bejesus out of them and they'll runaway without killing me." So he said: "There were 4 elder disciples from your sect hurriedly walking by just a bit earlier with swords in hand. They were heading east, as if they were chasing someone or something."

Gan GuangHao was shocked as he turned around to Sister Ge: "Let's go!" That Sister Ge stood up and made a chop motion with her right hand. Gan GuangHao nodded, pulled out his sword, and swung it down towards the middle of Duan Yu's head.

This move was so quick that even though Duan Yu, knowing that things weren't looking up the moment he saw Sister Ge's gesture, ducked as soon as he saw the gesture, he still could not get out of the way. Just as it looked as if the blade was touching his skin, there suddenly came a light sound of something flying through the air as Gan GuangHao fell backwards, dropping the sword onto the ground. Another sound followed quickly and Sister Ge, who was halfway out of the door when she heard Gan GuangHao's groan, did not even have a chance to turn before collapsing onto the ground. The 2 of them twitched around for a bit on the ground before becoming motionless. There was a small black arrow stuck in Gan GuangHao's throat and that Sister Ge was hit on the back of her head. As for those 2 light sounds, they were precisely the sound of the projectiles that the girl in black used last night had made.

In shock and surprise, Duan Yu turned around, but there was nobody behind him. Then he heard a slight horse neigh outside and saw that girl slowly approaching on the Black Rose.

Duan Yu shouted before shooting out of the door: "Thank you so much for saving me!" The girl did not even look at him as she and her horse kept on trotting along. Duan Yu added: "If you hadn't shot out those 2 arrows, this head of mine would have been disconnected from my neck a long time ago." The girl still did not respond.

The owner of that little restaurant came running out shouting: "Mi... Mister, some... someone has been killed!" Duan Yu suddenly realized: "Ai-yo! I haven't paid!" He was just about to reach for the silver when he noticed that Black Rose was already several meters away, so he shouted: "There are some money on the dead people, they were paying everyone because they just married, just take some!" He turned around and went chasing after the girl.

Having the horse walking slowly, the girl soon was out of the town. Duan Yu, trying to keep up, spoke up: "Miss, why don't you be a good person all the way to the end, you know: "Send Buddha all the way to the West." Why don't you go save Miss Zhong with me?" The girl replied coldly: "Zhong Ling is my friend, I was going to go save her anyway. But what I hate most is people begging me. You are begging me to go save her, so I won't!" Duan Yu immediately tried to retract what he said: "Alright, alright, I won't beg Miss to." The girl replied: "But you already begged me." Duan Yu replied: "What I just said didn't count." The girl rebuked: "Hmph, a real man can't go back on his words!"

Duan Yu thought to himself: "Before I always called myself a real man in front of her, seems like she doesn't like that. Oh well, to save Miss Zhong, I guess I can't be a real man anymore." So he said: "I'm not a real man, I... I'm a small, pitiful bug who was saved by Miss."

The girl let out a peal of laughter and sized him up for a bit before saying: "Well you are quite nice towards that little devil. Last night you were willing to give up your life to be a real man, but now you were willing to be a little bug. Hmph, I'm not going!"

Panicking, Duan Yu asked: "Wh... What's that for?" The girl replied: "My master told me that all men in this world are evil, all they do is lie and not one of them have good intentions in their hearts. So I shouldn't listen or trust a single sentence from a man." Duan Yu replied: "That's not always true, like... like...." He couldn't come up with an example on the spot, so he just said: "Like Miss's father, now he must have been a great man!" The girl rebuked: "My master told me that my father was not a good man."

Duan Yu suddenly noticed that she had just urged Black Rose to walk faster so much so that he was having a difficult time keeping up, so he shouted: "Miss, please wait up!"

Suddenly there was a flash of shadows and 4 figures jumped out from the woods on the side of the road, blocking the way. Black Rose immediately stopped and took 2 steps back. All 4 of them were young girls, their clothing were all jade green and both of them had a hook-like sword in each hand. The one in the middle demanded: "You 2 are Gan GuangHao and Ge GuangPei of No Measure Sword, right?"

Duan Yu replied: "No, not at all. Gan GuangHao and Miss... Mrs. Ge already... already...." The girl cut him off: "Already? Already what? A pair of male and female, young, traveling together, you 2 are obviously running away or eloping. How could you not be those 2 traitors from No Measure Sword?" With a laugh, Duan Yu replied: "Miss, that seems to be stretching it a bit don't you think? Ge GuangPei has some blemishes on her face, but Miss here is pretty like the flower and the moon. Big, big difference." The girl turned to the girl in black and demanded: "Take off your mask!"

The girl in black suddenly shot out 4 arrows. "Zeng," "Zeng!" Two of the girls in green knocked the 2 of the arrows down with the hook-like sabre they had in hand while the other 2 girls were hit and down onto the ground. These 4 arrows came out of nowhere, without the slightest of warning, and were flying at an amazing speed, yet 2 of them still were knocked out of the air. The girl in black immediately hopped off the horse. With her sword already pulled out by the time she landed, she stepped forward with her right foot as soon as her left foot landed and made 2 moves, attacking the 2 girls who were still standing. The 2 girls also jumped forth and began attacking, one of them fighting the girl in black while the other turned her sabre toward Duan Yu.

"Ai-yo!" Duan Yu screamed before scrambling underneath Black Rose's belly. Not expecting that he would pull such an unorthodox move, the girl was taken aback for a split second. Just as she recovered as was getting ready to stab Duan Yu, a pain suddenly shot up her back and she collapsed immediately. Turned out that the girl in black caught her with another arrow in that little opening. But because of this little bit of distraction caused by shooting out another arrow, the girl in black was also hit by the hook-like sabre on her left shoulder. With a loud tearing sound, the hook at the end of the sabre hooked onto her sleeve and tore off half of the sleeve, revealing a snow-white shoulder. There was a half-meter long cut on her shoulder, which immediately began gushing blood.

The girl in black tried to counter with her sword, but the girl in green's kung fu was superb and the twin hooked-sabres in her hand were dancing as her moves were fast and clever. Soon, the girl in black's left leg was hit as well, tearing open her trouser leg. The girl in black countered by launching 2 more arrows, both of which were knocked down by the hooked-sabres. The girl in green demanded several times: "Who are you? Your sword techniques aren't those of No Measure Sword's, who are you?" The girl in black did not reply as her moves sped up. Suddenly she let out a little yelp as her sword was caught in between hooks of the twin hooked-sabres. The girl in green turned her wrist, the girl in black could not keep her grip on the sword as she had to let go and immediately jump back in defense. The girl in green quickly followed with several thrusts of her hooked-sabres, all of which were dodged by the girl in black.

Duan Yu had started to panic a long time ago, but he couldn't do anything except look on. But now, seeing that the girl in black was in grave danger, all coherent thought went out of his head as he grabbed a corpse that was lying on the ground. Grabbing the stomach of the body with both hands, he turned it into a huge battering ram and charged toward the girl in green.

Startled, the girl in green suddenly noticed that the thing that was coming at her was her sister's head. As a wave of bitter sadness washed over her, she swung at Duan Yu's face with the hooked-sabre in her right hand. But with an entire corpse in between them, the move came up about 1/4 of a meter short. "Bang!" The head of the corpse hit her squarely in the chest, it was also at that precise moment when a small arrow shot into her right eye, causing her to collapse onto the ground.

Out of the corner of his eye, Duan Yu saw that the girl was half-kneeling on her left knee, so he shouted: "Miss, are... are you alright?" He ran over and tried to help her up. The girl slowly stood up and was immediately startled because, in a panic, Duan Yu had forgotten to put down the corpse. So here he was, running at the girl with a head of a corpse aimed straight at her chest. The girl gave the corpse a push on its head and, with a shout, Duan Yu fell backwards, the corpse neatly landing on top of him.

Seeing the peculiar position that Duan Yu was in, the girl could not help but let out a bit of laugh. Then she began to worry, knowing that she was in grave danger just a moment ago. If she had not killed 2 of them using surprise right off and gotten Duan Yu's help, she probably couldn't even defeat one of the girls. Where did these 4 girls come from? How come their kungfu was so good? She turned to Duan Yu: "Hey, dummy, what are you doing with a corpse?"

Duan Yu got back up and put down the corpse: "Terrible, just terrible. Ay! So sorry. You took us for someone else, all you had to do was ask us politely and all of this would have been cleared up. But you had to talk all that nonsense, causing Miss here to get mad. Miss, actually you didn't really need to kill, wouldn't it have been better if you just took your mask off and let them see?"

The girl angrily rebuked: "Shut up! I don't need to listen to you! Who told them to call us e... elo... whatever!" Duan Yu replied: "Yes, yes of course. They were definitely wrong to suggest what they suggested. But Miss, you didn't have to kill them. Ah! You... you better wrap your wounds up a little." He just caught a glimpse of her snow white thighs because her pants were ripped, not daring to look at it anymore, he immediately turned his head the other way.

Getting tired of hearing him telling her she should not have killed, the girl was just about to slap him again when he suddenly mentioned her wounds. Immediately she began to feel the pain from her wounds on her arm and leg, luckily the wounds were not deep and were not to the bone. So she immediately applied some blood-clotter and bandaged her wounds up using cloth she tore from the corpse's clothing. Duan Yu, meanwhile, moved all the bodies into a pile of hay and said: "I should dig a grave for you, but I don't have a hoe or a shovel. Ay! Misses were so young, although all of you aren't that pretty, but you weren't ugly either...."

Hearing him talk about their looks, the girl was reminded of something: "Hey! How do you know that I don't have blemishes on my face and is pretty like a flower or the moon or whatever?" Duan Yu smiled: "Of course, that goes without saying." The girl replied: "What do you mean of course?" Duan Yu replied: "Of course, means that it could only be like that." The girl rebuked: "Whatever! You couldn't even dream of what I look like, my face is covered with pots and blemishes!" Duan Yu smiled: "Maybe, maybe not."

The girl suddenly realized that it could be a problem that her sleeve and pants were ripped. So she took a robe off of one of the bodies and put it on. "Ai-yo!" Duan Yu shouted as he suddenly remembered the huge holes he had on the back of his pants. How could he be travelling with a girl with a bare butt? He immediately begin walking backwards; making sure he didn't turn his butt towards the girl in black, he also took a robe off of a body and put it on. The girl let out a peal of laughter. Duan Yu blushed so much that even the base of his ear was red thinking about the hole that was on his pants and what that meant.

The girl pulled out her arrows out from the bodies and placed them back inside her shirt, and then added a couple of kicks onto the body of that girl that injured her.

Duan Yu suggested: "Miss, your arrows seal up the victim's throats as soon as the poison enters the blood. Such powerful and devious poison. I urge Miss not to use it ever again unless you have no other choice. To kill is against the way of heaven, if...." The girl cut him off: "If you talk anymore nonsense, I'll give you a taste of this poison." With a flick of her right arm and a sound of arrow piercing the air, a poison arrow flew past barely past Duan Yu and stuck into the ground.

His face white as a sheet, Duan Yu dared not say a thing. The girl continued: "Let's see if you can still talk nonsense after the poison sealed up your throat!" She reached for another arrow and flicked her arm again. Duan Yu was scared out of his wits and docked.

With a little laugh, the girl put the arrow back into her shirt and gave him a mean looking stare: "You look like a girl with this robe on. Put the hood up. That way if we run into anyone else, they wouldn't say we are el... that are a man and a woman." Duan Yu nodded, took the bandana off his head, placed it inside his shirt, put up the hood, and pulled it down over most of his face. The girl let out a hearty laugh at the sight.

Hearing her sweet and innocent laugh, Duan Yu mused: "From her actions and expressions, you would figure that she's younger than me. Then why is she so cruel and murderous?" He looked up and saw that on the front of her robe was sewn a black vulture. The vulture had its head help up high, looking very proud and powerful, the exact same vulture was on his robe as well. He shook his head and sighed: "Girls actually having this on their robes rather than flowers or butterflies. Ay! Such demeanors."

The girl shot him a look: "Are you mocking me!" Duan Yu immediately replied: "No, no, not at all, I wouldn't dare!" The girl probed further: "So what's your answer? 'No' or 'Wouldn't dare'?" Duan Yu replied: "I wouldn't dare." The girl nodded and did not ask any further.

Duan Yu turned around and asked her: "Are you hurt bad? Do you want to rest a bit?" The girl angrily replied: "Of course it hurts! Let me take a couple of swipes on you and you can see for yourself!" Duan Yu thought to himself: "Well, epitome of bitchness." The girl continued: "Are you really worried that my wounds are hurting? There isn't a man in the world that's this nice. You just want me to go save Zhong Ling as quickly as possible, just that you can't say it out loud. Heh, let's go!" She walked to Black Rose's side and hopped on. Pointing northwest, she asked: "Sword Lake Palace of No Measure Mountain is in that direction right?" Duan Yu replied: "I guess, seems like it."

The 2 of them started to slowly walk in that direction. After a while, the girl suddenly asked: "Who's birthdate was that inside of the golden box?" Duan Yu thought: "So you have opened it up already." "I don't know," he replied. "It's Zhong Ling's," the girl said. "Isn't it?" Duan Yu answered: "I really don't know." The girl angrily demanded: "You are still lying. Madame Zhong has already matched Zhong Ling to you hasn't she? Tell me the truth!" Duan Yu, in a panic, replied: "No, she really hasn't. If I, Duan Yu, am lying, then I will die by your arrows this instant."

"So your name is Duan Yu?" Duan Yu replied: "Yeah, 'Yu' as in 'ming yu', famed name." The girl snorted: "Hmph, is your fame any good? I don't think so." Duan Yu replied with a laugh: "Well the 'ming yu ting huai', name is terrible, is this one also." The girl replied: "That's more like it!" Duan Yu naturally asked: "So what is Miss's surname?" The girl rebuked: "Why should I tell you? You told me your name on your own, I didn't ask you."

After another long stretch of silent walking, the girl spoke up again: "Later on after we saved Zhong Ling, that little devil will surely tell me my name, you are not allowed to hear it!" Trying hard not to burst out laughing, Duan Yu replied: "Alright, I won't hear it." The girl seemed to have felt that this matter was a bit hard to accomplish, so she added: "Even if you did hear it, you are not allowed to remember it!" Duan Yu offered: "Alright, even if I do happen to remember, I would try my hardest to forget it." The girl rebuked: "Pei! You are lying, think I can't tell?"

Through all this talking, the sky slowly turned dark and soon the moon rose from the east. The 2 of them hurried along the path under the moonlight. Around 10, Duan Yu suddenly saw a bonfire in the mountainside facing them, at the base of the peak just north of the bonfire was several large buildings. Recognizing that's the Sword Lake Palace, Duan Yu pointed at the bonfire and said: "Divine Farmer Clan is right over there. Let's sneak up on them, grab Zhong Ling and run. How about that?"

Coldly, the girl asked: "And how exactly do we run away?" Duan Yu replied: "You and Zhong Ling would ride on Black Rose, there's no way that Divine Farmer Clan can catch up to you." The girl asked: "Then what about you?" Duan Yu replied: "I was forced to take the Intestine Fragmenter by the Divine Farmer Clan, SiKong Xuan told me that after 7 days the poison would break out and I would die. So I have to somehow get the cure first before I can run away."

The girl observed: "So you were poisoned by them. Then you should be in a hurry to get the cure, why did you come back to deliver me a message?" Duan Yu replied: "I figured that with Black Rose's speed, reporting that message wouldn't take much time at all." The girl was puzzled: "Are you really that nice? Or are you just an idiot?" Duan Yu laughed: "Mostly likely half and half."

The girl humphed at that remark and asked: "So how are you going to get the cure?" Duan Yu thought out loud: "The original agreement was the cure of Lightning's poison for the cure for the Intestine Fragmenter. They are not going to get the cure to Lightning's poison, so it would be very difficult to trick them into giving me the cure for the Intestine Fragmenter. Miss, do you have any ideas?" The girl rebuked: "Only men knows how to trick people, I don't know how to. I'm going to just ask them straightforward to hand over Zhong Ling and the cure or else!"

A wave of coldness shot through Duan Yu's heart, knowing that she's probably going to start killing big time again, he thought: "It's best if... best if...." But exactly was the best outcome, he had no idea at all.

The 2 of them began walking towards the fire. When they got to about 20 meters away from it, 2 men suddenly jumped out of the darkness with a bag of drugs in hand, ready to throw. One of them demanded: "Who is it? What are you doing here?"

The girl demanded in return: "Where's SiKong Xuan? Tell him to come here!"

In the moonlight, the 2 men noticed that the girl and Duan Yu were both wearing a green robe with a black vulture on their chest. The 2 of them were shocked and immediately kneeled down: "Yes, yes of course! We did not know that Holy Emissaries from the Nimble Vulture Palace would be arriving, so... so sorry for getting in your way, please forgive us." His voice was shaking, as if he was scared to death.

Duan Yu was immensely puzzled: "What emissary from Nimble Vulture Peak?" Then he suddenly understood: "Oh! That's right! They are thinking we are somebody else because we have this green robe on!" Then he remembered that several days ago back in the Sword Lake Palace Zhong Ling said that she overheard SiKong Xuan talking with his underlings, saying something about following orders from Kid Elder of Heaven Mountain of Nimble Vulture Palace to come and take over Sword Lake Palace of No Measure Mountain. "So it turns out that Divine Farmer Clan is a subsidiary of Nimble Vulture Palace, no wonder these 2 men are so scared."

Of course, the girl did not understand what's going on, so she asked: "What Nim...." Afraid that she might expose the 2 of them, Duan Yu raised the pitch of his voice and said: "Get SiKong Xuan here now!" The 2 men replied: "Yes, yes, right away!" They immediately stood up and took a couple of steps backwards before finally turning around and starting to run toward the fire.

Duan Yu whispered to the girl: "Nimble Vulture Palace are their superiors." He put up the face mask of the hood and covered the bottom half of his face, leaving only his eyes visible.

The girl was about to ask something else but was cut off because SiKong Xuan had hurried arrived and said out loud: "Your humble servant SiKong Xuan welcome the Holy Emissaries. Please forgive us for not welcoming you earlier. How is the Kid Elder? May she live for 10,000 years!"

Duan Yu was thinking to himself: "Who's Kid Elder? She isn't the king or the mother of the king, so wishing her to live 10,000 years just doesn't seem right does it?" So he just nodded and replied: "Get up." SiKong Xuan kowtowed twice more before standing back up. By this time there was a huge crowd of people behind him, all of them in the Divine Farmer Clan.

{Note: in ancient China, it was custom to bless the Emperor and only the Emperor with a 10,000 year life-span and any other member of the royal family with a 1000 year life-span. To wish that upon anyone other than royalty or to wish a different life-span to royalty was almost treason.}

Duan Yu spoke up: "Where's that girl from the Zhong family? Bring her here!" Two clan members didn't even wait for their master to issue the orders before dashing towards the fire and carrying Zhong Ling over. Duan Yu ordered: "Untie her." SiKong Xuan answered: "Yes, Miss." He pulled out a dagger and cut loose the rope around Zhong Ling's hands and legs. Seeing her still doing very well and unharmed, Duan Yu could barely contain himself as he had to force himself to maintain the high pitch of his voice when he said: "Zhong Ling, come here." Zhong Ling replied: "Who are you?" SiKong Xuan shouted at her: "How dare you be so rude in front of the Holy Emissaries? She told you to go over there!" Zhong Ling figured: "Who cares who the hell you are, you told him to untie me and this old Goat Beard is so scared of you, so there shouldn't be much harm in doing what you told me." So she walked over to Duan Yu.

Duan Yu reached out with her left hand, took her hand into his, and pulled her over to his side. He squeezed her hand and made a gesture to her, but figuring that she probably wouldn't understand, he turned to SiKong Xuan: "Hand over the cure for Intestine Fragmenter!"

SiKong Xuan wasn't quite sure what was going on, but he still ordered: "Bring my medicine box! Hurry, hurry!" With a little pause, he immediately understood: "Ai-yo! That bastard named Duan must have gone and begged these emissaries, that's why they are asking for the cure." When the medicine box arrived, he opened it up and took out a small bottle. Holding it up respectfully, he said: "This medicine needs to be taken for 3 straight days, once each day, and about a gram or so each time." Happy beyond words, Duan Yu took it.

Zhong Ling suddenly spoke up: "Hey, Goat Beard, got any of the medicine left? Remember that you promised Big Brother Duan to cure him? If you give all you got to them, what would happen if my Big Brother Duan comes with my dad?"

The girl in black couldn't stand this any longer and commanded: "Zhong Ling, be quiet! Your Big Brother Duan will be just fine!" Finding her voice very familiar, Zhong Ling turned towards her. When Zhong Ling laid her eyes on her mask, she immediately recognized her and uttered: "Ah, Mu...." But she realized soon enough that something was going on and put her hand over her mouth in time.

SiKong Xuan was quite worried as well as he kneeled and said: "Holy Emissaries, your servant had been bitten by this little girl's poisonous marten, please show some mercy." Duan Yu figured that if he did not somehow cure him then they would have a fight to the death on their hands. So he turned to the girl in black and said: "Sister, why don't you give him some of Kid Elder's Cure-All Elixir?" Hearing that there was a Cure-All Elixir here, SiKong Xuan could not believe his ears as he kowtowed loudly several times all the while saying: "Your humble servant will be forever grateful for the mercy and benevolence of the Kid Elder and the Holy Emissaries. There are a total of 19 of us that has been bitten."

The girl thought: "What is he talking about? 'Cure-All Elixir'? But since I'm wounded on my leg and arm, it would be quite troublesome to protect 2 people now. So I guess I'll just go along with this Duan guy and play this Goat Beard for a bit." So she reached into her shirt and took out a small bottle: "Put your hand out." SiKong Xuan obeyed and lowered his head as well, not daring to look at the emissary directly. The girl poured a little bit of some green powder in his hand and instructed: "Take some orally and everything should be alright then." All the while she was thinking: "This fragrance powder of mine didn't come easily, can't let you get too much of that."

As soon as she opened the bottle, SiKong Xuan could smell a delicious and refreshing fragrance. He had spent his entire life around medicine and herbs, yet he could not make out what the powder was made of. By the time the powder was poured onto his hand, the smell had made him feel all warm and fuzzy all over. Figuring the Kid Elder must be amazing as this powder was, as expected, almost magical in its effects, he thanked them repeatedly, but with the powder in his hand, he could not kowtow.

Seeing that everything had been accomplished without a hitch, Duan Yu said: "Sister, let's go!" Lost in the moment, he actually forgot to mask his voice, but luckily SiKong Xuan and his underlings did not notice.

SiKong Xuan reported: "Holy Emissaries, Zuo ZiMuo of No Measure Mountain actually dared to refuse our threats. Because of your servant's wound and loss of arm, this matter was not resolved quickly and I am ashamed. I will order my men to attack right now and we will take over Sword Lake Palace. I humbly request that the Holy Emissaries to stay and observe the battle."

Duan Yu replied: "No need. I think there really isn't any need to attack this Sword Lake Palace anymore either, why don't you guys go home?"

SiKong Xuan was shocked, because he knew the Kid Elder's temperament very well. The nicer the emissaries she sent are, the worse the punishment as the emissary would almost always talk sarcastically opposite of what they mean. Figuring that the emissary must be criticizing him for failing to accomplish his mission, he panicked: "I realize my fault, I realize my mistake, please forgive me! Could the Holy Emissary please say a couple of good things on my behalf to the Kid Elder? I beg of you!"

Afraid to say anything more, Duan Yu just waved his hand somewhat and, dragging Zhong Ling with him, began to walk away. SiKong Xuan kept on his knees and spoke loudly: "The Divine Farmer Clan is honored to send the Holy Emissaries on their way. May the Kid Elder live forever!" The clan members behind him repeated altogether: "The Divine Farmer Clan is honored to send the Holy Emissaries on their way. May the Kid Elder live forever!" Already several meters away, Duan Yu thought the sight of all these men on their knees together were quite humorous and shouted back: "May Mr. SiKong Xuan live forever as well!"

To SiKong Xuan, that sentence was filled with sarcasm and he almost fainted from the shock. The 2 men behind him noticed that their leader was shaking and immediately jumped up to support him fearing that he might drop some of the "Cure-All Elixir" in his hands.

Duan Yu and the 2 girls walked for several dozen meters until they couldn't hear the Divine Farmer Clan anymore. Zhong Ling whistled repeatedly trying to get her marten back but to no avail. So she turned to the girl in black: "Sister Mu, thank you and this other sister so much, but I have to stay here."

The girl asked: "What for? Waiting for that poisonous marten of yours?" Zhong Ling replied: "No, I'm waiting for my Big Brother Duan, he went to get my father here to cure those poisoned guys in the Divine Farmer Clan." Turning to Duan Yu, she said: "Sister, can you give me some of the cure for Intestine Fragmenter?" The girl interrupted: "That Duan guy won't be coming around here again." In a panic, Zhong Ling replied: "No way, that can't be. He said he would! Even if my father won't come, Big Brother Duan would still come back!" The girl retorted: "Hmph! Men only know how to lie, you shouldn't believe anything he said." Zhong Ling began to sniff a little: "Big Brother Duan would nev... never lie to me."

Duan Yu couldn't control himself any longer and, with a laugh, took off his mask: "Miss Zhong, your Big Brother Duan really didn't lie to you."

Zhong Ling stared at him, rendered utterly speechless, for a long time before finally becoming overwhelmed with joy and jumped onto him with her arms around his neck while screaming: "You didn't lie to me, I knew you wouldn't!"

The girl suddenly grabbed her by the back of her collar, pulled her aside, and coldly commented: "Don't do that!" Zhong Ling was quite surprised by that, but being as happy as she was, she didn't care. So she asked: "Sister Mu, how did you 2 meet?" The girl just humphed and didn't respond.

Worried about SiKong Xuan come chasing up after finding how ineffective the powder was, Duan Yu spoke up: "Why don't we get going? We can talk about on the way." The girl in black climbed onto her horse and was out in front while Duan Yu briefly told Zhong Ling what had happened, judiciously leaving out the part about how the girl tortured him and only saying that she saved his life. After listening to the whole story, Zhong Ling yelled out to the girl: "Sister Mu, thank you so much for saving Big Brother Duan, I don't know if I can ever pay you back for that." A bit peeved, the girl rebuked: "I saved him by my own accord, what does it have to do with you?" Zhong Ling stuck her tongue out at Duan Yu and made a face at that remark.

The girl continued: "Hey, Duan Yu, I know that little devil Zhong Ling is going to tell you my name, so I'm going to tell you now. My name is Mu WanQing." Duan Yu replied: "Ah, 'Firewood is pure and flowery, pity to the pure willows.' (Huo Mu Qing Hua, Wan Xi Qing Yang) Such a good name and surname." Mu WanQing replied: "Better than your 'one piece of wood, terrible fame (Yi Duan Mu Tou, Ming Yu Ji Huai).'" Duan Yu burst out laughing at that comment.

{Duan Yu quoted a piece of poetry that I'm not too sure about the meaning of, so I just kind of went with the literal meanings of the word, sorry if it is off. If you know what it really means, please e-mail me. Thanks.}

Zhong Ling grabbed Duan Yu's left hand and gently said: "Big Brother Duan, you are so good to me." Duan Yu replied: "Only thing is that it's a shame that you can't find your marten." Zhong Ling whistled a couple of more times before replying: "No big deal really, after those bad guys leave, I'll come back here and look for him. Will you come and keep me company?" Duan Yu nodded and replied: "Of course!" Thinking about that jade statue in that cave, he added: "From now on I would come back here from time to time." Furious, Mu WanQing cut in: "I don't permit you to come back. If she want to look for her marten, then let her come herself." Duan Yu stuck his tongue out at Zhong Ling and made a face. The 2 of them looked at each other and smiled.

The 3 of them did not talk for a long while and just walked. After several kilometers, Mu WanQing suddenly asked: "Zhong Ling, is your birthday the 5th of February?" She was still facing forward on her horse, not even turning around. Zhong Ling answered: "Yes it is! Sister Mu, how did you know?" Becoming furious, Mu WanQing shouted: "Still claiming that you aren't lying Duan Yu?" With a jerk of the reins, she and Black Rose began to gallop away.

Suddenly, there came a low and faint whistle from the northwest that was followed by 4 claps from the northeast corner. A row of silhouettes came flying this way from directly in front of them and stopped about 50 or so meters away from the 3 of them. A slight paused followed before a hoarse voice shouted: "Little Whore! Where do you think you are running off to?" The voice belonged to none other than Grandma Rui. Before they could respond, someone started to snicker from behind them. Duan Yu whipped his head around in panic and saw the faint figure of Grandma Ping standing there with the daggers in her hands were almost glowing under the moonlight. There was a man to the left and right of her. The man to her left had a face of white beard and a huge shovel in his hand while the man to her right was a relatively young man that carried a sword. Duan Yu sort of remembered seeing these 2 men among those who were present in the hall where he first met Mu WanQing.

Mu WanQing sneered: "You ghosts still haven't disappeared yet? Quite an accomplishment for you guys, chasing me all the way here." Grandma Ping replied: "We'll chase you to the end of the world if we have to, you Little Whore!" A small sound came from Mu WanQing as she shot out a small arrow. The swordsman's eye-sight and coordination turned out to be excellent as he knocked the arrow down with his sword. Before anyone else could react, Mu WanQing had launched herself off of her horse and was flying towards the white-bearded old man.

For a man as old as him, his reaction was incredibly fast. With a flick of his right hand, he swung the shovel at Mu WanQing. Still off the ground, Mu WanQing pushed off the face of the shovel with her left foot and flew back towards Grandma Ping. Grandma Ping held up her dagger to block the strike. "Zeng!" The blade of her dagger had been sliced off by the sword, creating a bright flash in the darkness. Grandma Rui immediately attacked Mu WanQing's back in hopes of rescuing Grandma Ping. Not in a hurry to kill Grandma Ping just yet, Mu WanQing rotated her sword sideways, pushed off of Grandma Ping's shoulder with the flat side of the sword, and gently flew off like a feather. Had it not for Grandma Rui's intervention, she would not have rotated the sword and Grandma Ping would have been sliced in two.

That entire exchange, with all the sudden changes and reverses, took only a couple of seconds. Even though she had just barely escaped death, Grandma Ping was not the least bit scared as she immediately swung her dagger at Mu WanQing 3 more times, making Mu WanQing dodge and lose the initiative. At the same time, Grandma Rui and 2 other men charged up and attacked as well. The sword in Mu WanQing's hand flashed repeatedly as she weaved her way among those 4 attackers. Standing several meters away was Zhong Ling, waving at Duan Yu incessantly: "Big Brother Duan, come here!" Duan Yu asked after he made his way over: "What?" Zhong Ling suggested: "Let's get out of here!" Duan Yu replied: "They are ganging up on Miss Mu, how could we leave just like that?" Zhong Ling replied: "Sister Mu's kungfu is really very good, she could get out of this by herself with no problem at all." Duan Yu shook his head: "She came here to save your life, how could you just leave her like this?" Zhong Ling stumped her foot and replied: "You idiot! Like you can help her out by staying here! Ay! If only Lightning is here!"

At this time, Mu WanQing was fending off the 4 attackers with all her might. Because Grandma Rui's iron staff and the old man's iron shovel were very noisy because of their length, Mu WanQing was paying very close attention to all the sounds around her and heard this entire exchange between Zhong Ling and Duan Yu.

Duan Yu continued: "Miss Zhong, why don't you leave first? I can't bear to wrong Miss Mu in any way. In the unlikely event that she's overwhelmed, I could try and talk us out it." Zhong Ling replied: "Other than just giving that life of yours away, you really aren't good for anything here. Go! Sister Mu won't be angry at your for it." Duan Yu replied: "If Miss Mu hadn't saved me, I would have died a long time ago. There's really not much difference in dying half a day earlier or later." Frustrated, Zhong Ling grabbed his arm and started to walk away: "You idiot! I can't win arguing with you like this!"

Duan Yu shouted: "I don't want to leave! I don't want to leave!" But he wasn't strong enough and was being dragged away.

Mu WanQing suddenly shouted: "Zhong Ling, you get yourself out of here! Leave him here!" Zhong Ling began to pull him even harder. "Shoo!" A small arrow suddenly shot into Zhong Ling's hair and got stuck into one of the hair buns in her hair. Mu WanQing threatened: "If you don't let go, the next one is going straight for your eye!" Zhong Ling knew that she was the type that would go through with whatever she says; and although the 2 of them had been good friends, they still haven't been together long enough to establish any real deep friendship. So she let go, knowing that she was really about to shoot at her eye.

Mu WanQing commanded further: "Zhong Ling, go to your parent's place now! Go! If you wait for your Big Brother Duan at all, then I'm going to shoot 3 more arrows at you!" She parried away several more attacks as she said this.

Not daring to disobey her, Zhong Ling turned to Duan Yu: "Big Brother Duan, please be careful!" She then covered her face, turned, and disappeared into darkness.

After ordering Zhong Ling away, Mu WanQing went back to concentrating on fending off the attackers. Feeling a faint pain on her leg where she had been hooked, she suddenly changed her fighting style. This time the sword flashed through the darkness over and over again like a meteor shower, ever-changing and unpredictable. Suddenly, the old man screamed in pain for he had been hit in his chest. Mu WanQing followed that with 3 more thrusts, forcing Grandma Rui and that swordsman to jump out of the fighting circle. Then, spinning the blade of her sword around, she turned towards Grandma Ping. In a blink of an eye, Grandma Ping had already been hit 3 times. Ignoring the wounds, Grandma Ping continued to attack like a wild tiger. By now, the other 3 attackers had rejoined the fight. Grandma Ping rolled to a stop at Mu WanQing's foot and swung at her calf with the dagger in her right hand. Mu WanQing gave her a nice kick, sending her rolling off. At this precise moment, Grandma Rui's iron staff came flying in towards her forehead. Mu WanQing hurriedly brought her sword back, parried the staff away, and moved right into a thrust towards the center of her foes.

Grandma Rui turned her body sideways and brought her staff back to protect herself. Mu WanQing let out a little sigh of relief and was just about start another attack when a huge amount of pain shot through her. Turned out that the old man, unable to lift his shovel after being injured, pulled out an iron spike, charged in, and was able to stab it into her shoulder. Mu WanQing smacked him over her shoulders and pretty much flattened his entire face, killing him in an instant. But Grandma Rui had charged forth and began attacking again. Grandma Ping screamed: "The Little Whore is hurt, don't worry about catching her life, just kill her!"

Seeing that Mu WanQing was wounded, Duan Yu began to panic. So he, as he did last time, wanted to run over and grabbed the old man's corpse. But with the 4 fighters in the way, he could not reach the corpse. In desperation, he ripped off the robe he had on and, wildly waving it, charged into the melee and was able to cover up Grandma Ping's head. Shocked that she suddenly lost her sight, she immediately reached with her hand and tried to tear the cloth away. However, in a panic, she had forgot that she was holding a dagger and was cut face, causing her to squeal like a pig. Unable to find enough time to pull out the spike that's imbedded in her left shoulder, Mu WanQing, fighting off the pain as much as she could, hurriedly swung at Grandma Rui twice, then turned and thrusted at the swordsman. These 3 moves were incredible as Grandma Rui's right cheek had been slashed as was the swordsman's forehead. Although the wounds were harmless, the parts that were hit were vital. And so, in shock, both of them jumped back and felt their wounds with their hands to check on it.

Mu WanQing cursed to herself: "Damn it! Should have killed them!" She took a deep breath and whistled. Black Rose arrived almost instantaneously. She hopped onto the saddle, grabbed Duan Yu by his collar, and lifted him up as well. Black Rose began to gallop west as fast as she could.

They hadn't even gone 100 meters when there suddenly came a huge amount of shouting behind the woods as several men came charging out, blocking their way. The tall man in the middle yelled: "Little Whore! Your old man here's been waiting for you for a long time now!" He reached up in an attempt to grab a hold of Black Rose's manes. Mu WanQing slightly flicked her right hand and 3 arrows shot out, hitting 3 men in the crowd. Taking advantage of the old man's momentary surprise, she pulled on the reins and Black Rose leapt over the head of the men. The men came chasing after her, but, fearing her poisonous arrows, they held their weapons out in front of them and kept getting further and further back. But they were still cursing like crazy: "Whore! She ran away again!" "No matter where you ran off to, we'll still find you and gut you!" "Come on everyone! After her!"

Mu WanQing let Black Rose to run as she pleased through the mountain and arrived hill lock. Seeing that there was a cliff in front of her, she had no choice but to stop to try and find another way. No Measure Mountain's paths twists and weaves their way up and down the mountain, making it very difficult to navigate through them.

Suddenly, there came shouting from ahead: "That horse is coming back around!" "This way!" "The Little Whore is back!" Because of her wound, Mu WanQing was in no condition to fight. So she immediately stopped Black Rose and began to run to the right. This time she no longer had time to pick a path and Black Rose was running through the wilderness. Luckily, Black Rose was amazingly strong and agile and was able to traverse through the rocky hillside with no problem whatsoever. After galloping for a long time, Black Rose suddenly mis-stepped with her front legs and bumped her right-front knee on a rock, causing her to limp and slow down.

Worried, Duan Yu suggested: "Miss Mu, let me off. That way you can get away easier and faster with just you riding. They have no enmities or quarrels with me, so it wouldn't be much of a problem if they caught me." Mu WanQing replied: "Hmph! What do you know? You are from DaLi, they would kill you as soon as they catch you." Duan Yu replied: "That's strange, are they planning to kill everyone in DaLi? Miss, please listen to me and escape by yourself."

With her left shoulder just throbbing in pain, Mu WanQing had no patience to listen to Duan Yu ramble. So she shouted: "Shut up! Don't say another word!" Duan Yu replied: "Alright, then could you let me sit behind you instead?" Mu WanQing asked: "Why?" Duan Yu replied: "I left my robe over that fat grandma's head." Mu WanQing wondered: "So?" Duan Yu answered: "There's several holes on the back of my pants, sitting in front of miss with this bare... bare... towards miss... hehe. That's... just too inappropriate."

Barely able to bear the pain on her shoulder, Mu WanQing grabbed his shoulders and, gritting her teeth, squeezed so hard that his bones were cracking and commanded: "Shut up!" Unable to handle the pain, Duan Yu immediately complied: "Alright, alright, I'll shut up."

Chapter - 4 High Cliffs And Faraway Persons

After several kilometers, Black Rose found another mountain path. But the mountain path gradually got steeper, causing Black Rose's gallop to get even slower and allowing the cursing and shouting behind them begin to get closer and closer.

"Black Rose, so sorry to make you work so hard today." Duan Yu shouted. "But could you please run just a little faster?" After several more kilometers, he could actually see the reflections off the blades of sabres and swords behind them.

"Faster, faster!" Mu WanQing urged Black Rose continuously and Black Rose's speed picked up. Suddenly, a deep, bottomless gorge dozens of meters wide appeared in front of them. Black Rose let out a long neigh and took several steps back.

Seeing that there's no where left to go, Mu WanQing asked: "I'm going to try and jump this gorge. Do you want to stay here or chance it with me?"

"If there's one less person on the horse, then it would be easier for Black Rose to jump this." Duan Yu thought. So he replied: "Why don't miss go first and then pull me over?"

"Not enough time for that!" Mu WanQing replied as the pursuers closed in. Backing up the horse several more steps, she gently patted on its belly a couple of times and shouted: "Shh! Jump it!"

Black Rose shot forth towards the edge of the gorge. Just inches from the end of the path, she jumped. Duan Yu felt as if he was flying through the air, only carried by the clouds; but his heart beat so fast that it felt as if it was about to jump out of his mouth.

Because of being urged by her master, Black Rose had jumped with all her might and her front hooves landed on the other side. But because the distance between the sides was just too wide and, after running all night and being injured, she was tired, her hindlegs did not reach the other side and she began to fall.

With lightning quick reactions, Mu WanQing immediately grabbed Duan Yu and jumped up off the saddle. Duan Yu landed first and Mu WanQing came crashing down right after, landing neatly into his arms. Fearing that she might be hurt, Duan Yu held onto her as tight as he could. Black Rose's desperate scream could be heard as she fell further down into the gorge.

Overwhelmed with despair, Mu WanQing struggled out of Duan Yu's embrace and ran to the edge of the cliff. But all that could be seen were clouds and fog, not a trace or sign of Black Rose anywhere. She suddenly felt light headed as the whole world began to spin around her. Her legs gave out from under her as she collapsed onto the ground.

Shocked and afraid that she might fall or roll over the edge, Duan Yu scrambled over as fast as he could. Her eyes were close tight, she had obviously fainted from what just happened. He was at a lost about what to do next when he suddenly heard someone shouting.

"Shoot! Shoot! Kill the 2 of them!"

Duan Yu looked up and saw that 7 or 8 men already arrived at the other side of the gorge. So he immediately picked Mu WanQing up and ran in the other direction. "Soow!" An arrow suddenly whistled by, grazing his ear.

He stumbled around for several more steps before he crouched down to make himself smaller and continued to ran away. "Soow!" Another arrow flew right over his head, right where it would have been normally. He suddenly caught the sight of a huge rock to his left, so he dove behind it. And just in time it appeared, as an endless cacophony of projectiles hitting the rock arose as soon as he jumped behind the rock. Duan Yu stayed as still as he could, not daring to move a muscle.
 

"Smash!" A huge rock suddenly sailed over the rock and landed just beside him. The person who tossed the rock must have been incredibly strong as to be able to toss such a huge piece of stone more than 30 meters. Fortunately for Duan Yu, the distance made it almost impossible to aim the throw.

Figuring that this place wasn't safe after all, Duan Yu immediately picked Mu WanQing up again. In one breath, he ran as fast as he could for about another 40 meters or so. Only then did he feel safe from all the projectiles and stop.

He caught his breath and gently laid Mu WanQing down onto the grass. He then jumped behind another rock and stuck his head out to take a peek at the other side of the gorge.

By now the other side was filled with people as every one of them was pointing one way or another as if they were planning something. Once in a while Duan Yu would hear a sentence or 2 of what they said, filled with cursing and rude comments, that was carried over by the wind.

"If they went around the mountain and came up from the other side, then the 2 of us would be completely defenseless." Duan Yu thought to himself.

So he walked over to the other end of the mountain top, looked down, and scared himself so much that he almost lost his balance. Several hundred meters below the edge of the cliff a huge, jade colored river was roaring by. Turned out they had arrived at the shores of LanCang River. The rapids were furious, no way to get up from this side. But if those guys get to the bottom of the gorge, they could climb up this side and the 2 of them would still be killed. He took a deep breath and sighed, figuring that whatever happens happens and that he'll worry about what to do when the time comes. Suddenly, something he said just a little bit before popped back into his head: "There's really not much to be gained from dying half a day earlier or later."

He returned to Mu WanQing's side. Noticing that she still haven't come to, he was trying hard to figure out how to wake her up when he noticed that there was an iron spike sticking out from the back of her left shoulder and the blood from the wound covered most of her shirt. He was busy running for his life earlier and sitting in front of her on the horse before that, so he had no idea that she had suffered such a horrendous wound.

"Is she dead?" was the first thought that popped into his head. So he immediately moved her veil aside and put his finger underneath her nose to check her breathing. He was greatly relieved when he felt a faint breath.

"Got to pull that spike out and stop the bleeding." He decided. So he grabbed the spike, bit down hard, and pulled. The spike came out rather easily. But he did not know what to expect and had his entire face covered by a spray of blood.

Mu WanQing screamed in pain as it woke her up, but she then immediately fainted again.

Duan Yu pushed down on her wound as much as he could, trying to stop the bleeding. But the blood was almost squirting out and it looked hopeless. At his wit's end, he pulled a handful of grass from the ground, stuffed them into his mouth, chewed them into a pulp, and smeared it over her wound. But the blood just washed the pulp off the wound.

"When she was wounded by those hooks," he suddenly remembered, "she used some herbs or medicine from her shirt and the bleeding stopped soon after."

He gently reached into her shirt and took out the objects one by one. There was one comb made out of yellow poplar, a small mirror, 2 pink handkerchiefs, 3 small wooden boxes, and one porcelain flask. He was taken aback when he saw these female items. Only now did he realize that this was a girl in front of him and realized how inappropriate it was for him to reach into her shirt and feel around. Also, it was very difficult to link these female items with this merciless killer.

He had seen Mu WanQing pour some green powder out of the porcelain flask to SiKong Xuan as the Kid Elder's magical medicine but did not know whether or not it could stop bleeding. So he popped open one of the boxes and was immediately engulfed by a faint fragrance. The box was filled with blush. The second box was half filled with a white powder and the third box had in it a yellow powder. He put both of them up to his nose and sniffed them. The white powder was odorless but the yellow powder was so spicy that it made him sneeze from just one sniff.

"This is either the blood clotter or a deadly poison." He thought to himself. "Better be on the cautious side, it would be terrible if I misused it." So he poked Mu WanQing for a while until she slowly cracked open her eyes.

Ecstatic, he asked: "Miss Mu, which of these medicines stops bleeding?"

"The red one." She replied before closing her eyes again.

"The red one?" Duan Yu asked to make sure, but she did not reply. Duan Yu was quite puzzled, that red one was clearly blush, how could it stop bleeding? But since she said so, then might as well try it out; it's can't be any worse than applying poison onto the wound.

So he tore off a bit of the cloth around the wound, scooped up a bit of the blush with his finger and applied it onto the wound. When his fingers touched the wound, Mu WanQing, even though she's half-conscious, twitched from the pain.

"It's ok, it's ok." Duan Yu comforted. "Let's stop the bleeding first."

Strangely, the blush turned out to be incredibly effective. Soon, the bleeding significantly slowed down and stopped. After a while, a yellowish liquid oozed out from the wound.

"Making blood clotters like blush," Duan Yu thought out loud to himself, "girls these days are really something."

Only now did he finally calm down from all that work and he noticed that the other side of the gorge had quieted down.

"Are they really going to come up from the bottom of the gorge?" He wondered. Crawling to the edge of the cliff, he looked down and his heart began beating fast again. As he expected, he saw about a dozen or so men slowly climbing down the cliff facing him towards the bottom of the gorge. Even though the gorge is deep, there's still a bottom, and as soon as they reach it they could climb up this side. From the looks of it, they would arrive in about 5 or 6 hours.

Although the outlook was grim, he couldn't just give in and wait here to die. Looking around again, he realized that they were on the very top of a peak with sheer cliffs on 3 sides and a river on the other. He sighed and dragged Mu WanQing underneath a rock that was jutting out of the ground so she wouldn't catch anything from the cold mountain winds. After that, he started to gather rocks and put them by the very edge of the cliff. Luckily, there were all kinds of rocks all over the place and he was able to quickly gather quite an impressive mound. Satisfied with his own work, he sat down at Mu WanQing's side to rest himself.

As soon as he sat down he felt the sand on the ground rumbling, rather painfully, against his bare skin. His thoughts began to wander as he compared his situation with a particular line of teaching he had read in the Book of Changes. Somehow his thoughts led him to compare himself to a large goat.

{Note: Here Duan Yu's specific thoughts were filled with old Chinese terms that uses characters that aren't even in dictionaries anymore. I'm sorry I could not translate his thoughts word for word, but the gist of it was that he somehow compared himself to a large goat.}

Having not slept at all last night, he was as tired as he could ever remember being. After analyzing a couple more phrases from the Book of Changes, he was just about to fall asleep. However, knowing that enemies were approaching, he did not dare to let himself sleep. As wave after wave of the fragrance from Mu WanQing hit him, he suddenly realized that when he put his fingers underneath her nose to make sure that she was alive he had actually removed her veil and saw her face. But he was too occupied with her well-being at the time to pay attention to what she looked like. And now for no good reason he couldn't bring himself to remove the veil to take another look. Thinking back some more, he seemed to remember that her skin was white and smooth, at least nothing like her claim of having a pot-covered face.

At this time Mu WanQing was still passed out, if he quietly removed her veil again there was no way she would know. He wanted to, but did not dare to. His mind was racing: "I'm living and dying with her right here, most probably dying actually. If I don't even know what she looked like before I die, then won't my death be a little too much in vain?"

But deep down he was also afraid that she might actually turn out to really have a pot-covered face: "If she wasn't just incredibly ugly, why would she always have a veil on and not let anyone else see her real face? This particular miss's actions are so rough and rash, she probably has no relation whatsoever with the words 'beautiful and elegant'."

He just could not make up his mind. In trying to make up his mind, he just got sleepier and sleepier until he actually fell asleep.

After what seemed like forever, a crackling sound suddenly woke him up. Running to the edge of the cliff, he was able to see 5 or 6 men climbing up the cliff. Luckily, the cliff was so steep that their progress slowed to almost a halt. Duan Yu's mind was screaming to himself: "Wow that was close! Too close!"

He picked up a rock and threw it over the edge. "Stop! Or else I'm going to let you guys have it!" He shouted.

From his position above them, he could easily hit them with rocks; and because the climbers were still about 100 meters away from him, they could not hit him with their projectiles. When they heard him, they stopped, but only for a second before they resumed climbing, only this time they were zig-zagging and temporarily hiding behind certain rocks. In a flurry, Duan Yu tossed 5 or 6 rocks over the edge in a row. Two screams went up as 2 men were hit and fell to their deaths. Only then did the rest of the climbers realize the predicament they were in and began to scramble down the cliff. One of them was too hasty in his retreat, lost his footing, and also fell to his death.

Duan Yu had studied Buddhism with highly respected monks ever since he was little. He even refused to learn kungfu. So this was the first time he had taken a life, and it scared his face white. He had intended to just scare those climbers away, but ended up killing 2 men and indirectly causing the death of another. Even though he knew that if he didn't do what he did and the climbers made it to the top, both Mu WanQing and him would have been dead, he still could not help feeling terrible.

He just stood there, completely still from the shock, for a long while before he returned to where Mu WanQing was. She had sat up and was leaning up against the rock. Surprised and ecstatic, Duan Yu said: "Miss Mu, you... you are ok now!"

Mu WanQing did not reply. She just stared at him from behind the mask, there was viciousness in that stare.

"You just sit there and rest for a bit, I'm going to get some water for you." Duan Yu said in a soft voice.

"Were people trying to climb up to here?" She asked.

Tears rolled out of Duan Yu's eyes. He wiped them off with his sleeve and replied in between his sobs: "I accidentally killed 2 of them and... and scared... scared another one to fall."

"So?" Mu WanQing asked, not knowing what to make of his crying.

"The Heavens want us to live, I... I killed for no good reason, I deserve to die." Duan Yu replied between sobs. "Those 3 men could have parents, wives, or kids, they would surely be destroyed when they hear the news. How... how could I have done this to them? To their families?"

"You got them too." Mu WanQing said with a sneer.

"I have parents, but no wives or kids." Duan Yu replied, not understanding what she was trying to say.

Mu WanQing's eyes suddenly flashed a very peculiar look, but only for a brief instant before turning back to the cold, steely look they had before. "After they make it up the cliff, are they going to kill you? Are they going to kill me?" She demanded.

"Mostly likely."

"Hmph! You would prefer being killed over killing others?"

"If it was just me, then I would never kill anyone. But... but I can't let them hurt you." Duan Yu said after he thought about it for a bit.

"Why?" Mu WanQing fiercely demanded.

"You saved my life before, I have to save yours too."

"I'm going to ask you a question, and if you don't tell me the whole truth, the arrows in my sleeve are going straight through you throat!" She lifted her right arm slightly off the ground as she said that so it aimed towards Duan Yu.

"So those arrows of yours that killed all those people came from your sleeve." Duan Yu observed.

"Idiot," Mu WanQing shouted. "Are you or are you not going to listen to me?"

"You are not going kill me, why should I listen to you?"

"If you really get on my nerves, I very well could decide to kill you," Mu WanQing replied viciously. "Now tell me, did you see my face?"

Duan Yu shook his head: "No."

"Really?" Mu WanQing asked. Her voice was getting lower and her forehead was covered in sweat, obviously she was using up all strength to sustain this conversation. Nevertheless, the tone of her voice was still very threatening.

"Why should I lie to you? You can't just not believe everything I say." Duan Yu replied.

"You could have done it while I was passed out."

"I was too occupied with that wound on your back, it didn't even cross my mind."

Angry, Mu WanQing's breathing became labored as she demanded: "You... saw the skin on my back? You... you applied herbs to my back?"

"Yes," Duan Yu answered. "That blush of yours works wonders. I can't believe it's actually a blood-clotter."

"Could you come here help me sit up a little?" Mu WanQing suddenly asked.

"Alright, you shouldn't talk so much. Just rest until you are alright and then we can try and find a way to escape." Duan Yu said as he walked over to her side to give her a hand.

His hands was just about to touch her arm when suddenly, "Smack!" He was slapped so hard on his left cheek that it left felt as if it was on fire. Although Mu WanQing was injured, her moves still packed quite a punch.

Duan Yu, caught totally off guard, was dizzy and got spun in a complete circle. Covering his cheeks with his hands, he angrily shouted: "Why... why did you hit me?"

"How... how dare you? How dare you... touch my skin? How dare you... look at my back...." Mu WanQing shouted back in equal fury before passing out from both anger and exhaustion.

Shocked, Duan Yu completely forgot about that slap as he scrambled forward and got her to sat back up again. Only then did he notice that blood was once again spilling out of the wound on her back; turned out that she had put too much force into that slap, and the wound that was just beginning to heal ripped open again.

"Miss Mu got mad at me for touching her skin, but if I don't do anything, she would surely die from blood loss. Oh well, I guess the worse that could happen is getting slapped a couple more times." Duan Yu decided.

So he ripped off a piece of his shirt and began wiping away the blood around the wound. But with her snow-white and baby smooth skin in his sights coupled with wave after wave of her fragrance, he did not dare to look more than he had to as he hurriedly applied the blush onto the wound again.

This time it didn't take as long for Mu WanQing to come to. As soon as she opened her eyes, she shot a murderous look at Duan Yu, who, scared that she might hit him again, was standing a good distance away.

"You... again...." Mu WanQing said, knowing that Duan Yu re-applied the blush from the coolness she felt around the wound.

"I... I can't just let you die," Duan Yu argued.

Too exhausted to respond, all Mu WanQing could do was try and bring her labored breathing under control.

Suddenly noticing the sound of water running to his left, Duan Yu walked over and found a small but clean mountain creek. He bent down, washed his hands, and took a good sip of the water. Then he cupped some water in his hands, walked over to Mu WanQing's side, and said: "Come on, drink some water, you'll feel better."

Mu WanQing hesitated, but losing all that blood had made her incredibly thirsty, so she pulled back a little corner of her veil, revealing her mouth.

It was high noon at that moment and the sun shone down directly onto her face. Duan Yu noticed that her chin was quite small, her face was white and, just like her back, smooth as silk, with not even a trace of a blemish was to be found. Her cherry-like mouth sat cutely in the middle and, with her lips quite thin, revealed 2 rows of jade-like teeth. He suddenly realized: "She... she's actually incredibly beautiful!"

Some of the water had leaked through the cracks between his fingers and spilled onto Mu WanQing's face. To Duan Yu, they looked like little dew drops on the morning flowers. Taken by surprise by the whole situation, he did not dare to look anymore and turned his head away.

Mu WanQing finished the water he had brought her and said: "More, go get me more."

Duan Yu obeyed her and got her more water. After a total of 3 trips, her thirst was finally quench.

Duan Yu, being extra safe, crawled to the edge of the cliff and looked around. He saw 7 or 8 men standing on the other side of the gorge looking over on this side with bows and arrows in hand. Looking down the face of the cliff, he saw that nobody else was trying to climb up. But knowing that the enemy wouldn't just give up, he figured they would eventually figure out another way to attack.

He shook his head, drank some more water from the creek, then washed off some of Mu WanQing's blood that had spilled onto his face. Then it occurred to him: "The cure for Intestine Fragmenter! Not that it would really make a difference now, but I guess it couldn't hurt to use it."

So he took out the little porcelain bottle out from inside his shirt, dumped some of the powder onto his hand, and swallowed it with a mouthful of mountain water. He thought: "This medicine tastes horrible, but at least it's better than how that Intestine Fragmenter tasted. Ay, who knew Miss Mu is that beautiful. Hopefully this situation is like it's written: 'lose horse', 'worry not for evil'."

{Again, Duan Yu is quoting from a book that he read, most likely the Book of Changes, which seemed to be his favorite.}

But then he thought: "There's water here, but no food. Our enemy don't have to get up here, they just have to wait a few days and the 2 of us will die of starvation."

Depressed and showing it on his face, he returned to Mu WanQing's side and commented: "Too bad there isn't any fruit on this hill, or else we can at least pick them to combat hunger."

"Useless talk!" Mu WanQing replied. "All that talking isn't going to help us is it?"

After a pause, she suddenly asked: "How did you meet that little girl of the Zhongs?"

Duan Yu told her, as good as he can remember it, how he first met Zhong Ling in Sword Lake Palace, how he was made fun of, and how she came to his rescue, etc., etc.

Mu WanQing did not utter a word during the entire story. After he finished, she snickered: "You don't know any kungfu, yet you keep on meddling in other people's business in the martial world, are you tired of living or something?"

"I got myself into this mess, so I deserve whatever I have coming, nothing to say about that. But I just don't feel right about dragging miss into this as well." Duan Yu replied, rather apologetically.

"What are you talking about? These enemies are mine, if you didn't exist they would still gang up on me wouldn't they? If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have to worry about you... I... I would be able to go out in style and die in battle, at least it would be much better than starving to death here."

Mu WanQing paused after she said "worry about you" because she felt rather foolish to actually saying that she worried about him and was blushing feverishly. Luckily the veil covered her face and Duan Yu attributed the change in her voice to the fact that she, being exhausted, was finding it difficult to speak. So he tried to comfort her: "Miss, just rest a couple of days for your back to recover. Then when you try and bust out, they might not be able to stop you."

Mu WanQing let out a cold laugh and said: "Easy for you to say, is it possible for this wound of mine to heal in a couple of days? There really is quite a lot of them out there...."

Suddenly, from the other side of the gorge, there came a howl so loud that it shook the entire mountain. Mu WanQing snapped up, grabbed Duan Yu's arm for support, and asked in a shaking voice: "Who... who is that? How can his inner strength be that strong?"

The howl circled the mountain endlessly, lasting for what seemed like forever. With all the echoes it caused in the mountains, it was literally like an army of ghosts, crying and screaming upon their return to claim their lost souls. Even though it was in the middle of the day, Duan Yu suddenly felt as if the entire sky darkened right in front of him. Only after an eternity did the howls and noises gradually cease.

"This guy's kungfu is so good that there's no possible way for me to beat him." Mu WanQing said. "Just... just leave, don't worry about me anymore."

"Miss Mu, is that how you think of me? I, Duan Yu, might be 'a piece of wood', but I'm not that kind of a person." Duan Yu answered with a smile.

Mu WanQing stared at him for a long time, stared at him with what actually seemed like care and worry. "That 'piece of wood' business was just me messing with you, don't worry about it." She said in a gentle and tender voice. "Why do you want to die with me? What... what good would it do? Just run away and think of me once in a while, and that would be good enough for me."

Duan Yu had never heard her talk like this before. Once that howl went up, she seemed to have turned into a different person. It's just that she was so used to talking in that cold, uncaring way that all those nice and sweet things came out rather stiff and awkward for her. He had to smile: "Miss Mu, why couldn't you talk like this all the time? You were really like a beautiful and elegant lady just then."

Mu WanQing humphed and, suddenly turning vicious, demanded: "How do you know whether or not I'm pretty? You saw my face didn't you?"

Her fist tightened like an iron clamp around Duan Yu's arm.

"When I got you water, I saw half of your face." Duan Yu finally said with a sigh. "But just that half of your face is enough to make you a rare beauty."

Despite Mu WanQing's personality, she's still just a girl. So she couldn't help but feel good when he complimented her looks. Besides, she had been wearing that veil for so long that nobody had ever complimented on her looks before, all anybody ever noticed was her kungfu. Feeling warm and fuzzy, she loosened her grip and instructed: "Go find a cave or something to hide in. No matter what you see, don't come out. He'll be here any minute now."

Quite taken aback by that revelation, Duan Yu jumped up and shouted: "I can't let him get up here!"

He ran over to the edge of the cliff and looked down. His eyes suddenly blurred as he saw what looks to be a man in yellow making his way up the face of the cliff at an incredible speed. The cliff was almost a sheer drop, yet this man was moving as if he was on flat ground.

Terrified, Duan Yu shouted down: "Hey! Stop! Or else I'll start throwing rocks down at you!"

That man let out a huge laugh and actually began to move even faster.

Seeing that he was making his way up the mountain that fast, yet not wanting to kill again, Duan Yu picked up a rock and threw it a couple of meters to the side of the man. The rock wasn't really that big, but after dropping such a long distance, it carried quite a force with it. "You see that? Had I hit you, you would be dead by now! Turn around!" Duan Yu shouted.

"Stinking bastard! Don't want to live anymore? How dare you greet me so rudely?" That man let out a cold snicker and said.

Seeing him moving even faster, Duan Yu had no other choice. He picked up a couple more rock and aimed it at the man's head. Closing his eyes so he didn't have to watch the man die, he dropped the rocks. All he heard was the sound of the rocks falling through the air and the man's loud laugh. Confused, Duan Yu opened his eyes and saw that the man was still alright and the rocks had already fallen past him. Now Duan Yu was terrified. In a near panic, he grabbed a whole pile of rocks and dumped the entire load onto the man at once.

That man waited until the rocks were almost about to hit his head, and then he reached up with a hand and casually pushed them out of the way. Once in a while he would give a little hop sideways and avoid a potentially troublesome rock. Duan Yu dumped about 30 or so rocks as fast as he could at him, but all he was able to do was slow the man's progress a bit. Not being able to do a thing as he got closer and closer, so close in fact that Duan Yu could just about make out the man's frightening face, Duan Yu scrambled back to Mu WanQing's side and shouted: "Miss... Miss Mu, that... that man's too strong, let's get out of here!"

"Too late," Mu WanQing coldly replied.

Duan Yu was just about to reply when a huge force suddenly hit him from behind, sending him flying. He fell into a little group of trees and was almost completely knocked out. Luckily, he had landed into an area that was literally covered with little trees, thus he only suffered minor scratches on his face and not much more. By the time he had gotten up from the fall, that person was already standing at Mu WanQing's side.

Duan Yu scrambled up and positioned himself in front of Mu WanQing, blocking the man's path. "Who are you? And why are you trying to hurt others?" He asked.

Mu WanQing was caught completely by surprise. "Ru... Run! Get out of here!" She shouted at him.

That man let out a hearty laugh and said: "Too late to run away now! Your old man here is the Divine Croc of the South Seas; in terms of kungfu, I rank number... number... hehe I'm sure you 2 kids have heard about me, right?"

Duan Yu's heart was pounding, but he forced himself to not panic and began sizing up the man in front of him. The first thing he noticed was his unusually large head. Two rows of white and menacing teeth can be seen in his huge mouth, yet his eyes were unexpectedly small and round, like 2 peas. Still, the force in his stare was positively menacing as they looked Duan Yu up and down over and over again, causing Duan Yu to shudder involuntarily. He had an average built, but his legs were skinny, almost to the bone. He carried a beard that looked as if it was made out of iron, every single strand was stiff and straight. Despite the beard, it was impossible to tell how old he was. He had on a silk robe which drooped down to his knees. The silk was of a very high quality and expensive, yet the pants he had on was made of very cheap and rough material and was so dirty that it was difficult to make out its original. His fingers were long and pointy, which reminded Duan Yu of chicken paws. At first glance, Duan Yu had thought that this man was just indescribably ugly, but the more he looked at him, the more he felt that it was only because the man's looks, built, and even clothing just simply didn't match.

"Come here," Mu WanQing instructed. "Stand beside me."

"You... you sure he won't harm you?" Duan Yu asked.

Mu WanQing let out a little cold laugh and said: "With that little bit of stuff you know, what chance do you have of stopping 'the Divine Croc of the South Seas'?"

Despite her tone of voice, Mu WanQing couldn't help but be touched that Duan Yu would actually put himself in danger to protect her.

Duan Yu figured that she was right. If this man wanted to get him out of the way, all he had to do was simply lift his arm. So it was probably best not to anger him yet. Thus he backed up until he was even with Mu WanQing and said: "Oh, so you are 'The Divine Croc of the South Seas' who's kungfu is ranked number... number... that is... I have much admired your famed and illustrious name. I have humbly been able to meet several brave men and heroes these last couple of days, and I have to say that your amazing kungfu has to be the best among them. Not one of those rocks I tossed down hit! Sir, your kungfu is truly amazing."

"Even though I'm brown-nosing, his kungfu really is something else, so all this kissing up isn't that bad." DuanYu reasoned.

Divine Croc of the South Seas was on cloud nine from all the praise that Duan Yu tossed at him. So he let out another, rather stiff, laugh and replied: "Your kungfu might not be anything to brag about, but at least you know what's good when you see it. I guess I'll let you live just for that. Now get out of my way."

Ecstatic, Duan Yu suggested: "Then could you, sir, please let Miss Mu go too?"

Divine Croc's eyes bugged out, reached out with one arm, and gave Duan Yu a shove that pushed him back several steps before he was able to recover his balance. In a heavy and vicious voice, he said: "Take one more step forward, and your old man here is going to kill you!"

"Men like him is capable of doing anything. I better just stay here for now." Duan Yu thought to himself.

Divine Croc opened his eyes wide and sized Mu WanQing up several times before asking: "Did you kill 'Little Devil' Sun SanBa?"

"Yes," Mu WanQing replied.

"Did you know that he was my beloved disciple?"

Duan Yu was screaming on the inside: "Oh bad! This is bad! Miss Mu killed his beloved disciple, that's not the kind of thing that you can just make it go away. Even if I kiss up to him ten times as much it would still be of no use."

"Not when I killed him, but I did find out several days later." Mu WanQing replied.

"Are of scared of me?" Divine Croc of the South Seas asked.

"No!"

Divine Croc let out a thunderous roar of fury that shook the entire mountain. "How could you be not scared of me? How... how dare you! Who's protection are you hiding under?" He demanded.

"Yours!" Mu WanQing replied coldly.

Divine Croc was taken aback for a moment by this. "Damn rubbish! What do you mean you are hiding under my protection?"

"You are one of the '4 Arch-Villains." How could a man at such a lofty position stoop so low as to attack a severely wounded girl?" Mu WanQing's reply actually seemed to include a bit of praise.

Divine Croc paused a bit in surprise before bursting out laughing heartily: "That's a pretty good point!"

Upon hearing the words "4 Arch-Villains," Duan Yu suddenly realized that this man was actually a friend of Zhong Ling's father, Zhong WanChou. Hoping to get to a better position using Zhong WanChou's name, he cut in right as he heard the man make that last comment.

"Every where in the martial world you hear people say that the Divine Croc of the South Seas is a great hero and a brave man. Not only that, some people say that Divine Croc wouldn't even fight if his opponent was just a single man. The more foes he fights at one time, the happier he is. This, obviously, shows how great of a fighter he really is."

Divine Croc was smiling so much as he was listening to that that his round eyes became just 2 slits. Nodding profusely, he asked: "That's another pretty good point, who did you hear that from?"

"No Measure Sword Sect's head of their East Faction Zuo ZiMu, head of their West Faction Xin ShuangQing, the head of the Divine Farmer Clan SiKong Xuan, the master of Thousand-Enmities Valley Zhong WanChou, his wife Gan BaoBao, and then there's Grandma Rui and Grandma Ping from just south of the Yangtze. Hehe, too many, too many. I can't remember all of them."

Divine Croc nodded and said: "You, little fella, is quite a character eh? Next time you hear somebody praising me, better remember his name for me, ok?" Turning to Mu WanQing, he inquired: "I heard that your kungfu is pretty good, how did you get hurt so bad? Who did it?"

Looking weak and wronged, Mu WanQing replied: "There were 4 of them and they ganged up on me. I'm not like you, the more enemies the better, I can't handle that many of them."

"Yet another good point. Four fighters ganging up on one girl? Have they got no shame?" Divine Croc replied.

"That's right!" Duan Yu immediately cut in. "A real hero wouldn't even fight if there was just one foe, where did they get off fighting 4 against 1? It's a shame that you, sir, wasn't there, or else you would grab one in each hand and snap the bones in half."

"No! No! No!" Divine Croc shook his head vehemently.

Every time he shook his head and said the first "No!", Duan Yu's heart skipped a beat, he said 3 straight "No!" in a row, so Duan Yu's heart skipped 3 straight beats. He could not figure out where exactly he had said something wrong.

"I don't snap their bones in half. I just go 'Crack!' and snap their neck. Snapping their bones doesn't necessarily kill then, no fun in that. But snap their necks and those sons of turtles will die. Don't believe me? Then let me snap your neck and you'll see." Divine Croc continued.

"I believe! I believe you! No need to prove it to me." Duan Yu immediately replied. Then he suddenly remembered that one of the servants in the Zhong family was welcoming a "Yue Number Two" of the 4 Arch-Villains who, because he mistakenly said "Yue Number Three" and called him a "great man," had his neck snapped by the man. So the man in front of him must be Yue Two.

"That's right! You are as evil as evil can get. Some people call you Yue Number Two, I say you should be Yue Number One. When Yue Number One grabs somebody's neck, that man is dead for sure!" Duan Yu praised.

Happy beyond words, Divine Croc grabbed Duan Yu's shoulders and shook him out of joy. "That's right. That's so right! You are a pretty smart little fella, actually know that I'm as evil as evil can get. Yue Number One is out of the question, Number Two is pretty good anyway."

Duan Yu felt as if his shoulders were about to be squeezed into little pieces. Nevertheless, he forced a smile on his face and said: "Says who? I say the words 'Yue Number One' without the slightest of doubts in my heart."

"Duan Yu, Duan Yu. What won't you do to save Miss Mu? Kissing up like a coward, where are all those morals you got from all those books now?" He thought to himself. "But if it was just for me, then I would never say anything like this. Scared of death, what kind of a man would I be then? It's only because I'm trying to save Miss Mu do I force myself to stoop down to such a level. It is written in the Book of Changes: 'If going along helps those who are true, then real gentlemen should do it'. That's the real logic behind conquering the hard with a soft touch." Having reasoned himself to that point, he felt a lot better.

Divine Croc let go of Duan Yu's shoulders and turned to Mu WanQing: "Yue Number Two is a real man and would never hurt a girl...."

"He still wouldn't claim to the title of Number One. Wonder how evil that Number One guy is." Duan Yu thought to himself, but afraid of upsetting him, he kept quiet and did not ask.

Divine Croc continued: "... Come next time when you have got helpers, then I'll kill you. I can't kill you today, but I have to ask you a question. I heard that you said you had always worn the veil so as to not allow anyone to see your face, and if anyone saw your face, then you'll have to either kill him or marry him. Is this true?"

This was a complete shock to Duan Yu, and then he saw Mu WanQing nod, which made this whole matter even more confusing and shocking to him.

"Why the hell did you make up such a messed up rule?" Divine Croc asked.

"That is what I swore in front of my master. If I didn't, my master wouldn't have taught me kungfu." Mu WanQing replied.

"And who the hell is your master? Talk about messed up! Wow, ridiculous stuff, just ridiculous!" Divine Croc replied.

"Out of respect to your seniority, I have been very polite towards you. But you are wrong to talk about my master in such a rude manner." Mu WanQing replied with pride.

Divine Croc reached out and struck a huge piece of rock that was sitting right beside him with his palm. Immediately the rock shattered, sending small pieces flying off and hitting Duan Yu, giving him quite a sting. "How could a person be that good at kungfu? If that had hit a person, there's no way the person would survive." Duan Yu thought to himself as he turned and looked at Mu WanQing.

But Mu WanQing kept her stare, not showing the slightest hint of fear, not even a blink.

Divine Croc traded stares with her for a long time before finally breaking the standstill: "Alright, I guess you have point. Who is your master? Who is so... hehe... such... hehe...."

"Master is known as the 'Guest of Secluded Valley'." Mu WanQing answered.

"'Guest of Secluded Valley'? Never heard of it, must not be anyone important!" Divine Croc mumble to himself while trying to recall where he had heard of the name before.

"My master lives alone in a secluded valley, that's the reason for the name 'Guest of Secluded Valley'. How could that compare with the famous name of yours?"

"Another good point." Divine Croc nodded before suddenly raising his voice in a shout: "My disciple Sun SanBa, did he see your face? Is that why you killed him?"

"You know what kind of a person your disciple is," Mu WanQing replied coldly. "Had he even learned a tenth of you kungfu, then I wouldn't have been able to kill him."

"Another good point." Divine Croc nodded. But his thoughts turned to the fact that his sect had always, by rule and tradition, passed their kungfu down through one disciple and one disciple only. The death of Sun SanBa meant that more than 10 years of hard work in his teaching Sun SanBa had been completely in vain. The more he thought about it, the madder he got until he finally screamed: "TaMaDe!"

Seeing his complexion suddenly turn into a burnt yellow color and his expression turn animalistic, both Mu WanQing and Duan Yu was scared, and that was before they heard him scream: "I must avenge my disciple!"

"Second Master Yue, you already said that you wouldn't hurt her." Duan Yu immediately cut in, bumping him up to a more respectable "Second Master Yue". "Besides, it's probably for the best that your disciple died. He couldn't even learn a tenth of your kungfu, had he lived, he could have lost you a lot of face."

"Yet another good point. I can't afford to lose any face." Divine Croc nodded and turned to Mu WanQing. "Did my disciple see your face?"

"No!" Mu WanQing said, grinding her teeth together.

"Alright, so that my disciple may rest in peace, I'm going to take a look and see whether or not you look like an ugly monster or a beautiful goddess."

This gave Mu WanQing the scare of her life. She had sworn in front of her master, if Divine Croc removed her veil by force, there was no way she could kill him, but how could she marry him? Almost panicking, she replied: "You are a famous man in the martial world, how could you stoop so low to do such an evil thing?"

"I'm as evil as evil can get, the more evil the action the better. I only have one rule in my life, and that's never kill anyone who can't fight back. Other than that, everything goes, nothing is off limits. So why don't you just be a good girl, take off the veil yourself, and save me the trouble." Divine Croc replied with a sneer.

"You really have to see my face?" Mu WanQing asked, her voice was shaking.

Growing impatient, Divine Croc threatened: "If you keep on stalling, not only am I going to take off your veil, I'm going to rip off all your clothes too. I said I won't snap your neck, but snapping your arms and legs aren't out of the question is it?"

"I can't kill him, so the only way left is suicide." Mu WanQing decided.

She turned to Duan Yu and shot him a look, telling him to run. Duan Yu shook his head. With a little quiver of his beard, Divine Croc reached out with those chicken-claw like hand of his, trying to grab Mu WanQing's veil.

Mu WanQing flicked her sleeve. "Shoo! Shoo! Shoo!" Three small arrows shot out with lightning quickness and hit Divine Croc's belly. But with a pop, each of the arrows fell harmlessly down to the ground, it was as if he had on some kind of armor underneath his shirt. With another twitch, Mu WanQing shot out 3 more poisonous arrows, 2 at his chest and 1 headed toward his face. As if they hit a hard rock, the 2 arrows flying towards his chest fell down onto the ground. The third arrow was just about to hit his face when Divine Croc reached up with his middle finger and, with a gentle flick, the arrow disappeared from sight.

Mu WanQing took out her sword and brought it up to her neck. However, because of her severe wounds, she was not able to move fast enough as Divine Croc, with one swift move, took the sword out of her hand and threw it onto the ground. With a cold laugh, he said: "My rule is only 'Never kill anyone who can't fight back'. You shot 6 arrows at me, so you made the first move. I'm going to take a look at your face and then kill you. You made the first move, so you can't accuse me for breaking my rule."

"No! You are wrong!" Duan Yu suddenly shouted.

"What!" Divine Croc turned his head towards Duan Yu.

"You call yourself a real man, how could you bully a severely wounded girl?"

"She just shot 6 poisonous arrows at me, didn't you see that? This is a severely wounded girl bullying a real man, not a real man bullying a severely wounded girl."

"No, you are still wrong."

"Bullshit! What do you mean still wrong?" Divine Croc shouted in anger.

"Your rule is 7 words, 'Never kill anyone who can't fight back', right?"

"That's right!" Divine Croc's eyes looked as if they were going to pop out.

"Can those 7 words be changed?"

"My rules, so of course they can't be changed!" Divine Croc answered impatiently.

"Not one word?'

"Not even half a word!"

"If it's changed, then what?"

"Then I'm a tortoise son of a turtle!"

"Ok, very good! You haven't hit Miss Mu, yet Miss Mu tried to hit you with arrows, that's not 'fighting you', that's 'striking first'. If you hit her, in her condition, there is no way that she could fight back. That's why she tried to ambush you, because she can't fight back. If you killed her, then you have changed your rule, and if you change your rule, then you are a tortoise son of a turtle."

Duan Yu had been reading Confucius and Buddhist books ever since he learned how to read, and had analyzed all those ambiguous saying in those books down to the bone. Sayings such as "Is isn't, but have not to", and "White horse is no horse, hard rock is no rock", he analyzed and thought about them until there was nothing left to think about anymore. That's why at this crucial moment, he was able to just grab a hold of Divine Croc's rule and run with it.

Divine Croc let out a furious howl and grabbed Duan Yu by the shoulders.

"How dare you call me a tortoise son of a turtle?" He shouted as he was about to bring his palm down on Duan Yu's head.

"If you change your rule, only then are you a tortoise son of a turtle!" Duan Yu shouted back in a hurry. "If you don't change your rules, then you won't be a tortoise son of a turtle! Whether or not you are a tortoise son of a turtle is completely up to you."

Seeing that even though his life hung by the thinnest of threads, Duan Yu was still shouting "tortoise son of a turtle" non-stop. Mu WanQing knew that Divine Croc would undoubtedly explode in anger and break his neck. Suddenly overwhelmed with sadness, tears filled her eyes as she turned away, not wanting to watch any further.

But unexpectedly, those few words stopped Divine Croc in his tracks. "If I break his neck, then wouldn't that be killing someone who couldn't fight back? Doesn't that make me a tortoise son of a turtle?" He thought to himself.

Staring at Duan Yu with that pair of small eyes of his, he gradually tightened his grip. Soon, Duan Yu's bones were creaking, hurting him so much that he almost fainted. "Come on! Kill me! I can't fight back!" Duan Yu shouted at the top of his lungs.

"I'm not going to fall for that!" Divine Croc replied. "You really want me to be a tortoise son of a turtle don't you?"

As he said that, Divine Croc lifted Duan Yu off the ground and slammed him down hard back onto the ground. Duan Yu temporarily blacked out from the impact before recovering to feel as if all of his internal organs had exploded.

"I'm not going to fall for that! I'm not going to kill you 2 little devils!" Divine Croc mumbled to himself before suddenly reaching out and grabbing the green silk cape that Mu WanQing was wearing.

With a loud rip, he tore it off. Mu WanQing let out a shocked yell as she instinctively shrank back. Divine Croc merely raised his arm up and tossed the cape aside. The cape caught the wind and started to fly off. Like a giant lotus leaf, it gently glided over the edge of the cliff and into the raging currents of the LanCang River. "If you don't take off your veil now, I'm going to rip off your shirt next!" Divine Croc said with a sinister smile.

"Come here," Mu WanQing gestured towards Duan Yu, who limped over to her side as quickly as he could.

Mu WanQing turned towards him so as to face away from Divine Croc. "You are the first man in this world to see my face." She said gently and slowly removed her veil.

Duan Yu's entire body shook. What he saw before him was more elegant than the shiny moon on a cloudless night and more beautiful than the lonesome flower that blossoms in the middle of a blizzard. A beauty fit for legends. The only thing was that her face was incredibly pale, which was most likely due to the fact that she was wearing the veil for such a long time. Even that thin pair of lips lacked color, but to Duan Yu, it just made her seem even more vulnerable and lovely. How could this be the same person be that monster who wouldn't even blink when she killed?

Mu WanQing put her veil down on the ground. "If you want to see my face, you are going to have to ask my husband first." She said to Divine Croc without turning around.

"You are married? Who's your husband?" Divine Croc didn't quite believe what he just heard.

"I swore that if a man ever saw my face, I would either kill him or marry him." Mu WanQing said as she pointed at Duan Yu. "He had already seen my face, and I don't want to kill him. So I can only marry him."

"This... this is...." Duan Yu was rendered completely speechless from this turn of events.

After recovering from the initial shock, the Divine Croc turned to Duan Yu. He sized Duan Yu up and down with those pea like eyes of his, sending chills down Duan Yu's spine as he was afraid that Divine Croc would, in a fit of rage, would snap his neck in an instant. Suddenly, Divine Croc began clicking his tongue over and over again out of excitement. "Amazing! Simply amazing! Quick! Turn around!" He said as his face lit up.

Too scared to disobey him, Duan Yu turned around. "Amazing! Wonderful! You look just like me! You are just like me!" Divine Croc commented.

There was not a thing that he could have said that would have shocked Duan Yu and Mu WanQing more than those 5 words: "You look just like me". The 2 of them thought to themselves: "What are you talking about? You are a kungfu master, and ugly. There is not even a similarity, not to mention the words 'just like'?"

Divine Croc practically jumped behind Duan Yu as he proceeded to grab the back of Duan Yu's head, squeeze his arms and legs, and even poke his waist a couple of times. After a couple of pokes and grabs, he cracked open a huge smile: "Just like me! Almost exactly like me!" Grabbing Duan Yu's arm, he continued. "Come on with me!"

"Go with you to where?" Duan Yu asked, completely befuddled.

"Oh just come with me!" Divine Croc replied. "Quick, kowtow! Then beg me to take you on as a disciple. As long as you beg, I will immediately take you in."

"What! This... this...." For the second time in just minutes, Duan Yu was rendered completely speechless by the surprising turn of events.

Divine Croc began jumping around and waving his arms like crazy, as if he had just found the most precious jewel in the world. "Your arms and legs are extraordinarily long, the back of your head is protruding out, and your waist is very soft and flexible; plus you are smart, young, and male. You are truly an amazing specimen for learning kungfu." He turned around as he spoke. "See? This is the back of my head, isn't it just like yours?"

Duan Yu felt the back of his head, it really did seem as if the back of their heads were very alike. Who knew that when he said "You are just like me!" he was only talking about the back of their heads?

Turning back around with the biggest possible smile on his face, Divine Croc continued: "We South Sea Sect had always had this rule, each man can only take one disciple. That dead disciple of mine, 'Little Devil' Sun SanBa, the back of his head was nowhere near as good as yours. So he sucked, couldn't even learn a tenth of my kungfu. It's best that he died, this way is all clean and neat, because I don't have to kill him now so I can take you as a disciple instead."

Duan Yu involuntarily shuddered. He was thinking to himself how cruel this man in front of him was, willing to kill his very own disciple so as to be able to change disciples just because he noticed someone else was better suited for kungfu. Even if he did want to learn kungfu, which he didn't, he would never choose this person to be his master. But if he refused, then disaster would be upon him. Just as he wasn't sure what he should do, Divine Croc suddenly shouted at the top of his lungs: "What do you think you guys are doing sneaking around like that! Get the hell out here now! Every single one of you!"

A dozen or so people came crawling out of the bushes, among them were Grandma Rui, Grandma Ping, and that swordsman. Since Divine Croc had climbed onto this ledge, Duan Yu had not been able to toss more rocks and thus keep them away. So this group was able to sneak up the cliff as well.

Even though they were holding their breaths and not moving while they were in the bush, they had no chance of escaping Divine Croc's sensitive ears. Because he was so overjoyed at discovering such a spectacular treasure in Duan Yu, he didn't really get angry right away. So he shot a mean look towards Grandma Rui, with a smile still lingering on his face, and shouted: "What are you doing here? Did you come to congratulate your old man here on finding a price disciple?"

"We are here to catch this little whore," Grandma Rui pointed to Mu WanQing and said, "to avenge the deaths of our companions."

"She's my disciple's wife!" Divine Croc yelled back, "How dare you try and capture her? TaMaDe! Get the hell out of here!"

Everyone was speechless as they just stood there, staring at each other.

Duan Yu finally summed up his courage and spoke up: "I can't be your disciple, I already have a master."

This made Divine Croc furious: "Who's your master? How can his kungfu be any better than mine?"

"You probably can't do a single bit of my master's kungfu! The 'Gua-Xiang' and the 'Xi-Ci' of 'Zhou-Yi', do you know anything about them? How about the reasons behind 'Ming-Yi' and 'Wei-Ji'? Can you explain them to me?"

Divine Croc of the South Seas just scratched his head. Gua-Xiang? Xi-Ci? He really never ever heard of any of them. Ming-Yi? Wei-Ji? For all he knows they really might be some kind of incredible kungfu.

{Note: Once again, all those things that Duan Yu just quoted are ideas from the Book of Changes.}

Seeing the troubled look on his face, Duan Yu continued: "Looks like you don't know any of these high level stuffs. So, while I'm grateful that you would actually consider me as a disciple, I could only accept it in my thoughts and not in my actions. How about next time I invite my master along and the 2 of you can duel it out and see who is really better. If you beat him, then I could still ask to be your disciple."

"Alright! Who's your master? It's not like I'm scared of him or something. When do you want this duel to happen?"

Duan Yu only really wanted to ward him off for a while with that line of defense, but unexpectedly, Divine Croc was actually really demanding a duel. He was just in middle of trying to figure out what to say next when a sharp and metallic whistle came piercing through the mountains, apparently originating from very far away. The shrill lasted for an incredible, a disturbingly long amount of time. It was amazing that the person who was blowing the whistle could have such a long breath, as if his breath had no end. At first, what everyone on the ledge noticed was the almost unbearable pitch of the whistle, but the longer they listened the more shocked they became, until all they could do was stare at each other, again.

Divine Croc patted his head some and shouted: "I don't have time to talk to you right now, Big Brother is calling me. When does your master want to fight me? Where at? Well? Come on!"

"This... uh... I... can't really just arrange a fight for my master." Duan Yu stuttered before suddenly turning around and pointing to Grandma Rui: "As soon as you leave, these people will kill the 2 of us. How will I be able to tell my master then?"

Without even turning around, Divine Croc reached back with his left hand and grabbed that sword-wielding man by the chest. Then, with a simple lean to his left, his right hand fell onto the top of the man's head, his left hand rotated right, his right hand rotated left, and his arms intersected. "Crack!" That man's neck snapped. His eyes stared out behind him as his head softly fell down. The sword in his right hand was half pulled out, which was already amazingly quick; but he still nevertheless died before he even pulled his sword out.

This was the same man, during the fight against Mu WanQing before, whose quickness stood out and was able to knock down those poison arrows that she fired at almost point blank range. But now, against just a simple twist from Divine Croc, he didn't even have a fighting chance. All the spectators were so shocked that they couldn't even move. Divine Croc then casually flicked his arm and tossed the corpse to the side. Three men who were with Grandma Rui suddenly, and simultaneously, let out a huge howl and charged. Divine Croc lifted up his right foot and kicked 3 times. All 3 of the men took off and flew over the cliff. The bloodcurdling shrieking came shooting up from the bottom of cliff and echoed all around the mountains until every hair on Duan Yu's body was standing on its end. Everyone of the group with Grandma Rui was scared out of their wits. "'Crack' and one neck is snapped. Hehe, so much fun!" Divine Croc said with a laugh. "One is not enough, I have to do it again. Whoever gets left behind will get his neck snapped."

Scared beyond description, Grandma Rui, Grandma Ping, and the rest of the people in her group all scrambled to the edge of the cliff as fast as they could and began to climb down.

"Can your master do that?" Divine Croc turned towards Duan Yu with a strange laugh. "If you become my disciple, I would immediately teach you how to do that. Your wife's kungfu is pretty good, so if she doesn't listen to you, then you can just 'Crack' and snap her neck in half."

Suddenly the metallic shrill picked up again, only this time it was in an endless number of short screeches. "Alright, alright! I'm coming! You and your grandmother, what's the hurry?" Divine Croc yelled at the direction of the whistle, as if the other person could hear him. "Be a good boy and wait here, don't you go anywhere." He instructed Duan Yu before he hurriedly ran to the edge and jumped over the edge.

"That'll surely kill him wouldn't it?" A surprised Duan Yu thought to himself.

So Duan Yu ran to the edge of the cliff and looked down. Divine Croc was making his way down the cliff a huge hop at a time. For every 30 meters or so that he fell, he would just reach out with his hand and push off of the cliff, enabling him to fall another 30 meters or so without hitting anything. Soon, he disappeared among the white clouds that surrounded the cliff.

Duan Yu stuck his tongue out and made a face out of a mixture of surprise, worry, and relief. Nothing else to do, he returned back to Mu WanQing's side. "That was so clever of you Miss, just like that, you had that evil-doer stumped." He said with a smile.

"Stumped?" Mu WanQing was quite puzzled.

"This... well, had Miss not lied and said that I was the first man to see your face, then you would... would...."

"Who lied? I can't go back on something I swore on. From this day forth, you are my husband. But I won't permit you to become his disciple and learn that neck breaking skill of his to use it on me."

Duan Yu was startled for a moment before replying: "You were in danger and were merely stalling, why take it so seriously? How can I be Miss's... Miss's... that... husband?"

Using the rock that she had been leaning on as support, Mu WanQing slowly and shakily stood up. "What? You don't want me as your wife?" She demanded. "You don't think I'm good enough, is that it?"

"Miss, the most important thing right now is for you to get better. Please don't worry too much about all this talk." Duan Yu replied, figuring that it's best not to anger her even more at this moment.

Mu WanQing took a step forward and slapped him hard on the cheeks. But as she did, her leg suddenly gave out and she lost her balance, falling into him. Duan Yu instinctively wrapped his arms around her and caught her.

Wrapped in his arms, the sudden realization that he was her husband hit Mu WanQing, causing her to feel all warm and fuzzy inside, instantly her anger was gone. "Let me go!" She demanded, blushing hard.

Duan Yu helped her to sit down by that rock again. "She has a weird personality to begin with, and now that she's wounded she's probably confused as well. I guess the best thing to do now is to go along with whatever she says. Didn't the 'Trap' dialogue talk about 'saying without sincerity'? Well, now that I'm 'trapped' here, I might as well go along with 'saying without sincerity' as well. Otherwise, not only will I become that devil of a monster's disciple, I'll turn into this little devil of a girl's spouse. Then wouldn't I, Duan Yu, become a little servant of a devil?" As he thought about this, he couldn't help but crack a laugh at his own reasoning inside.

Having made up his mind to just go along, he said in a tender voice: "Don't be mad. I'm going to get something for you to eat."

"As bare as this ledge is, where are you going to find anything edible?" Mu WanQing replied. "Good thing those guys were all scared off. Let me rest for a bit until I get some strength back. Then I'll carry you down."

"N... no... no!" Duan Yu waved his hand from side to side as fast as he could. "Absolutely no. You can't even walk, how can you carry me?"

"You would rather die than to owe me anything? Darling, even though I, Mu WanQing, is a girl that kills without blinking, I am still capable of sacrificing my life for my husband." She was dead serious and resolute when she said those words.

"Alright, thank you. Why don't you rest up a little first and then we'll worry about the rest. From now on, can you not wear that veil anymore?"

"If you don't want me to, then I won't." Mu WanQing replied as she took her veil off.

Once again, Duan Yu was startled by her beauty. Only this time he was rudely interrupted by an incredibly sharp and shooting pain in his belly that forced him scream out in pain. It felt as if there was a small dagger spinning and dicing inside his belly, chopping his intestines to little pieces. Doubling over, huge beads of sweat began to form on his forehead.

"What... What's the matter?" Mu WanQing was just as shocked.

"That... that Intestine Fragmenter...." Duan Yu replied in between groans.

"Ai-Yo! Didn't you take the remedy?"

"I did!"

"Maybe you didn't take enough." Mu WanQing said as she took the little bottle from inside his shirt and poured out some more powder for him. But seeing no signs of improvement from him, she sat down besides him and tried to comfort him: "Is it getting better?"

Nearly passing out from the pain, Duan Yu replied: "It's getting worse and worse. Maybe that remedy is a fake... fake one."

"How could that SiKong Xuan use poison to hurt people? Once this is over we'll go and kill every single person in that Divine Farmer Clan."

"We... we also gave... gave him the fake medicine. SiKong Xuan's just responding, we... we can't really blame him."

"What do you mean can't blame him? It's not a big deal if we give him some fake medicine, but how could he give us the fake medicine?" As she said this, Mu WanQing wiped off the sweat off of his forehead with her sleeves.

Seeing his ash white face, her heart was suddenly overwhelmed and tears began to fall from her eyes. "You... you can't die." She shakily said between sobs as she leaned down and rubbed her right cheek against his left cheek. "Dar... darling, please don't die."

Duan Yu, being hugged by her like this, had never been this close to a young girl in his life. On his cheek he felt her tender and smooth skin, in his ear he heard her gentle and desperate calls of "Darling", and from his nose he smelled her faint and sweet fragrance. How could he not feel as if he was in heaven? Coincidentally, the pain in his belly seemed to subside just at this moment. Turned out what SiKong Xuan had given him wasn't fake. This is actually because the Intestine Fragmenter, being as incredibly lethal as it is, was just beginning to kick in. Even though the cure had already eliminated most of the poison, a couple waves of almost unbearable pain could not have been avoided. Of course, SiKong Xuan had known this all along, it was just that he was too afraid to bring this up earlier in fear of annoying the Holy Emissaries from the Nimble Vulture Palace.

"Is the pain getting better?" Mu WanQing asked, noticing that he had stopped groaning.

"It is a little better. But... but...." Duan Yu replied.

"But what?"

"If you leave me, it'll probably start hurting again."

Mu WanQing blushed and pushed off of him. "So you were faking it all along." She scolded, in a girlish way.

Duan Yu blush furiously as well. But another pain shot through his belly again, causing him to start groaning again.

Mu WanQing grabbed a hold of his hand: "Darling, if you die, I don't want to live on either. We'll meet again in the afterlife and be husband and wife then."

"No, no!" Duan Yu replied, not wanting her to do anything like that. "First you have to avenge me. Then you'll have to visit and clean my tomb every year. I want you to do that at least 30...no, 40 years. Only then will I rest in peace."

{It is a Chinese tradition to visit and clean a dead relative or friend's tomb every year on a particular date to pay respects to the dead.}

"You know, you are a really weird person. What difference will it make to you if I visit and clean your tomb once you are dead? It's not like you get anything good out of it."

"But if you die with me, I will get even less out of that. Ok, listen to me. As beautiful as you are, if you just visit and clean my tomb once a year, I would be happy to just catch a glimpse of you in the afterlife. But if you die along with me, we'll all just turn into a pile of white bones, nothing pretty to look at there." Duan Yu replied.

Hearing him praise her, Mu WanQing was happy for a moment. But then she turned to the thought that she had just gave her life to him today and now she was going to watch him die. She couldn't stop the tears from falling once again.

Duan Yu reached over and held her around her waist. Feeling a tender and warm softness around his fingers, a light went on in his head and he lowered his head to kiss her on the lips. It was the first kiss of his life, so he didn't dare to prolong it too much before lifting his head back up and resume staring back at her beautiful face. Sighing, he said: "It's a shame that I won't live too much longer and can't stare at your beautiful face more."

The kiss caused Mu WanQing's heart to beat like crazy, her face blushed crazily as her bashfulness took over. The white face became even more colorful and beautiful because of it. "You are the first man in this world to see my face." She said. "After you die, I will carve up my face so as to not let another man see my real face."

Duan Yu wanted to tell her no, but for some reason, a wave of envy suddenly washed over him as he really did not want any other man to see such a beautiful face. So the words made it to the tip of his tongue but just wouldn't come out. Instead, he asked: "Why did you take such a harsh oath? Such a strange oath, it's kind of... kind of good!"

"You are now my husband, so it shouldn't be a problem for you to know." Mu WanQing replied. "I was an orphan and never knew my father or mother. Once I was born I was abandoned and left in the wild. Luckily, I was saved by my master. She brought me up, took care of me, and taught me martial arts. She told me that all men in this world are liars and if one of them ever saw my face, they would undoubtly try anything they can come up with to lead me into traps. So ever since I was 14, I wore a black veil. I have lived all 18 years of my life in the mountains with my master."

"Oh, so you are 18," Duan Yu cut in, "one year younger than me."

Mu WanQing nodded and continued: "This Spring, a person came to visit us. He was a messenger from my master's martial sister, 'Pretty Medicine Fork' Gan BaoBao."

"'Pretty Medicine Fork' Gan BaoBao?" Duan Yu interrupted her again. "Isn't she Zhong Ling's mom?"

"Right, she's my martial-aunt." Mu WanQing replied before her face suddenly darkened. "I forbid you from thinking about that little devil, Zhong Ling. You are my husband, you can only think about me."

Duan Yu stuck his tongue out a little and made a face.

"What was that for? I'm your wife. So that means I only think of you and you alone. To me, other men are pigs, are dogs, are dirty swines."

"But I can't do that." Duan Yu replied with a smile.

"Why not?" Mu WanQing fiercely demanded with her hands raised, ready to strike.

"My mom, and your master, aren't they all women? How can I pretend that they are dirty swines?"

Mu WanQing was rendered speechless for a long while before finally nodding ever so slightly: "But I won't allow you keep thinking about that little devil Zhong Ling."

"But I didn't keep thinking about her. You mentioned Madame Zhong, which reminded me of Zhong Ling." Duan Yu argued. "So what did that letter to your master say?"

"I don't know. After Master read the letter, she became very angry and distraught and tore the letter to pieces. Then she told the messenger: 'I understand now, go back.' After he left, Master cried for several days straight, not even eating. I tried to console her, but she wouldn't listen, she wouldn't even tell me why, other than that 2 women wronged her.

"I said: 'Master, don't be distraught. If those 2 evil women wronged you, then we'll just kill them.'

"'That's right!' Master agreed. So right away the 2 of us left the mountain to kill those 2 women. Master then said that she had no idea that all these years that these 2 women were the cause of all her sorrows, and that luckily Gan BaoBao finally explained it all to her and told her where the 2 women lived."

"Madame Zhong seemed so innocent and shy, but who knew she would be so sinister and scheming?" Duan Yu thought. "She's using you! She hates those 2 women herself, but instead she has set your master up to kill them."

"Once we left the mountain," Mu WanQing continued, "Master made me swear that if any man saw my face, if I couldn't kill him, then I would have to marry him. If that man won't take me as his wife, or he leaves me after he marries me, then I have to kill that heartless man myself. If I go back on my word, my master would kill herself as soon as she finds out. My master can go through with anything she says, so this is no empty threat made just to scare me."

Inside, Duan Yu couldn't describe how surprised he was: "All oaths sworn in the world says something to the effect of if I go back on my word, this would happen to me. But her master actually used her own suicide as a threat, better not let her break his oath."

"My master is like both my mother and father," Mu WanQing continued, "I owe so much to her. How can I not listen and obey her? Besides, she only did this because she was looking out for me. I didn't even think twice, I immediately kneeled and took the oath. The first thing the 2 of us did when we made it down the mountain was to go to SuZhou to kill the woman named Wang that lived there. But she lived in a really strange place, every way you turn you always end up in this little river bay or something like that. My master and I killed quite a number of that woman's underlings, but we still weren't able to see her. Later on my master suggested that we split up, and if we don't meet up in a month, then we'll head to DaLi separately and meet there because the second woman lived there. But unexpectedly that woman named Wang had a lot of very powerful servants, Grandma Rui and Grandma Ping those 2 old bags are the leaders of them. I can't beat all of them by myself, so I fought them off the best I can as I made my way towards DaLi and found Martial Aunt Gan. She said that it was best if I stayed with her at her Valley of Ten Thousand Calamities until my master showed up, then we'll all go into DaLi and kill that other woman. But my master wasn't able to make it before Grandma Rui and her gang of servants showed up. You should know all about what happened after that."

She was very tired from talking this much, so she closed eyes and took a break. After a bit, she continued: "At first, I thought you were just like my master said, a liar with no heart and no feelings like all the other men in this world. But after you borrowed Black Rose, you actually came back to warn me about the coming danger, I know that was not easy just by itself. And then when all those servants surrounded me, and even though you didn't know any kungfu, you still tried to protect me. I... I'm not heartless you know, naturally, I was very grateful."

"Uh-huh," Duan Yu mused. "You dragged me around behind your horse, dragged me through water, and slapped me at the slightest provocation, turns out that it was because you were grateful! Wow! Of course! If you weren't grateful, you would have killed me with an arrow a long time ago."

"When you cared for my wounds, you saw my bare back," Mu WanQing continued, "and I saw your bare bottom. I had already figured that I probably have to marry you anyway. And then Divine Croc of the Southern Seas kept on forcing me and I had no choice but to let you see my face." She stopped and turned to look at Duan Yu, her eyes filled with love and tenderness.

"Can it... can it be that she really developed feelings for me?" the realization finally shot through Duan Yu's mind as he said. "So what if you saw my bare... bare that, don't worry about that. Also, you were in danger just then and had no other choice, in that situation you don't have to follow your oath that closely do you?"

"I swore to it, how can it be changed?" Mu WanQing shouted. "Do you think that bare bottom of yours look good or something? It was ugly as death! If you don't want to marry me, then come out and say it. That way I can just kill you right now and not worry about breaking my oath."

Duan Yu didn't know how to respond to that. Suddenly, his belly began hurting again, doubling him over once again.

"Say it, are you or are you not going to marry me?" Mu WanQing demanded.

"My... my belly... belly hurts!" Duan Yu groaned.

"Do you or do you not want to be my husband?"

Figuring that with this pain, he couldn't live much longer anyways, Duan Yu decided that there was no point in hurting her before dying and and causing her great sadness, nodded as much as he can with the pain and replied: "I... I'll marry you."

Mu WanQing's finger had wrapped around the arrow-firing trigger within her sleeve. Hearing him say those words, she was overjoyed, making her face look like a newly blossomed flower. Taking her finger off the trigger, she hugged Duan Yu and smiled.

"Darling, let me rub your tummy for you."

"No, no! We are not married yet!" Duan Yu objected. "Men and women... men and women shouldn't... that is... you shouldn't do this."

"Pei! Then why did you kiss me just then?"

"That's because you were so beautiful that I couldn't help myself. Please forgive me!"

"No need to ask for forgiveness," Mu WanQing smiled even wider. "I liked it too when you kissed me."

"She's so innocent and naive, and it's all real. Not like Madame Zhong's fakery. Zhong Ling's so young that her innocence is real too." Duan Yu mused.

"Oh I know! You are starving, that only makes the pain worse." Mu WanQing continued. "Let me go cut off some meet off of that guy for you."

Before Duan Yu's mind registered what she meant, she stood up using the rock for support and looked as if she was about to walk over to that swordsman whose neck Divine Croc had snapped.

So shocked that he forgot about his belly ache, Duan Yu shouted: "Human flesh is inedible. I would rather die than eat that!"

"Why not? When I was with my master, we ate tiger meat and leopard meat. Are you saying that we shouldn't eat all of them?" Mu WanQing was rather confused.

"Of course you can eat tigers and leopards, but not humans!"

"Is human flesh poisonous? I didn't know anything about that."

"It's not poisonous. It's just that you are human, I'm human, and that guy is human too. We can't eat humans!"

"How come? I saw jackals and wolves eat other jackals and wolves when they were hungry all the time."

"That's right. But if we humans eat human, then aren't we no better than those wolves?" sighed Duan Yu.

Mu WanQing had stayed with her master all her life and never had any meaningful contact with another person. Her master was an eccentric character and never talked to her about the world outside. As a result, she was completely clueless about the rules, etiquette, or morals of the world. So at this point, hearing Duan Yu saying that "humans can't eat humans", she could only stare at him with her elegant eyes in confused trust.

"Killing all those people wasn't right of you either. Confucius wrote: 'Do onto others as you would have do onto you.' If you you don't want to be killed then you shouldn't kill others. If others are in trouble, then you should help them. That's what it means to be human."

"But if I was in trouble, would others come and help me? How come that other than my master and you, everyone else I met want to bully me, harm me, and kill me? If tigers or leopards want to bite me or eat me, I would kill them. If people wanted to kill me, then naturally I would kill them. How is that any different?"

Duan Yu had no answers for her questions. All he could say was: "So you really don't know anything about how the world works."

"You don't know any martial arts, yet you meddle in the matters of the martial world. Seems to me that you don't know that much about how the world works either."

"Can't deny that!" All Duan Yu could do was force a smile and nod in agreement.

Suddenly, Mu WanQing let out a little yelp and jumped into Duan Yu's arms. "He... he's back...."

Duan Yu turned around just in time to see a yellow figure jump up over the edge of the cliff as Divine Croc of the Southern Seas landing on the mountain top.

As soon as he saw Duan Yu, he smiled. "You haven't kowtowed to me and officially become my disciple yet. So I have to be careful. Some shameless dude could come along and steal you from me. Number 1 said that everything world always favors those who make the first move. Only when you actually have the thing you covet should you consider it as yours, else if somebody took it from you, it's much harder to snatch it back. Number 1 is always correct, I can't beat him, so I got to join him. Hey! Kid, get over here and become my disciple!" Divine Croc ranted.

Noticing how he freely admitted that he lost to "Number One" despite being very competitive, Duan Yu was quite surprised. But with Divine Croc's left eye was swollen and the corner of his mouth split open, Duan Yu had to be convinced that it was "Number One" who had done this to him. Knowing that he could not become his disciple, Duan Yu instead decided to try to change the subject and waste time.

"That was Number One who blew the whistle just then wasn't it? Did you guys have a fight?"

"That's right!"

"Then you must have won and beat Number One black and blue, right?"

"No, not at all," Divine Croc violently shook his head. "His martial arts skills are way better than mine. We haven't met in so many years and I figured that even if I couldn't beat him this time and become Number One of the '4 Arch-Villains', I would at least be able to last 100 or 200 moves with him. But who knew that after 3 punches and 2 kicks he had knocked me down for good. So Number One is still his place to take, I'll just settle with being second. But I was still able to land a couple of good kicks on him. He actually said to me: 'Yue Number Three, your kungfu has improved quite a bit.' Number One actually praised my kungfu, and what Number One says is always correct."

"But you are Number Two, not Number Three," Duan Yu pointed out.

"It's been a long time since we met," Divine Croc's face changed color as he replied. "Number One just said it without thinking. He forgot about it."

"But 'what Number One says is always correct.' How could he mistakenly mis-rank you?"

Unfortunately, this seemed to have hit a sensitive spot for Divine Croc as he suddenly howled and shouted in fury: "I'm Number Two, not Number Three. Now get over here, kneel down, and beg to become my disciple. Then I'll pretend not wanting to, and then you beg some more, kowtowing over and over again, forcing to me acquiesce and accept you as a disciple even though I'm really actually happy inside. This is our South Seas Sect's rules, later on when you accept a disciple, you got to do the same thing, don't forget it."

"Can this rule be changed?" asked Duan Yu.

"Of course not!"

"If it is changed, then you are still a tortoise son of a turtle?"

"That's right!"

"This rule is really great, I agree. But you have to be sure not to change it, or else you would be a tortoise son of a turtle then."

"Good, now kneel down and beg me."

"No, I won't kneel down and kowtow to you, nor will I beg to become your disciple."

Divine Croc was so furious that his face turned burnt yellow. He snarled, revealing a mouthful of sharp teeth, as if he was about to pounce onto Duan Yu. "You are not going to kowtow and beg?" He shouted.

"No kowtowing, no begging."

"Then I'm going to snap your neck into two!" Divine Croc shouted as he took a step forward.

"Go ahead and snap. I can't fight back anyway!" Duan Yu replied as Divine Croc grabbed his shirt with his left hand and put his right hand on top of Duan Yu's head. "I can't fight back. What does that make you if you kill me?"

"A tortoise son of a turtle?"

"That's right."

"I can't kill him, and he isn't willing to beg me, what can I do?" Divine Croc was stumped. He look around and suddenly noticed the Mu WanQing's concerned expression. An idea came to him as he scurried over to her and picked her body up by the back of her neck before taking a couple of steps back toward the cliff. Once he had arrived at the edge of the cliff, he took a step back with his left foot but kept his right toe on the edge in a move called "Rooster Stands on One Foot." It looked as if he was about to fall down the cliff along with Mu WanQing as he teetered there on the edge of the cliff.

Not realizing he was playing around with him and genuinely afraid for Mu WanQing's life, Duan Yu shouted: "Careful, stop that! You... let her go!"

"Boy, you are just like me. I have to have you as a disciple! I have to go over to that peak over there to wait for a couple of people..." smiling a sinister smile, Divine Croc paused for a moment to point to a faraway peak before continuing. "So I don't have time to waste here with you. So quickly come and beg to become my disciple, then I'll let your wife go. Otherwise, hehehe! Geh!"

He made a gesture with his hands as if he was snapping Mu WanQing's neck before suddenly turning around and jumping off the cliff. Pressing his right hand against the face of the cliff, he began to make his way down, carrying Mu WanQing with him.

"Hey, hey! Careful!" Duan Yu shouted and ran to the edge of the cliff as fast as he could. Looking down, he saw that Divine Croc had already fell almost 50 meters with Mu WanQing. As soon as Duan Yu sat back down from relief, his belly began hurting again.

Grabbed by the back of her shirt and dropping along with Divine Croc, Mu WanQing noticed that his hand was flat against the face of the cliff. Whenever the speed of their fall became too fast, their bodies would suddenly slow up a bit, as if he was using the power of his palm as a brake. Mu WanQing had no strength at all at this moment, but even if she did, there was no way she was going to struggle to free herself in midair. After a while, she decided to just close her eyes all together. After what seemed like forever, she felt her body suddenly bounce upward, signaling that they have landed. Not hesitating for even a moment, Divine Croc began to walk as soon as he landed. He was about average height, and with Mu WanQing being a rather tall woman, the two of them were about the same height if lined up next to one another. However, Divine Croc was carrying her like a baby, as if she weighed nothing at all. Walking swiftly through the rock filled, foggy valley, he made his way out in no time at all.

Upon reaching the end of the valley, he finally turned to Mu WanQing. "You are my disciple's wife, so I won't trouble you just yet. But if that boy doesn't become my disciple, hehe, then he won't be my disciple anymore, and you won't be my disciple's wife anymore. When the Divine Croc sees a pretty young girl, he has always first enjoyed her then killed her without exception," he said in a rather loud voice.

Mu WanQing involuntarily shuddered. "My husband don't know any martial arts, how is he suppose to get down from the cliff? If he was too worried about me and accidentally slips on his way down, where would you go find another disciple? Where will you go and find another talent like him?"

"A very good point. I didn't think about how he's suppose to get down," Divine Croc nodded in agreement before suddenly letting out a drawn out howl.

Soon, 2 men wearing yellow appeared on the mountain side and bowed to Divine Croc. "Go to the top of that cliff over there and look after that boy there. If he says he want to become my disciple, then carry him down. If he refuses, then just stay there by his side until he does, but don't hurt him. He's my hand picked successor, and definitely do not let anyone else take him in as a disciple!" Divine Croc instructed.

"Yes sir!"

After leaving his instructions, Divine Croc picked up Mu WanQing and began walking off again. Mu WanQing was slightly relieved, knowing she would be safe until whenever Duan Yu arrives. But her darling was stubborn as a bull and probably would rather die before becoming the disciple of someone as cruel and vicious as this Divine Croc.

"His feelings towards me seems to be very chivalrous but not loving. He probably wouldn't become this evil man's disciple just for me," Mu WanQing thought to herself. "Ay! I just wish that he's safe and sound and wouldn't fall off of the cliff. I wonder if his belly is still hurting?"

Like her emotions and thoughts, Divine Croc was carrying her up and down as he made his way through the mountains. This man's stamina was truly astounding, as soon as he made it up a peak he would immediately walk back down without the slightest pause to rest. After making his way over 4 peaks in a row, he finally stopped atop of the highest peak around.

The first thing he did after he put Mu WanQing back down was pull his pants open and take a piss at the bottom of a tree. Mu WanQing, disgusted, immediately walked to a distance and pulled out her veil. Afraid that he might lose his control and throw all that master-disciple thing out of the window if he looked at her one too many times, she put on her veil, sat down on the side of a rather large rock, and tried to get some much needed rest.

After finishing his business and readjusting his pants, Divine Croc walked up to her.

"I see that you have put on your veil. That's probably for the best, or if I look at your a bit more, something might happen," he commented.

"Well, at least you still can tell what is right and wrong," Mu WanQing mused.

"Why aren't you talking to me? And why are you pretending to be asleep? Think you are too good to talk to me?"

Mu WanQing shook her head and opened her eyes. "Mr. Yue, what's your given name? In the future when my husband become your disciple, I have to know your given name at least."

"My name is Yue... Yue.... Oh dammit! My dad picked my name for me and it's a terrible name! My dad did not do a single thing well in his life that bitch son of a tortoise!"

Mu WanQing almost cracked up at that remark: "If your father is a bitch son of a tortoise, what does that make you? Cursing at even your father, I guess you really don't have any manners at all." But then she was reminded that she didn't even know who her father was at all, even then her master told her that her father was a traitorous man. Realizing that she was not necessarily much better off than Divine Croc, she fell silent in sadness.

He paced in one direction for a bit, then turned around and paced back in the other direction, not letting Mu WanQing one moment of peace. Tired of watching him just walk back and forth, Mu WanQing closed her eyes. But she could still here his footsteps pacing around endlessly.

"You just finished climbing several mountain peaks, aren't you tired?" She asked him. "Why don't you sit down and rest a bit?"

"Who asked you? Your daddy here just don't like sitting!"

Mu WanQing had no choice but to try and ignore him. Immediately her thoughts went to Duan Yu, leaving her heart warm and sweet one moment but cold and bitter another.

Suddenly, the sounds of crying gently drifted through the air, the sound was unspeakably sad and wretched. Faintly, it sounded like a woman was crying: "My baby, my baby!"

Divine Croc spat in the general direction of the sound. "Pei! She's mourning again!" He commented before shouting. "What are you mourning for? I've been waiting here forever!"

"My baby! Your mother misses you so!" The voice seemed to continue on.

"Is that your mother?" Mu WanQing was greatly confused by this turn of events.

"Like hell she's my mom! What's wrong with you?" Divine Croc looked insulted at the mere question. "That bitch right there is 'No Evil Left Undone' Second Madame Yie. The word 'evil' is second in her nickname. One of these days, I'm going to exchange my nickname, 'Vicious Demon Evil Fiend', with hers!"

Mu WanQing suddenly had an epiphany: "So if the word 'evil' comes second in the nickname, it means that person is the second among the 'Arch-Villains'."

"What what is the number one's nickname? What is number 4's?"

"Can you stop asking me question? Your daddy here don't want to talk to you anymore!" Divine Croc impatiently replied.

"Number One's nickname is 'Evil Overflowing the Cup', Number Four is called 'To the Core Evil'." A serene female voice suddenly answered.

{I know the nicknames are a little bad, but I'm working on it, and it's hard to make the word evil appear in the right places. I'm open to suggestions. :o)}

Mu WanQing was shocked by the speed of Second Madame Yie, the sound of her voice hadn't faded yet and she had already quietly made it up the mountain. Immediately Mu WanQing turned to get a good look at her. She was wearing a light green dress. Her hair was long and dancing in the wind. She looked about 40 and her face graceful and elegant. But both side of her face had 3 blood red scars that went from the bottom of her eyes all the way down to her chin as if somebody had just scratched her face open. In her arms was a 2 or 3 year old baby, a cute, chubby looking boy.

Mu WanQing had thought that this "No Evil Left Undone" Second Madame Yie would have been a terrifying woman because she was ranked ahead of Divine Croc. But she turned out to be quite good looking. In her surprise, Mu WanQing had to look her over again. Second Madam Yie shot her a sweet smile, but it caused Mu WanQing's entire body to shudder, for her smiled seemed to hide beneath it an infinite amount of suffering and sadness. Almost starting to cry right then and there, Mu WanQing immediately looked away.

"Third Sister, why isn't Number One and Number Four here yet?" asked Divine Croc.

"From the beat-up look on your face, it's obvious that you've just been taught a lesson by Number One, and yet you are thick skinned enough to ask why Number One isn't here yet?" Second Madame Yie quietly answered. "And besides, you are obviously third, yet you are so determined to get ahead of me. If you call me 'Third Sister' one more time, your older sister is going to have to get serious."

"Then get serious! What do I care?" Divine Croc angrily answered. "Do you want a fight?"

"If you want to fight, then I guess I'll keep you company then," Second Madame Yie answered with a slight smile.

"Mommy! Mommy! I want my mommy!" The kid in her arms suddenly began to ball.

"Good boy, I'm your mommy, stop crying." Second Madame Yie tried to console the boy.

But the boy just began to cry even louder: "I want my mommy! I want my mommy! You are not my mommy!"

Second Madam Yie began to rock him in her arms and start singing a little lullaby. "Rock rock rock, rock to grandma's bridge, grandma calls me angel...."

But the kid wouldn't stop crying. Divine Croc was getting really annoyed listening to this.

"Why are you trying to console the kid? If you going to kill him, then you might as well hurry up and kill him."

"... a bag of candy, a bag of fruit, eat a bag and keep a bag." Second Madame Yie kept on singing with a smile on her face.

Mu WanQing was shaking uncontrollably as the more she thought about what Divine Croc said the more frightened she became. According to Divine Croc, Second Madame Yie was going to kill the child, she was furious and afraid at the same time. Second Madame Yie endlessly tried to comfort the kid with another lullaby: "Good kid, mommy's good little boy, good little boys go to sleep soon." Her voice was filled with warmth and care that Mu WanQing could not bring herself to believe what Divine Croc just said.

"You kill a kid every day but yet you still put on this little act every time, have you no shame?" Divine Croc was furious.

"Don't be so loud, you are going to scare my little baby," Second Master Yie quietly told him.

Divine Croc suddenly reached out and tried to grab the kid, wanting to fling him to his death so he doesn't have to listen to another minute of his crying. But even though he was fast, Second Madame Yie was faster still. Her body stepped aside like a ghost or apparition and Divine Croc's move came up empty.

"Ai-yo! Third Brother, why are you trying to bully my baby for no reason?"

"I want to throw that little devil as far as I can so he will shut up!"

"My little darling baby, mommy loves you. Don't be afraid of your ugly monstrous third uncle, he can't beat your mommy." Second Madame Yie softly tried to comfort the kid. "You are so cute, mommy has to play around with you for the night before killing you. Your mommy can't bring herself to part with you yet."

Mu WanQing almost threw up after hearing that. "This Second Madame Yie should indeed be ranked ahead of Divine Croc. This Yue Number Thew is stuck being 'Vicious Demon Evil Fiend,' he's not going to get past her for the rest of his life!" She thought.

After failing on his first attempt, it seemed as if Divine Croc knew that any other attempt would just be futile as he just paced back and forth, cursing fiercely at her under his breath. Suddenly, he shouted: "Get the hell out of here! Where is that kid? Why isn't he here to ask me to become his master?"

Two yellow shirt men slowly stepped out from behind a rock and stopped as far away from Divine Croc as they could. It was the 2 men that Divine Croc instructed to look after Duan Yu.

"Your... your humble servant climbed up that cliff, but... but he's not there. We can't... can't find him anywhere." One of them stuttered out.

Mu WanQing was shocked: "Did... did he fall off the cliff?"

Chapter - 5 Subtle Steps And Hanging Threads

The day break solved her problem for her, because she could not escape any more.

"If that heartless jerk comes, he comes; if he doesn't, he doesn't. All I can do is wait here for death to come." Her thoughts were just turning towards the morose when she suddenly heard a sharp crack behind her. Turning around, she saw an object fell out of the sky and land in the relatively dense area of grass about 100 meters away.

"What could that be?" She immediately flattened herself against the ground. Only when no other sound could be heard from the bush did she, as silently as she could, crawl over to take a peek.

When she finally made it to the thicket and pushed the tall grass aside, what she saw made the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Laid side to side within the thicket of grass was the bodies of 6 infants, some on their side, others facing up. Among them was the infant that she saw Second Madame Yie holding in her hands days ago.

"There are six bodies, and she's been here for 6 days. So it true, that evil wench does kill an infant every day. But why?" It was hard to tell how Second Madame Yie killed the babies because there were no blood or obvious injuries on the bodies. One of the babies was wearing bright and colorful cloths, but the other 5 were wearing cloths made of rough materials typical of farmers, presumably farmers of the No Measure Mountains. Ever since she had left her hide out with her master, Mu Wan Qing had killed quite a number of people. But all of her victims had been people of the pugilistic world who did not have good intentions towards her. Witnessing first hand the murders of these innocent infants made her entire body tremble in fear.

Suddenly a shadow flashed across her view. A person was shooting down the mountain side like a bird, landing every so often, but only momentarily, before taking off again. It was none other than Second Madame Yie. Watching the speed with which she flew, Mu Wan Qing realized that it was a speed that even her master could never hope to obtain. With that realization, a sense of hopelessness shot through her. Her legs gave out from underneath her, making her sit down onto the ground.

She sat there dumbstruck for a while before coming around again. She lined the bodies of the 6 infants up and covered them with little rocks and dirt. Suddenly, a freezing sensation ambushed her from behind. She immediately tapped the ground with her left foot and shot forward. A laughter and inexplicably switches from sharp and thick could be heard coming from behind her.

"Little lady, your hubby just ditched ya, so why don't you follow me instead?" It was Yun Zhong He.

He arrived at the same time as his voice, reaching out trying to grab Mu Wan Qing's waist. Just as it looked like his claws were going to catch her when a sideways palm came in and parried away his hand. The palm was from none other than the Divine Croc.

"Number Four, you better keep away from my Southern Sea Sect!" He yelled in anger.
 

"Your disciple isn't showing up, so this little missy isn't related to your sect." Yun Zhong He quickly hopped about 20 or so meters out of the way. Only now did Mu Wan Qing get a good look at him. He was extremely tall, but also extremely thin, reminding her of a long bamboo stick. Even his face looked impossibly long.

"How the hell do you know my disciple won't show up? Did you kill him?" The Divine Croc replied in anger. "That's right! You must have saw how great my disciple is and kidnapped him for yourself! You messed my plans you bastard, I'm going to strangle you dry!"
 

Being the unreasonable brute that he was, he did not even wait for Yun Zhong He to answer his charges before throwing himself at Yun Zhong He.

"I don't know what shape or color your disciple is as I have never seen him before, how could I try and take him in?" Yun Zhong He yelled as he swiftly dodged Divine Croc's initial flurry.

"Bullshit!" Divine Croc angrily shouted. "Who's going to believe that shit? You lost your fight and took it out on my disciple!"

"Is your disciple a man or a woman?"

"A man, of course! What would I do with a female disciple?"

"Well then! Yun Zhong He only goes after women and is never interested in men. You know all about that don't you?"

Divine Croc was in mid-air when he heard this remark. Finding some reason in it, he immediately switched to "Thousand Ton Boulder" and dove back to Earth.

"So where did my disciple go?" He inquired, placing his right foot up on a piece of rock that happened to be by his feet. "Why hasn't he shown up yet?"

"Hehe, that's your Southern Seas Sect's own business, what does it have to do with me?" Yun Zhong He joked.

"How dare you make fun of me!" The Divine Croc was already terribly frustrated by the absense of Duan Yu, so his temper was very touchy at the moment.

"If I could get the two of them in a fight, it would be very advantageous for me." Mu Wan Qing decided.

"That's right, this Yun Zhong He must have harmed your disciple!" So she shouted. "Or else how could he get down from the cliff all by himself? This Yun Zhong He's lightness kungfu is amazing, so he must have went up the cliff, took your disciple somewhere, and killed him to make sure that Southern Seas Sect would not produce a powerful figure. Why else would the body be missing?"

The Divine Croc slapped his own foreheard as if he had just had an epiphany.

"You see? Even my disciple's wife says so. Are you still saying you are innocent?"

"My husband told me that he could only dream to be so lucky as to have a master as great as you and he has to drive himself so as to bring fame and glory to the great Southern Seas Sect as well as the Divine Croc of the Southern Seas. So famous so that all those 'No Evil Left Undone' and 'Evil Overflowing the Cup' would be so envious of you. But who could have guessed that this Yun Zhong He would be so cruel as to kill you disciple. You'll never be able to find a disciple so like you again!" For every point she made, the Divine Croc slapped his forehead. She continued. "My husband's back of the head is shaped just like yours, not to mention that he is a physical specimen just like you. He's the perfect successor to the Southern Seas Sect. But yet this Yun Zhong He just want to trouble you. So why haven't you avenged your disciple?"

By this time, Divine Croc's eyes were literally on fire as he threw himself at Yun Zhong He. Yun Zhong He knew that Mu Wan Qing was intentionally trying to instigate something but did not have a chance to defend himself. Knowing that his kungfu was not up to par with Divine Croc, he immediately turned and ran when he saw Divine Croc coming at him. Divine Croc landed and took off, once again flying towards him.

"He's running because he's guilty!" Mu Wan Qing poured gasoline on the fire. "If he didn't kill your disciple, then he wouldn't be running!"

"That's right, that makes sense!" Divine Croc shouted. "Give me back my disciple!"

One ran, the other chased. In a blink of an eye the two of them disappeared over the top of the mountain.

Mu Wan Qing was just padding herself on her back when she realized that the Divine Croc's shouts were getting closer once again as the two men worked their way back around to this side of the mountain again.

It was obvious that Yun Zhong He was much faster than Divine Croc. With his long and lanky body, he looked like a bamboo in the wind, shaking left and right, yet a good distance was always maintained between him and Divine Croc. The two of them flashed by in front of Mu Wan Qing and instantly disappeared around to the other side of the mountain again. By the second time the two men made their way back around, Yun Zhong He suddenly changed directions and floated to just Mu Wan Qing's side. He reached out and tried to grab her shoulder. Caught off guard, Mu Wan Qing immediately flicked up her right arm and sent a poisonous arrow flying towards his face. Yun Zhong He slid to his left a little and dodged the arrow. Somehow, with the way his body was twisted, his long arms arrived in front of Mu Wan Qing's face. Mu Wan Qing tried to get out of the way, but she was still a step too slow. A gust of coolness hit her face as her veil ended up in Yun Zhong He's hand.

Yun Zhong He was momentarily dumb struck by Mu Wan Qing's beauty, and then an evil smile crept onto his face.

"Woah, hot damn! This littl girlie here is quite something here. Could be a bit more coy, or else she would be perfect...." While he was busy talking, Divine Croc arrive with his palm howled as his aimed for Yun Zhong He's back. Yun Zhong He gathered his power into his right palm and countered.

"Hong!" A huge explosion of sound could be heard as the power of their strikes met. Mu Wan Qing suddenly felt as if all the air was squeezed out of her as she found it impossible to breath due to the air pressure. Within a radius of several meters, the dust and dirt on the ground swirled about in a frenzy. Using the power of Divine Croc's strike, Yun Zhong He shot back and was instantly 5 meters away.

"Eat my palm!" Divine Croc screamed.

"You can't catch me, and I can't beat you." Yun Zhong He laughingly observed. "We can keep this up for another day and would still be like this."

Once again, the two disappeared, still in chase. But the dirt and dust around Mu Wan Qing have yet to settle.

"I have to figure out a way to get in Yun Zhong He's way, or else these two would never fight." She decided.

Translated by Pacifian

And so she waited for both men to chase around the mountain for the very third time; and as they approached, she leapt upwards.

Chi

sounds reverberated continuously in the air. The next instant, approximately six to seven poisonous arrows raced towards Yun Zhong He.

"Return my husband's life!"

Hearing the swishing sounds of arrows slicing through the air, Yun Zhonghe understood the severity of the situation he was in. Soaring skyward and diving downward, he simultaneously evaded the flurry of arrows which were directed at him. The next moment, Mu Wan Qing unsheathed her sword and slashed twice at his direction, viciously. How would Yun Zhong He not understand her intentions behind all these? Not in the least concerned with defending himself, Yun Zhong He simply floated away; behind him, all Mu Wan Qing's strikes landed on air.

However, with her interference, the Divine Croc's palms finally managed to reach Yun Zhong He. The palm winds generated from his forceful palm strikes completely enveloped Yun Zhong He's body.

"Number Three," Yun Zhong He said, baring a ferocious grin. "I have given way to you countless times; if not for the sake of preserving the friendship between us - the four Arched Villains, do you for once really believe I'm afraid of you?"

That said, his hands reached for his waist, each grasping a steel handle. This handle was at least three feet in length, and at the tip of it lay a human hand. The fingers on the steel handle extended in all directions, and the fingertips glowed in a scintillatingly blue colour. The left claw headed for the right, whilst the right claw went for the left. Instantly, Yun Zhong He's body was sealed in a tight defensive position.

The Divine Croc said gleefully, "Excellent! We haven't met each other for seven years, and now you have trained yourself with such an unorthodox weapon! Now, watch mine!" Done with speaking, he released the contents of his backpack, and from it he pulled out two weapons.

Mu Wan Qing retreated hastily: she knew it was useless for her to join in the battle.

The Divine Croc held a strange-looking scissors with a short handle and a long blade in his right hand, the blade was full of serrated blades, resembling the ferocious jaws of a crocodile. On the other hand, he wielded a soft whip that has razor spikes all over; it looked almost indistinguishable from the tail of a crocodile.

Yun Zhong He glanced at the bizarre weaponry the Divine Croc was using. Without warning, his right steel claw flew out, charging towards the Divine Croc's face. The Divine Croc flipped the Croc Tail Whip in his right hand, and a noisy

pa

resounded, causing the steel claw to propel away forcefully. However, Yun Zhong He's reflexes were amazingly quick; deftly, he flung the other steel claw even before he withdrew his right hand.

Crack! The Croc Jaws Scissors extended itself, clipped Yun Zhong He's left steel claw and gave it a brutal twist. Even though Yun Zhonghe's steel claw was made of pure steel, the Croc Jaws Scissors seemed to be casted from some unknown material. It broke two fingers out of the five on the Steel Claw with absurd ease. Fortunately, Yun Zhong He had retracted his hand swiftly, preventing the other three fingers from being snipped away. However, the Claw skill he was practising all along required the use of all ten fingers. Now that he had two fingers missing, the power displayed in his moves was greatly weakened. A crestfallen look fell over Yun Zhong He's face.

The Divine Croc laughed nastily as he advanced, snatching the offensive position with a nimbly-curling Croc-Tail whip.

All of a sudden, a green shadow intervened; this new apparition slipped ethereally and elegantly between the two fighters.

This person was none other than Second Madam Ye.

Her left palm swept across horizontally, pressing itself onto the Croc Tail Whip, and manoeuvred it aside. Yun Zhong He quickly seized this opportunity to leap away from danger.

"Number Three, Number Four, why are the both of you fighting with each other?" Second Madam Ye asked. Turning around, she saw Mu Wan Qing's face; suddenly, her expression changed dramatically.

Mu Wan Qing saw that Second Madam Ye was holding an infant in her arms. It was a boy, approximately around the age of three to four, he was dressed in clothes made of brocade, and looked really adorable. She immediately understood the purpose of Second Madam Ye descent of the mountain: she wanted to search for her child. The peculiar look in her eyes scared Mu Wan Qing; she looked away immediately, not daring to face Second Madam Ye.

Suddenly, the infant cried, "Daddy! Daddy! Shan Shan wants Daddy!"

"Shan Shan be obedient. Daddy will come soon." said Second Madam Ye soothingly.

The scene of the six grisly remains she saw on the grass plains earlier swam into view; after hearing Secong Madam Ye's affectionate words of comfort to the infant, Mu Wan Qing felt her hair rise on end.

"Second sister, Number Three's recent Croc Jaws Scissors and Croc Tail Whip kung fu is quite amazing," laughed Yun Zhong He; "I have only played with him for a short while, yet I still found it difficult to even defend myself. What skills have you been practising these seven years? Are you able to challenge Number Three's dual formidable weapons? I am afraid you, too, are unable to do so."

He made no mention on Divine Croc wronging him, nor did he say anything about how the Divine Croc had blatantly claimed about his non-existent murder of Duan Yu - even when he had absolutely no idea how Duan Yu looked like. All he wanted to do was to get both Second Madam Ye and Divine Croc in battle with each other by casually saying a few simple sentences.

As Second Madam Ye ascended the mountain, she had already seen the two men battling with their lives - she knew their spar wasn't all that friendly. A faint smile lifted the sides of her lips as she replied, "For seven years I have been practising my internal energy kung fu industriously - my physical combat skills have thus became somewhat rusty. Naturally, I am not a match for either of you."

From the waist of the mountain below, a cry rang. "That madam up there, what are you trying to do with my child? Return him to me!"

Before the voice ceased, a man has already leaped towards the peak, his body movements fluid and agile. He was in his forties, and wore bronze-coloured clothes of satin, his hand wielding a long sword.

The Divine Croc hollered, "Who are you, punk? How dare you make so much noise here! Were you the one who stole my disciple?"

"This mister is the renowned master of the East Faction "No Measure Sword", Zuo Zi Mu. His swordplay is not worth a single comment, but his baby sure is an adorable one," explained a laughing Second Madam Ye.

Realization dawned on Mu Wan Qing.

Second Madam Ye was unable to search for a kid in Mt. No Measure; as a result, she decided to do with the child of the master of No Measure Sword sect.

"Mister Zuo, your darling son is so lovable and interesting. Once I'm done hugging him, I will return him to you tomorrow. Fret not."

Second Madam Ye then kissed Shan Shan's cheek and ruffled his hair gently, her eyes filled with motherly warmth. Shan Shan saw his father and began to cry, "Daddy! Daddy!"

Zuo Zi Mu extended his left hand and walked closer towards his child, as he implored, "My child is extremely playful; there is nothing fun about him, so please return him immediately, and I will be eternally grateful to you."

The moment he saw his son, his tone changed abruptly from rough to soft. He feared that this woman might suddenly exert force and strangle his son to death.

The Divine Croc chuckled, "This madam is "No Evil Left Undone", Third Madam Ye. Even if the Emperor's son landed in her arms, chances of her returning the baby are zero."

Cold sweat poured down Zuo's back, as he began to tremble. "You… You are Third Madam Ye? So Second Madam Ye … Second Madam Ye is related to you in… in what way?"

He has heard of the dreaded name of the "Four Arched Villains", and remembered the person ranked second among the Four Villains was a lady called Second Madam Ye, who loved snatching an infant by day to play and tease until evening, which she would then brutally torture the poor kid to death. The last thing he wanted was that this "Third Madam Ye" was somehow related to Second Madam Ye, say, as sisters, and that both of them somehow shared the same insane habit.

Second Madam Ye gave a coquettish laughter and said, "Don't listen to his nonsense. I am Second Madam Ye. Since when have there been a Third Madam Ye?"

All colour drained out of Zuo Zi Mu's face. When he realized his child has been snatched away, he tried all his might to chase the abductor; however, he realized her kung fu was way above his. Initially, he thought since he had not been acquainted with this lady who snatched his child, she wouldn't harm Shan Shan since they haven't had any past grudges or feuds. It was only until this point that he knew this lady was in fact Second Madam Ye - he felt all the words he had initially wanted to say glued themselves to his throat, be they pleading or demanding.

Second Madam Ye held Shan Shan's palm and examined it closely under the sun. Following that, she checked the colour of his blood and clucked her tongue in praise - as though he was an animal in the market, awaiting to be fed and eventually slaughtered for food. "What a healthy young boy he is! Look at his glowing smooth skin, and his blood - scarlet and crystal clear, almost transparent! After all, he is the child of a wulin pugilist; therefore he is undoubtedly much more special compared with those children raised in a farm."

Watching the hungry, ravenous look in her eyes, which looked as though she was about to eat Shan Shan alive in no time, Zuo Zi Mu wasn't willing to give up without a fight, even though he knew he was no match for her. Overwhelmed with fury, he unleashed the stance "White Rainbow pierces the Sun".

His sword lunged at Second Madam Ye's throat.

A faint laughter emitted from Second Madam Ye; she gently held the infant at the path of the sword. Had Zuo Zi Mu continued this strike, his child would undoubtedly be killed.

Fortunately, he was quite experienced in the fields of swordplay. While this stance was at its peak of motion, he swiftly retracted the force behind the sword, and the tip of the blade wavered briefly in the air, before a second flash of light blinked. This time round, the sword went for Second Madam's right shoulder.

Instead of evading this strike, Second Madam Ye shifted Shan Shan's body once again, and held him in front of her. In the swift blink of an eye, Zuo Zi Mu stabbed four times, yet all Second Madam Ye did was to lazily change the position of Shan Shan's body. All four vicious stances he pulled on her could only be used halfway and had to be forcibly stopped by the user himself. After all these stances have completed, Shan Shan began to bawl in fright.

After being chased round the mountain thrice - all thanks to Divine Croc - plus having to tolerate the heart-wrenching pain of watching two precious fingers of his Steel Claw snipped off, Yun Zhong He felt himself boiling with anger. With the unbearable fury threatening to erupt from within him, he soared into the air, thrusting out his Left Steel Claw towards Zuo Zi Mu's head.

Lifting his sword, Zuo Zi Mu performed the stroke "Ten Thousand Plants Vie for Glamour" in an effort to parry Yun Zhong He's move. In an instant, madly-dancing sword sparks enshrouded the top of his head, shielding his upper body against Yun Zhong He's attacks.

A

dang

sound echoed in the air: both weapons clashed with each other.

Following that, Zuo Zi Mu unleashed the stance "Pushes Boat towards the Water Current", sending the blade of his sword towards Yun Zhong He's throat. All of a sudden, the fingers of a Steel Claw closed onto the blade, trapping the sword.

Zuo Zi Mu would never anticipate this even in his wildest dreams, but he was unwilling to release his sword just like this. He immediately channeled his internal energy, trying fruitlessly to release the sword from his opponent's grip.

With a

pu

, Yun Zhong He's right Steel Claw sank into Zuo Zi Mu's shoulder. Fortunately, with two fingers on the Steel Claw snipped off, the damage inflicted on Zuo Zi Mu wasn't too bad. However, it was enough to cause some severe bleeding. Now that he had three steel fingers firmly closed on to his opponent's shoulder bone, Yun Zhong He took this opportunity to leap forward and kicked him forcefully.

These movements were like a leap of a rabbit or the swooping down of a crane: not only were they incredibly nifty, they were also totally unpredictable - impossible to block. Even the leader of a powerful sect like Zuo Zi Mu had absolutely no chance of defending himself.

"Number Four," the Divine Croc praised, "these few strokes aren't too bad, at least they aren't too embarrassing."

Second Madam Ye giggled again, "Leader Zuo, have you seen our Number One before?"

Zuo Zi Mu's right shoulder bone remained clutched onto painfully by Yun Zhong He's Steel Claw; he wasn't able to move an inch. He tried hard to bear the pain and answered with gritted teeth, "Who is your Number One? I have never seen him before."

The Divine Croc joined in the interrogation. "Have you seen my disciple before?"

"Who is your disciple? I have never seen him before."

The Divine Croc roared furiously. "Since you do not know who my disciple is, how could you say you have never seen him before? Fart your mother's ****** ***** ***! Third sister, quick! Let's devour his son alive!"

Second Madam Ye laughed, "Your second sister doesn't eat little infants. Leader Zuo, please leave, we don't want to take your life."

"Since you don't want to take my life, second … Second Madam Ye, please return my child to me, I will go search for three to four kids for you to play with. I shall be eternally grateful to you."

"That's fine with me, go search for eight little kids and I shall return your son to you. We have four people here in total, each of us shall carry two children each, and that should be enough to satisfy my needs for eight days. Number Four, release him."

Yun Zhong He smirked as he released the trigger. Teeth still gritted, Zuo Zi Mu stood up, and bowed deeply towards Second Madam Ye; he then extended his arms to hug his child.

Second Madam Ye laughed. "Being a man from the pugilistic fraternity, how could you not know the basic rules? Until you finally get eight kids prepared for an exchange, do you think I will casually return the child to you?"

Seeing Shan Shan in her hands, Zuo Zi Mu felt displeased, but as a victim of circumstances, he could only nod and said gloomily, "I will pick eight fattest children for you to play with, please treat my child with good care."

Second Madam Ye ignored him. She cradled the child, humming a tune, before saying, "Little grandson, your nanny adores you so much."

Zuo Zi Mu understood the meaning behind calling Shan Shan "grandson": Second Madam Ye was implying she was now his mother. Unable to laugh nor cry, he turned to his son and said, "Shan Shan be obedient. Daddy will come and hug you as soon as I can."

Seeing his father leave, Shan Shan bawled noisily, struggling to jump into his father's arms. Zuo Zi Mu couldn't bear to leave his child; he cast a sideways glance at Shan Shan a few more times, before holding on to his injured shoulder and turned around, slowly descending the mountain.

Suddenly, a sharp whistling sound shook the air; it seemed to be coming from behind the mountain. The whistling kept sounding continually; it seemed like it will never fade.

Both the Divine Croc and Yun Zhong He had glee written all over their faces.

"Number One is finally here!"

Both leapt towards the direction of the whistling sound, vanishing from sight almost instantly like gases diffusing into the air. However, Second Madam Ye seemed oblivious of the sound; instead she continued playing with Shan Shan, until her gaze fell on Mu Wan Qing.

She simpered, "Miss Mu, you have such gorgeous eyes on your mesmerizing face, this is absolutely intolerable. Leader Zuo, help do me a favour and dig out this lady's eyeballs."

Now that his son was being held captive, Zuo Zi Mu had no choice but to obey. "Miss Mu, it's best that you follow according to Second Madam Ye's instructions, it will save you much pain and suffering," said Zuo, as he brandished his sword at her direction, before stabbing the sword towards her.

"Despicable lowlife!" Mu Wan Qing shrieked. She pulled out her sword and swung it at Zuo's left shoulder. Three strokes were exchanged; suddenly, Mu Wan Qing's body swerved as she threw out her left arm.

Chi! Chi! Chi!

Three poisonous arrows flew towards Second Madam Ye, attempting to attack her off-guard.

"Don't hurt my child!" Zuo Zi Mu yelled.

What Mu Wan Qing did not expect was that as speedy her poison arrows might be, all it took of Second Madam Ye was a mere whisk of her left sleeve and all three arrows were wrapped, instantly, into a harmless bundle; she then disposed them off easily by throwing the arrows aside. When that was done, she conveniently removed Shan Shan's shoe and flung it towards Mu Wan Qing's back.

Mu Wan Qing heard something soaring towards her from behind. She hastily swung her sword to the back, trying to knock it away. Unfortunately, her injury caused her to hold the sword at a wrong angle, such that the shoe was able to slide down the surface of her sword upon contact and struck her right waist with a loud

pu

sound.

As Second Madam Ye tossed the shoe, she imbued her internal energy into the shoe, Mu Wan Qing tried desperately to use her own internal energy to resist that of Second Madam Ye. However, in the process of all this she was unable to take even a single breath and thus became momentarily paralyzed. No longer being able to hold onto her sword, she released her grip on the weapon as it fell with a loud "qiang-lang". The very next thing she knew, a second shoe was soaring towards her, striking her chest.

Mu Wan Qing's eyes saw nothing but darkness; she was unable to hold on any longer and collapsed. Zuo Zi Mu's sword swerved abruptly and aimed towards her chest; meanwhile, he extended his left hand to gouge out her right eye.

"Brother Duan!" cried Mu Wan Qing as she jumped towards the blade; she'd rather die under the sword than undergo the excruciating torture - and humiliation - of getting her eyes gorged out.

Zuo Zi Mu pulled back his sword to prevent killing her; suddenly he felt something mighty tugging at his wrists. In an instant, he lost control of the sword; it flew towards the skies upon release. The powerful force he'd just experienced forced him back several steps.

All three of them gasped as they watched the sword flying in mid-air. A soft, thin rope wrapped around the blade of the sword, an iron metal handle was attached to the other end of the rope; it was held onto by a soldier in yellow garments. This man appeared to be around in his thirties; the heroism expressed in his facial features was impressive yet frightening. A cold sneer spread across his face.

Second Madam Ye recognized this man as the very person who battled with Yun Zhong He seven days ago, and knew that his martial arts are not weak; in fact, his martial arts were only a notch weaker than hers. She was not afraid of him; however, she feared that his companions have arrived too.

And indeed, another yellow-clothed soldier stood at the East, an axe tied to his waist.

Before she could say another word, noises rumbled loudly from behind her. She turned around and saw two more yellow-clothed soldiers standing at the South-East and the South-West direction. Like the two soldiers who first arrived, they had uncarved gems on their collar and looked like military officers. The soldier at the North-East wielded a pair of judge pens, while the other at the North-West held a staff forged using refined copper, which was so tall it reached his eyebrows.

All four men stood around the corners of the peak, forming an enclosed wall around the three.

Zuo Zi Mu called out loudly, "So the four honorable Dali palace guardians Chu, Gu, Fu, Zhu have arrived. Zuo Zi Mu from No Measure Sword pays his respect here." After speaking, he bowed courteously to them.

Palace guardian Zhu Dan Chen, the man wielding the pair of judge pens clasped his fist respectfully in the direction of Zuo Zi Mu. The other three military officers, however, ignored him.

Chu Wan Li, the palace guardian who arrived first among the four, brandished the metal handle in his hand, causing the sword trapped in mid-air by his rope to vibrate vigorously. The reflection caused by the sun rays made the sword sparkle beautifully like stars in the night, as he sneered, "No Measure Sword is quite a powerful sect in Dali, but nobody expected the leader of the sect to be such a despicable creature. Where is Young Master Duan?"

Initially, all that Mu Wan Qing could think of was suicide and more suicide. Now that a potential saviour has arrived, these thoughts were replaced immediately by relief and joy. Hearing this palace guardian enquiring about Duan Yu, she suddenly felt as if this stranger were a close relative of hers.

Zuo Zi Mu murmured, "Young... Young Master Duan? Ah yes, I saw him a few days ago, but I have no clue to where he is now."

"Young Master Duan has been tortured to death by this evil lady's brother," Mu Wan Qing pointed an accusing finger at Second Madam Ye, before adding, "That man was named something like 'To The Core Evil' Yun Zhong He; he looks so skinny and tall I could compare him to a bamboo."

"What? That man killed Young Master?" Chu Wan Li gasped.

Grief and fury overwhelmed Fu Si Gui, the palace guardian weilding the copper staff. "Young Master Duan," he bellowed, the copper staff in his hands lunging towards the top of Second Madam Ye's head. It looked almost ready to slam down onto her head. "I will avenge your death!"

With a flash Second Madam Ye evaded Fu Si Gui's moves as her body streaked about, while she shrieked, "Aiyo! My little babies, you, Dali's four palace guardians surnamed Chu, Gu, Fu and Zhu. How could you kiddies die so young? How can mummy not feel miserable? You little unfortunate babies, wait for mummy while in hell!"

Chu, Gu, Fu and Zhu palace guardians were only slightly younger than her, yet Second Madam Ye kept calling out "my little children" and "unfortunate babies", claiming to be their mother.

Fu Si Gui looked murderous; he swung his copper staff viciously about, creating fierce swishing noises in the air. In an instant, his copper staff dissolved into a yellow mist which enclosed Second Madam Ye in between.

Holding onto Zuo Zi Mu's son, Second Madam Ye's weaving body penetrated every opening in the flurry of her opponent's stances, evading every single stroke of the copper staff. As she dodged about, the child in her arms started crying.

Zuo Zi Mu anxiously cried for everybody to stop fighting, now that he feared that his child might get hurt. "Both of you stop fighting! Both of you stop fighting!"

Another palace guardian withdrew his axe and bellowed, "'No Evil left Undone' Second Madam Ye certainly lives up to her name. Allow me Gu Du Cheng to challenge your amazing skills."

As soon as his voice can be heard, Gu Du Cheng went rolling on the floor. His hand shot out suddenly, as he hacked at her legs with the strongest move of his "Viciously Intersecting Eighteen Axes". Axes seemed to appear from both sides of her body; they closed in towards her and began striking brutally from all directions.

Second Madam Ye laughed, "This child is such an obstruction. You kill him first."

With that, she shifted Shan Shan towards the blade of the axe. Gu Du Cheng gasped and withdrew his axe immediately. Without missing a beat, Second Madam Ye seized this chance to launch a flying kick at his shoulder. Fortunately, this kick only caused him to stagger without suffering from any injury, for Gu Du Cheng had quite a muscular build. Recovering from the pain, he immediately jumped up and attack.

However, Second Madam Ye had the child as a form of shield; as such, Gu Du Cheng and Fu Si Gui's attacks met with restrictions everywhere: neither of them had the intention of harming the little infant.

Zuo Zi Mu shouted again, "Careful, my child is in her hands! Careful! Careful! Brother Fu, your staff is a little bit too high. Brother Gu, your axe mustn't… mustn't get too close to my child."

Amidst all the mess, the melodious sound of a flute resounded in the air from the mountain ridge. It sounded clear, loud and intense. Shortly after, the music seemed to be coming from nearby. From behind the mountain, a middle-aged man sauntered into view, wearing large robes and sleeves. He had three tufts of beard and had a lofty appearance. He walked gracefully towards them, playing the metal flute in his hands as he did so.

Zhu Dan Chen darted towards his side and whispered something into his ear. The stranger continued playing the flute; the tune was melodious and relaxing; this stranger calmly walked towards the site where they were battling earlier.

Suddenly, the flute rang loudly, causing the people around him to clutch their ears for dear life as if their eardrums were about to explode. He then covered all the holes in the flute with all ten fingers, as he gathered energy and blew into it with force. A ferocious gust of wind burst out from the other end of the flute, searing towards Second Madam Ye's face.

Shocked, Second Madam Ye turned around and evaded the blow; as she did so, she felt one end of the flute pressing at her throat.

Both movements were frighteningly quick; even for a person with such speedy reflexes like Second Madam Ye, she was rendered quite helpless when faced with such a situation. Raising her waist slightly, she forced herself to retreat many feet backwards. As she did so, she suddenly hurled Shan Shan's body downwards while extending her arms, trying to grab the metal flute.

Before the infant touched the floor, the stranger wearing huge robes threw out his sleeve; they curled around the infant and lifted it, harmlessly.

The very moment when Second Madam Ye's hand grabbed the metal flute, she felt as though she were holding a burning piece of coal! She gasped in shock and leapt backwards, releasing the flute immediately as she did so; she wondered whether the flute was coated with poison.

The stranger flung his sleeves; Shan Shan's body flew steadily towards Zuo Zi Mu.

Second Madam Ye glanced sideways and noticed the stranger's palms was as scarlet as blood.

Her eyes widened in surprise.

The flute was actually not coated with poison at all; instead, it was his internal energy all along which made the metal flute burn as though it had just came out of a furnace.

Retreating a few steps in fear, she laughed, "This mister's kung fu is indeed almighty, it is unimaginable that such a small country like Dali have such a powerful figure. May I ask for your honorable name?"

The stranger returned a faint smile. "It is such an honour to have Second Madam Ye's arrival here at our tiny boundary. It is fortunate, indeed fortunate of us, and hence we, the citizens of Dali, should welcome you gracefully as your host."

Surprise and happiness welled inside Zuo Zi Mu's heart as he hugged his son tightly, blurting out, "Your excellency must be Lord... Lord Gao?"

The stranger did not reply, instead he returned another faint smile, before facing Second Madam Ye and inquired her politely, "Where is Mister Duan? Please do tell."

"I do not know his whereabouts, and even if I do, why should I tell you?" sneered Second Madam Ye.

With that, she sprang into the air; her soaring body was about to land onto the peak of a mountain nearby.

"Halt!" The wide-robed stranger cried, his body soaring after her.

Suddenly, several gleaming lights dazzled before his eyes. Upon closer look, they were in actual fact seven to eight hidden projectiles speeding towards him in mid-air - each of them aiming for them various acupoints on his head.

Waving his metal flute swiftly, the stranger made every single projectile drop simultaneously onto the floor below. It was, however, too late to apprehend Second Madam Ye as she took this opportunity to escape. Her shadow weaved and flashed about, and it was impossible to catch her anymore owing to the now huge distance between her and himself. He turned to look at the "hidden projectiles" on the ground; they were in fact a variety of mere accessories that a child has on him or her. There was a longevity tablet, mini-lock, gold and silver items, etc.

"These are objects of the many children she has killed. If this menace isn't removed, heaps of infants will fall prey in the country of Dali." He mused.

Chu Wan Li waved the metal handle in his hands. The soft rope uncurled itself, sending the sword flying towards Zuo Zi Mu, hilt facing him. Embarrassed, Zuo Zi Mu extended his arm and caught onto his sword. Under such embarrassing circumstances, he couldn't say a word.

Chu Wan Li then turned around to ask Mu Wan Qing, "What has truly happened to Mister Duan? Had he really been killed by Yun Zhong He?"

These people seem to be Brother Duan's friends, I'll better tell them the truth, and we shall go search for him at the other side of the cliff.

Mu Wan Qing thought. As she opened her mouth to speak, she heard somebody crying out anxiously from the waist of the mountain, sounding half-dead, "Miss Mu... Miss Mu... Are you still there? Divine Croc, here I come, I beseech you not to hurt Miss Mu! Regarding the matter of acknowledging you as master, we shall discuss that in the future... Miss Mu, Miss Mu, are you alright?"

The wide-robed stranger and the military officers cried in joy. "Young Master is here!"

During the long suffering wait for Duan Yu for seven long days, the emotional agony in her heart was able to rival her physical pain; until now was she finally able to hear his voice again; as surprise and relief overwhelmed her, she lost consciousness.

Everything is in a state of blur. Mu Wan Qing heard someone calling softly, anxiously into her ear.

"Miss Mu, Miss Mu, please... please wake up!" All feelings and memories flooded back into her mind. She began to gain consciousness, and soon found herself in the arms of somebody. Somebody was hugging her tightly, she instinctively tried to jump away from this person's arms, but then a thought entered her mind: This must be Brother Duan. Her heart was full of sweetness, yet at the same time she tasted bitterness, and as she slowly opened her eyes, she saw a pair of clear eyes, like that of a river during autumn.

Who else could it be besides Duan Yu?

His voice was full of relief. "Ah, you have finally awakened!"

Tears rolled down Mu Wan Qing's cheeks as she raised her hand and gave him a painful slap. However, she continued to lean on his body, as her now depleted body made leaping out of his arms impossible.

Carressing his own face, Duan Yu laughed, "You fierce lady! How dare you hit me for no reason?" Later, he added, "Where is Divine Croc? Wasn't he waiting for me earlier?"

"He has been waiting for you for seven days and seven nights, wasn't that enough? He left."

Upon hearing these words, Duan Yu looked as though he was revitalized; he cheered gleefully. "Excellent! Excellent! I was in such a loss earlier, if he was to force me to become his disciple, I… I don't know what I am supposed to do."

"Since you are unwilling to become his disciple, why bother coming here?"

Duan Yu replied in surprise. "Eh? You were held hostage by him, right? If I am not to come, won't he be going to harm you then? How could I let this happen?"

Sweetness filled Mu Wan Qing's heart, her following words in stark contrast to her feelings. "Hmph! You, totally evil and heartless creep, why haven't you search for me during these seven days?"

Duan Yu sighed, "I was held captive and couldn't escape. However, I thought of you whole day and night everyday, the anxiety in my heart was tormenting me so badly. The moment I could escape, I went searching for you immediately."

*

That very day when the Divine Croc abducted Mu Wan Qing, leaving a flustered, agonised Duan Yu alone at the mountain peak.

I'd better beg that villain to keep me under his tutelage; in this case Miss Mu's life wouldn't be in such danger,

Duan Yu thought.

But if I were to become a disciple of that villain, and learn that noisy-cracking neck-breaking skill, things will become terrible. After teaching me these skills, he would get me to perform this horrid skill on innocent people, and I will be breaking the necks of one after another, that is totally horrible! Fortunately, this villain is quite reasonable, albeit cruel and vicious, if I were to debate with him once more, there is a possibility of getting him to release Miss Mu and not keeping me under his tutelage.

As he paced back and forth, his mind was filled with a never-ending stream of thoughts; suddenly, he felt a pain in his abdomen. A thought struck him.

Aiyoh! This is not good! How could I have forgotten? I have already acknowledged Dear Goddess as my master, so I'm a disciple of Xiao Yao Sect. As a disciple of Xiao Yao Sect, how can I change sects? Right, I am going to reason with that villain, and I must hear him say once again 'This makes sense'.

What if

, he suddenly thought,

that villain wanted me to display the kung fu of Xiao Yao Sect, I couldn't do anything at all; the Divine Croc surely wouldn't be convinced of my being a disciple of Xiao Yao Sect.

Dear Goddess had instructed me to practice the divine martial arts in that scroll thrice everyday--morning, afternoon and night.

However, having experienced the most dangerous and busiest times of his life, he barely even touched it.

I deserved death

, he mused.

Guilt-stricken, he reached into his robes to pull out the scroll. Suddenly he heard footsteps from behind; as he turned to look, he gasped in shock. In front of him were a huge crowd of very familiar people, all of whom were walking along the side of the cliff.

The first person was the leader of Divine Farmer Clan, Si Kong Xuan. Behind him stood Zuo Zi Mu, the leader of the East Faction and Xin Shuang Qing, leader of West Faction of No Measure Sword. The rest were disciples of the three Sects. The sight of everybody crowding together puzzled Duan Yu. Weren't these people fighting their all with each other earlier?

Not bad,

he thought,

these guys were finally able to convert their enmity towards one another into one of friendshipfriendship.

The huge crowd of people made two rows at each side of the cliff, as they bowed courteously, as though awaiting the arrival of someone of high power and authority.

Shades of green flashed; eight ladies appeared, all of them leaping up the side of the cliff. They all wore a emerald cape that had a large vulture embroidered onto it.

I am going to die,

Duan Yu thought in fear. He could recognise the clothing the ladies were wearing, anytime.

Four ladies stood at each side. One more lady dressed in green walked up the peak of the mountain. She was only in her twenties, her facial features clear and beautiful. However, her eyebrows seemed to conceal a murderous air. She glared at Duan Yu and snapped, "Who are you? What are you doing here?"

Duan Yu felt immense relief upon hearing these words.

This lady has yet to know it was me and Miss Mu who had killed her four friends and attempted to disguise ourselves as the sacred heralds of the Nimble Vulture Palace. Since that cape has been wrapped on the obese Granny Ping, and Miss Mu's cape has disappeared into the Lan Chan River, these ladies have no evidence at all, so I can easily push away all charges made against me then.

"I am Duan Yu from the country of Dali, and had once become a guest in Mister Zuo's No Measure palace with a friend of mine…."

"Buddy Duan," Zuo Zi Mu interrupted hastily. "No Measure Sword has currently been submitted to the great subordinates of Nimble Vulture Palace. No Measure Palace has now been renamed No Measure Cave; hence the three words 'No Measure Palace' will now cease to exist."

What a brilliant idea,

Duan Yu thought amusedly to himself,

now that you were defeated by others, you admitted defeat and surrendered!

"Congratulations! Congratulations!" Duan Yu smiled, "Mister Zuo has finally forsaken the dark side and has now seen the light! This is something worth celebrating…"

When have I been in the "dark side", and what "light" have I seen?

Zuo Zi Mu thought to himself; however, these words cannot be spoken aloud; all he could do was to return a forced smile.

Duan Yu continued, "I have earlier witnessed a misunderstanding that occured between this Leader Si Kong and Leader Zuo, and had attempted to clear the dispute. Unfortunately, things were messed up even further: I had to retrieve an antidote under the orders of Leader Si Kong. Little did I expect to meet the Divine Croc Yue Number Three, who said I am of high intelligence and forced me to become a disciple of his. I told him I know no kung fu, yet this villain was such an unreasonable creep; he abducted me and brought me here, and gave me no other choices besides acknowledging him as my master. I feel so helpless…"

Following that, he bowed courteously and said, "How am I to escape from this impossibly high precipice? Answering Missy's question pertaining to what am I doing here, I just have to say I am awaiting death."

Nothing Duan Yu has just said was false, the earlier part of what he had said was true, the later part was not false in every aspect; all he did was to omit a huge portion of what happened in the middle.

Confucius omitted the words "Spring Autumn" in his work, he narrates but doesn't create it

, Duan Yu mused.

Omitting portions of text is not against the way of the sages, only when one lies then he wouldn't be a true gentleman.

"En," the lady replied softly, before continuing, "So the Four Villains have indeed arrived at Dali. What kind of 'high intelligence' do you possess which made Yue Number Three wants nothing better than to make you his disciple?"

Before the reply came, her gaze swept towards Sikong Xuan and Zuo Zi Mu and inquired, "his words aren't false, are they?"

"Indeed, " Zuo Zi Mu replied.

"Reporting Sacred Herald," Si Kong Xuan spoke, "This lad knows no kung fu, all he knew was to create a mess out of everything."

"According to the both of you, there were two creeps who had the audacity to disguise as my sisters and escaped to this peak. Where are they?" The lady spoke, once again turning towards Duan Yu. "Mister Duan, did you happen to see two ladies dressed in a green cape just like us?"

"Nope," Duan Yu replied. "I have not seen anybody dressed up like you, sister."

The two impostors disguising as you people weren't "two ladies"

, Duan Yu thought, searching for an excuse to justify his statement so as to not make it a lie and go against his principles:

They were a man and a lady, and without a mirror, I can't see how I look like, as for Miss Mu, she is only "one" lady, not "two ladies"

.

Nodding her head, the lady turned towards Si Kong Xuan and said, "You must have been a subordinate of Nimble Vulture Palace for quite a long time?"

Si Kong Xuan replied tremulously, "Yes…. I have been a subordinate for - for eight years…."

The lady spoke again, "What a fool you have been, not even able to recognize us sisters. What help can you do for Kid Nanny? Regarding this year's antidote for your Life-Death Insignia, you won't have any hope."

A despondent look fell over his ashen face; he knelt on the floor and began kowtowing to the lady as he begged, "Have mercy Sacred Herald! Have mercy Sacred Herald!"

This goatie hasn't died yet; Miss Mu must have given him some fake antidote, or did the people from the Nimble Vulture Palace give him some miraculous medicine?

Duan Yu thought in puzzlement,

and what on earth is the "antidote for Life-Death Insignia"?

Ignoring Sikong Xuan, the lady turned her attention towards Xin Shuang Qing. "Bring Mister Duan down with you. If the Four Villains dare to create any trouble, tell them to find me at Obscure Peak, Nimble Vulture Palace! I shall leave the matter of apprehending the two impostors to the people of No Measure Cave. Hehe…. What audacity! Those two traitors Gan Guang Hao and Ge Guang Pei must be brought back and slain. If any of you sees my four sisters, inform them to return to Nimble Vulture Palace, I shan't wait for them any longer."

Every sentence she spoke, Xin Shuang Qing replied another, making sure his eyes do not meet the lady's ones. After she finished speaking, the lady walked down the peak herself without even giving a final look at the crowd. The eight women accompanying her followed closely and left.

Si Kong Xuan was kneeling on the floor all this while, the moment the nine women left the peak, he immediately leapt towards the side of the cliff, yelling "Sacred Herald Fu, please pass this message of mine to Kid Nanny, Si Kong Xuan has let her down."

As he said so, he sprang to the other side of the cliff and dived towards River Lan Chan miles below. Everybody called aloud in shock. Divine Farmer Clan members rushed quickly towards the side of the cliff.

Turbid waves billowed and surged past fiercely; their Clan leader was nowhere to be seen. Many of the clan disciples began to weepy and started pounding their chests in agony.

Seeing the way their leader Si Kong Xuan had ended, the disciples of No Measure Sword stared at each other in dismay.

Leader Si Kong's death is partly my fault

, a remorseful Duan Yu thought sadly.

"Take care of Mister Duan as you bring him down," ordered Xin Shuang Qing, as he pointed towards two male disciples of the East Faction of No Measure Sword. The two men, named Yu Guang Biao and Wu Guang Sheng, bowed and complied.

Duan Yu finally reached the foot of the hill after a very long walk as he was being hauled by the two men. He took a deep breath and cupped his hands courteously to Zuo Zi Mu and Xin Shuang Qing, saying "I thank the both of you sincerely for escorting me down the mountain, let's part our ways here."

His eyes darted around and he spotted the mountain the Divine Croc was pointing at earlier, as he thought in dismay, climbing up this mountain must be harder than descending that mountain by manifolds.

I doubt the people of No Measure Sword will be that nice to carry me up that hill, I'll just have to save Miss Mu with all I can,

he mused.

To his shock, Xin Shuang Qing said, "Please do not hurry away and do accompany me back to No Measure Cave."

"No," Duan Yu said in alarm, "No, I have many things to do for the moment, I can't comply today. Apologies. Apologies."

"Hng!" Xin Shuang Qing humphed and made a hand signal. Both Yu and Wu immediately stretched their arms and locked his arms tightly with theirs and continued moving ahead.

"Hey! Hey! Leader Xin, Leader Zuo, I have never offended the both of you in any way. That Sacred Herald sister has commanded the both of you to escort me down the mountain, now we have descended the mountain and I have thanked you people. What more do you want from me?"

(Briefly edited by lilchilipepper)

Neither Xin Shuang Qing nor Zuo Zi Mu bothered to listen. Seized tightly captive between Yu and Wu, Duan Yu had no choice save to follow them back to the No Measure Cave.

The two men brought Duan Yu past five houses and through a large garden before stopping in front of three small houses. Wu Guang Sheng opened the door, while Yu Guang Biao pushed him firmly forwards. As soon as Duan Yu stumbled into the house, the door closed behind him with a resounding clicking sound. The door had been locked, and he was now efficiently trapped within.

"How unreasonable can you No Measure Sword people get? How can you all treat me like a criminal? It's not as if No Measure Sword is the authorities. How could you imprison people for absolutely no reason?" Duan Yu called out.

The noises outside ceased instantly. Despite all of his shouting and screaming, nobody seemed to notice him at all.

Duan Yu sighed,

Since things happened this way, let it be. All I can do now is to await my fate.

The descent from the mountain had exhausted him sorely, and, upon seeing a bed and a table in the room, he immediately reclined on the bed and fell asleep.

Before long, a person came to serve him food; surprisingly, it did not taste awful. Turning to the servant who brought the food, Duan Yu spoke, "Go and report to your two leaders. Tell them I have a word to…" Before he could finish saying what he wanted to say, he heard Yu Guang Biao roaring gruffly outside the door.

"That little lad whose surname is Duan, you had better keep your mouth shut. I could care less whether you want to sleep or lie down, but if I hear just one more sound coming from you, expect no more mercy from us. You speak one sentence, and I will return it with a slap. Two sentences, two slaps, another three will get you three from me. Surely you know how to count?"

Duan Yu instantly fell silent.

These barbarians will truly not hesitate to do something they have threatened. When Miss Mu slapped me, my cheeks were certainly in pain, but there was sweetness in my heart. If these guys slapped me, things definitely would be far different.

He finished three large bowls of rice and rested on the bed again.

I wonder if Miss Mu is alright now,

he thought in worry.

It would be best if she manages to shoot Divine Croc to death with her poisonous arrows, and then comes to rescue me. Ay, how could I actually hope for her to kill people?

Another string of thoughts swam around in his head before he finally gave a weary yawn and fell asleep.

This time, he slept until the following morning. Scanning the area around him, Duan Yu noticed that the furniture was crude and simple, as though they were placed here long ago. Metal chains lined the inside of the windows; it could not have been any more evident that this was the place in which the No Measure Sword held captives.

All the thoughts of his current dilemma-namely, locked in a room while pressed for time-vanished as he stared at the cavernous space before him. The first notion that came to his mind was to practice the Divine Skill of the Northern Darkness as Dear Goddess had instructed him.

He reached into his robes, removed the scroll, and placed it on the table. Remembering the nude pictures in the paintings, his heart began palpitating furiously. He straightened his robes and set himself in a meditating position-endeavoring with great difficulty to stop his face from reddening any further-as he thought silently,

Dear Goddess, I am here to follow your instructions and to practice the divine art you have told me to. I'm not trying to steal a look at your ethereal figure. Forgive me for being disrespectful...

He slowly unrolled the scroll and began reading the words that appeared behind the first painting. To him, reading these words was as simple as eating rice at home; he skimmed through the words, and he instantly understood the meaning. After the second reading, he had them all memorized, and, by the third time, he had it all inside him. He dared not glance longer than necessary at the exposed paintings; rather he quickly studied the various meridians and acupoints on the picture before commencing his training.

The words on the scroll read: "Our sect's internal energy is a total contrast to those of other sects, for internal energy cultivated using our methods flows in the opposite direction. As such, those who have already had practised internal energy training must forget those learnt in the past, and start training on the martial arts here diligently. If one has any stray thoughts left in one's mind, this may lead to two opposite forces clashing with each other, which would immediately result in fire deviation. The victim will go mad and vomit blood, which he or she would then become fully paralyzed; nothing could possibly be more dangerous than this."

The words repeatedly reiterated this point, emphasizing the severity of the situation. However, Duan Yu never began any internal energy training before; therefore, he could conveniently move on without having to bother with this dangerous stage at all.

Within one hour, Duan Yu had managed to follow the written instructions and memorized all the channels, meridians, and acupoints of the Lung Meridians* correctly. However, his body did not possess even the slightest trace of internal energy; as a result, he naturally would not be able to channel his non-existent internal energy to move through his meridians.

(End of editing work)

Following that, Duan Yu commenced his cultivation on his "Ren Meridians". This particular meridian route begins at the 'Yin Gathering' pressure point located in the perineum. The route moves up various pressure points like the 'Crooked Bone', 'Centre Extremity', 'Closed Energy', 'Rock Entrance', going past the abdomen, chest, the throat and ends at the 'Broken Foundation' pressure point which resides at the space between his lower jaws.

Although there were numerous pressure points along the Ren Meridians, the path of the meridian was entirely straight, which made it easy for Duan Yu to practice. In an instant, Duan Yu memorized the positions and names for the various pressure points. He reached out his hands to touch those pressure points he had just learnt. As it was mentioned in the scroll earlier, he had to cultivate his internal energy through his meridians - in the reverse way. As such, he had to cultivate his internal energy from his 'Broken Foundation' pressure point, down the 'Liquid Receiving', 'Incorrupt Fountain', 'Abrupt Heavens' pressure points to his 'Yin Gathering' pressure point.

**The words in the painting read: The Ren Meridians and the Lungs Meridians are the cornerstones in the cultivation of our Divine Skill of the Northern Darkness. The 'Less Merchant' pressure point located at the thumb and the 'Shan Zhong' pressure point between the breasts are the most vital points of our skill, the former collecting internal energy whilst the latter accumulates and stores them.

The human body has four oceans: namely the 'Ocean of the Water and Rice' in the stomach, the 'Ocean of the Twelve Channels' in the Chong Meridians, the 'Ocean of Energies' in the Shan Zhong pressure point, and finally, the 'Ocean of the Marrow' in the Brain. The practice of storing food and water in the stomach is known throughout every human being the moment they were born; hence no special training is needed. However, the marvellous ability to absorb others' internal energy and store it in our own body can only be achieved by our Carefree Sect's Divine Skill of Northern Darkness.

Within a day, food and water collected in the stomach is absorbed and assimilated, however, the internal energy which a human absorbs accumulates after each absorption, becoming thicker and more abundant, resembling that of the enormous Ethereal Lake in the Dark North that could even float a gargantuan sea-monster whose size spans a thousand li.**

Duan Yu rolled the scroll and thought deeply:

This kung fu is purely beneficial to oneself at the expense of others. By absorbing the internal energy that others had practised industriously for years and using it as my own, wouldn't it be as cruel as consuming the flesh and blood of a fellow human being? Wouldn't it be as if I was to purloin the wealth of others and take them as my own, wouldn't I be cheating or doing something illegal then? But I have promised Dear Goddess to practise this martial arts, I can't break my promise…. Never mind, I will not absorb anybody's internal energy in my entire life.

Another occurred to him:

Uncle had constantly reminded me that when humans were first born into this world, they had neither food nor any clothes, and had nothing to use for survival. Even a bowl of porridge, rice or even a thread of clothing all had to be obtained by something else. The act of obtaining things from somebody else cannot be helped, but the real question is how are we able to repay those who had given us. What we obtained must be minimal, and we must always give out much, much more than what we take in. If one was to take in something from the wealthy and the evil, and give that stuff obtained to the poor and the needy, there would be nothing to feel guilty over; on the other hand, it is more of a charitable act done by a kind soul. This golden rule is the same in Buddhism and Confucianism. There is nothing wrong in offering ointment from the affluent to those who badly needs it, so long as my intention was purely for doing something for the needy. Doing as much charity as I can do to every soul under the skies would be like having Buddha in every household. The question is not about obtaining or not obtaining, but rather, to do charity or to do evil.

The moment Duan Yu understood this point, he no longer had any qualms on practising the Divine Skill of Northern Darkness anymore.

Translated by ani411

While Duan Yu had no misgivings in his heart about that matter, he thought again, "In short, I should just do more good deeds in my life and never do bad things. Elephants can carry heavy loads of tons, crickets and ants can only drag little things; if you have a strong ability, you can do great good deeds, but you would also be able to do horribly bad things. With Divine Croc's abilities, if you only do good deeds, wouldn't it be greatly beneficial to everyone?" the moment he thought of this point, he felt that even if Divine Croc was his master, but he only twisted bad people's necks, it will seem as though "This sentence seems to be logical."

The scroll also had ways to cultivate the many other channels and meridians; all of them were for absorbing the internal energy of others. Although Duan Yu had no more qualms about that, he still felt that practicing it went against his personal character, just being greedy of much and determined to meet one's desires alone was already not a good thing and thus, he decided to ignore it.

At the end of the scroll, he saw again "Graceful Steps upon the Waves" these words and immediately thought of the sentences in...

Translated by Pacifian

Duan Yu further unrolled the scroll till its very end, and on it he saw the five words "Graceful Steps upon the Waves". These words reminded him of a poem he read in the past: The Goddess Luo.

Graceful Steps upon the Waves,

Dust settles on her gauze stockings….

Passionate fluttering eyelids and vivacious glances;

Euphoria moisturizing her jade-like countenance.

She has yet to say the delicate speech,

Her breath possesses the fragrance of the Tranquil Orchid.

An air of Grandeur and Elegance;

I lost my soul in the presence of such beauty!

Those unforgettable words of aesthetic elegance created by Cao Zhi flowed gently, unhurriedly across his mind:

Voluptuousness, Slenderness – flawlessly combined, she is;

Complementing elements of loftiness and daintiness,

Sculpted shoulders,

Waist of delicate silk,

Ravishingly long neck with a lovely chin,

Her unblemished substance now revealed,

Her fragrance needed no further enhancing,

Cosmetics, totally redundant!

Her hair flailed loftily like the clouds,

Her slender brows arched slightly, gracefully.

Radiant, sparkling lips of vermillion,

coupled with spotless teeth brimming with freshness.

With captivating, crystal-clear glances,

Those two alluring dimples on her cheeks,

A posture of magnificence and carefreeness,

A demeanour of tranquility and elegance.

With tender passions and graceful manner,

Words just cannot depict her charm….

The moment he thought of Dear Goddess' elegant posture, he recalled again a few verses:

Pure as the twilight – the morning sun;

Dazzling as the lotus sprouting from nature's waves!

To him, following Dear Goddess' instructions is the happiest and most blissful thing to do on Earth. Even if he was to die a hundred times, suffer ten thousand trials and tribulations, he would not regret the tiniest bit. I shall practice this "Graceful Steps upon the Waves" first, Duan Yu mused, since this is a skill to flee and not to harm others, learning it would only bring good and no harm.

All steps were clearly illustrated in the scroll; given its wealth of details, not even a single positioning of the sixty-four trigrams of the Scripture of Changes has been missed out. Ever since Duan Yu was young, he had already familiarized himself with the Scripture of Changes, therefore felt no difficulty in learning these steps.

However, the footwork on the scroll is inconceivably weird. After moving a step, it was impossible to progress onto the next one. It was only until when Duan Yu thought of somersaulting into the air, could he finally be able to form a miraculous, yet strangely natural connection between the two steps. There were even weirder cases: such as leaping forwards and backwards, or fleeing to the left and dodging towards the right, only so could he be able to follow the instructions written in the scroll.

The moment the enormous potential behind his bookworm-ish nature is unleashed, he found immeasurable joy in analyzing, and eventually solving, any problems with an insurmountable level of difficulty. Such is the joy that he was unable to express his feelings at that moment, he thought unconsciously:

Never did I once expect to find such pleasure with no limits in martial arts; this is definitely not beneath studying books and memorizing scriptures.

In this way, a day has passed. He has grasped roughly twenty to thirty per cent of the intricacies of the footwork illustrated in the scroll. After dinner, he learnt more ten-odd steps before retiring to bed. In his semi-consciousness, the myriad of thoughts floating in his mind comprises the terms of the various acupoints such as: 'Less Merchant', 'Shan Zhong', 'Closed Energies' and 'Centre Extremity', along with other Scripture of Changes' trigrams like 'Concording People', 'Great Possessing', 'Converting The Maiden', 'Not-yet Fording' and so on.

During midnight, Duan Yu was awoken by a sudden series of thunderous croaks, each sounding like a 'Jiang-ang' noise. Not long after, another series of similar croaks ensued. The sound was similar to the mooing of a cow, but there were elements of melancholy and absolute misery to it. Duan Yu wondered what kinds of animal can produce such noises, but then again, he remembered that strange beasts and venomous insects are aplenty on Mt. No Measure. As soon as he heard the croaking noises died down, he could not care any less about the matter and slept soundly as soon as his head touched the pillow.

Somebody spoke nearby. "The 'Venomous Crimson Bullfrog' hasn't appeared for quite some time, but now, it suddenly croaked again tonight. I wonder whether this means good or bad for us."

Another voice replied. "Our East Faction has been reduced to such a miserable state; things can't be anymore good for us. We owe our lives to heaven if this bad news isn't so extreme."

Duan Yu knew those two disciples that spoke were Yu Guang Biao and Wu Guang Sheng. They must be sent to sleep in the room near mine so as to prevent me from escaping, he thought.

Wu Guang Sheng's voice can be heard once more. "We, the No Measure Sword, have already belonged to Nimble Vulture Palace; even though this spells the lack of freedom for us, as we are now being controlled by those of higher authority, we could at least have a powerful backing. So, all in all, we have half of each: good and bad. However, what I truly cannot stand is this: The West Faction has always inferior to us, why did that Sacred Herald pass the position of No Measure Cave to Senior Martial Uncle Xin, leaving us at their beck and call?"

"What else could we do? Everybody - Heavenly Mountain Kid Nanny included - in Nimble Vulture Palace is female, and they say we guys aren't in the least bit trustworthy. Sacred herald Fu is considered kind enough: by placing Martial Uncle Xin as our leader, Nimble Vulture Palace will view us in a new light. Watch how cruelly Sacred Herald Fu has dealt with the Leader of Divine Farming Clan, as compared to her treatment of Martial Uncle Xin, they are miles apart!"

"This, I don't understand," Wu Guang Sheng said. "Senior Apprentice Brother Yu, why did Sacred Herald Fu treat that lad so courteously? She addressed him as 'Mister Duan', 'Mister Duan', doesn't that sound a little too affectionate?"

Hearing his name being mentioned, Duan Yu erased all temptations of sleeping from his mind, and began to listen more attentively to the ongoing conversation.

He heard a laugh - Yu Guang Biao's voice. "These words can only be said here in secret. A young maiden, politely calling a white-faced lad 'Mister Duan', 'Mister Duan'…." The moment the three words "Mister Duan" were spoken aloud, he pressed his windpipe and the results were immediate: he spoke using a tone simlar to that of Sacred Herald Fu, with the addition of some tenderly whining created by none other than he himself.

"Guess what's going on?"

Wu Guang Sheng spoke excitedly. "So … so Sacred Herald Fu is infatuated with that white-faced lad?"

"Keep your voice softer," Yu Guang Biao cautioned. "Don't wake that little white-faced kid." Following that, he laughed. "I am not the 'sacred' parasite residing in Sacred Herald Fu's stomach, how am I to understand her intentions? I guess Martial Uncle Xin must be thinking along these lines too, no wonder she made us keep a close watch on him, preventing his escape."

"How long must we keep him here?" Wu Guang Sheng asked.

Yu Guang Biao responded, "Sacred Herald Fu said on the mountain peak, 'Xin Shuang Qing, bring Mister Duan down with you. If the Four Villains dare to create any trouble, tell them to find me at Obscure Peak, Nimble Vulture Palace.'" These words were spoken once again using the tone of the lady dressed in green.

He continued further, "So what if we brought Mister Duan down the mountain? She wouldn't explain further, nobody dare query her. Suppose if one day Sacred Herald Fu sent people over here to pass on a message: Xin Shuang Qin, bring that Mister Duan up Nimble Vulture Peak to meet me. And it all happens that that little white-faced lad was killed by us, or set free, wouldn't things be disastrous for us?"

Wu Guang Sheng asked. "What if Sacred Herald Fu was to forget this entire matter, aren't we supposed to keep that white-faced lad in here for ever, just to wait for Sacred Herald Fu's instructions?"

Yu Guang Biao laughed. "That's right."

Duan Yu's heart was filled with cries of 'T'is bad'. This Sacred Herald sister by the surname of Fu addressed me as "Mister Duan" merely because she saw me as a scholarly man, hence was slightly more courteous in her speech, Duan Yu thought, flustered.

Where have you guys been thinking all these rubbish? Even until my beard has grown white and I am still under prison, that Sacred Herald sister wouldn't even think of seeing me, this white-faced oldie.

As Duan Yu was lost in his thoughts of worry, he heard Wu Guang Sheng speak again. "Then wouldn't the both of us be -"

His words were cut off completely, by three thunderous 'Ji-ang' croaks. Clealy, that Venomous Crimson Bullfrog was croaking again. Wu Guang Sheng kept his mouth tightly shut. After a long while, when he was finally certain that the Venomous Crimson Bullfrog did not croak any further, he continued, "Every time the Venomous Crimson Bullfrog croaks, my heart would leap like mad and I would have goose bumps all over. I wonder how many lives the God of Plague would want to claim this time round."

Yu Guang Biao said, "Everybody called the Venomous Crimson Bullfrog the creature of transport of the God of plague; that would be merely a saying. The Manjusri Bodhisattva rides a lion; the Samantabhadra rides on a white elephant; the Lord Supreme rides a green ox…. This Venomous Crimson Bullfrog is the king of all poisons, its powers are divine and all-reaching, and the formidableness of its toxicity is known throughout many generations. Calling it the creature of transport for the God of Plague simply wouldn't be enough!"

"Senior Apprentice Brother Yu," continued Wu Guang Sheng. "How do you think that Venomous Crimson Bullfrog looks like?"

Yu Guang Biao grinned. "Why, aren't you interested in finding out?"

"That would be something you've got to tell me after you have seen it." Wu Guang Sheng said, returning the grin.

"The moment I spot the Venomous Crimson Bullfrog, the toxic gases it emitted would instantly blind my eyes. Following that, it would creep into my brain. By then, I'm afraid I wouldn't have much time left to describe the looks of the King of All Poisons for you to know. How about having the both of us take a look?"

With that said, footsteps were heard, followed by the sound of someone unlocking the door.

Wu Guang Sheng was immediately seized with fear. "Don't… Don't kid…" His trembling voice was easily noticeable. He rushed over to the door and locked the door again. Yu Guang Biao laughed at the sight.

"Hahaha! Now, really, you didn't for a moment think I would actually dare to take a look? Have a look at how laughably frightened you have became."

Wu Guang Sheng was still recovering from the shock. "This joke had better not be played, or else certain things we wouldn't want to happen really do. Let all be peaceful. Let's go to sleep!"

Yu Guang Biao changed topic. "You guess whether that immoral couple – Gan Guang Hao and Ge Guang Pei – managed to escape?

"We haven't heard the slightest thing about them for so long, most probably they did manage to escape after all."

"I know

everything

about Gan Guang Hao's capabilities. That person is greedy and lazy and flirtatious - he is totally uninterested in practicing swordplay; all that he is capable of would be to sweet-talk ladies. All of us combed the whole of North, South, East and West; even the Sacred Herald from Nimble Vulture Palace came here personally to search for them. Yet, in the end, that couple managed to escape. I just can't believe this."

"However much you disbelieve, you just got to."

Yu Guang Sheng was deep in his thoughts. "I say, this couple must have been hiding deep inside the mountains, and met the Venomous Crimson Bullfrog."

Wu Guang Sheng gasped loudly in surprise; even the most insensitive of people could sense the dread in his voice.

Yu Guang Biao continued. "Yes. They must be searching themselves silly for a deserted area to hide themselves in. Yet, the moment they ran into the the Venomous Crimson Bullfrog, their brains would be filled with those toxins and hence, got themselves dissolved into a bloody heap as a result. No wonder we couldn't find them."

Wu Guang Sheng said, nodding, "You've got a point there."

"What do you mean I have got a point?" Yu Guang Sheng snapped. "If they hadn't ran into the Venomous Crimson Bullfrog, then there wouldn't be anymore points left, would there?"

"Perhaps they couldn't tolerate it any more. Deep inside the deserted mountains or ridges, they started doing this thing and that thing. And in the midst of all darkness, they unleashed the move 'Flipping the carp over' and oh, how could it be? – they fell into somewhere miles deep into the valley!"

At this point, both men started cackling nastily.

Duan Yu sank deep into his thoughts:

At that food stall Miss Mu shot both Gan and Ge to their deaths, how could it be that the No Measure Sword disciples weren't able to find them? Hmm… Right. It must be that the stall owner was afraid of attracting trouble, so he quickly buried the corpses somewhere. So when the No Measure Sword disciples came to investigate, everybody naturally kept silent, seeing their fierce looks and their weapons and all.

Wu Guang Sheng spoke again, "The East and the West Factions of No Measure Sword merely lost two disciples. How big a matter could it be? The Emperor isn't in the least worried yet the eunuchs are. Why would the Sacred Heralds of Nimble Vulture Palace be so anxious? Why must they be in such a hurry in apprehending those two people?"

"This, you need to use your brains more to find the answer."

Silence ensued. "You know my mind isn't in the slightest quick. After thinking this to that, here to there, I just couldn't figure it out."

"Let me pose you a question, then," Yu Guang Biao said: "the Nimble Vulture Palace is so keen on taking over our No Measure Palace - why is this so?"

Wu Guang Sheng was lost in his thoughts. "Senior Apprentice Tang once said, the reasons most likely have something to do with the No Measure Jade Wall. The very moment Sacred Herald Fu arrives here, she would enquire non-stop about the divine silhouette, swordplay, and everything else up the No Measure Jade Wall." After an afterthought, he added, "That's right! All of us had to abide by the instructions Sacred Herald Fu set for us – the swearing of oath of never to divulge the slightest thing about the divine silhouette at the Jade Wall; yet both Gan Guang Hao and Ge Guang Pei had already escaped from No Measure Palace. Neither of them made the oath! There is no telling whether they wouldn't mention it to the outside world!"

At this point, he slapped his thigh in revelation, exclaiming, "Right! Right! Nimble Vulture Palace went through all this effort just to silence those two rascals."

"Hush! Don't make so much noise; there is somebody next door, have you forgotten?" Yu Guang Biao whispered warningly.

An abashed-looking Wu Guang Sheng nodded. "Indeed, indeed."

For a moment, neither spoke. Finally, Wu Guang Sheng broke the silence. "That rat Gan Guang Hao sure has infinite blessings; having the fortune to cuddle Ge Guang Pei, such a white and fleshy little cute gunnysack in his arms; having the luck to skin her as if she were a sheep…. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Damn it. Even if he really did get dissolved into a bloody mass, he didn't… didn't really…. Hehe…"

From then on, the two men's conversation has been reduced to a lowly mixture of vulgarities and obscenities. Duan Yu was unwilling to eavesdrop any further, but the lewd and dirty jokes and laughters continually coursed through the wall separating them – much to Duan Yu's dismay; so trying to shut the noises away was impossible. The only way out for him would be to concentrate on the various channels, meridians and acupoints. Indeed, all it took was a short while of deep concentration, and the vulgarities nearby vanished without a trace as if they had been switched off, no matter how loud they were.

The following day, Duan Yu continued his training on the 'Graceful Steps upon the Waves'. He followed the footwork illustrated in the scroll very closely, and began trying them out step by step. This footwork was either inclined to the left or slanted to the right: none of the steps taught was to advance and retreat directly. Even though he was confined to a small area, all he need was to remove the table and chairs and he could perform the footwork without any obstructions; after a period of training, he had learned more ten-odd steps.

Suddenly, an idea struck him.

Later, when somebody comes to give me lunch, all I need is to perform these weird, diagonal steps and it would take me no time at all to move round him and escape past the door. It is unlikely that he would be able to catch me. By then, I would be able to escape this place instantly and avoid the horrible fate that awaits me if I stayed – wait till the day I became an Oldie White-faced?

He was brimming with joy as he thought about this.

I must train this set of footwork very diligently to the extent of total familiarization

, he thought firmly,

Should I take a wrong step by accident and fail to escape, they might shackle my legs together from that point onwards to prevent me from escaping. By then, even how delightfully incredible 'Graceful Steps upon the Waves' might be, every step I take would be restrained by the metal chains; I will really have to become Oldie White-faced no matter how much I dread it.

Lost in thoughts, Duan Yu involuntarily made dizzy circles with his head.

Without further ado, he speedily ran through the hundred-over steps he had learnt in his head. "I need to reach a stage whereby I need not even think about the steps in my mind; the mere lifting of my legs would result in a rapid succession of the following steps."

Suddenly, he sighed. "I, Duan Yu, a stinky male, had to learn those graceful and delicate 'Graceful Steps upon the Waves' from the Tranquil Lady Goddess Luo. What qualities of 'Dust settles on her gauze stockings' do I possess? More likely mine's a poor imitation in the form of 'Dust settles on his naked bottom', I guess."

Chuckling merrily at himself, Duan Yu stepped on the position of 'Central Confirmation', followed shortly by an immediate turning towards the 'Already Fording' spot. What he didn't expect was that the moment he changed positions from 'Exultation' to 'Venom', a sudden blast of blazing energy surged upwards – towards his

dantian

, paralysing him instantly. His body rocked forwards as he lay resting against the tabletop – lifting a finger suddenly became an impossible feat.

Feeling stupefied, Duan Yu attempted to grasp the table by its sides and lift himself; little did he know that not a single of his muscles or bones complied. Not even a tiny finger. His current situation was reminiscent of a horrible nightmare gone wrong: the more anxious he was, the more helpless he became.

He had absolutely no idea that 'Graceful Steps upon the Waves' is an extremely profound branch of martial arts. The reason for this skill being taught near the end of the scroll was for the practitioner to master 'Divine Skill of the Northern Darkness' and absorb fairly substantial amounts of internal energy before he or she could start training on the intricate footwork.

Every single step of the 'Graceful Steps upon the Waves' was designed as such that when a step was made, the momentum and movement of the practitioner's entire body blended entirely and intimately with his or her internal energy; it amounts to much, much more than the mere lifting of limbs and moving about. Duan Yu had hardly any internal energy. Before then, he would always made a step before a momentary pause, with which he used to contemplate the next step. Then he would follow by retreating another step, which he then paused to think again. As such, he has had consistent intervals of rest in his blood flow, therefore no such obstructions occurred.

This time, however, he had memorized the steps and even attempted to try them all at once in one single breath; the blood flow in his channels and meridians went topsy-turvy, paralysing him in the process. In fact, he almost suffered from fire-deviation. Fortunately for him, he only moved a few steps, and was trying it out at a comfortable pace; therefore the extent of internal injury hadn't reached the fatal stage of the utter destruction of his own channels due to the immense blood pressure.

Flustered, Duan Yu struggled even harder to move; but the more he did so, he felt the suffocating pressure at his chest and abdomen intensify. To add to all these, he began feeling somewhat nauseous, but he could hardly vomit. He let out a sad sigh, ceased struggling and allowed nature to take its course. As he did so, the frustratingly painful feeling inside him began to subside.

Lying immobile against the table, Duan Yu saw the scroll in front of his eyes. Having nothing else to do, he studied those unfamiliar steps he had yet to try and thought them out in his mind, imagining himself trying them out step by step. About an hour later, he had learnt another twenty-odd steps, and to his surprise, the pain in his chest had almost fully dissipated.

It was almost noon. Duan Yu had finally understood all the steps that were illustrated in the scroll. In his mind, he decided to try them out by imagining himself starting on 'Bright Concealment', moving along several other positions like 'Adornments', 'Already Fording', 'Dwelling People'; and eventually completed stepping – or rather, imagining himself stepping – on the positions of all sixty-four Trigrams and ended nicely on the position 'Without Embroilments' after moving in the direction of a huge circle.

The fact that he had finally completed learning the entire footwork was overwhelming; ecstasy welling inside him, Duan Yu leapt into the air clapping his hands, exclaiming in delight. "Amazing! Amazing!"

The moment these two words left his lips, Duan Yu realised he could finally move again. Unknown to him, his internal energy had unconsciously followed the thoughts in his head; as he completed one full cycle of 'Graceful Steps upon the Waves', his blood flow did the same, unclogging blocked meridians in the process.

He could barely contain his excitement and surprise that were threatening to burst from within. In his head, he tried to go through all the positions of the sixty-four Trigrams in his head a few more times. For fear that he might commit the same mistake as before; he moved each step very slowly -- every step made had to be followed by a few deep breaths.

In this way, all sixty-four positions had been completed. Duan Yu saw that he had finished one huge circle; meanwhile, his body was bursting with renewed vitality and vigour. Unable to bear his excitement any longer, Duan Yu gave a cry in joy.

"Amazing! Amazing! Utterly amazing!"

From outside the door, came a roar of annoyance. It was Yu Guang Biao's voice. "Why are you screaming your head off? Whatever your old man, I, have said, I don't eat them back! You say a sentence, you eat a palm!"

Having said that, he unlocked the door and flounced inside. "Earlier, you made three sentences, so you shall eat three palms! However, on account that you are a first-time offender, I shall discount you two slaps; just one palm would suffice."

He advanced threateningly towards Duan Yu, his right palm poised to strike Duan Yu's cheek.

This palm didn't contain any hidden stances beneath it; neither was it anything special. But Duan Yu, lacking martial arts, couldn't block it with his arms. Slightly tilting his head to one side, Duan Yu instinctively moved his feet diagonally and landed on the position of 'Swallow' from his current position, 'Well'. And voila! Duan Yu managed to evade the slap.

Yu Guang Biao was furious. He thrust out his fist forcefully and rapidly towards Duan Yu. Meanwhile, Duan Yu was still contemplating which step to move (he has hardly familiarised himself with the 'Graceful Steps upon the Waves' footwork) when the blow struck his chest with a loud

peng

. The fist has struck his 'Shan Zhong' acupoint.

The 'Shan Zhong' acupoint is vital to the human's body. The moment Yu Guang Biao threw out his fist, he instantly regretted his actions and feared he might inflict too heavy a damage for Duan Yu to handle; if anything happens to Duan Yu, he might not be able to account for it.

What he did not expect, however, was that the moment the fist came in contact with Duan Yu's chest, Yu Guang Biao felt his arm suddenly depleted of energy. What was even worse was that he felt some sort of emptiness in his heart! Yu Guang Biao could barely register this strange phenomenon when everything reverted back to normal. Seeing Duan Yu unhurt, Yu Guang Biao, relieved, said, "Although you have managed to dodge my slap, your chest received my knuckle sandwich; that still counts as one slap."

With that he disappeared from view as he left the room shortly after. Clunk! The door was locked once again.

The strike might be loud, but strangely enough, Duan Yu felt absolutely no pain in that strike. Unknown to him, whatever energy that was present in Yu Guang Biao's fist earlier has been transferred into his 'Ocean of Energies' in his 'Shan Zhong' acupoint, where it will be stored permanently.

It just happened so coincidentally. Had Yu Guang Biao's fist struck anywhere except his chest, Duan Yu would have been considered extremely lucky to have avoided injury, yet no matter what, he would not be spared from the excruciating pain. However, the 'Ocean of Energies' in his 'Shan Zhong' acupoint was the exact location where the 'Pure Energies of Northern Darkness' would be accumulated and stored.

The number of times he had tried cultivating this skill is too little; he has zero foundation in this skill. It would thus be impossible for him to perform the various feats needed to absorb internal energies from other sources at this stage: using the 'Less Merchant' acupoint to leech the internal energies of other people, channeling these energies via his Lung Meridians up to the 'Sky Shock' acupoint in his Ren Meridians, and sending them once again for permanent storage in his 'Shan Zhong' acupoint. Even if he had reached that stage after plenty of training, he would rather die than to do what he considers an immoral act – stealing stuff from others' for his own benefit.

In this case, however, it was the other party himself who had forced his own internal energies right inside Duan Yu's 'Shan Zhong' acupoint. Duan Yu could not resist the energy transferring process; the moment the fist touches the chest, the internal energy would gain entry into his body. It was as though gold coins and gold bars flew towards his backpack from outside the heavens, yet, the foolish lad was oblivious to all this. In fact, he even thought:

What an unreasonable brute. How much could a few sentences of 'Amazing!' offend him so much? He hit me for absolutely no reason.

The internal energy that was originally Yu Guang Biao's continually revolved and vibrated in Duan Yu's 'Ocean of Energies'. In an instant, Duan Yu felt his chest tighten. He immediately thought of the two channels in his body – the Lung Meridians and the Ren Meridians, and the effect was immediate: a faint warmth began to spread throughout these two channels. It circulated the channels once before dissipating back into the 'Shan Zhong' acupoint, bringing the pain along with it.

Unbeknownst to Duan Yu, the tiny warm circulation he has just experienced in just a short time had earned him some amounts of internal energy, which, upon storage, can no longer leave his body.

From a helpless lad without the tiniest trace of internal energy, Duan Yu finally acquired a little. All these began thanks to Yu Guang Biao's forceful punch at Duan Yu's chest.

Also, Duan Yu should thank heavens for the fact that Yu Guang Biao's internal energy was mediocre, and that he had not put in all his energy in that single strike. Had it been a martial arts expert the likes of the Divine Croc who struck his 'Shan Zhong' acupoint instead, Duan Yu, having no internal energy foundation at all, couldn't immediately absorb all force into his 'Ocean of Energies'; when that happens, his meridians and channels would have all been destroyed into smithereens, and he would die immediately after vomitting huge amounts of blood. Also, he amount of internal energy Yu Guang Biao lost is too slight – he hasn't noticed anything.

Right after lunch, Duan Yu got down very quickly to his 'Graceful Steps upon the Waves' training. Each step he moved, he would take in a deep breath, followed by another step, and from there the cycle goes on. Sixty-four Hexagrams were completed in no time. Duan Yu felt no paralysis in his muscles, and speculated that so long as he maintains a constant, uninterrupted series of smooth intervals in his breathing, there wouldn't be any harm.

His second try was bolder than before: two steps before taking in a deep breath; rinse and repeat.

'Graceful Steps upon the Waves' is indeed an extremely profound skill. It enables its practitioner to cultivate internal energy through kinetic motion. One round of stepping all sixty-four positions would enable his internal energy to revolve smoothly around his body, leading to a slight growth of internal energy with every round made.

Duan Yu, however, barely knew that he was cultivating internal energy; he only wished he could familiarize himself with the footwork even better with every round, or that he could move at a quicker pace. "Earlier, when that Brother Yu tried to slap my face, I managed to dodge it by moving from 'Well' to 'Swallow'. Following that I should keep it up by sliding to the position of 'Venom', in this way could I be able to evade that punch on my chest. Regrettably, I was busy thinking what step I should move when his fist struck. This 'busy thinking' suggests that I am not fully familiarized with this skill yet. Should I want to depend on this footwork and escape this place without being caught, I must immerse myself into this skill till any further training is pointless; every step made must be done without thinking. The phrases 'busy thinking' and 'without thinking' have only one dissimilar word, but it makes a world of difference between life and death."

Immediately, he trained himself even more arduously on the footwork once more. Every day, from morning to night, with the exception of daily needs such as eating, sleeping and using the toilet, the rest of the time was spent on moving repeatedly in huge circles.

There were times when he thought:

The only reason I am practicing this skill so hard is merely to escape this horrid place and rescue Miss Mu; I did not abide by Divine Goddess's instructions and train the 'Mystical Skill of Northern Darkness'.

Guilt-stricken, Duan Yu spared some time to cultivate the Lung and Ren Meridians. He did so reluctantly and shoddily; all he wanted was to peace his mind. As for the rest of the channels and meridians, he shelved them aside temporarily.

After several days of training, Duan Yu made marked improvement in his 'Graceful Steps upon the Waves'. He need no longer count his steps and breaths, and could now glide to next step with rapid ease. To top it all, he suffered no more obstructions in his internal flow. As he moved, his mind and heart relaxed. Several lines from the poem 'Goddess Luo' came to mind – those that were related to the 'Graceful Steps upon the Waves':

She resembles the concealed moon behind the frail clouds; her floating grace, the returning snow from the flowing wind.

The body suddenly gains freedom; to roam the world, to enjoy life.

The Divine Brilliance converges and unites: the emergence of light and darkness.

The body, light as a feather, stands upright like a crane; seems ready to fly yet but has yet to.

Her body is as swift as a soaring teal; floating rapidly – goddess-like.

Movements without following norms: maybe perilous, maybe safe; Irregular movements and pauses: maybe departing; maybe arriving.

These last twenty words are easily the cruxes of this complex footwork. Although Duan Yu understood this point, trying to reach the realm of 'Movements without following norms: maybe perilous, maybe safe; Irregular movements and pauses: maybe departing, maybe arriving' would require God-knows-how-much diligent practice needed, not to mention how many years and months Duan Yu would have wasted just to acquire this phenomenal accomplishment.

Given his current martial arts, should his enemies stretch their hands and try to grab him, Duan Yu knows not of his chances of success in evading them. He has half a mind to stay for a couple of days to half a month to improve his chances of success. However, he realised that he had been separated from Mu Wan Qing for seven whole days; he thought of her having to accompany the unreasonable Divine Croc for so long, where every single day felt like years. Duan Yu finally decided to leave this place that day. He wished the servant bringing in food had better not know any kung fu; escaping this place would therefore be much easier.

Sitting on his bed, Duan Yu locked himself in deep concentration, refreshing his memory on the 'Graceful Steps upon the Waves' while awaiting patiently the arrival for the servant. Finally, he heard the sound of the door being unlocked coupled with loud footsteps, and he saw the servant bringing in the food. Duan Yu walked towards him unhurriedly.

It all happened in a split second. Duan Yu quickly toppled the plates of food over the servant's head.

Ping! Ping! Pang! Pang!

And rice and bowls and vegetables and plates rained heavily down the poor fellow's head….

'Aiyoh!' The poor servant screamed in horror.

Wasting no time, Duan Yu rocketed out of the door in just a few steps.

Unfortunately, Yu Guang Biao happened to be guarding outside the door. Hearing the servant's scream, he rushed inside without delay. The narrow doorway caused both men to crash into each another on their way in, or in Duan Yu's case, out.

Duan Yu hastily leaped towards the position of 'Beholder' from his current ('Preparation') in a bid for not wasting anymore precious time. Unfortunately for him, however, while on his way out, his left foot landed on the doorstep.

Duan Yu was instantly overwhelmed with shock and confusion. Nowhere in the instructions under 'Graceful Steps under the Waves' taught him 'What to do in the case of stepping on the doorstep, which results in one foot higher than the other?'

He stumbled, struggling with might to step on the position of 'Comparison'. Till this day, never in his wildest dreams could he dream that he would step on Yu Guang Biao's foot! 'What to do when you accidentally step on others' foots, causing others to scream in pain and fury?' was also not recorded in the secret footwork manual!

Duan Yu thought depressingly:

Well, the Goddess Luo's 'Graceful Steps upon the Waves' in the Luo Waters embodies the 'sleekness and elegance of a swan in startled flight' and the 'restrained grace of a roaming dragon', certainly she wouldn't land herself in drastic situations such as stepping on doorsteps and crushing the feet of others.

In his fluster, Duan Yu felt someone's fingers closing over his wrist. The next moment he was dragged back inside by a fuming Yu Guang Biao.

All hard work over the last few days have came to naught. Things just had to happen against his wishes. Filled with resentment, Duan Yu raised his right hand to prise his left wrist away from Yu Guang Biao's grip. However, the five fingers encasing Duan Yu's wrist felt like iron; they simply refused to budge.

Suddenly, Yu Guang Biao made a 'yi?' sound in surprise. His fingers felt enervated and were about to release his grip in no time. Yu Guang Biao circulated his internal energy into his arm and held on firmly, but in no time at all, his fingers were weakened by an invisible force.

"Damnit!" He cursed.

He imbued more internal energy into his arm; only to find that this time, his entire arm drooped downwards. He wasn't aware that in Duan Yu's endeavour in forcing him to release his grip, Duan Yu had accidentally used his own thumb to prise Yu's thumb away. In this way, both 'Less Merchant' acupoints of the two men had connected themselves. As he used his energy to hold onto Duan's wrist tightly, whatever energy applied has flowed continuously into Duan Yu's thumb. Unknown to him, every bout of internal transferrence into his arm would result in a loss of internal energy.

Duan Yu was clueless about what was going on. He only felt Yu Guang Biao's fingers relaxed and tightened inexplicably. It seems almost as if by using more strength Duan Yu could prise away Yu Guang Biao's fingers and make an escape. But at this point of time, how was he to know how to remove his right thumb from between his left thumb and Yu Guang Biao's thumb?

That fateful day when Yu Guang Biao punched him hard in the chest, all the internal energy in his fist has been transferred into his 'Ocean of Energies'. Although the internal energy in Yu Guang Biao's punch was too little to be even noticeable, Duan Yu has used whatever little of these energies to clear the path in his Lung and Ren Meridians. Now, whatever energy Yu Guang Biao has on his body began moving along these channels slowly into Duan Yu's 'Ocean of Energies'. This fitted exactly the 'Mystical Skill of Northern Darkness's' theory of converging a hundred streams to form an ocean meant.

If both men did not use any energy at all and merely touched each other's thumbs instead, Duan Yu wouldn't be able to unleash the 'Mystical Skill of Northern Darkness' as he did not know how. This time, however, both men were fighting for their lives. It was similar to the previous scenario wherein Yu Guang Biao struck his chest; in both cases, Yu Guang Biao had forcibly inserted his own internal energies down Duan Yu's 'Ocean of Energies'. This can be likened to a scenario of pouring wine to a cup; even if the wine cup was unable to tolerate the wine, it simply cannot do anything.

Initially, Yu Guang Biao's internal energy was way more abundant than Duan Yu's. Had he understood what was happening and released his hold on Duan Yu immediately, the most Duan Yu could do would be to leave this place and escape. But Yu Guang Biao was under strict orders by his superiors to prevent Duan Yu from escaping; how could he let this white-faced dolt leave so easily?

His arm went numb again; Yu Guang Biao tried to replenish it with more internal energy. However, he felt that his one arm was no longer able to hold on any more. He stretched out his left arm in an attempt to assist his right one. Unknown to him, this only made the flood of internal energy gushing out of him flow even faster. Shortly afterwards, half of his internal energy has been transferred into Duan Yu's body.

One is losing energy; the other increasing. Yu Guang Biao's strength was no longer Duan Yu's match. His internal energy cascaded out of his thumb even more rapidly as time passes. Eventually, his energy leak was like that of water from a reservoir bursting out from a dam: spewing in enormous quantities at an alarming rate. He could no longer do anything except to helplessly watch his energy drain away and himself wither. He tried desperately to release his hand and escape this nightmare, but he couldn't: this time, it was Duan Yu who grabbed his five fingers firmly in place, unwilling to let go; try as he might, Yu Guang Biao simply couldn't do anything given his depleted strength.

The person who was once the captive suddenly became captor; yet, he was oblivious of this at all. In a frenzy, Duan Yu held on to Yu Guang Biao's for dear life: he didn't realize his struggle for 'prising away his fingers' had suddenly became 'grabbing tightly onto his fingers'.

Yu Guang Biao was on the verge of collapsing. Fearful, he screamed, "Junior Wu! Wu Guang Sheng! Come quickly! Come quickly!"

Wu Guang Sheng happened to be at the toilet at that time. Hearing his senior apprentice's voice, he rushed towards Yu Guang Biao without a moment's hesitation. A hilarious scene, indeed, watching him totter hastily while clutching onto his pants.

"This lad wanna escape. I - I can't do anything to stop him!" Yu Guang Biao yelled.

Wu Guang Biao no longer cared about his pants; he released them and prepared to hurl himself at Duan Yu.

Yu Guang Biao saw this and immediately cried out, "Get me out of here first!" He sounded as if he was about to cry soon.

"All right!" Wu Guang Sheng replied. He stretched out his arms and held on firmly to Yu's shoulders, trying to yank him away from Duan Yu. At the same time, he asked, "Are you injured?"

Given Yu Guang Biao's martial arts, how couldn't he handle this sissy scholar by himself?

Wu Guang Sheng thought, puzzled.

The words barely left his lips when he felt his both arms ached painfully - it was as if there weren't any energy left in them! He quickly mustered his strength into his arms. But all the energy he summoned was gone almost as soon as they entered his arm.

What happened in fact was that Duan Yu had leeched Yu Guang Biao's internal energy dry; now he further proceeded to absorb Wu Guang Sheng's one. Yu Guang Biao's body now became the path for transferring Wu's internal energy over to Duan Yu.

Seeing more people rushing over to Yu Guang Biao's aid, in addition to Yu Guang Biao's tenacious grip closing over his wrist suddenly becoming more rigid, a terror-stricken Duan Yu used even more force if possible to prise away Yu Guang Biao's fingers. Wu Guang Sheng, sensing his limbs began to ache for no apparent reason, kept calling out, "How strange! How strange!" Even as he said so, he did not release his hold a single bit.

The servant bringing in food for Duan Yu saw all three men lay in a mess on the floor, coupled with blanched faces belonging to Wu Guang Sheng and Yu Guang Biao, who looked almost as if they were about to collapse any time soon. He fumbled out of the room by crawling over their backs, screaming, "Somebody, come quickly! That white-faced lad by the surname of Duan is trying to escape!"

The disciples of No Measure Sword nearby heard the cry and rushed over immediately. Two men appeared at the scene, followed shortly by another three, all bellowing in unison. "What happened? Where's that kid?"

Duan Yu was crushed under both Yu Guang Biao and Wu Guang Sheng; naturally, the newcomers could not spot him.

Yu Guang Biao couldn't even catch his breath; to him, speaking was a total impossibility. Wu Guang Sheng already had eighty per cent of his internal energy drained away; he could only choke, "Senior Brother Yu is… trapped by that laddie…. Come… come and help quickly…."

Two disciples immediately leapt forward; each of them grabbing Wu Guang Sheng's arm each and started pulling with all their might. However, as they pulled, they felt their arms became suddenly devoid of energy. Both men's internal energies were now flowing through Wu Guang Sheng's body into Yu Guang Biao's body, which would then later flow right inside Duan Yu's thumb. Currently, Duan Yu's 'Shan Zhong' acupoint had already accumulated both energies of Yu and Wu; now, with the tiny portion of energy collected from the two newcomers, his internal energy had surpassed the energies of the two men put together. Once the men felt their arms ache, they instinctively channeled more energy to their arms. Yet, the more they did so, the more presents they forced down Duan Yu's thumb.

As the amount of internal energy Duan Yu collected grew, his internal energy absorption accelerated too. Initially, his internal energy growth was that of tiny droplets; now they flushed like water streams.

The other three disciples stood there, dumbstruck. One of them laughed, "What childish game are you guys playing? Stacking the Arhats?"

He moved forwards to heave his fellow disciples. Little did he know by his second pull, his entire arm glued itself to the arm of his fellow disciple! He shrieked in astonishment, "This is demonic! Devilish!"

His fellow disciples who were still standing behind him rushed over to his side and too began pulling. All three of them pulled with all their might; the stack of human bodies moved ever so slightly, and the next thing they knew, a pang of ache coursed through their wrists and arm. Instantly, they felt themselves enervated by Duan Yu's draining force.

A huge pile of No Measure Sword disciples lay at the doorway of the room where Duan Yu was earlier held captive. The weight of their bodies crushed Duan Yu so painfully he could barely breathe. Seeing that it was impossible to escape, he had no choice but to surrender himself.

"Let go of me! I am not leaving anymore!" He yelled.

It was no use. The other parties' internal energy just had to surge into his body; Duan Yu felt his 'Shan Zhong' acupoint nearly bursting with all the myriad of energies churning inside him. The pain in his chest began growing more intense by the second.

He stopped trying to prise Yu Guang Biao's thumb; however, Yu's thumb was crushing his thumb so forcefully that he couldn't move. He screamed again, "I am going to be crushed to my death! I am going to be crushed to my death!"

Yu Guang Biao and Wu Guang Sheng looked lifeless; the five disciples who came trying to prevent Duan Yu from escaping were flabbergasted and at a loss of what to do. Seized by a sudden bout of panic attack, they struggled and pulled with more strength. As they did so, their internal energy gushed out at an even faster rate.

Eight men huddled together messily; six were screaming their voices hoarse, yet none of them was able to hear what the other was yelling. After a while, it became four people yelling out loud. Shortly after, the number of people shouting has been reduced to three. Eventually, Duan Yu was the only person yelling, "You are crushing me to death! Let go of me! I want to escape no more!"

Every cry he made, the pain in his chest subsided a little. To lessen the pain even further, he continued raving like mad, his voice hoarse yet his energy abundant. The more he shouted, the louder he became.

Suddenly, somebody bellowed, "That evil witch stole my baby! Everybody, chase after her, quick! The four of you guard the door; the three of you, guard the rooftops; you four guys, seal the East Door; those five, guard the West Door. Don't – don't let that evil witch bring my kid away!" Although it sounded like a command, the voice sounded fearful and anxious.

Duan Yu immediately recognized the voice as Zuo Zi Mu's.

What woman stole his child away?

Duan Yu thought. A thought struck him.

Ah! It had to be Miss Mu! She stole his son and wanted to use it in exchange for her husband. This 'exchange for the general with the horse' tactic is useful for sure.

Finally, he stopped yelling. It was at this point he was aware that Yu Guang Biao's fingers that were closing over his wrist had relaxed. He struggled and heaved with all he could; the seven people lying over him tumbled to the ground, one after another.

Duan Yu felt immensely delighted.

Their master's kid has been snatched away by Miss Mu; now everybody's mind is in a whirl and frenzy. None of them could bother about catching me any longer,

he thought. Crawling out from under a pile of human bodies, Duan Yu wondered,

Why aren't these people lying immobile on the floor? Yes. They must be fearful that their master would punish them severely, hence they pretended to be injured.

He must be very intent on escaping, to the point that he had no idea how weak the logic in his conjecture was. Finally, he got the freedom he wanted so much; his legs sprinted so quickly as if there were wings attached to them. Never in his dreams would he ever have dreamt that all the internal energy of the seven disciples has now become his own ….

The distance he covered was disproportionate to the footsteps he took; he reached the back of the house in no time at all. The assorted positions such as 'Not-yet Fording', 'Already Fording' were all discarded at the back of his mind. The elegant postures of 'Concealed Moon behind the Frail Clouds; returning snow from the flowing wind' turned into garbage created by Cao Zi Jian. Duan Yu ran amok like a dog which owners have died, and frenzied as though he were a fish that was trapped in a net where there is a gaping hole large enough for it to escape.

No Measure Sword disciples had their swords ready and were scampering in all directions, yelling as loud as their lungs would allow. "Don't let that evil witch get away!" "Quick! Snatch our little junior apprentice back!" "You go there! I'll go this way!"

Miss Mu's 'exchange for the general with the horse' tactic is ingenious; now it even became 'attracting the tiger to leave the mountain

, Duan Yu thought gleefully.

Now I must employ the thirty-sixth tactic.

He dived into a dense patch of grass, and crawled more than ten zhang away. He thought inwardly:

My hands and feet are touching the ground at the same time; what other skill am I using if it isn't the '(un)Graceful Crawling upon the Waves'?

The noises and yells decreased in volume; seeing that no one has noticed him, Duan Yu finally stood up and fled to the dense forest at the back of the mountain. Even though he was running for a long long time, he felt just indescribably energetic. He found it very strange and warned himself: Better not be so scared; otherwise I would run until all my energy has depleted.

A large tree stood nearby and he took the opportunity to rest under the shade. But he felt spirited and full of vigour; what's there to rest when he had too much energy to spare?

When people get lucky, they would feel as if their bodies were packed with dynamic energy; still, they will break down eventually

, Duan Yu thought.

He remembered the instructions stated for the 'Vibration' Trigram, number six two: Don't chase; harmonize after seven days. Suddenly, he remembered: Today is the seventh day of my captivity! I must be careful of the two words 'Don't chase', Duan Yu thought warily. He circulated the internal energy collected in his 'Shan Zhong' acupoint to the Lung Meridians; however, he just had too much internal energy. Back and forth the energies went; there were simply no end to it all.

He suddenly became frightened. "This isn't good", he told himself, "There must be some danger awaiting me." Since the pain in his chest has now fully dissipated, he ended his internal energy circulation, stood up and started walking again. He thought:

how am I to meet Miss Mu to tell her I am no longer in danger? I must also tell her to return the baby to Zuo Zi Mu; otherwise he would care for his son too much and live with fear from then onwards.

Walking a few more li, Duan Yu suddenly heard the sounds of something going 'ji' 'ji'. A grey shadow flashed past before his eyes. He saw that it was a tiny animal that soared past him in a speed few animals could ever possess, and vaguely recognized it as Zhong Ling's pet marten Lightning. The object simply leaped too fast for the naked eye to observe carefully. But Duan Yu knew this animal that could travel at lightning speed could only be the Lightning marten.

Duan Yu was pleased at seeing it. He thought inwardly:

Miss Zhong went everywhere yet she couldn't find you; all along you had hid yourself here, I shall bring you back to your rightful owner; she will be too pleased to be able to speak.

He whistled loudly, imitating Zhong Ling's whistling voice. The shadow flashed. An animal fell from the trees above and sat several zhang in front of him. A pair of quivering, sparkling eyes stared back at him. It was indeed Lightning. Duan Yu whistled once more; Lightning moved two steps closer and lay immobile on the floor.

"Good marten, good marten. I shall bring you back to your owner." Duan Yu called out loudly. He whistled again and moved few steps forward. Lightning remained immobile. Duan Yu had touched its back before; he knew this animal was speedy as the wind, and had poisonous fangs; but it obeys its master before everything else. He saw the marten's eyes continued quivering, and couldn't help commenting how cute it was.

Duan Yu whistled and moved forward again, before squatting down before the animal and said, "Obedient marten!" He slowly stretched his hand and caressed its back; Lightning lay unmovable on the floor all this while. Duan Yu caressed the marten's fur, which felt smooth, gentle and soft. In a gentle voice, he spoke, "Good marten, let's go home!"

That said, his hand went over to carry the marten.

In an instant, his arms trembled, followed shortly by a sharp pain in his left thigh. A gray shadow flashed once more, and Lightning reappeared several zhang in front of him. It stood on the floor, staring back at Duan Yu with its quivering eyes.

Duan Yu shrieked in horror. "Aiyo! You bit me!"

A tiny hole appeared in his left trousers. Duan Yu rolled up his pants and saw two rows of teeth marks imprinted on his left thigh. Fresh blood seeped out from the wound….

He could remember the horrific scene of Divine Farmer Clan Leader Si Kong Xuan slicing off his arm as if it has happened only a few minutes ago; fear gripped his heart and he was so sure his soul was about to leap out of his own body. He cried in disbelief, "You…you…. How could you be so unreasonable? I am your master's good pal! Aiyoh!"

A pain shot through his left thigh, numbing it. Duan Yu involuntarily knelt down on the floor; his arms held on to the area above his wound, trying – but failing – to prevent the venom in his left thigh from spreading any further. Sure enough, the same numbing pain that coursed through his left leg did the same to his right thigh. No longer in control of his legs, Duan Yu collapsed onto the floor.

The shock was too much for him to handle; he used his arms to push himself against the floor, trying to get up. Unfortunately, his arms felt numb and enervated. With all the strength he could muster, Duan Yu crawled a few steps forward. Right in front of him, Lightning the marten looked on impassively; all this while, it did not seem to move a single inch.

Duan Yu thought bitterly to himself,

I am just too rash. This marten has been brought up by Miss Zhong; naturally, it would only listen to what she says. It is highly possible my whistle sounds different from hers. What … what should I do?

He knew perfectly well the only thing to do to preserve his life would be to follow what Si Kong Xuan did when he was bitten: hack at the injured area with a weapon. However, he hadn't had any weapons with him; moreover, he lacked the courage and instinct of a seasoned warrior like Si Kong Xuan. Furthermore, he had just learnt the skill 'Graceful Steps upon the Waves': without a leg, he could only perform the skill '(Un)graceful one-legged bouncing upon the Waves'. To him, that would have been meaningless.

He sighed and complained for a moment; his limbs gradually became stiffer and more immovable by the second. He knew the venom had spreaded throughout his entire body. Soon, he found himself unable to close his eyes and mouth. He was, however, still aware of his surroundings.

He mused sadly:

If I were to die like this, wouldn't I look ugly? My corpse would have a gaping mouth, would I become an idiot ghost or a hungry one in future? Fortunately, there is one good news amongst all this bad ones: When Miss Mu sees my grotesque corpse with my mouth wide open and my naked bottom, she might vomit at the ugly sight. Perhaps she might think less about me after my death. This would be better for her health.

Three thunderous 'Jiang-ang' growls reverberated noisily in the air. Then, came the sounds of

pu pu pu

. Something leaped out of the tall grasses.

Duan Yu froze, dreadfully.

Aiyo! The King of all Poisons, the "Venomous Crimson Bullfrog" is here! Those two men said the moment one sees this creature, his or her own body immediately gets dissolved into a thick pool of blood. What am I going to do?

And then he thought,

What a silly blockhead I am. Given a choice between turning into a thick pool of blood and dying as a corpse with a wide mouth and a naked bottom, which would be preferable? Definitely the former.

'Jiang-ang' noises echoed continually in the air; the newcomer has arrived at Duan Yu's right. Duan Yu was unable to look at it as his neck bones had stiffen so badly he couldn't even turn his head; he could only await his fate: to dissolve into a pool of blood.

Pu

sounds were made again; fortunately for Duan Yu, the creature suddenly leapt at the direction where the marten Lightning was instead.

No words could describe Duan Yu's astonishment as the creature came into view. It was only a toad – a very tiny one. It couldn't have been longer than two cun*. Its body gleamed a crimson bloodlike colour from top to bottom and a golden aura radiated off its sparkling, glimmering eyes.

It opened its mouth wide; the flabby skin underneath its neck vibrated ferociously. A thunderous croak projected – the 'Jiang-ang' noise he has once compared to that of a buffalo's growl. It was incredible how a tiny little creature like that could produce such a sonorious cry. If not for the fact that the creature was right before his very eyes, Duan Yu would never have believed such a phenomenon existed.

He thought inwardly,

No wonder it is called the 'Venomous Crimson Bullfrog'. Its growl resembles a bull's; its body crimson all over; there can't be a better name to describe it. Even so, there must be a mistake going on regarding the rumour going on about dissolving into a pool of blood upon seeing it. Furthermore, the name 'Venomous Crimson Bullfrog' was surely coined by one who has seen it before. How can a pool of blood think of such a suitable name?

Upon seeing the Bullfrog, the Lightning marten seemed to look slightly apprehensive. It turned his head as if to run, yet it dared not. In an instant it leapt into the air. The Bullfrog widened its mouth, projecting a thunderous 'Jiang-ang' growl, and a faint spray of scarlet mist shot towards Lightning.

Lightning happened to be in mid-air at the time; as the mist struck it, the marten somersaulted into the air and plunged towards the ground. Then suddenly, it pounced forward and sank its teeth into the Bullfrog's back.

In the end, Lightning emerges victorious over the toad.

Duan Yu thought proudly.

He was wrong. Just as soon as the thought flashed in his mind, the marten fell limply and lay supine on the floor. Its legs quivered its last, and it would never move again.

Aiyoh!

Duan Yu thought sadly. Should he be able to speak, he would have cried out loud. Although Lightning had bitten him to 'death', he knew that it was entirely his fault for rashly trying to tame the marten even when he had neither experience nor knowledge of doing so. As such, he didn't blame the marten at all. Seeing it die before his very eyes, Duan Yu felt miserable.

Sigh. If Miss Zhong knows about this, she would feel so sad.

He watched helplessly as the Bullfrog leaped onto the marten's body, creeping towards its cheeks and began sucking at it. It started off with the marten's left cheek, followed by its right.

Duan Yu thought to himself:

The Venomous Crimson Bullfrog sure isn't given the title "King of All Poisons" for nothing. The fatal venoms in Lightning's fangs did entirely no effect to the toad; instead, the poor marten got itself poisoned. Now, this Bullfrog is going to extract the venoms in Lightning's toxic glands. Lightning the marten is hyperactive and extremely cute; the Venomous Crimson Bullfrog has a scarlet body and golden eyes, its beauty almost unsurpassable. Who on Earth would suspect that beneath the exterior of such sheer beauty lay a river of venom so thick and deadly…. No, Dear Goddess, I wasn't referring to you....

The Bullfrog jumped off the marten's body when it's done, letting out two thunderous 'Jiang-ang' croaks. Suddenly, soft 'xiao xiao' hisses could be heard. The next instant, a huge centipede swam into view. Its body had brilliant spots of scarlet and black all over; it must have been seven to eight cun long.

The Bullfrog reacted quickly. It pounced at the nimble centipede, but missed it narrowly, as its poor victim was now fleeing for its life. Dissatisfied, the Bullfrog tried again a couple of times, yet none of its attempts succeeded.

It croaked out loud, ready to fire a blast of poisonous mist. Suddenly, the centipede changed its direction mid-way and headed for Duan Yu's mouth, which happened to be wide open ….

Duan Yu was stunned beyond words. Most unfortunately, he couldn't move. Not even close his mouth. He can't do anything except yell like mad in his mind,

Hey! This is my mouth, brother! Don't be mistaken; it isn't a centipede hole….

He heard a faint hiss; the centipede crawled unceremoniously up its tongue. Duan Yu almost fainted from the fright. He felt a moving sensation with many, many legs crawling down his throat, and went further down his gullet. It wasn't long before it disappeared right into Duan Yu's stomach.

Worst still, such catastrophes never end so early. The Bullfrog jumped into the air and landed right on Duan Yu's tongue! Duan Yu felt something icy at his throat, and sure enough, the Bullfrog went inside his stomach to chase after the centipede. Having a rather smooth skin, the Bullfrog slid down his gullet rapidly.

He could hear 'Jiang-ang' croaks emitting from his own stomach. They sounded depressing. Duan Yu felt nothing could possibly be worse – or more hilarious – than this. He wanted to bawl out loud, yet at the same time, felt like bursting out laughing too. However, his muscles had stiffened so badly he could do neither of these.

At this point, tears dropped onto the ground beneath.

Suddenly, he felt a continuous lurching motion in his belly. The pain was unbearable. He wondered whether the Bullfrog had succeeded in catching the centipede, he could only yell out in his mind,

Brother Bullfrog, go and catch the centipede quickly and climb out immediately once you're done. There is nothing fun to do in my lowly stomach.

A few moments passed, and his stomach finally stopped lurching. Vanishing along with it were the 'Jiang-ang' croaks. The pain, however, had not. Quite the contrary, it seemed to grow even more intense. Another few moments passed and Duan Yu suddenly closed his mouth and his teeth rammed painfully onto his tongue. Under excruciating pain, Duan Yu felt his tongue went back into his mouth.

Duan Yu, feeling surprised, called out loud, "Brother Bullfrog, come out quickly!" He widened his mouth, waiting for it to come out, but even after a long long time, nothing happened.

"Jiang-ang! Jiang-ang! Jiang-ang!" Duan Yu croaked, hoping desperately that the Bullfrog would be attracted to the sound and would then get out from there. However, it appeared as if the toad was oblivious of the sound. Perhaps ... it could tell there's something amiss with the croaks; therefore it was unwilling to be fooled by him and preferred resting in his stomach.

Now unnerved and frantic, Duan Yu inserted his hand deep inside his mouth and tried digging out the Bullfrog. Needless to say, it was impossible for anyone to attempt this. After quite a while, Duan Yu became aware that he could move his limbs again! He stood upright and stretched his back; the paralyzing feeling in his limbs had disappeared without a trace.

"This is strange! This is strange!" Duan Yu remarked aloud.

This King of Poisons must be intending to stay in my stomach permanently; what am I to do if it really decides to treat my stomach as its cosy home? Allow me to congratulate it for its new home.

Duan Yu decided.

He did a handstand and supported his legs with a huge tree trunk nearby. He widened his mouth and shook his own body hard for quite a while. Still, nothing happened. It seemed as if the Bullfrog was insistent on using his stomach as a home and had decided to live there till it dies.

Duan Yu was left with no way out. He, however, had a rough idea of what has just happened,

This King of Poisons and that centipede must have become food digested in my stomach. It must be that their venoms have neutralized the marten's venom in my body. To think that I have digested such a venomous creature, and at this point of time my stomach stopped hurting anymore. This sure is very weird.

He did not know that typical venoms from snakes and toads are only fatal when they come into contact with one's blood. Yet, if they were to be consumed, so long as his of her mouth, throat, digestive tract and the various digestive organs weren't damaged internally, there would be no harm done. Similarly, if he were to get bitten by a poisonous snake, he could suck the venom out of his wound and save his own life.

However, the various poisons and venoms in this world are varied – too varied for one to generalize the whole of them in a single breath. The Venomous Crimson Bullfrog may possess powerful toxins in its body; however, it is absolutely harmless when placed in the stomach of a person. Rather, its body had been dissolved by Duan Yu's digestive juices. To the Bullfrog, Duan Yu's digestive juices are the toxic venoms – it was they which dissolved the poor creature into a thick pool of blood.

Duan Yu stood upright and walked a few steps. Suddenly, his stomach burned as if they were coals in it; a gust of blazing heat had erupted within his abdomen. 'Aiyoh!' He yelped.

The sudden gust of energy rocketed wildly inside him; however, it met with walls everywhere and thus cannot be released away. Duan Yu attempted vomitting it out, but no matter how hard he try, he couldn't succeed.

This time, he took an extremely deep breath and exhaled all the air in him with all he could, hoping that the venomous gas the Bullfrog has dissolved into will too leave his body.

Little did he know that his endeavour to expel the air within him had transformed the blazing heat into a coil of heat, which flowed unhurriedly into his Ren Meridians.

All right,

Duan Yu thought,

Let us get this done and over with. Brother Bullfrog, you have flatly refused to spare me and tried haunting me – now my 'Ocean of Energies' shall become your place of burial. Whenever you feel like poisoning me, I shall return your favour anytime you wish.

He continued to inhale and exhale deeply. Indeed, he felt the warmth within him channel along the meridians he had cultivated and disappear inside his 'Ocean of Energies'. Soon, he no longer felt anything strange.

Despite his struggling with life and death for so long, Duan Yu felt as energetic as before. He gathered rocks and sand and piled them onto the body of the dead marten. When he was done, he prayed silently:

Little brother Lightning, I will surely bring your master Miss Zhong to offer her prayers in front of your grave and at the same time offer you some poisonous snakes we could catch. Earlier you bit me unintentionally, I won't tell any of this to your master, for she will berate you if she knows about it – don't worry.

Out of the woods, Duan Yu saw Zuo Zi Mu running frantically with his sword in position.

He must be chasing after Miss Mu, I shan't not interfere.

With that, he silently stalked the panicky man. At this point of time he had the combined internal energies of the seven No Measure Sword disciples; following Zuo Zi Mu up the mountain was no difficult task. Besides, Zuo Zi Mu was too bothered for the safety of his child to notice somebody following him.

Fearing that Zuo Zi Mu might suddenly turn behind and act rashly towards him – or perhaps even use this opportunity to hold him hostage for exchange of his child, just like the 'exchange for the general with the horse' tactic Miss Mu employed against Zuo Zi Mu – he maintained a fairly wide distance between himself and the man before him.

Soon after, Duan Yu reached the waist of the mountain. Knowing that his reunion with Mu Wan Qing is coming soon, his heart burned with longing. He, however, feared that the Divine Croc might lose patience and harm her; no longer able to control himself, he yelled out to her at the top of his voice.

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