Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre Chapter 21-25

@Chapter 21 - Solving Problems, Resolving Disputes and Combating the 6 Forces
Zong Wei Xia became secretly alarmed as he witnessed Zhang Wu Ji capture the heavy weighing Yuan Yin with such ease. But he was already situated in the middle of the battlefield, how could he possibly retreat now and thus reveal his weakness? Therefore, Zong Wei Xia shouts out loudly, “Hey! The one called Zeng! You came in here and insisted on sticking your nose into our business. Who sent you here, and whose orders are you acting on?” Zhang Wu Ji replies, “I act merely with the hope of seeing the 6 great sects being able to resolve their conflicts and make peace with the Ming sect. I am not ordered by anyone.” Zong Wei Xia barks back, “Hmph! You expect us to shake hands and make peace with the demon sect?! It’s absurd and impossible. The old bandit Yan promised to receive 3 more stances of my Fists of the Seven Damages, let me finish him first before I take care of you!” he rolls up his sleeves and prepares to fight.

Zhang Wu Ji immediately interrupts, “Elder Zong, you keep mentioning the Fists of the Seven Damages, but allow me to express my humble opinion elder – your current skill level of the Fists of the Seven Damages has still not been executed to an expertly stage yet. There are 5 elements within the human body – heart as governed by fire, lungs governed by gold, kidney by water, spleen by earth and liver by wood, in addition to that, there are the two chi(s) – Ying and Yang. Once one practices the Fists of the Seven Damages, all 7 elements will be inflicted with damage. The foundation of this set of fists was inclined to be in such a way that with every level you advance in, your own internal organs will also have to subsequently withstand an extra level of damage. Hence you have to first inflict harm upon your own self before you can harm your enemy. However, elder Zong, the good news is that you have not been practicing this set of fists for very long, therefore you can still be saved.”

Listening to these words, Zong Wei Xia recognized that they were indeed the key points delineated within the manual’s central instructions for the Fists of the Seven Damages. The manual did repeatedly describe of these side- effects, warning the practitioner that if they were to attempt this set of fist, it must not be done so unless the reserve of their energy levels has reached the point of where it can course through the various acupoints of their body at will and be withdrawn with ease. If one has not reached this level yet, then they must caution to never practice this set of fists. However, this set of fists was the most famous and powerful martial art in the Kong Dong sect, therefore as soon as Zong Wei Xia reached a fairly stable reserve of internal energy he immediately started to practice this set of fists. He suddenly found the power within his punches to have increased significantly and once his appetite was wetted, it became very hard for him to restrain from continuing the practice. Hence all traces of the manual’s warning has long since been completely forgotten. Besides, all of the 5 elders in the Kong Dong sect practices this set of fists and since Zong Wei Xia himself resided in the second position, how could he possibly allow himself to be outdone? But upon hearing Zhang Wu Ji’s words at this moment, he became suddenly alarmed. Shocked, he asked, “How did you know all this?”

Zhang Wu Ji does not reply, but continues to say, “Elder Zong, I entreat you to massage the yun-men, cloud-gate energy point on your shoulder – are you feeling a faint throbbing pain? The yun-men energy point governs the lungs, which means that the connection to your lungs has been wounded. The qing- ling, jade-spirit energy point located on the upper half of your kidney will often given you a numbing ache that becomes unbearable – am I right? The qing-ling energy point is related to the heart, meaning the heart pulse has been damaged. The wu-li, five-mile energy point on your thigh will ache with pain every time the weather rains or clouds over. This is due to the fact that the wu-li point governs the liver, meaning your liver has suffered harm. The longer you continue this practice, the more increasingly severe these faint signs of bodily disorder will become. If you continue on for another 8 or 9 years, I’m afraid that you will cripple your whole body for life.” As Zong Wei Xia concentrated on Zhang Wu Ji’s every word, bead after bead of sweat emanated from his forehead. Little did he know that many years ago, Xie Xun had related the whole essence and nature of the Fists of the Seven Damages to Zhang Wu Ji, thus enabling Zhang to be very well acquainted with the nature of this martial art skill. On top of that, Zhang is extremely well learned in the practice of medicine, thoroughly understanding the relationship between the various pulse points and the side effects that arises from their damage. Thus every word that he utters is dead on. Over the course of these few years, Zong Wei Xia has indeed been feeling faint traces of those side effects that Zhang Wu Ji mentioned. Due to the fact that his condition has not yet reached the state of which would give cause for any serious alarm, he has therefore always secretly harboured his illnesses and remained averse to the idea of seeking medication. But hearing Zhang Wu Ji list out one after the other, details of his physical condition so accurately, he couldn’t help but be alarmed to the point of undergoing a change of colour in his countenance. It is only after the duration of a very long pause before he is finally able to utter the words, “How … how did you know this?”

Zhang Wu Ji smiles faintly and replies, “I happen to know a little about the laws of medicine. If elder you are willing to trust me, as soon as the situation here is resolved, I can think of ways to cure you of your present ailments. But I must remind you once more that practicing this skill will only bring upon harm, and will do you absolutely no good. You must not continue to practice it.”

Zong Wei Xia forces himself to refute, “The Fists of the Seven Damages is the top martial art skill within the Kong Dong sect’s establishment, how can it be as you say, harmful and unbeneficial? Back in the days, our sect’s ancestor Mu Ling Zi established worldwide fame for himself solely from this set of fists. Not only did his great name spread to the four seas, but he also lived to be 91 years old! How can it be damaging to the body? Doesn’t this prove that your words are a pile of rubbish?”

Zhang Wu Ji replies, “It can be imagined that the elder Mu Ling Zi must have achieved an extremely powerful reserve of inner energy, therefore he, of course can practice this skill. Not only will it do him no harm, it will actually work to strengthen his internal organic system. According to my humble opinion elder Zong, your level of inner energy has still not reached this level yet. If you continue to forcefully practice this skill, I’m afraid that in the end all will be to no avail, and your efforts will only result in uselessness.”

Zong Wei Xia was a famous and important figure within the Kong Dong sect, therefore even though he recognizes that Zhang Wu Ji’s words were not without its truthfulness, yet having the most famous set of fist skill that helped to establish the name of his sect being criticized by this youngster in front of a big crowd of martial art fighters as being “useless,” how can he possibly not be angry? He shouts out loudly, “Who do you think you are? How dare you criticize my sect’s greatest martial arts skill? If you think that it is really to be looked upon so lightly, then why don’t you come out and try it yourself, see whether it really is so useless?” Zhang Wu Ji smiles ever so faintly and replies, “The Fists of the Seven Damages is most definitely a superbly complex and mystical skill. The essence of the fists lies in its embodiment of raw force that still maintains a degree of gentleness, a simultaneous energy of harmonious balance that still exerts forceful power. The seven different channels of execution are each distinct, it ebbs and flows with hundreds of variations. It really catches one’s opponent off guard and renders them defenceless.” Zong Wei Xia upon hearing Zhang Wu Ji relate with straightforward honesty the intricate relationships of the Fists of the Seven Damages, he could no longer help himself from breaking into faint signs of a smile while repeatedly nodding his head in agreement. Zhang Wu Ji continues, “I am just saying that if one’s inner energy reserve has not reached an adequate level, then practicing the fist skill will definitely cause more harm than good.”

Zhou Zhi Rou was standing behind a bunch of her shi jies as she observed Zhang Wu Ji. She mused at the fact that though Zhang embodied the faint traces of a young person’s charismatic spirit, he was at the same time forcing himself to appear as this worldly, well-learned old soul as he lectured solemnly and soberly. It was as if he was teaching a lesson to Zong Wei Xia, the second elder of the Kong Dong sect’s 5 elders – she couldn’t help but be amused by the ridiculous and comical nature of the whole situation. Yet at the same time, she couldn’t help but start to secretly worry for him.

Hearing the content of Zhang Wu Ji’s words gradually becoming more and more offensive, the reckless and impulsive young disciples of the Kong Dong sect were almost unable to restrain themselves from shouting out insults. But when they looked over at Zong Wei Xia, they saw that he was harbouring a serious countenance as he devotes the utmost attention and concentration to this youngster’s words. The young disciples can therefore only force back the insults that had already arrived at the tip of their tongues.

Zong Wei Xia asks, “So from what you are saying, my inner energy levels is still not advanced enough?” Zhang Wu Ji replies, “Whether elder’s inner energy levels has progressed to an advance state yet, I dare not make any judgements rashly. But if during all this time that you have spent practicing the Fists of the Seven Damages, you are also simultaneously hurting your own body, then it is better to not practice …”

Before he could continue, he suddenly heard an angry shout from behind him, “Brother, why waste your breath on this young rascal? If he dares to look down upon our sect’s Fists of the Seven Damages, then let him withstand the taste of one of my fists!” With the termination of this person’s voice, followed his fist. His movements were both fast and deadly, a force whooshed by to deliver a heavy fist that landed upon the ling tai, spirit- temple energy point of Zhang Wu Ji’s back.

Although Zhang Wu Ji was very aware of the impending attack coming up from behind him, yet not only did he chose to completely ignore it, but he also continued to address Zong Wei Xia, “Elder Zong…”

Suddenly sounds of metal chains clanging against each other were heard, and a person rushed out from the crowd. A sweet melodious voice cries out, “You’re secretly attacking him behind his back?!” upon saying this, a set of hands joined by metal cuffs reaches out over the attacker’s head. The voice belonged to Xiao Zhao. That person struck back with his left hands, thereby blocking off the metal chains and then very concretely landed a punch on Zhang Wu Ji’s back. Although this punch landed dead on upon Zhang Wu Ji’s ling tai acupoint, yet not only did Zhang Wu Ji seem to have not even registered the blow, but instead he turns toward Xiao Zhao and smiles gently, “Don’t worry Xiao Zhao, this level of the Fists of the Seven Damages will not be of much use.” Xiao Zhao breathes a sigh of relief, her snow white skin suddenly tinged with a red blush, as she says in a low voice, “I almost forgot that you have already practiced …” upon saying this, immediately hushed up and backed away, returning to the crowds, dragging her metal chains along with her.

Zhang Wu Ji turns around and discovered that the attacker was an old man with a big head and skinny body. This man was the fourth elder of the Kong Dong sect’s 5 elders – his name was Chang Jing Zhi. Although that one punch had clearly landed directly on Zhang Wu Ji’s crucial pulse point, yet Zhang did not seem to have felt anything at all. Chang Jing Zhi was flabbergasted, as he blurted out the words, “You … you’ve already mastered the ‘Divine Art of Diamond Body Invulnerability,’ then you are from the Shaolin sect?” Zhang Wu Ji replies, “I am not a Shaolin disciple …” Chang Jing Zhi knew that all those who practiced this mystical skill of bodily- protection must depend upon the generation of a single breath of inner Qi. Once that person opens their mouth to speak, that breath of Qi will dissipate immediately. Therefore before Zhang Wu Ji can finish his sentence, Chang struck out once again, this time landing a fist upon Zhang Wu Ji’s chest.

Zhang Wu Ji smiles and says, “I’ve already said that the Fists of the Seven Damages is useless if one has not achieved an advanced level of inner energy, if you don’t believe me, then please feel free to throw another punch at me.” Chang Jing Zhi did not waste a single moment before striking out with the speed of the wind, throwing out one punch after another, as two consecutive punches landed on Zhang Wu Ji. In total, altogether of four punches were thrown, every one of them having most definitely landed on Zhang Wu Ji’s body. Yet Zhang continues to smile easily as he receives them, as if he was oblivious to the pain. The four stances of heavy hand all embodied an obliterating force capable of smashing rocks and shattering tombs, yet they were all sustained by Zhang Wu Ji as if they were nothing more than the soft touch of a light breeze and the gentle caress of smooth silk.

Chang Jing Zhi has always been known as the “mountain-splitting single fist,” and although the grandeur of this title may have been slightly exaggerated, yet the forcefulness of his punches cannot be denied. Among the older generation of martial art fighters, he has always remained a respected and well-known figure. There was not a single person on that scene who was not left in a state of utter astonishment and disbelief having witnessed with their own eyes how the four consecutive punches that Chang Jing Zhi executed all amounting to nothing more than a waste of energy. The Kun Lun sect and Kong Dong Sect have always been rivals, and although at this moment they were both cooperating with each other in their attempts to combat the Ming sect, yet in the hearts of both sides lies deep discontentment and contempt for the other sect. A voice coming from the Kun Lun sect mocks in an icy tone, “Oh, very good! A great ‘mountain- splitting single fist’ indeed!” Another person scoffs “And exactly what has those 4 punches been able to split?” It was a good thing that Chang Jing Zhi had such a dark complexion, for although his face has already flushed a deep red it was luckily not too noticeable under his dark skin.

Zong Wei Xia formed a fist with his two hands in accordance to the social etiquette of respectful courtesy, “Young hero Zeng, I am much impressed and amazed at your divine martial art skills. Can this old man ask you to engage in an exchange of 3 stances?” He knew that his Fists of the Seven Damages was at a much more advanced level compared to Chang Jing Zhi’s, therefore he figured that just because his brother fails, he himself may not necessarily lose to the opponent.

Zhang Wu Ji replies, “The Kong Dong sect’s Fists of the Seven Damages is without a doubt a superb skill IF it is practiced correctly, as it is most definitely a force that is capable of obliterating anything in its path. Even the great Shaolin monk Kong Jian who had been able to master the supreme skill of “Divine Art of Diamond Body Invulnerability” died under the Fists of the Seven Damages belonging to your sect. My martial art abilities can in no way be said to even come close to matching that of the great revered monk Kong Jian, how can I possibly be of match? But if elder you insist, I figure there is no harm in receiving 3 of your punches.” The meaning behind his words were clearly implying that though the Fists of the Seven Damages was originally powerful, yet based on the level you have achieved now, you are nowhere near the vicinity of causing any harm.

Zong Wei Xia had no time to care about what the hidden meanings behind Zhang Wu Ji’s words may have been, as he was already secretly generating a few consecutive breathes of inner Qi. Zong Wei Xia came forward a step, noises from the bones of his arm that were rattling against each other started to emanate from the force building up within him. A punch was thrown, and with force it impacted with Zhang Wu Ji’s chest. However, as Zong Wei Xia’s fist made contact with Zhang Wu Ji’s body, Zong Wei Xia immediately discovered that there seemed to be a mysterious magnetic force surrounding Zhang’s body that is momentarily locking Zong’s arm in a fixed position. Much to his alarm, Zong Wei Xia felt that there was suddenly this very soft and warm energy that was entering him through the fist and was heading straight for his dan tien, the elixir field. In that region between his chest and stomach suddenly appeared an indescribable, yet extremely comfortable and harmonious feeling. Shocked from this mysterious phenomenon, Zong Wei Xia retracts his arm and again releases yet another punch in Zhang’s direction, this time striking his lower stomach. Yet the reverberating power that resonates back towards him was extremely strong and forceful, he had to back up a step before he was able to find his balance. He again generated internally a few cycles of energy before once again stepping forward and extended his fist in a fierce punch.

At that moment, Chang Jing Zhi was situated right by Zhang Wu Ji. From Chang Jing Zhi’s perspective, Zong Wei Xia seemed to him to have sustained internal injuries as his countenance was fluctuating between flashes of deep red to moments of deathly paleness. Therefore as Zong Wei Xia threw his third punch, Chang Jing Zhi was already prepared to follow Zong with his own fist. Zong Wei Xia struck Zhang Wu Ji on the chest, while Chang Jing Zhi simultaneously attacked Zhang from the back. The two fists impacted on separate parts of Zhang Wu Ji’s body at the same time, and there can be no doubt that the force impacted upon his body was ferocious. Yet who could have expected those two extremely strong sources of energy to be mysteriously and completely dissipated within a brief instant? Chang and Zong’s combined efforts seemed to have resulted to nothing more than a mere punch into empty space.

Chang Jing Zhi knew very well that he was acting from the position of an elder, and the first time he snuck up and attacked Zhang Wu Ji from behind so as to catch him unawares was already an extremely frowned upon jiang hu taboo. However, at that time he can at least adamantly claim that Zhang Wu Ji’s disrespectful words were tarnishing the reputation of Kong Dong sect’s greatest skill, and thus blame his own actions on the momentary inability to control his temper. Yet this second time around, his sneak assault was undoubtedly the despicable act of a malicious scoundrel. He originally thought that by the combined forces generated from his brother and his own Fists of the Seven Damages, this youngster will definitely succumb to defeat under their fists. Chang knew that as long as he is able to kill the youngster, even if there surfaces any kind of gossip or talk from others afterwards, the fact remains that he has nevertheless eliminated a useless nobody for the 6 great sects and therefore could still be said to have established a heroic accomplishment. Yet strangely, as soon as his fist landed upon his opponent’s body, the entirety of his forceful strength immediately dissipated into nothingness. Chang Jing Zhi was extremely puzzled, he racked his brains yet was still unable to come up with a single clue of how all this could have happened. He could only raise his left hand to his own head, scratching it in state of contemplation.

Zhang Wu Ji addresses Zong Wei Xia with a slight smile, “How are you feeling Elder?”

Zong Wei Xia bows to Zhang Wu Ji in an act of humble reverence, and with respectful esteem to Zhang Wu Ji he says, “Thank you hero Zeng for using your inner energies to heal my bodily afflictions. Young hero Zeng, it is obviously undeniable that your divine marital arts’ proficiency is of an unfathomably deep level. Yet it is this act of repaying the injustice done upon you with an act of kindness and goodwill, this display of such greatness in character and morality that causes me to be truly humbled by and gratuitous towards.” As soon as these words were said, there was not a single person on the battlefield that was not completely astonished and baffled. Of course nobody was aware of the fact that when Zong Wei Xia attacked Zhang Wu Ji consecutively with three punches, Zhang Wu Ji used that opportunity to generate his 9 Yang Zhen Jing, thus delivering his energy into Zong Wei Xia’s body. Although the duration was brief, sweeping over Zong’s body in a short moment’s timeframe, yet the 9 Yang Zhen Jing’s energy was extremely substantial and solidly profound, and even from that brief experience Zong Wei Xia has already benefited quite a bit. He knew that had it not been for Chang Jing Zhi’s surreptitious attack on Zhang Wu Ji, the benefits that could be have been reaped by the third punch would have been much greater.

Zhang Wu Ji replies, “ ‘greatness in character and morality,’ these are kind words of which I am not worthy of. Elder Zong at this moment, your essential nerves and the eight veins have already experienced great agitation, the best thing for you to do right now would be to immediately bring your energies back into balance. It is only through this process can all the harmful toxins that have accumulated within your body from all these years of practicing the Fists of the Seven damages be gradually eradicated within two or three years.”

Zong Wei Xia finally recognized now that his body has indeed fallen ill, so he promptly formed his hands into a fist gesturing gratitude and said earnestly “Thank you, thank you!” and without wasting a moment’s time, he immediately moved back a step and sat down on the floor in order to start generating his Qi. Although Zong Wei Xia knew very well that this gesture was somewhat unsightly and causing him to lose all dignity of appearance, yet this was a life and death situation and therefore he couldn’t allow himself to be bothered or hindered by anything else right now.

Zhang Wu Ji bent down and started to reconnect Tang Wen Liang’s broken ribs. He turned towards Chang Jing Zhi and commanded, “bring some Yang- Rejuvenating Five Dragons Paste to me.” Chang Jing Zhi obediently took out the said paste and handed it over to Zhang Wu Ji. Zhang Wu Ji then requested, “will you please ask the Wu Tang sect to borrow a dosage of their Triple-Huang Wax tablets, and ask to borrow a bit of Hua Shan sect’s Yu Zhen Powder” Chang Jing Zhi obediently followed Zhang Wu Ji’s every word, gathering the necessary items and bringing them to Zhang Wu Ji. Zhang Wu Ji explains, “your sect’s Yang-Rejuvenating Five-Dragons paste is composed of the Cao Wu (aconite) which is extremely effective, while the Wu Tang sect’s Triple-Huang Wax tablets’ ingredients of the three different kinds of Huang – Ma Huang (ephedra herba), Xiong Huang (realgar) and Teng Huang (Resina Garciniae), is also very beneficial. Add to this the Yu Zhen Powder, and as long as elder Tang gets plenty of rest in his recuperation, 2 months later his limbs will be functioning as well as before,” as he was explaining this, Zhang Wu Ji was all the while applying the medicine to Tang Wen Liang’s broken bones, finishing the treatment within a moment’s time.

The various sects each had their own unique formula of therapeutic medicine, each one unique in their remedial nature and the outcome they affect. The details of the various sects’ medicinal remedies were all clearly and explicitly recorded within Hu Qing Niu’s medicine chronicles. Zhang Wu Ji figured that since the 6 major sects were flanking the Ming sect on Guang Ming Peak, they must have each brought along their own remedial medicine in preparation for battle. But the onlookers just became all the more puzzled, not only because Zhang Wu Ji’s curative abilities far excels that of any eminent and famed doctor, but they were even more flabbergasted by the fact that Zhang Wu Ji was able to accurately assess the therapeutic properties of the various medicines belong to each sect. Chang Jing Zhi approached Tang Wen Liang and helped him to his feet, before retreating with a distinct expression of embarrassment and shame. Tang Wen Liang suddenly shouted, “You! Zeng! Tang Wen Liang is extremely indebted to you for healing my injuries. You have my word – one day I will repay your charitable act. But the demon sect is our sect’s sworn adversary. The Kong Dong sect will forever be enemies with the Ming sect, the various scores of vengeance and retribution is something that has long existed between us and is not something that can be resolved through a small favour done on me by you. You’re trying to persuade us to settle our arguments, but we will not be persuaded. If you feel that I am being an ungrateful bastard who does not appreciate the good deed you have done for me, you can just break all my limbs again, but you can’t persuade us to settle our scores with the demon sect.”

Once these words were uttered, the same thought was running through everyone’s mind, “Although they both belong to the Kong Dong sect, yet this Tang Wen Liang definitely has more integrity than that Chang Jing Zhi.”

Zhang Wu Ji replied, “If Elder Tang indeed feels this way, then may I ask what I can do in order for you to listen to my words?”

Tang Wen Liang replies, “Show us your martial art skills. If Kong Dong sect’s skill is indeed inferior to yours, then I have nothing to say.”

Zhang Wu Ji replies, “The number of skilled fighters within the Kong Dong sect are as vast as the clouds, how can I possibly compete with them? Forgive me for being bold and reckless, but today I am insisting on playing the role of the peacemaker so I’ll give it a try. I can only give it my all, using my life as a gamble.” He looks around him and sees that on the east end of the battlefield is an enormous pine tree that must have been taller than 30 feet. Its roots spanning out in all directions as it stands solidly rooted in the ground. Zhang Wu Ji walks over to the tree and speaks out in a loud and clear voice, “Once I happened to come upon the opportunity of learning a little bit of your sect’s Fists of the Seven Damages. If I do anything incorrectly, I entreat you to please be tolerant of me.” Everyone became very shocked upon hearing this, all in a state of disbelieve and questioning, “How can it be that this young man will also know even the Kong Dong sect’s Fists of the Seven Damages? From where could he have possibly learned this skill?” Zhang Wu Ji continues in a clear and steady voice, “The five central channels of energy balances Ying and Yang. Harm the heart, wound the lungs, and mutilate the liver and intestines. Viscera is shattered, energy recedes, will wanes. Once all three sectors of the stomach are reversed, along with the breath, the spirit flees away.”

Although members belonging to the other sects did not take much interest in Zhang Wu Ji’s words, however, the 5 elders of the Kong Dong sect were all shaken to the core upon hearing Zhang Wu Ji clearly and accurately recite these 4 stanzas of words that resembled neither poem nor song. What was just recited by Zhang Wu Ji was indeed the general indexical stanza for the Fists of the Seven Damages, and its composition has always remained a secret belonging to the Kong Dong sect that was not related to outsiders – how could it be that this youngster also knows how to recite it? At that moment how could they have possibly guessed that many years ago when Xie Xun stole the book containing the steps to the Fists of the Seven Damages, he had also related its contents to Zhang Wu Ji?

Zhang Wu Ji while reciting in a clear voice walks forward and strikes out with a punch. The sound of a loud “boom” echoes out and a blur of jade green flashes by the eyes as the top half of the great pine tree is severed off, flying to a side and landing on the ground almost twenty feet away from its original spot. All that is left on the ground is the bottom half of the trunk that is now only around 4 feet tall, the area of disconnection was even and levelled out.

Chang Jing Zhi mumbles to himself, “that’s … that’s not the Fists of the Seven Damages!” The theory behind the Fists of the Seven Damages requires the method of execution to embody both hard and soft elements – where within waves of solid force will also simultaneously exist traces of gentleness, as well as vice versa where soothing suppleness bears the presence of dynamic power. Although this act of severing a big tree into two parts was indeed an extremely powerful move that would call for amazement, yet the source of power derived to execute it is of an extremely solid and forceful kind of energy. Chang Jing Zhi approached the dislocated piece for a closer inspection and could he not stop his jaw from dropping into a gaping hole of disbelief. Jolted into a state of shock and astonishment, he was unable to close his mouth. Chang saw that the core of the tree was cleanly and completely severed, clearly indicating the work of one whose practice of the Fists of the Seven Damages has already reached the highest level.

In actuality, Zhang Wu Ji was intent upon using his power and ability to take control over the battle scene. Therefore, if he was to use the Fists of the Seven Damages to severe the core of the tree trunk, he must wait from 10 days to half a month for the core of the pine tree to dry and shrivel up before he could finish it off. Hence, as he delivered a blow using the Fists of the Seven Damages, he also proceeded with an extremely strong and forceful Yang energy in order to break the tree into a clean half. Years ago on the ice- fire island, his yi fu Xie Xun also employed a similar method based on the same principle of first using the Fists of the Seven Damages to crack and shatter the internal core of the tree before immediately using the dragon sabre to cleanly slice through it.

All that was heard around him were the cheers, excitement and praises coming from all the sects. The energetic enthusiasm was gushing towards Zhang Wu Ji like tidal waves, lasting quite a while before finally quieting down.

Chang Jing Zhi exclaims “Outstanding! That was indeed a demonstration of the highest achievement of the Fists of the Seven Damages skill! I truly bow to you! But I have to ask you young hero Zeng, from where did you learn this set of fists?” Zhang Wu Ji smiles faintly and does not reply. Tang Wen Liang asks in a sharp tone, “Where is the Golden Mane Lion King right now? I entreat young hero Zeng to impart upon us his whereabouts.” Tang has always been a perceptive and shrewd person, and has therefore vaguely deduced that Xie Xun must somehow be either related to, or associated with the youngster that is currently standing in front of him.

Zhang Wu Ji becomes alarmed and thinks to himself, “Darn it! Using the Fists of the Seven Damages has brought attention upon yi fu’s presence. If I truthfully relate to them my relationship with yi fu it will only make me the enemy of the 6 great sects, and then my attempts at playing the role of the peacemaker will not succeed.” He then proceeds to say, “Your sect is insisting that the ultimate figure responsible for the abduction of the manual for the Fists of the Seven Damages is the Golden Mane Lion King? That is wrong, very wrong! That night on the Kong Dong Mountain in the midst of the fight within Qing Yang temple, there was one person in your sect who was injured by the Divine Art of Originating Formation, and hence red spots started to appear all over his whole body. The attacker that night was the one who is known to all as the ‘Lightning Hands of the Originating Formation’ – Cheng Kun.”

Years ago, when Xie Xun arrived on the Kong Dong mountain intent on stealing the fist manual, Cheng Kun purposely assisted him without his awareness in order that he may generate more enemies for the Ming sect. That night, Cheng Kun used the Divine Art of Originating Formation to injure the two elders Tang Wen Liang and Chang Jing Zhi. Xie Xun was not aware that Cheng Kun had secretly assisted him that night, and it was only later when Xie Xun encountered the monk Kong Jian who elucidated for him the truth, did he finally understand what happened. Zhang Wu Ji was thinking to himself that since Cheng Kun has spent a whole lifetime engaged in implementing nothing but evil deeds, purposely framing others for his own evil feats, he may as well give him his just desserts by retaliating in the style of Cheng Kun. Zhang Wu Ji felt that not only was he not lying, but he was also uncovering the truth.

Tang Wen Liang and Chang Jing Zhi had harboured suspicions in their hearts for more than 20 years. At this moment, being presented with an explanation from Zhang Wu Ji, the various incoherencies suddenly fell into place. Tang and Chang looked at each other for a moment, unable to say anything for a while. Zong Wei Xia inquires, “May I ask you hero Zeng, this Cheng Kun – where has he escaped to at this present moment?”

Zhang Wu Ji replies, “The Lightning Hands of the Originating Formation: Cheng Kun was fuelled by only one purpose, and that was to create disorder between the 6 great sects and the Ming sect. He was later taken in under Shaolin’s wing, and changed his name to Yuan Zhen. Last night, he sneaked into the Ming sect’s inner forum and admitted to these crimes with his own mouth to the Ming sect’s head leaders. At that time, Mr. Yang Xiao, Wei Bat-King, and the 5 wanderers were all listening. I swear that this is the unembellished truth. If there is a single false word, then I am even lower than a crowd of dogs and pigs, and when I die may it be that I will be tortured by millions of diabolical calamities and doomed to suffer in eternity, never be reborn again.”

Having heard Zhang Wu Ji deliver these words with utmost sincerity and earnestness, the majority of people were struck with wonder and speculation. Only the Shaolin sect’s various monks simultaneously erupted into loud shouts of protest.

(Continued by Meh)

Only to hear a person stepping up from the crowd, chanting Buddhist prayers. He wears a gray robe, his expression stern, and his left hand holds a string of beads. This is one of the three Mystical Reverends of Shaolin, Kong Sheng. He spoke as he entered the arena, “Mr. Zeng, why do you say such lies, ridiculing my Shaolin Temple? How can I possibly let you continue to say such profane words in front these heroes?” Zhang WuJi bowed and said, “Do not by angry, reverend. Please allow Yuan Zhen monk to step up, so the truth can be told.” Reverend Kong Sheng said with a glum face, “Mr. Zeng keeps asking for my martial nephew Yuan Zhen. You are still quite a young man. Why do you have such a venomous heart?” Zhang WuJi said, “I simply would like for Monk Yuan Zhen to come out, so all the truths and lies will be sorted out. Why would this be venomous?” Kong Sheng said, “Martial nephew Yuan Zhen is my martial brother Kong Jian’s last student. His devotion to the Buddha is very strong. Other than coming with us to the Ming sect, he has never left the temple even once. How can he be the The Lightning Hands of the Originating Formation: Cheng Kun? Besides, martial nephew Yuan Zhen, in order to help us demolish the Devil sect, has already died. How can you say such things about him even in death?”

The words ‘already died’ resonate heavily into Zhang WuJi’s ears. His face instantly turns white. Whatever else Kong Sheng might have later said, he did not hear. Zhang WuJi can only stutter, “He… he really died? No… no it can’t be.” Kong Sheng then points to a pile of monk bodies on the side, and yells loudly, “You can go see for yourself!” Zhang WuJi walks in front of the dead bodies, only to indeed find the body of Yuan Zhen. He checks for breathing, then the muscles for warmth. Based on the temperature, he has already been dead for quite a while. Zhang WuJi felt sadness and happiness in his own heart. He never thought that his godfather’s mortal enemy now lies here dead. The blood in his chest boiled, as he could not hold back facing the sky and laugh, “Oh, you scoundrel. You have done so much evil in your life. Ha! Looks like even you have today’s outcome today.”

These thunderous laughs shook the mountain, trembling the minds of everyone there. Zhang WuJi turns around and asks, “Who killed Yuan Zhen?” Kong Sheng’s face looks cold as ice, and does not respond. Yin TianZheng had already retreated to the side, but now he speaks up, “He and my son Yin YeWang matched palms. One person died and one person injured as a result.” Zhang WuJi bows and says, “I see.” He thought, “I bet after taking Wei YiXiao’s Soft Ice Palm, Yuan Zhen became seriously injured. My uncle’s power is also quite incredible. So that is how he died. I am really glad that it was my uncle who helped me achieve this revenge.” He walks to Yin YeWang’s side, checks his condition, and realizes that the injuries are not life threatening. He said, “Thank you, elder!”

Kong Sheng became angrier and angrier as he watched on the side, exclaiming, “Little kid, get ready to die!” These words resonated loudly into the ears of everyone there. Zhang WuJi turns around and asks, “Why?” Kong Sheng said loudly, “You knew that martial nephew Yuan Zhen is dead. Yet you put all the blame on his shoulders. How can I let someone so malicious live? I will break the pillar not to kill today. Are you going to commit suicide, or do you want me to kill you?” Zhang WuJi thought, “The fact that the main culprit Yuan Zhen had died is originally a good thing. But now how can I show them the truth now?” Just as he is still thinking of a plan, Kong Sheng steps up and aims his right hand at Zhang WuJi’s head. His hand is straight as a stick from the wrist to the fingers, sharp and crisp. Yin TianZheng yelled, “Be careful, it’s Dragon Claws!”

Zhang WuJi’s turns to the side, gently sidestepping the attack. When Kong Sheng could not grab him the first time, he tried again. This time, he’s even quicker and more ferocious. Zhang WuJi again sidesteps his grab by evading to the left. Kong Sheng’s third, fourth, and the fifth strikes immediately followed. In an instant, a gray-robed man became a gray dragon. The dragon shadow flies in the air, the dragon claws dances rapidly, pushing Zhang WuJi to the point where he can no longer move away. A quick ‘swoosh’ sound later, Zhang WuJi’s body flew up, but Kong Sheng had already grabbed his right sleeves, pulling down. Five cuts appeared on Zhang WuJi’s shoulder as blood pour out. The Shaolin monks immediately cheered on, but a lone girl screamed in shock. Zhang WuJi looked at the direction of the voice, only to see Xiao Zhao’s expression extremely pale. She said, “Young master Zhang, you… you be careful.” Zhang WuJi’s heart felt a tingle of warmth, and thought, “This little girl is really nice to me.” After succeeding with his previous move, Kong Sheng immediately followed it up with more, each with a great deal of energy. This type of kung fu is fast and furious. More powerful than anything Zhang WuJi has seen before. He can only try to dodge the oncoming blows.

As Kong Sheng attacks continuously with his Dragon Claws, Zhang WuJi continuously backs away. They kept facing each other, one moving forward, while the other one moving back. After nine consecutive misses by Kong Sheng, he’s still about a yard away from Zhang WuJi. Although he moves forward at lightning speed, Zhang WuJi always manage to back off at the same pace. While Zhang WuJi still has not countered any attacks, one can already see just who has the edge in lightness kung fu. One is moving forward, while the other is backpedaling. The difference in difficulty between the two is easy to see. Since he could not catch up, Kong Sheng’s power in the legs is obviously much worse. Had Zhang WuJi turned around to run, he could have easily left Kong Sheng long behind. Essentially, the reason Zhang WuJi didn’t turn around is so he can see Kong Sheng use his Dragon Claws. By the time he saw the thirty-seventh claw, he realized that it was move number eight, ‘Cloud Palm form’. Obviously, Zhang WuJi does not know its name. But he knows perfectly how one would execute such a move.

This Dragon Claws only has thirty-six moves. Its aim is to be fast and deadly, not concentrating on changing variations. Whenever Kong Sheng has met a formidable enemy, he has always gained the initiative by using this Dragon Claws. Never has he needed more than twelve moves to win the fights. From the thirteenth move on, he has practiced them, but never used them in battle. He can’t believe that he couldn’t win even after using all thirty-six moves. By his thirty-seventh move, he had to reuse his previous ones. Kong Sheng thought, “This kid only has great lightness kung fu and great agility. That’s why he can avoid my strikes. But if we truly stop and fight, I doubt he can handle twelve strikes of my Dragon Claws.” Zhang WuJi by now had already figured out the workings of the Dragon Claw. He found no weaknesses, but Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi can create weaknesses from any type of forms. He thought, “At this time, I can easily kill him. But Shaolin has always held a great reputation, and this monk is one of the three most important people in Shaolin. If I beat him today, where is the face for Shaolin? Yet it’s impossible to simply make him back down willingly. His kung fu, after all, is much better than the Kong Dong elders.” Just as he’s deciding on what to do, he heard Kong Sheng say, “Little kid, you’re just trying to run away, not fighting!” Zhang WuJi said, “Fighting is…” Kong Sheng, knowing that Zhang WuJi’s chi cannot flow efficiently while speaking, and takes advantage of the situation. ‘Swoosh, Swoosh’, two more strikes shot out. Zhang WuJi again floated away, as he continued his sentence, “…also fine. If I defeat you, reverend, what will you do?” He did not pause at all during this sentence. Had someone listened with his eyes closed, he might’ve thought that Zhang WuJi said it while sitting down. No one would believe that he spoke while dodging five attacks from Kong Sheng. Kong Sheng said, “If I lose to you in a true fight, you can feel free to kill me.” Zhang WuJi said, “Oh, I certainly don’t have that in mind! If I lose, obviously you can do what you wish with me. But should I win, I hope Shaolin will leave Brightness Peak today.” Kong Sheng said, “My martial brother is the leader of our group. I do not have a say in the decision- making. Besides, I don’t believe I can possibly lose to a kid like you.”

Zhang WuJi suddenly got an idea, and says, “Shaolin Dragon Claws’ thirty- two strokes have no weakness. It can really be considered the most powerful claw technique in the world. Except it seems that you are using the Dragon Claws a bit wrong.” Kong Sheng said angrily, “Fine! If you can break my Dragon Claws, I’ll immediately go back to Shaolin, never to leave the door again!” Zhang WuJi said, “That won’t be necessary!” The others there cheered loudly as they watched this conversation. Because during this conversation, the two fighters never did take a break in fighting. In fact, they moved faster and faster as the battle went on, yet the tones for their conversation remained clear and calm, showing no signs of breakage. By the time Zhang WuJi finished his last sentence “That won’t be necessary”, his body flew up and then began to spin, spinning four times quickly in midair, each time higher than the last, until he made a final flip, before landing soft as a feather down to the ground far away. The watchers could only stare in awe as they watched. If they hadn’t seen it with their own eyes, no one would have believed that someone could possess such amazing lightness kung fu. Even the Green Bat King, who thought his own lightness kung fu is unparalleled, can only sigh in reverence. As Zhang WuJi landed, Kong Sheng also moved up to him, but didn’t attack. He asks loudly, “Are we going to start now?” Zhang WuJi says, “Sure. After you.” Kong Sheng says, “You’re not going to back off?” Zhang WuJi smiled and says, “If I take another step back, I’ll admit defeat.”

Although the top fighters of the Ming sect are all too injured to move, their hearings are still fine. All of them gasped when they heard Zhang WuJi say this. They are all experienced in the martial world, and realize the power of Kong Sheng’s Dragon Claws. To them, even trying to block one hit would be a difficult task. No matter how good Zhang WuJi is, he still would likely need more than a hundred moves before winning. How can he possibly not take a step back during this time? Only to hear Kong Sheng say, “That won’t be necessary. If I win, I want to win fairly. If I lose, I want to lose willingly.” When he finished, he yelled, “Look out!” Kong Sheng then feints with his left hand, while his right hand carries a strong wind from the other side, reaching for Zhang WuJi’s Bowl Lacking Point on his left shoulder. Zhang WuJi realizes, from the feint, that this is another ‘Cloud Palm Form’. So he also feints with his left hand, while his right hand shot out to Kong Sheng’s Bowl Lacking Point on his left shoulder. Both fighters use the same move, without any difference. Zhang WuJi moves second, but reaches his target first, gaining the initiative. While Kong Sheng’s right hand is still a few inches away from Zhang WuJi’s left shoulder, Zhang WuJi’s five fingers has reached the opponent’s Bowl Lacking Point. Kong Sheng only felt a little sting on his pressure point, as he lost all strength on his right hand. Yet Zhang WuJi did not apply any more power to his claws, instead pulling back his hand. After being stunned for a moment, Kong Sheng’s both hands shot out, attacking with the ‘Pearl Taking Form’, aiming for Zhang WuJi’s left and right Sun Point. Once again Zhang WuJi moved afterwards, and again, landed the attack first, grabbing both of Kong Sheng’s Sun Point. The Sun Point is of paramount importance to a fighter. If reached, it would mean certainly defeat. Yet Zhang WuJi simply lightly touches the Sun Point. He then spins around, and changes into the Dragon Claws’ seventeenth move ‘Moon Catching Form’, aiming Kong Sheng’s Wind Manor Point at the back of his head.

Zhang WuJi had already stunned Kong Sheng by grabbing his Sun Point, but his usage of the ‘Moon Catching Form’ left Kong Sheng dumbfounded. Kong Sheng said, “How… how did you steal Shaolin’s Dragon Claws?”

Zhang WuJi responds with a chuckle, “The martial arts under the Heavens are hardly all unique. It’s only humans who forcibly divide them into different sects. How can you be sure that this Dragon Claws is unique to Shaolin?” But in his mind, Zhang WuJi realizes, “This Dragon Claws really is something. I bet it took Shaolin hundreds of years to refine it into the form today. It probably is unparalleled in the world. If I weren’t using Dragon Claws to fight him, I don’t think I can win.”

Kong Sheng lowers his head, trying to digest this strange information. When it comes to the Dragon Claws, not even his martial brothers can match him in terms of skill. So how can this youngster twice move after him, yet also twice landing the blow first? Plus, this youngster’s accuracy, speed, and power are all incredible, as if he’s been practicing for tens of years.

All the eyes in the crowds stared at him as he stood there in silence. The two moves were over in a blur. So other than the top-level fighters, no one knows just who won the exchange. But they do see that Zhang WuJi still carries a carefree expression, while Kong Sheng is agonizing in his thoughts.

Kong Sheng suddenly roars loudly, swiftly stepping up, his palms powerful as a thunderstorm, ‘Wind Grasping Form’, ‘Shadow Catching Form’, ‘Zither Playing Form’, ‘Drum Beating Form’, ‘Carrying Form’, ‘Sham Striking Form’, ‘Evil Wrapping Form’, ‘Weakness Blocking Form’, all eight moves one after another with lightning speed. Zhang WuJi, keeping his calm, begins grasping winds and catching shadows, playing zither and beating drums, carrying and striking shams, wrapping evil and blocking weaknesses, also making the same eight moves smoothly in a row, each time he goes second, but strikes first.

Kong Sheng’s eight strikes came continuously, looking more like eight different variations of a single move, each with unparalleled speed. Who would’ve thought that Zhang WuJi is even faster? Every time he lands the blow first. Every time Kong Sheng makes a move, he has to take a step back. By the time he has retreated seven steps, he begins to use ‘Evil Wrapping Form’ and ‘Weakness Blocking Form’. These are the last two moves of the Dragon Claws. Their appearance seems to be filled with weaknesses, making the user look unsure of himself. Yet both of these forms are based on the principle of counterattacking. Every single weakness is a trap that allows for some very potent counterattacks. Although Dragon Claws is a Hard style of martial arts, it’s last two moves changes to a very Soft style. Zhang WuJi takes another breath and steps up, also using the same final two forms, but immediately changed to a ‘Cloud Palm Form’ afterwards.

Kong Sheng thought ecstatically, “Ha! Finally fell into my trap.” He sees Zhang WuJi’s right arm entering the trap, unable to possibly retreat. Kong Sheng recoils his arms and then spun them from the top, striking down on Zhang WuJi’s arms from above. He sees that this youngster is proficient in Shaolin kung fu. Afraid that he may be related to the temple, and knowing that Zhang WuJi had been lenient with him earlier, Kong Sheng did not try to take his life, only seeking to break his bones. Yet just before his attack landed, he felt a strong and warm inner power flowing into his chest, preventing his arms from going down further. At this time, Zhang WuJi’s five fingers have already reached his body.

Immediately, Kong Sheng’s heart sank. Tens of years of hard practice on this Dragon Claws, thinking it is unrivaled in the martial world, has now gone up in smoke. He nods and says, “Mr. Zeng’s Dragon Claws are indeed much better than mine.” His left hand then grabs his right hand, about to break them, when he felt numbness on his left wrist. Only to see Zhang WuJi applying some chi there, and says, “I simply used Shaolin’s Dragon Claws to defeat you. What’s the shame in that? Had I used any other type of kung fu, I could not have won today.” Kong Sheng, in his moment of failure, had wanted to break his own fingers, never to practice kung fu again. Yet when he heard this, he realizes that Zhang WuJi had been protecting Shaolin’s integrity this whole time. If Zhang WuJi hasn’t done this, then Shaolin’s history and place in the martial world could have gone down in flames today. After he thought this through, Kong Sheng could only feel gratitude for Zhang WuJi, and says, “Mr. Zeng’s kindness is truly incredible. You have my total admiration.” Zhang WuJi responds, “I’m sorry for striking an elder. Please accept my apologies.” Kong Sheng chuckled, and says, “I can’t believe this Dragon Claws can have such amazing power in your hands. Should you have time, please come to Shaolin so you can give some more pointers.” Usually, this sort of sentence has a connotation of challenging someone to a fight. Yet Kong Sheng’s tone did not carry any of that meaning. He really does deeply respect Zhang WuJi’s kung fu.

Zhang WuJi hurriedly responds, “Oh, you are flattering me. Shaolin’s martial arts are vast and deep, while mine is shallow and thin. Should we be fated to meet again, I would also like reverend you to share some advice with me.” His words are also just as sincere.

Due to his lack of management skills, Kong Sheng doesn’t hold any position of authority within the temple. But his reputation in Shaolin is extremely good. Everyone deeply respects his character and martial arts skills. So when Shaolin’s people see that he admits to defeat so sincerely, they do not complain. Plus, seeing how Zhang WuJi did everything in his power to keep Shaolin from losing face, they all knew that Shaolin couldn’t challenge him further today. Kong Zhi is the leader of this whole attack, and knows that the six sects cannot simply back down like this. Seeing the problem with the situation at hand, he gave a look to the Master of Hua Shan sect, XianYu Tong. Xian YuTong is the brain behind this attack on Brightness Peak. When he sees Kong Zhi asking for help, he immediately steps into the arena. Zhang WuJi sees a forty-some year old middle-aged scholar come up, handsome and charismatic, and begins to like him a bit. Zhang WuJi asks, “What does the elder wish of me?” Before XianYu Tong could respond, Yin TianZheng says, “This is the Master of Hua Shan sect, XianYu Tong. Although his kung fu is average, he’s very devious. You need to watch out.” When Zhang WuJi heard the name, he thought, “Hey, this name sounds familiar. I wonder where I heard it before?” Only to see XianYu Tong walk up to a couple of yards in front of Zhang WuJi before stopping. He waves his hand and says, “After you, Mr. Zeng.” Zhang WuJi also returns the favor, and adds, “After you, Master XianYu.”

XianYu Tong says, “Young Hero Zeng’s kung fu is simply marvelous, to be able to defeat the Kong Dong elders and even the Mystic Reverend Kong Sheng. I truly respect you. So may I ask, who is your teacher? Which sect did you come from?”

Zhang WuJi has to think of how to respond, so he remains silent.

XianYu Tong laughed, and then speaks loudly, “I wonder why Young Hero Zeng is so afraid to speak about your mentor? As a wise man once said, ‘When you see someone worthy, you hold them in high regards, when you see someone not worthy…” When Zhang WuJi heard this, he immediately thought of ‘See Death but Won’t Help’*. He then remembered that five years ago in the Butterfly Valley, Hu QingNuo told him that XianYu Tong killed his sister. At that time, Zhang WuJi thought, “This XianYu Tong really is a terrible person. If he doesn’t get bad luck later in life, then the gods really need their eyes re-examined.” The words of that day came back to him, “A youngster got the Golden Bug Poison of the Miao tribe. He should’ve died from the poison, but I treated him for three days and three nights, using all my powers to cure him. We became sworn brothers afterward. Sighs. Who would’ve thought that he later killed my sister… My poor sister… Ever since our parent’s death, we had only each other for support.” When Hu QingNuo said this, his face was so frail and miserable, making Zhang WuJi quite sad. Hu QingNuo then said that he later tried to seek revenge, but Hua Shan sect simply has too many powerful people, and XianYu Tong is too cunning. So Hu QingNuo almost died in his hands. When Zhang WuJi thought of all this, he raised his eyebrows, and his eyes brightened, staring at XianYu Tong. Zhang WuJi feels the need to teach this person a lesson, so he chuckled, and then said, “I was never poisoned at the Miao Tribe, nor did I kill the sister of my best friend, why would I have anything to hide?” *This made a lot more sense in Chinese, since the two phrases are similar.

XianYu Tong is instantly shaken when he heard this, and cold sweat pours down his face. After Hu QingNuo saved his life, he and Hu QingNuo’s sister Hu QingYang fell in love. He married Hu QingYang, and she became pregnant. But later XianYu Tong wanted to be the Master of Hua Shan, so he left behind Hu QingYang. Then he married the only daughter of the former Hua Shan Master, resulting in Hu QingYang committing suicide. This is a story that XianYu Tong kept secret for years now. Yet somehow this little kid found out about it. How could he not be shocked? XianYu Tong immediately begins to think, “Since this kid knows my secret, I must kill him. It would be disastrous for him to reveal this to the world.” This prompted him to regain his intensity. XianYu Tong says, “If you won’t reveal your teacher’s name, I guess I’ll have to test out your amazing skills then. Let’s just have a friendly duel, so please don’t hurt me too much.” As he said this his left hand shot out at Zhang WuJi’s head, yelling, “Let us start!” He obviously doesn’t want to give Zhang WuJi a chance to say something else, which Zhang WuJi has figured out. He easily blocked off the oncoming blow and keeps taking, “I know Hua Shan’s kung fu is great. So I don’t need to fight to test it out. But your ‘Repaying Kindness with Reprisal*’ skill is really quite unmatched, don’t you agree?”

*For the life of me I can’t think of the right English word for this. I think it’s a pretty simple word too. Or maybe not…

XianYu Tong immediately attacks again to prevent him from talking further, using a top move from the seventy-two road ‘Life and Death of Eagle and Snake Art’. He closed his fan in his right hand, and held it like a snake’s head. His left hand uses a type of Eagle Claw move. The snake is used to pierce into the opponent, while the eagle grabs him. The two hands use two completely different types of techniques. This ‘Life and Death of Eagle and Snake Art’ has been the top kung fu in the Hua Shan sect for over a hundred years, and can overwhelm the opponent by attacking together with great speed and accuracy.

Against normal people, this kung fu can easily mystify the enemy and prevent them from blocking properly. But Zhang WuJi easily figured out the intricacies after only a few moves. He knows that XianYu Tong’s skills are much worse than Kong Sheng’s, so he parried all the attacks quickly. Then he says, “Master YuXian, I have a question I need to ask. When you were poisoned that year, and were about to die. That person spent three days and three nights to cure you, and became your sworn brother. So why were you so cruel, killing his sister in return?”

XianYu Tong can’t answer his question, so he scolded, “Hu…” He wanted to say “Hu Shou Ba Dao*”, and then shoot down Zhang WuJi’s accusations with a false story. He is well known for his cunning in terms of word usage, so this comes easily to him. His main objective is to break Zhang WuJi’s concentration, so he can sneak in for a fatal blow. Because after seeing the fight against Kong Sheng, he knows that he cannot win on kung fu ability alone.

*Hu Shou Ba Dao means bullsh_t.

Unfortunately, just as he said the word “Hu”, he felt a powerful palm strike, pushing in front of his chest, preventing him from finishing the sentence. In the meantime, he felt as if his lungs are being sucked out by the opponent’s palm power, and hurriedly gathered his inner chi for protection. Then he heard Zhang WuJi say, “That’s right, that’s right! You do remember that her surname is ‘Hu’. Why didn’t you finish saying her name? Ms. Hu suffered so much in your hands, so don’t you feel even the slightest guilt?” Trying to regain his breath, XianYu Tong quickly made three attacks, releasing the lock Zhang WuJi’s palm had on his chest. When he finally caught his breath again, Xianu Tong says, “You…” When he got here, he felt yet another wind of chi pressing into his chest, and his speech stopped. Zhang WuJi said, “A man should always admit to what he did. Right is right. Wrong is wrong. Why are you so indecisive? Didn’t the Butterfly Valley Mystic Doctor Hu QingNuo save your life? Didn’t you kill his sister?” He doesn’t know how Hu Qingang died, so he cannot give more details. But XianYu Tong thought that he knew everything, and his face became even paler.

The audience all knows that XianYu Tong is a master at arguing. So they’re all extremely surprised that he could not speak up against Zhang WuJi. Because of this, they all felt that Zhang WuJi must have been speaking the truth. Unfortunately for XianYu Tong, he could not plead his innocence with Zhang WuJi pressuring his lungs. The others only see Zhang WuJi’s fists dances in the air, easily parrying the attacks of XianYu Tong, then counterattack with his own fist. Not even the top fighters can see the weakness of his moves. Most members of the Hua Shan sect could only shake their heads when they see their Master getting pummeled both physically and verbally. Although some felt that he must have some trick up his sleeves. Only to hear Zhang WuJi say loudly, “For us people in the martial world, it’s important to repay kindness with kindness. Hu QingNuo is obviously a member of the Ming sect. You owe your life to the Ming sect, yet you come to attack it? He saved your life, yet you kill his relative? Where is your shame? How can you possibly be the Master of a whole sect?” XianYu Tong suddenly regained his breath again, and says, “Little bastard, stop your lies!” He then immediately pointed his fan in front of Zhang WuJi’s face, and then opened it. Zhang WuJi suddenly smelled a faint scent, and he immediately became dizzy, faltering back a bit. Then he only felt the whole world spinning, and that gold stars were dancing in front of him… XianYu Tong yells, “Little bastard, let me show you the power of my ‘Life and Death of Eagle and Snake Art’.” He quickly moves forward, five fingers reaching for Zhang WuJi’s Yuan Yi Point. He figured that Zhang WuJi couldn’t possibly block this move. Yet for some reason, it came up empty.

The Hua Shan disciples all yelled, “’Life and Death of Eagle and Snake Art’ rules!” “Our master XianYu has mystical powers!” “Now you’ll see some real kung fu!” Zhang WuJi chuckled, and blew his breath towards XianYu Tong’s nose. XianYu Tong suddenly smelled a sweet scent, and became dizzy. He became so scared his soul almost popped out. Then he drops to his knees in front of Zhang WuJi, as if begging him for something. This caught everyone off guard. They all saw Zhang WuJi seemingly injured just a moment ago. Yet how could he make XianYu Tong drop to his knees in such a short time? Does he really know witchcraft or something? Zhang WuJi bents down and takes the fan, then yells, “Hua Shan is considered a righteous sect, so how can you have such an amazing poison skill. Look at this, everyone.” He opened the fan lightly, and flipped around so everyone can see both sides. He continues, “Who would’ve thought that this fan has a hidden trigger for poison!” As he speaks, he walks over to a flower tree, takes down a few flowers, and waves the fan in front of them. In an instant, the flowers all withered.

This shocked everyone, and they all thought, “What kind of poison is this? How can it be so powerful?” Only to hear XianYu Tong lie on the ground, screaming in pain like a pig to be slaughtered. Kung fu experts have a very high tolerance for pain. Under almost any circumstance, they would not yell pain in front of others. So his yells made the all the Hua Shan sect members turn pale. XianYu Tong then screams, “Hurry… hurry and kill mi…. Just kill me…” Zhang WuJi says, “But I do have a way to cure you, except I don’t know what kind of poison you used.”

XianYu Tong screams, “This… this is golden bug poison… golden bug poison… hurry… kill me… Ah…”

The younger generations may not know about this poison, but the elders were shocked at these words. Some of the more righteous people begin to scold XianYu Tong. For the Golden Bug Poison is considered one of the deadliest poisons in the world, no taste and no smell. The poisoned person feels like being eaten by thousands of bugs, the result unimaginable. Even if you have godly powers, a person who doesn’t know any kung fu can kill you in this state. Zhang WuJi then asks, “How did you poison yourself when you are the one who hid it in here?” XianYu Tong says, “I… don’t know, I don’t know…” As he says this, he started to roll on the floor, scratching everywhere. Zhang WuJi says, “You released the poison in your fan to attack me, but I used my inner power to force it back out. Do you have anything else to say?”

XianYu Tong says, “It’s my fault… my fault…” He put his hands to his throat, wanting to commit suicide. But after getting poisoned, he has no strength in his hands. This poison is so powerful it forces you to live, and keeps your mind clear so you can feel the agony. Years ago, he tried to leave a Miao girl after toying with her. She then poisoned him with the golden bug poison. But she had hoped that he would change his mind, so she only used a small amount. XianYu Tong was able to escape, and stole some of her poison before he left. But soon afterwards, he fell unconscious. By coincidence, Hu QingNuo was collecting herbs in that area, saving him. Afterwards, XianYu Tong began to raise this type of bug so he can use it in his fan. Whenever he applies the proper inner power to the switch, the poison will come out. At first, when fighting Zhang WuJi, he couldn’t apply any inner power. It’s only at the end, when Zhang WuJi released his hold, that he used the poison.

Thankfully, Zhang WuJi’s inner power is without equal. In the critical moment, he held his breath, then forced out the small amount of poison in his body with his chi. Had he had less inner strength, or didn’t react fast enough, then it would be him on the ground rather than XianYu Tong. After reading Wang NanGu’s Book of Poisons*, he knows just how powerful this golden bug poison is. So he quickly blocked off the circulation of the poison into his body. Zhang WuJi thought to himself, “I do have to save him, but I need him to confess his crimes first.” So he says, “I can make the antidote, but you have to answer my questions first. If you lie, I’ll just leave you here, letting you to endure seven days and seven nights of pain before dying.”

* Wang NanGu is Hu QingNuo’s wife. Zhang WuJi grabbed her book when he saw her corpse.

XianYu Tong, despite his pain, can still hear clearly. He thought, “Back then, that Miao girl also said that I’ll be in pain for seven days and seven nights. How can this little kid know this too?” But he still doesn’t believe that Zhang WuJi can possibly cure his poison, and said, “You... can’t cure me.” Zhang WuJi closed the fan and pointed at his waist. “If I make a cut here, and apply the right medicine, then you’ll be saved.” XianYu Tong immediately responds, “You’re… you’re…right.” Zhang WuJi then asks, “Have you done anything you felt guilty about in life?” XianYu Tong says, “N… no.” Zhang WuJi says, “Fine, have it your way.” XianYu Tong hurriedly added, “Wait… I’ll say it.” But after all, he is in front of his peers. So the words obviously have trouble coming out. Suddenly, two people came out from the Hua Shan sect, one tall one short, both look around fifty, their hands holding large sabers. Walking in front of Zhang WuJi, the short old man says, “Mr. Zeng, you can kill us Hua Shan people, but you can’t play around with us. It’s not heroic to do such a thing to our Master XianYu.” Zhang WuJi put together his fists and bowed, asking, “And your names are?” The short old man says, “You’re not worthy of asking for my name.” He bent down and about to carry XianYu Tong back, but Zhang WuJi quickly pushed him out of the way saying, “His body is filled with poison. If you even touch him, you’ll be poisoned too. I suggest you be careful in the future.” That short man froze for a second, and shuddered. Only to hear XianYu Tong scream, “Hurry and save me… save me… Bai Yuan… Brother Bai… I used this poison to kill him… but that’s it….”

When he said this, everyone’s face in the Hua Shan sect turned pale. The short man asked, “You killed Bai Yuan? This is the truth? Then why do you say the Ming sect killed him?” XianYu Tong screams, “Brother Bai… please don’t do that…” “Brother Bai, I know you died a horrible death, but why did you blackmail me back then… You had to speak about Ms. Hu in front of the master. You know master would never forgive me for that. I … I had to silence you. Please… forgive me…” He then continued, “I killed you, so I had to blame it on the Ming sect. But…. But I burnt so much money for you, I took care of your wife, kids, and parents…” Although the sun shines brightly on the square, everyone’s hearts were filled with coldness upon hearing this. The people in the Hua Shan sect who knew Bai Yuan were even more shocked. Zhang WuJi also didn’t expect this response. He originally wanted XianYu Tong to speak about Lady Hu, not his own martial brother. But Zhang WuJi didn’t know that since Hu QingYang committed suicide, XianYu Tong, with his playboy personality, never felt all that badly about it. But he did kill Bai Yuan with his own hand, and with the same poison that’s in him now. So he felt like Bai Yuan’s ghost has come seeking for revenge.

Zhang WuJi doesn’t know who Bai Yuan is, but from XianYu Tong’s words, he can tell that the blame was put on the Ming sect. Most likely this is the reason why the Hua Shan sect came to Brightness Peak today. So he yells in the Hua Shan direction, “Listen to me, people of Hua Shan. Your elder Bai was not killed by the Ming sect. Please do not take out your revenge on the wrong people.”

That tall old man waved his sword up, about to bring it down on XianYu Tong. But Zhang WuJi lightly flicked his saber back with a finger, bouncing it back. That tall old man said, “This is a traitor of Hua Shan. How can we let him live?” Zhang WuJi says, “I promised that I’ll cure him, so I will. You can do what you want with him later.”

That short old man says, “Brother, he’s right.” He then swiftly kicked XianYu in the back, sending him flying, finally falling down in front of the Hua Shan group. Although XianYu Tong has many loyal disciples, none would dare catch him due to the poison.

That short old man says to Zhang WuJi, “We are the martial uncles of XianYu Tong. Today you have resolved a big problem within the Hua Shan sect. For this, we thank you!” Both of them then bowed, as Zhang WuJi quickly returned the favor, saying, “It’s ok. It’s ok.” The short man then pulled out his saber and says loudly, “But you have ruined the reputation of the Hua Shan sect. For this, my brother and I will fight you to the death!” The tall man also says, “Yes, we shall fight you the death.” Oddly enough, he’s much taller and bigger, but he seemingly follows the shorter old man’s orders. Zhang WuJi says, “Which sect hasn’t had a bad apple in its history? Your reputation won’t be affected by one person.” The tall old man says, “You think so?” Zhang WuJi says, “Yes.” The tall old man says, “Big brother, in that case, let’s just forget about it.” He makes it sounds like he respects Zhang WuJi, but in reality, he fears Zhang WuJi’s ability. But the short old man says, “First we take care of outside enemies, then we take care of inside problems. If we don’t kill him today, where’s the face of our Hua Shan sect?” The tall man says, “Fine. Little kid, I hope you don’t object to us fighting you two on one. If you do, then just admit defeat now.” The short man raised his eyebrows, says, “Brother, what are you…” Zhang WuJi responds, “That’s fine with me. If you two lose, then Hua Shan cannot further harass the Ming sect today.” The tall man, ecstatic with the response, yelled, “If both of us fight you, then you can’t possibly win. We have a special double saber art. Its power is unlimited, capable of sweeping thousands of enemies. So you’re definitely going to lose. But of course, it’s too late to take back your words now.” Zhang WuJi says, “Of course I won’t take back my words. So please be lenient with me, elders.” The tall old man says, “My saber is never lenient. When we use this double saber technique, we become more and more powerful, until the power cannot be stopped. I can see that you’re not a bad person, so I’m feeling a bit sad that you’ll have to die.” The short old man yelled, “Geez. Can you stop yapping for a minute?” The tall old man says, “Sure, but I have to remind him, this double saber art is a reverse technique, different from normal techniques…” The short old man cuts in, “Shut up!” He turns towards Zhang WuJi and says, “I’m coming!” Followed by slashing his saber towards Zhang WuJi. Zhang WuJi blocked the blow with XianYu Tong’s fan, which prompted the tall old man to say, “Hey, hey! We can’t compete like this! This fan is too poisonous. We have to get rid of it before someone gets hurt.”

Zhang WuJi responds, “You’re right. This sort of thing shouldn’t exist.” So he pointed the fan to the ground and threw it deep into the ground, making a tiny hole in the process. This type of ability is something no one else can emulate, and prompted wows from the audience. The tall old man then states, “Now, go find yourself a weapon.”

Zhang WuJi originally didn’t plan on fighting. But with the current situation, he knew that he needed to show off in order to gain their respect. So he said, “What type of weapon would the elder wish for me to use?” The tall old man reached out and patted him on the shoulders, smiling, “You’re a funny little kid. You even care to ask me which weapon to use?” Zhang WuJi knows that the pat was just for fun, and didn’t think much of it. But the others were all shocked. They wondered, what if the tall old man decided to apply some inner power to the pat, or sealed his pressure point? Wouldn’t Zhang WuJi lose immediately? They of course don’t know that Zhang WuJi has Jiu Yang Shen Gong for protection. So none of those things would work. The tall old man laughed, “Since your kung fu is so good. I bet you can use all the eighteen standard weapons very well. And it would be too much to ask of you to fight bare-handed.” Zhang WuJi smiled, “Actually, bare-handed is ok too.” The tall old man looked around, trying to find the worst possible weapon for him. He suddenly saw some large rocks, and said, “I’ll let you use a nice, powerful weapon.” As he spoke, he pointed to those rocks and started to laugh. These rocks have got to be two hundred to three hundred pounds. If you don’t have a lot of strength, you can’t even move one of them. How can anyone use one as a weapon? Besides, it’s quite smooth, so there’s no place to hold it.

The tall old mean wanted to purposely gave Zhang WuJi a hard dilemma. So Zhang WuJi would back off, and they won’t have to fight. However, Zhang WuJi smiled instead, and responds, “This is a strange weapon. Are you trying to test my strength?” As he spokem he walked over to the rock and lifted it with his left hand. He then yelled, “Let’s start!” Immediately, he flew to where the two old men stood with the rock in hand. The audience could not help but stare in shock, even forgetting to cheer on. The tall old man yelled, “This… this is impossible!” The short old man realizes that today’s opponent is much more powerful than anyone he has ever seen. Afer he calmed down and collected himself, the short old man yelled, “I’m coming!” Green light sparkled, as the saber advanced forward, aiming towards Zhang WuJi’s right arm. The tall old man asked, “Brother, are we really going to fight?” The short old man said, “Of course.” The saber slashed a semi-circle before changing directions, aiming for Zhang WuJi’s left shoulder. Zhang WuJi moved away, only to see another green light, as the tall old man also began his attack. Zhang WuJi said, “Good move.” Turned around and blocked with his rock, causing sparks to fly. In a smooth motion, Zhang WuJi then pushed the blocking rock forward, onto the tall old man. The tall old man stared in awe, saying, “You can use techniques with a rock?” The short old man then yelled, “Brother, watch out!” Then slashed the sword in a reverse manner, creating a crescent image, curving towards Zhang WuJi. The two old men continuously attack in synchronization, while Zhang WuJi gathers his Jiu Yang Shen Gong to roll the rock left and right. Although the reverse double sabers’ powers are great, this rock is simply too big. No matter what, they cannot strike past it. The tall old man then yelled, “Wait. You’re getting too big of an advantage in terms of weaponry. This isn’t fair.” Zhang WuJi chuckled, saying, “In that case, I won’t use it then.” and threw the rock up into the air. As the two old men stared at the rock, Zhang WuJi quickly dashed forward and sealed their pressure points. So the two old men can only stare helplessly as the rock falls towards them. The masses all let out a collect gasp. But at the last moment, Zhang WuJi came back and pushed the rock away. He then gently tapped the chest of the two old men, and said with a smile, “Sorry about that. It was just a little joke.” The short old man’s face turned gray, and sighed, “Forget it, forget it!” But the tall old man shook his head and said, “This doesn’t count.” Zhang WuJi said, “Why?” The tall old man said, “You only won because of your superior strength, not techniques.” Zhang WuJi said, “Fine. Then let’s play some more.” The tall old man said, “Of course, but we have to switch it up a bit. Otherwise, if you keep getting all these advantages, it would be quite unfair for us, don’t you think?” Zhang WuJi nodded, “Yes, of course.”

Xiao Zhao had been watching intently on the side, but now stepped up, scraping her cheek with her hand, yelling, “Shame on you! Look at how long your beard is. And yet you keep saying about being at a disadvantage when the truth is the opposite?” The tall old man laughed, said, “What does a girl like you know? I’ve eaten more salt then you have rice. I’ve walked across more bridges than you have roads. Oh, be quiet, little kid.” He then turned around and said to Zhang WuJi, “If you don’t want to, we don’t have to compete. After all, you didn’t win or lose. Perhaps we can wait a few years before dueling again…” The short old man became increasingly annoyed at his martial brother. As a respected elder, who could he say such unreasonable things to a youngster. So he cut in, “We admit defeat. We’ll do what you say.” Zhang WuJi said, “I simply wish for there to be peace between the Ming sect and the six major sects. That is all.” The tall old man then cut in loudly, “What are you talking about? We haven’t competed with the new method yet. Are you trying to back out of that now?” The short old man stopped talking. He knows that although his tall brother acts foolishly, his thick face just might save them this time. Although it’s not righteous to do such a thing to a youngster, but at least if the plan succeeds, they won’t look too bad.

Zhang WuJi said, “So what is the elder’s suggestions?” The tall old man said, “We have a Reverse Double Saber Art. You’ve already seen it. But Kun Lun also has a Forward Double Sword Art, which is also exquisite. They match up perfectly with our sabers. Should we combine our strength, two forms turn to four, four turns to eight. A mixture of Ying and Yang…” When he said this, he shook his head and said, “Too powerful, too powerful! There’s no way you can block it!” Zhang WuJi turned to the Kun Lun sect and said, “So who would like to come out from the Kun Lun sect?” The tall old man cut in and said, “Obviously, only the Iron Zither Couple are worthy of fighting with us. I just don’t know if Master He has the courage.” The members of the six sects all thought happily, “This old man really isn’t stupid after all. He’s seeking the help of the top two fighters of Kun Lun.” He TaiChong and Ban ShuXian looked at each other. They don’t know who these two old guys are, but since they’re the martial uncles of XianYu Tong, they must be respected elders. Besides, since they don’t live on the central plains, they don’t know too many people anyway. The couple thought, “They can’t beat this little kid, so want to drag us into it. This way, if we win, then can also save some face.” Only to hear the tall old man say, “I’m not surprised that they won’t come out. Although their Forward Double Sword Art is great, it’s still not quite as good as our Reverse Double Saber Art.” Ban ShuXian yelled angrily, “Who are you?” The tall old man said, “My surname is also He, Let’s go, Mrs. He.” His little joke prompted the crowd to start laughing*.

*I’m not too sure about the joke here. But his words are suppose to be very funny. So let’s just assume that it is.

Ban ShuXian has power in Kun Lun sect is near that of the master. Even He TaiChong has to defer to her sometimes. For years, she has acted like the queen on the Kun Lun Mountain. So how can she stand for this? Out comes the sword, aiming directly at the tall old man’s left arm. This all went in a blur. One moment, her hands are empty, the next, a sword appeared in her hands and is only inches away from the tall old man’s left shoulder. The tall old man quickly blocked turned his saber to block, ‘Dang’, the sword and the saber struck each other. Ban ShuXian used the ‘Plunder with the Golden Needle’ move, while the tall old man countered with the ‘No Plunder Will Succeed’, one goes forward, the other in reverse. The forms really are the exact opposites. As both fighters stepped back after the blow, they deeply became impressed with the other person. Both began to respect each other more. They thought, “These two techniques really do complement each other perfectly.” This is like a lonely person suddenly finding a friend. Ban ShuXian thought, “Their Reverse Saber really is something. If we fight together, our powers would grow exponentially. Besides, if they can’t beat this little kid, we might not either. Although it’s really terrible for four famous people like us to fight together, at least we can say that it’s the Hua Shan sect’s idea.” So she called out to He TaiChong, “Hey, come over here!” Although He TaiChong would never disobey his wife, he still has to act like a master of a sect in front of so many people. “Humph.” He called out to four servants. As one carried a sword, one carried an iron zither, the other two servants carried Buddha symbols, the five of them walked out into the arena. The servant with the sword then handed it over to He TaiChong, who took it, and promptly called off the servants. Ban ShuXian said to He TaiChong, “Hua Shan’s Reverse Double Saber Art isn’t too bad. Let’s go ahead and play around with this little kid. See just how powerful this combination can be.” As she finished and turned around, Ban ShuXian suddenly said “Huh?” upon seeing Zhang WuJi. “You… you…” She has only been apart from Zhang WuJi for five years, so although he has grown up these years, she still can see the resemblance from their last encounter. Zhang WuJi said, “Do you really want to talk about the past? My name is Zeng AhNuo.” Ban ShuXian realizes the meanings behind his words. If she reveals his identity, then he will reveal all those things her husband and her did to him in the past. So she said, “Young Hero Zeng’s skills really have advanced quite a bit. I congratulate you. Let’s see how well you’ve progressed.” Zhang WuJi said, “I’ve long known the fame of the couple’s mystical sword arts. I hope you’ll be lenient on me.” He TaiChong said, “What type of weapon would you use?” When Zhang WuJi saw him, he immediately thought of the poison-sucking snake, which died when he fell off the cliff. He also thought of that day when they went to Wu Dang and forced his parent to commit suicide. The, he remembered when He TaiChong forced Yang BuHui and him to take the poison. Thankfully, Yang Xiao was luckily there to save him, or he would’ve died that day in the mountains. With all these things in mind, Zhang WuJi’s temper flared, thinking, “Although I can’t kill you today, He TaiChong, I am going to give you a thorough beating.” He then flew towards a nearby plum tree, and took down a plum branch before floating down. He carried the branch towards the four people, and said, “I’ll use this as my weapon to test out Hua Shan and Kun Lun’s high arts.” No one could believe what they just heard, thinking, “How can he possibly fight against swords and sabers with this little thing?” Zhang WuJi said, “I heard father say that former master He ZuDao was the master of zither, chess, and sword, and was known as the Three Saints of Kun Lun. Too bad I was born so late, unable to meet this great gentleman.” Everyone can see that by praising the former master, he’s belittling the He couple. Suddenly, a person came out yelling, “Little twerp. Who do you think you are, speaking that way about my mentor and master-uncle.” Only to see a longhaired Taoist appear from the crowd, holding a sword aiming towards Zhang WuJi’s back. This attacks is quite silent, and done while he’s talking. So despite the appearance of a warning, it’s really a sneak attack. Zhang WuJi did not turn around. Just as the sword is about to reach his shirt, Zhang WuJi’s left foot kicked to the right. By the time the foot came back down, the sword has been stuck between his foot and the ground. That Taoist tries to pull it out, but couldn’t. Zhang WuJi turned around, and saw that this was the person he met on the ship as a child, Xi HuaZi. Zhang WuJi remembered that this person has a bad temper, and repeatedly insulted his mother. His own temper flared, and asked, “You are Taoist Xi HuaZi?”

Xi HuaZi, whose face is now bright red, did not respond. He only kept on trying to pull out the sword with all his strength. Zhang WuJi suddenly released his foot while applied some chi to the sword point with his left foot. Since Xi HuaZi didn’t expect this, he immediately fell backward on his butt. Only to hear some ‘ding ding dang dang’, as his sword broke into pieces, leaving only the handle in his hand. He’s the student of Ban ShuXian, which is why he calls He TaiChong Master-Uncle. So when he saw his mentor’s face filled with rage, he knew he had disgraced her big time. Xi HuaZi hurriedly got up, and then said, “Little bastard…” Zhang WuJi originally planned on letting him go, but when he heard Xi HuaZi disparaging his parents with the word ‘bastard’, he could not hold down his anger. In a flash he swept the branch across Xi HuaZi’s chest, sealing three of his major pressure points. Then he said to the two old men and the He couple, “Let’s start!” Ban ShuXian whispered to Xi HuaZi, “Get out of here, you think you haven’t disgraced me enough already?” Xi HuaZi said, “Yes!” But he still doesn’t move. Ban ShuXian then yelled, “I told you to scram, did you not hear?” Xi HuaZi said, “Yes, mentor, yes!” Although his voice sounds respectful, he still did not move. Ban ShuXian thought, “How come he’s not listening to me?” Although she saw Zhang WuJi touch him with the branch, she couldn’t imagine that Zhang WuJi can seal pressure points through objects. So she pushed Xi HuaZi hard on the shoulders, and yelled, “Get out of here, stop disgracing yourself.”

Xi HuaZi said, “Yes, I know, mentor.” His body moved a bit, but his arms and legs didn’t. At this point, The He couple realized that Zhang WuJi had sealed his pressure points somehow. He TaiChong walked over and tried to unseal him, but for unfortunately, his inner power isn’t enough. Xi HuaZi still could not move. Zhang WuJi pointed to Yang BuHui, and said, “Five years ago, you sealed her pressure points, then made her drink down the poisoned wine. Today I’m simply returning the favor.” When the masses heard this, they all looked at Yang BuHui, seeing only a young girl. Five years ago, she must’ve been a little kid. It really is quite terrible for a leader of a sect to do such a disgusting thing. Ban ShuXian saw that it isn’t a good idea to keep this up, so she immediately raised her sword, and began to attack Zhang WuJi. The two Hua Shan elders and He TaiChong immediately followed.

Zhang WuJi moved in a blur, passing in between the sword and saber blows, his branch almost hitting He TaiChong’s face. Then Zhang WuJi’s left hand flicked the short old man’s saber, while his branch aimed at He TaiChong’s sword. He TaiChong thought that no matter how good he is, the branch could not possibly block my sword. But Zhang WuJi’s turned the branch sideways a bit, and skimmed the side of the sword. At this instant, Zhang applied inner power to the branch, shooting out a wave of chi that propelled the sword to the side, and incidentally hit the tall old man’s saber.

The tall old man yelled, “What are you doing, helping the enemy, He TaiChong?” He TaiChong’s face turned red, but he couldn’t say that his sword went off course because of Zhang WuJi’s inner power. So he snapped back, “That’s ridiculous!” and then turned his attention back to Zhang WuJi.

As He TaiChong attacked, Ban ShuXian waited from behind to cut off any escape possibilities. The two old men also utilized their reverse double sword techniques at the same time. Although they are the opposite, the sword and saber forms still follows the 8 diagrams of the Book of Changes. So they can position themselves perfectly to complement each other. As the match went out, they only attacked faster and faster. Zhang WuJi knew that this would be a tough fight. And it proved correct as the formation gave him no weaknesses to exploit. Many times, he came close to losing. If he had a real weapon in hand, he might have blocked them. But unfortunately, his attitude is too peaceful, so he just used a plum branch. Suddenly he saw the short old man’s saber coming straight at him. Just as Zhang WuJi dodge it, Ban ShuXian’s sword came from his back, skimming the back of his leg before he got out of the way. At this time, He TaiChong’s sword once again came straight at him, while the tall and short old men attacked from top and bottom. Thinking quickly, Zhang WuJi immediately sneaked behind Xi HuaZi, forcing Ban ShuXian and He TaiChong to withdraw their next attacks. Since he couldn’t figure out a way to counter this sword formation, he could only spin around Xi HuaZi, using him as a shield against oncoming attacks. In his heart, he yelled, “Zhang WuJi, oh Zhang WuJi. You really should not have been so overconfident. As they say, the arrogant is bound to lose. You really need to keep that in mind from now on. You just thought that there is indeed no inner power kung fu better than Jiu Yang Shen Gong. No kung fu technique more exquisite than Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. But there are always someone better than you.” Laughter came from the viewers, as they see Xi HuaZi only could stare helplessly in the middle of the battle, with swords and sabers coming at him. Ban ShuXian especially felt angry, as many chances of killing Zhang WuJi were wasted because of Xi HuaZi. Then the tall old man said, “Mrs. He, if you won’t kill him, I will.” Ban ShuXian snickered, “I can’t exactly control you, can I?” The tall old man then immediately aimed his saber at Xi HuaZi. Zhang WuJi thought, “Oh no. If he dies, then I would no longer have a shield. Plus, how can I let someone die for me?” So he waved his arm, and the wind carried by his sleeves guided the tall old man’s saber away. At the same time, the short old man came from the back, his saber moving silently. Zhang WuJi immediately got out of the way, but then found that his Saber is still continuing in the same direction. So he turned back and shot out his palms towards the short old man, prompting him to stop the attack. Xi HuaZia, grateful that Zhang WuJi saved his life twice, thought, “If I live past today, I’ll make sure to get back at these two old men.” When He TaiChong and Ban ShuXian saw Zhang WuJi protecting their student, their thoughts weren’t gratitude, but rather annoyance that Xi HuaZi is still around. Hence, their attacks became even more aggressive. Although it’s nearly impossible for them to aim for Zhang WuJi in this situation, they can aim for Xi HuaZi instead, and use him as bait to make Zhang WuJi help out. Then they can take the opportunity to attack Zhang WuJi straight on. When E Mei, Wu Dang, and Shaolin saw their methods, they can only shake their heads and feeling ashamed. As the battle went on, Zhang WuJi thought, “If I can’t beat them, then it’s no big deal for me to die. But why drag down the innocent with me?” He pushed back the tall old man’s attack and then used his branch to unseal Xi HuaZi’s pressure point. The short old man came from behind aiming for Xi HuaZi, but didn’t realize that his pressure point has been unsealed. Suddenly, he felt a fist hitting his nose, and blood poured out. Although the short old man’s kung fu is much better than Xi HuaZi’s, this blow came unexpectedly. So he couldn’t dodge. When the others saw this, they all started to laugh loudly. Ban ShuXian suppressed a laugh of her own, and ordered, “Xi HuaZi, get out of here!” Xi HuaZi said, “Yes. But I still owe that tall old man a punch.” But as he tried to attack the tall old man, the short old man immediately delivered a palm blow to his chest, prompting him to retreat, blood came out of his mouth. He TaiChong then came over, grabbed the back of his robe, and threw him back out into the crowd.

The four fighters might be thoroughly pissed at each other, but with Xi HuaZi out of the way, their sword and saber combination can now execute flawlessly. Now the formation matched the strength of eight top fighters, their techniques unrivaled in variations and delicacy. For when the top kung fu theories of the central plains meets the top theories of the Xi Yu, one can see that the central plains kung fu theories are much more refined. It’s just that the Hua Shan and Kun Lun experts can only utilize twenty to thirty percent of their true potential; otherwise Zhang WuJi would’ve long been dead.

Even so, Zhang WuJi could not break the formation, and can only try to keep himself alive. Every spectator watched with their hearts pounding, only to see sabers and swords flowing like the wind, sparkling under the sun. At this moment, Zhang WuJi can still easily escape with his vastly superior lightness kung fu. But then, what about the Ming sect? With that in mind, his only choice is to drag on the fight, hoping that they will eventually tire out. Unfortunately, he does not realize that these elders have some of the best inner powers in the world, making this an impossible task.

Although the four fighters are at a huge advantage, none of them look all that pleased. They are already losing tons of face considering their reputation. How can four elders not even bring down a youngster in over three hundred moves? Thankfully, Zhang WuJi had already defeated Kong Sheng. Otherwise, this fight would already be a huge disaster.

While watching the battle, elders of each sect talked quietly with their students, taking the opportunity to teach them valuable lessons.

End of Chapter 21. 
@Chapter 22 - Placating the Crowd and Three Conditions

*Note: It’s quite possible that my translations in regarding the Book of Changes are off. I don’t know anything about Taoist teachings, so I can only make literal translations. Quite frankly, I have no clue what JY’s talking about here.

E Mei’s Master Mie Jue said to her disciples, “This youngster’s kung fu is very strange, but the four fighters of Kun Lun and Hua Shan have trapped him in terms of techniques. Our righteous kung fu of central plains are broad and deep, much better than the devilish Xi Yu kung fu. The two forms uses four people. The four people occupy eight locations. The front side has eight-times-eight-for-sixty-four moves. The reverse side also has eight-times-eight-for-sixty-four moves. When combined, you have sixty- four-squared, or four thousand and ninety-two different variations. This is simply unrivaled in the world.”

Zhou ZhiRuo, ever since she saw Zhang WuJi on the stage, has been worrying for his well-being. As one of Mie Jue’s favorite students, she has received much training in the realm of kung fu theory. So she began to ask loudly, “Master, although there are many variations in this front/reverse formation, it still does not deviate from the principle of Tai Chi dividing into Yin and Yang. In my opinion, the most important part of their formation lies with the positioning of their feet.” She said this in a clear, crisp voice; even Zhang WuJi could hear her in the middle of the fight. He turned his head, seeing that its Zhou ZhiRuo talking, and immediately thought, “Why is she speaking so loudly? Is she trying to help me?”

Mie Jue said, “You’re very observant to have figured out the intricacies of their formation.” Zhou ZhiRuo started to talk to herself, “Yang divides up into Tai Yang, Shao Yang, Yin divides into Tai Yin, Shao Yin, Tai Yang is split into Gan and Dui, Shao Yin is split into Li and Zhen, Shao Yang is split into Xun and Kan, Tai Yin is split into Gen and Kun. Gan is south, Kun is north, Li is east, Kan is west, Zhen is northeast, Dui is southeast, Xun is southwest, Gen is northwest. From Zhen to Gan we have the front side, from Xun to Kun is the reverse side.” Then she said to Mie Jue, “Master, just as you said: Heaven and Earth determines the location, the wind flows in between the mountains, thunder and wind complements, water and fire cancels, forming the eight divine positions. Numbers are forward, while knowledge goes backward. Kun Lun’s sword art is forward, so they obviously go from the Zhen position to the Gan position. The Hua Shan Saber art is reverse, so they obviously go from Xun to Kun. Right, master?” Mie Jue was delighted to hear her disciple point out the intricacies of the sword formation, nodded, and said, “Good girl. These years of teachings were not wasted on you.” She almost never gives praises, so these words are the biggest compliments she’ll ever make. But she did not notice that Zhou ZhiRuo’s voice was way too loud. After all, why did she need to speak up when talking to someone besides her? However, others around them did notice. Zhou ZhiRuo saw many eyes looking at her, so she simply pretended to be naïve and happy, clapping her hand saying, “Master. That’s right, that’s right! We E Mei sect’s Four Shape Circular Position encapsulates a square, combining Ying and Yang, with Yang outside the circle, and Yin inside the square, Circle symbolizes movement of heaven, while square symbolizes the stillness of the earth, seemingly even superior than theirs.” Mie Jue had always been arrogant, feeling that her E Mei Four Shape Fist is one of the best kung fu in the world. So these words really made her happy. With a smile, she said, “Although in theory this is true. But in practice, it still depends on the user’s knowledge.”

Zhang WuJi had learned some basic things about the Book of Changes when he was young. After Xiao Zhao’s help, he then figured out the Wu Wan Position. Now with Zhou ZhiRuo’s help, he realized the pattern behind the movements of the opponents. In an instant, he figured out many different ways to attack them. Each way would guarantee success.

Yet he thought again, “But should I do this right now? Mie Jue would probably blame Ms. Zhou if it seems that she has helped me. Mie Jue is very cruel, and might do terrible things to her. I can’t possibly let her suffer because of me.” So he continued to go on like before, not changing his fighting style, while examining the moves of his opponents. With Zhou ZhiRuo telling him the basics, the rest became easy for him.

But when Zhou ZhiRuo could not see any improvement, she became frustrated, and thought, “He’s concentrating on his enemies, so how can he digest all the information I told him?” She again began to speak loudly again, “Master, I bet Mr. Iron Zither will next move to the Gui Mei position, right?” Before Mie Jue could reply, Ban ShuXian yelled, “Little girl from E Mei, who the hell is this kid to you? Why are you helping him? You know, it’s not a good idea to mess with Kun Lun sect.”

Zhou ZhiRuo’s face immediately turned red, as Mie Jue yelled, “ZhiRuo, stop talking. It’s not a good idea to mess with Kun Lun sect.” Her tone made it obvious that she’s protecting her student instead of scolding her. Zhang WuJi felt much warmth in his heart, thinking that if he kept on fighting like this, Zhou ZhiRuo would likely try other methods to help him. He started to laugh loudly and said, “I’ve already lost to E Mei, even got captured by Master Mie Jue. E Mei is certainly much better than you Kun Lun.” He stepped left two steps and shot out his plum branch at the short old man. His timing and accuracy are just perfect, following the concepts in the Book of Changes. The short old man felt a strong chi pushing from behind, and unwillingly changed his direction, instead aiming his saber towards Ban ShuXian. Ban ShuXian quickly tried to change her stance to block the attack. But at this time, she saw the tall old man coming to attack her. He TaiChong quickly came to the rescue, blocking the tall old man’s saber. At this time, Zhang WuJi’s palm shot out again, this time directing the short old man’s saber towards He TaiChong. Deeply angered, Ban ShuXian quickly attacked the short old man with three sword strokes, causing him to back off and yell, “Don’t fall into this little kid’s trap!” He TaiChong realized this, and turned around to attack Zhang WuJi again. But with Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, Zhang WuJi turned him back the other way again, his sword cutting the side of the tall old man’s arm. Screaming in pain, the tall old man counterattacked with his saber. The short old man screamed, “Brother, don’t lose your temper. It’s all because of that little kid, ouch…” Because Zhang WuJi had just turned away the sword of Ban ShuXian, prompting it to slash the back of the short old man. In an instant, both of the Hua Shan elders became hurt. The onlookers are gasped, not knowing what’s going on. They only see that simply by using his palm and a branch, Zhang WuJi could divert all attacks towards him onto someone else. After some more rounds, they saw the He couple’s sword and the two old men’s sabers collide numerous times. Everyone sees what’s happening, but no one knows how he’s doing it. Only Yang Xiao, who knows some rudimentary Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, can understand some of theory. But even he wouldn’t believe that Zhang WuJi actually knows Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi.

Ban ShuXian started giving out orders, trying to change their positions a bit, but Zhang WuJi had covered all eight positions, so that no matter what they do, their weapons still ended up pointing towards themselves. After a while, Ban ShuXian threw away her sword and began attacking with her fists. The short old man saw this and thought, “Good idea. This kid knows some strange stuff, but he can’t divert our weapons if we don’t use any.” He followed by throwing away his saber. But as he did this, he saw Zhang WuJi diverting He TaiChong to him. Ban ShuXian yelled, “Get rid of your sword!” He TaiChong immediately changed his form, throwing back his sword in the process. The tall old man also released his grip on his saber, but just as he did so, he found something in his hand again. For Zhang WuJi had simply returned his saber to him. The tall old man yelled, “I don’t want it.” And threw it behind him. Yet Zhang WuJi once again grabbed the saber, and once again returned it to him. This repeated numerous times before the tall old man simply gave up, and began to laugh. At this time, the other three people kept attacking Zhang WuJi with bare fists. Being some of the best fighters in their sects, their bare-handed fighting techniques are also quite formidable. But no matter how much they try, they just could not touch Zhang WuJi, who escaped their attacks over and over.

At this point, the four of them realizes that they’re not going to win, and started to wonder about how they should retreat. The tall old man suddenly yelled, “Stupid kid, watch out for my hidden weapon!” A spit came out of his mouth aiming towards Zhang WuJi. Zhang WuJi turned sideways to dodge it, while the tall old man sneaked in from the other side; his saber came at Zhang WuJi. But he then had to quickly withdraw his saber midway as Zhang WuJi pushed Ban ShuXian in the way, who incidentally caught the spit in her face.

Ban ShuXian, deeply angered, tried to grab Zhang WuJi. The short old man waited behind to block off his escape. Both the tall old man and He TaiChong also attacked from other directions, thinking that this is time they’ll finally get this kid. But then Zhang WuJi utilized his Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, both feet left the ground quickly and flipped smoothly in midair, landing far away. Only to see the four Hua Shan and Kun Lun experts ram into each other, before falling back and landing on the ground.

The tall old man got up and said, “Hey, little twerp, this isn’t fighting. You’re using witchcraft. What kind of hero does that?” The short old man realized that the longer they stay up here, the more embarrassing things will get, so he bowed to Zhang WuJi and said, “Your kung fu is incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. We admit defeat.” Zhang WuJi also bowed back and said, “Actually, if the elders hadn’t gone easy on me earlier, I would’ve already died under your sword formation.” This is actually somewhat true, for Zhang WuJi would’ve never won without Zhou ZhiRuo’s pointers. But the ‘gone easy on me’ was his own addition, in order to placate his opponents. The tall old man said, “Really? So you at least know that you didn’t win very righteously.” Zhang WuJi asked, “May I ask for your names?” The tall old man said, “My martial brother is Wei Zhen…” The short old man cut in, “Oh, shut up!” Then to Zhang WuJi, “We’re just losers. What’s the point to give our names?” As he said this, he returned to the Hua Shan group. The tall old man said, “What’s the problem with losing? Why so worrisome?” and followed back. Zhang WuJi walked up to XianYu Tong, sealed two of his pressure points, and said, “Once today’s events are over, I’ll give you the antidote.”

Suddenly, he felt a breeze in the back. In his shock, Zhang WuJi reflexively flew up, only to hear two very low sounds passing under him. As he twisted back, he saw Ban ShuXian and He TaiChong’s swords stabbing into XianYu Tong’s chest. This is a special Kun Lun technique, called ‘No Sound No Form’, used for night battles. Of course, it’s also perfect for sneak attacks in the daytime. Unfortunately, they did not know that Zhang WuJi’s Jiu Yang Shen Gong automatically alarms Zhang WuJi of back attack, allowing him to get out of the way in time. After their miss, the He couple’s thoughts were, “If we don’t kill him today, how can we still have the face to live?” They turned around and attacked again, using only offensive moves, disregarding their own safety. After Zhang WuJi dodged a few attacks, he began to wonder just how to stop this couple. Then suddenly, he got an idea. He quickly reached down on the ground and grabbed some mud, rolling it into two balls. Then he went over to XianYu Tong and pretended to reach into his pocket. When the He couple caught up, he quickly turned around and applied a huge amount of chi to their chests, forcing both to open their mouths to breathe. In this instant, Zhang WuJi shot the mud balls into their mouths, and said, “This is Master XianYu’s golden bug poison. If it hasn’t already dissolved, you just might be able to force it back out with your inner power.” He TaiChong and Ban ShuXian quickly sat down and began to gather their chi. But by that time, they realize that it’s too late. The pill has already dissolved.

Just as the couple is wondering what they should do, Zhang WuJi said, “Don’t worry. It won’t take affect within twelve hours. Once I’m done here, I’ll cure your poison. Just make sure you don’t try to give me poisoned wine in the future.” The He couple thanked him happily, even ignored his little sly remark.

At this time, Mie Jue came out from the crowd and said to Song YuanQiao, “Hero Song, looks like it’s down to just us now. We E Mei sect are mainly females, so I leave the decision to you.” Song YuanQiao said, “I have already matched palms with Master Yin, but could not win. Your swordsmanship is unparalleled. I’m sure you can beat this youngster.” Mie Jue let out a cold laugh, pulled out the Heaven sword, and entered the arena. Wu Dang’s Yu LianZhou had been watching Zhang WuJi carefully. He realizes that although Mie Jue’s swordsmanship is excellent, it’s probably not likely any better than the combined forces of four Hua Shan and Kun Lun. Should she lose also, and for some reason Wu Dang also can’t handle this kid, then this whole trip would be a total waste. So he stepped up and said, “Master Mie Jue, let us five brothers first try him out first. Then you can surely win.” His intentions are clear. Wu Dang concentrates heavily on inner power. After matching inner power with five Wu Dang experts, Zhang WuJi can’t possibly have any strength left to handle Mie Jue’s sword.

Mie Jue realizes Yu LianZhou’s meaning, but thought, “Why do we need your help? Besides, what’s the honor in winning that way?” She has always been arrogant. Even though she saw Zhang WuJi defeat so many experts, she just figured that these people are useless fools. After all, wasn’t she the one who captured him in the first place? Although he showed amazing inner power by absorbing her three palm strikes, but so what? With that in mind, Mie Jue said, “Please go back, Second Hero Yu. Once my Heaven Sword comes out, I cannot casually put it back in its sheath.”

Upon hearing this, Yu LianZhou said “Yes” and retreated. Mie Jue held up her sword, pointing at Zhang WuJi. Countless Ming sect members had died under this Heaven sword. Many began murmur. Mie Jue gave a cold laugh, said, “What are you yapping about? After I finish off this kid, it will be your turn. Afraid that you won’t die fast enough?” Yin TianZheng knows the sharpness of the Heaven sword, and asked, “Young Hero Zeng, which weapon would you use?” Zhang WuJi said, “Elder Yin, I don’t have any weapons. How about you decide which one I should use.”

Yin TianZheng took out a sword from his side, said, “I’ll give you this White Rainbow Sword. Although it’s not nearly as good as the Heaven Sword, it’s still very powerful.” As he said this, he gave the sword to Zhang WuJi, who said, “Thank you, Elder Yin.” Yin TianZheng said, “I have had this sword for many years, but have never used it. Humph, what’s so heroic about winning due to a superior weapon? Today I’ll die peacefully knowing this sword will draw the blood of this old nun.” Zhang WuJi thought, “But I can’t harm Mie Jue.” He held up the White Rainbow Sword and turned around. Then said to Mie Jue, “My sword skills are very mediocre, and certainly not on par with yours. Why don’t we just call a truce, and you let these people go?” Mie Jue said coldly, “You have to win my sword before making any requests.” The Ming sect members began to yell, “Old hag, if you’re really that good you should fight him with your bare hands.” “What’s so great about your swordsmanship? It’s just the sword that’s good.” “Why don’t you try using a regular sword? Then if you can survive three of Hero Zeng’s moves, we’ll consider you good.” “Three moves? She can’t even survive one!” Mie Jue simply ignored these remarks, yelling at Zhang WuJi, “Go ahead!”

Zhang WuJi has never learnt any sword techniques before, so he’s lost at what to do. Suddenly, he remembered He TaiChong’s sword techniques just a while back, and emulated him as he attacked. Mie Jue yelled, “Kun Lun’s ‘Mountain Cliff Breaking Cloud’!” The Heaven Sword also moved, but rather than blocking, it ignored Zhang WuJi’s attack, aiming straight for the Zhang WuJi’s vital points instead. This attack carried an unimaginable power which quickly bared down on Zhang WuJi. Zhang WuJi quickly got out of the way, faltering a bit and started to roll on the floor. Just as he was getting back up, he felt a powerful wind coming from behind. With a quick spring of the right foot, Zhang WuJi’s body shot up vertically with great speed, getting out of the way. This was an escape no one had thought possible, just as the crowd was about to cheer, they see Mie Jue change her direction midway, and renewed her attack upwards. Before he could land, the sword light had blocked off his path downward. Zhang WuJi can’t change directions in midair, unable to escape. Under the sweep of the Heaven Sword, he nearly lost both of his legs. But at the critical juncture, he was able to turn his body and the pointed the White Rainbow Sword down, its tip meeting the tip of the Heaven Sword. Only to see the White Rainbow Sword bend a bit, before Zhang WuJi utilized the bounce to shoot back up.

Mie Jue would no let up, attacking three more times at Zhang WuJi. While in midair, Zhang WuJi can only block with his sword. ‘Ding’ the White Rainbow Sword broke. Zhang WuJi then shot out with his palm at Mie Jue’s head. Mie Jue countered by trying to cut off the oncoming palm with her sword. But Zhang WuJi saw this perfectly, and flicked the Heaven Sword on its side while he backed off, landing on the ground a few yards out. Mie Jue felt a strong vibration coming from the sword, almost causing her to drop the sword. Only to see Zhang WuJi standing there blankly, holding his broken sword. This sequence of events really was beyond belief. In a few short moments, Mie Jue had unleashed eight attacks, each deadly accurate. Yet each dissipated before Zhang WuJi, who escaped near- death after each blow. The attacks were delicate and fine; the escapes were quick and clever. The spectators’ hearts almost flew out from all the action. No one had ever seen anything like it. Attacking like gods in Heaven, while evading like ghosts in Hell. Just as lightning and thunder, even when over, they can still send chills down one’s spine. During the eight blows, Zhang WuJi was basically getting killed, while Mie Jue held all the initiative. But Zhang WuJi’s flick at the last moment temporarily froze Mie Jue. Had he taken the opportunity to immediately strike, he would’ve won the battle by now. Unfortunately, Zhang WuJi lacked the battle experience to realize this. However, Mie Jue understands the situation, so she said, “Get another weapon. Then we’ll fight again.” Zhang WuJi thought, “I broke my grandfather’s precious sword in just a few moves. What other weapon can possibly block the Heaven Sword?” As he’s pondering, Zhou Dian* said, “I have a very good saber. Go ahead and use it.” Zhang WuJi said, “The Heaven Sword is way too powerful. I’m afraid of breaking your saber.” Zhou Dian said, “Who cares? If you lose, we’re all going to die anyway. What’s the point of saving a weapon?” Zhang WuJi nodded in his mind, and went over to grab the saber. As he did this, Yang Xiao whispered, “Mr. Zhang, be aggressive. Don’t let her take the initiative.” Zhang WuJi froze a bit when he heard Yang Xiao call him ‘Mr. Zhang’. But then realized that since Yang BuHui knows his identity, she obviously told this to her dad. Wei YiXiao also whispered, “Take advantage of your lightness kung fu. DO NOT slow down even for a moment.” Zhang WuJi, happy to have received such great pointers, said, “Thank you for your advice.” Had they not been injured, Wei YiXiao and Yang Xiao on par with Mie Jue in terms of kung fu. So they have no problems pointing out the best tactics against the Heaven Sword. Zhang WuJi took the saber and went back into the arena. He then said, “Master Mie Jue, I’m coming!” Immediately, Zhang WuJi utilized his lightness kung fu to get behind Mie Jue, before she can turn around, he quickly attacked twice.

Mie Jue dodged the blows, but when she tried to counter, she couldn’t find Zhang WuJi. Even before he learnt Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, Zhang WuJi’s lightness kung fu was superior to Mie Jue’s. Now the difference is night and day. The crowd sees him stepping left, then stepping right, quick as lightning, practically spin circles around Mie Jue. Even Wei YiXiao can’t help but be in awe. Yet no matter how fast he is, Zhang WuJi still had to keep a certain distance from Mie Jue, not wanting to come in contact with the power of the Heaven Sword. Plus, he’s hardly skilled at using weapons. So despite the obvious advantage, Zhang WuJi still could not win after several moves.

E Mei’s disciples all realize that should this fight continue, their master would surely lose. Jing Xuan yelled, “Today we’re here to root out the devil sect, not to compete in the kung fu. Let’s all go up trap him, so that he can’t keep playing hide-and-seek with our master.” As she spoke, her sword came out. The E Mei disciples all rushed forward, circling around to surround Zhang WuJi and Mie Jue. Ding MinJun said to Zhou ZhiRuo coldly, “Sister Zhou, it’s your choice whether you want to go up there or not.” Zhou ZhiRuo, her face blushing, said angrily, “What’s that comment for?”

At this moment, Zhang WuJi appeared in front of Ding MinJun. With a quick wave of his hand, he grabbed her sword and in a fluent motion sent it towards Mie Jue. Mie Jue quickly waved her sword to block the flying sword. But while breaking Ding MinJun’s sword in two, her hand vibrated intensely due to the sheer force of Zhang WuJi’s throw. Before Mie Jue could recover, more swords came at her, as Zhang WuJi kept grabbing and throwing her disciples’ swords. Although only the best disciples followed Mie Jue on this trip, they still could not do anything while Zhang WuJi take their weapons.

After cutting down a few swords, Mie Jue felt extreme pain on her right arm. So she switched over to her left hand. Her swordsmanship is the same no matter which hand she uses. Only to see broken sword pieces dance in the air, as onlookers step back to avoid the shards. In just a few moments, all the E Mei disciples become empty-handed, with Zhou ZhiRuo being the lone exception.

Still thankful of her advice earlier, Zhang WuJi did not even try to approach her. But as a result, it made things worse by singling her out. Zhou ZhiRuo thought this might happen, so she was one of the first to attack. But Zhang WuJi’s speed is simply way too fast for her. Besides, he purposely avoided her, preventing her from giving up her sword. Ding MinJun said in a cold voice, “Sister Zhou, he really does treat you differently.” By this time, Zhang WuJi went back to concentrating on fighting Mie Jue, each sword stroke aiming directly at her vital points. Mie Jue, who while trying to dodge and block the oncoming assault, heard Ding MinJun’s words clearly. She suddenly thought, “Why doesn’t this kid take ZhiRuo’s sword too? Could there really be something between them? I need to test this.” So she immediately yelled, “ZhiRuo! Are you going against your master?” As she spoke, her sword quickly shot towards Zhou ZhiRuo’s chest.

Zhou ZhiRuo didn’t dare to raise her sword to block, and could only yell in shock, “Master, I…” When she said to here, Mie Jue’s sword is nearly at her chest. Zhang WuJi does not know that Mie Jue was simply testing them. After having witnessed her personally kill Ji XiaoFu, Zhang WuJi could only assume the worst. So without thinking, he raced ahead of Mie Jue, picked up Zhou ZhiRuo by her waist, and flew several yards away.

Finally getting back the initiative, Mie Jue quickly turned her attention towards Zhang WuJi. Despite his amazing inner power, Zhang WuJi hasn’t really learnt any lightness kung fu techniques. So he can’t be like Wei YiXiao, keeping his speed even while carrying a person. Zhang WuJi felt a strong wind from behind, turned around and blocked with his saber. ‘Dang’ the saber broke as it crossed path with the Heaven Sword. Zhang WuJi quickly threw out the remaining half a saber at Mie Jue, hoping to slow her down a bit. This throw utilized ninety percent of his powers, forcing Mie Jue to lower her head and dodge it. As the saber flew right over her head, Mie Jue felt a tinge of pain from the accompanying wind, temporarily paralyzing her. Zhang WuJi sees this chance, and quickly stepped up towards her, his palm shot out, and in a fluent motion snatched the Heaven Sword from her hand.

The wrist power involved in this sword-taking method had the backing of the seventh level of Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. Although her kung fu is high, Mie Jue still could not block such a powerful and accurate palm move. Zhang WuJi, even in triumph, did not let down his guard, pointing the Heaven Sword at Mie Jue’s throat. Then he stepped back a few steps slowly, when suddenly Zhou ZhiRuo struggled against his hold, yelling, “Let me go!” Zhang WuJi said in shock, “Oh! Forgot!” His face pure red as she let her go, only to smell a faint flowery scent as her headband went by his nose. Zhang WuJi couldn’t help but take a look at her, only to see her face a bit pale, looking very bashful. Although she tried to look mad, he could see in her eyes extreme joy and happiness. Mie Jue straightened herself. In silence, she looked at Zhou ZhiRuo, then at Zhang WuJi, her face whiter and whiter.

Zhang WuJi turned the sword around and said to Zhou ZhiRuo, “Ms. Zhou, please return this sword to your master.” Zhou ZhiRuo looked at Mie Jue and saw her incredible anger. Thousands of thoughts entered her mind at that moment, “In this situation, with the way Mr. Zhang treats me, master must think that he and I are lovers. She’ll surely throw me out of E Mei. What will I do? Although Mr. Zhang has treated me incredibly well, I never did plan on helping him fight against my own sect.” Suddenly she heard Mie Jue bark out, “ZhiRuo! Kill him!”

Back when Zhang SanFeng took Zhou ZhiRuo back to Wu Dang Mountain, he felt that it was awkward for her to stay there, since Wu Dang has no female disciples. So he took her to the E Mei sect. Zhou ZhiRuo is naturally intelligent. Plus, with her parents both dead, she concentrated solely on kung fu, and improved quickly, becoming one of Mie Jue’s favorite disciple. For the past seven years, the words of Mie Jue are like Holy Scriptures to her. She has never harbored any thoughts of defiance. So when she heard her master telling her to kill Zhang WuJi, she did not even have to think. Taking the sword from Zhang WuJi’s hand, and in one smooth motion quickly stabbing him. Zhang WuJi, never dreamed that she would possibly hurt him, did not make any attempt to dodge. In an instant, the sword has moved next to his chest. By the time he regained his senses, Zhang WuJi made a last second effort to get out of the way. But it was already too late. Zhou ZhiRuo only felt numbness in her wrist, thinking, “Am I really going to kill him?” In a state of semi-consciousness, she penetrated the sword through Zhang WuJi’s right side of the chest. Zhou ZhiRuo let out a scream, pulling out the sword, only to see red blood gushing out of Zhang WuJi’s chest, prompting everyone to gasp. Zhang WuJi blocked the wound with his hand, his body shaking, his face a strange expression, as if asking, “You really want to kill me?” Zhou ZhiRuo said, “I… I…” She wants to go over and check on him, but was too afraid, so instead she quickly turned around and ran out of the arena.

No one thought that her strike would succeed. Xiao Zhao’s face turned white, rushed forward to hold up Zhang WuJi, yelling, “You… you...” Zhang WuJi said to Xiao Zhao, “Why… why do you want to kill me…” Luckily, the sword was a bit off to the side, and didn’t penetrate Zhang WuJi’s heart. But it did skim his lungs. When he finished talking, he began to have trouble breathing, and started cough loudly. In his condition, Zhang WuJi can’t tell the difference between Xiao Zhao and Zhou ZhiRuo. Blood kept spilling out, turning Xiao Zhao’s clothing pure red. Every member of the audience, whether they are the Ming sect, Heavenly Eagle sect, or the six major sects, all became quiet. Everyone was moved deeply by the amazing kung fu and compassion Zhang WuJi showed during his bouts. When they saw the Heaven Sword penetrating his chest, all wondered whether this is a fatal blow or not. Xiao Zhao carefully put Zhang WuJi down on the ground, then yelled, “Who has the best medicine for wounds?” Shaolin’s Kong Sheng quickly stepped up and took out a bottle from his robe, said, “This is Shaolin’s best medicine for treating external wounds.” He immediately opened Zhang WuJi’s shirt and quickly applied the medicine on the deep cut. But unfortunately, the wound is too deep and blood kept spilling out. Kong Sheng muttered impatiently, “What should I do? What should I do?” The He couple also became agitated, thinking that if Zhang WuJi died, then they would die too. He TaiChong quickly walked over to Zhang WuJi’s side and asked, “Can you tell me how to cure this poison?” Xiao Zhao yelled at him while crying, “Get out of here! If Young Master Zhang can’t live, then everyone dies with him.” He TaiChong ignored her and kept asking, “How do I cure the golden bug poison?” Kong Sheng said angrily, “If you don’t leave now, I won’t be held responsible for my actions.” At this moment, Zhang WuJi regained a bit of consciousness, opened his eyes. He immediately sealed seven pressure points around the wound, greatly decreasing the blood spillage. Kong Sheng quickly applied more medicine to block the rest of the blood, while Xiao Zhao tore up some of her clothing to wrap him up. When she saw just how pale he looks, her mind became filled with unspeakable agitation and fright. After a while, Zhang WuJi regained his senses. His only thought was, “As long as I’m alive, I can’t let the six major sects destroy the Ming sect.” With that in mind, he and got up and said, “Is there anyone else from E Mei or Wu Dang who wants to challenge me?”

Mie Jue said, “E Mei has already lost today. If you don’t die, we’ll settle this later. Let’s see what’s Wu Dang can do now!” With Kong Dong, Shaolin, Kun Lun, Hua Shan, and E Mei all losing, Wu Dang is the only sect left who can challenge this youngster. Considering his injury, even second-rate fighters should have no problems with him. Any of the five Wu Dang heroes can easily beat him. Yet Wu Dang is famous for their ‘Righteousness’. How can they fight such a wounded person? However, if Wu Dang won’t challenge him, then won’t this whole attack be in vain? Song YuanQiao, Yu LianZhou, Zhang SongXi, Yin LiTing, and Muo ShengGu all looked at each other. No one can think of a good plan. Suddenly, they heard Song QingShu yell, “Dad, martial uncles, let me fight him.” The five Wu Dang heroes realizes his intentions. Song QingShu is one generation lower, so he’s much more appropriate for such a battle.

Yu LianZhou said, “No! It won’t make much of a difference if you go instead of us.” Zhang SongXi said, “Second brother, in my opinion, we should worry about the whole picture.” Muo ShengGu said, “Reputations aren’t really important. But to do such thing to such an injured youngster...” Not knowing what to do, they all looked at Song YuanQiao, deferring to him. Song YuanQiao saw Yin LiTing standing quietly on the side, knows that his fiancé lost her virginity and subsequently her life to Yang Xiao. He said, “If we don’t destroy the Devil sect today, they’ll only cause more suffering in the world. So we have no choice. QingShu, be careful.”

Song QingShu bowed and said, “Yes.” He walked over to Zhang WuJi and yelled, “Young Hero Zeng, if you aren’t a member of the Ming sect, you can leave now. The six major sects are just here to destroy the Ming sect.”

Zhang WuJi said, “Thank you for your kindness. But… I have decided to live and die with the Ming sect!” People from the Ming and Heavenly Eagle sect all began to yell, “Young Hero Zeng. We shall forever remember your incredible kindness today. At this point, you really don’t need to keep fighting us.” Yin TianZheng got up and said, “Mr. Song, let me try out your powerful Wu Dang kung fu.” But just as he got up, he immediately felt numbness in his legs, and had to sit back down again. Song QingShu said, “In that case, I have no choice but to fight you. I’m sorry.” Xiao Zhao quickly shielded in front of Zhang WuJi, and yelled, “Then you have to kill me first.” Zhang WuJi said quietly, “Xiao Zhao, don’t worry. He can’t kill me.” Xiao Zhao said, “But… but you’re injured.” Zhang WuJi said tenderly, “Xiao Zhao, why are you so kind to me?” Xiao Zhao said, “Because… because you’re kind to me.” Zhang WuJi stared at her for a moment and thought, “Even if I die today, at least I have a true friend who’s good to me.” Song QingShu yelled at Xiao Zhao, “Get out of here!” Zhang WuJi said, “Why are you so rude to this little girl?” Song QingShu grabbed Xiao Zhao’s head and pushed her away, then said, “Devilish couple, how disgusting. Get up so we can fight!” Zhang WuJi said, “I heard that your father is a very honorable and righteous man. Yet you are so bullish. You’re not worthy of me fighting standing up.” In reality, he can’t fight standing-up even if he wants to.

Yu LianZhou said, “QingShu. Simply seal his pressure point. Don’t hurt him.” Song QingShu responded, “Yes.” Then he shot out his right hand aiming for Zhang WuJi’s pressure point. Zhang WuJi didn’t move, letting him hit his own ‘Jian Zhen Point’. At the same moment, he gathered his inner power, pushing the fingers back out. It’s almost as if Song QingShu just pointed his fingers at a pond of water, showing no effect. After gathering himself, his right foot flew out, heading towards Zhang WuJi’s chest. This kick utilized much of his energy. Although Yu LianZhou told him not to hurt this youngster, for some reason, he feels much hatred towards this youngster. This really isn’t because he has an ill temper, but rather because of the caring and affectionate look on Zhou ZhiRuo’s face for this youngster. Although she did stab him in the end, one can easily see the tremendous pain on her face while doing so.

After he saw Zhou ZhiRuo, Song QingShu’s eyes rarely moved too far away from her. Although he couldn’t watch her directly all the time, none of her expressions and actions escaped his vision. He thought, “After this stab, whether this youngster lives or dies, he will forever be entrenched in her heart.” If he kills this youngster, Zhou ZhiRuo would certainly hate him. But how can he possibly pass up this only chance of killing him? Only to see Zhang WuJi’s fingers calmly pushing the feet out of the way, causing it to slide harmlessly to the side. Song QingShu immediately regained his footing, and then kicked back with his left foot, once again diverted by Zhang WuJi’s fingers.

After three exchanges, no one expected this kind of result. Song YuanQiao yelled, “QingShu, he has no strength left in his body. He’s using your force against you.”

Song QingShu immediately changed his tactics after hearing his dad’s pointer. His strokes became soft and light, sometimes seemingly lack any sort of power. This is Wu Dang’s ‘Soft Palm’. The idea of redirecting the enemy’s attacks is the basis for Wu Dang kung fu, and the ‘Soft Palm’ is the epitome of this sort of fighting style. However, there is still a limit to its softness, while Zhang WuJi has already mastered all seven levels of Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. With his left hand holding the wound, Zhang WuJi blocked all attacks with his right hand, moving up and down in different rhythms as if playing a zither. Even after he finished using all thirty-six moves of Soft Palms, Song QingShu still could not touch this youngster.

While in frustration, Song QingShu accidentally saw Zhou ZhiRuo, only to see her face filled with concern, causing him to feel even angrier, because the concern is not for him. After taking a deep breath, Song QingShu’s left aimed towards Zhang WuJi’s right cheek, while his right palm aimed straight for Zhang WuJi’s ‘Que Pan Point’. This move is called ‘Flower Blooms Giving Fruit’. Although the name is pretty, the move is deadly. Two hands move at the same time with blazing speed, yet each hand attacks in a different way, combining two attacks in one. Song QingShu attacked with the force of a tornado and the speed of lightning, prompting the audience to gasp. Only to see his left hand hit his own right cheek, his right hand sealing his own ‘Que Pan Point’, as Zhang WuJi diverted both of his attacks back at him with Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. Feeling a sharp pain on his Que Pan Point, Song QingShu fell back, struggled on the ground, unable to get back up. Song YuanQiao immediately went up and quickly unsealed his pressure point. Suddenly, Zhang WuJi opened his mouth, and big gulps of blood spilled out. Everyone looked at him with concern, thinking, “Although he fought off Song QingShu, he has used up all his remaining energy.” They then looked over at the Wu Dang sect, wondering if they will send someone else or give up. Song YuanQiao said, “Wu Dang has done all it can today. The devil sect must be fated to live on. That’s why a strange youngster appeared today to save them from destruction. How can we still be righteous if we still keep on fighting?” Yu LianZhou said, “Big brother is correct. We’ll go back and seek the advice of our master. When this youngster has recovered from his injuries, Wu Dang will come back and challenge him again.” Zhang SongXi and Muo ShengGu both then added, “Second brother is correct.” Suddenly, Yin LiTing stepped into the arena; his sword pointing at Zhang WuJi, yelling, “Mr. Zeng, I have no ill feelings towards you. So I won’t kill you. But Yang Xiao is my biggest sworn enemy. I must kill him!” Zhang WuJi shook his head, saying, “As long as I’m alive, I won’t let you kill anyone in the Ming sect.” Yin LiTing said, “In that case, I will kill you!”

Zhang WuJi coughed up another gulp of blood. His head half-conscious, his heart serene, and whispered, “Sixth Uncle Yin, then go ahead and kill me!” When Yin LiTing heard the words ‘Sixth Uncle Yin’, he thought, “WuJi always called me by this name when he was young. This youngster…” He looked closely at Zhang WuJi’s face. The more he looked, the more this face look like the child he remembered from nine years ago. So he asked, “You… are you WuJi?”

With no more energy left knowing he’s near death, Zhang WuJi felt no more need to hide his identity, and whispered, “Sixth Uncle Yin, I… I think of you… often.” Tears poured down Yin LiTing’s face. He let go of his sword, rushed forward, and held Zhang WuJi in his arms, yelling, “You’re Wuji, you’re my fifth brother’s son Zhang WuJi.” Song YuanQiao, Yu LianZhou, Zhang SongXi, and Muo ShengGu all immediately went up to Zhang WuJi upon hearing this, their face filled with extreme happiness. At this moment, nothing else in the world mattered to them. With this yell, other than the He couple, Zhou ZhiRuo, Yang Xiao and a few others, everyone gasped. No one could believe that this youngster is actually Zhang CuiShan’s son.

Yin LiTing sees that Zhang WuJi had already fainted, so he hurriedly took out a ‘Heavenly Heart Protecting Pill’ and put it in his mouth. After handing Zhang WuJi over to Yu LianZhou, he pulled out his sword, rushed in front of Yang Xiao, and scolded, “Yang Xiao, you wicked bastard, I… I…” His throat became stuck, unable to keep yelling any further. The long sword shot out, aiming directly at Yang Xiao’s heart. Yang Xiao, unable to move, simply closed his eyes and smiled, waiting for his death. Suddenly, a young girl came from the side, blocking in front of Yang Xiao, yelling, “Don’t hurt my daddy!” Ying LiTing stopped. As he looks closely at this person, an “Ah” sound came out. His body turned cold as ice as he saw this girl. Tall and slender, eyes big and bright, she’s actually Ji XiaoFu! After Yin LiTing got engaged to Ji XiaoFu, he never could concentrate on practicing his kung fu, as his thoughts were always filled with images of his fiancé. When he later found out that Yang Xiao kidnapped her, raped her, and killed her, the pain in his heart could not be described in words. Now that she has appeared in front of him once again, he stumbled, and said with shock, “Sister XiaoFu, you… you haven’t…”

That young girl is of course Yang BuHui. She said, “My surname is Yang. Ji XiaoFu is my mom, she’s already dead.” Yin LiTing paused, then figured out what’s going on. He said, “Oh, you’re right. That was stupid of me! You should get out of the way. Today I’m here to seek revenge for your mother.”

Yang BuHui points to Mie Jue, “Fine. Uncle Yin, go kill this old nun then.” Yin LiTing asked, “W…Why?” Yang BuHui said, “Because my mom died under her palm.” Yin LiTing said, “Don’t be ridiculous! What does a child like you know?” Yang BuHui responded in a cold voice, “That day at the Butterfly Valley, old nun wanted my mom to come kill my dad. My mom refused, so the old nun killed her.” At the time of Ji XiaoFu’s death, Yang BuHui is still a little girl. So she obviously didn’t realize exactly what had happened. But as she grew up and recalled those events, she pieced everything together. Yin LiTing turned around and looked at Mie Jue, his face filled with puzzlement, asking, “Is… she... Ms. Ji really…”

Mie Jue responded in a crisp, loud voice, “She’s right. What use is there to let such a despicable student live? She and Yang Xiao loved each other. She would rather disobey me than to go kill him. Sixth Hero Yin, I only lied to save you some face. Humph, what’s the need to remember such a ****?” Yin LiTing’s face turned green, yelling, “I don’t believe you! I don’t believe you!” Mie Jue said, “Why don’t you ask this girl her name?” Yin LiTing turned towards Yang BuHui. Through his teary eyes he could only see Ji XiaoFu, but his ears heard clearly, “ My name is Yang BuHui*. My mom said that she never regretted what had happened.’”

*Bu means ‘No’. Hui means ‘Regret’.

‘Dang’, Yin LiTing dropped his sword, turned around and ran down the mountain. Song YuanQiao and Yu LianZhou yelled, “Sixth brother, sixth brother!” But Yin LiTing did not respond. As he’s running, Yin LiTing suddenly tripped, but he quickly got back up and resumed running.

Everyone only felt sympathy as they watch Yin LiTing, for how could a person of his kung fu skills trip while running? The only reason would be if his mind is in a state of total disorder. At this time, Song YuanQiao, Yu LianZhou, Zhang SongXi, and Muo ShengGu all sat around Zhang WuJi, their palms pushing against four of Zhang WuJi’s major pressure points, trying to heal him with their inner power. Only to feel a great deal of energy in his body, sucking their strength into him at a rapid pace. If they keep this up, their inner powers would be totally gone in four hours. Yet with Zhang WuJi’s life hanging in the balance, they can’t release their palms. Suddenly, Zhang WuJi opened his eyes, and in an instant, Song YuanQiao and others felt their chi moving backwards, returning to them. Song YuanQiao yelled, “Don’t! You need to rest.” The four brothers immediately released their palms, only to feel Zhang WuJi’s Jiu Yang chi rushing into their body, strengthening their inner powers. The four brothers couldn’t believe that even with his injury, Zhang WuJi can summon such great deal of inner power. Zhang WuJi said, “Eldest Uncle Song, Second Uncle Yu, Fourth Uncle Zhang, Seventh Uncle Muo, sorry about that. How is Martial Grandfather’s health?” Yu LianZhou said, “Master is doing well. WuJi, you… you’re so big…” Despite having thousands of words in his mind, no more words would come out. Only tears of joy flowed down their cheeks.

Delighted that that the youngster is his grandson, Yin TianZheng started to laugh out loud. But he could still could not muster the strength to get up.

Mie Jue waved her hands, as the E Mei disciples all followed her down the mountain. Zhou ZhiRuo followed her martial sisters slowly with her head down. After a few steps, she could not help but look back. Her gaze met that of Zhang WuJi’s, who was watching her leave. Zhou ZhiRuo’s face immediately turned red, her eyes seemingly saying, “I’m really sorry to have stabbed you so severely. Please take care of yourself.” Zhang WuJi seemingly realized her thoughts, and simply nodded. Zhou ZhiRuo’s face brightened up considerably, and with a big smile, left quickly with the rest of the E Mei sect.

Hua Shan and Kong Dong, taking their wounded, also followed down the mountain. He TaiChong came up to Zhang WuJi and said, “Little friend, congratulations on meeting your relatives…” Before he could continue, Zhang WuJi took out two common painkiller pills and said, “Here is the antidote.” He TaiChong took the pills, wondering if it really can cure his poison. Zhang WuJi added, “If I say it’s the antidote, then it really is the antidote.” Despite his low voice, everyone can see how serious he is. Besides, even if he’s lying, He TaiChong knows that he cannot force Zhang WuJi to do anything with the Wu Dang brothers around. He could only respond, “Thank you!” and swallowed the pill with Ban ShuXian. The Kun Lun sect then went down the mountain.

Yu LianZhou said, “WuJi, you cannot go down the mountain right now due to your injury, and we can’t stay here either. But when you have time, please come to Wu Dang, if only so master can take a look at you.” Zhang WuJi nodded with teary eyes. Although they have many questions, the Wu Dang brother did not ask any, for they do not want to further burden Zhang WuJi in his current state. Suddenly, they heard a Shaolin monk yelling, “Where’s brother Yuan Zhen’s body?” Muo ShengGu looked over at Shaolin’s pile of bodies, and indeed could not see his body among the dead.

Yuan Yin yelled at the Ming sect, “Give us back brother Yuan Zhen’s body!” Zhou Dian said with a smile, “Haha! Are you kidding me? If we don’t even care to keep your live bodies, what the hell would we do with a dead one?” Shaolin realizes that he’s right, and began searching around. But the body never showed up. They figured that some other sect must have taken it by mistake, and also began to head down the mountain. As Wu Dang sect started to leave, Zhang WuJi kowtowed to send them off. Song YuanQiao said, “WuJi, you are now the savior of the Ming sect. I hope you can guide them down the road of righteousness from now on.” Zhang SongXi said, “Be careful. Make sure you guard against the sinister people.” Zhang WuJi answered, “Yes.”

When the six major sects all left, Yin TianZheng and Yang Xiao looked at each other, then said together, “Members of the Ming sect and the Heavenly Eagle sect express thanks to Hero Zhang for saving our lives!” In an instant, everyone got on their knees and kowtowed on the ground. Zhang WuJi doesn’t know what to do, seeing his elders and even his grandfather and uncle among the people bowing. He tried to return the bow, but reopened his wound while trying to do so, and fainted. Xiao Zhao quickly held him back up. Two uninjured Ming sect members came by with a stretcher, putting Zhang WuJi on it. Yang Xiao said, “Take him to my room and let him rest there.”

Xiao Zhao followed Zhang WuJi as he’s being taken away. As she walked by Yang BuHui, she heard Yang BuHui say coldly, “Xiao Zhao, you really are a great actress. I knew you were strange, but I never thought that an ugly girl like you is actually a great beauty.” Xiao Zhao did not respond, only kept on walking. For the next few days, everyone on the Brightness Peak only focused on healing their wounds. After the last life-and-death battle, they all regretted the past years of inner turmoil. No one brought up any past differences, as everyone rested peacefully on Brightness Peak, healing their injuries.

(Continued by dgfds01)

Though Zhang Wuji's injuries were not light, Zhou Zhirou's sword had missed his heart and lungs by a few inches. With the aid of his completed Art of Nine Yang, after convalescing for seven or eight days, his wound gradually healed. Each day, Yin Tianzheng, Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao, Shuo Bu De and others were carried into his room to visit him. They were very happy to see his condition improve day by day. After about eight days, Zhang Wuji could sit up. That night, Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao visited him again. Zhang Wuji said: "You were both injured by the Xuan Yin Finger. How have you been feeling these last few days?" Both of them were suffering daily from cold, bone searing pain. Rather than getting better, the injuries had been getting worse. However, they did not want him to worry so they said: "There's been great improvement!" Zhang Wuji saw that there was a shadow of black chi over their faces. Even their speech was weak and listless. He said: "My inner strenght is about sixty to seventy percent recovered. Let me try treating your injuries. " Yang Xiao hurriedly replied: "No, no! There's no need to rush. Hero Zhang should wait till you've completely recovered before treating us. How could we rest easy if you aggravate your injuries?" Wei Yixiao said: "A few days won't make a difference. The important thing is for Hero Zhang to rest and recover."

Zhang Wuji said: "My grandfather the Eagle King and my godfather the Lion King are from the same generation as you. You're both my seniors. I really cannot respond to you calling me 'hero'." Yang Xiao smiled and replied: "From now onwards we are your subordinates. We'll follow behind you and we won't even dare sit without your permission. How can we speak of being your seniors?" Zhang Wuji asked in surprise: "Uncle Yang, what do you mean?" Wei Yixiao said: "Hero Zhang, you're the only person worthy and capable of bearing the heavy burden of the Ming Cult Leader's position."

Zhang Wuji frantically waved both hands urgently saying: "That's impossible! That's Impossible!" At this instance, the sound of piercing whistles was heard from the east. This was Brightness Peak's warning signals. Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao were shocked thinking:" Could it be that the six sects refused to admit defeat and are attacking again?" However, their facial expressions did not betray their thoughts. Yang Xiao said: "Was the ginseng you took yesterday good enough? Xiao Zhao, go get some more and prepare some more for Hero Zhang." Alarm whistles were now heard from the western and southern sides. Zhang Wuji said: "Are there enemies attacking?" Wei Yixiao said: "There's no lack of good fighters from our sect and the Heavenly Evil Sect. Hero Zhang, there's no need for you to worry. We can easily deal with little bandits!" But just a moment later, the whistles could be heard from a lot nearer. The enery was advancing very quickly, they were definately more than mere bandits. Yang Xiao said: "I'll go out for a while to organise things. Brother Wei will stay here with Hero Zhang. Hehe, can it be that the Ming Cult is so easily pushed around?" Even though his injuries were so serious that he could not move, his speech was still heroic. Zhang Wuji pondered: "Shaolin and E-Mei are righteous sects. They will not break their word. The attackers are probably wicked, merciless people. All the top fighters on Brightness Peak are severely injured. In this last seven or eight days, not one has recovered. If they try to fight, they'll only be throwing their lives away in vain."

At that moment, urgent footsteps were heard outside the door. A man rushed in. His face was covered with blood and he had been stabbed in the chest with a knife. He yelled: "The enemies are attacking from three directions ......they're coming up the mountain......our brothers fighting the enemy......can't hold out......" Wei Yixiao asked: "Who are the enemies?" The man pointed outside and tried to reply. Instead, he fell face-down onto the ground, dying just like that. The whistling grew more incessant and frenzied, the danger of the situation was obvious. Suddenly, two more men rushed into the room. Yang Xiao saw that man in front was the deputy flag leader of the Flood Waters Flag. His whole body was covered with blood and his face as pale as death, but he still maintained his composure. Bowing slightly, he reported: "Hero Zhang, Left Emissary Yang, Protector King Wei, the people attacking us are from the Great Whale Clan, Sea Sand Sect, Divine Fist House." Yang Xiao frowned, hrmphed and said: "These little clowns even dare to attack us?" The Deputy Flag Leader replied: "The enemy is actually not very powerful. The problem is that most of our brothers are injured......" As he said this, the Five Wanderers - Leng Qian, the Iron Hat Priest Zhang Zhong, Peng Yingyu, Shuo Bu De, Zhou Dian - were stretched in one by one. Zhou Dian yelled: "The Beggar's Clan, Three Family Clan and the Wushan Clan have taken the opportunity to attack us as well. As long as I, Zhou Dian, has a single breath left in my body I will never let it rest......" Before he finished, Yin Tianzheng and Yin Yewang limped in supported by crutches. Yin Tianzheng said: " Wuji my child, you just lie back and rest. Damm the Five Wind Sabre and Soul Breaking Spear sects! What can two little sects like this do to us?"

Among them, Yang Xiao was the highest ranking Ming Cult member, Yin Tianzheng was the leader of the Heavenly Eagle Sect while Peng Yingyu was the most resourceful. These three men had faced all sorts of calamities in their lives. Each time, they had managed to avert disaster with their abilitues. But they could see no way out of the present situation - they were all severly injured with a large group of enemies at their doorstep. Even if the other clans and sects had not attacked, the Beggars Clan alone with its large numbers of able fighters would have been extremely difficult to deal with. By now, everyone secretly considered Zhang Wuji their sect leader. Together, they all turned to him hoping he had some plan to get them out of this prediciament. During all this, all sorts of thoughts and ideas swirled through Zhang Wuji's mind. Though his kungfu was greater than Yang Xiao's, his grandfather, Wei Yixiao and the others, they were far ahead of him when it came to strategy and cunning. If they were unable to come up with a solution, there was no way he would be able to. He let out a groan. Suddenly, he thought of something and said: "Let's go hide in the secret tunnel. The enemy might not be able to find us. Even if they discovered the tunnel, they would have difficult attacking down it." This was the best possible solution to him so he spoke excitedly. To his surprise, the others simply looked at each other. No one agreed with him. It was if they all felt that it could not be done. Zhang Wuji said: "A true man knows when to retreat and when to advance. Let's hide and recuperate first. When our injuries recover we'll come out and fight. There is no disgrace in that."

Yang Xiao said: "Hero Zhang's plan is brilliant." He turned to Xiao Zhao and said: "Xiao Zhao, help Hero Zhang into the secret tunnel." Zhang Wuji said: "Let's go together!" Yang Xiao said: "You go first, we'll follow later."

When he heard this, Zhang Wuji knew that they would not follow, it was just a ploy to get him to safety. He said clearly: "Seniors, though I'm not a member of your sect I have gone through dangers with you. It can be said I have a bond of life and death with you. How could I abandon you and cowardly hide away?

Yang Xiao said: "There are some things Hero Zhang is unaware off. For generations, it has been a strict Ming Cult rule that apart from the sect leader, no Ming Cult member may enter the secret tunnel. The penalty for breaking the rule is death. Both you and Xiao Zhao are not Ming Cult members so you're exempted from the rule."

By now the sounds of fighting could be heard from all directions. The route up to Brightness Peak was steep and rugged. Many passes steel and rock gates blocking the way. Therefore, eventhough the Ming Cult's defenders were weak, the attackers had not had an easy time either. Added to that was the Ming Cult's awesome reputation - the attackers were cautious and did not dare rush forward. Nevertheless from the sounds of fighting, they were slowly making their way closer. Every now and then the screams were heard as exhausted Ming Cult defenders were slaughtered.

Zhang Wuji thought: "If we don't go now, within two hours the whole of Ming Cult will be killed." He immediately said: "Can't we change the rule?" Yang Xiao shook his head darkly. Peng Yingyu suddenly said: "Everyone listen to me: Hero Zhang's kungfu is matchless and his character righteous. He's the great saviour of our sect. Let's set Hero Zhang up as our sect's thirty-fourth generation leader. If the leader orders our members to enter the secret tunnel, we'll be following his orders, not breaking the rule.” Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng, Wei Yixiao and the others had already intended to make Zhang Wuji the cult leader. Everyone agreeded with Monk Peng's suggestion. Zhang Wuji anxiously waved his hand saying: "I'm very young and am neither noble nor capable. How could I dare shoulder such a heavy burden? Also, my grandteacher, Venerable Master Zhang, repeatedly told me never to enter the Ming Cult. I promised him I won't. I accept follow Reverend Peng's suggestion." Yin Tianzheng said: "I'm your grandfather and I order you to enter the Ming Cult. Even if your grandfather is not closer to your than your grandteacher, at the very least we are equal. My words cancels out his, it's like neither of us said anything. It's your own decision whether to enter the Ming Cult." Yin Yewang added: "Add your uncle to the equation as well - is that enough to tip the scales? It is said: to see a maternal uncle is to see mother. As your mother is no longer around, I take her place."

Zhang Wuji was saddened by his grandfather's and uncle's words. He said: "Sect Leader Yang left a will before he died. I brought it out with me from the secret tunnel. I had intended to give it to you once your injuries recovered. Sect Leader Yang's last wishes were that my godfather, the Golden Haired Lion King, temporarily assume the position of sect leader." Saying this, he drew out the will and handed it to Yang Xiao.

Peng Yingyu said: "Hero Zhang, a true man knows how to change plans according to the circumstances. The Golden Haired Lion King is your godfather, relationship wise he's just like your natural father. It is only natural that a son succeeds his father. Since the Golden Haired Lion King is not here, please follow the wishes of Sect Leader Yang and become our temporary sect leader." Everyone said: "He is right." Zhang Wuji was wrecked with anxiety hearing the sound of fighting get closer and closer. For a moment he had no idea what to do. He thought: "The most important thing is to save all these people. I'll worry about the rest later." So he said clearly: "Since you all value me so, if I refuse I'll be a great sinner towards the Ming Cult. Junior Zhang Wuji will temporarily assume the office of sect leader. Once the dangers of today have passed, please elect someone more worthy.”Everyone broke out cheering at his words. Despite the fact that powerful enemies were approaching and impending danger looming, great joy was seen on everyone's face. Since the untimely death of the late sect leader Yang Dingtian, the Ming Cult had no leader to hold them together. They had fought among themselves, killing each other and splitting the once powerful and influencial sect up. Some members had left to set up their own organisations while others had descended into evil and wickedness, further worsening the situation. Now that a strong leader had surfaced, how could they not be affected? Those who were able to move fell to their knees. Though Yin Tianzheng and Yin Yewang were Zhang Wuji's grandfather and uncles repectively, they were no exception. Zhang Wuji quickly kowtowed back and said: "Everyone please rise. Left Emissary Yang, please pass my orders: every member of our sect is to retreat down the secret tunnel."

Yang Xiao replied: "Yes! Your orders will be carried out. I have a suggestion - we should order the Raging Fire Flag to block the enemy with fire and burn down all buildings on Brightness Peak. The enemy will then think we've run away. What do you think?" Zhang Wuji said: "Your scheme is brilliant. Left Emissary Yang, please pass the orders." Inwardly he thought: "This was the same plan that Zhu Changling used years ago. It was actually a good tactic, unfortunately he used it to deceive me. " Yang Xiao's orders were passed - cult members were ordered to retreat, the Flood Water and Raging Fire Flags were ordered to form the rearguard. As the Heavenly Eagle Sect were guests, their members entered the secret tunnel first. They were followed by the Heaven, Earth, Wind and Thunder Gates; the ranking officers of Brightness Peak; the Gold, Wood and Earth Flags; the Five Wanderers and Wei Yixiao. Shortly after Zhang Wuji and Yang Xiao entered the tunnel, the members of the Water Flag went in. By now, the flames were lighting up the easter and western sky. The fire burned brighter and brighter. Then the Fire Flag sprayed oil onto the flames, causing the fires to erupt even further. Though the attackers were numerous, none of them dared to approach the flames. Instead, they surrounded Brightness Peak blocking off the escape routes. The Fire Flag members went down the tunnel and shut the entrance. Not long after, the building above collapsed, covering the entrance to the secret tunnel with burning debris.

The raging fire burned for two days and two nights. Brightness Peak was the headquaters of the Ming Cult with a heritage stretching back hundreds of years. Everything, from the main reception hall to ordinary buildings, was burnt to the ground. When the fire subsided, the attackers found the remains of Ming Cult followers killed in battle among the debris, their bodies burnt beyond recognition. They assumed that the Ming Cult had refused to surrender, preferring to die instead. They assumed that Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao and the rest had all lost their lives in the fire. The Heavenly Eagle Sect and Ming Cult used the map of the tunnels to divide the area up into living spaces. The tunnel was deep underground so they felt neither the heat of the flames nor head a sound from above. They had brought enough foodstuffs and water in to last them for two months. Each member of the Ming Cult and the Heavenly Eagle Sect maintained a respectful silence. They were all aware that the secret tunnel was a forbidden, sacred place. It was only by the sect leader's grace that they were able to take refuge there. Therefore, no one dared to wander around at will.

Yang Xiao and the other leaders gathered around Yang Dingtian's remains and listened to Zhang Wuji's story on how he came across Yang Dingtian's will and learnt Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. When he finished, he handed the kungfu manual over to Yang Xiao. Yang Xiao refused to accept it. He bowed and said: "The late Sect Leader Yang's will was clearly written: 'The Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi manual shall be given to Xie Xun for safe keeping. It shall then be passed on to the new sect leader.' It is more appropriate for you, as sect leader, to keep it." Everyone then turned to read Yang Dingtian's will. They sighed sadly when they finished, saying: "Sect Leader Yang was both brave and far-sighted. Yet it was his wife's infidelity caused him to suffer a fire deviaton and die. If only we had seen the will earlier, then we would not be in this situation today." Everyone thought of the tragic deaths of their comrades, they gritted their teeth in grief and cursed Cheng Kun. Yang Xiao said: "Though Cheng Kun was Mrs Yang's martial brother and the Golden Haired Lion King's master, we had never met him previously. But we have seen the result of his work. It turns out that for the last few decades,he has been trying to destroy our cult." Zhou Dian said: "Left Emissary Yang, Bat King Wei, you've both fallen into his trap, you can be considered supid." He had intended to attack Yin Tianzheng as well. However, he took Zhang Wuji's feelings into account and swallowed the words "White Browed Old Man". Yang Xiao's face turned red and he said: "At least heaven is just, that evil Cheng Kun died under Brother Yewang's palm." The leader of the Fire Flag said with hatred: "With all his evil deeds, Cheng Kun got off easy to die like that." They discussed the matter a little while more before breaking up to sit down and treat their injuries. After seven or eight days in the secret tunnel, Zhang Wuji's sword wound was abut ninety percent healed leaving a inch long scar. He began to treat the external wounds of the brothers. Though there was a huge shortage of medicines, he managed to heal everyone with his skills in acupuncture and acupressure. At first everyone only knew that their young sect leader's martial arts were unfanthomable. They had never imagined that his medical skills were so amazing, that they even rivaled the skills of the "Divine Doctor of Butterfly Valley" Hu Qingniu.

After another few days, Zhang Wuji's wound was completely healed. He then used his Art of Nine Yang help Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao and the Five Wanderers force out the Xuan Yin Finger's cold poision. Within three days, they had completely recovered from their internal injuries and wanted to leave the secret tunnel and destroy the enemy. Zhang Wuji said: "You've just recovered from your injuries and your inner strenght has not returned completely. Since you've already been patient for so long, waiting a few more days can't hurt." For the next few days, everyone worked hard preparing themselves. Those with mediocre kungfu sharpened sabres and swords and those with better kungfu practiced regulating their chi. The Ming Cult had suffered one humiliation afte another since the six major sects beseiged Brightness Peak. Now their frustration was boiling over, needing an outlet to be released.

One night, Yang Xiao explained the Ming Cult's creed, aim, and rules, their main power centres in different places, and the abilities and characters of their leaders to Zhang Wuji. They heard the sound of iron chains clanging as Xiao Zhao approached to serve them tea. Zhang Wuji said: "Left Emissary Yang, this young lady has committed no offence. Please unlock the chains and release her!”Yang Xiao said: "I won't dare disobey sect leader's orders." He immediately called for Yang Buhui and told her: "Buhui, the sect leader wants you to unlock Xiao Zhao's chains." Yang Buhui said: "I left the key a drawer in my room." Zhang Wuji said: "That's not a problem. The key wouldn't have been burnt."

Yang Xiao waited until his daughter and Xiao Zhao had left before saying: "Sect leader, though Xiao Zhao is very young her behaviour is quite strange. We have to be cautious towards her." Zhang Wuji asked: "What are her origins?" Yang Xiao answered: "Half a year ago, I took Buhui on a trip down the mountain. We found her in the desert, crying over two dead bodies. We asked her what happened and she replied that they dead were her parents. Her parents had offended a government officer in the Central Plains and her family had been exiled to the Western Regions to work for the military. A few days before, unable to bear their treatment by the Mongol soldiers any longer, they had tried to escape. However, her parents sucummed to their injuries and exhaustion. I saw that she was a young girl all alone in the world. Though her face was ugly, from her speech she was not stupid. So I helped her bury her parents, then took her in as Buhui's maid." Zhang Wuji nooded his head thinking: "So both Xiao Zhao's parents have passed away. Her life is really tragic, no different from me." Yang Xiao continued: "Back in Brightness Peak, one day when I was teaching Buhui martial arts, Xiao Zhao was listening nearby. I was explaining the sixty-four Bagua positions. Buhui had not get grasped the idea when I saw Xiao Zhao's eyse look at the right position." Zhag Wuji said: "It's probably because she's very intelligent. That's why she understood the concept before Sister Buhui." Yang Xiao said: "That's what I thought at first, I was very happy. But when I considered it further, I became suspicious. I delibreately recited an extremely difficult formula, something I had never taught Buhui. Then I recited some Bagua positions worngly, only to see her frown slightly

- she had noticed the mistakes. Since then I've kept this in mind, knowing that this little girl has been taught by a great master and probably has powerful kungfu. She must have been sent to Brightness Peak by someone to spy on us."

Zhang Wuji said: "It might be that her father was an expert of the Book of Changes and she learnt it from him." Yang Xiao said: "Sect leader please reflect: the literary knowledge of the Book of Changes is different from its application to martial arts. If Xiao Zhao had learnt it from her parents, then they must be top wulin experts. How could they have been killed by Mongol soldiers? At that time, I pretended I had not noticed anything. A few days later, I casually asked her about her parents' names and origins. She smoothly asnwered everything without revealing the slightest information. At that time I showed no reaction, all I did was warn Buhui to be careful with her. Then one day, I told a joke and Buhui laughed loudly. Xiao Zhao was nearby and she couldn't help laughing as well. She was standing behind Buhui and I, we could not see her. But it so happened that Buhui was playing with a dagger in her hand and her reflection was caught clearly in the dagger. She was no ugly girl! Her features were much more beautiful that Buhui's. But when I turned around, her face had reassumed its squinted eye and twisted mouth look." Zhang Wuji smiled saying: "To twist her face to look ugly all the time...that must be quite difficult." In his heart he thought: "Left Emmissary Yang is truly amazing. There's no Xiao Zhao could continuely fool someone like him." Yang Xiao continued: "Even then I kept silent. Late that night, I quietly went to my daughter room to watch Xiao Zhao. I saw that girl lave Buhui's room. She went to the eastern side of the house looking for who-knows-what. She searched carefully in every room and corner. Unable to bear it any longer, I revealed myself and questioned her - what was she looking for and who order her to spy on Brightness Peak. She calmly replied without panic that no one had sent her. She just enjoyed playing around and being inquisitive. I tried everything to threaten and persuade her but she told me nothing. I locked her up and starved her for seven days and seven nights. Even when she was faining from starvation she wouldn't say anything. Finally, I locked her up in those iron chains. When she moves, the clanging sound follows so she can't sleathily harm Buhui. I didn't kill her because I wanted to find out her origins. Sect Leader, this girl is definately a spy sent by some enemy. Based on her proficiency in Bagua positions, she's either from Kunlun or E'Mei Sect. But she's still a young girl, no great danger to us. Let her serve you. It is her good fortune that you're willing to show mercy on her."

Zhang Wuji stood up and laughingly said: "We've been cooped up in this underground prison for so long. Don't you think it's now time to go up and stretch our legs?" Yang Xiao asked happily: "Are we going out now?" Zhang Wuji answered: "Those who have yet to recover cannot fight. They don't have to contribute to our cause now. The rest can all go out. What do you think?" When Yang Xiao gave the order, the secret tunnel was filled joyous cheering and bustling activity.

They had entered the tunnel through the entrance in Yan Buhui's room. Now they went out through the side entrance, coming out behind the mountain. Zhang Wuji pushed away the stone blocking the entrance, let everyone through, then pushed the stone back into place. The Earth Flag Leader Yan Yuan was the Ming Cult's strongest man. He experimentally tried to move the rock but it would not even budge. It was as if he was a dragonfly trying to move a stone pillar. His admiration for his young sect leader increased.

They did not want to alert the enemy so the came out of the secret tunnel silently. Not even a cough was heard. Zhang Wuji stood on top of a large rock. The moonlight shone down on them. To the west were the ranks of the Heavenly Eagle Sect: the three halls - Heaven's Secret, Purple Secret and Heaven's City - and the five branches - Divine Snake, Green Dragon, White Tiger, Crimson Sparrow and Black Valiant. They formed orderly rows, each with its own leader. On the east were the Ming Cult's Five Flags: Gold, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth. The Flags were arranged in the Five Elements position with their leaders and deputy leaders at the head. In the middle were the Brightness Peak troops, the Four Gates under Yang Xiao's command - Heaven, Earth, Wind and Thunder - headed by their own leaders. The Heaven Gate was made out of Central Plains men, the Earth Gate out of Central Plains women,the Wind Gate out of members who had taken religious orders, and the Thunder Gate out of non-Chinese from the Western Regions. Though most of the Five Flags and Four Gates members had been wounded in last battle, they were all full of spirit and vigour. The Green Wing Bat King Wei Yixiao, Leng Qian and the rest of the Five Wanderers stood protectively behind Zhang Wuji. Everyone waited respectfully for the Sect Leader's orders. Zhang Wuji slowly said: "Enemies have invaded our territory. No matter how patient we are, we cannot tolerate this. However I don't want any needless killing and injuring. Keep this in mind. The Heavenly Eagle Sect will attack from the west under the command of Sect Leader Yin. The Five Elements Flags will attack from the east under the command of Wood Flag's Flag Leader Wen Cangsong. Left Emmisarry Yang will lead the Heaven and Earth Gates to attack the north. The Five Wanderers will lead the Wind and Thunder Gates to attack the south. Bat King Wei and I will direct the proceedings." Everyone bowed and accepted their orders.

Zhang Wuji waved his left hand and said softly: "Go!" The four divisions separated and surrounded Brightness Peak from the north, south, east and west. Zhang Wuji turned to Wei Yixiao and said: "Bat King, let us launch a surprise attack from the secret tunnel." Wei Yixiao said happily: "Great idea!" The two of them re-entered the secret tunnel and surfaced in Yang Buhui's room.

They had to push hard and expand a lot of energy before they could move the pile of gravel and burnt wood blocking the trapdoor. The first thing they smelt when the came out of the tunnel was the stench of burnt things. At that time, the Ming Cult troops were still a distance away. But their presence had already been discovered by the enemies still left on Brightness Peak, they called out warning their comrades. Zhang Wuji and Wei Yixiao smiled at each other, thinking: "All this fuss over nothing. Our victory is easily assured." They hid themselves behind a partially collapsed wall. In the moonlight, they could see people running back and forth. Not long later, Shuo Bu De and Zhou Dian arrived side-by-side from the south and launched themselves into the press of enemies. Yin Tianzheng, Yang Xiao and the Five Flags soon appeared. Yelling loudly, they threw themselves forward to attack, like a tiger pouncing on a flock of sheep. The enemies who had attacked Brightness Peak were the Beggars Clan, Wushan Clan, Sea Sand Clan and about ten other sects organisations. When they saw Brightness Peak razed to the ground, they thought they had won a great victory. So the Beggars Clan, Great Whale Clan and most of the other sects had left the mountain. Theere were only four groups still on Brightness Peak: the Divine Fist Clan, Three Rivers Clan, Wushan Clan and the Five Wind Sabres Clan. The Ming Cult's attack was very sudden. Though there were skilled fighters among the four clans, they were no match for the lights of Yang Xiao and Yin Tianzheng. In the time it took for rice to cook, a large numeber of them were dead or injured.

Zhang Wuji came out and said clearly: "The Ming Cult's top fighters have gathered on Brightness Peak. Listen up everyone: there's no point fighting any longer. Throw your weapons down and surrender. We'll spare your lives and see you on your way down the mountain."

Many members of the four clans were dead or injured. The rest could see that it was pointless to keep fighting. One by one, they threw down their weapons and surrendered. Over the last ten days, the Wushan Clan had built a number of temporary shelters. Now the Wood Flag members started cutting down trees and building more thatched shelters. The female Earth Gate members busied themselves boiling water and preparing food.

The Ming Cult built a large fire and thanked the Holy Fire for its protection. The White Browed Eagle King Yin Tianzheng stood up and shouted: "All members of the Heavenly Eagle Sect listen: Our sect and Ming Cult have the same origins, we are really the same. Over twenty years ago, I had a disagreement with my Ming Cult comrades. So I left for the south-east and set up my own sect. Now the Ming Cult has recognised Hero Zhang as their leader, all the past differences have been forgotten. From this day on, the words 'Heavenly Eagle Sect' no longer exists on this earth. All of us are Ming Cult members, we'll all obey Sect Leader Zhang's orders. Anyone who disagrees can leave the mountain now!" The Heavenly Eagle Sect members cheered joyously, all saying: "The Heavenly Eagle Sect broke away from Ming Cult, now it's returning to its roots. It's a wonderful thing for all of us to enter the Ming Cult. Sect Leader Yin and Sect Leader Zhang are relatives, it makes no difference whose orders we obey." Yin Tianzheng shouted: "From today onwards, there is only Sect Leader Zhang. Anyone who calls me 'Sect Leader Yin' is a rebel." Zhang Wuji saluted with his hands and said: "The Heavenly Eagle Sect's reunification with Ming Cult is a wonderful thing. The thing is, I only accepted the position as sect leader because of the urgent circumstances. Now that the enemies have been driven away, we should select a new sect leader. There are many great heros in the sect. I'm young and ignorant, how dare I continue as sect leader?" Zhou Dian yelled: "Sect leader, please think about us all. We, who've been fighting among ourselves for the posiion, have set accepted you as our leader. If you insist on declining the position, just appoint someone else as sect leader. Hrmph! No matter who it is, I, Zhou Dian, will be the first to reject him. Even if you choose me, I'll still reject it." Peng Yingyu said: "Sect leader, if you refuse to take up this burden, the Ming Cult will return to in-fighting and killing. When that happens, are we to beg you to save us again?"

Zhang Wuji thought: "What they say is true. In these circumstances, how can I just shake my sleeves and leave? But I neither know how to nor want to be a sect leader." He said clearly: "Since you value me so much, I won't dare refuse. However, I have three conditions. If you don't accept them, I would rather die than become sect leader." Everyone said: "We would not dare disobey sect leader's orders. No matter whether it's three conditions or thirty, we'll agree. Please state your conditions." Zhang Wuji said: "Our sect has been labelled heretical and evil. That is probably because others do not understand our religion. But because of our large numbers, it is difficult to pick out our bad members and some unworthy ones have harmed the innocent. This is my first condition: from now onwards, everyone, including myself, must strictly adhere to the rules of our religion. We must destroy the wicked and uphold the righteous. We have to support and love each other, steering our brothers away from the wrongful path." He turned to Zhou Dian and said: "Cursing and arguing is fine, fighting is forbidden. I appoint Mr Leng Qian as Disciplinary Officer. Those who break the rules or fight with a brother will be severely punished. This includes myself, my grandfather, uncle and other elders." Everyone bowed and said: "That is how it should be." Leng Qian took a step forward and said: "I accept your orders!" He was a man of few words. By this he meant that he accepted the responsibility and would do his very best. Zhang Wuji said: "The second condition is more difficult. The enemity between our sect and the major sects of the Central Plains is great. Both parties have had their disciples, family members and dear friends killed and injured. From now on we will let matters rest and not seek them out for revenger." Everyone felt that this was not fair, no one spoke for some time.

Zhou Dian said: "What if they bother us again?" Zhang Wuji said: "We'll act according to the circumstances. If they force our hand, we'll have no to fight back." The Iron Hat Priest said: "Alright! After all, our lives were saved by Sect Leader. If he wants us to do this, we'll do it." Peng Yingyu said loudly: "Brothers:The Central Plains sects killed many of our people, but we also killed meany of their people. If we get caught in a circle of killing and revenge, even more people will die. It's for our own good that Sect Leader orders us not to go looking for revenge." Everyone realised that he was right, so they agreed. Zhang Wuji was very happy. He cupped his fists and said: "Your open-heartedness is a blessing to the world." He then ordered the leaders of the Five Element Flags to release the Divine Fist Sect, Wushan Clan and the other prisoners, tell them of the Ming Cult's intentions to make peace with Central Plains sects, and escort them down the mountain.

Zhang Wuji said: "The third condition concerns the late sect leader Yang's will. His will said that whoever recoverd the Sacred Fire Scriptures will become Ming Cult's thirty-fourth sect leader. Until then, the Golden Hair Lion King Xie Xun is to take his place. We'll first set out for sea to bring Protector King Xie back, then think of a way to recover the Sacred Fire Scriptures. When that is done, you can have no more objections to me retiring." When everyone heard this, they couldn't help looking at each other thinking: "We've been a headless dragon for so many years. Now we finally have a wise, brave, benevolent and righteous hero as our sect leader. What if some incompetent disciple accidently stumbles across the Sacred Fire Scriptures in the future? We can't make someone like that our sect leader." Yang Xiao said: "Sect Leader Yang's will was written over twenty years ago. The situation is very different now. We definately have to bring the Golden Hair Lion King back and recoved the Sacred Fire Scriptures. But we cannot accept some one else as sect leader." Zhang Wuji firmly stated that Yang Dingtian's wishes had to be followed. So the rest had to grudgingly agree. They all thought: "The Golden Hair Lion King probably died a long time ago. The Sacred Fire Scriptures have been lost for hundreds of years, they may never be found. Let's agree first, if things change in the future then we'll reason with him." Zhang Wuji had been thinking about these three conditions for the last 10 days. Now hearing everyone agree, he was extremely happy. He immediately ordered them to slaughter some cows and goats. Using the blood, he drank an oath with them.

Zhang Wuji said: "The most important thing to do now is to go out to sea and find Protector King Xie. I have to go personally on this mission. Who else will go with me?" Everyone stood up and said: "We're willing to go out to sea with you." Zhang Wuji had just been thrust into this position. He knew he lacked the skills and capabilities to handle it. So he conferred quiely with Yang Xiao for a while. Then he said clearly: "We don't need many people to come with us to sea. Moreover, there are many other things to attend to. Let's do it this way: Left Emmissary Yang, please remain on Brightness Peak with the Heaven, Earth, Wind and Thunder Gates to reconstruct our headquaters. The Five Flags will carry the news of our three conditions to the members in other places. Would grandfather and uncle please lead the Heavenly Eagle Flag to investigate if enemies intend to make trouble for us. Then seek out the whereabouts of the Right Emmissary and the Purple Robed Dragon King. Bat King Wei, please set out to inform the six major sects of our intentions to make peace. Even if we can't turn enenmity into friendship, at the very least we can stop fighting. This is a very difficult task. However, with yor great wisdom you'll definately be able to accomplish it. The Five Wanderers will accompany me out to sea to find Protector King Xie." As the sect leader, though his speech was humble and polite, every word was an order that cannot be disobeyed. Everyone accepted this tasks. Yang Buhui said: "Dad, I want to go sea to see the iceberg." Yang Xiao smiled and said: "You'll have to ask sect leader for permission. I have no authority to decide." Yang Buhui only kept silent. Zhang Wuji smiled, thinking of the time he brought her to the west. Along the way he had entertained her with stories about the polar bears, seals, strange fish and all sorts of other animals, now she wanted to see them for herself. He said: "Little sister Buhui, ocean travel is dangerous. If you're not afraid and Left Emmissary Yang is willing to let you go, then both of you can come with me." Yang Buhui clapped her hands and said: "I'm not afraid on anything. Dad, let's go with Big Brrother Wuji......no, with Sect Leader!" Yang Xiao did not answer, he looked at Zhang Wuji waiting for his decision. Zhang Wuji said: "Alright then. I'll trouble Mr Leng to remain on Brightness Peak to temporarily assume command of the Four Gates." Leng Qian said: "Yes!" Zhou Dian clapped his hands and stamped his feet, yelling: "Wonderful, wonderful!" Shuo Bu De asked: "Brother Zhou, what's so wonderful?" Zhou Dian replied: "Sect leader thinks so highly of Leng Qian, that's great for the Five Wanderer's image. Plus, who knows how long we'lll be at sea, at least there'll be two extra people to talk to. If I want to argue with someone, there's always Left Emmissary Yang. Otherwise I'll have to talk to Leng Qian, and he's just like a wooden dummy." Everyone burst out laughing. Leng Qian did not get angry, neither did he laugh. He just acted like he had heard nothing.

They all ate their fill then separated to rest. Zhang Wuji wanted Yang Buhui to unlock Xiao Zhao's chains. However they could not find the key amidst all the debris. Xiao Zhao said indifferently: "I like the sound these chains make when I move. It's alright if I keep wearing them." Zhang Wuji reassured her: "Xiao Zhao, wait here at Brightness Peak. When I bring my godfather back, I'll borrow his Dragon Sabre to cut the chains off." Xiao Zhao shook her head without answering.

The next moning, Zhang Wuji lead his party to bid farewell to Leng Qian. Leng Qian said: "Sect leader, take care." Zhang Wuji said: "Mr Leng, your job at headquaters is a difficult one." Leng Qian turned to Zhou Dian and said: "Be careful, don't let strange fish eat you!" Zhou Dian grasped his hand feeling touched. The Five Wanderers were as close as brothers. Leng Qian rarely spoke so these few extra words showed that he was very worried that some strange fish would eat his brother in the middle of the ocean. Leng Qian and the Four Gates accompanied them to the foot of Brightness Peak, then they parted.

End of Chapter 22. 
@Chapter 23 – Intoxicating Lotus of the Green Willow Manor
They continued their journey for more than a hundred ‘li’s before spending the night on the desert. Zhang Wuji slept until midnight, when suddenly he heard a faint ‘dingdong, dingdong’ of clear metallic noise coming from the west. His heart was stirred. Immediately he woke up and quietly went toward the incoming noise. Rushing ahead for about a ‘li’ he saw a shadow of a small person moving under the moonlight. He sped up his steps and called out, “Xiao Zhao, why are you following us?”

That shadow was indeed Xiao Zhao. As soon as she saw Zhang Wuji, “Wah!” she broke into tears and threw herself on his bosom; sobbing and crying without saying anything.

Zhang Wuji gently patted her shoulder and said, “Good child, don’t cry, don’t cry!”

Apparently Xiao Zhao had experienced much suffering and grievance; as she finally was able to vent it off, she cried even louder. “Wherever you go, I … I will follow you.”

Zhang Wuji thought, “This little girl’s parents are dead; and Yang Zuoshi [Left Emissary Yang] father and daughter always suspect her, she is truly pitiful. Just because I treated her nicely she is quite attached to me.” He said, “Very well, don’t cry. I will take you to the sea with me.”

Xiao Zhao was elated; she looked up. The dim and hazy moonlight shone on her simple and beautiful, yet elegant, small face like a layer of fine veil. The crystal clear tears had not been wiped out; yet her eyes shone with happiness just like the waves of the sea.

Zhang Wuji smiled and said, “Xiao Zhao, when you grow up, you will be very beautiful.”

Xiao Zhao laughed, “How do you know?” she asked.

Before Zhang Wuji could answer they suddenly heard the noise of hoof beats toward northeast to them; a large group of riders galloped from the west heading to the east. It sounded like there were at least a hundred riders.

A short time later Wei Yixiao and Yang Xiao hurriedly came one after another. “Jiaozhu [Cult Leader],” they said, “A large group of riders speed along in the middle of the night, chances are they are the enemy of the cult.”

Zhang Wuji told Xiao Zhao to join Peng Yingyu and the others, while he took Wei and Yang two people toward the noise of hoof beats to investigate.

When they got nearer, they saw a row of horse hoof prints on the sand. Wei Yixiao stooped down to take a look; he grabbed a handful of sand and said, “There is a bloodstain.”

Zhang Wuji took the sand toward his nose and smelled fresh stench of blood. Following the print on the sand three people pursued for several ‘li’s. Suddenly Yang Xiao saw a half-broken blade on the sand to his left. He picked it up to take a closer look, and saw three characters engraved on the hilt, ‘Feng Yuansheng’. He hesitated for a moment before saying, “This belonged to a member of Kongtong Sect.

Jiaozhu, I think Kongtong people prepared some horses in here to take them back to the Central Plains.”

“It’s been more than half a month since the battle of the Brightness Peak,” Wei Yixiao said, “I wonder what craftiness they are up to by still being here?”

As they knew it was the Kongtong people, three people set their hearts at peace. They returned to their camp and slept peacefully. Toward the afternoon of the fifth day they saw a group of pedestrians on the prairie ahead; most of them were Buddhist nuns wearing dark robes, along with some seven, eight men.

As they were getting closer to each other, one of the nuns called out with a sharp voice, “It’s the evil thieves from the Devil Cult!” Everybody unsheathed their weapons and spread out in battle formation.

Zhang Wuji knew they were from the Emei Sect, but he had never met any one of them before. “Are ‘Shitai’s from the Emei Sect?” he asked in clear voice.

A small and wiry middle-aged nun stepped out and in stern voice said, “Evil thief from the Devil Cult, why do you ask? Come out here to receive your death.”

“How must I address Shitai?” Zhang Wuji asked, “Why are you so angry?”

“Evil thief!” that nun roared, “Are you worthy to ask my name? Who are you?”

Wei Yixiao dashed toward the incoming group of people. He sealed two male disciples’ acupoints. Grabbing the back of their collars he kicked the ground and flew some distance away. Leaving the two men on the ground he swiftly returned to his original position. His movements were as quick as a falcon snatching a rabbit; his speed was unbelievably fast. With a cold laugh he said, “This is the Number One Martial Artist of the present age, peerless under the heaven, unifying the Left and Right Brightness Emissaries under his command, leading the Four Cult Protector Kings, the Five Wanderers, the Five-Element Flags, the Heaven, Earth, Wind and Thunder Gates; the Zhang Jiaozhu of Ming Cult. He drove away the Emei Sect down the mountain; he snatched away the Yitian sword from Mie Jue Shitai’s hand. With his reputation, don’t you think he is worthy to ask Shitai’s illustrious name?”

The Emei Sect disciples were astonished at his words, but as they had seen Wei Yixiao’s demonstration of such an unthinkable skill, nobody doubted what he said. After calming herself down the middle-aged nun asked, “Who are you, Sire?”

“My surname is Wei, my nickname is Green Winged Bat King,” Wei Yixiao answered. The Emei disciples cried out in alarm; immediately four of them went to take a look at their two comrades. Wei Yixiao said, “We have received Zhang Jiaozhu’s command: The Ming Cult and the Six Major Sects are to refrain from fighting each other, to forget faults and repair goodness. Your disciples are fortunate, Bat King Wei did not suck their blood.”

After Zhang Wuji treated his injury with the Jiu Yang Shen Gong, not only had the cold poison of the Xuan Yin fingers been driven out, but the previously accumulated poison in his system had also been expelled for the most part; so that every time he exerted his internal strength he did not have to suck blood to resist the cold anymore.

Those four Emei disciples took their two comrades back to the group. They were still thinking on how to unseal their acupoints when they heard two swishing noise. Two small pebbles flew, splitting the air, toward two people’s acupoints, unsealing them. It was Yang Xiao, using Divine Flicking Finger transmitting his ‘zhi shi dian xue’ [acupoint sealing technique by throwing rocks] skill.

The middle-aged nun had to admit that not only the opposite party was numerous, the two people who had just demonstrated their skills showed that their martial arts were much higher. If they had to fight, her group would inevitably suffer a big loss. Besides, she was not sure if the so-called ‘refrain from fighting each other, to forget faults and repair goodness’ was true or not; therefore, she said, “Pin ni [lit. impoverished nun] ‘fa ming’ [Buddhist name/title, not real name] is Jing Kong. Have you gentlemen seen my Shifu?”

“Honorable Master has left the Brightness Peak more than half a month ago,” Zhang Wuji said, “I believe by this time they have reached the Yumen [Jade Gate] pass. You have come from the east; could it be that you missed each other?”

A thirty-something woman behind Jing Kong said, “Shijie [martial (older) sister], don’t listen to his nonsense; there were three groups of us, each with flare signals, how can we miss them?” Listening to her rudeness Zhou Dian wanted to teach her some lessons; he said, “It’s so strange …” But Zhang Wuji cut him off in low voice, “Mr. Zhou, don’t lower yourself to the same level with her. They could not find their Shifu, naturally they are anxious.”

Jing Kong’s face showed suspicions. “Have our Master and comrades fallen into the Ming Cult’s hand?” she asked, “As men of honor, shouldn’t you tell us the truth?”

Zhou Dian laughed. “Let me be frank to you: the Emei Sect came and without considering their own strength, attacked the Brightness Peak, so everybody from Mie Jue Shitai down to her last disciple were captured and detained in the underwater prison. Let them ponder over their own faults for eight years, ten years, then we’ll talk about whether we should release them or not,” he said.

Peng Yingyu quickly said, “Please don’t mind Zhou Xiong’s [Brother Zhou] joke; Mie Jue Shitai’s divine energy is matchless, each of your fellow disciples’ martial art is superior, how can they fall into Ming Cult’s hand? Let us not talk any further; please return to Emei, I am sure you’ll see each other then.”

Jing Kong half believed half doubted; she could not make up her mind. Wei Yixiao said, “This Zhou Xiong loves to joke around. But do you think our Cult Leader would swindle juniors like you?”

The middle-aged woman said, “The Devil Cult is always crafty, deceitful and sly; how can we believe anything you said?”

Tang Yang, the Flag Leader of the Flooding Water Flag waved his left hand; immediately the Five Element Flags spread out to surround the Emei disciples. The Gigantic Wood on the east, the Raging Fire on the south, the Sharp Metal on the west, the Flooding Water on the north, the Thick Earth moving outside the encirclement, ready to respond. In a loud voice Yin Tianzheng said, “Lao Fu [Old Man] is the White Browed Eagle King. I alone am enough to capture all of you juniors. The Ming Cult is showing mercy to you today; as younger generation you should think before you speak.” He spoke with a thunderous voice, shaking the Emei disciples’ ear drums so that their ears were ringing and their minds were troubled; making them difficult to concentrate. Looking at his white eyebrows and white beard and witnessing his divine power their hearts shivered in fear; everybody was dumbstruck in amazement.

Zhang Wuji cupped his fists and said, “Please convey my respect to your honorable master; tell her the Ming Cult’s Zhang Wuji wishes her well.” Thereupon he led his people continue their journey to the east.

Tang Yang waited until Wei Yixiao, Yin Tianzheng and the other walked pass one by one before he waved his hand once again to recall the Five Element Flags. The Emei disciples watched this procession in awe; their hearts were filled with fear, their eyes followed Zhang Wuji and his entourage for a while, jaws dropped and speechless.

Peng Yingyu said, “Jiaozhu, I believe there is something fishy here. Mie Jue Shitai and the others have left to the east; I couldn’t think of any reason why they miss their disciples. Every sect every organization has their own special symbol for communicating with each other; how can they miss each other’s track?”

They continued their journey while discussing this strange occurrence. They thought it was unfathomable to think this many Emei disciples to suddenly vanish in the desert. Zhang Wuji was concerned over Zhou Zhiruo’s safety and well-being; but he was uncomfortable to share his thoughts with other people.

One day, towards the evening, the Flag Leader of the Thick Earth Flag, Yan Yuan suddenly exclaimed, “There is something strange here!” Rushing ahead he carefully examined the shrubs on their left. He took an iron spade from one his comrades and started digging the earth. Not too long afterwards, a corpse was revealed. It had been decayed, its face was unrecognizable, but judging from the clothes, it was a Kunlun Sect disciple.

The Thick Earth Flag members immediately began excavating the earth around and very soon they dug a big hole. There were sixteen corpses lying around randomly inside the hole; all were Kunlun Sect disciples. If it were their own school, in no way would they be buried this carelessly; so it was obvious that they were buried by the enemy. Looking at these corpses, every single one of them had weapon-inflicted wounds. Zhang Wuji ordered the Thick Earth Flag to bury each corpse separately and properly. Everybody looked at each other; their minds were filled with the same question: “Who did this?”

After getting over their shock, Peng Yingyu said, “If this matter is not brought to light, these bad debts would certainly be heaped upon our heads.”

In a clear voice Shuo Bude said, “Everybody, listen up! If we are facing blades and spears in a broad daylight war under our Jiaozhu’s command, although I do not dare to say that we are invincible, but we wouldn’t lose to other people in any way. However, a stab in the back is more difficult to guard against. Therefore, from now on we must guard against the enemy’s poisonous plot in every drop of water we drink, every food we eat and at every accommodation we stay.” The Cult complied in one voice.

Continuing their journey a little bit further, the setting sun appeared red like blood, very soon the sky would turn dark. They were just about to find a place to spend the night when they saw four bald condors circling the sky continuously toward the northeast. Suddenly a bald eagle dived down but flew back up immediately; some of its feathers fell and it cried out in pain. Apparently it was struck with something from below and it suffered an injury.

After Zhuang Zheng, the Flag Leader of the Sharp Metal Flag died under the Yitian Sword, Zhang Wuji promoted the Flag Leader Deputy Wu Jincao to be the Flag Leader. Seeing the strange bald eagle Wu Jincao said, “Let me take a look.” Leading two of his brethren he rushed ahead. A moment later one of them came back and reported to Zhang Wuji, “Reporting to Jiaozhu: Yin Liu Xia [The Sixth Hero Yin] of Wudang Sect has fallen inside that valley.”

Zhang Wuji was startled. “Yin Liu Xia?” he asked, “Is he injured?”

“Apparently he is seriously injured,” the man replied, “As soon as the Flag Leader Wu recognized Yin Liu Xia, he ordered subordinate to report to the Jiaozhu. Flag Leader Wu is going down the valley to rescue …”

Zhang Wuji was extremely shocked; he rushed toward the valley without waiting for the man to finish his report. Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng, and the others followed behind. When they got near they saw a big sandy valley, more than a dozen of ‘zhang’s deep. Wu Jincao, with Yin Liting in his left arm, was stepping up and falling, strenuously trying to climb up the valley. Zhang Wuji slid down the valley wall; with one hand he grabbed Wu Jincao’s right arm, with the other he examined Yin Liting’s breath. He was slightly relieved to feeling a weak breath. Holding Yin Liting in his arms he leaped vertically several times and was out of the sandy valley then he laid Yin Liting down on the ground. As he calmed himself down and examined him, he was startled and his heart filled with grief and indignation. He found out that Yin Liting’s knees, elbows, ankles, wrists, feet, fingers; in short, all joints on his four limbs were broken. And as Yin Liting was at the point of his death, unable to move, the enemy fed him some poison. It was truly an unheard amount of cruelty.

Yin Liting was still conscious; seeing Zhang Wuji, his face showed happiness and he spat out two small pebbles from his mouth. Apparently he was pushed down the sandy valley after he was injured, but due to his profound internal energy he did not die. The bald condors wanted to eat him, so he leaned his head sideways and bit some pebbles on the ground. With his strong internal energy he managed to shoot the pebbles up and thus had survived for several days with untold hardships.

Yang Xiao saw the four bald condors were still circling overhead; seemingly waiting for them to leave Yin Liting and then they would swoop down to feast on his corpse. Yang Xiao picked four small stones from the ground and ‘swish, swish’ flicked those stone up. Four bald condors successively fell on the ground, their heads were smashed by the stones.

Zhang Wuji gave Yin Liting a pill to stop the pain and protect his heart; then he thoroughly examined him. After finding more than twenty breaks on Yin Liting’s four limbs, each and every one of them was crushed by heavy fingers’ strength, Wuji was not able to continue the examination.

In a low voice Yin Liting said, “It’s just like San Ge [third (older) brother]; Shaolin Sect … ‘jin gang zhi dao’ [diamond finger blade. Chapter 3 has it as ‘Golden Steel Finger’; ‘jin gang’ could also mean ‘a very hard substance’. I am not sure why it has an extra ‘blade’ (? ) character; I think it was a mistake, it should be ‘strength/power’ ( ? ) character.] … injured by finger strength.” Zhang Wuji recalled his father telling him about how San Shibo [third martial (older) uncle] Yu Daiyan was injured; his joints were also crushed by Shaolin Sect’s Diamond Finger ‘Power’; and as a result he had been bedridden for more than twenty years. At that time his parents had not yet acquainted with each other. Unexpectedly many years later one more of his shishu [martial (younger) brother] had fallen under the same Shaolin Sect’s Diamond Finger. After calming himself down he said, “Liu Shu [sixth (younger) uncle], don’t you worry. This matter has fallen into your nephew’s hands. The criminal responsible for this will not escape justice. Which Shaolin Sect disciple did this, does Liu Shu know?”

Yin Liting shook his head. He had suffered untold hardship these past several days; he was already dead-tired. At this moment his heart was relieved, he could not hold any longer and passed out. Zhang Wuji remembered his own life; how his parents committed suicide for his San Shibo’s sake. Today his Liu Shishu had fallen under similar circumstances. If he could not force Shaolin Sect to hand over the criminal responsible for this cruelty, how could he fulfill his duty toward his Yu and Yin uncles? How could he be worthy to see his departed parents? He knew that although Yin Liting was severely injured, his life was not in danger. Only his limbs would be difficult to heal; most likely he would end up sharing Yu Daiyan’s fate.

Zhang Wuji’s experience was limited; facing this unfortunate situation he had to calm himself and think carefully. With his hands behind his back he wandered off some distance away; finally he sat down on top of a small hill. Two thoughts were waging war inside his mind: “Shall I go to the Shaolin Temple and find the criminal to avenge Father, Mother, San Shibo and Liu Shishu? If Shaolin Sect is willing to admit honestly and hand over the criminal, naturally nothing can be better than that. Otherwise, should Ming Cult join hand with Wudang Sect to deal with Shaolin together? My brethren and I have already drunk blood and made an oath, not to seek enmity with various sects, clans and societies [‘pai’, ‘bang’ and ‘hui’]. But as soon as I take this matter personally, I might as well throw the oath out the window; how can I win everybody’s heart? Once the disaster gate is opened blood will be avenged, I don’t know how many generations this bloodshed will continue, and how many heroes and warriors life will be sacrificed?”

In the meantime the sky had turned dark; the Ming Cult people built a fire and cooked their meals. Zhang Wuji was still sitting on the hill. He saw the bright moon rise, but he still could not make up his mind. He was deep in thought until almost midnight before he finally decided: “I’ll go to Shaolin Temple and see Abbott Kong Wen; I’ll explain everything and ask him to render justice.” But then he thought again, “What if we reach deadlock? Must I fight? Then what will happen?” He heaved a deep sigh, stood up and thought, “I am young yet have to bear a heavy responsibility. Right from the start I face this extremely difficult situation. I wholeheartedly want to avert the war and the fighting; but this deep hatred is shoved into my face. I bear the heavy responsibility of the Cult Leader of the Ming Cult, I can’t get away from it; consequently I’ll have to face endless and exhausting hardships! If only I am not the Cult Leader, wouldn’t that be a lot better?”

As he returned to the fire he saw that everybody was very hungry but nobody dared to move their chopsticks to eat; they were standing up respectfully, waiting for him. Zhang Wuji felt very bad and busily said, “Next time you can go ahead and eat; you don’t have to wait for me.” He went over to see Yin Liting’s condition. He saw Yang Buhui had already cleaned his wounds with hot water and was feeding him hot soup. Yin Liting was still in daze; suddenly he opened his eyes and stared at Yang Buhui and loudly said, “Xiaofu Meizi [younger sister, term of endearment], I miss you so much, do you know it?”

Yang Buhui blushed; her face looked awkward. With her right hand holding the soup spoon she said in a low voice, “Drink some more soup.”

“Promise me you won’t leave me forever,” Yin Liting said.

“All right! All right!” Yang Buhui replied, “Drink this soup first, we’ll talk later.” Yin Liting looked very happy; he opened his mouth and drank the soup.

The next day Zhang Wuji passed an order for everybody not to go their assigned destinations for the time being, but to go to Shaolin Temple at Mount Song [‘song shan’], to find out the whole story about Yin Liting’s injury first and to talk about other things later. Wei Yixiao, Zhou Dian and the others had seen the severity of Yin Liting’s injury, every one of them was enraged; hearing their Cult Leader’s order to seek justice at the Shaolin Temple they cheered loudly.

Yang Xiao had always felt regret and guilt toward Yin Liting over Ji Xiaofu’s affair; although his mouth did not say anything, in his heart he was determined to avenge him with all his might. He also quietly told his daughter to take a good care of Yin Liting and thus clearing his conscience.

From here on they did not meet any other strange events along their way. When Yin Liting awoke later, Zhang Wuji asked him again the circumstances surrounding his injury. It was still difficult for Yin Liting to speak, he said, “Shaolin Sect’s monks, five of them besieged me. They were using Shaolin martial arts, I can’t be wrong.”

That day they have entered the Yumen pass. They sold their camels and bought some horses so as not to raise any suspicions. They also changed their clothes and dressed up as traders. Some of them acquired mule carts and loaded them with leathers, goods, medicine, and other commodities. The next day early in the morning they left to get an early start along the Ganliang main road. The sun was blazing like fire, the temperature was starting to rise.

After journeying for more than four hours they saw a row of about twenty willow trees ahead of them. They were very happy and urged their mounts to pick up speed since they wanted to take a rest under those trees. When they got closer they saw there were nine people sitting under the trees. Eight of them were big men dressed as hunters, with blades on their waists and bows and arrows on their shoulders. They also had five, six hunting falcons with them; the falcons looked fearsome with black feathers and sharp claws. The last man was a young gentleman, wearing a sapphire blue silk gown, lightly waving a folding fan in his hand. His appearance carried an elegant air around him.

Zhang Wuji turned around and dismounted his horse. He cast a glance toward that young gentleman; he noticed his facial features are delicate and exceptionally handsome. His dark eyes accentuated his white face, they were shining brightly. The folding fan in his hand had a white jade handle; the hand which waved the fan was as white as the fan handle. But everybody’s attention was caught by that young gentleman’s waist. They saw a golden hook, bound by a belt inlaid with precious stones; on this hook a long sword was hung. On the hilt of the sword was carved ‘yi tian’ two ‘zhuan wen’ characters [script character normally used on official seal]. The length and the shape of this sword were exactly like the one Mie Jue Shitai used to slaughter the Ming Cult people and the one Zhou Zhiruo used to stab Zhang Wuji that he almost died earlier.

The Ming Cult people were startled; as Zhou Dian was about to open his mouth to inquire when they heard from the east of the main road a disorder noise of hoof beats, a group of riders in a chaotic manner approached. They were a group of approximately fifty, sixty of Yuan soldiers, dragging along over a hundred women tied in ropes. These women were mostly small in stature; how could they follow the horses? Some of them fell down to the ground, but the soldiers kept pulling the rope so that the women were dragged on the ground. All women were Han people; obviously they were common people who were held captive by the Yuan soldiers. Most of their clothes had been ripped apart; some were almost naked. They were crying and weeping; creating an extremely heart-wrenching noise. Some of the soldiers had wine bottles in their hands; it seemed like they were drunk. Some wielded whips and struck the women. These Mongolian soldiers spent most of their lives on the horseback, so their skill in using whip was excellent. Once the whip was lashed, a piece of the women’s clothing was gone amidst the cheering and laughing of the soldiers.

The Mongolians had invaded China for almost a hundred years; they regarded the Han people lower than animals, only this kind of wantonly obscene and oppressive insult in broad daylight was actually extremely rare. The Ming Cult people’s eyes narrowed into slits; they were waiting for Zhang Wuji to issue an order and they would charge to kill the soldiers and rescue the women. Suddenly that young gentleman said, “Wu Liupo, tell them to release these women and stop deliberately making such trouble!” His voice was clear and tender, sounded like a female’s voice.

“Yes!” one of the men replied. He loosened one of the yellow horses tied on the willow tree, leaped up and landed on the horseback. He galloped forward while shouting, “Hey, you deliberately create trouble in broad daylight. Don’t you have a superior to control you? Quickly release these women!”

From among the Yuan soldiers one rider that looked like an officer came out. A young girl in his arm, his slanting eyes bleary, he laughed and said, “You are really impatient to die, sticking your nose into your master’s business!”

That man coldly said, “You are officers and soldiers, yet you act like bandits and robbers, without any compassion toward common people. Just do as I say!”

The officer sized up the people underneath the willow trees; he was slightly surprised at the audacity of this man. He mused in his heart that when commoners see soldiers, they usually would try to avoid them while they are still far away; could it be that these people had eaten a leopard’s gallbladder and a tiger’s heart that they dare to mess up the soldiers’ business? Sweeping his gaze he saw the young gentleman’s hat was inlaid with two shining bright, longan fruit size pearls. His greed arose; he smiled broadly and said, “Rabbit master [‘tu er xiang gong’ – ‘rabbit-like mister’, I don’t know how to translate this properly], come and follow your master! You will enjoy a lot of happiness!” Pressing his leg he urged his mount toward that young gentleman.

That young gentleman was initially indifferent; he did not show any anger looking at the Yuan soldiers’ atrocity. Yet as he heard this officer’s rudeness his handsome eyebrows slightly creased, he said, “Don’t let a single one of them live.”

As the word ‘live’ left his mouth, a ‘swish’ sound was heard, a feathered arrow shot out, creating a hole in the officer’s chest. The arrow was released by a man standing next to the gentleman. His shooting technique was not only fast, but very strong as well; not in the least bit inferior to an expert of the Wulin world. How could a common hunter have this kind of ability?

‘Swish, swish, swish!’ Arrow after arrow was shot; all eight hunters shot with great accuracy, not a single arrow missed its target, one arrow killed one Yuan soldier. Although this attack took the soldiers by surprise, they were all skilled in horseback riding and archery; with loud shouts they returned the attack by shooting arrows. The other seven hunters also mounted their horses and charged forward. Arrow after arrow, in a short moment they had killed about thirty Yuan soldiers. The rest of the soldiers understood their precarious situation; they whistled to each other, threw the women away, turned their horses around and ran away.

The eight hunters pressed their legs and their horses pursued with lightning speed. Eight arrows were shot and eight Yuan soldiers dropped down to the ground, dead. After about a ‘li’ the Mongolian soldiers were completely annihilated.

The young gentleman led his horse away, mounted it, and without turning his head he galloped away. It seemed like for him, giving order to kill more than fifty Mongolian soldiers was as ordinary as eating his rice; he did not even give it the slightest thought.

“Hey, hey!” Zhou Dian called out, “Wait! I want to ask you something!” The young gentleman did not pay him any attention; in a moment he and his eight hunters had gone far.

If Zhang Wuji, Wei Yixiao and the others really want to ask that young gentleman a question, they could use their ‘qing gong’ [lightness kungfu] and overtake the speeding horses; but after witnessing those eight hunters’ divine archery skill to annihilate the enemy they were impressed with their chivalry, their hearts were full of admiration, hence they felt it was inappropriate to press and offend those people. Everybody started to talk at once, but nobody knew these nine people’s origin.

Yang Xiao said, “That young gentleman is obviously a female wearing male clothes. Those eight men dressed as hunters were very respectful toward her. Their archery skill was divinely marvelous, but it did not look like archery skill of the people of the Central Plains.”

By this time Yang Buhui and the Thick Earth Flag members were busy consoling the women. It turned out that they were taken captive from the neighboring villages and small towns. Thereupon the Ming Cult people searched the Yuan soldiers’ corpses and took any gold, silver and other valuables, and distributed it to the women and sent them home.

For the next several days the topic of discussion among the Ming Cult people was the nine people whose arrows obliterated the Yuan soldiers. They regretted the fact that they were unable to befriend those people. To Yang Xiao Zhou Dian said, “Yang Xiong [brother Yang], your daughter can be considered a beautiful woman, but I am afraid she falls short compared to that young lady dressed as a man.”

“Right, right!” Yang Xiao replied, “If they were willing to join our Cult, those eight hunters’ position would be above the Five Wanderers.” “Your mother’s stinky fart! [this is one of those ‘weird-to-english- speakers’-ears’ stuff]” Zhou Dian was angry, “What’s so special about horse-riding skill? Just call them to have a contest with Zhou Dian.”

Yang Xiao hesitated a moment before replying, “Compared to Zhou Xiong [brother Zhou] they are slightly inferior, but talking about martial art skill, I think they are half a notch higher than Leng Qian Xiong [brother Leng Qian].”

The fact that among the Ming Cult’s Five Wanderers it’s a well known matter that Leng Qian’s martial art skill was the highest. Yang Xiao and Zhou Dian were always at each other’s throat. Although they no longer fought each other openly, Zhou Dian had never missed any opportunity to argue with Yang Xiao. This time hearing Yang Xiao said that the eight hunters’ martial art was higher than Leng Qian’s, in other words, he was looking down upon the Five Wanderers, Zhou Dian was angry. He was about to open his mouth to retort when Peng Yingyu laughed and said, “Zhou Xiong, again you fall into Left Emissary Yang’s trap. He was deliberately making you angry!”

Zhou Dian laughed a big laugh and said, “I am not angry; how can he make me angry?” But not too long afterwards he started to mutter how Yang Xiao’s riding skill was not so good. Everybody looked at each other and smiled.

Under daily medical care of Zhang Wuji, Yin Liting had begun to regain his consciousness. He said that when he left the Brightness Peak that day, his mind was so shaken that he was lost in the desert. He walked farther and farther away, groping his way on the yellow sand of the Gobi desert for eight, nine days. By the time he found the right direction he had lost contact with his Wudang martial art brothers. That day he unexpectedly ran into five Shaolin monks. Without saying anything these five monks suddenly attacked him. Their martial art skill was not weak; although Yin Liting managed to overthrow two of them, in the end he was still overwhelmed by sheer number and in the end had to suffer heavy injury. He said these five monks’ martial art was definitely Shaolin’s martial art, only he did not see them on the Brightness Peak; so they must be the reinforcement who came later. On why they attacked him violently, Yin Liting could not come with any plausible answer. One time or another Yin Liting had announced his name, so in no way would the monks mistake him for someone else.

Along the way Yang Buhui was taking a careful care of Yin Liting. She knew her parents had offended him; but her own compassion also grew because of his pitiful condition. That particular evening they arrived at Yongdeng. They urged their horses because they wanted to reach Jiangchengzi to spend the night there. While walking they suddenly heard horses’ hoofs; on the main road two riders were coming fast toward them. When they got within a dozen ‘zhang’s, suddenly the two riders stopped their mounts and leaped down. Holding the horses’ reins they waited on the side of the road; their manners were really respectful. Those two riders were two of the eight hunters who annihilated the Yuan soldiers with their arrows earlier.

The Ming Cult people were delighted; one after another they dismounted their horses to greet the two hunters. The two hunters walked toward Zhang Wuji and bowed in respect. In a clear voice one of them said, “Our superior had long admired the Ming Cult’s Zhang Jiaozhu’s heroism and chivalry, along with his heroes and warriors. Xiao ren [little/lowly people] have received our superior’s order to invite all of you with sincerity and respect to take a rest at our village.”

Zhang Wuji returned the respect and said, “We do not dare, we do not dare! I wonder how shall we address your superior?”

That man replied, “Our superior’s surname is Zhao; but I do not dare to tell her name without her authorization.” Everyone was pleased they openly admitted that the young gentleman was actually a woman in disguise; indicating the sincerity of the invitation.

Zhang Wuji said, “Ever since we saw your divine archery skill, we have never cease to praise you every day; to be able to make friends with you is truly our good fortune. Only we do not want to impose.” “You are all the heroes of this generation,” that man replied, “Our superior has admired you for a long time. Today you pass by our residence, how can it be that we do not offer you three cups of our insipid wine and chat with you to build friendship?”

Zhang Wuji wanted to know these warriors better, but he also wanted to inquire about the Yi Tian sword they saw earlier; therefore, he said, “If that’s the case, to refuse would be impolite; we’ll visit your village.”

The two hunters were delighted; they mounted their horses and led the way.

Less than a ‘li’ later two more riders came their way. They stopped some distance away and waited by the side of the road. They were also part of the ‘shen jian ba xiong’ [divine archer eight heroes]. Another ‘li’ later the last four members of the Divine Archer Eight Heroes also came to welcome them. The Ming Cult people were happy and feeling reassured in seeing the courtesy their host demonstrated.

Following a street made of green flagstones they arrived at the courtyard of a big manor. The manor was encircled by a small brook; the bank of the brook was full of green willow trees. To be able to see a Jiannan-like scenery in Gan Liang area, they felt refreshed.

The manor gate was wide open and a draw bridge was already lowered. The lady surnamed Zhao, still wearing a man’s clothes, stood at the gate, welcoming them. Miss Zhao stepped forward and saluted them. “The heroes and warriors of the Ming Cult’s visit to the Green Willow Manor today truly bring glory to us,” she said in a clear voice, “Zhang Jiaozhu, please! Left Emissary Yang, please! Yin Lao Qianbei [old senior Yin], please! Bat King Wei, please! …” She called out the Ming Cult’s people one by one. Not only did she know everybody’s name without anybody announcing it to her, but she also knew their respective position; not a single one was missed. Everybody was astonished.

Zhou Dian could not help but asked, “Miss, how did you know our names? Could it be that you know divination?” Miss Zhao smiled and said, “The Ming Cult’s heroes are well-known in the Jianghu, who has not heard of them? In the recent battle of the Brightness Peak Zhang Jiaozhu, with his divine ability, has deterred the six major sects. This news has shaken the Wulin world. You are going east to the Central Plains; along the way I don’t know how many Wulin friends will give you admiring receptions, how can this ‘xiao nuzi’ [lit. little/lowly woman] miss this opportunity?”

Everybody agreed with her and inwardly they were very pleased, but with their mouths they muttered some modest words. They turned toward the Divine Archer Eight Heroes, asking their names and martial art school. One big and tall man answered, “Subordinate is Zhao Yishang [lit. one injury]. This one is Qian Erbai [lit. two defeats]. This one is Sun Sanhui [lit. three destructions]. This one is Li Sicui [lit. four devastations].” Pointing to the other four men he continued, “That one is Zhou Wushu [lit. five loses]. That one is Wu Liupo [lit. six damages]. That one is Zheng Qimie [lit. seven extinguish], and the last one is Wang Bashuai [lit. eight feeble/weak].”

Hearing their names the Ming Cult people were dumbstruck. They recognized the eight men’s surnames were taken from the ‘bai jia xing’ [Book of Hundred Surnames], namely ‘Zhao Qian Sun Li, Zhou Wu Zheng Wang.” Not only it was very strange, but their given names were all unlucky. Take ‘Wang Bashuai’ for example; not even bandits and barbarians would think of such names. But in the Jianghu world it was not uncommon that some people changed their names to avoid calamity or enmity; so nobody asked any further.

Miss Zhao personally led the way, taking everybody to the main hall. They saw in the main hall hung a large wooden tablet with ‘lu liu shan zhuang’ [Green Willow Villa] four characters engraved on it. In the middle of the hall there was a banner with Zhao Mengxiao’s poem:

The white rainbow [oxymoron, I know, but how do you translate ? ? ?] stood up to fly,

Green serpent roared inside the box, Murderous frost at the edge of the blade, The round moon just about to reach its apex. Sword can tear the dragon on the outer sky, Sword can charge against the sun,

Sword can slit the demon’s abdomen,

Sword can cut away the treacherous minister’s head. Hiding to ward off the demon’s enchantment,

Do not frighten the consort.

Keep the sword to behead the scaly dragon, Do not test it to strike the street dog.

At the end of the poem there was a small inscription, “Testing the precious Yitian Sword in the night, it was truly a treasured thing. I wrote the poem ‘shuo jian’ [lit. speaking about sword] in praise of it. Bianliang Zhao Min.”

Zhang Wuji’s calligraphy skill was not too good, but following the ‘shu jiu zhen lian’ [lit. vermillion nine real/true practice] character principle [Translator’s note: I am sure about this part], he was able to somewhat distinguish other people’s penmanship. Looking at the strokes of this poem he saw charm and tenderness, revealing the poem came from a female hand; so it must be this Miss Zhao’s handiwork. Other than medical book, he seldom read any other book; but the poem’s meaning was certainly not obscure. As soon as he read it he understood its meaning. He thought, “Turned out she is from Bianliang [modern day Kaifeng, previous capital of the Northern Song], and has a single character ‘Min’ as her name.” Thereupon he said, “Miss Zhao is well-versed in both literature and martial art [wen wu quan cai]; my utmost admiration. Turned out Miss belongs to the family of the former capital.”

That Miss Zhao, Zhao Min smiled and said, “Zhang Jiaozhu’s father was well-known as the ‘yin gou tie hua’ [Silver Hook Iron Stroke], a calligraphy expert. Zhang Jiaozhu received your educational background from your family, ‘xiao nuzi’ earnestly wants to see a poem from your hand.”

Upon hearing this Zhang Wuji’s face turned red; he lost his father when he was ten and had not learned penmanship from him. Afterwards he only learned medicine and martial art, so it could be said that his writing skill was superficial. “If Miss wants me to write,” he said, “That is the same as requesting my death. My late father departed too early; I haven’t learned anything from my father. I am really ashamed.”

While they were talking the Manor servants had already served tea. They noticed that inside the sky blue porcelain cups there were green and tender Longjing [city in Jilin] tea leaves floating around. A delicate fragrant greeted their nostrils. The warriors felt strange; this place was separated thousands of ‘li’s from Jiangnan, how could there be fresh Longjing tea leaves? In all aspects this Miss carried a mysterious aura around her.

Zhao Min was the first to take the cup with both hands and took a sip before inviting everybody else to do the same. She said, “You have journeyed far, our village is simple and slow, so please forgive our lack of hospitality. Everybody please follow me to have some refreshments.” She stood up and led them passed a porch and a courtyard, toward a big garden. This garden was littered with unadorned mountain rocks and a plain creek pond in the middle; there were not too many flowers and plants, but the overall impression was elegance. Zhang Wuji did not have deep understanding of landscape architecture, but Yang Xiao silently nodded his head in approval. He thought the master of the garden was certainly not an uncouth person; inwardly he was full of admiration.

In the pavilion in the middle of the pond two banquet tables had already been prepared. Zhao Min invited Zhang Wuji and his entourage to take a seat. Zhao Yishang, Qian Erbai and the other Divine Archer Eight Heroes took the rest of the Ming Cult people to have their meals at another hall on the side. Yin Liting was unable to get up, so Yang Buhui attended to him in yet another room.

Zhao Min poured a big bowl of wine and took it in one gulp; she said, “This is the eighteen years old ‘nu zhen chen’ [old chaste maiden (or spinster)] wine from Shaoxing; please take a taste and tell me what you think?”

Although Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao, Yin Tianzheng, and the others truly believed that this Miss was a young generation chivalrous heroine, they were still very careful. They looked at the wine pot and the wine cups and did not see anything unusual; besides, Miss Zhao had taken the first cup, so they chased their suspicion away and ate and drank with ease of mind.

Ming Cult originally had a religious rule so-called ‘shi2 cai4 shi4 mo2’ [meat dish are a matter of the devil]; prohibiting them to consume alcohol and meat. But after their altar was moved to the Mount Kunlun this prohibition against alcohol and meat was removed. In the Western Region fresh vegetables were hard to come by; they were more expensive than meat. Plus the climate was bitter cold; without cattle and sheep fat it was difficult to fight the cold using internal energy alone.

Around the pavilion, on the bank of the pond, there were seven, eight flower trees; they looked like ‘shui xian’ [lit. water deity; narcissus?] but not as big. The flowers were white; the fragrance was light and elegant. So close to this refreshing fragrance, drinking the good wine, the gentle breeze carried the flower scent; the warriors’ hearts were really carefree. That Miss Zhao was really cordial, she was very knowledgeable of stories and news of the Wulin world of the Central Plains; many of those were not known even to Yin Tianzheng father and son. Toward Shaolin, Emei, Kunlun, and the other sects’ martial arts she did not say too much, but she placed the highest regards toward Zhang Sanfeng and the Wudang Seven Heroes. She also heaped praises toward Ming Cult’s leaders’ martial art. She was seemingly talking without giving it too much thought; but each praise and every admiration were right on target. The guests were delighted and full of admiration toward her; but when asked which martial art school she belongs to, Zhao Min only smiled without giving any answer, and then she changed the topic.

The wine had gone several rounds. Zhao Min always drank her cup dry. She was very open-minded. Every time a new dish arrive, she always moved her chopsticks and be the first to eat the dish. Her face was starting to exude a reddish glow from the wine; she looked even more beautiful. A beautiful woman would either be refined and elegant, or tender and glamorous; but this Miss Zhao, in her extreme beauty she also carried a third part boldness, a third part heroic attitude, while maintained her elegance. Plus, she also carried an air of authority, which gained other people’s respect and made them not dare to stare at her intently.

Zhang Wuji said, “Miss Zhao, our Ming Cult is most grateful for your hospitality. I have a question I’d like to ask, but I do not dare to utter it.”

“Zhang Jiaozhu,” Zhao Min replied, “Why are you acting like you are an outsider? Isn’t there a saying in the Jianghu world, ‘within four sides of the ocean, everybody is a brother’? If you do not think I am unworthy, just consider ‘xiao mei’ [little sister, she was referring to herself] your friend. Whatever it is you want to know, I will do my best to answer it.”

Zhang Wuji said, “If that is the case, then I’d like to ask: where did Miss acquire this Yitian Sword from?”

Zhao Min showed a faint smile; she loosened the Yitian Sword from her waist and placed it on the table. “Ever since Xiao Mei met with all of you, your eyes have never left this sword. I wonder if you care to tell me the reason behind it.”

Zhang Wuji replied, “Frankly, this sword originally belonged to Mie Jue Shitai, the Sect Leader of Emei Sect. The number of my brethrens from the Ming Cult who perished under this sword was not a few. Even I almost died from this sword’s stab on my chest. That was the reason we pay a close attention to this sword.”

“Zhang Jiaozhu’s divine ability is matchless,” Zhao Min said, “I heard by using ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ you were able to snatch this sword from Mie Jue Shitai’s hand. How could you be injured by this sword? I also heard the one injured Zhang Jiaoshu with this sword was a young female disciple of the Emei Sect; her martial art was only so-so. Xiao Mei really does not understand why it happened.” With raised eyebrows she looked at Zhang Wuji’s face intently; her mouth showed a faint smile, yet she was not smiling. Zhang Wuji blushed profusely. “How did she know this clearly?” he thought. He said “the other side came too suddenly, I was not paying attention and let it slip.”

Zhao Min smiled and said, “That Zhou Zhiruo, Zhou Jiejie [older sister Zhou] is very beautiful, is she not?”

Zhang Wuji blushed even redder, “Miss is teasing me,” he said. He picked up the wine cup with both hands, trying to drink it in one gulp to hide his embarrassment, but unexpectedly his left hand slightly trembled and he spilled a few drops of wine on the sleeve of his clothes.

Zhao Min smiled and said, “Xiao Mei cannot bear the wine power, I am afraid if I drink some more I will breach the etiquette; I wouldn’t know the seriousness of what comes out of my mouth. I am going inside to change my clothes and will be back right away. Please all of you continue eating and drinking, no need to be polite.” She stood up, cupped her fists, turned around and went out of the pavilion, and disappeared beyond the willow and flower trees on the other side of the pond. The Yitian sword was left lying on the table, she did not take it with her. The Manor servants continuously served food and wine.

The Ming Cult people stopped eating. They waited for quite a long time but Zhao Min had not returned. Zhou Dian said, “She left her precious sword here, obviously she trusts us.” While speaking he lifted up the sword with one hand. “Ah!” he suddenly exclaimed, “How come it is so light?” Grabbing the hilt he drew the sword from its sheathe. Everybody rose up from their seats in astonishment. Where is the Yitian sword, which could cut metal and slice jade, with its matchless sharpness? The sword in Zhou Dian’s hand was just a wooden sword. Immediately everybody smelt a faint incense-like fragrance, and saw that the sword’s blade was light yellow, for the sword was made of sandalwood.

For a moment Zhou Dian was at a loss; pushing the sword back to its sheathe he mumbled, “Yang … Left Emissary Yang, this … what kind of trick is this?” Although he loved to argue with Yang Xiao daily, but actually deep down in his heart he admired Yang Xiao’s vast knowledge and experience. This time facing a mystery he could not help but asking Yang Xiao for direction.

Yang Xiao’s face was serious, in a low voice he said, “Jiaozhu, I am 90% sure that this Miss Zhao harbors ill intention. This moment we are in danger, I think we’d better leave as soon as we can.”

“Why would we be afraid of her?” Zhou Dian asked, “We are numerous. Even if she is making her move, do you think she can eradicate us completely?”

Yang Xiao said, “Since entering this Green Willow Manor everywhere I looked I felt something strange. It feels right yet not exactly right; it feels wrong yet not exactly wrong. I can’t pinpoint what it is. Why should we stay in this place? We don’t have any specific reason anyway.”

“What the Left Emissary Yang said is right,” Zhang Wuji nodded his head, “We have had our meals; it’s time for us to leave.” Then he stood up.

Tie guan dao ren [the Iron Hat Taoist Priest] said, “What about the Yitian Sword? Aren’t you going to inquire, Jiaozhu?”

Peng Yingyu said, “In my humble opinion, this Miss Zhao has a suspicious intention; she won’t stop until she reached her goal. Even if we don’t look for her; she will definitely look for us.”

“That’s right,” Zhang Wuji said, “We have our own tasks to accomplish, there is no need to seek a new burden. We’ll wait for the enemy to exhaust himself; we’ll talk about it once we understand more.”

Everybody left the pavilion on the pond; returning to the main hall they told the servant to notify the lady that they were grateful for the feast and it was time for them to leave.

Zhao Min came out in a hurry; she was wearing a light yellow silk gown. She looked natural yet elegant; her glowing countenance was stunningly beautiful. “We have just met, why are you leaving?” she asked, “Is it because ‘xiao nuzi’s hospitality is too simple and slow?”

Zhang Wuji said, “We are very grateful over Miss’ hospitality, how could you say ‘simple and slow’? We have businesses to attend and cannot tarry too long. We’ll meet again someday and we’ll ask for more of your advice.”

The corner of Zhao Min’s mouth showed a faint smile, yet she was not smiling. She sent the guests off the village. The Divine Archers Eight Heroes stood on the either side of the road, bowing respectfully to send the guests off. The Ming Cult people cupped their fists, and without saying anything sped away. As they left the Green Willow Manor on all directions they saw open field, with nobody in sight.

Zhou Dian loudly said, “This Miss Zhao does not necessarily harbor ill intentions to us. Perhaps she was just playing a joke to Jiaozhu with that wooden sword. Even if that little girl wants to create trouble, what could she do? Left Emissary Yang, this time you were wrong!”

Yang Xiao hesitated before answering, “Whatever it is, I can’t say; but I feel uncomfortable.”

Zhou Dian laughed and said, “After the battle of the Brightness Peak the famous Left Emissary Yang has turned into a coward … Aiyo!” He swayed and fell from his horse.

Shuo Bude was the closest to him; he busily jumped down his horse to help Zhou Dian up. “Zhou Xiong [brother Zhou], what happened?” he asked.

Zhou Dian laughed and said, “No … nothing. I guess I drank too much wine so I am dizzy now.”

As the word ‘dizzy’ came out of his mouth, everybody looked at each other. Turned out as they sped way from the Green Willow Manor, everybody felt slight dizziness. Only they thought it was because of the wine, so they did not give it too much thought. But not only Zhou Dian’s martial art skill was high, his drinking capacity was also strong; how could a few bowls of wine make him so dizzy that he fell down from his horse? Surely something was amiss.

Zhang Wuji looked up and tried to remember Wang Nangu’s Book of Poison, which poison was colorless, tasteless and odorless; but could make people dizzy. He could not think of anything. But he ate and drank the same dishes and the same wine, yet why did he not feel anything different? Suddenly something flashed in his mind like a lightning bolt; he remembered something and was extremely shocked. He shouted, “Everybody who ate at the pavilion on the pond, get down from your horses and sit down cross-legged; right now! Whatever happened, do not circulate your ‘qi’ [breathing, in term of internal energy cultivation].” He also issued an order, “Brothers of Five-Element Flags and Heavenly Eagle Flag, spread out to all directions and encircle the leaders. Whoever is trying to get near can be immediately killed!”

Hearing their Cult Leader issued a strict order everybody replied it loud voice. They stood up, unsheathing their weapons and moved into position. Zhang Wuji ordered, “Do not leave your position until I come back!”

The leaders were confused; they only felt slightly dizzy, certainly nothing else seemed unusual, why was the Cult Leader so alarmed? Zhang Wuji warned again, “No matter how uncomfortable you are, do not fight it with your inner strength; otherwise the poison will be difficult to neutralize.”

The leaders were startled, “How can we be poisoned?”

Zhang Wuji’s shadow swayed and in a blink of the eye he had already fled more than a dozen ‘zhang’s away. He felt horse would be too slow, so utilizing his ‘qing gong’ to the fullest he flew back to the Green Willow Manor.

He was very anxious, knowing the extent of the poison attack on Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng and the others. The poison would not flare-up in three quarters or an hour; but it was not like the ‘xuan yin zhi’ [black/mysterious finger, Xuan Yin Finger in Chapter 22], in which the treatment could be delayed for a long time. If he could not find the antidote soon, these people’s lives would be in danger.

He flew over these twenty ‘li’s or so in a short moment. As he arrived at the Manor gate, he flew up like an arrow. The gate guards did not even see anybody entering the Manor, only a blur of a shadow. Zhang Wuji went straight to the garden in the back, towards the pavilion in the middle of the pond. He saw a lady wearing a light green silk gown; her left hand holding a cup, a book in her right hand, sitting quietly, reading a book and drinking tea. It was none other than Zhao Min. This time she was wearing female clothing. Upon hearing the sound of Zhang Wuji’s footsteps she turned her head around and gave a faint smile.

“Miss Zhao, I need some flowers and grass from you,” Zhang Wuji said. Without waiting for her to reply, his left foot kicked and he jumped from the pond bank to the pavilion in the middle of the pond. His body floated above the water like a dragonfly; while with his hands he pulled the seven, eight narcissus-like flower trees. As he landed on the pavilion, he heard several ‘swish, swish’ sounds, several tiny secret projectiles flew toward his face.

Zhang Wuji flicked his right hand and rolled the secret projectiles inside his sleeve. His left sleeve brushed away toward Zhao Min; Zhao Min slanted sideways to evade, only to hear a whistling sound. The gust of wind from the sleeve blew away everything on the table: teapot, teacup, fruit dish and everything else flew across the pond and shattered into pieces as they struck the flower trees on the other side.

Zhang Wuji stood up straight; he examined at the flower trees in his hand, and saw that each tree had a deep purple long root, and on these roots grew small beads the size of pearls, dark green like jadeite. He was delighted since he knew he had found the antidote; he put the roots in his pocket. “Thank you so much for the antidote, I am taking my leave now!” he said.

Zhao Min laughed and said, “Easy to come, but difficult to leave!” Tossing her book aside she drew a pair of paper-thin and frost-white daggers from the book; and thrust the daggers forward.

Zhang Wuji was concerned about Yin Tianzheng and the others’ injuries, he was not willing to prolong the contact. His right sleeve brushed away and dozens of golden needles in his sleeve shot out toward her. Zhao Min evaded sideways and flew out of the pavilion. Her right foot stepped on the stairs and immediately she flew back in; dozens of golden needles fell into the water.

“Good movement!” Zhang Wuji praised. He saw her left hand in front of her body and her right hand behind, both daggers came slanting down on him. He thought, “This little girl’s heart is so poisonous. If I did not know the Jiu Yang Shen Gong [the internal energy cultivated from the Nine Yang Manual] and did not read Wang Nangu’s Book of Poison, today the Ming Cult would have fallen under her hand without knowing anything.” Both of his hands reached out to grab her hands and snatch the daggers away.

Zhao Min’s white wrist flipped suddenly, her pair of daggers swift as lightning slashed his fingers. Zhang Wuji did not exert his energy in this move, he was inwardly groaning. But his internal energy was profound, in reflex his fingers moved and although he failed in snatching the dagger away, he managed to strike the acupoints on her wrists. Once again she flicked her wrists and the daggers flew out from her hands. Zhang Wuji leaned his head sideways to evade. ‘Bang, bang!’ The daggers struck the pavilion’s wooden pillar with such a force that they stuck on the wood and vibrated continuously.

Zhang Wuji was stunned; speaking about martial art skill, she could not be compared to Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng, Wei Yixiao and the others, but in term of alertness and quick-thinking, her reflex was very fast. Even though her daggers repeatedly missed their target, they would have been able to injure the opponent in the end. If early on he erroneously thought that he managed to disarm her and was not moving quick enough, then his life would have been gone by now.

As the pair of daggers flew out of her hands, Zhao Min’s right wrist flipped again and she quickly snatched the wooden Yitian Sword from the table. She thrust the sword, still inside its sheath, toward Zhang Wuji’s waist, without drawing the sword out.

Using two of his left hand fingers Zhang Wuji attacked the ‘jian zhen xue’ [shoulder chaste acupoint] on her left shoulder. As Zhao Min leaned her head sideways to evade, his right hand stretched out, using a marvelous movement from ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ he snatched the wooden sword.

Zhao Min withdrew to the steps; she laughed softly and said, “Master Zhang, what kind of martial art was that? Was it ‘qian kun da nuo yi’ divine skill? I think there is nothing special about it.”

Zhang Wuji opened up his left palm; revealing a pearl head ornament still gently shaking. It was the head ornament Zhao Min wore on the side of her head. Zhao Min’s face changed slightly; Zhang Wuji was able to snatch the hair ornament on her temple without her feeling anything. If when taking the ornament he slightly touched the left hand ‘tai yang xue’ [sun acupoint] on her head, then her little life would have been gone. But she was quick to think and she smiled. “If you like that pearl flower, then I’ll gladly give it to you; you don’t have to snatch it away from me,” she said.

Zhang Wuji was slightly embarrassed by her words; his left hand waved, tossing the pearl ornament back to her. “I’ll return it to you!” he said. Turning his body he was about to leave the pavilion.

Zhao Min held out her hand to take the head ornament. “Wait a minute!” she called out.

Zhang Wuji turned around. “Why did you steal two of the biggest pearls?” she said with a smile.

“You are talking nonsense, I don’t have time to joke around with you,” Zhang Wuji said.

Zhao Min lifted the head ornament high and with a stern voice said, “Look here, aren’t two of the pearls missing?”

Zhang Wuji shot a glance and he noticed two golden threads without any pearl on them. He knew she must have had taken those pearls herself; she wanted to lure him to come back so that she could carry out some other dirty trick. “Humph,” he snorted, ignoring her.

Zhao Min pressed the edge of the table with her hand and sternly said, “Zhang Wuji, I dare you to come within three steps of me.”

Zhang Wuji was not fazed by her intimidation, he said, “It’s up to you if you say that I am a coward who fears death.” While talking he had already taken two steps down the stairs.

Seeing none of her tricks worked, Zhao Min’s beautiful face changed; with a miserable voice she cried out, “It’s over! It’s over! I am defeated, how could I still have a face to see my Shifu?” Reaching back she pulled one of the dagger stuck on the pillar. “Zhang Jiaozhu,” she called out, “Thank you for your help!”

Zhang Wuji turned his head around only to see a flash of white light; she thrust the dagger into her own chest. Zhang Wuji laughed coldly, “I won’t fall …” he had not finished whatever he wanted to say when he saw the dagger enter her chest. She cried out miserably and fell on the edge of the table.

To say that Zhang Wuji was extremely shocked would not be an overstatement; he did not expect her to be so hard-headed that she committed suicide just because she failed to overcome him. He thought that as long as the dagger did not strike her heart, he might still be able to save her. Hence he turned around to examine her wound.

He walked to within three steps of the table and was going to reach out to pull her shoulder when suddenly his foot stepped on empty air; his body dropped vertically down. While groaning inwardly he flicked both of his sleeves, so that his drop was slightly halted. In the meantime his palm struck the edge of the table. If his palm struck its target, then he could borrow the momentum to leap out from this trap. Who would have thought that Zhao Min’s suicide was a fake; she had already anticipated his action. Sending her strength to her right palm she managed to block his palm from reaching the table.

This ‘rabbit-rose-up-falcon-fall-down’ exchange happened in a blink of the eye; by the time two palms met, Zhang Wuji’s body had dropped half of his height. Flipping his hand over he tried to grab four of Zhao Min’s fingers. But her fingers were slippery, they immediately slipped away from his grab. Yet within this fraction of a second Zhang Wuji exerted his strength - taking the opportunity as their fingers touched- to reach out to grab Zhao Min’s upper arm. Only the force of his falling down was too great; as soon as he pulled, the two of them fell together.

All of a sudden darkness enveloped them; they kept falling, but heard the slam of the trap door close above their heads. The trap was about four, five ‘zhang’s [about 12 – 15 meters or 40 – 50 feet]. As his feet touched the bottom immediately Zhang Wuji leaped up, using ‘bi hu you qiang gong’ [gecko roaming the wall skill] to the fullest he crawled along the trap wall to the top, trying to push the trap door open. His hand touched something icy cold; turned out the door was made of a giant iron panel, reinforced by some kind of contraption to hold it firmly on its place. Although he had the divine strength of ‘qian kun da nuo yi’, but his body was suspended in midair; he did not have a strong foundation, unlike if he were standing on the ground. As he pushed, the iron panel did not move even so slightly, while he fell back down to the bottom.

Zhao Min chuckled and said, “The door is reinforced with eight thick steel bars; you are pushing it from below. Although your strength is exceptional, how can you push it open?”

Zhang Wuji was mad at her treachery; ignoring her remarks he groped around the four walls, trying to find a way out. Unfortunately the walls were all icy cold and extremely smooth and hard. Zhao Min laughed and said, “Master Zhang, your Gecko Roaming the Wall is excellent. These walls were made of pure cast steel, they were polished and very slippery; not a single crack exists, yet you were able to crawl along the wall. Hee .. hee … heh … heh …!”

Zhang Wuji angrily said, “You are with me in this trap together, what’s so funny?” Suddenly he remembered, “This girl is very crafty. There must be a way out of this trap. I can’t let her escape alone.” He moved forward two steps and grabbed her hand.

Zhao Min was frightened. “What are you doing?” she asked.

“Don’t ever think of escaping alone,” Zhang Wuji replied, “If you want to live, you should open the trap door quickly.”

Zhao Min laughed and said, “Why worry? We won’t starve to death in here. If they cannot find me, they will let us out. The worse case is if my men think I am going out of the Manor; then that would be too bad.”

“Is there any secret mechanism to get us out of this trap?” Zhang Wuji asked.

Zhao Min laughed. “You don’t look like an idiot, how come you asked such a stupid question?” she said, “This trap was not built to amuse ourselves. It was to trap an enemy inside; why would we provide a secret mechanism for the enemy to escape?”

Zhang Wuji thought what she said was reasonable. He asked, “There are people falling into the trap; how come nobody outside knows? Hurry up and call someone to open the door.”

“All my men are on assignments outside. You saw a moment ago there was nobody else in the pavilion, did you not?” Zhao Min said, “They will come back by this time tomorrow. Just be patient; take a rest for a moment. You have just had your meal; certainly you are not hungry, are you?” Zhang Wuji was angry; he thought, “I have no problem staying for a while, but how can I save (Maternal) Grandfather and the others?” Thereupon tightening his grip with 20% of his strength he roared, “If you don’t let me out, I am going to kill you first and talk later!”

Zhao Min smiled and replied, “If you kill me, then you can forget about getting out of this trap forever. Hey, men and women are not supposed to be intimate; why are you holding my hand?”

Hearing her words Zhang Wuji immediately released her hand and withdrew two steps; and then he sat down with his back against the wall. This steel trap’s perimeter was only several feet; even when he tried to sit as far as possible from her, their distance could not be more than one step. He was anxious and angry at the same time. He could smell her breath, and the sweet fragrance if her perfume; he could not help but feeling agitated. Finally he stood up and angrily said, “Our Ming Cult people and you are not acquainted with each other; we did not have either resentment or enmity. Why did you deliberately plan to put us all to death?”

Zhao Min replied, “Things that you don’t understand are too many; but since you asked, let me explain it to you. Do you know who I am?”

Zhang Wuji did not think it was a good idea; he wanted to know this young girl’s origin and her true intentions, but if he had to wait for her to tell her story in its entirety, then Yin Tianzheng and the others might be dead because of the poison. Also, how would he know whether she would tell a lie or not; if she fabricated a lie and told him a whole bunch of nonsense, then he would be stuck in that trap for a long time. His sole purpose right now was to force her to open up the trap door; therefore, he cut her off by saying, “I don’t know who you are, and right now I don’t have time to listen to your story. Are you or are you not going to call somebody to open the door for me?”

“I can’t call anybody,” Zhao Min replied, “Even if I shout as loud as possible down here, people above won’t be able to hear. If you don’t believe me, just give it a try.” Zhang Wuji was really angry; his left hand reached out and grabbed her arm. Zhao Min cried out in fear and tried to move her hands to fend off; but early on her acupoints had been sealed so she could not move. Zhang Wuji’s left hand choked her throat; he said, “If I exert a little bit more strength, your life will be gone.”

By now those two stood very close to each other; he could feel her hurried breathing, it smelt like orchid. Zhang Wuji looked up to give some distance away between his face and hers. Zhao Min suddenly broke up in tears; choking and sobbing she said, “You bully me, you bully me!”

Zhang Wuji did not expect this turn of events; he was startled. Releasing his left hand he said, “I don’t want to bully you, I only want you to let me out.” Still crying Zhao Min said, “It’s not that I don’t want to. All right; I’ll call!” Raising her voice she shouted, “Hey, hey! Come here! Open the door, I fall into the steel trap!” She called out for a while, but nothing astir overhead. Zhao Min said with a smile, “You see? It’s useless.”

Zhang Wuji’s anger had reached the top; “Shameless! Crying and laughing. What kind of person are you?” he said.

“You are the shameless one!” Zhao Min shot back, “A big man like you bullying a weak girl like me.”

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

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

Zhang Wuji thought the situation was getting urgent; if he did not make a drastic move, the Ming Cult people would be annihilated. Gritting his teeth he reached out and with a scoff he tore a piece of Zhao Min’s skirt.

Zhao Min thought he suddenly had an evil intention; finally she was really scared. “You … what are you doing?” she called out.

Zhang Wuji said, “If you decide to let me go, just nod your head.” “Why?” Zhao Min asked.

Zhang Wuji ignored her question. He spat his saliva on that piece of silk cloth to make it wet. “Please forgive me,” he said, “I don’t have any choice.” Immediately he sealed up her nose and mouth with that wet cloth.

Zhao Min could not breathe; a short moment later she felt her chest constricted, she felt utterly miserable. Unexpectedly she was so unyielding and did not want to nod her head at all; after a while her body slumped and she passed out.

Zhang Wuji took her wrist to examine her pulse; he felt her pulse to be weak. Immediately he took away the wet cloth covering her nose and mouth. After half a day Zhao Min slowly regained her consciousness; she moaned lightly.

“It didn’t feel good, did it?” Zhang Wuji asked, “Now, are you or are you not going to let me go?”

Zhao Min hatefully said, “Even if I have to faint a hundred times I still won’t let you go. You’d better just kill me.” Swiping her mouth with her hand she spat several times and said, “Your spittle! Pei! It stank to the high heaven!”

Seeing her hard-heartedness Zhang Wuji was temporarily at a loss. After remaining in this stalemate situation for some time, he was getting more anxious than ever. Finally he said, “In order to save everybody’s life I have to play rough. I apologize for being inappropriate.” Grabbing her left foot he tore away her shoe and sock.

Zhao Min was both angry and scared. “Stinky boy, what are you doing?” she asked. Zhang Wuji did not answer. He grabbed her right foot and also took her shoe and sock away. With both hands extended he touched the ‘yong quan xue’ [bubbling spring acupoint] on the bottom of her feet; then he transmitted heat toward these acupoints using the Nine Yang Divine Energy.

This ‘yong quan xue’ was located at the center of the crook of the foot; it was the end of the ‘zu shao yin shen jing’ [foot’s ‘little yin’ kidney passage], thus it was very sensitive to the touch. Zhang Wuji was very proficient in medical science, hence his knowledge was profound. When children play, they used to tickle their friend’s foot; making their body tingled from the sensation. This time he transmitted the warm Nine Yang Divine Energy into her ‘yong quan xue’; the sensation was a hundred times more difficult to bear than if she was tickled using feather or soft plume. At first Zhao Min could not help but broke up in laughter. She wanted to pull her foot away, but her acupoints were sealed; how could she move away? Later on she felt discomfort more painful than if she were cut with blade or flogged with a whip. She felt like millions of fleas were creeping and crawling in her internal organs; nipping and gnawing at her bone marrow and blood veins. Her voice became hoarse from laughing, and gradually her laughter turned into crying.

Zhang Wuji hardened his heart; he ignored her crying and continued his torture. Zhao Min felt like her heart nearly jumped out from her chest; she felt like the hairs on her body fell off from their roots because of the itch. “Stinky kid … Thief …” she cursed, “One day, I … I will cut you … to thousand pieces. All right, all right … mercy … have mercy on me … Zhang … Master Zhang … Zhang Jiao … Jiaozhu … Boohoohoo … boohoohoo …”

“Are you or are you not going to let me go?” Zhang Wuji asked. Sobbing Zhao Min replied, “I … I’ll let you go. Stop … stop it!”

At last Zhang Wuji let his hand go and said, “Please forgive my offense!” He rubbed her back and unsealed her acupoints. Zhao Min gasped for breath before scolding him, “Thief, give me back my shoes and socks!”

Zhang Wuji took the sock and grabbed her left foot. When he tortured her just a moment ago, he did not have any other thought in his mind; but now as soon as he touched her warm and soft foot his heart was beating faster. Zhao Min pulled her foot; she felt an unspeakable shyness so her face was blushing. Luckily in that darkness Wuji could not see her face. Silently she put her shoes and socks back on. A strange feeling crept into her heart; suddenly she wanted him to touch her foot again.

“Quick, hurry up!” suddenly she heard Zhang Wuji’s stern voice, “Let me go!”

Without saying anything Zhao Min stretched out her hand to trace a circle engraved on the steel wall, and then with the end of her dagger’s hilt she rapped the center of the circle seven, eight times; sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes long, sometimes short. As soon as she stopped a crashing noise was heard, a bright light came down as the trap door opened. The circle on the steel wall was actually connected to the outside by a narrow tube. The people outside immediately opened the door as she knocked the wall in a previously agreed pattern.

Zhang Wuji did not expect her to open the door as soon as she said so; he could not help but feel surprised. “Let’s go!” he said.

Zhao Min hung her head low; she stood on the side without making any noise. Zhang Wuji remembered she was only a young girl and he had repeatedly tortured her; he felt sorry. He bowed and said, “Miss Zhao, just now I did not have any other choice. Please accept my most sincere apology.”

Zhao Min turned her head toward the wall; her shoulder slightly trembled as if she was sobbing. She was very crafty and ruthless; when he was engaged in a fierce battle of wits with her, Zhang Wuji did not have any distracting thoughts. But now he was overwhelmed with guilt; especially looking at her graceful and elegant, slender back, the skin on the back of her neck white as jade, her beautiful and fluffy hair. With pity and regret in his heart he said, “Miss Zhao, I am leaving. Old Zhang has offended you.”

Zhao Min’s back moved slightly, but she still was not willing to turn her head. Zhang Wuji did not dare to tarry much longer; using the ‘bi hu you qiang gong’ he crept upward. When he was about a ‘zhang’ away from the trap door, his right foot kicked the steel wall and he flew out of the trap, while sweeping his sleeve away to protect his head and face for fear somebody set up an ambush by the trap door. Before his feet even touched the ground he swept his gaze around, but did not see a single soul in the pavilion. Without wasting a single second he leaped over the outer wall and rushed along the trail towards the place where the Ming Cult leaders took a rest.

By this time the sun was setting behind the mountains; he had been delayed for more than an hour inside the trap, without knowing Yin Tianzheng and the others’ condition. With an anxious heart he ran faster and not too long afterwards he was not too far away from his destination. His heart skipped a beat because he saw a large group of Mongolian cavalry charging forward; surrounding the Ming Cult people, shooting arrow after arrow.

Zhang Wuji thought, “Our Cult leaders are poisoned, nobody gives orders; how can we withstand the enemy’s besieging?” He picked up speed and rushed forward.

When he got closer he heard a clear female voice from among the crowd calling out, “Sharp Metal Flag attack to the northeast, Flooding Water Flag outflank the southwest.” It was Xiao Zhao’s voice. Just as her voice trailed off, a group of the Ming Cult people under a white flag came out, charging toward the northeast. Another group under a black flag outflanked toward the southwest. The Yuan soldiers divided themselves to engage the enemy. Suddenly the yellow flag of Thick Earth and the green flag of Gigantic Wood came out from among the Ming Cult people like a yellow dragon and a green dragon shoulder to shoulder attacking the enemy. The Yuan soldiers were thrown into confusion and were forced to retreat. With several leaps Zhang Wuji arrived in front of the Ming Cult people. As they saw their Cult Leader came back, they burst out in cheers and their spirit was greatly aroused. Zhang Wuji saw Yin Tianzheng, Yang Xiao, Zhou Dian and the others, as well as the Five Elements Flags commanders and their second-in-commands, were still sitting cross-legged on the ground. Xiao Zhao, holding a small flag in her hand, was standing on a mound, commanding the Ming Cult people to defend against the enemy.

Actually, everybody in the Five Elements Flags and the Heavenly Eagle Flag was a warrior with excellent martial art skill; only their leaders were poisoned that they were in disorder. As soon as Xiao Zhao arranged the defense line according to the Eight Diagram the Yuan soldiers actually could not penetrate their defense for a long time.

“Master Zhang,” Xiao Zhao happily called out, “Come and assume the command.”

“I can’t,” Zhang Wuji replied, “You can command better. Let me kill some officers first.”

With ‘swish, swish’ sound several arrows came toward him. Zhang Wuji grabbed a lance from among the Ming Cult people and struck the incoming arrows one by one to the ground. Raising his arm he hurled the lance like an arrow penetrating a ‘bai fu zhang’s [leader of a 100 men unit] chest, nailing him to the ground. The Yuan soldiers cried out in alarm and withdrew several dozens of steps.

Suddenly they heard a bugle sound; about a dozen riders came fast. Zhang Wuji saw the ones in the front were Zhao Min’s Eight Divine Archers. He creased his brows and said in his heart, “These eight people’s shooting skill is too strong. If they attack I am afraid the damage to my brethren will not be small. I’ll have to attack first!” But he saw the leader of the Eight Divine Archers, Zhao Yishang, wave a short golden dragon-head staff and called out, “Master’s order: withdraw troops immediately.” The commander of the Yuan troops, a ‘qian fu zhang’ [leader of a 1000 men unit], shouted some Mongolian words. The Yuan soldiers turned their horses around and galloped away. Qian Erbai dismounted his horse. Holding a tray in his hands he walked toward Zhang Wuji, bowed down and said, “My Master is asking Jiaozhu to accept this as a souvenir.”

Zhang Wuji saw yellow brocade spread out on the tray; on the brocade was a small exquisitely carved golden case. He was not afraid of any crafty trick; holding out his hand he took the box. Qian Erbai bowed in respect, walked backward three steps, turned around to mount his horse and galloped away.

Zhang Wuji handed over the golden case to Xiao Zhao. He was very concerned over his people’s condition that he did not care to look what was inside the case. Immediately he took the flower tree from his pocket and gave an order for someone to fetch some clear water. He crushed the deep purple root along with the dark green small beads and put them in the water. One by one he gave the concoction to Yin Tianzheng, Yang Xiao, as well as to the Five Elements Flags commanders and their second-in-commands. Practically every one of the Ming Cult leaders who joined the banquet at the pavilion, except Zhang Wuji who was protected by the Nine Yang Divine Energy, was poisoned.

Yang Buhui accompanied Yin Liting outside the pavilion; Xiao Zhao and the rest of the Ming Cult people ate at the side reception hall. Everybody followed their Cult Leader’s order; every dish was quietly tested with silver needles before they ate it; hence they were free from poisoning.

The antidote was very effective that in less than an hour the toxicity inside their bodies was neutralized; they no longer feeling dizzy, only they were still feeling very weak. Immediately they asked the whole story on how they got poisoned.

Zhang Wuji sighed and said, “We were being very careful; the water, wine and the food did not have any poison. I am sure about it. How would I know that that Miss Zhao’s evil mind was very cunning that she employed an unthinkable method? This kind of ‘shui xian’-like flower is called ‘zui xian ling fu’ [drunken immortal phantom lotus]. It is extremely rare but in itself it is not poisonous. The fake Yitian sword was made of a ‘qi ling xiang mu’ [marvelous pangolin fragrant wood], which grows on the ocean floor. In itself it is also not poisonous. But if these two fragrances are mixed together, they become violently poisonous.”

Zhou Dian slapped his thigh, “It was my bad; who told me to have an itchy hand and pull that Yitian sword out to take a look at it? Damn it!”

Zhang Wuji said, “She had already planned to harm us; even if Zhou Xiong did not pull it out, she would have sent someone else to draw it out and poison us. It was unavoidable.”

“Come!” Zhou Dian said, “Let us burn that Green Willow Manor to the ground!”

He barely closed his mouth when in the distant they saw black smoke rose up to the sky, red flame flickered; the Green Willow Manor was on fire. They looked at each other, dumbstruck; everybody had the same thought, “This Miss Zhao has anticipated everything; she knew that as soon as the poison in our bodies is neutralized we will settle the debt by burning the manor, so she beat us by setting the manor on fire first. This person is young, she is also a girl, yet she is a formidable enemy.”

Zhou Dian slapped his thigh, “She burned the manor, so what? We can still catch up and kill them all.”

Yang Xiao said, “Since she had already burned the manor, she must have prepared everything. We may not necessarily be able to pursue them.”

“Yang Xiong,” Zhou Dian said, “Your martial art is not bad, but when it comes to scheming, you beat Zhou Dian by half a notch.”

Yang Xiao laughed and said, “I wouldn’t dare, I wouldn’t dare! Zhou Xiong’s strategic ability is divine; how can Little Brother match it?” Zhang Wuji smiled and said, “You two don’t need to be modest. This time we do not suffer too much damage, except for thirteen, fourteen brothers who suffer some arrow wound; we should thank our lucky stars. Let’s continue our journey.”

Along the way they asked Zhang Wuji how he knew the cause of their poisoning. Zhang Wuji replied, “I remember in the Poison Manual there is an article: If the fragrance of the ‘qi ling xiang mu’ is mixed with that of some kind of lotus flower, the resulting mixture oftentimes can cause someone to become intoxicated for a few days. It can be neutralized by drinking the mixture of the beads of the flower with water. If the poison is not dispelled immediately, the toxicity will greatly damage the heart and the lung. This ‘zui xian ling fu’ is several times more severe than regular lotus. That was the reason I asked everybody not to circulate your internal energy. Otherwise the fragrance would have entered all passages and pulses, and then your life would be in danger.”

Wei Yixiao said, “I am surprised that this little girl Xiao Zhao has rendered a great service today; if it wasn’t for her bravely stepped forward in critical situation, our casualty would be very heavy.”

Initially Yang Xiao believed that Xiao Zhao was the enemy’s spy; but her actions that day could be considered a great service to the Ming Cult. It was so totally beyond his anticipation that for the time being he did not know what to think.

Along the way they tried to guess Zhao Min’s origin, but nobody was able to offer a plausible explanation. Zhang Wuji did not tell anybody that they fell into the trap together, and that he touched her feet, ripped her skirt, and the circumstances surrounding that occasion. Although he felt that he did not do anything shameful, he still didn’t feel comfortable talking about it in public.

That evening they decided to stop by an inn a little bit early. The rest of the Ming Cult people went their separate ways to find temples and ancestral halls to spend the night. Xiao Zhao took some water to Zhang Wuji’s room for him to wash his face.

“Xiao Zhao,” Zhang Wuji said, “Today you have rendered a great service; you don’t have to act as my servant anymore.”

Xiao Zhao flashed one of her captivating smiles. “I am very happy to attend to your needs; what servant are you talking about?” After waiting for him to wash his hands and face; she took the golden case out and said, “I wonder what kind of poisonous bugs or secret projectiles are in this box?”

“Right,” Zhang Wuji said, “We have to be very careful.”

Placing the case on the table he pulled her away from it. Taking out a copper coin he tossed it away. ‘Ding!’ the coin hit the edge of the golden case and opened up its lid. Nothing strange happened. He came near to take a look. Inside the box was a pearl head ornament; it still vibrated lightly. It was precisely the head ornament he took from Zhao Min’s temples, except the two big pearls, which Zhao Min said were missing, were back on their golden stems. Zhang Wuji was taken aback; he could not guess Zhao Min’s real intention in doing this.

Xiao Zhao smiled and said, “Master, that Miss Zhao is very good to you, she sent somebody to deliver this precious pearl head ornament to you.”

Zhang Wuji said, “I am a man, what am I supposed to do with this kind of girl’s jewelry? Xiao Zhao, you can keep it.”

Xiao Zhao shook her hand; she laughed and said, “How can I? Others show their affection to you; how do I dare to take it?”

With three of his left hand fingers Zhang Wuji took the pearl ornament. “Catch!” he laughed, and tossed the ornament away. His strength was neither light nor heavy; the ornament landed on Xiao Zhao’s hair without the golden pin scratching her skin. Xiao Zhao reached up to take it away, but Zhang Wuji shook his hand and said, “Can’t I give you some trinkets?”

Xiao Zhao’s cheeks blushed; in a low voice she said, “Thank you very much, then. I am only afraid my Miss will be angry with me.”

“What you did today was not a small matter,” Zhang Wuji said, “How can the Left Emissary Yang, father and daughter, still suspect you?”

Xiao Zhao’s heart was filled with joy; she said, “You have been gone for a long time, I was really worried; plus those Tartars came to attack. I don’t know how, but suddenly I was swept by a great courage. If I think about it now, I was really scared. Master, can you talk to the Five Elements Flags and the Heavenly Eagle Flag brothers: asking them not to be offended by Xiao Zhao’s boldness and unseemly behavior?”

Zhang Wuji smiled and said, “They can’t thank you enough, how can they blame you?”

Less than a day later they arrived within the Henan borders. By that time the world was in chaos; everywhere heroic and patriots raised their arms to fight the invaders. Mongolian officers and soldiers conducted an even stricter questioning and searching of insurgents. It was inconvenient for the Ming Cult people to travel together as a large group, therefore, they traveled in smaller groups to the Mount Song [Song Shan] and regrouped at the foot of the mountain before they finally traveled together up the Shaoshi Peak.

The Gigantic Wood Flag Chief, Wen Cangsong, was sent ahead to deliver Zhang Wuji and the others’ name cards to the Shaolin Temple. Zhang Wuji knew that this time they went up to the Shaolin Temple to ask for justice and although they did not want any fight, the end result would be difficult to tell. Supposing that the Shaolin monks did not want to talk but resort to violence instead, the Ming Cult could not balk at the challenge. Thereupon he passed on an order: while the leaders were entering the temple, the Five Elements Flags and the Heavenly Eagle Flag were to disperse around the temple and wait outside; as soon as they heard him whistle three times, they were to render their assistance. The flag leaders accepted the order and went their separate ways.

Not too long afterwards an old monk acting as the welcoming host went down the mountain accompanied by Wen Cangsong; he said, “The Temple Abbot and all elders are closing themselves in meditation; they cannot receive any guest.”

The Ming Cult leaders’ faces changed as they heard this. Zhou Dian indignantly said, “This is the Cult Leader of the Ming Cult, personally came to the Shaolin Temple to pay a visit; the Senior Monks do not want to see him, don’t you think this is a bit rude?”

That ‘welcoming host’ monk [Translator’s note: I can’t think of a single English word for this. Literally it means ‘receiving guest’.] lowered his head with knitted eyebrows; his face full of anxiety, he said, “Can’t see!”

Zhou Dian angrily stretched out his hand to grab his collar. Shuo Bude raised his arm to block, he said, “Zhou Xiong, don’t be rude.”

Peng Yingyu said, “Since the Abbot is in seclusion, then it will be the same if we can see Reverend Kong Zhi or Kong Xing.”

That ‘welcoming host’ monk clasped his palms and said with an icy-cold voice, “Can’t see!”

Peng Yingyu said again, “How about the Head of the Damo Hall or the Head of the Luohan Hall?”

That ‘welcoming host’ monk maintained his cold and indifferent look. “Can’t see!” he said.

With a thundering voice Yin Tianzheng roared, “Bottom line: are you or are you not going to see us?” Both of his palms shot out with an earth- shattering force, ‘bang!’ he hit and broke a nearby pine tree into two; the top part, still with branches and leaves on it, collapsed to the ground, taking three crow nests with it.

The ‘welcoming host’ monk began to show fear on his face, he said, “You have come from afar, it is only proper for us to see you, but our elders are meditating in seclusion. Please come back later!” He bowed and clasped his palms, then turned around to leave.

Wei Yixiao’s shadow flashed, blocking in front of the monk, he said, “I wonder how should we address Reverend?”

The ‘welcoming host’ monk said, “I can’t say lowly monk’s Buddhist name.”

Wei Yixiao stretched out his hand and lightly slapped the monk’s shoulder twice; he laughed and said, “Very good, very good! You repeatedly said ‘Bu Jian’ [Can’t see] two words, turned out you are ‘Bu Jian Da Shi’ [Reverend ‘Bu Jian’ or Reverend Can’t See], you are Kong Jian Shen Seng’s [Divine Monk Kong Jian – the same ‘Jian’ character as ‘Bu Jian’] martial brother. I wonder if the Yan Luo Wang [King of the Underworld] called you, ‘Bu Jian Shen Seng’, will you answer him?”

As the ‘welcoming host’ monk took the slap, a cold air flew from his shoulder to his chest; his body shook, his teeth chattered and his mouth made ‘ge, ge’ noises. Enduring all these he leaned sideways and slipped past Wei Yixiao; trembling and staggering all the way he ran back up the mountain.

“This fellow’s internal strength is not Shaolin’s,” Wei Yixiao said.

Immediately Zhang Wuji recalled Yuan Zhen’s internal strength, and admitted that Shaolin’s internal strength was extraordinary. He said, “Bat King has slapped him twice with the ‘han bing mian zhang’ [cold-ice soft palm]; how can his grandmasters and his masters ignore it? Let us go up the mountain, I want to see if the senior monks truly do not want to see us.”

Everybody knew a fierce fight would be unavoidable, Shaolin Sect was known as the Wulin world’s ‘tai shan bei dou’ [Mount Tai and Big Dipper – meaning ‘the ultimate’]; over the last thousand of years it had enjoyed the reputation as the Undefeated Sect in the Jianghu. In the battle that would happen today finally they will see between the Ming Cult and the Shaolin Sect, which one was strong and which one was weak. Everybody’s spirit was boosted a hundred folds; picking up their speed they climbed up the mountain. They realized Shaolin Temple’s martial art experts were as abundant as the cloud; so the intensity of the incoming big battle would not be a small matter.

Less than the time needed to drink tea later they had arrived at the pavilion in front of the temple. Zhang Wuji recalled how as a kid he followed his grandmaster going up this mountain and saw the Shaolin Sect’s Three Divine Monks right here in this pavilion. Although it was only a few years, but back then he was a lone thin and sickly kid; while today he was the Cult Leader of the Ming Cult, with all the honor and respect belonged to the position. He felt like the two visits were a world apart.

He saw that two of the pillars of the stone pavilion were broken; the stone table in the middle of the pavilion was turned upside down on the ground.

Shuo Bude laughed and said, “Shaolin Monks are brave and fierce; these two pillars are broken recently. It looks like they had a big fight only a few days ago and have not had any chance to fix it.”

Zhou Dian said, “After winning the battle today, we can come back and tear this pavilion apart.”

They waited at the pavilion, expecting a lot of martial art experts to come out of the temple; after exchanging pleasantries they were going to ask straightaway why Yin Liting fell under such a cruel hand. If the monks did not give them a satisfying answer, then they will resort to violence. Who would have thought that after waiting for half a day they did not see any movement from the temple. A moment later they saw that some people came out from the back of the temple and were going toward the mountain, from the distant it looked like there were forty, fifty people. “Humph,” Peng Yingyu said, “They are deploying people to set an ambush.”

“Let’s go into the temple!” Zhang Wuji said.

Immediately, with Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao on his left, Yin Tianzheng and Yin Yewang on his right, Tie Guan Daoren [Priest Tie Guan], Peng Yingyu, Zhou Dian and Shuo Bude, Four Wanderers behind him, Zhang Wuji entered the temple gate. Upon entering the ‘da xiong bao dian’ [great hero precious hall] they saw the sacrificial table in front of the image of Buddha was laying on its side, the incense burner fell and the ashes were scattered on the ground; but they couldn’t see anyone there.

Shuo Bude laughed coldly and said, “As the Shaolin Sect people saw us coming, they were panic-stricken and confused that they knocked the incense burner over. Funny, very funny!”

In a clear voice Zhang Wuji said, “Ming Cult’s Zhang Wuji, joined by Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng, Wei Yixiao, and the other Cult Leaders have come to pay a visit. We wish to see the Abbot.” His voice was not loud, but it was supported by abundant power that it echoed on the copper bell and the big drum hanging inside the hall, creating a buzzing noise throughout the hall.

Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao and the others looked at each other, thinking, “Jiaozhu’s internal energy is so profound, it truly is amazing. Even if Yang Jiaozhu [Cult Leader Yang] were still alive, his internal energy would still be inferior to this. It looks like in the incoming battle today our victory is imminent.”

Zhang Wuji’s voice could be heard in the front and rear courtyards, and all over the Shaolin Temple; yet after waiting for half an afternoon nobody came out.

“Hey!” Zhou Dian shouted, “Shaolin Temple Monks! Brothers! Are you playing hide and seek? Are you pretending to be a new bride?” His voice was louder than Zhang Wuji’s, but the copper bell and the big drum were not buzzing.

They waited for a little bit longer; still nobody came out. Peng Yingyu said, “Suddenly I got a bad feeling about this temple; something is really wrong.”

Zhou Dian laughed and said, “You are a monk entering a temple; this is your appropriate place, what do you mean something is wrong?”

“Ah,” Tie Guan Daoren suddenly said, “Here is a piece of meditation stick cut by a blade.”

“Ah!” Shuo Bude exclaimed, “There is a blotch of blood here!”

Zhou Dian laughed, “They must have remembered the battle of the Brightness Peak,” he said, “Our Jiaozhu’s reputation has spread far and wide, Shaolin Temple hangs high the truce flag! You see, they were so panic-stricken that they ran away dropping everything, including their weapons.”

Tie Guan Daoren shook his head, “That’s not right!” he said. “Why not?” Zhou Dian asked.

Tie Guan Daoren said, “What about this blood stain?”

Zhou Dian replied, “Most likely they cut themselves in fright …” Speaking to this point he stopped, since he realized his idea was too far fetched. Right that moment a gust of wind blew, rising everybody’s sleeve. “It’s nice and cool!” Zhou Dian exclaimed. Suddenly they heard a loud crashing noise from the west, a big pine tree about a dozen ‘zhang’s away from them fell down.

The crowd was startled; immediately they jumped toward the collapsed tree. The tree grew on the southeast corner of the courtyard; there was nobody in the courtyard, so nobody knew how such a big tree fell down just by a puff of wind and in the process crashed half of the surrounding wall. They examined the broken part only to see the core of the tree to be already ruptured, clearly it was shaken by someone with profound skill; so the tree had already withered and dried up, and not fell down because of the wind just now.

They looked around their surrounding and one after another exclaimed, “Ah, it’s strange!” “There was heavy fighting in here!” “So fierce, so many people were injured!” The courtyard was full of traces of intense fighting: there were blade marks and imprints of fists and palms on the green flagstones below, on the trunk and branches of the surrounding trees, and on the enclosing walls. They could also see bloodstains everywhere; obviously the battle was truly bloody. There were also deep footprints on the ground, a sign that the combatants were martial art experts who stake their whole internal energies.

Zhang Wuji said, “Quickly grab that ‘welcoming host’ monk, we need to ask him clearly.”

Wei Yixiao, Shuo Bude and the others quickly dispersed to look, but the ‘receiving guest’ monk had disappeared without any trace. The Five Elements Flags also looked everywhere. A little over an hour later all the Flag leaders came back one after another with their report: nobody was found in the temple, but they saw traces of violent battle everywhere. Many of the halls and rooms had bloodstains in them, along with broken blades and other weapons, but not a single body was to be seen.

“Left Emissary Yang, what do you think?” Zhang Wuji asked.

“This battle happened two, three days ago,” Yang Xiao replied, “Could it be that the entire Shaolin Sect is annihilated and not a single one survived?”

“Wasn’t there a few dozens people went out the temple from the back just now?” Shuo Bude asked.

Yang Xiao replied, “Quite possibly they were the Shaolin Sect’s enemy. They were left behind to take care of things in here; but as they saw our large group arrived they slipped away.”

Peng Yingyu said, “Judging from the turn of events, I think you are right. That ‘welcoming host’ monk must be an impostor; it’s a pity we could not capture him. But among the enemies of the Shaolin Sect, which one is this powerful? Could it be the Beggar Clan?”

Zhou Dian said, “The Beggar Clan is indeed big, and has a lot of martial art experts, but they don’t have the ability to wipe out the entire Shaolin Temple that not a single survivor is left. Only our Ming Cult has this kind of ability; but we clearly did not do it, do we?”

“Zhou Dian, can you not spout nonsense?” Tie Guan Daoren said, “Our Cult obviously did not do it, do you think we don’t know?”

“Reporting to Jiaozhu,” Yan Yuan, the Flag Leader of the Thick Earth came to report, “It looks like the eighteen arhats in the Luohan Hall have been shifted, but there was no footprint around.”

The leaders knew that Yan Yuan and his Thick Earth Flag were experts in building and construction, so his suspicion must not be unfounded. “Let us take a look,” they said.

Upon entering the Luohan Hall, they saw quite a bit of blood splattered on the walls and broken blades and meditation sticks strewn on the floor.

“Yan Xiong,” Zhou Dian said, “What’s unusual about these eighteen arhats?”

“Each Luohan arhat was moved from their original position,” Yan Yuan replied, “At first I thought there was another door somewhere, but after carefully examining the wall, I did not see any secret passageway anywhere.”

Yang Xiao was deep in thought for half an afternoon before he finally said, “Let us push these arhats and take a look.”

Yan Yuan leaped toward the platform and pushed the long-eyebrowed arhat to the side, exposing the wall behind it, but there was nothing unusual there. Yang Xiao also leaped to the platform to take a closer look at that long- eyebrowed arhat. “Uh,” he suddenly exclaimed, “There is a character on the back of this arhat.” He turned the arhat around. To their astonishment, the crowd saw a ‘mie’ [extinguish] character as big as a human’s head.

The Luohan arhats were inlaid with gold, but by now a large ‘mie’ character was engraved on the glittering golden back with a sharp object. The engraving was about a ‘cun’ [an inch] deep that the clay inside was exposed. The engraving was new, obviously it was done not too long ago.

“What’s the meaning of this ‘mie’ character?” Zhou Dian wondered, “Ah, right! It must be the Emei Sect attacked the Shaolin Temple; Miejue Shitai left this to demonstrate her power.”

The group of heroes thought his idea was too unthinkable; they all shook their heads. While speaking they turned all the arhats around. Other than the Subduing Dragon Arhat on the extreme right and the Crouching Tiger Arhat on the extreme left, a large character was engraved on the back of every arhat. From right to left there were sixteen characters which read: ‘First execute Shaolin then extinguish Wudang, only our Ming Cult is fit to rule the Wulin world!’

Yin Tianzheng, Tie Guan Daoren, Shuo Bude and the others called out together, “This is a treacherous plan to shift the blame!” They realized these sixteen characters were a threat to incite terror; they recalled how the Shaolin Temple’s monks suffered an unexpected calamity, and the blame was put upon the Ming Cult’s head. Everybody was anxious and grieved at the same time.

“Let us quickly scrape off these characters to avoid injustice toward us,” Zhou Dian called out. Yang Xiao said, “The enemy intention is obviously malicious; scraping off these sixteen characters may not be necessarily useful.”

This time Zhou Dian felt what he said made a good sense, so he did not argue. “What should we do, then?” he asked.

Shuo Bude said, “This is actually evidence. If we can find the person who hatched this treacherous plan, we can take him here and confront him with these sixteen characters.”

Yang Xiao nodded his agreement.

Peng Yingyu said, “Xiao Seng [little/lowly monk] still have a question, I need the Left Emissary Yang’s enlightenment. The person who carved these sixteen characters obviously wanted to shift the blame to our Cult; placing the responsibility of Shaolin Sect’s destruction on our head, so that the Wulin world’s heroes would rally together to attack us. Then why did he turn these arhats to the wall? Why didn’t they leave these large sixteen characters facing outward? If it wasn’t because of Flag Leader Yan’s attentiveness, nobody would know there are characters on the back of these Luohan arhats.”

Yang Xiao was deep in thought. “Come to think about it,” he said, “There must be someone else who turned these arhats back. Most likely there is someone helping our Cult in secret. We owe him a big debt of gratitude.”

“Who is this person?” the crowd asked almost simultaneously, “How did Left Emissary Yang know?”

Yang Xiao sighed and said, “This is a complicated mystery, I cannot possibly know everything …”

“Ah!” he has not finished his words when suddenly Zhang Wuji loudly exclaimed, “‘First execute Shaolin, then extinguish Wudang,’ I am afraid … I am afraid Wudang is facing a terrible disaster.” “We must leave immediately to render our help,” Wei Yixiao said, “We might also find out which dog has done it all.”

“We can’t wait much longer,” Yin Tianzheng also said, “We must leave now. These bandits have already left one or two days ago.”

End of Chapter 23. 
@Chapter 24 - Tai Chi - The Origin of Soft Subduing Hard
Zhang Wuji wondered whether some misfortune had befallen his martial uncles on the way back from the Western Regions. Throughout the whole journey there had been no news of them. If any misfortune had delayed them on their way, the only people left on Wudang Mountain were his grandteacher and the third generation disciples. His third martial uncle Yu Daiyan was paralysed. If a formidable enemy attacked, how could they resist them? Thinking so, he felt anxious. He said clearly: “Elders and brothers, my late father was a Wudang disciple. I am greatly indebted to my grandteacher. Now that Wudang is facing great trouble, the earlier we get there the better. Bat King Wei will accompany me to first to lend aid. The rest of you should arrive in batches. I request that Left Messenger Yang and Grandpa arrange this. ” After saying this, he cupped his hands and left. Wei Yixiao used his lightness kungfu and followed him. Before the crowd could say anything in agreement, the two of them were already outside Shaolin temple. Their lightness kungfu was really amazing, without equal in the world. The two of them did not dare risk even a short moment’s delay. Without stopping they quickly covered ten li. Though Wei Yixiao did not fall behind, after some time he gradually found it difficult to keep up. Zhang Wuji thought: “Wudang Mountain is a long distance away, we can’t keep this up without rest. Moreover there is a formidable enemy in front. We should save our energy for battle.” He said to Wei Yixiao: “Let’s buy a couple of horses from the next town to conserve our energy.” Wei Yixiao had already considered this but he had brought the matter up. He said: “Sect Leader, buying horses will waste too much time.”

Not long later, they met five or six horses approaching. Wei Yixiao jumped up, lifted up two riders and put them gently on the ground. He called out: “Sect Leader, mount up!” Zhang Wuji stopped in his tracks. In his heart he felt that stealing horses like that was not the right thing to do. Wei Yixiao called out: "When dealing with important matters, don't be held back by trifling affairs. Why worry so much?” He lifted another two riders off their horses. It so happened that those people also knew some martial arts. Cursing, they drew their weapons to attack. While holding on to four horses, Wei Yixiao kicked their weapons out of their hands. One of them shouted: “Who are you robbers? What are your names!” Zhang Wuji felt it would be even worse if they got tangled up any further. So he leapt onto a horse's back and went with Wei Yixiao. Not daring to give chase, the horse owners could only curse. Zhang Wuji said:“Even though we have pressing matters to attend to, others may also have urgent matters. I don't feel comfortable doing this.” Wei Yixiao laughed and said: “Sect Leader, this is small matter not worth mentioning. The way the Ming Cult handled affairs in the past... - now that is truly unscrupulous and illegal.” So saying, he laughed loudly.

Zhang Wuji thought: "The Ming Cult is considered an evil sect. There is some truth that. However it can be hard to determine what is righteous and what is evil." He was the sect leader and yet he had difficulty making decisions. He was even undecided about a minor issue like the horses. Though his kungfu skills were of a high level, there are many matters in this world that cannot be settled with kungfu alone. He hoped to bring Xie Xun back soon, and pass this heavy burden on to him. Yet he was unwilling to simply take the asy way out. At this moment, he suddenly saw two people with silver rods in their hands blocking the road. Wei Yixiao shouted:“Get out of the way!” He waved the horse whip. One man blocked the whip with his staff, another man yelled and waved his left hand. Wei Yixiao’s horse was startled and stood up on its hind legs. Four men dressed in black then came out from a grove. They looked like they were able fighters. Wei Yixiao yelled: “Sect leader go on,let me deal with them.” Zhang Wuji saw that these people are trying to prevent reinforcements from reaching Wudang. Wudang Sect was in a very precarious and dangerous situation. He knew that Wei Yixiao's lightness kungfu and martial arts is amazing, he could handle these people. Even if he couldn't win he would be able to protect himself. Zhang Wuji squeezed both his legs to urge the horse forward. Two men in black used steel staffs to block the way. Zhang Wuji bent down, seized the staffs and threw them forward. The two men screamed as their legs were broken by the steel staffs and they fell to the ground. He saw that the four men fighting Wei Yixiao were not weak. He was worried that after he left more enemies will appear, so he helped Wei Yixiao deal with two of them.

Though Mt. Song and Mt. Wudang are in two different provinces - Henan and Hubei, one is in west Henan and the other in north Hubei. So the distance between them was not that great. After crossing the Ma Mountain, to the south was open country and the horse was able to travel quickly. At noon, he passed a small village. Zhang WuJi felt hungry so he stopped to buy some food. Suddenly he heard a horse scream behind him. He turned around and saw a knife stuck in a horse's stomach. A man quickly tried to hide.

Zhang Wuji jumped up and grabbed that person. Only to see it is another man dressed in black with the front of his clothes splashed with horse blood. Zhang Wuji yelled: “Whose orders are you following? Which sect do you belong to? Has your party reached Wudang Mountain?” That person did not answer despite being questioned a few times. Zhang Wuji did not dare delay any longer, thinking that that once he reached Wudang Mountain he would understand what was going on. He sealed the man's 'Da Tui' pressure point. The sealed pressure point would cause the man to suffer great pain for three days and three nights.

He then got onto his horse and continued his journey. Soon he reached the Three Palaces and crossed the Han River. While on a boat, he stared into the water thinking of the time Zhang Sanfeng and himself met Chang Yuchun and saved Zhou Zhiruo. Her beautiful image surfaced in his mind. After crossing the Han River, he headed south. By now night had already fallen. He continued for another two hours. It was a dark night. The horse was extremely exhausted and could not take it anymore. It collapsed to the ground. Zhang Wuji patted the horse's back saying:“Horsey, you're free to go now!” He utilised his lightness kungfu and was quickly on his way.

After traveling for eight hours, he heard the sound of hoofbeats - there was a group of people ahead. He quicken his pace and overtook them swiftly. Because of his speed and the darkness, no one noticed him. From their direction, they are heading for Wudang Mountain. The twenty or so people did not say a word, so he was unable to determine their intentions. But he could dimly see that each one carried weapons. There is no doubt that they are going to cause trouble for Wudang Sect. He thought: “I've managed to overtake them so Wudang Sect has not yet been attacked.” After continuing for less than an hour, he met another group of people heading for Wudang Mountain. In total he ran into five groups. The biggest group consisted of about thirty people and the smallest about ten. After seeing the fifth group, he was even more anxious, thinkng: “How many other groups have already gone up the mountain? Have they already clashed with people from my sect?” Though he was not a Wudang disciple, because of his father's background he considered Wudang his own sect. So thinking, he increased his speed. Not long later reached the mountain and started climbing. Fortunately he did not run into anymore enemies. Halfway up the mountain, he saw someone hurrying upward. It was a monk and his lightness kungfu was amazing. Zhang Wuji followed him from a distance observing his actions.

He saw the monk go up the mountain. At the peak, someone shouted:“Which friend comes to Wudang at this time of the night?” As the sound died away, four people appeared, two Taoist priests and two laymen (non-priests). These were Wudang Sect's third and fourth generation disciples. The monk said: “Kong Xiang of Shaolin has an urgent matter to see Wudang's Master Zhang about.” Zhang Wuji though with surprise: “So he is a member of Shaolin's 'Kong' generation, the same generation as Abbot Kong Wen, Kong Zhi and Kong Xing. He actually took the trouble to come personally to Wudang Mountain to bring news.”

One of the Wudang Taoist priests said:“Reverend, you has come from afar. Please come in and have some tea.” And soo saying he lead the way. Kong Xiang gave his saber to a priest, not daring to bring his weapon in. Zhang Wuji saw the priest lead Kong Xiang into the Purple Paradise Hall. He squatted down outside the window. Only to hear Kong Xiang say loudly: “Please report to Master Zhang immediately. The situation is urgent; there is no time to lose!” The priest replied: “Reverend, you have come at the wrong time. My grandteacher has been meditating in seclusion for over a year. We haven't seen him in some time.” Kong Xiang said:“In that case, can you please inform Eldest Hero Song.” The priest replied: “My Eldest Martial Uncle, my Master and the other martial uncles have not returned from attacking the Ming Sect.” When Zhang Wuji heard this he was shaken. So Song Yuanqiao and the rest had really run into trouble on the way back. Kong Xiang sighed and said: “If that is so then Wu Dang and Shaolin are in the same boat. It would be difficult to escape today's disaster.” Not understanding what he meant, the priest said: "Senior Martial Brother Guxu Zi is in charge of our sect's general affairs. I will ask him to come and pay his respects to reverend.” Kong Xiang asked: “Whose disciple is this Guxu Zi?” The priest answered: “He is Third Uncle Yu's disciple.” Kong Xiang said:“Even though Third Hero Yu's arms and legs have been injured, his mind is still clear. Let me speak to him.” The Taoist said:“Alright.” He turned around and went inside.

Kong Xiang paced back and forth impatiently. From time to time, he tilted his head and listened intently,worrying that the enemy had arrived. Not long later, the priest hurriedly came out. He bowed and said: “Third Uncle Yu invites you in. He requests that the Reverend excuses him for being unable to come out and greet you." The priest's behaviour was now even more respectful than before. This was probably because on hearing that a Shaolin monk of the “Kong” generation,Yu Daiyan ordered him to be very polite. Kong Xiang nodded his head and went along with him to Yu Daiyan's room.

Zhang Wuji pondered: “Third Martial Uncle's four limbs are paralysed buut his eyes and ears are still very sharp. If I listen outside his window, he might detect me.” He walked towards Yu Daiyan's room but stopped outside. A short while later, the Taoist priest hurriedly came out of Yu Daiyan's room. He said in a low voice: “Qing Feng, Ming Yue! Come here.” Two novice priests came up to him and called:“Martial Uncle!” The priest said:“Third Martial Uncle wants to come out. Get the carry chair ready. ” The two novices complied. Zhang Wuji had lived on Wudang Mountain for a few years. That priest was Yu Lianzhou's new disciple so he had never met him. However, he recognized Qing Feng and Ming Yue. He knew that when Yu Daiyan was carried on his chair by novices whenever he left the room. He watched the two go to the wing where the carry chair was kept and silently followed them. He waited till the two entered the room before suddenly calling: “Qing Feng, Ming Yue, do you recognize me?” The two of them jumped in fright. Looking at Zhang Wuji, they thought he seemed vaguely familiar but they failed to recognize him. Zhang Wuji laughed, and said: “Have you forgotten me? I'm Little Martial Uncle Wuji.” The two of them then remembered the past, and were very happy. They said:“Ah, Little Martial Uncle, you've come back! Have you recovered from your illness?” The three of them were around the same age and used to play together. Zhang Wuji said: “Qing Feng, let me pretend to be you and go carry Third Martial Uncle. Let's see whether he notices it's me.” Qing Feng hesitated, saying:“That...that is not a very good idea!” Zhang Wuji said: “When Third Martial Uncle sees that I have recovered from my illness and returned, he'll be very happy. Why would he scold you?” Both of them knew that Zhang Sanfeng and the Wudang Six Heroes all love Zhang Wuji very much. His recovery and return to Wudang was a very happy thing. He only wanted to play a little joke to cheer Yu Daiyan up; there was no harm in it. Ming Yue laughed: “Let's do what Little Martial Uncle says!” While giggling, Qing Feng took off his Taoist robe and shoes, and exchanged them with Zhang Wuji. Ming Yue tied his hair in Taoist fashion. He now looked like a little novice priest.

Ming Yue said:“You want to impersonate Qing Feng but you don't look like him. We'll say that you are a newcomer and that Qing Feng broke his leg so you replaced him.” Zhang Wuji laughed:“Good idea......” The priest outside the room scolded:“What are you two giggling about? Taking so long to get here.” Zhang Wuji and Ming Yue stuck out their tongues and carried the chair into Yu Daiyan's room. The two of them lifted Yu Daiyan into the carry chair. Yu Daiyan had a solemn expression on his face and he paid no attention to who the novices who carried him were. He said:“Go to the small compound at the back of the mountain to see grandteacher!” Ming Yue answered: “Yes!” He lifted the front end of the carry chair while Zhang Wuji lifted the back end. Yu Daiyan could only see Ming Yue's back; Zhang Wuji was hidden from his view. Kong Xiang went along with them but the priest did not dare follow without Yu Daiyan's orders. The small compound where Zhang Sanfeng meditated was deep in the bamboo forest at the back of the mountain. The forest is dense and dark - other than the sound of birds chirping, not the slightest sound could be heard. Ming Yue and Zhang Wuji carried Yu Daiyan to the front of a small compound and stopped. Yu Daiyan was about to call out when suddenly they heard Zhang Sanfeng say:“A eminent reverend from Shaolin comes to my humble residence. Please forgive this old Taoist for not coming out to welcome you.” With a ‘ya’ sound,the bamboo door was shoved open and Zhang Sanfeng came out. Kong Xiang wore an astonished expression on his face, he was shocked that Zhang Sanfeng already knew he was a Shaolin monk. But then he assumed that the priest had already come to report. Yu Daiyan knew his Master's martial arts were growing more and more profound. By the sound of Kong Xiang's footsteps alone, he could tell which sect he belong to. Zhang Wuji could hide his presence from Zhang Sanfeng because his inner power was much grater that Kong Xiang's. He saw that though his grandteacher's face was glowing with health, his bread and eyebrows are completely white. He had aged quite a lot since their separation. He was both happy and grieved. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he hurriedly turned his head away.

Kong Xiang put his palms together and said: “Kong Xiang of Shaolin pays his respects to Master Zhang of Wudang.” Zhang Sanfeng returned his salutations saying:“There's no need to be so polite. Please come in.” The five of them entered the small compound. On the table was a teapot and a teacup. There was a rush cushion on the floor and a wooden sword hanging on the wall. Other than that, the room was bare. Kong Xiang said: “Master Zhang, Shaolin Sect has suffered the greatest catastrophe in its history. The Demon Cult launched an unexpected sneak attack on us. From the abbot Kong Wen downwards, all have either died in battle or have been captured. I barely managed to escape. The Demon Cult is now heading for Wudang. Today the fate of the martial world rests in Master Zhang's hands.” After saying this he cried. Zhang Wuji was shaken, he knew Shaolin had met with a tragedy, but he never imagined the whole sect was destroyed.

Though Zhang Sanfeng had been seeking enlightenment for a hundred years, this sudden sad news shocked him and he was momentarily speechless. Collecting himself, he said: “The Demon Sect is really savage. How did the Shaolin experts fall to the Demon Cult?” Kong Xiang replied:“Martial brothers Kong Zhi and Kong Xing and their disciples, together five main sects besieged Brightness Peak. The monks who stayed behind waited calmly everyday for good news. On that day, there was a report that they had returned from a great victory. Abbot Kong Wen was delighted with the news. Accompanied by the temple disciples, he went out to welcome them. We saw martial brothers Kong Zhi and Kong Xing leading the disciples who had gone along, returning to the temple. They had even captured several hundred prisoners. When they entered the main courtyard, the Abbot asked about details of the victory. Brother Kong Zhi gave yes, no answers. Brother Kong Xing stared at the ground and said:‘Brother look out, we have fallen into the enemies' hands. The prisoners are our captors...’ At the moment of the Abbot's shock, the prisoners took out weapons and suddenly attacked. My sect's people were caught off guard. Also, the most skilled fighters went on the Western expedition, those who remained behind were weak fighters. The escape routes from the courtyard blocked by the enemy. After a fierce fight, we were finally defeated. Brother Kong Xing died for our cause at the scene...” After saying up to here, he broke off sobbing. Zhang Sanfeng said sadly: “The Demon Sect is really ruthless. How can anyone be prepared for such an evil trick?” Only to see Kong Xiang open the yellow cloth bundle he had carried on his back. Inside was an oil-cloth. He opened the oil-cloth to reveal human head. The eyes were wide open and the face angry. It was one of the three Divine Reverends of Shaolin, Kong Xing. Zhang Sanfeng and Zhang Wuji both knew Kong Xing's appearance. As soon as they saw it, they could not help exclaiming in shock. Kong Xiang sobbed:“I risked my life to retrieve martial brother Kong Xing's body. Master Zhang, how do you think we should take revenge? ” So saying he placed Kong Xing's head on the table, and prostrated himself on the ground. Zhang Sanfeng bowed back.

Zhang Wuji thought back to the fight on Brightness Peak. Divine Reverend Kong Xing was generous and heroic, a worthy great master of Shaolin. Now that he had suffered death in the hands of an evil person, his head and body separated, Zhang Wuji was sad.

Zhang Sanfeng saw that Kong Xiang knelt on the ground crying for a long time. He helped him up saying:“Brother Kong Xiang,Shaolin and Wudang are one family. This blood debt must not...” Just as he said that,there was a loud 'wham' sound as Kong Xiang's two hands hit him on the stomach.

This happened extremely suddenly. Though Zhang Sanfeng's martial arts were profound and amazing,he never expected that a top Shaolin expert who had come from far to bring news would attack him. At this moment, he even thought that Kong Xiang had lost his mind momentarily due to grief, and imagined he was an enemy. The next moment he realized that this could not be. The palm used to hit him was Shaolin's “Diamond Prajna Palm”. Kong Xiang had attacked with full force, using all his internal energy. His face was pale but there was a hint of a fierce smile.

Zhang Wuji, Yu Daiyan and Ming Yue were so shock they were rooted on the spot. Yu Daiyan was paralysed, so he could not help his Master. Zhang Wuji was young and inexperienced, he did not realize that Kong Xiang had struck a lethal blow. The two of them could only let out an exclaimation. Only to see Zhang Sanfeng stretch out his left palm and tapped Kong Xiang lightly on the head. Though this tap was soft and gentle, it was as hard as iron. Kong Xiang's skull was smashed and he dropped dead to the ground without uttering a sound. Yu Daiyan said urgently: "Master, you...” As he said this, he stopped. He saw Zhang Sanfeng sit down with his eyes closed. White mist was coming out of his head. Suddenly he opened his mouth and coughed out fresh blood.

Zhang Wuji was shocked. He knew his grandteacher's injuries were not light. If the blood had been black or purple, with his unparalleled internal energy, he would be able to recover within 3 days. But the blood he coughed up was fresh and it spurted out. This meant he had suffered severe internal injuries. At this time, he wondered: "Should I reveal myself to help grandteacher?”

Just at this time,the sound of footsteps approaching could be heard, someone had arrived outside. From the hurried sound of the footsteps, the person was very anxious. But he did not dare rush in or make a sound. Yu Daiyan said:“Is that Ling Xu?What is the matter?” The welcoming priest Ling Xu said:“Third Martial Uncle, there is a big group of Demon Cult outside. They say they want to meet Grandmaster. They swore with vulgar words, saying they want to annihilate Wudang Sect......” Yu Daiyan shouted:“Shut up!” He was afraid Zhang Sanfeng would be distracted, causing his injuries become worse. Zhang Sanfeng slowly opened his eyes and said:“Shaolin's Diamond Prajna Palm is really powerful. Unless I have 3 months to take care of my injuries it'll be difficult to make a complete recovery.” Zhang Wuji thought:“It looks like Grandteacher's injuries are more serious than I thought.”

Only to hear Zhang Sanfeng say:“The Ming Cult is launching a large attack on us. Ai, I wonder if Yuanqiao, Lianzhou and the others are safe?Daiyan, what do you think we should do?” Yu Daiyan did not reply. He knows that except for his Master and himself, all the third and forth generation disciples remaining on the mountain had mediocre martial arts. Going out to fight would be the equivalent of suicide. The only thing to do would be to sacrifice his life facing the enemy to give his master a chance to escape and recover, and take revenge in the future. So he said:“Ling Xu, go and tell those people that I'm coming out to meet them. Let them wait in the Hall of Triple Clarity.” Ling Xu obeyed and left. Zhang Sanfeng and Yu Daiyan's master-disciple relationship was very old and they understood each other very well. Hearing this, Zhang Sanfeng understood his intentions. He said:“Daiyan,life of death, victory or defeat, these are unimportant things. But Wudang's martial arts legacy must not disappear just like that. During my meditation in the past eighteen months I have comprehended the essence of martial arts and created Taiji Fist and Taiji Sword. I'll teach it to you now.”

Yu Daiyan was stunned. He had been paralysed for such a long time, how could he learn martial arts? Moreover the enemies were already at their doorstep – there was no time to learn martial arts. He could only say:“Master!” Beyond that he was speechless. Zhang Sanfeng laughed a little and said:“Since the founding of Wudang, we have done many good deeds. If there is any justice in the world we will not be destroyed like this. This Taiji Fist and Taiji Sword that I have created are completely different from all other kinds of martial arts. Stillness defeats movement, and that which moves first overcomes that which moves later. Your master is already more than a hundred years old. Even if I don't run into a powerful enemy, how much longer can I live?I am happy that I have created these martial arts at the twilight of my life. Yuanqiao, Lianzhou, Songxi, Liting and Shenggu are not here now. Except for Qingshu, there are no extraordinary talents among the third and fourth generation disciples. Moreover he is not here too. Daiyan, you are the one who can bear this heavy burden. It matters not that Wudang Sect is humiliated today. So long as Taiji Fist and Taiji Sword survive, Wudang Sect's name will live on for thousands of years.” After saying this, his spirit lifted up heroically, the presence of powerful enemies no longer bothered him. Yu Daiyan obeyed, he understood his master wanted him to bear the enemies' insults. The main priority is to ensure Wudang's martial arts survive.

Zhang Sanfeng slowly stood up. He lowered both of his hands, with the back of his hands facing outwards and his fingers relaxed. His feet were slightly apart. He then raised his arms to chest height. His left hand faced upward in the Yin Palm position and the right hand in the Yang Palm position. He said:“This is the Taiji Fist opening stance.”Then he demonstrated each form one by one, calling out their names:- Grasping the Sparrow's Tail, Single Whip, Lifting up the Hand, White Crane Spreads its Wings, Brushing the Knee and the Twisted Step, Playing the Pipa, Step Forward Deflect Parry and Punch, Apparent Closure, Crossing Hands, Carrying the Tiger Returning to the Mountain......

*These are the actual names of Taijiquan forms.

Zhang Wuji watched attentively, not taking his eyes away. At first he thought his grandteacher was deliberately demonstrating the moves slowly so Yu Daiyan could see them clearly. But when he saw the seventh stance “Playing the Pipa (a Chinese musical instrument)”- the left hand embodiying Yang and the right hand Yin,eyes fixed on the back of his left hand, both hands pushing slowly. This push was as heavy as a mountain but as light as a feather. Zhang Wuji finally understood:“This is about the slow beating the swift, about stillness overcoming movement. I never imagined such amazing martial arts to exist in this world.” He could understand this because his martial arts foundation was very firm. The more he watched the more amazed he felt. Both of Zhang Sanfeng's hands moved in circular form. Each stroke encompassed Taiji's Yin and Yang. It was so incredible, like nothing ever seen in the world before. After a while, Zhang Sanfeng stopped. Even though he had just suffered severe internal injuries, he seemed stronger and more energetic going through the fist techniques. With his two hands holding the Taiji circle, he said “The essence of this fist technique is 16 words -'Xu Ling Ding Jin, Han Xiong Ba Bei, Song Yao Chui Tun, Chen Jian Zhui Zhou' (*). Use intention not strength. The form and spirit become one. This is core of the fist technique.” Then he went on explaining the details.

*Xu Ling Ding Jin-Empty the neck, let energy reach the crown Han Xiong Ba Bei-Sink the chest, lift the back

Chen Jian Zhui Zhou-Sink the shoulders, drop the elbows

(From "The Way of Qigong" by Kenneth S. Cohen, thanks to dustbiter) and Song Yao Chui Tun - Loose waist, bend at the buttocks.*

Yu Daiyan did not say a word and listened. He knew that time was pressing, he did not have the leisure to ask questions. Although there were parts he did not understand completely, he memorized everything. In the event that any calamity should befall his master, he would still be able to pass the theory on. In the future there will be some intelligent and talented disciple who would be able to understand it. By contrast, Zhang Wuji could understand most of it. He could figure out Zhang Sanfeng’s every word and each stance and was extremely happy. Zhang Sanfeng saw that Yu Daiyan looked confused. He asked:“How much do you understand?” Yu Daiyan said:“Your disciple is stupid. I can only understand 30-40 percent. But I have memorized each stance and all the theory.” Zhang Sanfeng said:“It is difficult for you. If Lianzhou were here he would be able to understand about 50 percent. Ai, your fifth brother's comprehension was the greatest. It's a pity he died young. If I had 3 years to teach him, I would be able to pass my legacy on.” Listening to him talk about his father, there was a sour feeling in Zhang Wuji's heart. Zhang Sanfeng said:“The key to this fist technique is its loose yet not loose, spread out yet not spread out, broken yet uninterrupted......” As he was talking, there was a yell:“That old Taoist Zhang Sanfeng is hiding. Let us kill all his disciples and grand-disciples.” Another coarse and heroic voice said:“Great! First let us burn this place down. ” Yet another person said:“Burning the old Taoist to death is letting him off easily. We should catch him, tie him up and parade him in front of every sect. Let everyone see how this Mount Tai and North Star is brought down.” Though the small compound was two li away from the main hall, everyone could hear those words clearly. The enemies must be showing off their internal energy, which was very powerful. Listening to these insults on his master, Yu Daiyan was furious and his eyes flared up. Zhang Sanfeng said:“Daiyan,why do you forget what I told you so easily?If you can't bear some insults, how can you accomplish the important task? ” Yu Daiyan said:“Yes, I accept your teachings.” Zhang Sanfeng said:“Your whole body is paralysed so the enemy won't be wary against you. Whatever happens, you must not lose your temper and act rashly. This technique has been created with much sweat and blood. If it fails to be passed on, you will be the worst sinner of Wudang Sect.” When Yu Daiyan heard this, he broke out in cold sweat. He knew the meaning behind his master's words – no matter what the enemies do to humiliate them, he must seek to preserve his life so the techniques can be passed on.

Zhang Sanfeng took out a pair of Lohan figurines and gave them to Yu Daiyan (I'm not sure how Yu Daiyan received them with his crippled hands

) saying:“Kong Xiang said that Shaolin has been annihilated. We don't know if that is true. This person is a top expert from Shaolin and yet he has surrendered to the enemies. This means Shaolin must have suffered from some great danger. These Lohan figures were give to me by Heroine Guo Xiang a hundred years ago. In the future you should return them to Shaolin. Hopefully parts of Shaolin martial arts will be preserved through them.” He then waved his sleeve and walked out the door.

Yu Daiyan said:“Carry me and follow Master” Ming Yue and Zhang Wuji lifted up the carry chair and followed behind Zhang Sanfeng. When the four of them arrived at the Hall of Triple Clarity, they saw there were about three to four hundred people there. Zhang Sanfeng walked to the centre and nodded a greeting but remained silent. Yu Daiyan said loudly:“This is my Master, the Venerable Master Zhang. Why did you come to Wudang Mountain?” Zhang Sanfeng's reputation had shaken the martial arts world, for a moment everyone looked at him. They only saw a man with tall stature with silver coloured hair and beard and wearing a dirty grey Taoist robe, there was nothing special about him. Zhang Wuji saw that around half of the people present were wearing Ming Cult's clothes. Their ten leaders were wearing ordinary clothes, probably because they were too proud to impersonate other people. There were tall and short, monks and ordinary people, hundreds of people crowded into the hall. It was difficult to judge them based on their appearance. At this moment,suddenly someone called out:“Cult leader has arrived!” Immediately the hall fell into a respectful silence. The ten leaders and their followers rushed out to greet their leader. In just a short time, the hall was completely empty. Then footsteps signaled the return of those people. They halted outside the hall. Zhang Wuji looked through the door and was startled. He saw eight people carrying a yellow satin sedan chair and seven or eight bodyguards. They stopped at the entrance. The people carrying the sedan chair were the Eight Divine Archers from Green Willow Village.

Zhang Wuji was shaken. He rubbed both his hands on the dusty floor and then smeared the dust on his face. Ming Yue only thought that he was terrified seeing a powerful enemy arrive and so tried to hide his features. He too panicked and followed Zhang Wuji. In a flash, the two novice priests' faces were both grey, making it difficult to make out their features. The sedan chair's door opened and a young man got out. He was wearing a white robe embroidered with a blood red flame and carrying a fan. It was Zhao Min disguised as a man. Zhang Wuji thought: "So it is her who is behind all this, no wonder Shaolin was so utterly defeated.” Only to see her enter the hall followed by around 10 people. A tall and powerfully-built man steps forward, bowed and said: "Reporting to Sect Leader, this is Wudang Sect's Zhang Sanfeng and that paralysed man should be his third disciple Yu Daiyan." Zhao Min nodded, took a few steps forward, folded her fan, cupped her hands and bowed to Zhang Sanfeng, saying: "Ming Cult Leader, Junior Zhang Wuji, is fortunate to meet the North Star of the wulin today!" Zhang Wuji was furious. He scolded in his heart: “It's bad enough that you pretend to the Ming Cult leader. How dare you use my name and come to trick my Grandteacher!” When Zhang Sanfeng heard the words “Zhang Wuji”, he thought it was very strange: “How is it that the Demon Sect's leader such a young girl? And why does she have the same name as Wuji?” Nevertheless he returned her salutation and said:“I did not know that Sect Leader was coming so I didn't come out to greet you. I hope you'll forgive me!” Zhao Min said: “You flatter me!”

Ling Xu directed the novice priests to serve tea. Zhao Min sat down. Her subordinates stood a distance behind her, not daring to come within five feet of her for fear of offending her.

Zhang SanFeng had practiced Taosim for a hundred year, it had been a long time since anything affected him emotionally. However, he had a deep bond with his disciples. With the safety of Song Yuanqiao and the others unknown, he was extremely worried, so he immediately asked: “The disciples of this old Taoist overestimated their own abilities, they even dared to challenge top experts from your cult. To date, they've not returned. Would you be so kind as to inform me of their whereabouts?” Zhao Min laughed and said:“Eldest Hero Song, Second Hero Yu, Fourth Hero Zhang and Seventh Hero Mu have fallen into my cult's hands. All of them have suffered some injuries, but their lives are not in danger.” Zhang SanFeng said:“Suffered some injuries?More likely they have been poisoned.”Zhao Min laughed:“Master Zhang has great confidence in Wudang's kungfu. If you say they have been poisoned, then they are poisoned."

Zhang Sanfeng knew that his disciples were top-class experts of their time. Even if they were outnumbered and defeated, at least a few would have made it back to report. Since all of them were capturured,it was definitely because they had been poisoned. Zhao Min saw that he had guessed what happened, so she casually admitted it. Zhang Sanfeng then asked:“What about my disciple surnamed Yin?” Zhao Min sighed:“Sixth Hero Yin fell into Shaolin's ambush. His four limbs have been broken with Shaolin's Golden Silver Fingers. He won't die but he can no longer move!” From her expression, Zhang Sanfeng knew that this was not empty talk,he was deeply grieved. With a ‘wa’ sound, he coughed out a mouthful of blood. Zhao Min's followers behind her were delighted, they knew Kong Xiang's sneak attack must have been successful and this Wudang master had suffered a serious injury. Their only fear had been Zhang Sanfeng, now there was nothing left to worry about.

Zhao Min said: “Junior has some advice to give. Would you like to hear it Master Zhang?” Zhang Sanfeng replied: “Please speak up.” Zhao Min said: “All land under heaven belongs to the Emperor, the Emperor and his ministers lead the country. The Mongol emperor's power stretches over the whole world. If Master Zhang chooses to serve, His Majesty will surely reward you and Wudang will be greatly honoured. Eldest Hero Song and the rest too will come to no harm.” Zhang Sanfeng looked up to the ceiling and coldly said: “Though the Ming Cult has walked the unrighteous path and has committed all sorts of atrocities, you have always opposed the Mongols. When did you submit to the government? This old priest must be really isolated since I have heard nothing about this.” Zhao Min said:“Leaving the darkness and embracing the light,it is the mark of a hero to follow the trend of the times. Shaolin's Kong Wen, Kong Zhi and the others have all submitted and pledged their loyalty to the government. My sect is just following the way the wind is blowing, what's so strange about that?”

Zhang Sanfeng's eyes flashed, he stared directly at Zhao Min and said: “The Yuan (ie Mongol dynasty) are brutal and do great harm to the common people. At present all the heroes of the world have risen up to drive out the barbarians and reclaim our land. It is the aspiration of every descendent of the Yellow Emperor (ie Chinese) to do so – that is the way the wind is truly blowing. Though I am a priest,I still understand the meaning of righteousness. Kong Wen and Kong Zhi are enlightened monks of our time, how could they bow to power? How can your words be so confused?”

Suddenly, a man came out from behind Zhao Min, yelling:“Stupid old monk, you don't know what you are talking about! Wudang Sect is about to be annihilated. Though you're not afraid of death, can it be that the hundred plus priests and disciples on this mountain are not?” This person's speech is full of vigour,with his tall stature and powerful build,he cut an intimidating figure. Zhang Sanfeng recited:“Since olden days, which man has lived and not died? I'll leave a loyalist name in history!*"

(*Translation from http://www.chinapage.org/poet-e/wentian2e.html).

This was two lines from a poem by Wen Tianxiang. At the time Wen Tianxiang died,Zhang Sanfeng was still very young. He deeply respected this heroic prime minister. Later on he regretted that at the time his martial arts were still undeveloped,otherwise he definitely would have risked his life to save him. Faced with this difficult situation, he naturally recited the poem. He paused for a moment then continued: “Actually Prime Minester Wen was somewhat obstinate. As for me, I'll just remain loyal,it doesn't matter what the history books say!” He looked at Yu Daiyan thinking:“And yet I hope that my Taichi Fist and Taichi Sword will managed to be passed on to future generations. Wouldn't it be the same result as Prime Minister Wen taking into consideration his reputation after death? As long as I have a clear conscience, why worry whether my Taichi Fist can be passed to future generations or whether Wudang Sect survives!”

Zhao Min waved her left arm gently. That man bowed and retreated. She smiled faintly and said:“Since Master Zhang is so stubborn, there is no need to say anything else for now. Will you all please come with me!” So saying, she stood up. Four people standing behind her immediately surrounded Zhang Sanfeng. These four people are the powerfully built man, a man in rags, a skinny monk, and a bearded foreigner with blue eyes. Zhang Wuji saw from the way they moved that this four men were no pushovers. He was startled: “How is it that this Miss Zhao has such powerful fighters working for her?” He saw that if he refused to go along with her; the four of them will attack. Zhang WuJi thought: “The enemy are in large numbers, plus they are immoral and shameless people. They're not comparable to the six major sects which attacked Brightness Peak. It won't be easy for me to protect grandteacher and third martial uncle. Even if I defeat a number of them,they won't admit defeat and will definitely attack together. Still, the situation is such that I'll have to risk everything to do so. The best thing to do would be to capture Miss Zhao to force them to give in.”

He was just about to step forward to deal with those four when a long laugh was heard from outside. A green man-shaped shadow darted into the hall. This man's movements were as stealthy as a ghost and a swift as lightning. In a flash, he was behind the powerfully built man, and launched a palm attack. The powerfully built man returned a palm without turning around, intending to compete strength. The man in green didn't wait for this move to be completed, his left hand had already tapped the foreigner's shoulder. The foreigner swiftly dodged sideways and kicked at his lower abdomen. That man had already turned to attack the skinny monk while tilting his body to the side his left palm hit out at the person dressed in rags. In a split second, he had made four attacks, each against a top fighter. Though none of them found it's target, the speed of his techniques was truly beyond imagination. These four people knew they were facing a formidable opponent. Each leapt a few steps backwards, focusing the full attention on the battle.

That person in green ignored the enemy, bowed to Zhang Sanfeng and said: “Ming Cult's Sect Leader Zhang's subordinate, junior Wei Yixiao pays his respects to Master Zhang!” This man was really Wei Yixiao. After dealing with the enemies' obstructions, he had doubled his speed to catch up.

Zhang Sanfeng heard him refer to himself as “Ming Cult's Sect Leader Zhang's subordinate”. So he assumed that he was part of Zhao Min's party, and suspected that the forcing of those four people to retreat was just a trick. He said coldly: “Mr. Wei doesn't have to be so polite. I have long heard that the Green Wing Bat King's lightness kungfu is without peer in the world. Now I see that you really live up to your reputation.” Wei Yixiao was delighted. He rarely came to the central plains so he was not well known there. Who would have thought that Zhang Sanfeng knew of his lightness kungfu. Bowing, he said: "Venerable Zhang is the North Star of the martial arts community. It is a great honour for me to receive your praise.”

He turned around, pointed at Zhao Min and said: "Miss Zhao, what is your purpose in impersonating the Ming Cult and ruining our reputation? Should a real man be so sly and crafty?" Zhao Min giggled: "I am not a man to begin with. So what if I'm sly and crafty – what can you do about it?" The very first thing Wei Yixiao said was already a mistake. He was unable to come up with a reply. Instead he said: “What do you mean by “first attack Shaolin, then harass Wudang? If you have a enmity with Shaolin and Wudang, the Ming Cult shouldn't interfere. But as you use our name and impersonate us, I, Wei Yixiao cannot ignore it!”

All along, Zhang Sanfeng had not believed that the Ming Cult would surrender to the government after being mortal enemies for a hundred years. After hearing Wei Yixiao's words he understood, thinking: “So this girl is actually pretending to be someone she's not. Though the Demon Cult has a bad reputation, when it comes to major matters they are clear on what has to be done.” Zhao Min turned to the powerfully built man and said: “Listen to him blow his own trumpet! Go and try out his skills.” The man bowed and replied:“Yes!” Tightening his belt, he walked to the middle of the hall and said: “Bat King Wei, let me have the pleasure of seeing your Cold Ice Cotton Palm!”

Wei Yixiao was startled: “How does this guy know about my Cold Ice Cotton Palm? Since he knows that I have this skill and yet still challenges me, he can't be an easy opponent.” He said:“May I know your name?” That man replied:“We are here impersonating Ming Cult, so you think we will reveal our real names? Bat King Wei, you are really stupid to ask this.” The people behind Zhao Min burst into laughter. Wei Yixiao said coldly: “That's right,I was stupid to ask. You're simply a running dog of the government, a slave of the foreigners, it is better you don't tell us your real name in order not to disgrace your ancestors. ” The man's face turned red and he struck out at Wei Yixiao's chest in anger.

Wei Yixiao dodged quickly and moving as fast as lightning, he stretched out his arm to poke the man's back. He did not use his Cold Ice Cotton Palm yet because he wanted to test out his opponent's skills first. The man blocked with his left arm and counter-attacked. The man's palm strokes grew faster and more aggressive as the fight progressed. Though Wei Yixiao's internal injuries had been cured by Zhang Wuji, and he no longer has to drink blood to suppress the cold poison, nevertheless he only had had a short time to recover. Now faced with a powerful opponent, coupled with the fact he was fighting in front of the legendary Zhang Sanfeng, he did not dare get careless. So he started to use his Cold Ice Cotton Palm. Their palm strokes gradually slowed as they shifted to competing internal strength. Suddenly there was a yell and a greenish-black object shot through the door heading for that man. This object was larger than a rice sack – it is really odd that there such an enourmous weapon even existed. The man's right palm shot out hitting the object about ten feet away. As his hand made contact, he realised the object was soft yet he could not put a finger on what it was. But a scream was heard - it turned out that there was someone inside. This person has been hit by that man with full power and no mercy, how could his muscles not be smashed and his bones broken? The man was startled and froze in place for a moment. Noiselessly, Wei Yixiao moved up behind him and struck his Da Tui acupoint with his Cold Ice Cotton Palm. The man turned around angrily using his full strength to hit Wei Yixiao's head.

Wei YiXiao laughed and surprisingly he did not move. In the middle of his strike, the man's hand felt weak. Though he made contact with his opponent, the effect was like being gently stroked. Wei Yixiao knew that once the Cold Ice Cotton Palm energy enters the body, the person's strength will dissipate. Nevertheless, in a battle between expert fighters, to allow a powerful opponent to hit his head was an extremely daring thing to do. Therefore, all the spectators were astonished. In the event that the man had been able to resist the Cold Ice Cotton Palm Wei Yixiao's skull would have been crushed. Wei Yixiao had been a strange person all his life. If there was anything other people are afraid of doing or would refuse to do, he would be more than happy to do it. He had taken advantage of that man's distraction to launch a sneak attack, which was underhand thing to do. Therefore, he daringly let the man hit his head as compensation.

The man dressed in rags tore open the sack and pulled a person out. His face was blood-red having met a violent death under the hand of that powerfully built man. This person is dressed in black and was a member of their party. Somehow he had been caught and imprisoned in the sack. The man in rags was furious, he yelled: “Who was it who cunningly ” Before

he could finish, a white sack floated onto his head. He leapt backwards to avoid it, only to see a fat monk grinning at him. Cloth Sack Monk Shuo Bu De had arrived.

Since Shuo Bu De's Qian Kun Yi Qi Sack was thorn to shreds by Zhang Wuji on Guang Ming Peak he had no weapon. He could only quickly fashion a few cloth sacks to use. These were only ordinary sacks unlike the Qian Kun Yi Qi Sack with was impenetrable by swords and sabers. Though his lightness kungfu could not match Wei Yixiao, it was still quite good. Added to the fact that he faced no hindrance along the way, this meant he managed to catch up. Shuo Bu De saluted to Zhang Sanfeng and said: “Ming Cult's Sect Leader Zhang's subordinate, Wanderer Cloth Sack Monk Shuo Bu De pays his respects to Venerable Zhang.” Zhang SanFeng returned his salute saying:“You must be tired from your long journey.” Shuo Bu De said: “My humble cult's sect leader's subordinates the Emissary of Guang Ming, White Browed Eagle King, as well as the other four Wanderers, Five Flags Leaders and other forces have already arrived at WuDang. Master Zhang can just relax and watch the Ming Cult deal with these shameless imposters.”

He was actually bluffing. Such a large group of Ming Cult's forces could not have arrived so quickly. But when Zhao Min heard it, she could not help frowning slightly while thinking:“Who would have thought that they could arrive so quickly? Who leaked our secret?” Unable to bear it any longer she asked: “Where is your Sect Leader Zhang? Ask him to come and see me.” So saying she turned to Wei Yixiao and looked him in the eye. Her gaze was questioning – asking him where his Sect Leader was. Wei Yixiao laughed and said:“Now you are no longer trying to impersonate us, right?” He too wondered:“Sect Leader has definitely arrived, but where is he right now?” Zhang Wuji was hidden behind Ming Yue,he knew Wei Yixiao and Shuo Bu De have yet to recognize him. He was relieved seeing that these two helpers have arrived. Zhao Min laughed coldly and said: “One venomous bat, one stinking monk, what can you do?”

Just as she said this, a long laugh was heard from the roof on the east of the building, asking: “ Reverend Shuo Bu De, has Left Emissary Yang arrived?” This person's voice resonated loudly. The White Browed Eagle King Yin TianZheng had arrived. Shuo Bu De had not yet answered when Yang Xiao's laughter was heard from western roof. Only to hear him laughingly say: “Eagle King, you keep improving as you grow older. You reached here a step faster.” Yin TianZheng laughed: “No need to be so polite, we both arrived at the same time. It'll be splitting hairs to decide who's faster. I fear that you gave way to me for Sect Leader Zhang's sake.” Yang Xiao said: “Definitely not! I've given it my best shot but still failed to beat you.” Enroute to Wudang the two of them had decided to compete to see who was faster. Yin TianZheng's inner power was profound but Yang Xiao's steps were quicker. As a result they were neck to neck with each other from the start to finish. Laughing, both men jumped down from the roof.

Zhang Sanfeng had long heard of Yin Tianzheng's reputation. Moreover he was Zhang Cuishan's father-in-law. Yang Xiao was also a famous person in the martial world. He took three steps forward, cupped his hands and said: “Zhang Sanfeng respectfully welcomes Brother Yin and Brother Yang.” In his heart he wondered: “Yin Tianzheng is the Heavenly Eagle Sect's leader. Why did he say ‘for Sect Leader Zhang’s sake’?” Yin and Yang bowed to him. Yin Tianzheng said: “I've long heard of Master Zhang distinguished name, but never had the opportunity to meet you. Today, I am very fortunate to do so.” Zhang Sanfeng said: “You are both great masters of the era. The arrival of you both has truly made this a great occasion.”

Zhao Min saw that more and more Ming Sect experts were arriving and she became even angrier. Though Zhang Wuji had not showed up, she was worried about any schemes he might have put in place. It looked like it would be difficult for her carefully laid plans to succeed. But they had managed to seriously injure Zhang Sanfeng, there woould not be another opportunity as good as this. If they did not wrap up matters at Wudang today, once his injuries recover he will be a thorn in their side. With her eyes sweeping around, she sneered: “It is said in the martial arts world that Wudang is a top righteous sect, but how can hearing stories beat seeing with our own eyes? In reality Wudang has ganged up with the Demon Cult. The Demon Cult has simply been lending a land in all battles, Wudang' martial arts is really nothing worth talking about.” Shuo Bu De said:“Miss Zhao, you're only a little girl. When Master Zhang shook the martial arts world, your grandfather probably wasn't even born yet. What does a little kid know?” The ten or so people behind Zhao Min stepped forward glaring at him. Shuo Bu De smiled: “Do you think my words are unfit to be said? My name is Shuo Bu De (ie cannot to be said), but when I want to saw something I'll say it. What can you do about it?” The skinny monk yelled angrily: “My lady, let your subordinate deal with this big-mouthed monk!” Shuo Bu De called out: “Wonderful! Wonderful! You are an unruly monk, I am also a unruly monk. Let us compete with each other. If Master Zhang gives us some pointers, it'll be more beneficial than 10 years of our own dedicated practice.” So saying, he pulled a cloth sack out. The onlookers saw him take out one sack after another, there seemed to be no limit to the nimber of sacks inside his robe.

Zhao Min shook her head slightly, saying: “Today we have come to seek pointers from Wudang. No matter which fighter from Wudang comes forward, we will gladly compete him. Let's see if Wudang's martial arts are really great or whether it's just an empty reputation. We can settle our differences with the Ming Cult another time. That little devil Zhang Wuji, I want to rip his flesh and peel off his skin to vent my anger.” When Zhang Sanfeng heard this he was surprised: “Is Ming Cult's Leader really called Zhang Wuji? And why ‘little devil’?” Shuo Bu De laughed and said: “Our Sect Leader Zhang is a young hero. Miss Zhao is just worried that since you're a few years younger than our Sect Leader Zhang, you won't be able to marry him. In my opinion, you're a perfect match......” Before he could finis his sentence, the followers behind Zhao Min yelled out angrily: “Total nonsense!” “Shut up!” “The unruly monk is farting rubbish!” Zhao Min blushed. Her appearance was gentle and delicate, really like a shy young girl. However, this side of her was only seen for a moment. In a split second, her expression turned frosty. Turning to Zhang Sanfeng she said: “Master Zhang, if you're not willing to fight, you only have to admit that Wudang has been deceiving the world all along. We will then clap our hands and leave. Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou and the rest will also be returned to you.” At this moment, the Iron Hat Priest Zhang Zhong and Yin Yewang arrived. Not long later, Zhou Dian and Peng Yingyu too arrived. The Ming Cult now has four more fighters to help them.

Zhao Min realized that if they fight, victory is not assured. The most worrying thing is what sort of scheme Zhang Wuji had hatched. Her gaze swept over the Ming Cult members, thinking: “Zhang Sanfeng is a threat to the government because of his reputation and prestige. He is the figure the martial arts community looks to, the Mount Tai and the North Star. As long as he remains the enemy of the government, they will continue to resist us. But then again, he's already an old man, how much longer can he live? There's no need to take his live today. All we need to do is to disgrace him and destroy Wudang Sect's reputation. Our mission will then be successfully accomplished.” She said coldly: “Our purpose for visiting Wudang is to see if Master Zhang's martial arts are real or not. If we want to destroy the Ming Cult, we would have gone to Guang Ming Peak. There would have been no need to come to Mt Wudang to compete matrial arts. Can it be that in this world only you Master Zhang who can decide on a winner? I have three servants - one of them has learnt some basic swords skills, another has some shallow inner power, and the last one has learnt some mediocre boxing. Ah Da, Ah Er and Ah San come out. If you defeat my three servants, I'll recognise that Wudang Sect's martial arts really live up to its name. Otherwise the wulin will form its own opinion, there's no need for me to say any more.” So saying, she clapped her hands. Three men came out from behind her.

Ah Da was a dried up old man. In his hands was a long sword -this sword was the Heaven Sword. This man's body was slender, his face was set in a frown and full of wrinkles. His expression was one of a person who had just been defeated in a fight or a person whose wife and children had recently died. Just looking at his face made the onlookers feel sad and want cry for him. Ah Er was fellow of short stature. His head was smooth and oily and totally bald, the Tai Yang pressure points on both sides were depressed to about half an inch deep. Ah San was a strong-looking man with the power of a tiger. His face, hands and neck were bulging muscle. His whole body was full of energy, just like it was about to explode outwards. There was a mole with long hairs growing out of it on his left cheek. Zhang SanFeng, Yin TianZheng, Yang Xiao and the others were startled on seeing these three people.

Zhou Dian said: “Miss Zhao, these three are top experts of the martial arts world. I, Zhou Dian, am not a match for them. How is it that they lower themselves to pretend to be your servants to play a joke on Master Zhang?” Zhao Min replied: “When did I say that they are to experts of the martial arts world? Do you know what their names are?”Zhou Dian paused, then laughed saying: “This is‘Revealing a Sword to the World’ the Frowning Divine Gentleman and this is‘Qi Master of All Directions’ Bald Heavenly King. As for the other one, the whole world knows he is, hehe..he is...‘Unrivalled Divine Fist’ Honourable Elder of Great Strenght.”

Zhao Min could not help laughing a little after hearing such rubbish. She said: “How can my cooks and menial servants be a divine gentleman, a heavenly king and an honorable elder? Master Zhang, you compete with Ah San first.” Ah San took a step forward, cupped his fist and said: “Master Zhang, please!” He stamped his left foot. With a “kala” sound, three tiles broke. Breaking the tile his foot stepped on was nothing unusual. What was amazing was how the two tiles next to it also broke. Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao glanced at each other, thinking: “What a powerful guy!” Ah Da and Ah Er lowered their heads and retreated without a glance at the crowd. From the moment they entered the hall, these three only stood behind Zhao Min, their gaze lowered to the ground and with a humble expression on their faces. Because of this, nobody paid any attention to them. Unexpectedly, they are truly amazing experts. And yet when they retreated, they changed back into humble looking servants.

Ling Xu was worried about Zhang Sanfeng's injury. He could not take it anymore and shouted: “Can't you see that my grandteacher is injured? How...how can you...” As he said this, he started crying.

Yin Tianzheng thought: “So Master Zhang has been injured. Who was it who injured him? Even if he is not injured, at his age, how can he fight with this person? This person's martial arts are entirely of the hard style. Let me take Master Zhang's place.” So he said in a clear voice: “With Master Zhang's position, how can he fight the younger generation? Wouldn't he be the laughing stock of the world?Hrmph, these slaves are not even worth of fighting with me.” He knows Ah Da, Ah Er and Ah San are definitely no ordinary people, yet he deliberately tried to infuriate them to gain an advantage for himself. Zhao Min said: “Ah San, what did you do most recently? Tell them. Let's see if you aren't worthy to fight Wudang experts.” She emphasized on the word “Wudang”. Ah San said:“I didn't do anything much recently. I only fought with a Shaolin monk named Kong Xing defeated his Dragon Claws and cut of his head.” These words caused a sensation within the hall. The Ming Cult members had seen the Divine Monk Kong Xing fight with Zhang Wuji on Guang Ming peak. It was unimaginable that he had been killed by this person. He was definitely a match for Zhang Sanfeng. Yin Tianzheng said loudly: “Great! You even killed Shaolin's Kong Xing, let me try out your skills.” So saying he took two steps forward and took a stance with white eyebrows sticking out, exhibiting awesome power.

Ah San said: “White Browed Eagle King, you are from an evil and unorthodox background, I am also from an evil and unorthodox background. We cannot fight our own people. If you want to fight, we can choose another day to compete. Today my master orders me to try out Wudang's martial arts.” He turned to Zhang Sanfeng and said: “Master Zhang, if you don't want to come forward, you only need to say so. We won't force you. Once Wudang Sect concedes defeat, there'll be no need to take your life.” Zhang Sanfeng smiled faintly. Even though he was severely injured, using his newly created Taiji Fist's philosophy of 'emptiness overcoming fullness', he might not necessarily lose. The difficulty was that after defeating Ah San, he would then have to compete inner power with Ah Er. There was no way out of the situation, he could only focus on the present. He would have to defeat Ah San first then decide what to do.

He walked slowly to the centre of the hall. Turning to Yin Tianzheng he said: “I appreciate Brother Yin's good intentions. In the past few years I've created a new set of fist techniques called ‘Taiji Fist’. I believe it is quite different from other forms of martial arts. This benefactor wants to verify that Wudang's martial arts are real. If Brother Yin defeats him, he won't be satisfied. Let me exchange a few stances with him and take the opportunity show you the result of my painstaking work over these years.”

When Yin Tianzheng heard this he was happy and yet worried. Zhang Sanfeng spoke with full confidence in his Taiji Fist. He would not have spoken if he could not back up what he said. But he had just suffered a serious injury, even if the fist technique was excellent, his inner power might be insufficient. Still, he merely cupped his fists and said: “Junior respectfully defers to Master Zhang's divine skill.” On seeing Zhang Sanfeng unexpectedly come forward, fear struck Ah San's heart. But he turned his face and said: “Today I'll fight a battle of life or death with this old Taoist. Neither one of us will escape uninjured. This will shake the martial arts world.” He immediately drew his breath while staring at Zhang Sanfeng's face. As he held his breath, the sound of bones cracking was heard from all over his body. Everyone was startled. They knew this meant he had achieved the highest level of orthodox Buddhist martial arts. It was the Defeating Demon Diamond Skill.

When Zhang Sanfeng saw this he was startled: “This is no ordinary person! I wonder if my Taiji Fist can defeat him.” He slowly lifted up both hands in readiness to fight. Suddenly a disheveled and dirty-looking little novice priest came out from behind Yu Daiyan saying: “Grandteacher, this benefactor wants to witness our Wudang's fist skills. But there's no need for grandteacher to show him yourself. It'll be enough for this disciple to demonstrate a few stances for him.” This dirty-faced novice was Zhang Wuji. Yin Tianzheng, Yang Xiao and the rest parted with him only a short time ago. So even though his appearance was now completely different, after hearing his voice they recognized him. The Ming Cult members were overjoyed on seeing their sect leader had been there all along. How could Zhang Sanfeng and Yu Daiyan even imagine this?

Zhang SanFeng could not see his face clearly, and so assumed he was Qing Feng. He said: “This benefactor uses Shaolin's Defeating Demon Diamond Skill, an extremely powerful external skill. He is probably a top expert of Western Shaolin. He'll simply crush you to pieces with one blow.” Zhang Wuji's right hand pulled Zhang Sanfeng's sleeve and his left hand gently held Zhang Sanfeng's right hand. He said: “Grandteacher, the Taiji Fist you taught me has never been used before, we don't know if it will work or not. This benefactor is a hard style expert. Let me try out our philosophy of softness overcoming hardness and using the void to resist the solid. Wouldn't that be great?” After saying this, he used his palms to transfer his Art of 9 Yang chi into Zhang Sanfeng's body. At that moment, Zhang Sanfeng felt that the chi emitting from his palms to be so powerful that it without comparison in the whole world. Though it was far from being as refined as his own, the chi was firmly grounded yet soft and was limitless. He started and stared into Zhang Wuji's face. Only to see that his eyes did not shine brightly but had a soft, crystal-like layer in them. This meant that his inner power had reached the ultimate level. Except for his master Reverend Jue Yuan and Hero Guo Jing and a few others, he has never seen the same in anybody else. Of the top experts of the era, except for himself, he can think of no other person who has achieved this stage. In this instant, he mind was plagued with doubts and questions. However, this youth's abundant inner power was being used to treat his injury, he had no evil intentions. So he made his decision. He smiled while saying: “I am feeble and muddle-headed. How can I have any great kungfu to teach you? If you want to learn from this benefactor's super-hard kungfu, that is fine. Be careful.” Thinking that this young novice priest is a top expert from another sect sent to help out Wudang, his speech was humble and polite.

Zhang Wuji said: “Gradnteacher, I am greatly indebted to you. Even if my body is smashed to powder, I'll not be able to repay my debt to Grandteacher and Martial Uncles. Even though we do not dare claim Wudang's kungfu is matchless, it will not necessarily lose to Western Shaolin. Martial Grandfather, don't worry.” He spoke very earnestly, saying “Grandteacher” a few times. Even Zhang Sanfeng found it strange: “Could it be that he is a Wudang disciple? Cultivating himself secretly just like my master Reverend Jue Yuan?” He slowly released Zhang Wuji's hand, retreated and sat down. Glancing at Yu Daiyan he saw that he was equally bewildered.

Ah San saw Zhang Sanfeng send out this little novice to fight, it was like regarding him with disdain. But if he killed this little novice in one blow, agitate the old Taoist and then only fight with him, there will be a higher chance of coming out victorious. So he just said: “Little kid, watch out!”

Zhang Wuji said: “This fist technique I've just learnt is the product of my grandteacher's sweat and blood. It's called ‘Taiji Fist’. I'm only a beginner so I may not have fully comprehended its key points. I'm afraid I won't be able to defeat you within thirty stances. But that is because I'm not yet proficient at it, nothing to do with its inadequacies. This is something you must understand.” Instead of getting angry, Ah San laughed, turned to Ah Dan and Ah Er and said: “Eldest Brother, Second Brother, this kid is really barking mad.” Ah Er laughed heartily. Ah Da saw that this little novice priest was nobody to be trifled with. He said: “Third Brother, don't take your enemy lightly.” Ah San took a step forward, and punched Zhang Wuji's chest with a yell. This move was a quick as lightning. Midway through his strike, his left fist struck out even more quickly, reaching there first, aimed at Zhang Wuji's face. The stance was quite unusual, a true rarity.

Zhang Sanfeng had demonstrated and explained his Taiji Fist about an hour ago. Since then, Zhang Wuji had pondered about and understood its principles. On seeing Ah San's left fist heading his way, he countered with the Taiji Fist stance “Grasping the Sparrow's Tail”. With his right leg solid and his left leg empty, he used the “squeeze” technique and stuck with him. His right palm reached his opponent's left wrist,released his energy at full power. Unable to take the force, Ah San retreated two steps to the side.

The watching crowd gasped in astonishment. With this “Grasping the Sparrow's Tail” stance, the world had seen Taiji Fist used in combat for the first time. Zhang Wuji already had the Art of 9 Yang and Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi, now he suddenly made used of Taiji Fist's “sticky” technique. Though he learnt the skill no longer than two hours ago, it appeared as if he has studied it all his life. Ah San felt as if his punch which carried with it the force of a hundred thousand catties had simply entered an ocean and disappeared without a trace. At the same time, the force of his punch was directed back at him. At first he was startled but amazement quickly turned to fury. His fist attacked very quickly, the speed was such that it looked like he had more than ten arms with ten fists attacking all at once. His attacks descended like hurricane and rain. The watchers all though: “No wonder Kong Xing, despite his powerful martial arts, died under his hand.” Everyone apart from Zhao Min and her followers were worried for Zhang Wuji's safety.

Zhang Wuji intentionally wanted to show off Wudang's power and prestige. So he did not use his own martial arts. Each stance he used was Zhang Sanfeng's Taiji Fist – Single Whip, Lifting up the Hand,  White Crane Spreads Its Wings, Brushing the Knee and the Twisted Step. He executed the stance “Playing the Pipa”, with the right pushing down and the left accepting. In this instance, he understood the essence of the Taiji Fist. His stance became just like the moving clouds and flowing water, natural and unrestrained. Ah San felt like he was completely enveloped by Zhang Wuji's hands. He was unable to flee or resist. He could only direct his energy to his back to receive this strike with hard force. At the same he lashed out with his right fist, hoping that both of them would hit each other intending to take his enemy down with him. Unexpectedly, Zhang Wuji's hands formed a circle, like carrying the cosmos. From this came out a revolving force which was powerful any comparison, making Ah San spin round seven or eight times. Ah San has to use his “Thousand Catties Falling” skill to stop spinning. He was in a wretched state, his face red with embarrassment. The Ming Cult members applauded loudly.

Yang Xiao called out: “Wudang's Taiji Fist is so wonderful. It's a real eye- opener.” Zhou Dian laughed: “Ah San, I advice you to change your name to ‘Ah Zhuan’ (Note: “Zhuan” means to spin/turn)!” Yin Yewang said: “There's nothing to be embarrassed about if you spin a few more circles. Didn't the ancients say of the Thirty-sixth Stratagem is ‘spinning is the best strategy’?” (Note: this is a clever play on words by JY. The 36th Stratagem is “zhou wei shang ji – running away is the best option. Yin Yewang changed the word “? zhou” which means “run” to “? zhuan” which mean spin.) Shuo Bu De said: “Among the Heros of Mt Liang was Black Whirlwind. That whirlwind spun around too!” (Note: This is from Water Margin/Outlaws of the Marsh. The Black Whirlwind refers to Li Kui. I'm not familiar with the story, so don't ask me for details )

In his fury, Ah San's face changed from red to green. Yelling angrily, he threw himself forward in attack. His left hand switched between a fist to a palm and back again irregularly. His right hand used purely finger techniques - snatching and poking, hooking and digging, all five fingers extended like judge's brushes, like pressure point sealing pegs, like sabers and swords, like spears and lances, all extremely offensive moves. Zhang Wuji was not yet familiar with the Taiji Fist techniques. Faced with this barrage, he was unable to cope and his movements became erratic. Suddenly, part of his sleeve was torn off. He could only utlise his lightness kungfu to dash out of the way. Faced with this strange finger technique he only thing he could do was dodge. Ah San yelled and chased him. There was no where for Zhang Wuji to escape his fingers combined with lightness kungfu. While dodging, Zhang Wuji thought: “If I keep running without fighting, wouldn't that be losing? Since I'm not yet proficient at Taiji Fist, I'll have to use Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi.”

He turned around, both hands executed Taiji Fist's defensive stance “Wild Horse's Mane”. His left hand unleashed Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi techniques. Ah San's right hand was moving to jab Zhang Wuji's shoulder. Instead, there was a sound of laughter as he ended up poking his own left arm. The pain was so great that he saw stars, he almost could not move his left arm.Yang Xiao saw that this was not a Taiji Fist stance so he hurriedly yelled: “Taiji Fist is really amazing!” Ah San shouted in pain and anger: “What Taiji Fist? That was sorcery!” He then attacked three times consecutively. Zhang Wuji jumped away, he saw Ah San stretch out his arm to jab him, he again used his Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi. With a “tuo” sound, he redirected Ah San's two fingers straight into a pillar, embedding them deeply. Everyone was shocked and yet found it very funny.

Amidst the laughter, Yu Daiyan said in a harsh voice: “Stop! Is that Shaolin's Diamond Finger?” (Note: Diamond Finger = Golden Steel Finger in Meh's translation). Zhang Wuji jumped when he heard the words “Shaolin's Diamond Finger”. He remembered that Yu Daiyan was injured by Shaolin's Diamond Finger. For the past twenty years, Wudang Sect had harbored a deep resentment towards Shaolin. It looked like the real perpetrator was this man. Only to hear Ah San say coldly: “So what if it is the Diamond Finger? It's your own fault for being so stubborn and not giving up the Dragon Sabre. How does it feel to be paralysed for the last twenty years?” Yu Daiyan harshly said: “Thank you for revealing the truth today. So it is Western Shaolin who is responsible for maiming me. It's a pity...it's a pity about fifth brother.” As he said these words, he choked with a sob.

Zhang Cuishan committed suicide because he could not face his martial brother after finding out that Yu Daiyan was injured by Yin Susu's silver needles. In actual fact, after Yu Daiyan was injured with the silver needles Yin Susu entrusted the Dragon Gate Escort Agency to send him back to Wudang. After a month's treatment, he would have recovered from the poision. Unfortunately, his four limbs were broken with the Diamond Fingers. If they had found this culprit at that time,Zhang Cuishan and his wife would not have died a tragic death. Yu Daiyan was filled with grief about his innocent martial brother's death while also hating his crippled condition. He heart was filled with hatred. When Zhang Wuji heard their words, he immediately understood what had happened. When he was young he heard his father say a ‘Huo Gong Tou Tuo' of Shaolin Temple secretly learnt martial arts and killed the head of the Damo Hall Reverend Ku Zhi. The top Shaolin experts then had a huge argument. As a result, Reverend Ku Wei went to the Western Regions and set up Western Shaolin. It seemed that this person was a descendant of Ku Wei.

Zhang Sanfeng said: “This benefactor is excessively vicious. We never imagined that there is a person like you among Reverend Ku Wei's descendants.” Ah San grinned ferociously and said: “What kind of thing is Ku Wei?”

When Zhang Sanfeng heard this, he struck with sudden realization. After Yu Daiyan had been injured by the Diamond Fingers, Wudang Sect sent people to ask Shaolin for an explanation. The Abbot of Shaolin resolutely denied any involvement. They then suspected Western Shaolin. But after a few years of making enquiries, they got to know that Western Shaolin had now changed. All disciples only studied Buddhism and did not know martial arts. He knew that if Ah San was a Western Shaolin disciple, he would never curse the founder of his sect. So he said in a clear voice: “No wonder! This benefactor is Huo Gong Tou Tuo's (the kitchen worker monk

– see Athena's translation of Chapter 2 for details) descendant. Not only did you learn his martial arts, but you also picked up his evil nature! Is Kong Xiang your martial brother?”

Ah San replied: “Right! He is my martial brother. His name is not Kong Xiang, but is Gang Xiang. Master Zhang, how does my Diamond Prajana Palm compare with your Wudang palm skills?” Yu Daiyan said harshly: “Not even close! His skull was crushed with one palm strike from my master. With his mediocre skills how dare he come up against my master! Death is really too light for him!”

Ah San let out a yell and rushed out to attack. Zhang WuJi used the “Apparent Closure” stance of the Taiji Fist to block him and said: “Ah San, give me the ‘Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment!” So saying he stretched out his right hand. Ah San was shocked: “Our sect's bone healing medicine is such a closely kept secret that even our sect's ordinary disciples don't know about it. Where did this little novice priest hear about it?”

How could he know that Hu Qingniu's “Medical Classic”, stated that in the Western Regions there existed an external school of martial arts which branched out from Shaolin. Its techniques were extremely weird, no medicine can treat bones broken by it. The only exception was the school's “Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment. However, no one else knew how to make this ointment. Zhang Wuji only wanted to test him by saying this. When he saw Ah San's expression change, he knew he had guessed correctly. He said clearly: “Give it to me!” He thought about his parent's deaths as well the suffering of his two martial uncles. Feeling great hatred, he had no desire to continue talking to him. Even though Ah San's martial arts were slightly inferior, when he executed the powerful Diamond Fingers, Zhang Wuji could only avoid his strokes but was unable to counter-attack. As long as he remained careful towards Zhang Wuji's weird techniques he should win this fight. He stepped forward and yelled: “Kowtow to me three times and I'll spare you, or else you'll end up like the one named Yu.” Zhang Wuji wanted to wrest his “Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment”away from him. However, he had no idea how to deal with the Diamond Fingers. Though he could use Qian Kun Da Nuo Yi to injure Ah San, he would still be unable to force him to hand over the ointment. Then Zhang Sanfeng said: “Child, come here!” Zhang Wuji replied: “Yes, Grandteacher.” He walked over to stand in front of him.

Zhang SanFeng said: “Use intention not force. Taiji is circular and continuous, it does not break off. Take control of the situation and let your opponent break his own form. Each stance and each form is linked together like the Chang Jiang (ie Yangtze River), a never-ending torrent. ” He realized that Zhang Wuji had understood the secret of Taiji. The problem was that his martial arts were too powerful so his stances contained distinct edges and corners rendering him unable to accomplish the Taiji Fist concept of “continuous circles”. This was the crux of Taiji philosophy. Zhang Wuji's martial arts were profound, after hearing Zhang Sanfeng's words, he immediately understood. He envisioned the circular Taji Diagram (ie the famous Yin-Yang symbol) and the philosophy of Yin and Yang.

Ah San laughed coldly: “Isn't that too late to learn martial arts now?” Zhang Wuji raised his eyebrows and said: “There's just enough time. Let me test out a few moves with you.” As he said this he turned around, his right hand moving in a circular manner, sweeping at Ah San's face. This was Taiji Fist's “Tall Mounted Scout” stance. Ah San's five fingers came together, assuming the shape of a knife, chopping towards him. Zhang Wuji countered with the “Double Wind Piercing Ear” stance, his two hands formed a circle. He now understood and used the “continuous circles” concept that Zhang Sanfeng had taught him. He executed left circles and right circles, circles within circles, large circles, small circles , flat circles, vertical circles, perfect circles, slanting circles – each one a Taiji circle, surrounding Ah San and pushing him. Unable to withstand it, Ah San staggered around like a drunkard.

Suddenly, Ah San's five fingers shot out violently. Zhang Wuji used the “Cloud Hand” stance, right hand high and left hand low forming a circle surrounding his arm and applied the Art of Nine Yang power. With a “krak” sound, all the bones on Ah San's right arm were broken. The power of the Art of Nine Yang was really frightening. In one moment, Ah San's arm was broken in six or seven places. The Taiji Fist alone without the Art of Nine Yang was not capable of generating such power. Zhang Wuji hated his wickedness so he employed the “Cloud Hands” stance repetitively. Before the first circle was completed, the second circle began. With another “krak” sound, Ah San's left arm was broken. This was followed by more “krak” sounds as both his legs were also broken. In his whole life, Zhang Wuji has never been so vicious to his opponents. But this person caused his parent's deaths and his third and sixth uncles' suffering. If he had not wanted to obtain the “Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment” from Ah San, he would have taken his life.

Ah San screamed and fell to the ground. One of Zhao Min's subordinates rushed out, picked him up and retreated. The spectators were totally astonished by Zhang Wuji's power. Even the Ming Cult experts forgot to applaud. The bald Ah Er then dashed forward, his right palm shot out towards Zhang Wuji's chest. Before the palm arrived, Zhang Wuji felt his breath constricted. He immediately used the “Slant Flying Form” to redirect the palm. Without a sound the bald old man landed firmly on the ground. With full concentration he launched one palm attack after another, each attack accompanied with incomparable inner power.

Zhang Wuji saw his palm strokes were of the same origin as Ah San's. From his age he is probably Ah San's older martial brother. Though he was not as quick and agile as Ah San, he was steadier. Zhang Wuji used Taiji Fist's “stick”, “divert” and “push” forms intending push Ah Er off balance. Unexpectedly, this person's inner strength was extremely powerful, he himself ended up stumbling. Zhang Wuji thought: “Let me see whether your Western Shaolin's inner power is greater or my Art of Nine Yang is greater.” Seeing a palm coming towards him, he used brute force to meet that palm directly. Both palms met with a thunderous clash, both their bodies swayed. Zhang Sanfeng inwardly yelled: “Not good! When fighting with brute force, the more powerful one will win. It's completely opposite to the principle of Taiji Fist. This baldie's inner power is very powerful, rarely seen in the martial arts world. The kid will suffer severe injuries under his palm.” At this moment, the combatant's palms came crashing together a second time. Ah Er's body wobbled and he retreated one step while Zhang Wuji stood firm and steady.

At the pinnacle of both arts, the Art of Nine Yang and Shaolin internal energy were equal. But the founder of the “Diamond School” was a kitchen worker monk who learnt martial arts on the sly without proper instruction. It is possible to learn external forms and weapons techniques by watching. However, inner power is practiced within the body. No matter how long a person watches, he will still be unable to see how energy is regulated and moved through the body. That i why it is possible to secretly learn external martial arts but impossible to learn internal arts. The Diamond School's external arts were extremely powerful, on par with orthodox Shaolin. However, their internal arts are very far behind. Ah Er was a unique member of the “Diamond School”. Born with powerful strength, he took a different course from the rest and cultivated profound inner power. His achievements in this category have long surpassed that of his school's founder, the kitchen worker monk. Few people have managed to last more than three stances against him. Now while fighting hard against hard, he was forced a step backwards by Zhang Wuji. He was both shocked and angry. He took a deep breath and used both palms to attack Zhang Wuji. Zhang Wuji called out: “Sixth Uncle Yin, watch me help you vent your anger.” It turned out that Yin Liting, Yang Buhui and Xiao Zhao have already arrived at Wudang Mountain.

Zhang Wuji yelled and brought his right fist out. With a thunderous crash, the bald Ah Er retreated three steps, his eyes bulged out and blood gurgled within his chest. Zhang Wuji called: “Sixth Uncle Yin, was this baldie among your attackers?” Yin Liting said: “Yes! This person was the leader.” Only to hear cracking sounds coming from the bones in Ah Er's body as he gathered his energy. Yu Daiyan knew Ah Er's inner strenght was very powerful. By generating his energy like that, his palm force will be no trivial matter and extremely difficult to deal with. He yelled: “Attack while he is crossing the river!” His meaning was not to wait for Ah Er to finish gathering his strength but to attack first. Zhang Wuji replied: “Yes!” He took a step forward but did not strike. Ah Er raised his arms, and with earth- shattering force struck out. Zhang Wuji inhaled and circulated his internal chi, his right palm swept out, received the attack, and redirected the force back to him. These two forces combined to become one. Ah Er yelled, his body was flung backwards right through the wall as if thrown by a catapult. The shocked onlookers turned pale. A man carried Ah Er through the hole in the wall and laid him on the ground. This person was short and fat, as round as a drum. His appearance was very comical. Yet, his movements were very agile. He was the Ming Cult's Earth Banner Chief Yan Yuan. Ah Er's arms, ribs and shoulder joints had been broken by his own hard energy. After putting Ah Er down, Yan Yuan turned to Zhang Wuji and bowed. He then excited through the hole in the wall looking like a fat mouse.

When Zhao Min saw that this little novice priest defeated two of her to experts, she had become suspicious. After seeing Yan Yuan bow to him, recognition dawned onto her. He secretly scolded herself: “I deserve to die! I thought I had arrived ahead of him. I never expected that he'll go as far as to pretend to be an apprentice priest, causing trouble here and spoiling my great plans.” She immediately said gently: “Sect Leader Zhang, why do you lower yourself by disguising as a little apprentice priest? You keep saying grandteacher this and grandteacher that, yet you're not embarrassed.”

Zhang Wuji saw that she had recognized him. So he said clearly: “My late father Cuishan was Grandteacher's fifth disciple. If I don't call him ‘Grandteacher’, what can I call him? What's there to be embarrassed about?” He turned around, faced Zhang Sanfeng, knelt down and kowtowed saying: “Zhang Wuji pays his respects to Grandteacher and Third Martial Uncle. Because of the urgent situation, I didn't have time to report to you. Please forgive me for deceiving you.” Zhang Sanfeng and Yu Daiyan were filled with joyous shock. Never in their wildest imagination did they think that this youngster was the same sickly child of many years ago. Zhang Sanfeng laughed loudly, stretched out his hand to help him up, saying: “Good boy, you didn't die. Cuishan has a descendant.” The fact that Zhang Wuji's martial arts were so amazing was secondary. Believing that Zhang Wuji had died long ago, Zhang Sanfeng was happiest over the fact that he was still alive. His heart overflowed with joy. He turned to Yin Tianzheng and said: “Brother Yin, congratulations for having such a great grandson.” Yin Tianzheng laughingly replied: “Master Zhang, congratulations on having such a wonderful grand-disciple.”

Zhao Min cursed: “What wonderful grandson? What wonderful grand- disciple? Just two old men bringing up a cunning and sly little devil. Ah Da, go and try out his sword skills.” The frown-faced Ah Da answered: “Yes!” With a brushing sound, he pulled out the Heaven Sword. Everyone stared at the gleaming sword radiating in power. Zhang Wuji said: “This sword belongs to E-Mei. How did it fall into your hands?” Zhao Min spat: “Little devil, what do you know? The old nun Mie Jue stole this sword from my family. The sword has simply been returned to its true owner. What has the Heaven Sword got to do with E-Mei Sect?” Zhang Wuji had no knowledge of the origins of the Heaven Sword. He was unable to answer her. So he immediately changed the subject: “Miss Zhao, please give me the ‘Black Jade Fracture Healing Ointment’. Once my third and sixth martial uncles' broken limbs are healed, we can just let bygones be bygones” Zhao Min said: “Hrmph! Let bygones be bygones? Talk is cheap. Do you know where Shaolin's Kong Wen and Kong Zhi; Wudang's Song Yuanqiao, Yu Lianzhou and the rest are?” Zhang Wuji shook his head saying: “I don't know. Could you please tell me?”

Zhao Min laughed coldly: “Why should I tell you? Are you going to repeat your disgraceful conduct in the Green Williow Manor prison?” As she said this she blushed. Thinking about the incident made her furious and yet bashful at the same time. Zhang Wuji blushed when heard her say “disgraceful conduct”. That day, in order to save the Ming Cult fighters he had had no choice but to resort to such tactics - he had tickled the base of her foot with his hand. Actually he had had no inappropriate thoughts however, there was a barrier between men and women. This incident had to be kept a secret from the crowd - it would be a disaster if they assumed that he had violated a young girl. Instead of offering an explanation he said: “Miss Zhao, are you going to give me the ‘Black Jade Bone Fracture Healing Ointment’?” Zhao Min laughed coldly and said: “I can easily give you the ‘Black Jade Bone Fracture Healing Ointment’. If you do three things for me, I'll offer it up to you with both hands.” Zhang Wuji asked: “What three things?” Zhao Min replied: “I haven't thought of them yet. When I think of them I'll tell you what to do.” Zhang Wuji said: “That won't do. What if you ask me to commit suicide or become a pig or dog?” Zhao Min laughed: “I won't ask you to commit suicide. I also won't ask you to become a pig or a dog. Hehe... even if you're willing to you lack the ability.” Zhang Wuji said: “You'll have to tell me what you want first. As long as it's not anything dishonourable and within my abilities, there can be no harm obliging you.”

Zhao Min was just about to reply when she caught sight of an pearl ornament in Xiao Zhao's hair. It was none other than the hair ornament that she had given to Zhang Wuji. She couldn't help but become furious. She saw that Xiao Zhao was a beautiful girl with a sweet smile. Though she was still young , she was like a lotus flower in the glow of dawn, raising feelings of tender affection in people's hearts. Her heart was filled with even greater hatred. Gritting her teeth she said to Ah Da: “Go and cut off both his arms!” Ah Da replied: “Yes!” He raised the Heaven Sword, took a step forward and said: “Sect Leader Zhang, my lady orders me to cut off both your arms.”

Zhou Dian had been controlling himself for a long time. But now he was unable to bear it anymore. He cursed: “Your mother's farting crap! Why don't you cut your own arm off?” Ah Da's expression was one of worry and anxiety. He bitterly said: “You do have a point there.” Zhou Dian was delighted. He said loudly: “Cut it off then.” Ah Da said: “There's no need to rush.” Zhang Wuji was quietly fretting. The Heaven Sword was extremely sharp, any weapon that collides with it will break. The only thing to do was to use Qian Jun Da Nuo Yi to snatch the sword from him. However, it was extremely risky to use his bare hands to do so. If his opponent's sword technique was unusual and he was unable to anticipate the moves he would be in trouble. No matter which part of his arm comes into contact with the sword edge, it will immediately be chopped off. He had no idea what to do.Suddenly Zhang Sanfeng said: “Wuji, you've already learned Taiji Fist, I also have a Taiji Sword skill. There's no harm in teaching it to you so you can use it to match swords with this benefactor.” Zhang Wuji said joyfully: “Thank you Grandteacher.” He turned to Ah Da and said: “Elder, I'm not familiar with swordsmanship. I'll have to ask my grand-teacher for some pointers before crossing swords with you.”

Ah Da was actually secretly afraid of Zhang Wuji. Despite the advantage of having the Heaven Sword, he could not be sure of victory. He was delighted to hear that Zhang Wuji was just about to learn swordsmanship. In his heart he felt that however wonderful the sword techniques were, Zhang Wuji would definately be unfamiliar with it. Sword techniques required careful and diligent study. It would take at least ten to tewnty years of dedicated practice before a person could proficiently use it in a fight. He nodded his head and said: “Go and learn. I'll wait here for you. Is four hours enough?” Zhang Sanfeng said: “There's no need to go elsewhere. I'll teach him here, that way everything will be fresh in his mind. It'll take less than an hour.” At these words, with the exception of Zhang Wuji, everyone was stunned. They could not believe their ears and thought: “No matter how profound and mysterious Wudang Sect's Taiji Sword Art is, an enemy watching him teach would be able to pick up and understand its intricacies. The skill will no longer be a secret.” Ah Da said: “That's fine. I'll go outside and wait.” He did not want to gain an advantage this way. Despite his position as a servant, he conducted himself as an eminent master of the martial arts world.Zhang Sanfeng said: “That won't be necessary. This is the first time this new sword skill of mine sees action. I've no idea whether it will be any use at all. You're a famous swordsman - I invite you to point out the flaws of this sword art.” At this time Yang Xiao suddenly realized something. He said clearly: “So you're the ‘Eight Arm Divine Swordsman’ Fang Dongbai. You were once an elder of the Beggar Sect – how did you become a lowly servant?” The Ming Cult members listened with shock. Zhou Dian said: “Aren't you supposed to be dead? This...this...how is this possible?”

Ah Da sighed, lowered his head and said: “The old beggar is almost dead. Why bring up the past? I am no longer a Beggar Sect Elder.” Those of the older generation know that Eight Arm Divine Swordsman Fang Dongbai was the head of the four elders of the Beggar Sect. He was famous throughout the martial arts world for his swordsmanship. He was so unusually fast with the sword that it seemed like he had seven or eight arms, this earned him his nickname. He was said to have died of a serious illness over ten years ago. At that time everyone thought it was a great pity. It was quite a shock to see that he was still among the living. Zhang Sanfeng said: “It is an immeasurable honour for the Eight-Armed Divine Swordsman to give a few pointers. Wuji, do you have a sword?” Xiao Zhao stepped forward and presented the wooden Heaven Sword Zhang Wuji had taken from Zhao Min to him. Zhang Sanfeng pick it up and laughed: “A wooden sword?Isn't this used for drawing talismans and expelling demons?” He stood up with the sword in his left hand and his right hand forming sword forms. Both hands made a loop and he slowly raised them. This opening form was followed by "Encase the Moon with Three Rings","Biggest Star in the Big Dipper", "Swallow Skims the Water", "Left Block", "Right Block"...each form smoothly following the other. At the fifty-third stance "The Compass" his hands simultaneously drew a circle followed by the fifty-fourth form “Grasping the Sword and Returning to the Begining”. Zhang Wuji did not try to remember each stance and form. Instead, he focused on the spirit of the unbroken, flowing sword. At the end of Zhang Sanfeng's demonstration, not a single person applauded. Everyone was thinking: “How can such a slow and gentle sword art be used to fight an enemy?” Then they thought: “Master Zhang must have deliberately slowed down for Zhang Wuji to learn.”

Only to hear Zhang Sanfeng say: “Have you seen everything clearly” Zhang Wuji answered: “Yes.” Zhang Sanfeng asked: “Do you remember everything?” Zhang Wuji answered: "I've already forgotten a small portion.” Zhang Sanfeng said: “Good. Think about it for a while.” Zhang Wuji lowered his head in contemplation. After a while, Zhang Sanfeng asked:“What about now?” Zhang Wuji replied:“I've forgotten a large portion.”

Zhou Dian yelled out:“Damm!He's forgetting more and more as time passes. Master Zhang,this sword art of yours is too profound. How can anyone remember it all after seeing it only once? Please demonstrate it once more for our sect leader.” Zhang Sanfeng smiled and said: “Alright, I'll demonstrate it once more.” He picked up the sword and went through the moves again. After watching a few stances, the spectators were surprised. The stances in the second performance were completely different from the stances in the first. Zhou Dian yelled: “Damm, damm!This will make him even more confused.” Zhang Sanfeng drew a full circle, then he asked:“Child, what about now?” Zhang Wuji replied: “I still haven't forgotten three stances.” Zhang Sanfeng nodded his head, put down the sword and returned to his seat. Zhang Wuji paced slowly in a circle. He contemplated a while, then slowly turned a half-circle. He then lifted his head up and with a joyous expression, said: "I've completely forgotten it all, not a trace is left.” Zhang Sanfeng said:“Not bad, not bad!You forgot it very quickly. You can now ask the Eight Armed Divine Swordsman to give you some pointers!” After saying this he gave the wooden sword to him. Zhang Wuji accepted it with a bow. He turned to Fang Dongbai and said: “Elder Fang please.” Zhou Dian scratched his head, his heart heavy with worry. Fang Dongbai stepped forward and said:“Sorry for offending you!” His gleaming sword stabbed forward with a 'chi' sound. His internal strenght was not inferior to Ah Er's. The onlookers were shocked, thinking that even wihout the Heaven Sword, an ordinary sword weilded with such powerful inner strenght would be extremely destructive. The “Divine Swordsman” was really not an empty name.

Zhang Wuji drew a half-circle to counter, pushing his wooden sword against the flat of the Heaven Sword while channelling his inner strenght. The Heaven Sword was forced downwards. Fang Dongbai praised: "Great sword skills!" He turned his wrist and stabbed at his left arm. Zhang Wuji countered with a circular movement. With a clapping sound, the two swords met and both parties leapt backwards. Fang Dongbai's Heaven Sword vibrated with a 'weeiiing' sound, it continued for sometime without stopping. One weapon was a precious sword and the other a wooden sword. Yet when they collided there was no difference between the two swords. With this stance Zhang Wuji used bluntness to defeat sharpness, displaying the essence of the Taiji Sword. What Zhang Sanfeng taught him was "sword intention", not "sword techniques". He had to forget all the stances completely in order to grasp the essence. During combat, intention directs the sword producing countless variations with no limits. However, if one or two techniques remained in the memory, they will restrain the mind and the sword skills will not be pure. Top experts like Yang Xiao and Yin Tianzheng vaguely understoond the concept. Zhou Dian's lack of understanding was the cause of his anxiety. At this time the sounds of the battle echoed through the hall. Fang Dongbai's aggressive sword technique and deep internal strenght utilised the sharp sword to produce extremely exquisite swordplay. Sword chi rippled through the hall unrestrained. The onlookers felt like they were caught in a snow-storm, the cold energy chilling them to the bone. Amid all this Zhang Wuji's sword drew one circle after another. Each stance, whether attacking or defending, within a circle. His mind was clear, using intention to guide the sword. The wooden sword seemed to give out thin threads, winding round and round the Heaven Sword. More and more of these threads appeared forming a ball around the Heaven Sword. After more than two hundred stances, Fang Dongbai's sword was becoming more sluggish. The sword in his hand felt heavier and heavier - five cattys, six cattys, seven cattys...... ten cattys, twenty cattys......

He thrusted the sword but had no strenght to back it up. The wooden sword forced it to spin a coupl of circles.

The longer he fought, the more afraid Fang Dongbai became. After three hundred or more stances the two swords had not clashed. Such a thing had never before happened in his whole life. It was as if his opponent had unfurled a gigantic net which was getting smaller and smaller. Fang Dongbai alternated between six or seven different sword styles. The variations were so complex that the spectators felt dizzy just watching him. Throughout the battle Zhang Wuji simply drew circles with the sword. With the exception of Zhang Sanfeng, none of the spectators could see which of his stances were offensive and which were defensive. This Taiji Sword was comprised of all sorts of cirlces. It was really made up of only one stance but there was no limit to its uses. A loud hiss was heard from Fang Dongbai. He thrusted the Heaven Sword forward with every once of evergy he had left, putting everything into this one strike.

Recognising the danger of the situation, Zhang Wuji used his sword to block. With great skill, Fang Dongbai adjusted his stance slightly. The Heaven Sword now attacked from the side. With a 'qing' sound, six inches of the wooden sword was cut off. The minor obstruction was not enough to hold back the Heaven Sword and it stabbed straight at Zhang Wuj's chest.

In shock, Zhang Wuji shot his left land out and caught the sword between his index and middle fingers. At the same time, the broken wooden sword in his right hand chooped down on Fang Dongbai's right arm. Though it was a wooden sword, when backed with the power of the Art of 9 Yang it was no different from a steel blade. Fang Dongbai tried to pull his right arm back but Zhang Wuji's two fingers held onto the Heaven Sword with an iron-grip. In this circumstances, his only option was to let go of the Heaven Sword and jump away. Only to hear Zhang Wuji yell: “Let go!” Fang Dongbai gritted his teeth but held on to the sword. In a blink of an eye a 'pa' sound was heard. His arm, still holding on to the sword, was cut off by the wooden sword. Fang Dongbai refused to let go of the sword because he wanted to protect it. He stretched out his left hand and snatched the falling right arm out of the air. Though the arm had left its body, its five fingers still held on firmly to the Heaven Sword. Zhang Wuji was stunned at this display of courage. He also felt regret. So he did not try to take the sword. Fang Dongbai walked in front of Zhao Min, bowed and said: “My lady, your servant is useless. I should be punished.” Zhao Min completely ignored him. She said: “Today we'll give Sect Leader Zhang face and let Wudang Sect off.” She waved her right hand saying: “Let's go!” Her subordinates carried Fang Dongbai, Ah Er and Ah San and left the hall. Zhang Wuji yelled: “Hold on! If you don't leave the Black Jade Bone Fracture Healing Ointment behind, don't even think about leaving Wudang Mountain.” He jumped forward and made a grab for Zhao Min's shoulder.

His hand was about a foot away from Zhao Min's shoulder when he felt palm wind heading towards the left and right side of his body. These palms were soundless and appeared out of no where. In shock, Zhang Wuji brought both his palms out. His right hand met the palm attacking on his right and his left hand met the palm attacking from the left. The four palms clashed at the same time. Only to feel a strange powerful energy. The palm force contained a matchless cold yin energy he knew well. It was no other than the “Xuan Ming Divine Palm” which tormented him in his youth. Startled, Zhang Wuji channelled his Art of 9 Yang chi. Suddenly, two palms hit him simultaneously on the left and right side of his body. With a grunt, Zhang Wuji was thrown backwards. He saw that his attackers were two tall and skinny old men. With one hand, they clashed palms with Zhang Wuji and while the other soundlessly struck his body. Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao yelled in anger and rushed forward. The two old men struck out again. There was a crahsing sound. Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao retreated a few steps, their chests feeling constricted and cold energy penetrating their bones. The bodies of the two old men swayed a little. The man on the right laughed coldly: “The famous names of Ming Sect are really nothing!” Turning around, they left protecting Zhao Min.

End of Chapter 24. 
@Chapter 25 - Lighting a blazing fire to burn the sky.
Everyone was worried about Zhang Wuji’s injury so they did not attend to the pursuit and instead effusively surrounded him. Wuji showed a faint smile, and gently swung his right hand downward once to demonstrate that he was not injured at all. As the Nine Yang Divine Art inside his body began to expel the Yin cold energy of the Xuan Ming Divine Palm [editors note: using Xuan Ming divine palm to match previous translations] from the body, white jets of steam starts to emit hastily and continuously out from the top of his head which now looked like a steamer. When he untied the coat, both sides of his body have a clear deep black palm mark imprinted on. Under the revolutions of the Nine Yang Divine Art, the color of the two palm marks changed from black to purple, from purple changed into ashen grey, until finally the two palm marks were all gone after around an hour. In the past, Wuji had spent several years yet unable to fully drive the poison of the Xuan Ming Divine Palm out of his body, this time, in only a short while it was eliminated easily and completely.

He stood up, said: “Although this event was very dangerous, but eventually we can recognize our enemy’s appearances.” When the Xuan Ming Elders clashed palms with Yang Xiao and Wei Yixiao, they had already been attacked by the Nine Yang Divine Art of Zhang Wuji, so the Yin poison in their palm power was less than two tenths of its normal self, but both Yang and Wei still had to sit in meditation and circulating their energy for over a half of the day in order to totally expel the Yin poison from their bodies. Zhang Wuji cared for his martial grandfather’s wound, Zhang Sanfeng said: “The fireworker monk’s internal cultivation technique was not good, even though his external technique was fierce, it was still far inferior to the Xuan Ming Divine Palm, my wound is not ominous.”

At that time, the Sharp Metal Flag’s General Flag Herald Wu Jingcao entered the hall and reported that all the intruding enemies had withdrawn from the Wudang mountain. Yu Daiyan ordered the Taoist who was tasked with managing guests to prepare a vegetarian feast in honour of the members of the Ming Cult. During the feast, Zhang Wuji turned toward Zhang Sanfeng and Yu Daiyan to report on what had happened to himself since the separation. Everybody exclaimed after hearing the story. Zhang Sanfeng said: “That year, in this Wudang temple, I clashed a palm with an old man, but during that time he disguised himself as a Mongolia military officer so I don’t know which one he is in those two old men. It’s really ashamed that up to now we still have not been able to know thoroughly about our enemy.” Yang Xiao said: “I don’t know what is the origin of that young girl surnamed Zhao that even elite fighters such as the Xuan Ming Elders are willing to accept her command.” Everybody made many guesses but could not come to a conclusion on this matter.

Zhang Wuji said: “At the moment, there are two important tasks. The first one is obtaining the Black Jade Break Connecting Paste to well treat Yu third elder matial uncle’s and Yu sixth martial uncle’s injuries. The second one is finding out eldest martial uncle Song and his companions’ whereabouts. The solutions to both matters is in the hands of that girl surnamed Zhao.” Yu Daiyan said with a strained smile: ”I’ve been disabled for twenty years so even if you really had miraculous pills and divine medicines, my injury would not be able to be cured. Rescuing the eldest brother and the sixth younger brother is more important.” Zhang Wuji said: “We cannot delay anymore, Left Herald Yang, Bat King Wei and Shuo Bude you three please descend the mountain together with me to trace the enemy. The 5 General Flag Vice Heralds of the 5 Basic Element Flags, each to go to one of the five main schools including Emei, Huashan, Kunlun, Kongtong and Fujian Southern Shaolin to contact and inquire about the news. Grandfather and uncle please proceed to Jiangnan to reorganize the members of the Heavenly Hawk Flag. Priest Tie Guan, mister Zhou, great monk Peng and the Five Basic Element General Flag Heralds temporarily stay on at the Wudang mountain and listen to the orders of my martial grandfather.”

During the feast, he casually gave the instructions. Yin Tianzheng, Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao and the others all stood up and bowed their bodies to accept the orders. Initially Zhang Sanfeng had doubted that such a young man as Zhang Wuji being could unite and command the hero group, but seeing Zhang Wuji giving orders which great heroes in wulin such as Yin Tianzheng obeyed without any hesitation, he felt overjoyed and thought to himself: “He can learn my Taiji fist, Taiji swordsmanship, that’s only because he has a good internal energy background and a strong perceptivity, although it’s hard to do so, that is still not really valuable. But as for he being able to control the great devils of the Ming cult, the Heavenly Hawk sect, lead them into the upright path, that’s really a big matter. Cuishan has a heir, Cuishan has a fine heir already. [Note: spoken with pride that Zhang Cui Shan had a fine heir ]” Thinking as far as here, he couldn’t help stroking his beard and smiling. Zhang Wuji, Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao and Shuo Bude the four people hastily finished their meal and then immediately said good-bye to Zhang Sanfeng and went down the mountain to search for Zhao Min’s track.

Yin Tianzheng and others send the four people off to the front of the mountain before returning. Yang Buhui was attached to his father and didn’t want to part from him so she accompanied them for another mile. Yang Xiao said: “Buhui, you go back and look after Yin sixth uncle carefully.” Yang Buhui responded: “Yes.” Her eyes darted towards Wuji, suddenly she blushed and said in a tiny voice: “Elder brother Wuji, I have a few words to say with you.” Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao and Shuo Bude the 3 people chuckled: “You two have been friends since childhood, certainly there’re some personal affairs to speak to each other.” They then sped up their footsteps and ran away for a far distance. Yang Buhui said: “Elder brother Wuji, come here.” She pulled his arm to come to and sit down a big rock next to the mountain side. Zhang Wuji was secretly confused: “She and I have been acquainted since childhood, the friendship between us is not ordinary, this time we met again after a long separation, yet since then she have treated me coolly and stand-offishly. What does she have to talk to me now?” He only saw that although Yang Buhui had not begun to speak her face had reddened already, she bowed her head in silence, only after quite a long time did she say: “Elder brother Wuji, when my Mom was at the brink of death, she asked you to look after me, didn’t she?” Zhang Wuji said: “Yes.” Yang Buhui said: “You crossed tens of thousands of miles, accompanying me from the bank of the Huaihe river to the Western region and delivered me to my Dad’s hands. On the way, you had to risk you life many times and suffer so many hardships. This great graciousness cannot be repaid by merely saying thanks, that kindness of you I’ve only put it deeply in my heart and from before up to now I’ve not raised anything about it at all.” Zhang Wuji said: “Never mind. What good does that have to be raised? If I had not accompanied you to the Western region, I myself wouldn’t have had those lucky encounters and if that’s the case I’m afraid that at this moment I would have been dead due to the dispersion of the Xuan Ming poison already.” Yang Buhui said: “No, no! You’re humane, heroic and generous so every adverse thing that you met can change into good luck. Elder brother Wuji, I’ve been motherless since childhood, although my Dad love me there’re some matters which I don’t dare to talk to him about. You’re the head of our cult, but in my heart, I still only consider you as my older full brother. That day at the Brightness Peak, when I suddenly see you return, I was so happy that I was speechlessness. I felt embarrassed to say it out in front of you, are you angry with me?” Zhang Wuji replied: “No! Certainly no.”

Zhang Wuji saw her back vanish behind a mountain side. His mind was puzzled, he didn’t know how to deal with this matter. After standing in trance there for a while, he ran after the trio including Wei Yixiao. Wei Yixiao and Shuo Bude found that there seemed to be traces of tears in the corners of his eyes, they couldn’t help glancing at Yang Xiao and smiling faintly, meaning: “Congratulations! Left Herald Yang will soon become the father-in-law of Cult Leader.” After the four people had descended the Wudang mountain, Yang Xiao said: “This Miss Zhao doesn’t travel alone, there are many henchmen around her so it’ll not be hard to find her whereabouts. Let us separate to give chases in the four directions East, West, South and North. At tomorrow’s midday we will be gathering together in Gu Cheng town. What about your venerable opinion, Cult Leader?” Zhang Wuji said: “Very good, let’s do just so. I’ll go westward.” Gu Cheng town was to the East of the Wudang mountain, going westward to search meant he’d have to go farther than the others would for a stretch of road. He went on: “The martial arts of the Xuan Ming Two Elders are extremely fierce, seeing them, you three should evade them if it ’s possible and should not single-handedly engage in any fight with them.” The trio accepted the commands. They immediately bowed and made their farewells to Zhang Wuji then left toward three different directions East, South and North to investigate. In the West, there were only mountain roads, Zhang Wuji applied his qing-gong (lightness skill) and ran fast. In more than two hours, he arrived in Shi Yan town. He stopped at a restaurant in the town to order a bowl of noodles. He asked the waiter whether there had been any golden-brocade-covered palankeen going past here. The waiter replied: “Yes, there was! There were also three seriously injured people. They lied on three hammocks which were carried along with the palankeen. They have just gone toward Huang Long town in the West for less than an hour.” Zhang Wuji was very pleased, he thought that the pace of these people was not fast, so in order to avoid revealing his own track, waiting until the evening to pursue them would not be late. He then found a quiet place to take a sleep and waited till the first watch of the night (1 a.m.) before going to Huang Long town.

Zhang Wuji reached the town when it was still earlier than the second watch (2 a.m.) of the night. He hid behind a corner of a wall and saw that the street was very quiet without any sound of anyone. But in a big hotel, there was still a dazzling brightness of lamps and torches. He jumped onto a nearby roof, after several leaps he arrived at the roof of a small house next to the hotel. Looking around, he saw a big cloth tent on a riverside ground. There were many people coming and going at the front and the back of the tent. Obviously it was guarded with strict security precautions. Zhang Wuji thought: “Is it possible that Miss Zhao is in that cloth tent? Her facial expression and her way of speaking are not different from those of the Han Chinese, but the way she acts is overbearing and extravagant to a certain extent.” At that time, the Yuan dynasty had been dominating the Central Plain for a long time, Han tyrannical gentries also tried to immitate the prevailing customs of the Mongolian for honour so this was not strange. While he was pondering on how to approach the tent, unexpectedly, he heard some groans spreading from window of the hotel. He then changed his mind, jumped off the roof, tiptoed to a place under the window and looked inside the room. He only saw that there were three people lying on three beds, among them, there were two whose faces he couldn’t see. The man lying near the window was exactly A’San, he was moaning softly, his injuries was clearly in extreme agony, his two arms and two legs all were bound up with white plain cloth. Suddenly an idea flashed upon him, he thought: “His four limbs were all broken, he must have used the efficacious medicine of his own school, the Black Jade Break Connecting Paste, to treat the injuries. If I don’t snatch it right now, so when?” He broke open the window and jumped into the room. A man standing in the room called out in alarm and sent out a fist. Zhang Wuji used his left hand to grab that man’s fist, his right hand extended and hit on the man’s numb acupoint. He turned around and saw that the two people who were lying there were precisely A’Er and Eight-Armed Swordsman Fang Dongbai. The man whose acupoint had just been sealed wore a black gown, he was still holding two gold needles in his hands. Perhaps he had been acupuncturing the three injuried to cut off the pain for them. On the table, was putting a black bottle, there were several pieces of mugwort next to the bottle. Zhang Wuji took up the bottle, pulled out its lid to smell, he only felt a rush of a hot and pungent odour to his nose. A’San called out: “Help! There's a medicine robber...” (NOTE: in the Chinese text: ???,??… - sorry, I don’t how to translate it well ) Zhang Wuji moved his finger fast as wind to successively seal the mute acupoints of the 3 men. He ripped open the bandage on A’San’s arm. Expectedly, he saw the arm was covered by a thin black layer of medicinal ointment. For fear that Zhao Min was devilish cunning and had intentionally put fake medicine in the bottle to entice him to come here by himself, he began to scrape the ointment of the sores of A’San and the bald A’Er onto the bandage. He thought that even if in the bottle was fake medicine, the paste taken from their sores couldn’t be false. Hearing the sounds, the outside guards kicked the door open wide and fled into. Zhang Wuji didn’t need to look at them, he gave each one a kick sending them out. In a short moment, the people in the hotel had begun to scream noisily and gotten into a chaotic crowd. He had kicked six people out one after another but he had only scraped more than a half of the ointment on A’San's and the bald A’Er’s sores. Thinking that it would possibly not be very wonderful if he tarried here more so that the Xuan Ming Two Elders would enter, he put the bottle and the bandage in his bosom then lifted the physician and threw him out of the window.

Only a big noise of crushing resounded, that physician was hit by a hard palm and felt on the ground. This was what Zhang Wuji expected, there were definitely elite fighters ambushing outside the window. Zhang Wuji took advantage of that moment to rush out. White light flashed in the dark when two sharp weapons thrusted toward him. To the Great Universal Shifting Technique this was just a minor matter to deal with, applying the technique, he used his left hand to pull and his right hand to direct (NOTE: this sentence is ??????????? in the Chinese text, but I don’t know how to translate it into English literally and smoothly, I’m so sorry ), the sword on the left then stabbeb at the man on the right and the spear on the right hit the man on the left. In chaotic sounds he had already run away. On the way back, Zhang Wuji felt very joyful thinking that even though this time he had not found out Zhao Min’s origin yet, he had obtained the Black Jade Break Connecting Paste, which was even much better. At this moment it was too late to go to Gu Cheng to meet the group of Yang Xiao, he returned to the Wudang mountain and ordered the Red Water Flag to send members to call them back. Hearing the news that Zhang Wuji had gotten the Black Jade Break Connecting Paste, Zhang Sanfeng and the others all were very glad. Zhang Wuji examined the medicine he had scraped from the sores on A’San's body carefully, he also took out a bit of the ointment in the bottle to make a more detailed compare and confirmed that they were the same. The black bottle was carved out of a big piece of jade. It was as black as lacquer, caused a feeling of warmness when touching and looked very antique. Even the bottle alone was an extremely precious treasure. No longer having a doubt, he ordered his subordinates to carry Yin Liting to Yu Daiyan’s room, placing the two beds in parallel. Yang Buhui followed into the room. She didn’t dare to look directly at Zhang Wuji’s eyes, but her face showed a radiance and there was an extreme appreciation in her heart. Obviously, Zhang Wuji accompanying her to the Western region and drinking the cup of poisoned wine at He Taichong’s residence on behalf of her, such much of kindness still couldn’t compare to him urgently curing Yin Liting’s injury.

Zhang Wuji said: “Third uncle, your former injury healed up, to treat you now, nephew will have to break off the bones of your arms and your legs then connect them back. I hope you’ll try to bear this temporary pain.” Yu Daiyan did not believe that he himself having been disabled for more than twenty years could be fully restored, but he thought even if the treatment failed, the worst of it would not be worse than the present condition, for the past twenty years he had not been caring for anything already anyway. He only thought: “Wuji has exerted himself to the utmost wholeheartedly wanting to make up for the faults of his parents, otherwise he’ll never be able to put his mind at rest. There’s nothing whatsoever considerable about my transitory pain.” He then did not ask about anything, only smiled faintly, said: “No problem, you can do anything at your convenience.” Zhang Wuji asked Yang Buhui to go out, took off all the clothes of Yu Daiyan, localted all the breaks in his bones carefully, afterwards he sealed his comatose acupoint. He transfered his energy to his ten fingers, ‘crack crack crack’, the snaps resounded continously, all the breaks which healed up in Yu Daiyan’s bones were broken again. Although Yu Daiyan’s acupoint had been sealed, the pain was still so great that it awoke him up. Zhang Wuji’s technique was fast as wind, irrespective of whether the bones were big or small, he broke them all, Then he immediately rejoined all the breaks accurately, applied the Black Jade Break Connecting Paste to the sores, bound them up, put them in wooden splints before giving acupuncture to relieve the pain.

To treat Yin Liting was much easier than to treat Yu Daiyan since when they had been in the Western region, Zhang Wuji had set all the broken bones of Yin Liting in place so at this time he only needed to apply the Black Jade Break Connecting Paste. After treating Yin Liting, he sent the very General Vice Heralds of the Five Element Flags to guard by turns in case the enemy would come to harass. In the afternoon of the same day, after finishing his lunch, Zhang Wuji took a quick nap in the cloud room to regain his strength after a weary night of scurrying. When he was in a dream, suddenly he heard light foot-steps approaching the entrance and woke up immediately. Xiao Zhao, who was guarding outside, asked in a low voice: “What’s the matter? Cult Leader is resting.” Yan Yuan, the General Flag Herald of the Thick Earth Flag, said under his breath: “Sixth Hero Yin has been in such pain that he has fainted three times, does Cult Leader…” Zhang Wuji did not wait till Yan Yuan finished the sentence, he stood up like a spring, rushed out of the room and accelerated his pace to Yu Daiyan’s room. When he arrived, he only saw Yin Liting’s 2 eyes have rolled upward, leaving only the whites, he had lost his unconsciousness already, Yang Buhui was so scared that her eyes filled with tears, she did not know what to do. Lying next to Yin Liting was Yu Daiyan, he was clenching his teeth with screeching noises. Obviously he was trying to endure the pain, only because his temper was unyielding that he did not let out any groan. Seeing that scene, Zhang Wuji was greatly surprised, he massaged several times on the acupoints Cheng Qi, Tai Yang, Tan Zhong... of Yin Liting, resuscitating him, then asked Yu Daiyan: “Third uncle, the breaks in your bones are very painful, aren’t they?” Yu Daiyan replied: “The breaks are painful, that’s just plain, but even the six internal organs and the five innards are itchy unbearably… as if, as if there’re tens of thousands of insects eating and digging higgledy-piggledy. Zhang Wuji could not be more worried, on hearing what Yu Daiyan had just sid, he knew clearly that this was a condition of being poisoned seriously. He hastily asked Yin Liting: “How do you feel, sixth younger uncle?” Yin Liting raved: “Red, purple, blue, green, yellow, white, azure,… How beautiful, so many little balls hovering and moving back and forth… Really attractive… You see, you see…”

Zhang Wuji uttered a loud cry: “Ayo” and nearly passed out on the spot. He instantly thought of a passage in the Book of Poisons written by Wang Nangu that said: “The Seven Insect Seven Flower Paste, made by mixing up seven kinds of poisonous flower and seven kinds of poisonous insect. The victim of this poison first feels itchy in the internal organs as if he is being gnawed internally by seven kinds of insect, then he sees seven colors appearing in front of him which looks wonderful and fanciful as if there are seven kinds of flower flying flickeringly. The Seven Insect Seven Flower Paste is composed of seven kinds of insect and seven kinds of flower so its components vary with individuals and regions. It has a maximum of forty nine different ways of combination each of which has sixty three variants. Only the person who makes up the poison can know how to detoxify.” Cold sweat streamed down from Zhang Wuji’s forehead, he knew that he himself had fallen into Zhao Min’s devilish trap. Not only had she intentionally put the Seven Insect Seven Flower Paste in the black jade bottle but she had also applied this violent poison on the bodies of A’San and the bald A’Er regardless these two elite fighters’ lives essentially aiming to lure him into her trap. Such a fiendish mind was really unimaginable. He utterly repented and hastily untied all the splints and bandages on the bodies of Yu Daiyan and Yin Liting then used white liquor to clean the poisonous paste from their limbs. Yang Buhui saw his serious expression, she knew this important business had not been successful so she was no longer shy of anything and helped Zhang Wuji to clean Yin Liting’s four limbs with liquor. However, the black had soaked through the skin, it could not be washed off no matter how hard they tried. Just like the case of lacquerers whose hands were dyed with colors, cleaning the black was not an overnight affair.

Zhang Wuji did not dare to use medicine rashly, he only picked out several kinds of pain-killer and tranquillizer for them to take. He walked to the outside room, feeling both alarmed and ashamed. His fortitude was exhausted and his knees could not help becoming weak. Suddenly he dropped down, bent on the floor of the palace and burst out crying. Yang Buhui was frightened, she could only call out: “Wuji ge-ge, Wuji ge-ge!” Zhang Wuji sobbed: “I myself killed third uncle and sixth younger uncle already.” He only thought in his mind: “This Seven Insect Seven Flower Paste has at least one hundred ways of combination, who knows what seven kinds of insect and flower that she used are? To detoxicate this fierce poison is merely to use the principle of neutralizing poison by poison, so even if only one kind of poisonous insect or flower is guessed wrong and I use that remedy carelessly, third uncle and six younger uncle will die forthwith.” At that moment, all of a sudden, he fully understood his father’s thoughts when he had ended his life, that was once a serious mistake was unable to be saved, there would really be no way except commiting suicide. Zhang Wuji sluggishly stood up. Yang Buhui asked: “Is there really no cure for this poison? Even reluctantly trying one time is also impossible?” Zhang Wuji shook his head. Yang Buhui said: “Alright.” She looked calm and no longer showed any sign of panic.

Zhang Wuji’s mind was stirred up, he recalled the sentence which she had said before: “If his injury was too serious to be cured, I wouldn’t be able to live too.” He thought: “This time I kill not only 2 people but actually 3.” When Zhang Wuji was at a loss, suddenly Wu Jingcao walked to the outside of the door and reported to him: “Cult Leader, that Miss Zhao is seeking a meet at the outside of the gate.” Just on hearing that, Zhang Wuji felt so indignant that he could not restrain himself, he shouted out: “I’m just about to look for her.” He drew out the long sword from Yang Buhui’s waist, hold it in his hand then went out in big strides. Xiao Zhao took down the pearl hairpin on her hair, hand it to Zhang Wuji, said: “ Mister, you give it back to Miss Zhao please.” Zhang Wuji cast his eyes upon her, thought: “You really know my intention. The feud between me and that girl surnamed Zhao is deep as the ocean, I cannot keep anything of her.” Holding the sword in one hand and the pearl hairpin in the other he walked out of the gate, only saw Zhao Min standing there alone, she was smiling. It was sundown by then, the Sun obliquely projected the blood-red rays of light on her cheeks, she looked incomparably beautiful. The Xuanming Two Elders stood behind her from more than ten zhang (33.33m), they were holding three excellent horses in their hands and staring into space.

Zhang Wuji moved his body, in a flash he was right in front of Zhao Min. He extended his left hand and grabbed both Zhao Min’s wrists, his right hand pointed the tip of the sword at her chest. He shouted at her: “Give up the antidote, quick!” Zhao Min smiled: “You’ve bullied me once before, this time you also want to bully me again, don’t you? I come here to inquire after you, yet you bear a glowering face, how can this be a proper way of welcoming guest?” Zhang Wuji said: “I need the antidote, if you don’t hand it over, I… I’ll not want to live anymore, you don’t think you’ll be able to live as well.” Zhao Min’s cheeks slightly reddened, she spit in a soft voice and said: “Bah! How nice? You dying is your own business, how come it has anything to do with me that you want me do die together with you?” Zhang Wuji raised his voice: “Who’s joking with you, huh? Hand over the antidote or else this day will be the day you and I die togerther.” At that time both the hands of Zhao Min were being seized tightly by him, she felt he was tremulously all of a shake showing an extremely excited mood, she also felt a hard object in his hand, so she asked: “What are you holding in your hand?” Zhang Wuji said: “Your pearl hairpin. I give it back to you.” He lifted his left hand to fix the hairpin onto her hair then immediately got hold of her two wrists again. His technique was fast as lightning performing the release and the grasp nearly at same time. Zhao Min said: “I gave it to you, why don’t you want it?” Zhang Wuji said fretfully: “You’ve always played me up and caused me good miseries, I don’t want to receive anything from you.” Zhao Min said: “You don’t wanna receive anything from me? Are you serious or just kidding? So why did you ask me to hand over the antidote as soon as you began to speak?” Previously, every time Zhang Wuji had argued with her, he had always gotten disadvantaged, this time he got stuck too. Thinking of Yu Daiyan and Yin Liting going to die before long, he felt deep grief in his heart and his eyes could not refrain from turning reddish, he almost let his tears roll down. No longer being able to bear up anymore, Zhang Wuji was about to implore her for the antidote but remembering that Zhao Min was such malignant, he did not want to show his feebleness in front of her.

At this time, Yang Xiao and others had known the news, they walked out of the gate together and saw that Zhao Min had been caught by Wuji and the Xuanming Two Elders were standing from a long distance as if they did not care for or did not fear anything. Everybody then stood aside and observed calmly.

Zhao Min smiled and said: “You’re the Leader of the Ming cult, your martial arts can shake the world, yet just encountering a bit of difficulty you wept ‘wah wah wah’ noisily like a child already. You just cried a short moment ago, right? That’s just really shameful. Let me tell you. You were hit two stances of the Xuanming Divine Palm by the the Xuanming Two Elders so I come here to ask after your injury. But to my unexpected, just barely seeing my face, you already made a fuss about nothing but die and live stuff, why? Let go of me will you?” Zhang Wuji thought even if she wanted to take the opportunity to get away she would not be able to do so since as soon as her feet moved, he would immediately grab hold of her, so he set her hands free. Zhao Min raised one hand to adjust the pearl hairpin on her hair, she smiled and said: “You seem not to be injured at all, don’t you?” Zhang Wuji said coldly: “Just the Xuanming Divine Palm alone not necessarily can injure me.” Zhao Min said: “Then how about the Great Force Diamond Finger and the the Seven Insect Seven Flower Paste?” These two sentences were like two big iron hammers striking hard on Zhang Wuji’s chest. He said vexedly: “It’s expectedly the Seven Insect Seven Flower Paste.” Zhao Min said in a stern voice: “Cult Leader Zhang, you want to get the Black Jade Break Connecting Paste, I can give you, you want to get the antidote for the Seven Insect Seven Flower Paste, I also can give you provided that you’re willing to promise to meet my three matters, then I’ll offer them up to you with pleasure. But if you use force to intimidate me, well, it’s easy to kill me, but to obtain the antidote, that’ll be hard and even harder in addition. And if you dare to torture me again, I’ll only give you poison and fake medicine.”

Zhang Wuji felt very jubilant and immediately showed gladness in his expression, although his eyes were still being dewed with tears. He hastily said: “What three matters? Quick say, quick say.” Zhao Min said with a smile: “Both crying and smiling at the same time, you’re really shameless! I said to you earlier, I’ve not thought them out yet. When I think of them I’ll let you know, as long as you promise me faithfully and don’t break your words. I will not ask you to clutch the Moon in the sky, also not ask you to do the evil things which violate the chivalry ethics, not ask you to commit suicide as well, and of course not ask you to act as dogs or pigs either.” Zhang Wuji thought: “On condition that those matters don’t go against the chivalry ethics, no matter how hard they are I’ll work myself to exhaustion to complete.” He then said chivalrously: “Miss Zhao, if you kindly bestow the efficacious medicine so that I can cure my third uncle Yu and sixth younger uncle Yin, then no matter what you ask me to do, Zhang Wuji will never dare to refuse even if I’ll have to jump into boiling water or walk on burning fire. Please yourself.” Zhao Min streched out one palm, said: “Good, let’s applaud for the oath. I’ll give you the antidote so that you can treat your third uncle and sixth younger uncle. Later on, if I ask you to do three things which don’t offend the knightliness you will not be permited to refuse and will have to try your best to fulfill them.” Zhang Wuji said: “With respect, I obey your venerable words.” He gently clashed palms with her three times. Zhao Min took down the hairpin from her head, said: “So now, do you want to accept my present?” In fear of her not giving the antidote, he did not dare to disobey her will and hastily received the pearl hairpin. Zhao Min said: “But I don’t want you to pass it on to that pretty maidservant again.” Zhang Wuji said: “Yes.” Zhao Min took three steps backward, she smiled and said: “The antidote will be delivered to you immediately, Cult Leader Zhang, goodbye!” She brushed her sleeves, turned around and walked away. The Xuanming Two Elders then led the horses along. They helped her get on a horse to leave first before following her. The clop-clop of hoofbeats resounded when the three horses descended the mountain.

When the trio including Zhao Min had just passed a mountain side, a man poked out from the canopy of a big tree on the left, he was Qian Er’bai of the Divine Arrow Eight Heroes and was holding an iron bow. He fixed an arrow on the bow and shouted: “With all due respect, my owner submits a letter to Cult Leader Zhang, please accept and read.” Upon these words, a ‘sou’ sound was heard, the arrow had shot toward him. Zhang Wuji made a wave with his left hand to catch the arrow. He found that the arrow did not have the arrowhead and there was a letter tied to the end of it. Zhang Wuji untied the letter from the arrow to take a look, the envelope read ‘Personally addressed to Cult Leader Zhang’. He opened the envelope and saw a flower-filigreed paper on which there were several lines written in the little standard script style (xiao kaishu - ??? ):

‘The golden box has two compartments

one of which has contained the efficacious paste for long,

The pearl hairpin is hollow

which has the remedy for the poison inside

Those two things were offered to the gentleman long ago why are you so exhausted and worried?

Though they are just tiny things

which are not worthy being taken into consideration why did you give them to a maidservant?

why did you regard them just as dirt and dust?

They are not counted as my sincere wishes are they?’

(Foxs, edited by Eliza Bennet)

Zhang Wuji read this note three times; he was pleasantly surprised but also ashamed. Hastily he examined the pearl head ornament and tried to twist the pearls one by one. Finally he found one he could unscrew and remove completely. The golden stem was hollow and inside it was a little white scroll. Zhang Wuji took out a golden needle from his pocket, the one he usually used for acupuncture, and fished the scroll out. The paper was very thin; on it the list of seven poisonous insects and seven poisonous flowers, plus the recipe of the antidote, were indeed written, everything was explained clearly one by one. Actually, Zhang Wuji only needed to know the seven insects and seven flowers, since he did not need other people’s direction on how to detoxify it. He looked at the recipe and found it to be correct, so he knew Zhao Min was not trying to swindle him. Hastily he rushed to the inner courtyard and prepared the antidote. Sure enough, a little over two hours later Yu and Yin two people were in a much better condition, the itch inside their bodies stopped and the various colors they saw in their vision disappeared.

Zhang Wuji took out the golden case in which Zhao Min delivered the pearl head ornament. After examining it carefully he found the secret compartment on the box’s wall, with black paste pressed in between. The paste smelled fragrant and cool. This time he did not dare to act recklessly, thereupon he caught a dog and broke its hind leg, then spread the paste on it. Early morning the next day that dog was running around without any sign of poisoning, and its broken leg was healed.

By the third day the poison inside Yu and Yin two people was completely eradicated; thereupon Zhang Wuji applied the ‘hei yu duan xu gao’ [black jade break connecting (or fracture healing) paste] on their four limbs. This time nothing strange happened. The ‘hei yu duan xu gao’ was marvelously effective; after about two months Yin Liting’s hands could move freely. It looked like very soon not only he would be able to move his hands and feet, but also his martial art was not damaged too much. Too bad Yu Daiyan had been disabled for too long, it would be difficult for him to fully recover. But looking at his condition right now, there was a great chance that within half a year he would be able to walk with crutches. He would still be handicapped, but he would be able to move around and not be crippled anymore.

Because Zhang Wuji was delayed on the Mount Wudang, he dispatched the Five-Element Flags to go down the mountain ahead of him. Upon their return they brought some rather disturbing news. Not a single one of the people from Emei, Huashan, Kongtong and Kunlun Sects who went to the Brightness Peak returned to their respective sect. The Jianghu world was shaken. Everybody said that the Devil Cult had annihilated all experts from the six major sects who went on the expedition to the western region, and then extinguished each sect separately one by one. The sudden-disappearing Shaolin monks had created an unprecedented wave in the Wulin world. Luckily each flag leader and his second-in-command carried the letter written by Zhang Sanfeng of Wudang Sect; they also did not reveal their true identities, otherwise they would be torn to pieces by each sect they visited.

All flag leaders and his second-in-commands also reported that by that time in Jianghu world every sect, clan and society, as well as expedition companies, robbers, pirates, harbor gangs, and so on were on the highest level of alert since they were afraid the Ming Cult would launch a large scale attack.

A few days later Yin Tianzheng and Yin Yewang father and son had also returned to Wudang, reporting that the completion of the reorganizing effort of the Heavenly Eagle Flag; it is now part of the Ming Cult. They also reported that the warriors of the southeast raised their arms to fight the Yuan invaders; the world was in great tumult. In the meantime the Yuan army was still too strong, furthermore each rebellion was staged individually, without any contact with each other; therefore, they were easily crushed.

That same evening Zhang Sanfeng held a vegetarian banquet at the rear hall in honor of Yin Tianzheng father and son. During the banquet Yin Tianzheng narrated the cause of each defeat, and how in each insurrection the Ming Cult and the Heavenly Eagle Sect disciples always took part in it, and that many of them were captured or even killed by the Yuan soldiers; making an ultimate sacrifice in the process.

As the group of warriors listened to his narration, they all sighed in grief and anger. Yang Xiao said, “The people’s suffering is already very deep. Their hearts are changed; they want to drive the Tartar and capture back our river and mountain [‘he shan’ – country or land]. When Yang Jiaozhu was still alive, day and night it was his sole concern. It’s a pity that our Cult used to handle matters differently that for the last hundred of years we are always involved in feud against various Wulin sects of the Central Plains; making it difficult to join hands to fight the enemy. With the Heaven’s blessing we now have Zhang Jiaozhu to handle the Cult’s affairs, gradually solving our enmity with each sect. The time is ripe to work together and drive out the invaders.” “Yang Zuoshi,” Zhou Dian said, “What you said was not wrong, but it was a pile of rubbish, it was like a fart.”

Yang Xiao was not angry, “Then I am waiting for Zhou Xiong’s advice,” he said.

Zhou Dian replied, “The Jianghu people all say that our Cult has killed the experts of six major sects. Once they heard the word ‘Ming Cult’ their hatred is going deep into their bones and marrows. What do you mean by ‘working together and drive out the invaders’? It was pleasant to the ears, but how do we do it?”

“It’s true that we have a bad name,” Yang Xiao said, “But the truth will always be revealed in the end; moreover, we now have Zhang Zhenren [lit. true/real person – a respectable term to address a Taoist Priest] as our witness.”

Zhou Dian laughed, “Supposing that it was really us who killed Song Yuanqiao, Old Nun Mie Jue, He Taichong and the others, how would Zhang Zhenren know that he was not being deceived?”

Tieguan Daoren [Iron Hat Taoist Priest] reprimanded him harshly, “Zhou Dian, don’t talk nonsense in front of Zhang Zhenren and Jiaozhu!”

Zhou Dian stuck out his tongue but did not reply. Peng Yingyu said, “What Zhou Xiong said was not without reason. According to pinseng’s [lit. impoverished monk – he was referring to himself] opinion, we should hold a general assembly of the Ming Cult’s leaders, where we will make known Zhang Jiaozhu’s intention to repair our relation with the Wulin world’s various sects. At the same time, more people means broader horizon; we can discuss these matters and investigate Song Daxia [great hero Song], Mie Jue Shitai and the others’ whereabouts during the assembly.”

“If you want to find Song Daxia and the others’ whereabouts; that is very easy. I might say as easy as blowing off the dust on top of this table,” Zhou Dian said. They were all surprised, “How?” they asked, “Why didn’t you say so earlier?”

With a smug expression on his face, Zhou Dian drank a cup of wine and said, “All we need is Jiaozhu to go and ask that Miss Zhao. I am 90% sure that we will understand everything. I say if those people are not killed by Miss Zhao, then they must be captured by her.”

For the last two months, Wei Yixiao, Yang Xiao, Peng Yingyi, Shuo Bude and the others had separately gone down the mountain trying to find out Zhao Min’s origin and to track her trail; but since her appearance in front of Wudang and she shook hands with Zhang Wuji to seal their agreement, this person had disappeared without any trace. Even her many subordinates all had vanished without leaving the least bit of trace. They all speculated that she was related to the imperial government, but other than that they did not have any clue as where to seek her. This time hearing Zhou Dian speak they said, “Now you are talking rubbish! If we found that girl surnamed Zhao, wouldn’t we ask her ourselves?”

Zhou Dian said with a smile, “You certainly can’t find her; but Jiaozhu does not have to seek her to find her. Jiaozhu still owes her three things; do you think that fierce Miss will let him go so easily? Hey, hey! This girl is beautiful, but each time I think about her, all the hair on my body stands on its end; she causes me to shiver.”

Everybody could not help but smile, yet they understood the truth in what he said. Zhang Wuji sighed and said, “I only hope she would give me her three difficult problems quickly then I will do my best to do them and bring this matter to completion. Otherwise my thoughts will be in suspense all day long; not knowing what kind of strange trick she is performing. Anyway, about Peng Dashi’s [reverend, lit. grand master] suggestion earlier; our Cult will hold a general assembly of the leaders. This is quite feasible. What do all of you think?”

“It is,” they replied, “But it is better not on Mount Wudang.” “Jiaozhu,” Yang Xiao said, “Where do you think is the best place?”

Zhang Wuji hesitated a moment before saying, “Being a humble Cult Leader today I always remember our own Cult’s two people’s benevolence. One is the Yi-xian [lit. medicine/medical immortal – Divine Doctor] of Butterfly Valley, Mr. Hu Qingniu; that Senior died under the Golden Flower Granny’s hand. The other is Chang Yuchun Dage [big brother]; I don’t know his whereabouts nowadays. I think, let’s hold our Cult’s general assembly on the Butterfly Valley in Huaibei.”

Zhou Dian clapped his hands and said, “Very good, very good! I bickered constantly with this ‘jian si bu jiu’ [seeing death without helping – previous translator used ‘rather see death than help’] in the past, but actually he was not a bad person, just a little bit eccentric. He employed different methods from Yang Zuoshi [Left Emissary Yang], but achieved equally wonderful results. He saw someone in danger and did nothing, in the end he died without anybody helping him; it was his retribution. I, Zhou Dian, want to go to his grave and bow to honor him.”

The rest of the group did not have any objection, they agreed upon the Midautumn Festival [‘zhong qiu’] in the eighth month, which was still a little over three months away; all leaders of the Ming Cult would hold their general assembly on the Butterfly Valley in Huaibei, the former residence of Hu Qingniu.

Early morning the next day all the Five-Element Flags and the Heavenly Eagle Flag went down Mount Wudang to convey their Cult Leader’s order: All cult leaders, from ‘xiang zhu’ [Translator note: I am not sure about this; I think this is a supervisory position name within the Cult] and above to leave the business of the Cult to their assistants, and to be at the Huaibei’s Butterfly Valley before the eighth month’s Mid-autumn Festival, to pay their respect to the new Cult Leader.

By that time the Mid-autumn Festival was still some days away, and since Yu Daiyan and Yin Liting had not fully recovered from their injuries, Zhang Wuji was afraid their illness would recur and thus his efforts would be in vain; therefore, he decided to stay on Mount Wudang to look after Yu and Yin two people, while at the same time he leisurely asked Zhang Sanfeng to teach him more about Taiji Fist and Sword techniques. Wei Yixiao, Peng Yingyu, Shuo Bude and the others went down the mountain once again trying to track Zhao Min’s whereabouts. Yang Xiao received the Cult Leader’s order to stay at Wudang, but because of Ji Xiaofu’s affair, he felt uncomfortable to meet Yin Liting; hence he stayed cooped up in his room reading books and did not go out even for a single step from his door unless it was important to do so.

And so two months have passed. About the seventh hour [between 11am – 1pm] one particular day Zhang Wuji visited Yang Xiao in his room; he wanted to consult Yang Xiao on the Butterfly Valley congress and to ask him about important matters surrounding their Cult. He was still young and lacking experience, suddenly thrown into the deep end of the pool; he oftentimes felt inadequate to bear this heavy responsibility. He was afraid he might do wrong an important matter and cause harm; while Yang Xiao had a deep knowledge of their Cult’s affair. For that reason Zhang Wuji wanted Yang Xiao to be nearby so he could consult him anytime.

Two people discussed the congress at length. Zhang Wuji casually took a book lying on top of Yang Xiao’s table. On the cover these seven characters were written‘Ming Jiao Liu Chuan Zhong Tu Ji’ [A record on the spread of Ming Cult to the Central Earth]; underneath, in smaller characters, ‘Di Zi Guang Ming Zuo Shi Yang Xiao Gong Zhuan’ [respectfully compiled by the Brightness disciple, Left Emissary Yang Xiao]. Zhang Wuji said, “Yang Zuoshi, you are skilled in both pen and sword [‘wen wu quan cai’], truly you are our Cult’s pillar.”

“Many thanks for Jiaozhu’s compliment,” Yang Xiao said.

Zhang Wuji opened the book and saw in neat little characters an extensive documentation of everything about the Cult. The Ming Cult originated from Persia; it was originally called ‘Mo Ni Jiao’ [Manichaeism]. It entered the Central Earth during the first Yan Zai year of Empress Wu of the Tang Dynasty, when a Persian man presented the Ming Cult’s ‘san zong jing’ [three-purpose scripture] to the court; since then the Chinese people started to practice this teaching. In the third year of Tang’s master calendar, on the twenty ninth day of the sixth month the first Ming Cult temple was built in Luoyang, Chang’an, with the name of ‘Da Yun Guang Ming Si’ [Great Cloud Brightness Temple]. Later on, these kinds of temples were built in Taiyuan, Jingzhou, Yangzhou, Hongzhou, Yuezhou, and other strategic small cities. Toward the third Hui Chang year the imperial government issued an order to kill the Ming Cult disciples; at that time the Ming Cult influence was greatly diminished. Since then the Ming Cult became an underground religion, oppressed by subsequent dynasties. In order for the Ming Cult to survive, it had to resort to sly and secret behavior, that in the end the character ‘mo’ of the ‘Mo Ni Jiao’ was changed to ‘mo’ [devil]; hence the people started calling it the Devil Cult.

Reading to this part Zhang Wuji heaved a long sigh and said, “Yang Zuoshi, our Cult’s original teaching was to shun evil and do good deeds, no different than Buddhism or Taoism. Why is it since the Tang Dynasty we have been the target of oppression even to the point of atrocious slaughters?”

Yang Xiao replied, “Although Buddhism aim for the restoration of human kind, once a monk leaves home he empties himself and doesn’t pay any more attention toward worldly matters. Taoism is the same. Our Cult moves among the common people and peasants; if we see someone in suffering or deep poverty, regardless of who it is, our people will strive to help. The government officials always bully common people; when did you ever see they didn’t? Where did you ever see they didn’t? As soon as we know someone received unjust treatment from an officer, our Cult is bound to clash with that officer.”

Zhang Wuji nodded his head, “Only when the royal government authorities stop bullying common people, local tyrant landlords do not dare to run amuck, when that time comes, our Cult will enjoy true prosperity,” he said.

Yang Xiao slapped the table and with a loud voice said, “What Jiaozhu said was the key point of our Cult’s purpose.”

“Yang Zuoshi,” Zhang Wuji asked, “Do you think that day will come?”

Yang Xiao was silent for half a day before answering, “I do hope that day will come. During the Song Dynasty, Fang La, our own Fang Jiaozhu, rose up to tell the government authorities not to bully the common people.” He opened the book and pointed the record about Ming Cult’s Cult Leader Fang La staging an earth-shaking rebellion on east Zhejiang.

As Zhang Wuji read that part, he lifted his eyes to gaze towards the distance. Closing the book he said, “A real man should be as strong as he was. Although Fang Jiaozhu sacrificed his life, we can say that in the end he had rendered a massive contribution to our cause.” Two people were thinking of the same thing and their blood was boiling.

Yang Xiao continued, “Although our Cult is oppressed for the last several dynasties, we actually are still standing strong. During the fourth Shaoxing year of the Song Dynasty there was an officer by the name of Wang Juzheng who presented a report about our Cult to the Emperor. Jiaozhu, you can take a look at it.” While saying that he turned the page containing Wang Juzheng’s report.

Zhang Wuji read the report as follows: ‘In two of Zhejiang prefectures there is a custom of worshipping the devil and eating only vegetables.” Before Fang La the ban against this custom was still lenient and it was not as widely spread. After Fang La, the ban was stricter, but the devil worshiping became more rampant … Subordinate heard that this is how they operate: there are one or two crafty devil worshipper leaders in every town and village, these have the record of names of the villagers who pledge to join the devil society. All of the devil worshippers do not eat meat. If one of their members is in difficulty, their comrades would do all they can to help. Basically by not eating meat they life a frugal and simple live. By helping each other in the same society they promote camaraderie, which, in the end, also support their frugal and simple way of living …’ Reading to this point Zhang Wuji said, “Although that Wang Juzheng was hostile toward our Cult, he was aware that our people live a frugal and simple life, and we love and help each other.” He continued reading, ‘… Subordinate believes the previous Emperor also admonished the people to live a simple life and to love and help each other. Living a frugal and simple life is an honorable way of life since the ancient times. It’s a pity that today’s government leaders cannot be good example for the people, so that the Devil Leaders are able to entice them into joining their society and blindly follow their teaching. Common people are simple and ignorant; by following the Devil’s teaching and live the Devil’s way, living a simple and frugal life, they confirm the Devil Leaders’ words as trustworthy sayings and do not made the slightest effort to challenge them. Therefore, the stricter the ban, the more they expand’

Zhang Wuji stopped reading, turning his head to Yang Xiao he said, “Yang Zuoshi, ‘the stricter the ban, the more they expand’; this is exactly the proof that our Cult is deeply loved by the people. May I borrow this book, so I can learn more about our Cult’s previous saints’ outstanding achievements and their wishes?”

“I was about to ask Jiaozhu to give me your opinion,” Yang Xiao replied.

Zhang Wuji took the book and said, “Yu Sanbo’s [third martial (older) uncle] and Yin Liushu’s [sixth martial (younger) uncle] conditions have improved tremendously; we are leaving for the Butterfly Valley tomorrow. I have another matter I’d like to discuss with Yang Zuoshi; it is about Buhui Meizi [sister/beloved].”

Yang Xiao thought Zhang Wuji was about to propose, so he was overjoyed. “Buhui owes her life to Jiaozhu; we, father and daughter, would love to pay that debt of gratitude back as soon as we can. Jiaozhu only need to say it and we will certainly comply.” Thereupon Zhang Wuji recounted the details of what Yang Buhui had told him that day to Yang Xiao.

As Yang Xiao heard this, he was stunned and was at a loss for words. Only after a long time did he finally open his mouth, “That my daughter is loved by Yin Liuxia [Sixth Hero Yin], it is truly a fortunate matter. But their age difference is huge, plus they come from different generations, this … this

…” After saying the word ‘this’ twice, he did not know how to continue.

Zhang Wuji said, “Yin Liushu is not even forty years of age yet; he is still in the prime of his life. It’s true that Buhui Meizi calls him ‘Shushu’ [(younger) uncle], but they don’t have actual blood relationship or even martial relationship. Those two are perfectly suited to each other. If this marriage arrangement can be consummated, then the past animosity can be dissolved; won’t that be great?”

Yang Xiao was a very open-minded person. Because of Ji Xiaofu’s affair, he felt ashamed each time he saw Yin Liting. He silently pondered the fact that since Buhui was already in love then if the marriage could be consummated, it would not only redeem his own past transgression, but it would also strengthen the alliance between the Ming Cult and the Wudang Sect. Thereupon he cupped his fists and said, “That Jiaozhu is willing to lend a hand in the successful conclusion of this matter shows your loving concern to us. Subordinate would like to express my gratitude in advance.”

That very evening Zhang Wuji announced the good news. The group of warriors immediately offered their heartiest congratulations to Yin Liting. Yang Buhui was shy; she did not dare to come out from her room. At first Zhang Sanfeng and Yu Daiyan were quite surprised to hear this, but later on they were happy for Yin Liting.

When asked about the wedding date, Yin Liting replied, “By the time Da Shige [first martial brother] and the others are back and everybody is here, it won’t be too late to talk about the wedding.”

The next day Zhang Wuji, along with Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng, Yin Yewang, Tieguan Daoren, Zhou Dian, Xiao Zhao and the others, bid their farewells to Zhang Sanfeng and his disciples; they were leaving for Huaibei. Yang Buhui stayed behind on Mount Wudang to take care of Yin Liting. At that time the rule against men and women relationship was very strict, but they were Wulin people, so they did not adhere to this rule too strictly.

The Ming Cult people took their journey from dawn to dusk, heading towards northeast. Along the way they saw barren rice fields and the people had hunger written all over their faces. The coastal regions are usually rich and populous areas, but at that time the fields were dry and everywhere people died of starvation. The suffering of the common people had reached its peak. Seeing this disaster the Ming Cult people heaved a heavy sigh. They were aware that the brutal reign of the Mongolians on the Central Earth would not last too long. It was precisely the best opportunity for the warriors to take up their arms and fight the invaders.

One day they arrived at Jiepaiji; not too far from the Butterfly Valley. While they were walking suddenly they heard a deafening battle noise ahead; two opposing cavalries were engaged in a fierce battle. The Ming Cult people rushed their horses ahead. Passing through a forest they saw over a thousand Mongolian soldiers were attacking a fortified camp on a hill. Above the camp fluttered a big banner with a picture of red flame on it; it was the Ming Cult’s banner. The people defending the camp were smaller in number. It seemed like they were in a disadvantageous situation, but they still fought unyieldingly.

The Mongolians’ arrows came like rain. “Devil Cult rebels!” they shouted, “Quickly surrender!”

“Jiaozhu,” Zhou Dian said, “Shall we?”

“All right!” Zhang Wuji said, “Kill the leaders first.”

Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng, Yin Yewang, Tieguan Daoren, Zhou Dian, five people answered his call; breaking into the enemy formation. Long swords waved and two Mongolian ‘bai fu zhang’ [leader of 100 men unit] fell down their horses; followed by their ‘qian fu zhang’ [leader of 1000 men unit] fell under Yin Yewang’s blade. The Yuan soldiers were thrown into confusion as soon as their leader fell down The people defending the camp cheered as they saw help coming their way. The camp gate opened and a big burly man dressed in black came out with a lance in his hand. He charged into the Yuan soldiers and they were scattered away; nobody dared to block his lance. That big man swung his lance, quick as lightning, and a Yuan soldier was stabbed and fell from his horse. The soldiers around him cried out in alarm and fled to all directions.

Seeing this man’s impressive, almost deity-like power, Yang Xiao and the others praised him highly, “Truly a heroic commander!”

Actually Zhang Wuji had seen that man’s face clearly; he was none other than his big brother, Chang Yuchun, whom he missed dearly. Only the battle was raging wild, he did not have the opportunity to greet him. The Ming Cult people attacked left and right, killing about five, six hundreds Yuan soldiers. The rest of the enemy did not dare to prolong the battle, they scattered around and fled the battlefield.

Chang Yuchun lifted his lance horizontally and laughed. “Which brothers come to lend help? Old Chang is deeply grateful,” he called out.

“Chang Dage,” Zhang Wuji called out, “I miss you very much.” Leaping toward him he grabbed Chang Yuchun’s hands tightly.

Chang Yuchun bowed in respect and said, “Brother Jiaozhu, I am your Dage [big brother], but I also am your subordinate. My joy is unspeakable.”

It turned out that Chang Yuchun was an officer under the Gigantic Wood Flag. He had learned Zhang Wuji’s taking over the Cult Leader position and the circumstances surrounding it from the Flag Leader Wen Cangsong. He recently led a group of Cult brethrens to wait for Zhang Wuji. Unfortunately they were attacked by the Yuan army. Knowing his group was inferior in number, he originally was about to pretend defeat to lure the enemy into the camp, and then he would crush them. Unexpectedly Zhang Wuji and his entourage arrived and lent their assistance. Taking advantage of this favorable situation he went out of the camp and made some killing. His position in the Ming Cult was not high; therefore, he immediately paid his respects to Yang Xiao, Yin Tianzheng and the others. The leaders knew he was their Cult Leader’s sworn brother, so they did not dare to act condescendingly. They held out their hands to greet him and treated him with utmost respect. Chang Yuchun invited the leaders to enter the camp. He butchered some sheep and prepared a banquet for his guests. And then they talked about what happened after they were separated.

The Huainan and Huaibei area experienced drought for the past several years in a row; the common people’s suffering was beyond description. Chang Yuchun did not expect to live; he gathered a band of brothers and they lived as robbers [‘lu lin’ – lit. green forest], plundering food, gold and silver and storing them in the stronghold. After accumulating enough, they distributed the goods to the poor people. Several times the Yuan army tried to attack, but they always failed.

They all spent the night inside the camp. The next day they, along with Chang Yuchun, went north. They thought since the Yuan soldiers were defeated, they would not dare to attack within these two, three months. Several days later they arrived at the Butterfly Valley. As the Ming Cult people who had arrived earlier heard their Cult Leader’s arrival, they went out the valley to welcome him. In the meantime the Gigantic Wood Flag had built many thatched huts and wooden cabins as temporary residence of the leaders. Wei Yixiao, Peng Yingyu, Shou Bude and the others had already arrived earlier; they reported their failure to find Miss Zhao’s whereabouts.

After receiving the Ming Cult leaders, Zhang Wuji prepared some offerings and went to the graves of Hu Qingniu, husband and wife, and Ji Xiaofu. He recalled the day he left the valley, he was sorrowful, frightened and in a very difficult situation. Today he returned in glorious splendor as the Cult Leader of a powerful cult; it felt like a whole world apart.

Three days later it was the fifteenth of the eighth month. A tall altar had been built in the middle of the Butterfly Valley. A huge bonfire was built in front of the altar. Zhang Wuji climbed on top of the altar to announce their pledge to put away their previous enmity with various sects of the Central Plains and their desire to drive the Yuan invaders out. He also issued some religious rules; reaffirming their pledge to do good and shun evil, and thus following the original Cult teaching.

The Cult members immediately showed their obedience by lighting up the incense and they swore their pledge that they would not dare to disobey their Cult Leader’s decree. Under the bright sun the fire in front of the altar was blazing high, the fragrance of the incense spread everywhere, the Ming Cult flourished far beyond in the time past. Seeing this prosperous situation, some older members remembered how for the last dozen of years the Ming Cult was split up and their destruction was imminent, they could not help but break down in tears.

Later in the afternoon a Ming Cult subordinate came to report, “Flooding Water Flag disciples, Zhu Yuanzhang, Xu Da and the others seek an audience with Jiaozhu.”

Zhang Wuji was delighted; he personally went out of the gate to meet them. Zhu Yuanzhang and Xu Da were accompanied by Tang He, Deng Yu, Hua Yun, Wu Liang and Wu Zhen. They stood respectfully outside the gate. As they saw Zhang Wuji come out, they bowed in respect and said, “Greetings to Jiaozhu!”

Zhang Wuji often remembered how Xu Da had saved his life; he was very happy to see these people, he immediately returned the salute. Taking Zhu Yuanzhang in his left hand and Xu Da in his right, he took them inside and invited them to sit down. After apologizing to each other they took their seats. By then Zhu Yuanzhang had already returned to secular life, he was no longer dressed as a Buddhist monk. He said, “As your subordinates received Jiaozhu’s order, we hurried along to the Butterfly Valley. We should have been arrived a few days earlier, but on the way we met a completely baffling matter that your subordinates had to investigate; hence we missed the general assembly. We ask for Jiaozhu’s forgiveness.”

“I wonder what kind of baffling matter was that?” Zhang Wuji asked. Zhu Yuanzhang said, “All of us were delighted when we received Jiaozhu’s order on the first week of the sixth month; we brothers discussed what kind of gift we need to prepare to congratulate Jiaozhu. Huaibei is a poor place, there is nothing good in there; fortunately the assembly was still some times away, so we went to Shandong to try our luck. We were afraid the government authorities would recognize us; therefore, we disguised ourselves as mule cart drivers, your subordinate was the leader. One day we arrived at Guidefu in Henan, where were hired by some customers who wanted to go to Heze, Shandong. While we were traveling suddenly some people pursued us with blades and spears, very fierce and menacing. They chased away our customers and told us to drive other customers. Brother Hua wanted to deal with them right away, but Brother Xu signaled him with his eyes to look clearly into this matter before making any move first. Those people led us with our nine mule carts to a valley in the mountain. We saw there were already about a dozen other carts waiting, while on the ground sat some Buddhist monks.”

“Buddhist monks?” Zhang Wuji wondered.

“That’s right,” Zhu Yuanzhang replied, “Those monks hang their heads low, they looked so dejected. But among them there were some unusual looking people, some had their ‘tai yang xue’ [sun acupoint] bulging out of their temples, some were tall and powerfully built. Brother Xu quietly told me that those monks were all martial art experts. Those fierce people ordered the monks to ride on the carts and then they led us all to the north. Subordinate believed something was wrong, so I quietly told everybody to be on their guards and not to reveal our true identity. Along the way we paid full attention to what those fierce people were saying, but those people were very secretive; they did not say anything in our presence. Afterwards Brother Wu Liang gathered up his courage and eavesdropped outside their window in the middle of the night. He did that for four, five nights in a row before he finally found out that those monks were actually from the Shaolin Temple of Mount Song in Henan.”

“Ah!” Although Zhang Wuji had partly guessed it, he still could not restrain himself from exclaiming. Zhu Yuanzhang continued, “Brother Wu Liang heard one of those fierce people say, ‘Master’s strategy is truly divine, worthy of other people’s utmost admiration. Shaolin, Wudang, and the rest of the six major sects are in our hand. Who had ever achieved such result since the ancient time?’ Another man said, ‘I am not surprised. One arrow two eagles [killing two birds with one stone], the Devil Cult leaders will be implicated by this matter.’ We seven people pretended going to the bathroom and quietly discussed this matter. We all agreed that since by coincidence this matter concerning our Cult fell into our hands, then we must investigate carefully and submit a report to Jiaozhu.”

“You have done the right thing,” Zhang Wuji commented.

“We continued going north,” Zhu Yuanzhang said, “All the while we maintained our disguises as simple men. Brother Tang He and Brother Deng Yu pretended to bicker over five coins of silver; they fought awkwardly, like people who do not know martial art at all. Those fierce people clapped their hands and laughed, and afterwards they did not pay us any attention anymore. We called them ‘lao ye’ [lit. old master] this and ‘lao ye’ that, flattering them by all kinds of crap. At one time Brother Wu Zhen was thinking of drugging them, diverting their attention and then saving those Shaolin monks; but then we thought it over, we did not know anything about what was going on, these ominous people were well-trained in martial arts. We were afraid we might disturb the grass and scare the snake, and harming an important matter by alerting the enemy; therefore, all along we did not dare to make our move.

When we arrived at the Hejian prefecture we met with six other big carts, also full of prisoners. They dressed as common civilians. During the meal I overheard a Shaolin monk greeted one of the newcomers, ‘Song Daxia [great hero], you are here!’”

Zhang Wuji leaped up and hastily asked, “Did he say ‘Song Daxia’? What did he look like?” Zhu Yuanzhang replied, “His body was slim-built, he looked about fifty, sixty years of age, wearing a three-branch long beard. His face looked simple yet elegant.”

Zhang Wuji knew it was indeed Song Yuanqiao. He was pleasantly surprised and asked further what the rest of those people looked like. Turned out Yu Lianzhou, Zhang Songxi, Mo Shenggu three people were also among those prisoners. “Are they injured? Are they shackled?” he asked.

“I did not see any shackle,” Zhu Yuanzhang replied, “I also did not see any injury. They talked and ate just like any ordinary people, only they looked dispirited; also they walked swaying and staggering. As he was greeted by that Shaolin monk he only smiled bitterly but did not say anything. The Shaolin monk was about to say something else, but one of the fierce people pulled him away. Thereafter our two groups were separated by about ten ‘li’s; we did not stop and eat together anymore; subordinate has never seen Song Daxia’s group ever since. About the third day of the seventh month our group of Shaolin monks arrived at Dadou [lit. grand capital, present day Beijing].”

“Ah,” Zhang Wuji exclaimed, “You went to Dadou, then they must have fallen into the treacherous hand of the royal government. And then what happened?”

Zhu Yuanzhang continued, “Those fierce people led us to take the Shaolin monks toward a big temple on the west side of the city. They also told us to spend the night in the temple.”

“What temple was that?” Zhang Wuji asked.

“When we entered the temple, subordinate looked up at the sign above the gate, it was called Wan An Si [Temple of Ten-thousand Peace],” Zhu Yuanzhang answered, “But because of that one of the ominous people struck me with his horse whip. That night we brothers quietly discussed our situation. We believed these ominous people would kill us to shut our mouths up, so when the sky turned black we quietly escaped.”

“It was very dangerous,” Zhang Wuji said, “You were lucky those ominouspeople did not pursue you.”

Tang He smiled and said, “Zhu Dage [Big Brother Zhu] has already anticipated that. Before leaving we captured seven mule cart drivers from the neighborhood and changed our clothes with theirs. Afterwards we killed them inside the temple. We mutilated their faces so that those ominous people would not recognize them. We also killed the other mule cart drivers who came with us and we scattered money everywhere to make it look like two groups of people fought over money and killed each other, so that when those ominous people returned, they would not suspect anything.”

Zhang Wuji was secretly shocked; he saw Xu Da’s face showed he did not have the heart to do so, Deng Yu looked embarrassed, Tang He sounded very proud, but Zhu Yuanzhang was the only one who maintained his composure and did not show any emotion on his face, like nothing out of ordinary happened. Zhang Wuji thought, “This man is cruel and shrewd.” He said, “Although Zhu Dage’s idea was wonderful, but from now on we must not kill innocent people so easily.”

It was their Cult Leader’s order, so Zhu Yuanzhang and the others stood up at once. They bowed and said, “We will follow Jiaozhu’s instruction.” Thereafter when Zhu Yuanzhang, Xu Da, Deng Yu, Tang He and the others went out to battle, they always observed Zhang Wuji’s order and did not dare to randomly kill innocent people. In the end they won the people’s hearts and were able to accomplish a great undertaking.

Zhang Wuji said, “Zhu Dage, the seven of you managed to find out the whereabouts of Shaolin and Wudang two sects’ masters; it was not a small merit. After arranging the strategy to fight the Yuan we will go to Dadou to rescue the two sects’ masters.”

After the official business was done, Zhang Wuji chatted with Xu Da and the others as friends. He recalled the time they stole and butchered an ox outside Zhang Yuan. They clapped their hands and laughed heartily.

That evening in the general assembly Zhang Wuji burned incense to proclaim their oath to fight a coordinated insurrection against the Yuan from various places. The Cult leaders echoed their determination to work together; their main target was to drive the Yuan army away little by little. The following was their strategy:

Cult Leader Zhang Wuji, assisted by the Brightness Left Emissary Yang Xiao and Green-winged Bat King Wei Yixiao held the ‘zong tan’ [lit. head/chief altar – central government] position, as the highest command for the entire Cult.

White-browed Eagle King Yin Tianzheng commanded the Heavenly Eagle Flag, making their movement in the Jiangnan area.

Zhu Yuanzhang, Xu Da, Tang He, Deng Yu, Hua Yun, Wu Liang, Wu Zhen, joined by Chang Yuchun’s stronghold cavalry, plus Sun Deya’s troops would raise their arms in Huaibei’s Haozhou.

Bu Dai Heshang [cloth sack monk] and Shuo Bude were in command of Han Shantong, Liu Futong, Du Zundao, Luo Wensu, Sheng Wenyu, Wang Xianzhong, Han Jiao’er and the others, to raise their arms at Yingchuan district of Henan.

Peng Yingyu led Xu Shuohui, Zou Puwang, Ming Wudeng to fight at Jiangxi’s Ganzhou, Raozhou, Yuanzhou, Xinzhou and other districts.

Tie Guan Daoren [iron hat priest] led Bu Sanwang, Meng Haima and the others raised their arms at Xiangchu and Jingxiang districts.

Zhou Dian commanded Zhi Mali, Zhao Junyong and the others raised their arms at Xuxiu and Fengpei districts.

Leng Qian was in charge of the Ming Cult member in the western region, cutting off any Mongolian reinforcement coming to the Central Plains from the western region.

The Five-Element Flags were under ‘zong tan’s command, to be dispatched as necessary as the reinforcement for those who needed it.

The people were 90% sure that this strategy came from Yang Xiao and Peng Yingyu’s minds.

As Zhang Wuji finished outlining their strategy, the crowd broke into a thunderous applause. Zhang Wuji also said, “Logically, we cannot rely only on our own Cult’s strength to shake nearly one hundred years of Yuan’s occupation. We must make good contacts with the heroes and warriors; only by pooling our strength and resources together will we be able to achieve great merits. Presently almost half of the masters of the Wulin world of Central Plains are being captured by the royal government, ‘zong tan’ will think of a way to rescue them. Tomorrow all of the brothers will go your own way. Fight and kill the Tartars whenever you have the opportunity. ‘Zong tan’ will also head for Dadou for a rescue operation. We have met and enjoy this joyous fellowship today; I don’t know when we are going to see each other again in the future. Brothers, you must show loyalty to each other, give the important matter a foremost place in your heart, don’t fight with each other over power and profit, don’t kill each other. If any injustice of this kind is found among you, ‘zong tan’ will not be lenient.”

The crowd shouted their answer with one voice, “We won’t dare to disobey Jiaozhu’s order!” Their cheers and shouts echoed throughout the valley. Afterwards everybody sealed their oath by shedding their blood and burning the incense; determined to hold fast to their just cause in live or death.

The moon was shining brightly as it was daytime. The Ming Cult leaders sat around the banquet tables, while the staff of ‘zhong tan’ served some vegetable-stuffed round cakes to everybody. The round cakes looked like the moon, hence they called it ‘moon cake.’ Later on a legend developed that the Chinese made a pact to kill the Tartars while eating moon cake during the Mid-autumn Festival [‘ba yue xhong qiu - lit. mid-autumn of the eighth month]; it was because of the Ming Cult held their assembly that evening to decide the battle strategy.

Zhang Wuji also said, “Our Cult has always had a rule passed on from generation to generation, that we don’t eat meat or drink wine. But presently there are famines everywhere; we can’t always choose what we eat. Moreover, our primary objective today is to drive the Tartars out. If we don’t eat meat or fish our strengths will wane and it will be difficult to fight. From now on I lift up this religious rule of not eating meat and drinking wine. We live in this world must put important matter first, eating and drinking rule is trivial matter.” From that time on the Ming Cult people ate the moon cake with pork stuffing.

Next day early in the morning everybody bade Zhang Wuji goodbye. Although they were warriors and brave people, but thinking about the incoming bloody battle nobody knew who would survive and who would perish. Although they were confident that they would be successful, but among the attendees of the Butterfly Valley assembly, perhaps only half of them would live; inevitably they all left with heavy hearts.

While the ceremonial fire was still ablaze in the Butterfly Valley, suddenly someone sang in a clear voice,

“Burn my wretched body, oh raging holy fire. What joy is in life, what pain is in death?”

The rest of the crowd responded in one voice, “Burn my wretched body, oh raging holy fire. What joy is in life, what pain is in death?

To do good and shun evil, only for brightness’ cause. Whether it is a life of happiness or sadness, Everybody will go back to the dust.

I pity the mankind, with their many suffering! I pity the mankind, with their many suffering!”

The last phrase of ‘I pity the mankind, with their many suffering! I pity the mankind, with their many suffering!’ echoed in the Butterfly Valley. With their clothes as white as snow, the warriors came to Zhang Wuji’s presence one by one, bowing their heads and salute, raised their head back up, turned around and left without looking back. Remembering that in the ten or twenty years to come, these warriors, such as Xu Da, would shed their blood for the sake of the Central Plains, Zhang Wuji could not help his eyes brim in tears.

The sound of singing was getting farther and farther away; the warriors dispersed their own separate ways. In a few moments stillness went back to reign in the Butterfly Valley, which was bustling with noise and excitement for the last several days; only Yang Xiao, Wei Yixiao, and Zhu Yuanzhang with his company left. Zhang Wuji asked in details the Wan An Temple’s location, as well as those ominous people’s appearance.

“Zhu Dage,” he said, “The world is in chaos, we cannot waste any time in this insurrection. You do not need to accompany me to Dadou; let us part here.”

Zhu Yuanzhang, Xu Da, Chang Yuchun and the others said, “We wish Jiaozhu success. Subordinates will wait to hear the good news.” Bidding their farewell to Zhang Wuji, they left the valley toward their assigned post.

“We also have to leave,” Zhang Wuji said, “Xiao Zhao, you have shackles on your hands, you can’t move easily, you better wait for me here.”

Xiao Zhao agreed reluctantly, but with the pretense of sending them off she followed them going out of the valley. They had walked for three miles, she still followed them. Then three more miles, she still did not want to leave. “Xiao Zhao,” Zhang Wuji said, “If you send us off farther, you might not recognize the way back.”

“Master Zhang,” Xiao Zhao said, “Are you going to see Miss Zhao in Dadou?”

“Can’t say for sure, but I might,” Zhang Wuji replied.

“If you see her, will you ask her a favor on my behalf?” Xiao Zhao asked. “What do you want her to do?” Zhang Wuji wondered.

Xiao Zhao held out her arms and said, “I want to borrow the Yitian Sword from Miss Zhao to cut this iron chain, otherwise I will not be free for the rest of my life.”

Zhang Wuji could not bear to see her pitiful expression, “I am afraid she won’t let me borrow her precious sword, let alone let me bring it here,” he said apologetically.

“Then … then, why don’t you take me along, ask her to borrow the sword just for a moment?” Xiao Zhao asked.

Zhang Wuji smiled and said, “You talked in circles, in the end you want to go with me to Dadou, don’t you? Yang Zuoshi, do you think we can take her along?”

Yang Xiao knew from the way Zhang Wuji speak that he wanted to take her along; he said, “I don’t think that’s a problem; so there is someone to take care of Jiaozhu’s clothes and serve him tea. Only your iron chain’s ‘clink, clink, clank, clank’ will be conspicuous. Let’s do it this way; she pretends to be ill, then she can ride in a carriage and not come out unless it’s important.”

Xiao Zhao was delighted, “Many thanks Master, many thanks Yang Zuoshi,” she busily said; then she cast a glance toward Wei Yixiao and said, “Many thanks, Wei Fawang [lit. law king – I think another translator translated it as ‘protector king’, the same ‘fawang’ as Jinlun Fawang of ROCH]”

“What do you thank me for?” Wei Yixiao said, “You need to be careful, if my previous sickness recurs, I am going to suck your blood.” While saying that he grinned widely, showing rows of white teeth; looking very strange.

Xiao Zhao knew he was only joking, but she could not help feeling scared; she withdrew three steps backward and said, “Don’t … don’t scare me.”

End of Chapter 25. 

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