Smiling Proud Wanderer Chapter 11-15

Chapter 11: Energy Streams

In a state of wooziness, Linghu Chong felt agitating pain from his chest, and his blood seemed to have gone in every direction, it was such an undesirable discomfort. After a long while, he gradually gained back his consciousness. His body seemed to have been roasted in a huge oven. He could not help groaning. Then he heard someone saying, "Be quiet."

Linghu Chong peeked inside the hall. A tall, thin old man sat at the guest of honor seat. He was holding the Command Flag of the Five

Mountains Sword Alliance in his right hand; it was none other than “Crane Hands” Lu Bai from the Songshan School. A middle-aged Taoist Priest and an old man in his fifties sat next to him. Their clothing suggested that one belonged to the Taishan School and the other one the Hengshan School.

Next to them sat three more people all in their fifties or sixties and each had a Huashan School style long sword hanging by his waist. The first one had a yellowish face with a stern look. He was probably the Feng Buping that Lou Dayou had mentioned earlier. Master and Master-Wife sat at the host

seats in accompany. Tea and light refreshments occupied most of the tabletop.

“Brother Yue,” the old man from the Hengshan School said, “we outsiders really shouldn’t interfere with the internal affairs of your respectful school. However, because our five sword schools have joined the alliance to share both honor and disgrace, if one school didn’t handle things well and became the laughing stock of fellow martial people, the other four schools would be disgraced as well. Earlier, Madam Yue said that the three schools, Songshan, Taishan, and Hengshan should only mind their own business. I think that was inaccurate.” His two eyes were almost completely yellow as if he had a yellow fever.

“They are still in the middle of the dispute. Master hasn’t given up and stepped down from his post yet.” Linghu Chong felt some relief. “Apprentice brother Lu, it sounds like you are determined that our Huashan School is not handling things properly and that has implicated your respectful school’s reputation, aren’t you?” Madam Yue asked.

The old man Lu from the Hengshan School sneered. “I’ve long heard that Heroine Ning is the backstage Head Master of the Huashan School. I didn’t want to believe it before, but after having the pleasure to meet you today, I have to agree that it is really a well-deserved reputation.”

“Apprentice brother Lu, you’ve come here to Mount Huashan as a guest. I don’t want to offend you because that would be an inappropriate

way to treat a guest. Who would have expected such absurd nonsense from a famous master of the Hengshan School? When I see Great Mr. Mo next time, I’m sure I will discuss about this with him,” Madam Yue rebuffed

angrily.

“Madam Yue, so you are holding off your offense only because I am a guest here, and if this wasn’t Mount Huashan, you would have slashed your sword toward my head, wouldn’t you?” the old man Lu said with a sneer.

“I wouldn’t dare.” Madam Yue replied. “How dare our Huashan School interfere with the internal affair of your respectful school? When people from your respectful school collaborate with the Demon Cult, there’s always Alliance Chief Zuo of the Songshan School to clean him out for you. What’s the need for our Huashan School to get involved?”

Hengshan School’s Liu Zhengfeng and Demon Cult Elder Qu Yang died outside of Hengshan Town together. It had become public knowledge in the Martial World that the Songshan School was responsible for it.

Madam Yue specifically mentioned the incident here, to first jab at the old man Lu’s sore spot, and secondly, to ridicule him, implying that he not only didn’t have any grievance of losing an apprentice brother to the Songshan School, but instead, came together with the Songshan School people to give trouble to the Yue Couple.

The old man Lu immediately put on a stern face. “Throughout the ages, which school is immune of unworthy apprentices?” he screeched.

“That’s exactly the reason why we have come to Mount Huashan today, to uphold justice and help brother Feng clean out the evil bunch in the

school.”

“Who is the evil bunch? My husband Yue Buqun’s nickname is ‘Gentleman Sword.’ What’s your nickname?” Madam Yue said coldly as she grabbed onto her sword handle.

The old man Lu blushed, yet he didn’t answer the question and only eyed Madam Yue angrily with his two yellow piercing eyes.

The old man was a master of the Hengshan School. However, he didn’t have much fame in the Martial World. Linghu Chong had no clue about his identity, so he turned his head back and asked Lao Denuo.

“Who is he? What’s his nick name?”

Linghu Chong knew that before Lao Denuo joined the Huashan School, he had Kung Fu skills already and also much knowledge about all kinds of anecdotes of the Martial World. Sure enough, Lao Denuo knew this one.

“This old folk’s name is Lu Lianrong,” Lao Denuo answered in

whisper. “His formal nickname is ‘Golden-eyed Eagle,’ but because he is

always gossipy and meddlesome, quite annoying all the time, so everybody called him ‘Golden-eyed Crow’, instead, behind his back.”

Linghu Chong grinned. He thought, “Probably no one dared to call him that unpleasant nickname to his face, but as time went by, it would

eventually come to his attention. When Master-Wife asked him about his nickname, he obviously knew that she was referring to ‘Golden-eyed Crow’ not ‘Golden-eyed Eagle’.”

Lu Lianrong snorted angrily. “‘Gentleman Sword?’ ‘Hypocrite Sword’ is probably more appropriate.”

Witnessing such audacious behavior of humiliating the Master right to his face, Linghu Chong could no longer hold his anger. “You damn blind crow! Get your ass out here if you’ve got any guts!” he shouted out.

Yue Buqun had heard Linghu Chong talking with Lau Denuo outside and had been wondering, “How come Chong has come down the cliff?”

Now hearing Linghu Chong’s shouting, he reproved at once

“Chong, behave yourself. Uncle-Master is a guest here, how can you speak with such disrespect?”

Anger swept Lu Lianrong, and it seemed as if fire almost shot out of his piercing eyes. He had heard before how the Huashan School head

apprentice Linghu Chong had run wild in Hengshan Town, so he yelled back.

“I was wondering who that might be. So it’s the chap who went whoring in Hengshan Town! Huashan School surely houses a lot of talents.”

“That’s right! When I went whoring in Hengshan Town, I slept with a bitch named Lu!” Linghu Chong grinned.

“You…you, stop the nonsense!” Yue Buqun yelled at Linghu Chong angrily.

Seeing his Master getting angry, Linghu Chong dared not to say

another word, while Lu Bai, Feng Buping, and the bunch simply couldn’t help but grin.

Lu Lianrong turned around abruptly and kicked out with his left foot. With a loud bang, a frame of the long window was knocked flying in the air. He had never met Linghu Chong before, so he pointed at the general direction of the Huashan School apprentices and yelled.

“Which dirty swine said that?”

All the Huashan School apprentices stood silently and no one answered.

“God damn it! Which dirty swine just said that?” Lu Lianrong swore again.

“You were the only one talking. How would I know what kind of dirty swine you are?” Linghu Chong said with a big grin.

Lu Lianrong’s anger exploded. With a loud roar, he jumped onto Linghu Chong. Seeing the vicious force coming toward him, Linghu Chong leapt back. Suddenly, a shadow flashed as someone drifted out from inside the hall. Beams of silver light flashed while the sounds of weapon colliding echoed as the person started an all out attack on Lu Lianrong. It was

Madam Yue. She leapt out of the hall, drew her sword, blocked Lu Lianrong’s attack, and launched her counter-attack in such a smooth and uninterrupted manner. Her movements were simply beautiful and graceful. Even though she executed every single move in lightening fast speed,

everyone was so taken by the beautiful movement that none noticed her swiftness.

“We are all friends here. Why don’t we take our time and talk the issue through? There’s no need to start a fight,” Yue Buqun said as he

strolled out of the hall without hurry.

Pulling out the sword by Lao Denuo’s waist, Yue Buqun reached out and pushed his sword down after a flip, which held both Lu Lianrong’s

sword and Madam Yue’s sword down under. Lu Lianrong shifted all his strength onto his arm and lifted with a hard jerk, but to his surprise, he couldn’t move his sword even an inch. He blushed and then tried several times more, each time with a harder jerk.

“Our Five Mountains Sword Alliance has the same root with different branches. We are all like members of a big family. Apprentice brother Lu, please don’t pay much attention to the junior kids.” Yue Buqun smiled. He turned his head to Linghu Chong. “You are full of nonsense. Apologize to your Uncle-Master Lu right now,” he admonished.

Getting the command from the Master, Linghu Chong had no other choice but to step forward and salute.

“Uncle-Master Lu, I was really blind and didn’t know how to talk properly. I barked madly like a damn crow and slandered the reputation of a supreme Kung Fu master. This is so unworthy, even a dirty swine could have done better. Will your Excellency please don’t feel offended? I wasn’t talking about you. The damn crow barks like mad, but we’ll excuse him as if he was farting!”

He used the words “damn crow” back and forth. Everyone knew that he was ridiculing Lu Lianrong again. Most people were able to hold their laughs inside but Yue Lingshan started giggling loudly.

Yue Buqun could feel that Lu Lianrong tried to jerk upward three times in a row. He let out a slight smile and drew his sword back leisurely to give it back to Lao Denuo. When the tremendous pressure on Lu’s sword suddenly vanished, Lu Lianrong’s arm naturally went upward. Two

cracking sounds echoed as two pieces of broken swords fell on the ground. Both Lu Lianrong’s sword and Madam Yue’s sword in their hands had only half of the blade remaining. Lu Lianrong had been using all his strength to fight Yue Buqun’s push. When his arm went up abruptly, the broken sword in his hand also slashed upward and almost cut his own forehead. Fortunately he had great arm strength and was able to stop the movement in time, but the frantic rush still looked quite awkward.

“You…you…two against one!” Lu Lianrong snapped. But he soon remembered that Yue Buqun’s inner energy broke Madam Yue’s long sword just the same. By then Lu Bai, Feng Buping, and the rest bunch had all

come out of the hall to watch the fight, and Lu Lianrong knew that each of them could easily tell Yue Buqun was only reconciling and preventing the two from fighting each other without granting favor to either side. However, it was probably no big deal for a husband to break a wife’s long sword. Lu Lianrong, on the other hand, couldn’t take it so easily, so he couldn’t help but mutter:

“You…you…!”

Stamping his right foot on the floor heavily, he turned around and rushed away in rage with the broken sword still in his hand, never casting a glance back.

At the time when Yue Buqun had broken the two swords with his inner energy, he had already seen the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies standing behind Linghu Chong. Very surprised by their unusual looks, he cupped his hands and greeted.

“The six of you have come to Mount Huashan and I haven’t greeted you properly. Please pardon my ignorance.”

The six Fairies simply stared at him blankly, neither greeting back, nor speaking a word.

“This is my Master, Head Master of the Huashan School – Mr.

Yue….” Linghu Chong introduced.

Before he even finished his sentence, Feng Buping interrupted. “Your Master, he sure is. Whether he is the Head Master of the

Huashan School, we’ll have to see. Apprentice brother Yue, the ‘Divine Art of Violet Twilight’ you just displayed is quite impressive. However, knowing this Qi-Gong technique does not make you competent for the

authority over the Huashan School. Everyone knows that Huashan School is a sword school member of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance. Sword

school, sword school! Of course, sword skill is the main driving force. But you keep working with your inner energy skills. You have gone on the evil route. What you are practicing is far from our school’s orthodox principle.”

“Brother Feng, your comments are really overstating,” Yue Buqun defended. “Sure, each school of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance uses sword as the weapon, but no matter which school or which style it is, it all follows the principle of ‘Energy Drives the Sword.’ Sword skills are

external techniques while Qi-Gong techniques are the internal techniques. One must master both the external and the internal to be able to achieve perfection in Kung Fu training. If someone only practices sword techniques like how you just described, then when he meets a Qi-Gong master, he

would naturally be pale in comparison.”

Feng Buping sneered. “That’s not necessarily correct. It would be

wonderful if someone can be an expert in every field of the three religions and the nine schools of thought,3 medicine, divination, astrology, fortune- telling, the Four Books and the Five Classics, and the eighteen types of

weaponry.4 It would be fantastic if he could be a master in every single

style, let it be either knife art or spear art. But everyone’s life span is limited and it is impossible for one to master everything. When one focuses only on sword art, it is already difficult to be excellent at it, why should he get

sidetracked by other Kung Fu skills? I am not saying that practicing Qi- Gong techniques is bad, only that the orthodox Kung Fu of our Huashan School is sword art. It’s totally fine if you want to get into the heterodox Kung Fu. Even if you decide to learn the ‘Magical Art of Essence Absorbing’ of the Demon Cult, it’s your own choice and nobody else’s business, let alone practicing Qi-Gong techniques. When an ordinary person ruins his own training because of greed and avarice, he has himself to blame for his suffering. Now since you are the Head Master of the Huashan School and have also chosen to go on such a destructive route, you are really misleading all the apprentices and exerting a widespread pernicious influence.”

A notion suddenly popped into Linghu Chong’s head. “Grand Uncle- Master Feng only taught me sword techniques. He…he is probably from the Sword-Branch. Is it…is it wrong that I have learned sword techniques from him?” Instantly, the thought sent cold shivers down his spine and he broke out a cold sweat.

“‘Misleading all the apprentices and exerting a widespread pernicious influence?’ That’s not true.” Yue Buqun smiled.

The short man standing next to Feng Buping suddenly cut in loudly. “Why is it not true? You have taught a bunch of damn useless apprentices. If that’s not ‘misleading all the apprentices and exerting a widespread pernicious influence,’ then what is? Apprentice brother Feng said that your Kung Fu is the heterodox and you are not worthy to be the Head Master of the Huashan School. He is absolutely right. Are you going to step down yourself, or wait for someone to drag you down?”

By then, Lu Dayou had finally arrived. Seeing that big apprentice brother stared at the short man with a questioning look, he whispered to Linghu Chong.

“I heard from their earlier conversations with Master that the short guy’s name is Cheng Buyou.”

“Brother Cheng,” Yue Buqun said, “your Sword-Branch left our

school twenty-five years ago and stopped calling yourselves apprentices of the Huashan School. Why do you come back and make trouble now? If you think your Kung Fu skills are wonderful, you can simply start your own

school. Once you gain great fame in the Martial World and your reputation precedes the Huashan School, I would only have admiration. However,

what good does your pointless argument do other than getting us on bad terms with each other?”

“Apprentice brother Yue,” Cheng Buyou said loudly, “I have no grudge against you and really didn’t want to get on bad terms with you. You arrogated the post of Huashan School Head Master, yet you only teach the

apprentices inner energy techniques instead of advanced sword techniques. That caused our Huashan School’s reputation to decline greatly. In the end, you can’t just shirk the responsibility and shift the blame onto others. I am an apprentice of the Huashan School, that’s why I can’t just watch by the

side with folded arms and pretend to not see it. In addition, when the Qi-

Branch pushed the Sword-Branch out, your methods weren’t that clear and aboveboard. None of our Sword-Branch apprentices were convinced of the legitimacy. We have already endured it for twenty-five years. Today is finally the time we can square the accounts.”

“The conflict between the Qi-Branch and the Sword-Branch of our

sword school has a long history. On that day when the two branches had the big contest atop the Jade Maiden Peak, the winner was determined; what’s right and what’s wrong was identified. What good does it do for the three of you to bring the past history out twenty-five years later?” Yue Buqun said.

“Who saw the end result of the sword contest on that day? The three of us are all apprentices of the Sword-Branch, how come none of us saw it? In short, you took the Head Master post in a very unclear and suspicious fashion, otherwise, why would Alliance Chief Zuo, the leader of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance, grant us the Command Flag to let you step down?” Cheng Buyou challenged.

“That is really odd!” Yue Buqun shook his head. “Alliance Chief Zuo has good understanding and judgment. Based on the scenario, he would have never granted the Command Flag all of a sudden to let the Huashan School change its Head Master.”

“Are you saying the Command Flag is a fake?” Cheng Buyou pointed at the Command Flag of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance.

“The Command Flag is authentic, but the Command Flag doesn’t speak,” Yue Buqun said.

Lu Bai had been watching quietly by the side all the time. He finally cut in. “Apprentice brother Yue, you said that the Command Flag doesn’t speak, but can’t I speak either?”

“Even if Alliance Chief Zuo really thought so, his excellency still can’t give the order after hearing only one side of the story. He’s got to listen to my words as well.

Besides, Alliance Chief Zuo is the chief of the Five Mountains Sword

Alliance, and his responsibilities include the common issues across the five sword schools. Regarding internal affairs of the Taishan, Heng-Shan,

Hengshan, and Huashan Schools, the Head Master of each school has the authority,” Yue Buqun concluded.

“You are surely wordy! So after all, you are not going to give up the post of the Head Master. Am I not right?” Cheng Buyou croaked.

By the time he spit out the words “Head Master,” he had already drawn his sword. At the word “am,” he shot out a thrust; at the word “I,” he shot out another thrust; at the word “not,” he shot out a third thrust; and at the word “right,” he shot out one more thrust. He said the words “am I not right” in one breath, and he shot four thrusts out continuously at the same time.

The four thrusts were executed in supreme speed, and each of the four continuous thrusts used a different fierce technique with brilliant variation. The first thrust penetrated Yue Buqun’s robe on his left shoulder, the second one penetrated his robe on his right shoulder, the third penetrated the sleeve by his left arm, and the fourth penetrated the robe by his right chest. Each of the four thrusts went straight through and all four of them left a total of

eight holes on Yue Buqun’s robe. The blade went right next to Yue Buqun’s skin with a mere half-inch distance each time, though none touched his skin at all. The brilliance of the moves, the supreme speed, the precise accuracy, and the fierce force of the thrusts all showed the bearing of a first-class elite fighter.

All Huashan School apprentices turned pale with terror except Linghu Chong, thinking, “These four moves are all moves of our Huashan School

style, but we have never seen Master demonstrate them before. The elite fighter from the Sword-Branch surely is extraordinary.”

However, Lu Bai, Feng Buping, and the rest of the visitors felt more admiration toward Yue Buqun. When Cheng Buyou suddenly shot out four thrusts continuously, each thrust was a fierce move and capable of killing

Yue Buqun on the spot, yet Yue Buqun still maintained his smile throughout the course and took the four thrusts with complete ease. The confidence he showed was exceptional. Cheng Buyou and his companions came to Mount Huashan with a clear intention to take the Head Master post from him. No matter how kind Yue Buqun was, he couldn’t have not guarded against the possibility that his opponent might launch a sudden attack to harm him, yet he didn’t dodge at all and took the four thrusts without any worries.

Obviously he had a plan well thought out, and as soon as Cheng Buyou proceeded to harm him, he would have a way to counter. Within the split of a second, he was actually capable of countering the enemy and protecting himself; his Kung Fu had to be far better than Cheng Buyou’s. Yue Buqun didn’t even move a little finger, but the power he had just shown was no different than winning the fight.

Linghu Chong recognized the four moves Cheng Buyou had used easily. They really originated from a Huashan School style sword move

drawn on the rock wall in the back cave. Cheng Buyou simply transformed it into four different thrusts with slight variations. Although the four thrusts looked completely different from each other, they really all came from one move. He couldn’t help but think, “No matter how brilliant Sword-Branch’s sword moves are, they still can’t exceed the scope of the drawings on the rock wall.”

“Brother Cheng, my husband has given ground again and again,

considering that you are all guests here. You have made eight holes on his robe already. If you haven’t figured out how to behave yourself by now, be aware that even though our Huashan School respects its guests, there still is a limit,” Madam Yue warned.

“Giving ground? Guests? What are you talking about? Madam Yue, all you have to do is to defeat my four sword moves. If you can do that, I’ll leave the premise with no complaints. And not only that, I’ll never set foot on the Jade Maiden Peak again,” Cheng Buyou exclaimed.

Cheng Buyou considered himself an excellent swordsman, but seeing the confidence and calmness Yue Buqun just put on display, he dared not to challenge Yue Buqun. He thought, “Even though Madam Yue also has great fame in the Huashan School, she is a woman after all. Didn’t she show a frightened look when she saw the four thrusts of mine? If I can goad her into a fight, I am sure I can subdue her. By then, Yue Buqun might surrender for the sake of Madam Yue’s safety. Or, at least, he would be greatly worried and get thrown off balance. That would certainly give brother Feng Buping some advantages.

“Madam Yue, please! It is well known that Heroine Ning is a first- class master of the Huashan School Qi-Branch. Cheng Buyou from the Sword-Branch would like to check out Heroine Ning’s Qi-Gong

techniques,” cupping his hands, Cheng Buyou said loudly. By saying so, he had made it very clear that this was going to be a duel between the Sword- Branch and the Qi-Branch of the Huashan School.

Although Madam Yue wasn’t sure she could beat those four clever and ingenious sword moves, she simply couldn’t stand Cheng Buyou’s overbearing attitude. With a loud ring, she unsheathed her sword.

“Master-Wife,” Linghu Chong cut in quickly, “Sword-Branch’s way of practice has gone astray. How could it ever match the orthodox Kung Fu of our Huashan School? Please allow me, the apprentice, to fight him first. If my Qi-Gong techniques are sloppy and I fail to beat him, then Master- Wife can dismiss him later.”

He didn’t even wait for Madam Yue’s approval and leapt forward immediately, hiding Madam Yue behind his back. In his right hand, he held a broom, which he had picked up randomly by the wall.

“Master Cheng,” Linghu Chong pointed the handle of the broom at Cheng Buyou, “you are no longer a member of our school. I guess I won’t be calling you an Uncle-Master. If you have already realized your mistakes and want to mend your ways so you can join Huashan School again, I am

not too sure whether my Master is still willing to take you back. Even if my Master is willing to make the sacrifice and take you back in, according to

school rules – the earlier the more senior status – you will have to call me a senior apprentice brother. Come on, let’s play!” “Nonsense, you filthy swine! If you can survive these four moves of mine, I’ll submit myself to you as an apprentice,” Cheng Buyou shouted in outrage.

Linghu Chong shook his head. “I am not sure I want an apprentice like you….” Before he even finished the sentence, Cheng Buyou had interrupted him with a shout.

“Draw your sword and get ready to die!”

“Even a branch can be used as a sharp blade once it carries enough inner energy. Brother Cheng, just to counter those couple of your sloppy sword moves, I don’t think there’s a need to use a real sword,” Linghu

Chong answered.

“Fine. Don’t blame me for being cruel then. Blame it on your own arrogance!”

Yue Buqun and Madam Yue both knew very well that Cheng’s Kung Fu skills were far superior to Linghu Chong’s. Using a broom against

Cheng Buyou’s sword would be almost like fighting him with bare hands – way too dangerous. They shouted almost in unison.

“Chong, step back!”

In blazing flashes, Cheng Buyou lunged his thrusts toward Linghu Chong. It was the same move he had attacked Yue Buqun with a minute earlier. He had his reasons for using the exact same move. Firstly, those

moves were among his best techniques. Secondly, he did say that he would use the same sword moves. Thirdly, by using the same moves again, he was letting his opponent gain certain advantages by knowing what to expect, thus getting compensated for his own advantage of using a better weapon.

Linghu Chong had already figured out ways to counter Cheng’s moves before he challenged Cheng Buyou. In those drawings on the rock wall in the back cave, all figures used unique weapons to counter sword moves. If he chose to use a sword in the fight, he wouldn’t have the

certainty of success because he had not mastered the techniques in the Dugu Nine Swords. But the shabby broom had the shape of a thunderbolt mace

and would be perfect for those moves in the drawings.

Seeing Cheng Buyou’s sword thrusting toward him, Linghu Chong brushed the broom toward Cheng Buyou’s face. This brushing move was a very risky move indeed. A real thunderbolt mace is made out of steel, and if the brushing move had landed squarely, the opponent would have been

either killed or at least severely wounded. If he had a real thunderbolt mace in his hand, the brushing move would be an ingenious move and the opponent would be forced to suspend his thrust and draw his sword back to defend. But what kind of damage would a shabby broom do to the opponent? He only had plain ordinary inner energy strength and was just talking big when he said “Even a branch can be used as a sharp blade once it carries enough inner energy.” Even if the brushing move hit Cheng Buyou on the face, the most damage would be no more than a few scratches, nothing major at all, but Cheng Buyou’s thrust would for sure penetrate his chest all the way. Linghu Chong was really betting on the theory that a

senior master like Cheng Buyou would never allow the filthy and shabby broom to hit him in the face, because the humiliation would be too great compared to the satisfaction from killing Linghu Chong.

Surely enough, in the gasping sounds from the watching crowd,

Cheng Buyou turned his head aside and pulled his sword back to chop at the broom. Linghu Chong moved the shabby broom to the side and dodged the chop.

Having no choice but to pull back his sword and block the broom in his first move, Cheng Buyou couldn’t help but blush. He had no idea that Linghu Chong’s brush with the shabby broom was actually created by over ten Demon Cult Elders working their hearts out, spending countless of hours with combined efforts just to counter this exact sword move of his. It was really a masterpiece work that had been polished again and again. He figured that Linghu Chong must have come up with such a move

accidentally and defeated his move by shear luck. In great rage, he launched his second thrust. This time the thrust didn’t follow the original sequence. It was really the fourth thrust he had used to pierce Yue Buqun’s robe under Yue’s armpit.

Linghu Chong turned his body to the side while handing over the broom to his left hand. It looked as if he was just dodging Cheng’s thrust, but the shabby broom in his left hand suddenly shot out in a flash and went straight toward Cheng Buyou’s chest. The broom was much longer than the sword, so even though the thrust from the broom was launched later, it reached the target earlier. Before Cheng Buyou had enough time to circle his blade around, the bamboo threads at the end of the broom had jabbed on to his chest.

“Got you!” Linghu Chong shouted.

With a quick slashing sound, Cheng Buyou’s blade slashed the end of the broom off. But all the elite fighters in the watching crowd saw clearly that Cheng Buyou had already lost. If Linghu Chong had used a real thunderbolt mace, or a spike-toothed harrow, or a crescent shaped spade, all made out of steel, Cheng Buyou would have been badly injured in the chest.

If Linghu Chong were a first-class senior master, Cheng Buyou would have no choice but to throw down his sword to admit his defeat and give up the fight, but Linghu Chong obviously was just a second-generation

apprentice, how embarrassing would it be to lose to him with his shabby broom? With that in mind, Cheng Buyou launched another three thrusts, all of which used superb techniques of the Huashan School. Out of the three moves, it turned out that two of them were among the ones carved on the rock wall in the back cave. Although Linghu Chong had never seen the third move, after learning the “Sword-Breaking Stance” in Dugu Nine Swords, he had a pretty good understanding of how to counter various

sword moves out there. He turned his body and dodged one of Cheng’s thrusts, then immediately countered with a technique from the rock wall that used a staff to counter sword techniques. Using the broom handle as a staff, he knocked Cheng Buyou’s sword to the side with a smack and then thrust his broom handle straight toward Cheng Buyou’s sword tip. If he had had an iron staff or iron club in his hand, then because the staff was solid

and the sword was flexible, when the two forces collided, the long sword would immediately break into pieces and the sword wielding fighter would have no way out of it. But when he used the technique in a hurry without

too much thinking, he completely forgot that he was only holding a bamboo stick. When the bamboo stick met the sharp sword, it was almost like a hot knife cutting through butter, with a loud cracking sound, the long sword

stabbed all the way into the bamboo stick leaving only the sword handle visible outside.

Linghu Chong reacted with a very quick mind within a split second. He struck the broom handle from the side with his right hand. The broom handle, together with the sword inside it, flew high in the air toward the

side.

Filled with anger and embarrassment, Cheng Buyou flipped his left palm rapidly and with a loud smacking sound, struck Linghu Chong

squarely on the chest. Cheng Buyou had decades of experience in Kung Fu, but Linghu Chong was only familiar with techniques in sword moves and was no match for him in a bare handed combat. Falling backwards, Linghu Chong flew in the air and landed on the floor with his back first while blood spurted out from his month.

Suddenly, several shadows flashed forward and in a split of a second,

Cheng Buyou was already lifted off ground by his four limbs. A loud

scream echoed as blood and internal organs shattered all over the floor – he had been ripped into four pieces. Four extremely ugly freaks each held in their hands one of Cheng Buyou’s limbs. The four Peach Valley’s Fairies had literally ripped a once alive Cheng Buyou into four pieces.

The sudden event happened so abruptly and unexpectedly that

everyone in the crowd was struck dumb by terror. Seeing the horrible sight of blood and flesh mingling together, Yue Lingshan uttered a short shriek and then fainted. Even those very experienced elite fighters in the Martial World like Yue Buqun, Lu Bai, and so on were all seized with panic.

At the time when the four Peach Valley’s Fairies ripped Cheng Buyou into pieces, Flower Fairy and Fruit Fairy had already rushed forward

simultaneously. Picking Linghu Chong up from the floor, they ran toward the foothill in an amazing speed.

Yue Buqun and Feng Buping both drew their swords and thrust toward Branch Fairy and Leaf Fairy’s backs almost at the same instant.

Root Fairy and Trunk Fairy each took out a short iron club and blocked the two thrusts in unison. The weapon colliding sounds echoed as the four Peach Valley’s Fairies accelerated away with their excellent Qing-Gong

skills, never looking back.

Within seconds, the six freaks and Linghu Chong had all disappeared from sight. Lu Bai, Yue Buqun, and Feng Buping could only look at each other in blank dismay. Seeing how the six freaks had taken off in such

amazing speed, they all knew too well that it was impossible to keep up with them. Staring at the blood and the four pieces that used to be Cheng Buyou, everyone felt great terror and shame. After a long while, Lu Bai shook his head. Feng Buping shook his head as well.

The palm strike from Cheng Buyou hit Linghu Chong solidly and

squarely. Linghu Chong was so severely wounded that shortly after the two Peach Valley’s Fairies carried him away, he fell unconscious. By the time he regained his consciousness and opened his eyes slowly, he saw two horsy faces, piled with concerns and caring, with two pairs of eyes staring directly at his face without blinking.

Seeing that Linghu Chong opened his eyes, Flower Fairy said in joy, “He’s awake! He’s awake! This lad won’t die on us now.”

“Of course he won’t die on us. How could he die just because someone gave him a gentle palm strike?” Fruit Fairy commented.

“Geez, it all sounds so easy from your mouth. If this palm strike had landed on you, of course it would be nothing, but since it landed on this lad, maybe it will kill him,” Flower Fairy snubbed.

“He is obviously not dead. Why are you saying that it will kill him?” Fruit Fairy asked.

“I didn’t say that it definitely would kill him. I said that maybe it will kill him,” Flower Fairy argued.

“Since he turned out to be alive, you can’t say that ‘maybe it will kill him’.” Fruit Fairy disagreed.

“I’ve already said that. So what?” Flower Fairy charged.

“That proves that your foresight was totally wrong, and we can also say that you have no foresight,” Fruit Fairy replied.

“If you had foresight and knew that for sure he wouldn’t die, then why did you moan and groan and pull a long face?” Flower Fairy

countered. “First of all, I moaned and groaned earlier not because I worried that he might die. I was worrying about how worried the little nun would be once she sees him like this. Secondly, since we won the bet with the little nun and agreed to come to Mount Huashan and invite Linghu Chong to go see her, and now we’ve only gotten a half alive half dead Linghu Chong, I am afraid that the little nun wouldn’t concur,” Fruit Fairy explained.

“If you are so sure that he definitely won’t die, you can just go tell the little nun to not worry about it. And since the little nun won’t be worrying

about it, why are you so worried?” Flower Fairy challenged.

“First of all, when I tell the little nun to not worry, she won’t necessarily listen to me. Even if she does listen to me and pretends to not

worry, she will in fact still worry about it. Secondly, although this lad won’t die, he is indeed wounded pretty badly, and maybe it would be pretty hard to recover, then of course I am slightly worried,” Fruit Fairy answered.

Linghu Chong could hear the arguing back and forth between the two brothers. Their words were ludicrous, but obviously the two of them were both deeply concerned about his well being. He couldn’t help but feel grateful. When he heard the two talking about “the little nun might worry

about him,” he figured that “the little nun” must have been little apprentice sister Yilin of the Heng-Shan School. So he said with a smile,

“You two can relax. Linghu Chong won’t die so easily.”

Fruit Fairy was overjoyed. “Did you hear that? He said himself that he won’t die. And you were saying that maybe it will kill him,” he said to Flower Fairy.

“When I said that earlier, he hadn’t opened his mouth and started talking yet,” Flower Fairy argued.

“He opened his eyes, then of course he would open his mouth and start talking next. Anybody can see that. Duh!” Fruit Fairy said. Linghu Chong thought that if these two kept arguing back and forth, there would never be an end to it, so he interrupted with a smile, “I was going to die, but when I heard that the two of you really didn’t want me to die, I thought to myself, ‘Geez, Peach Valley’s Six Fairies have such immense fame and reputation in the…in the…*cough*…Martial World.

When you don’t want me to die, how dare I die on you?”

These words sounded like music in Flower Fairy and Fruit Fairy’s ears. They immediately agreed in unison, “Yes, yes! This guy’s words are

so logical! Let’s go tell the other brothers.” The two of them rushed out in a dash.

Linghu Chong found himself lying on a wooden bed. The netting

above his head was ragged and aged. Having no idea where he was at this moment, he turned his head slightly, which only resulted in great pains

coming from his chest, so he remained still in the same position. Not long after, Root Fairy and the remaining Fairies all rushed into the room. As

soon as they came in, they all started talking non-stop. Some of them started claiming credits for themselves; some appraised Linghu Chong’s decision to not die on them; some others started talking about how they rushed into rescuing Linghu Chong and didn’t have any time to square the account with that old dog from the Songshan School, otherwise, they would have ripped him into four pieces and see if he could still nip Peach Valley’s Six Fairies dead like nipping puny ants after he turned into four pieces. In order to join in and share the happy mood the six Fairies were displaying, Linghu Chong struggled to gather enough strength and carried out a few dialogues, but he soon fell back into a coma.

In the wooziness, Linghu Chong felt nauseated in his chest, and

almost felt like that his entire artery system had turned upside down. It was such an unspeakable discomfort. Then after a long while, he gradually regained his consciousness. This time he felt as if his body had been roasted in a huge oven. In great pain, he couldn’t help but groan. Then he heard

somebody yelling at him. “Be quiet!”

Linghu Chong opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was a tiny light from the lamp on the table. Then he found himself lying on the floor, almost completely naked. Four Peach Valley Fairies each grabbed hold of one of his four limbs, and the other two Fairies each had a palm on him, one pressed down on his stomach, the other one pressed down on the Bai-Hui

Acupoint near his forehead. In great terror, Linghu Chong felt a stream of hot energy flowing upwards starting from the hallow of his left foot, passing by his left leg, lower stomach, chest, right arm, all the way up to the hallow of his right palm. Then another stream of hot energy flew downward starting from the hallow of his left palm, passing by his left arm, chest,

abdomen, right leg, all the way down till the hallow of his right foot. The two streams of hot energy twirled and circled as if they were hot steams heating up Linghu Chong. Sweat streamed down all over Linghu Chong’s body. He couldn’t stand the burning heat a second longer.

Linghu Chong knew the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies were trying to heal his wounds using advanced Qi-Gong techniques with superb inner energy.

While feeling grateful full heartedly, he tried to gather his own inner energy using the Huashan School style Qi-Gong techniques his Master had taught him, so that it would add to the streams of energy flow, but as soon as a

stream of his own inner energy emerged from within his abdomen, an

appalling pain suddenly came from his abdomen as if a knife had just cut through his stomach. Linghu Chong growled in pain as blood spurted out from his mouth like a fountain.

“Not good!” Peach Valley’s Six Fairies cried out in unison! Leaf Fairy flipped his palm in a hurry and struck Linghu Chong on the forehead, which knocked Linghu Chong out cold immediately.

Linghu Chong stayed in a coma afterwards, feeling hot for a moment and then cold for the next. The two streams of hot energy kept flowing back and forth around his entire body, and sometimes even more steams of hot

energy would emerge and collide with each other, making it even more unbearable for him.

After an unknown amount of time, he finally felt a brief period of

coolness in his head and gained some consciousness. He could hear that the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies were in the middle of a heated argument. He opened his eyes slowly and saw Trunk Fairy standing next to him.

“See, he stopped sweating, and even opened his eyes. Isn’t my method the truly effective one? My stream of energy flows from Zhong-Du Acupoint to Feng-Shi Acupoint and Huan-Tiao Acupoint, and then circling back and forth around his Yuan-Ye Acupoint. I am positive that it will definitely heal his internal injuries,” Trunk Fairy claimed.

“Save your breath. If I hadn’t used my own method the day before yesterday and sent my stream of energy going back and forth along the many passages around his Foot-To-Liver Jue-Yin Channel5, the lad would have been dead a long time ago. Would you still have the chance to send your energy stream circling back and forth around his Yuan Ye Acupoint?” Root Fairy rebuffed.

“That’s right! But even though big brother’s method might heal his internal injuries, he would still not be able to walk using both of his feet. Wouldn’t that be a blemish in an otherwise perfect solution? I think my method is still the best. This lad’s internal wounds are really related to passage blockage to his pericardium. We got to use our inner energy to clear the blockage in the three visceral cavities in his Kidney Channel,” Branch Fairy concluded.

“What kind of nonsense is that? How would you know that his internal wounds are related to passage blockage to his pericardium? Did you get into his body and checked yourself?” Root Fairy rebuked angrily.

The arguing went on and on among the three brothers.

Leaf Fairy suddenly spoke out. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to let the energy stream circling back and forth around his Yuan-Ye Acupoint. It would be better to work on his Foot-To-Kidney Shao-Yin Channel first.”

Before anyone had a chance to comment, he had already grabbed onto the Yin-Gu Acupoint on Linghu Chong’s left knee. A stream of hot energy

seeped inside Linghu Chong’s body through the acupoint.

Trunk Fairy was infuriated. “Hey! Are you making trouble for me again? Let’s each give it a try then, and see who’s really right.”

After the words, he immediately worked harder on gathering more inner energy and filled them directly into Linghu Chong’s body.

Linghu Chong almost vomited and felt like that blood would spurt out of his mouth again any second. He groaned hard inwardly, “This is terrible! This is so terrible! The six of them really have good intentions and want to save my life, but they simply can’t agree with each other and each one decides to work on me in his unique way. I must have real lousy luck this time!”

He wanted to speak out and call on the six Fairies to stop right away but he didn’t even have the strength to move his tongue.

“He took the palm strike on the chest, which resulted in several internal injuries, then of course it would be logical to start healing from his Hand-To-Lung Tai-Yang Channel. The best solution will be to fill my energy stream into his Zhong-Fu, Chi-Ze, Kong-Zui, Lie-Que, Tai-Yuan, and Shao-Shang Acupoints.” Root Fairy started talking again.

“Big brother,” Trunk Fairy said, “I admire you in many different things. But you have to admit that I am much better than you in healing with inner energy. This lad is running a fever all over his body, and that’s

the symptom of having too much positive energy in his body. We must start from his Hand Tai-Yang Channel. I’ve decided to open up his Shang-Yang, He-Gu, Shou-San-Li, Qu-Chi, and Ying-Xiang acupoints.”

“Wrong! Wrong! Totally wrong!” Branch Fairy said as he shook his head hard.

“What do you know? Why are you saying that I am totally wrong?” Branch Fairy rebuffed angrily.

Root Fairy, on the other hand, became quite happy. He said with a

smile, “Third brother is the one who understand medical principles after all. He knows that I got it right, and second brother got it wrong.”

“Well, second brother sure got it wrong, but big brother, you didn’t get it right, either,” Leaf Fairy commented. “Look at him. This lad is

showing a blank stare. His lips are trembling, yet he just doesn’t want to talk….”

(Linghu Chong scolded inwardly, “Who said that I don’t want to talk? After you guys sent your energy streams into a wild goose chase inside my body, how could I still have any strength left to talk?”)

Leaf Fairy continued, “…then of course his mind isn’t working right and he is turning into a retard. We must work on his Yang-Ming Stomach Channel.”

(Linghu Chong scolded inwardly again, “Your mind isn’t working right! You are the real retard here!”) Right after Leaf Fairy’s words, Linghu Chong felt pain coming from his Si-Bai Acupoint right below the eye sockets, and then sourness came from his Di-Cang Acupoint by the corner of his mouth. Immediately after, severe pain came from the Da-Ying Acupoint, Jia-Che Acupoint on his face and many other acupoints like Tou-Wei Acupoint and Xia-Guang Acupoint on top of his head. And in the next moment, great sourness and itchiness followed. His facial muscles ended up going into spasms.

“You’ve worked on him for so long, yet he still can’t talk,” Fruit Fairy spoke. “I think his brain is just fine. Maybe his tongue is real stiff. That

would be the symptom of a bad cold. Let me heal him with my inner energy by working on his Yin-Bai, Tai-Bai, Gong-Sun, Shang-Qiu, Di-Ji, and those types of acupoints. But…but…if it doesn’t work, you’d better not blame me for it.”

“If your method doesn’t work, you’d get him killed for sure, then how could he not blame you for it?” Trunk Fairy replied.

“But if you already know that his tongue is getting stiff, and still not work on his Foot-To-Spleen Tai-Yin Channel, are you just going to watch him die?” Fruit Fairy argued.

“But if your method is wrong, it’s gonna be pretty bad!” Branch Fairy suggested.

“Wrong method would be pretty bad, but not able to heal him is just

as bad,” Flower Fairy cut in. “We’ve already worked on him for so long and he is still not getting any better. I am pretty sure he is having heart problems. We’ve got to work on his Hand-To-Heart Shao-Yang Channel first. It is obvious that the key lies in Shao-Hai, Tong-Li, Shen-Men, and Shao-Chong, those four acupoints.”

“Didn’t you say that we should work on his Foot-To-Kidney Shao- Yin Channel yesterday? How come you are talking about Hand-To-Heart Shao-Yang Channel today? Shao-Yang is all about gathering positive

energy, and Shao-Yin is all about generating negative energy. Yin and Yang are totally opposite of each other; have you made up your mind about which one is the right one?” Fruit Fairy challenged.

“Well, positive energy, Yang, only exists because negative energy, Yin, exists. They are the two sides of the same thing, representing that one divides into two. Tai Chi6 generates two bearings, and the two bearings merge again to make Tai Chi. Therefore, sometimes one divides into two and sometimes two merge to make one. Shao-Yang and Shao-Yin are both part of the pair. It’s not wise to just lump everything together.”

Linghu Chong couldn’t help but groan inwardly, “You might think it’s fine to make up lame excuses and nonsense, but how about my life? It’s no trifling matter!”

“We’ve tried this and that, but none seems to work. I’ve made up my mind. The only solution is to act willfully,” Root Fairy announced.

“How are you going to act willfully?” Trunk Fairy, Branch Fairy, and the rest of the Fairies asked in unison.

“This is apparently a very unique illness. Since it is a unique illness, we’ll have to start from unique acupuncture acupoints that are outside of the various channels. I am going to seal his Yin-Tang, Jin-Lv, Yu-Ye, Yu-Yao, Bai-Lao, and Twelve-Jing Acupoints using distance acupoint-sealing technique,” Root Fairy explained.

“Big brother, don’t do that. It’s too risky,” the five Fairies shouted all together.

“Why not? If I don’t do it now, this lad would be dead in no time,” Root Fairy shouted loudly.

Linghu Chong felt as if numerous blades had cut through his Yin- Tang, Jin-Lv, and the rest of the acupoints, one after another with unbearable pain. Soon the pain became so severe that he couldn’t even tell from which acupuncture point the pain came from. He tried to howl with his mouth wide open, yet not a single sound came out. Right at that moment, a stream of hot energy forced its way into his acupoints in the Foot-To-Spleen Tai-Yin Channel and started to flow inside him like a wild tide. Soon, another stream of hot energy emerged through the acupoints in the Hand-To-Heart Shao-Yang Channel. The two streams of energy clashed and splattered each other wildly. Not long after, three more streams of hot

energy forced their way in from different acupoints in different channels.

Linghu Chong’s heart was filled with anger and frustration, and his body, in the meantime, experienced unprecedented and unbearable pain and suffering. In the last couple of days when Peach Valley’s Six Fairies meddled with healing him on a wild goose chase, he had been in a coma

and had no idea about it. But at the current moment, he was conscious, yet had no means to stop the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies from running wild. He could feel the six streams of hot energy forcing their way through his body at random, and his liver, gallbladder, kidney, lung, heart, spleen, stomach, intestine, bladder, pericardium, the three visceral cavities, and all other vital organs had become playgrounds and battlefield for the six brothers’ energy streams. Linghu Chong was furious. He yelled out loud inwardly,

“If I am lucky enough to survive this time, I’ll chop you six pigs into ten thousand pieces.”

Deep inside his heart, he knew that Peach Valley’s Six Fairies all had good intents, and trying to heal him using inner energy would exhaust a good amount of their own inner energy. They would only have done this to friends with exceptional relationship. But at the very moment, he felt almost as if he was boiled, fried, and roasted alive. The suffering was so severe and so unbearable that if he had been able to speak, he would have spilled out the most venomous curses possible in human language.

Even while each of the six Fairies worked on healing Linghu Chong’s internal wound using his own method, they never stopped arguing against

each other. They had no idea that they had really made a huge mess with the passages and channels in Linghu Chong’s body and made it a lot worse.

Linghu Chong had been practicing Huashan School’s high-grade Qi-Gong techniques since he was young. Even though his achievement of inner

energy wasn’t at a high level, because it was a kind of orthodox inner

energy practice, he had a very solid foundation. And fortunately because of the solid foundation, he was able to linger on in a steadily worsening

condition and didn’t simply give it all up at the very beginning through the many days of healing, or should it be called torturing, from the six Fairies’ meddling around.

Peach Valley’s Six Fairies worked with their energy streams for a long while, but they could all tell that Linghu Chong’s heart beat had become weaker and weaker and his breathing took longer and longer. It

seemed that he could stop breathing and pass away any second now. They couldn’t help but feel worried.

“I don’t want to do this anymore. If I keep going and get him killed, he’s gonna turn into a ghost in limbo that will keep haunting me and scaring the hell out of me!” Fruit Fairy announced as he pulled his palm away from Linghu Chong’s acupoint.

Root Fairy yelled angrily, “If this lad kicks the bucket, he’ll definitely blame you first. And once he turned into a ghost stuck in limbo, he’ll

always haunt you and only you.”

In terror, Fruit Fairy let out a scream and jumped out of the window. Trunk Fairy, Branch Fairy, and the rest Fairies pulled their hands back one after another. Some knitted their eyebrows together and wrinkled their noses while others shook their heads back and forth – none had any idea of what to do next.

“Looks like this lad is not going to make it. What do we do?” Leaf Fairy asked.

“Why don’t you guys go tell the little nun that he couldn’t stand the palm strike from that short dude and decided to die? We have ripped that short dude into four pieces and avenged his death already,” Trunk Fairy

suggested.

“Should we tell her about how we tried to heal him with our energy streams?” Root Fairy asked.

“No, no, no, no. Never. You can’t mention that!” Trunk Fairy replied in a hurry.

“But what if the little nun then asks why we didn’t try to heal him?

What then?” Root Fairy asked again.

“Then we’ll have to say that we tried to heal him but couldn’t heal him,” Trunk Fairy answered.

“Then wouldn’t the little nun blame us and call Peach Valley’s Six Fairies six good for nothing and useless skunks?” Root Fairy rebuffed.

“What? The little nun called us six skunks? How rude!” Trunk Fairy yelled out in rage.

“The little nun didn’t say that. I did.” Root Fairy corrected him. “Then how would you know that she’d call us that?” Trunk Fairy

rebuked angrily.

“Maybe she will!” Root Fairy said.

“And maybe she won’t. What kind of rubbish is that?” Trunk Fairy wasn’t too happy. “Once this lad is dead, the little nun is going to get so mad. More likely than not she will call us something like that,” Root Fairy insisted.

“I bet that the little nun will break into a loud and bitter cry, but she won’t call us bad names,” Trunk Fairy predicted.

“I’d rather have her call us six skunks than watching her cry out loud,” Root Fairy disputed.

“She may not call us six skunks but something else.” Trunk Fairy argued.

“Then what else?” Root Fairy asked.

“Do we six brothers look like skunks? I don’t think it’s even close.

She might as well call us six pussy cats,” Trunk Fairy explained. “Why? Do we look like pussy cats?” Leaf Fairy cut in.

“When you call people names, they don’t have to look like it,” Flower Fairy joined the battle. “We six brothers are six guys. If the little nun called us six guys, was she calling us bad names?”

“But if she called us six stupid guys or bad guys, then she would be calling us bad names,” Branch Fairy dismissed the theory.

“That still sounds better than six skunks,” Flower Fairy disagreed. “What if the six skunks are smart skunks, competent skunks, brave

skunks, heroic skunks, and the Six Great Skunks in the Martial World? Would six guys sound better or would six skunks sound better?” Branch Fairy questioned.

Lying in bed and in his last gasp, Linghu Chong couldn’t help but feel greatly amused at the endless debate. Somehow, a stream of energy traveled upward and provided him a burst of brief strength to actually speak out,

“Even six skunks are much better than you guys!”

The five Fairies were all astounded. Before any of them had a chance to think the words through Fruit Fairy had already asked from outside of the window.

“Why would six skunks be better than us?”

“Right, why would six skunks be better than us?” the five Fairies inside asked in unison.

Linghu Chong really wanted to spill out endless abuses and curses wholeheartedly, but he simply did not have any strength left to do it.

“You…you’d better send me…send me back to Mount Huashan.

Only…only my Master can save…save my life…,” he squeezed the words out disjointedly.

“What? Only your Master can save your life? Are you saying that Peach Valley’s Six Fairies are incapable of saving your life?” Root Fairy asked in disbelief.

Linghu Chong struggled to signal a nod, and that used up the last bit of strength in his body. He opened his mouth but could no longer make any sound.

“That is just outrageous! What’s so special about your Master? How can he possibly be any better than us, Peach Valley’s Six Fairies?” Leaf Fairy mocked angrily.

“Humph! Ask his Master to have a fight with us!” Flower Fairy followed.

“We’ll grab onto his two arms and two legs. Wham! We rip him into four pieces.” Trunk Fairy added.

Fruit Fairy jumped back in through the window. “Even all the boys and girls on Mount Huashan. We’ll rip each of them into four pieces, one after another,” he suggested.

“Even all the dogs and cats and pigs and goats and chicken and ducks and tortoises and fish and shrimps. We’ll grab onto their four limbs and rip them all into four pieces,” Flower Fairy added. “Do fish and shrimps have limbs? How are you going to grab onto their four limbs?” Branch Fairy questioned.

“Err…just grab onto the head and the tail and then the top fin and the bottom fin,” Flower Fairy answered after a brief pause.

“But fish head is not a limb of the fish,” Branch Fairy pressed on. “So it’s not a limb. It doesn’t matter,” Flower Fairy replied.

“Of course it matters a great deal. Since it’s not a limb, that means your first sentence is completely wrong,” Branch Fairy concluded.

Flower Fairy knew very well that Branch Fairy had gotten a handle here, but he still tried to defend himself by sophistry. “What do you mean by my first sentence is completely wrong?”

“You said, ‘Even all the dogs and cats and pigs and goats and chicken and ducks and tortoises and fish and shrimps. We’ll grab onto their four limbs and rip them all into four pieces.’ Didn’t you say that?” Branch Fairy said.

“Sure, I said that. But that sentence isn’t the first sentence I said. I’ve already spoken hundreds and thousands of sentences, why did you say that this was my first sentence? If we start counting from the day I was born, I could have already spoken many millions of sentences. That certainly

wasn’t the first sentence I spoke,” Flower Fairy argued.

Branch Fairy was stumped by the answer and found himself completely tongue-tied, having no clue about how to argue that.

“Did you say tortoises?” Trunk Fairy asked.

“That’s right. A tortoise has front legs and back legs, so of course it has four limbs,” Flower Fairy said.

“But when we grab onto the tortoise’s front legs and back legs and pull in four directions, how are we going to rip it into four pieces?” Trunk Fairy questioned. “Why can’t we? What kind of Kung Fu does a tortoise have that can counter our four brothers’ mighty rip?” Flower Fairy didn’t get it.

“It’s very easy to rip the tortoise’s body into four pieces. But what

about it’s hard shell? How can you rip the shell into four pieces by pulling the tortoise’s four legs? If you are not going to rip the hard shell into pieces, then we’ll end up with five pieces, not four,” Trunk Fairy explained.

“Tortoise shells don’t go by piece. You can’t say a piece of shell, can you? You just said five pieces and that’s wrong,” Flower Fairy argued.

“There are a total of thirteen blocks on a tortoise shell. So four is wrong and five is also wrong,” Branch Fairy clarified.

“I said rip into five pieces. I didn’t say there are five blocks on a tortoise shell. You are obviously confused,” Branch Fairy snubbed.

Root Fairy picked it up this time. “You are only ripping the body of the tortoise into four pieces and leaving the tortoise’s hard shell alone. So you can only say ‘Rip it into four pieces plus a hard shell that can’t be ripped apart.’ That’s why what you just said, ‘Rip it into five pieces,’ is faulty wording. And it’s not only faulty wording, but also completely

wrong.”

“Big brother, you just said it wrong! Faulty wording is not completely wrong, and completely wrong can’t be faulty wording. These two are totally different. How can you mix them all up and confuse one with the other?” Leaf Fairy commented.

Hearing those six rattling on and on, Linghu Chong would have burst into loud laughter if he weren’t on the verge between life and death. Those guys’ words and acts were extremely funny and laughable, yet he only became more and more annoyed. Then he thought better of it.

“What are the odds of bumping into six such unique and matchless freaks? Such a chance has got to be hard to come by. This must be a trick from the Mighty Creator, maybe one of his rare jokes. To have the chance to be present personally on such a grand occasion is really something. I guess my life has its worth already. I really should make a toast for that.”

At that thought, his unrestrained spirit took over. “Give me…give me some wine!” he shouted.

Hearing these words, Peach Valley’s Six Fairies immediately found themselves in much merrier spirits. “Excellent! Excellent! He wants to drink wine, then he’s not gonna die,” they all said.

“Doesn’t matter if…if I am gonna die…die or not. I’ve got to…got to drink my fill first,” Linghu Chong muttered in between groans.

“Sure, sure! I’ll go get some wine,” Branch Fairy replied, and soon he brought back a big kettle of wine.

Linghu Chong’s spirit immediately shot up when he smelled the wonderful scent of wine. “Feed me,” he requested.

Branch Fairy plugged the kettle spout into Linghu Chong’s mouth and slowly poured the wine into it. A moment later, Linghu Chong finished the entire kettle of wine to the last drop, and his mind also started to work better.

“My Master…always said that among all…all the great heroes…in the world, the toughest had to be Peach…Peach…Peach….”

“Among all the great heroes in the world, the toughest had to be the Peach what?” Peach Valley’s Six Fairies asked in unison, all feeling totally anxious as if someone was tickling their hearts with a feather.

“Had to be…to be Peach…Peach…Peach….”

“Peach Valley’s Six Fairies!” the six Fairies said in unison.

“That’s right,” Linghu Chong confirmed. “My Master also said that he really wished to have the chance of drinking together with Peach Valley’s Six Fairies and make friends with them, then he would ask those six…six great…great….”

“Six great heroes!” Peach Valley’s Six Fairies said in unison.

“Yeah,” Linghu Chong confirmed again. “Then he would ask those six great heroes to give all the apprentices a demonstration and perform… perform their unique and superb Kung Fu skills….”

Peach Valley’s Six Fairies all started talking immediately afterwards. “Then what next?”

“How does your Master know that we have superb Kung Fu skills?” “The Head Master of the Huashan School is really a very nice guy!

We’ve got to make sure that we don’t even break a branch on Mount Huashan.”

“That’s of course! We won’t even let anyone else break a branch on Mount Huashan.”

“We’ll be very glad to make friends with your Master. Let’s go up Mount Huashan right now!”

Linghu Chong quickly picked up the line. “Right! Let’s go up Mount Huashan right now!”

Wasting no time, Peach Valley’s Six Fairies carried Linghu Chong

and immediately headed toward Mount Huashan. After walking for quite a while, Root Fairy suddenly cried out.

“Wait a minute! The little nun wanted us to bring the lad to see her.

Why are we taking him to Mount Huashan? If we don’t bring the lad to see the little nun, wouldn’t we have just…just…ah…won another bet? Two

wins in a row! That will be quite embarrassing.”

“Big brother said it right this time. Let’s first bring him to see the little nun. We will go up Mount Huashan afterwards so we won’t be

winning it one more time,” Trunk Fairy agreed. The six of them turned around and started heading south.

“Does the little nun want to see a living person or a dead one?” Linghu Chong asked, feeling very worried.

“Of course she wants to see a living lad, not a dead lad,” Root Fairy answered.

“If you don’t send me up Mount Huashan, I will shut down my

arteries immediately and never come back to life again,” Linghu Chong threatened.

“That’s great! It must be a very advanced technique to be able to shut down your arteries. Please tell us the details,” Fruit Fairy said happily.

“As soon as you master this technique, you drop dead instantly. What good does it do to learn that technique?” Trunk Fairy rebuffed.

“It is still useful. If you were forced…forced by others to do things and your life have become a living hell, and all there left are unbearable worries, then it makes perfect sense to shut down your own arteries,” Linghu Chong claimed while panting hard.

Peach Valley’s Six Fairies’ faces fell at those words. “The little nun just wants to see you. She has no ill intention. We aren’t forcing you either.”

“I know the six of you have very good intents,” Linghu Chong said with a sigh, “but if I can’t tell my Master and get his permission first, I

won’t comply even if that means I’ll have to give up my life. Besides, my Master and Master-Wife had long wished to meet the six…six… legendary…great… great…great….”

“Great heroes!” Peach Valley’s Six Fairies said in unison. Linghu Chong nodded his confirmation.

“Fine! We’ll send you back to Mount Huashan then,” Root Fairy finally agreed. Several hours later, the group of seven was back on Mount Huashan once again.

As soon as the apprentices of Huashan School spotted the group of

seven, they dashed back and reported it to Yue Buqun. Hearing that the six freaks that kidnapped Linghu Chong had just returned, the Yue couple immediately greeted out with a bunch of apprentices, feeling completely

astounded.

Peach Valley’s Six Fairies all traveled at great speed, so as soon as the Yue Couple stepped out of the “House of Integrity” they could already see the six freaks walking toward them along the stone slab road. Two of the six freaks carried a stretcher with Linghu Chong lying still on it.

Madam Yue rushed forward hurriedly to check on Linghu Chong.

What immediately caught her eyes were his two sunken cheeks and a

sallow face. She reached out to check his pulse, but what she found only confirmed the worst. Linghu Chong’s pulse was so weak and out of order. He was barely alive.

“Chong, Chong!” Madam Yue cried in shock.

“Master…Master…Master-Wife!” Linghu Chong murmured after he slowly opened his eyes.

“Chong, I’ll seek revenge for you!” Tear filled Madam’s eyes as she drew her sword, ready to stab Flower Fairy, who was one of the two

carrying the stretcher.

“Wait!” Yue Buqun shouted. He cupped his hands and saluted the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies. “Please pardon me for having not greeted the six of you with proper manners. Will you bestow me the honor by informing me your names and which school you’re from?”

Hearing those words, the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies were stunned

with a mixed feeling of anger and disappointment. When they heard Linghu Chong’s words, they had thought that Yue Buqun had truly admired them, the six brothers. Who would have expected that the first sentence out of Yue Buqun’s mouth was actually asking for their names? Obviously Yue knew

absolutely nothing about the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies.

“We heard that you truly admired us six brothers. Could that be a false statement? But how can you be so ignorant of us? What a shame!” Root Fairy said.

“Didn’t you say that among all the great heroes the toughest had to be Peach Valley’s Six Fairies? Aha, I got it! The name Peach Valley’s Six Fairies must have long resounded in your ears, but you simply have no clue that we are the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies. Guess we can’t blame you,” Trunk Fairies followed.

“Second brother, he said that he really wished to have a drink with Peach Valley’s Six Fairies and make friends with them, but once the six of us really showed up on Mount Huashan, he looked neither wildly happy nor willing to get us some wine. So it turned out that he does know the Six Fairies’ great fame but doesn’t know the Six Fairies’ faces. Ha-ha! That is

so hilarious,” Branch Fairy picked up the line.

Yue Buqun was completely baffled by those words. Not able to make any sense out of them, he simply replied coldly, “You call yourselves the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies. I am only an ordinary person. How dare I make friends with six Fairies?”

Peach Valley’s Six Fairies instantly felt great joy.

“That would be no problem! We are friends of your apprentice, so we might as well make friends with you,” Branch Fairy declared.

“Even though your Kung Fu skills are too ordinary, we won’t be looking down upon you. You don’t have to worry,” Fruit Fairy comforted him. “If you have any questions in your Kung Fu study, you can feel free to ask us. Of course we’ll give you some pointers,” Flower Fairy promised.

“Oh, many thanks for that!” Yue Buqun said with a slight smile.

“You don’t need to thank us. Now that we, Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, consider you a friend, then of course we’ll say everything we know with no reserve,” Trunk Fairy replied.

“Why don’t I demonstrate some cool techniques to everyone of the Huashan School and widen your horizons?” Fruit Fairy suggested.

Madam Yue had no idea that the six brothers were really a bunch of childish and artless guys who lacked common senses. What they said were

actually meant for showing their sincere kindness. But these words sounded so offensive and insulting in Madam Yue’s ears. She could no longer hold her anger. Raising her arm evenly with her shoulder, she pointed the sword tip right at Fruit Fairy’s Solar Plexus.

“Great! Let me get my lesson first and check out your special Kung Fu in weaponry,” Madam Yue rebuked.

“The Peach Valley’s Six Fairies rarely use weapons when we spar with people. Didn’t you say that you truly admired our Kung Fu skills? How come you didn’t know that part?” Fruit Fairy said with a grin.

In Madam Yue’s ears, Fruit Fairy’s words sounded even more insulting. “I didn’t know that part!” she yelled as she suddenly made a lunge with her long sword. The thrust was so rapid and sudden, carrying a tremendous force with it.

Fruit Fairy had already thought of Madam Yue as a friend and never expected her to start such a fierce attack all of a sudden. Within a split of a second, the sword tip had already reached his chest. If he had wanted to defend himself, he would still have had enough time to do so with his

superb Kung Fu skills, but since he was such a cowardly type, he was simply struck dumb and completely forgot to dodge, only watching in terror as the sword penetrated his body.

Branch Fairy leapt forward hurriedly and struck Madam Yue in the shoulder with his palm. Madam Yue let go of her sword and stumbled a couple of steps back, leaving the long sword stabbed into Fairy’s chest, wobbling up and down.

Root Fairy and the rest Fairies all gasped in terror. Branch Fairy picked up Fruit Fairy and leapt back in a hurry while the rest four Fairies rushed forward and lifted Madam Yue by her four limbs in incredible speed. Yue Buqun knew too well what was going to happen next – the four freaks would tear at the same time and rip Madam Yue’s body into four pieces.

Even though he was pretty good at staying calm, his wrist still trembled as he sent out two thrusts toward Root Fairy and Leaf Fairy separately with his long sword.

Lying on the stretcher, Linghu Chong could still see the dangerous

state his Master-Wife was in. In great despair, he struggled up and shouted. “Don’t hurt my Master-Wife! Or I will shut down all my arteries!”

Before his voice even faded, blood had squired out from his mouth.

Linghu Chong fell back down unconscious.

“That lad is gonna shut down his arteries. We can’t let that happen!

Let go of the bitch!” Root Fairy yelled out as he dodged the thrust from Yue Buqun.

The four Fairies dropped Madam Yue on the ground. Greatly worried about Fruit Fairy’s fatal injury, they ran after Branch Fairy and Fruit Fairy quickly.

Yue Buqun and Yue Lingshan rushed over to Madam Yue’s side at the same time. Before they even had a chance to reach out and prop Madam Yue up, she had already leapt back onto her own feet. Feeling a mixture of extreme terror and rage, she couldn’t help but tremble. Her face looked completely pale and sallow.

“Junior apprentice sister, don’t be angry. We’ll seek our revenge for sure. Those six guys are very tough enemies. Fortunately you have already killed one of them,” Yue Buqun whispered.

Madam Yue’s heart hammered even more as she remembered the

scene several days earlier when Cheng Buyou was ripped apart alive. “I… I…I…,” she murmured yet could no longer speak normally because her

entire body was still shaking hard.

“Lingshan, why don’t you take your mother back in to have a rest,” Yue Buqun said to his daughter, knowing that his wife had been completely horrified.

Yue Buqun walked by Linghu Chong to check on him. There was blood all over Linghu Chong’s face and chest. His breathing was so weak that it almost seemed there was more air breathed out of him than what was breathed in – he was not going to make it. Yue Buqun placed his palm on top of Linghu Chong’s Ling-Tai Acupoint on the back in an attempt to use his own high-level inner energy to keep Linghu Chong alive, but as soon as he tried to fill his inner energy in through the acupoint, several streams of weird inner energy inside Linghu Chong’s body immediately countered it with a big shock and almost shook his palm off. Completely astounded, he soon discovered that those lunatic energy streams were clashing against

each other nonstop inside Linghu Chong’s body as well. He put his palm next to Tan-Zhong Acupoint on Linghu Chong’s chest, and sure enough, a strong shock struck his palm so hard that even his own chest started hurting with a dull pain. Yue Buqun was astonished even more this time. He could tell that those energy streams inside Linghu Chong’s body flew in odd

ways. Apparently they came from some type of advanced yet unorthodox Qi-Gong techniques. Even though each energy stream by itself was slightly weaker than his “Divine Art of Violet Twilight,” as soon as two of them

attack in the same direction or at the time, he could no longer hold them off on his own. After some more careful detection, he counted a total of six

energy streams inside Linghu Chong, and each of them was weird and bizarre. Afraid to continue, Yue Buqun pulled his palm back and pondered.

“There are a total of six energy streams, then of course it had to be those six freaks who filled those into Chong’s body. The six freaks are so vicious. They must have tortured Chong so badly by filling their own inner energy into six different channels inside Chong’s body, so Chong would

suffer constantly, and wouldn’t even have the option to end his own misery by committing suicide.”

Yue Buqun knitted his brows heavily and shook his head. After telling Gao Gengming and Lu Dayou to carry Linghu Chong inside he went to

check on his wife.

Madam Yue was still in shock. While sitting on the bedside holding her daughter’s hands, she looked terrified, her face as white as a sheet. As soon as she saw Yue Buqun, she asked,

“How’s Chong doing? How serious is his injury?”

Yue Buqun explained how the six energy streams clashed and fought each other inside Linghu Chong’s body.

“We’ve got to dissolve those six heterodox energy streams one by one. Do you think there’s still time?” Madam Yue asked.

Yue Buqun raised his head and pondered. After a long while, he finally spoke again.

“Junior apprentice sister, what’s your opinion on why the six freaks tortured Chong so badly? “I guess they wanted Chong to give in and surrender. Or maybe they were trying to force out some kind of secret of our school from him. Chong of course would rather die than submit. That’s why the six ugly freaks tortured him,” Madam Yue suggested.

“That would be a logical explanation in ordinary situations,” Yue Buqun nodded. “But our school doesn’t have any secret. Those six freaks

don’t know us at all and have no grudges against us. Why would they send him back after successfully kidnapping him in the first place?”

“I am afraid…Nah, it couldn’t be.” Madam Yue thought of an idea but immediately dismissed it because it did not really make a lot of sense.

The couple stared at each other in silence, each pondering hard with knitted brows.

“Although our school doesn’t have any secret, Huashan style Kung Fu has a great reputation. Maybe those six freaks kidnapped big apprentice brother so they could force him to tell the key elements of our school’s Qi- Gong techniques and sword art techniques.” Yue Lingshan couldn’t help but cut in.

“I’ve thought about this,” Yue Buqun said, “but Chong’s inner energy isn’t that advanced. Those six freaks have very advanced inner energy themselves, so they could easily tell. And regarding sword skills, the six freaks’ Kung Fu style is far from Huashan style sword art. They don’t have anything in common. It makes no sense for them to go through so much trouble just for that. Besides, if they did want to compel Chong into telling them about sword techniques, they should have gone to somewhere far from Mount Huashan so they could torture and force Chong with no rush.

Why did they bring him back here?”

From Yue Buqun’s tone of voice, Madam Yue could tell that he was getting more and more affirmative. Having been his wife for so many years, she knew that her husband had already solved the mystery. So she asked, “Then what’s really the reason behind?”

“Use Chong’s internal injury to exhaust my inner energy,” Yue Buqun said slowly, his face looking solemn and serious.

Madam Yue jumped onto her feet. “That’s right! In order to save

Chong’s life, you’ve got to use your own inner energy to dissolve those six energy streams. By the time you are about to succeed, if those six ugly freaks suddenly came, while you would be totally exhausted, they would be at their ease, then they could easily kill all of us.”

She paused for a brief moment and then continued. “Fortunately there are only five freaks left. Senior apprentice brother, they had already taken me a prisoner earlier. Why did they let me go after Chong shouted at them?” She felt the terror again as she remembered the horrible incident she had just experienced moments earlier. Her voice trembled again.

“That’s exactly the cause for my conclusion.” Yue Buqun explained. “You killed one of them. They must have had extraordinary hatred for us.

But they immediately set you free only because they were afraid that Chong would shut down his own arteries and commit suicide. Think about it. If they didn’t have a big conspiracy, why would they value Chong’s life so much?”

“Their wickedness and ruthlessness are to the extreme!” Madam Yue murmured as she thought to herself, “When the four freaks ripped Cheng

Buyou into pieces, they showed tremendous cruelty. Such level of cruelty is rarely seen in the entire Martial World. In the last several days, my heart has been hammering every time I thought about it. Their interruption did put a pause on Feng Buping’s plan to take over the Head Master post. Feng

Buping ended up leaving disappointed with Lu Bai and the bunch. Those six freaks definitely took care of the problem for the Huashan School temporarily. Who would have thought that they would come back to Mount Huashan to cause more trouble? It must have been just like what senior

apprentice brother has figured out.”

At that thought, Madam Yue said, “You can’t work on Chong with your inner energy. My inner energy mastery is far less than yours, but let’s hope it’s good enough to keep him alive temporarily.” She started to head toward the door.

“Junior apprentice sister!” Yue Buqun called out. Madam Yue paused and turned her head back.

“It’s no use. Those six freaks’ heterodox energy streams are very powerful.” Yue Buqun shook his head.

“So only your ‘Divine Art of Violet Twilight’ is capable of dissolving them, isn’t it? What should we do then?” Madam Yue asked.

“Right now we can only take one step at a time and see where it will lead us. Let’s first keep him breathing. That doesn’t require much of my inner energy anyway,” Yue Buqun suggested.

The three went into the room Linghu Chong was placed in. Madam Yue’s tears started rolling again as soon as she saw Linghu Chong lying there motionless, hardly breathing at all. She reached out to check on Linghu Chong’s pulse, but Yue Buqun caught her hand with his own. He let her hand go after shaking his head slightly. Pressing both hands onto Linghu Chong’s palms, Yue Buqun slowly passed his inner energy over. As soon as his inner energy clashed with the energy streams inside Linghu

Chong, Yue Buqun’s body shook abruptly and he took a step back, his face turning violet.

Linghu Chong suddenly started talking. “Where…where is apprentice brother Lin?”

“Why do you need Little Lin?” Yue Lingshan asked in surprise. “Before his father…passed away, he wanted me to take a message… to apprentice brother Lin. I haven’t had a chance to tell him…. I am not going to make it this time. Find…find him, hurry.” Linghu Chong murmured, his eyes still shut tight.

Tear started rolling in Yue Lingshan’s eyes. She covered her face and ran out of the room. All the Huashan School apprentices had been waiting outside. Getting the message from Yue Lingshan, Lin Pingzhi went inside right away and walked by Linghu Chong’s bed.

“Big apprentice brother, you need to take care!” Lin Pingzhi said. “Is…is this apprentice brother Lin?” Linghu Chong asked.

“Yes, it’s me,” Lin Pingzhi answered.

“Right…right before your father…passed away, I was by…by his side. He wanted me to…to tell…you…” Linghu Chong’s voice became

weaker and weaker as if he had ran out of breath. Everyone held his or her breaths. The room was swept with dead silence.

After quite a while Linghu Chong finally caught his breath. He

continued, “He said that you should take good care of the thing in the old Lin House at the Xiang-Yang Alley in Fuzhou. But…but you shall never read…read it, or…or great misfortune will fall upon you…!”

“The old Lin House at the Xiang-Yang Alley? That has been left vacant for a good while. There is nothing of importance there. What is this thing that my father told me to not read?” Lin Pingzhi asked in surprise.

“I don’t know. Those are all the words…all the words…your parents wanted me to tell you. They didn’t say anything else…before they… passed…passed away….” Linghu Chong’s voice went weaker again.

The four of them waited a few more moments, but Linghu Chong remained silent. Yue Buqun heaved a sigh and then said to Lin Pingzhi and Yue Lingshan, “Wait here by your big apprentice brother’s side. If his injury has any change, come and tell me right away.”

Lin and Yue both nodded.

The Yue couple went back to their own room, both feeling very depressed. Only moments later, tears slowly streamed down Madam Yue’s cheeks once again.

“Don’t be upset. We’ll definitely avenge Chong,” Yue Buqun assured

her.

“Since those six freaks plotted this venomous scheme, they will come

back again for sure. If we fight them recklessly, we might not necessarily lose, but if anything goes wrong….” Madam Yue said.

“‘We might not necessarily lose?’ That’s far easier said than done. If we fight three of them together, we would end up a draw at most. If we fight four of them together, then most likely we will lose. If the five of them all jump onto us simultaneously….” Yue Buqun shook his head slowly.

Madam Yue knew herself that the two of them would be no match for the five freaks in a fight, but she had hoped that since her husband’s Kung Fu had greatly improved in the last several years after he successfully mastered the “Divine Art of Violet Twilight,” there might still be a small

chance of winning. When she heard Yue Buqun’s words, she became greatly worried.

“Then…then what do we do? Are we going to just fold our arms and await destruction?”

“Don’t get dispirited. A true man can handle both good times and bad times. Winning or losing doesn’t have to be determined right away. It is never too late for revenge, even if we have to wait for ten years,” Yue

Buqun suggested.

“Are you suggesting that we run away?” Madam Yue asked. “We are not running away. We are only avoiding them temporarily. Right now the enemies outnumber us. We only have two, how could we beat the five of them all together? Since you have already killed one of the freaks, we have really gotten the upper hand of it already. Avoiding them temporarily will do no harm to our Huashan School’s reputation. Besides, as long as we keep this to ourselves, outsiders would never know anything about it,” Yue Buqun explained.

Madam Yue said with a sob, “Even though I killed one of the freaks,

Chong could die any minute now. We really only…only got even in this conflict. Chong…Chong….” She paused for a second and then said,

“Alright, let’s use your idea. We’ll bring Chong together with us and then try to heal his injury gradually.”

Yue Buqun heaved a sigh but didn’t answer.

“Do you mean that we can’t bring Chong with us?” Madam Yue asked anxiously.

“Chong’s injury is very severe. If we bring him with us and travel at double the speed, he won’t even last for an hour,” Yue Buqun replied.

“Then…then what? Isn’t there anything we can do to save him?” Madam Yue asked in despair.

“Alas, I was determined to teach him the ‘Divine Art of Violet Twilight’ the other day. Who would have expected that he went off into

wild flights of imagination and tumbled into the evil route of the Sword-

Branch? If he had begun studying the secret formula, even just a page or two of it, he would have been able to manage his own inner energy for self- healing and not worry about the six heterodox energy streams.” Yue Buqun heaved a sigh.

“This matter brooks no delay. Why don’t you go teach him the ‘Divine Art of Violet Twilight’ right away? Maybe he won’t be able to understand all of it in his current sick state, but it would still be better than not learning it at all. Or, you can leave the ‘Violet Twilight Manuscript’

with him so he can study on his own following the book.” Madam Yue jumped onto her feet.

Yue Buqun held Madam Yue’s hands into his own and said softly,

“Junior apprentice sister, my love for Chong is no less than yours. But think about it. He has been so severely injured. How could he pay attention to me when I teach him the formulas and the various techniques? If I leave the ‘Violet Twilight Manuscript’ with him so he could study from the book by himself when his mind becomes clearer, then when those five freaks come back to Mount Huashan in no time, since Chong would not be capable of defending himself, what’s going to happen to this most valued Qi-Gong manuscript of our Huashan School? Those five freaks would get their hands onto it for sure. And if those heterodox people get hold of the supreme orthodox Qi-Gong manuscript of our Huashan School, and was able to use it to help them harm the society a great deal more, I, Yue Buqun, would

stand condemned through the ages.”

Thinking that her husband’s words were quite reasonable, Madam Yue couldn’t help but shed more tears.

“Those five freaks don’t do things in the ordinary order. No one can predict what they might do next. We don’t have any time to waste. Let’s get on the road right away,” Yue Buqun said.

“Are we just going to leave Chong here and let those five freaks torture him more? I’ll stay to guard him,” Madam Yue proposed.

As soon as the words came out of her mouth, she immediately realized that it was just an act on impulse of an ordinary housewife, not something that would suit her status as the “Heroine of the Huashan

School.” If she stayed, it would only result in sacrificing one more life for nothing. How could she protect Linghu Chong at all? Besides, if she had decided to stay, then how would her husband and daughter ever agree to leave Mount Huashan without her? Feeling great worries and sorrows, her tears poured down nonstop.

Yue Buqun shook his head and let out a long sigh. He moved aside his pillow and took out a thin iron box. After removing the lid, he took out a brocade-covered booklet. Putting the booklet inside his chest pocket, he pushed the door open and walked out. To his surprise, he found Yue Lingshan standing outside the door.

“Daddy, I am afraid that big apprentice brother…is not going to pull through,” Yue Lingshan said.

“What happened?” Yue Buqun asked in shock.

“He keeps raving about things and it seems that he is in a state of delirium,” Yue Lingshan replied.

“What did he rave about?” Yue Buqun asked.

“I don’t understand what he raved about,” Yue Lingshan answered with a blush.

It turned out that under the torment from those six energy streams in his body, and seeing Yue Lingshan standing right in front of him, in his

wooziness, Linghu Chong blunted out without thinking,

“Little apprentice sister, I…I really miss you! Have you fallen in love with apprentice brother Lin and decided to ignore me now?”

Even in her wildest imagination, Yue Lingshan had never expected that Linghu Chong would ask such a question right in front of Lin Pingzhi. She blushed big time, feeling ultimately embarrassed. Then she heard Linghu Chong murmuring again.

“Little apprentice sister, we grew up together since we were kids. We played together and practiced sword art together. I…I really don’t know how and where I displeased you. If you are mad at me, you can punch me. You can swear at me. Even if…even if you stab me with your sword I won’t have any complaints. But please don’t be so cold to me and totally ignore me….”

Linghu Chong had been thinking about those words again and again inwardly over the last couple of months. If he were to be conscious, he

would not have dared to speak them out even if he was with Yue Lingshan alone. But since he had no self-constraint at the moment, he really spilled his heart out.

“I’ll just be outside,” Lin Pingzhi said in embarrassment.

“No, no! You stay here and watch over big apprentice brother,” Yue Lingshan uttered and then rushed out of the door.

She ran straight toward her parents’ room, but when she arrived at the door, she heard the using “Divine Art of Violet Twilight” to heal the injury discussion between her parents, so she waited at the door, daring not to interrupt.

“Go send out my order to everyone. I want everybody to come to the ‘House of Integrity’,” Yue Buqun said to Yue Lingshan.

“Yes, but what about big apprentice brother? Who’s going to care for him?” Yue Lingshan asked.

“Tell Dayou to look after him,” Yue Buqun answered.

Yue Lingshan took the order and then went on her way to inform everyone. Soon, all of Huashan School apprentices had gathered in the

“House of Integrity” and lined up based on school seniority. Yue Buqun sat down in the armchair in the middle. Madam Yue sat in a chair next to him.

After casting a quick glance at the crowd and confirming that all except Linghu Chong and Lu Dayou had arrived. Yue Buqun started

addressing all the apprentices. “Among last generation senior masters of our sword school, some of them strayed into the wrong road. They kept perfecting sword techniques but ignored the practice of inner energy with Qi-Gong techniques. They hardly realized that all advanced martial arts require Qi-Gong techniques to build a solid foundation. If one can’t master Qi-Gong techniques, then regardless of how well he has mastered his sword techniques, he would never be able to reach the acme of martial arts. But unfortunately, those last generation senior masters obstinately stuck to a wrong course. They went on their own way to create a new branch called Huashan Sword-Branch and called our orthodox Kung Fu Huashan Qi-Branch. The dispute between the Qi-Branch and the Sword-Branch went on for many decades, which greatly obstructed the development and growth of our Huashan School. What a great calamity it is.” He paused and heaved a deep sigh.

Madam Yue thought inwardly, “Those five freaks could show up any moment, and you are still here telling old stories with leisure.” She cast a

side-glance to her husband but dared not to interrupt. Throwing a peek at the inscribed board where it said “House of Integrity,” she thought to herself, “At the time when I first joined Huashan School to learn sword art, the words inscribed on the board were really ‘Force of Sword Towering the Clouds.’ But now it has been changed to ‘House of Integrity.’ No one even remembers where the old board might be. Alas, I was only a thirteen-year- old little girl at the time. Now…now….”

Yue Buqun continued. “But what’s righteous and what’s evil, what’s right and what’s wrong, the truth would eventually shine at the end.

Twenty-five years ago, the Sword-Branch took a crushing defeat and

withdrew from our Huashan School. I have been the Head Master of the Huashan School ever since. Several days ago, a group of expelled

apprentices of our school, Feng Buping, Cheng Buyou, and some others, came back to Mount Huashan. I am not sure how they did it, but they

succeeded in convincing the Alliance Chief of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance, Chief Zuo, by cheats and lies, and came to seize the Head Master post of our Huashan School with Alliance Chief Zuo’s Command Flag. I have been holding the post of Head Master in our school for many years.

There are plenty of tedious internal tasks associated with the job, not mentioning all the things to deal with when the five sword schools meet. I’ve long thought about relinquishing my post in favor of somebody more qualified, so I could dedicate myself to the task of studying advanced Qi- Gong techniques of our school. I should really be only too glad to hear that somebody is willing to take over with the duties.” At that word, he paused again.

“Master, Feng Buping and the other Sword-Branch expelled

apprentices have all gone on the evil route. They are really no different from members of the Demon Cult. We should never even let them come back to join our Huashan School, how can we ever let them take the Head Master post of our school with their wishful thinking?” Gao Gengming

commented.

“We’ll never let their audacious plot succeed!” Lao Denuo, Liang Fa, Shi Daizi, and the rest of the apprentices exclaimed all together.

Seeing that all the apprentices’ feeling ran high, Yue Buqun let out a slight smile. “It’s really not important whether I am the Head Master or not.

But if the heterodox people from the Sword-Branch ruled our school, all the hundreds of years worth of Huashan School’s vast comprehensive and profound Kung Fu techniques would all be destroyed in a moment. When we one day return to the underworld, how would we ever face the spirits of many generations of Huashan School senior masters? And the reputation of our Huashan School would be held in contempt by everyone in the Martial World.”

“That’s right! How can we ever let that happen?” Lao Denuo and the bunch of apprentices said in unison.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about Feng Buping and the rest of the Sword-Branch expelled apprentices,” Yue Buqun went on. “But since they were able to bring the Command Flag of the Five Mountains Sword

Alliance and also able to collaborate with people from Songshan, Taishan, and Hengshan those schools, this is no small matter. That’s why….” He

swept his eyes over the apprentices and then spoke again. “We’ll be leaving today to see Alliance Chief Zuo at Mount Songshan, and have it out with him.”

All the apprentices were shocked. The Songshan Sword School was the leader in the Five Mountains Sword Alliance, and the Head Master of the Songshan School, Zuo Lengchan, was considered a top notch in the Martial World. Not only had his Kung Fu skills reached the acme of perfection, his reputation as a quick-witted and resourceful mind was also

well known. Anytime when the name “Alliance Chief Zuo” was mentioned, everyone would get a shiver of cold. In the Martial World, when one had it out with someone else, the dispute normally wouldn’t stop at an oral discussion. Any heated word might lead to a fierce physical fight. All the

apprentices couldn’t help but thinking the same thought.

“Master’s Kung Fu is excellent, but he most likely is still no match for Alliance Chief Zuo. Besides, the Songshan School’s Alliance Chief Zuo has twelve apprentice brothers. People in the Martial World call them the ‘Thirteen Guardians of Songshan.’ Even though ‘Great Songyang Palm’ Fei Bin has passed away, there are still a total of twelve of them left. And each of the twelve is a first-class elite fighter – someone a second-generation Huashan apprentice would have no chance of resisting. Isn’t it a bit too reckless to stir up trouble on Mount Songshan?”

Every one of the apprentices thought so, yet no one dared to speak up.

Hearing what her husband had just said, Madam Yue immediately praised inwardly. “This idea is awesome! We are leaving our base, Mount Huashan, so we could avoid the five Peach Valley’s freaks. Once the news spreads out, Huashan School would have no face left. But if we were heading up Mount Songshan to have it out with Alliance Chief Zuo, others would only admire our courage. Alliance Chief Zuo is not the unreasonable type. Once we get to Mount Songshan, it’s not necessary that we’ll end up

in a deadly fight. There’s gonna be a lot of rooms and cushions in between.” So she immediately picked up the line.

“That’s right! Feng Buping did bring the Command Flag of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance up Mount Huashan. But who knows, he could very possibly have stolen or robbed the Command Flag from someone else. Even if it’s true that Alliance Chief Zuo did award them the Command Flag of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance, this is the internal matter of our

Huashan School. The Songshan School has no say in this at all. Sure,

Songshan School has a lot more members, and Alliance Chief Zuo has

superb Kung Fu skills, but we, Huashan School members, would rather die than submit. Any one of you who has no guts and is afraid might as well

stay.”

None of the apprentices wanted to look like a coward, so they all answered, “We will follow Master and Master-Wife’s orders and never hesitate to go through fire and water for Master and Master-Wife.”

“Perfect! The matter brooks no delay. Go pack your stuff. We’ll get on the road in one hour.” Madam Yue commanded. Before starting the trip, Madam Yue went to check on Linghu Chong again. Seeing Linghu Chong’s lifeless face, she felt great pain and grievance deep in her heart. But the five Peach Valley’s freaks could come back in any moment. She simply couldn’t risk having Mount Huashan

completely wiped out just for Linghu Chong’s sake. So she had Lu Dayou move Linghu Chong into the little hut at the back.

“Dayou,” she said, “we are going to Mount Songshan to have it out with Alliance Chief Zuo for the sake of our Huashan School’s future. This is going to be a very risky trip. We just hope that under the direction from your Master, we will be able to uphold justice and all come back safely.

Chong’s injury is very severe. You will take good care of him. If any enemy comes to attack, try your best to avoid conflict even if you have to endure humiliation. Don’t get Chong and yourself killed for nothing.”

Lu Dayou nodded his acknowledgement with tears in his eyes.

After Lu Dayou saw Master, Master-Wife, and all the apprentice brothers and sisters off Mount Huashan, he went back to the little hut where Linghu Chong was resting. By now, the entire Huashan School on Mount

Huashan only had two residents – one was his big apprentice brother who was still in a coma, the other one was himself, completely alone and on his own. He found himself in a state of anxiety. The deepening dusk only made him more afraid of the unforeseen future.

After making a pot of rice soup in the kitchen, he filled a bowl and propped Linghu Chong up to have some. Only at the third swallow, Linghu Chong coughed all the soup out. The white rice soup had turned red. Linghu Chong must have coughed all the blood in his stomach out together with it. While feeling terrified, Lu Dayou helped Linghu Chong lie down again.

Setting the soup bowl down, he stared at the darkness outside of the window blankly and fell into a trance. He had no idea how long he had been in a daze when several owl hoots woke him.

“It is said that when an owl hoots, it is really counting a patient’s

eyebrows,” he thought. “By the time the owl finishes counting, it would be the moment for the patient to die.” So he put his finger into his mouth to gather some spit and then smeared it on Linghu Chong’s eyebrows so the owl would have a real hard job counting them.

Suddenly sounds of footsteps came from the mountain path. Lu

Dayou blew out the oil lamp hurriedly. His sword in his hand, he guarded by Linghu Chong’s bedside. The sounds came closer and closer, and it

seemed that someone was heading straight toward the little hut. Lu Dayou’s heart almost jumped out of his chest. He thought to himself, “It seems that the enemy knows very well that big apprentice brother is resting over here. That’s terrible! How can I protect big apprentice brother from any harm?”

Then he heard a girl’s voice whispering into the room, “Monkey Six, are you inside?” It turned out to be the voice of Yue Lingshan.

“Is that little apprentice sister? I…I am in here,” Lu Dayou answered with unspeakable joy. He lit the oil lamp again, but in the hurry and

excitement, he splashed the oil all over his hands.

Yue Lingshan pushed the door open and walked in. “How’s big apprentice brother?” she asked.

“He just coughed some more blood,” Lu Dayou answered.

Yue Lingshan walked by the bedside and reached out to feel Linghu Chong’s forehead. It was burning hot.

“How come he’s coughing blood again?” she asked in a frown.

Suddenly, Linghu Chong spoke out. “Little…little apprentice sister, is it you?” “Yes, big apprentice brother. How do you feel right now?” Yue Lingshan asked softly.

“I…I’m feeling…alright,” Linghu Chong murmured. Yue Lingshan took out a pack from her chest pocket.

“Big apprentice brother, this is ‘Violet Twilight Manuscript.’ Dad said that….”

“Violet Twilight Manuscript?” Linghu Chong uttered in surprise.

“That’s right. Dad said that you are suffering from heterodox Kung Fu masters’ energy streams and only our own school’s most supreme inner energy techniques can dissolve them. Monkey Six, you read the manuscript word by word for big apprentice brother. But you must not study any of it yourself. Otherwise, if Dad finds out about it, humph, you know the

consequences,” Yue Lingshan exclaimed.

Lu Dayou was overjoyed. He answered hurriedly, “I am just a bum.

How would I ever dare to secretly study the most supreme inner energy techniques of our school? You can rest assured. This is great! In order to save big apprentice brother’s life, Master is even willing to make an

exception and bestow the manuscript to him. Thank goodness, big apprentice brother can be saved now.”

“You must not mention this to anyone. I stole the manuscript from underneath my dad’s pillow,” Yue Lingshan whispered.

“Whaaaat? Did you just say that you stole Master’s…Master’s manuscript of inner energy techniques? What if Master finds it out?” Lu Dayou was shocked.

“So what? You think I am gonna get killed for doing this? Dad will probably give me a good beating and scolding at most. If big apprentice brother could survive because of it, Mom and Dad will surely be overjoyed and forgive me for what I did,” Yue Lingshan answered. “Right! Right! Saving life is the more urgent matter here,” Lu Dayou said in agreement.

“Little apprentice sister, you bring it back to…to Master,” Linghu Chong suddenly interrupted.

“Why?” Yue Lingshan asked in surprise. “It was no easy task to steal the manuscript, and I had to travel miles of mountain path in the dark to make it back. Why don’t you want it? This is not a matter of studying Kung Fu on the sly; this is a matter of life and death.”

“She’s right! Big apprentice brother, you don’t have to study

everything out of it, just enough so you can dissolve those six freaks’ evil energy streams. Then you can return the manuscript back to Master. By then, Master will probably bestow the manuscript to you officially. You are

the head apprentice of our school, so of course you are the one who will get awarded this manuscript. Who else will ever have the opportunity? You are only getting it a bit earlier. What’s the matter?” Lu Dayou couldn’t agree more.

“I…I would rather die than disobey Master’s will,” Linghu Chong replied. “Master said it before that I can’t…study the Divine Art of Violet Twilight. Little…little apprentice sister, little…little apprentice sister….” Not able to catch his breath, Linghu Chong fell unconscious again.

Yue Lingshan checked under his nose. The breathing was weak, but at least he was still breathing. After a sigh, she said to Lu Dayou, “I’ve got to head back. Mom and Dad are gonna be so worried if I don’t make it back to the temple by dawn. Talk to big apprentice brother, will you? Ask him to do as I said and study the Violet Twilight Manuscript. Tell him to not forget that….” She blushed for a second and then finished the sentence. “…I went through all the trouble of running about just for him.” “I will definitely talk to him,” Lu Dayou replied. “Little apprentice sister, where are you lodging at?”

We lodged at White-Horse Temple tonight,” Yue Lingshan answered. “Oh, White-Horse Temple is like ten miles from here. Little

apprentice sister, I am sure big apprentice brother will never forget the trouble you have gone through to make a twenty-mile round trip in one night.”

“I only wish that he could survive and recover. That would be the best. What does it matter if he remembers this or not?” Yue Lingshan

sobbed.

She gently set the Violet Twilight Manuscript booklet at the head of the bed. After staring at Linghu Chong’s face for a moment, she ran out of the door.

Linghu Chong didn’t wake up until over two hours later. Before he even opened his eyes, he had already cried out, “Little…apprentice sister, little apprentice sister!”

“She left already,” Lu Dayou said.

“She left?” Linghu Chong cried out. All of a sudden, he sat up and grabbed onto Lu Dayou’s collar band.

That gave Lu Dayou a good jolt. He explained hurriedly, “Yes, little apprentice sister has left. She said that if she couldn’t make it back before dawn, Master and Master-Wife would get worried. Big apprentice brother, why don’t you lie down to rest?”

“She…she left? She left with apprentice brother Lin?” Linghu Chong murmured as if he didn’t catch any of Lu Dayou’s words.

“She is together with Master and Master-Wife,” Lu Dayou explained.

But Linghu Chong only responded with a blank stare and a twitched face. “Big apprentice brother,” Lu Dayou said in a soft voice, “little

apprentice sister cares about you very much. A young girl like her, running back from White-Horse Temple late at night, making a round trip of twenty miles, she really has deep affections for you. Before she left, she urged me again and again. She wants you to study the Violet Twilight Manuscript and not to forget…forget her feelings for you.”

“Did she say that?” Linghu Chong asked.

“Yeah! Would I dare lie to you?” Lu Dayou replied.

Linghu Chong could no longer hold himself steady. The back of his head banged heavily against the brick bed as he fell back down, but he didn’t feel any pain at all.

That gave Lu Dayou another jolt.

“Big apprentice brother, let me read it for you,” Lu Dayou said. He picked up the Violet Twilight Manuscript. Turning to the first page, he

started reading.

“All forms of martial arts use inner energy as the base. The vast

amount of righteous energy is bestowed upon us from Heaven. But ordinary people are ignorant of the right way to preserve the energy and let their

emotions to stand in the way instead. The perils of a martial are violent,

arrogant, cruel, and evil. Being violent causes disturbance to the spirit, thus disrupts the energy flow; being arrogant causes separation of spirit, thus makes the energy impetuous; being cruel causes the void of humanity, thus drains the energy source; being evil causes vicious behavior, thus shortens the energy breath. Those four perils are all like blades that would block and cut off energy flow….”

“What are you reading?” Linghu Chong asked.

“That was the first chapter of the Violet Twilight Manuscript,” Lu Dayou answered. “And after those, it’s like this…,” he went on reading. “Abstain the four perils and return to many types of delicate kindness.

Restrain your violent and cruel emotion to preserve your righteous energy stream. Beat the Heaven Drum, drink the Jade Honey, rinse the Corona Pool, and tap the Golden Beam.7 Follow the way and soon the effect will show.”

“This is the secret formula of our school. By reading it recklessly, you have already violated our school rule. Put it away immediately,” Linghu

Chong admonished in a strict voice.

“Big apprentice brother, in urgent circumstances, a true man would do what is expedient, instead of rigidly adhere to details. Right now it’s more important to save your life. Let me read to you some more,” Lu Dayou said.

He went on reading and the scripts started explaining the details of the advanced Qi-Gong techniques like how to “beat the Heaven Drum and drink the Jade Honey” and how to “rinse the Corona Pool and tap the Golden Beam.”

“Shut up!” Linghu Chong yelled out loudly.

Lu Dayou was taken by shock. He raised his head and asked, “Big apprentice brother, are you…are you alright? Where does it hurt?”

“My entire body hurts when I hear…hear you read Master’s… manuscript of inner energy techniques. Are you trying to make me a… disloyal and dishonorable man?” Linghu Chong roared angrily.

“No, no! How would that make you disloyal and dishonorable?” Lu Dayou was astounded.

“Master brought the Violet Twilight Manuscript up to the ‘Cliff of Contemplation’ the other day and wanted to teach me the techniques. But he found out that not only my way of practicing was way off, but also my natural endowment, so he changed his mind…mind….” Linghu Chong panted heavily and had a hard time to speak on. “This time, it’s for the sake of saving your life, not about studying the Kung Fu in sly, so…so it’s a totally different matter,” Lu Dayou argued.

“As apprentices, which is more important, our own lives or Master’s orders?” Linghu Chong asked.

“The most important thing is that Master and Master-Wife both want you to stay alive, let alone…let alone little apprentice sister’s affections for you. She had to make such a long round trip late at night. How can you let her down?” Lu Dayou said.

Linghu Chong felt a sudden urge to cry but he worked hard to hold the tears back.

“Just because she…she brought it here for me…I…Linghu Chong am a man with pride. Why would I ever take pity from others?”

As soon as those words came out, his body shivered as he pondered upon himself, “I am never a stickler for regulations. In order to save myself, what’s the big deal if I do study the inner energy techniques of our own

school? So the real reason why I don’t want to study the Divine Art of Violet Twilight is because I am mad at little apprentice sister. Deep in my heart, I resented the fact that little apprentice treats apprentice brother Lin

with much affection and treats me coldly. Linghu Chong, look at you. When have you become so stingy?” But when he thought that by the time of dawn, Yue Lingshan would join Lin Pingzhi again on the long trip to Mount Songshan and they would travel side by side, chatting and singing folk

songs together again, he could no longer hold on to his tears.

“Big apprentice brother, you’ve thought it wrong. Little apprentice sister grew up together with you. You…you are almost like brother and sister,” Lu Dayou persuaded.

“That’s exactly what I don’t want to be: brother and sister,” Linghu Chong thought, but he couldn’t speak it out loud. Lu Dayou continued. “I’ll read on. You listen carefully. If you can’t memorize it, I’ll read it a couple of more times. All forms of martial arts use inner energy as the base. The vast amount of righteous energy is bestowed upon us from Heaven….”

“Stop it!” Linghu Chong yelled out in a stern voice.

“Sure, sure, big apprentice brother,” Lu Dayou answered. “In hope for your speedy recovery, I have no other choice but to disobey your order. I’ll take all the blames for breaking Master’s order. You don’t want to listen, but I just wouldn’t let you. It was I, Lu Dayou, who insisted on reading it.

You never even touched the Violet Twilight Manuscript with a finger of yours. You never looked at a word in the manuscript either. What’s your fault? You are laid up in bed and simply can’t help it. It’s I, Lu Dayou, who forced you to study it. All forms of martial arts use inner energy as the base. The vast amount of righteous energy is bestowed upon us from Heaven….” He just read on and on in a flow of eloquence.

Linghu Chong tried to ignore it, but words after words forced their way into his ears. He suddenly groaned loudly.

“Big apprentice brother, are you alright?” Lu Dayou asked hurriedly. “Will you please pad…pad my pillow…pillow a bit higher?” Linghu

Chong asked.

“Sure.” Lu Dayou answered and reached forward to pad Linghu Chong’s pillow.

Suddenly, Linghu Chong jabbed forward with all this strength, and his finger jabbed right onto the Tan-Zhong Acupoint on Lu Dayou’s chest. Lu Dayou fell down onto the bed without even a groan.

“Sixth apprentice brother, I am sorry I have to do this. You can rest on bed for half a day and then your sealed acupoint…acupoint will open by itself.” Linghu Chong said with a wry smile. Linghu Chong slowly struggled his way off the bed. Throwing a stare at the Violet Twilight Manuscript booklet for a moment, he finally heaved a sigh and walked by the door. Picking up the door bolt leaning against the

wall, he used it as a crutch and stumbled out the door.

Greatly worried, Lu Dayou called out, “Big…big…where…are you… going…?”

Normally when someone’s Tan-Zhong Acupoint was sealed, he would not be able to talk at all, but because Linghu Chong was so weak, his jab only made Lu Dayou’s arms and legs numb and failed to completely paralyze him.

Linghu Chong turned his head back. “Sixth apprentice brother, I want to stay as far away from the Violet Twilight Manuscript as possible. I don’t want anyone to see my dead body next to the manuscript and think that I

studied the supreme techniques on the sly and died from fire deviation…I don’t want to be looked down on by apprentice brother Lin….” At that

word, he coughed again. More blood gushed out of his mouth and dripped down by his chin.

Afraid that he might not be able to leave at all with his almost

exhausted strength from any more delay, he took a deep breath and walked forward with the help from the door bolt. Relying on his strong will, he

slowly made his way forward and ultimately disappeared in the dark.

Chapter 12: Assassins

The fifteen masked men slowly approached forward, their thirty eyes shined through the holes on their masks like the eyes of fierce wild animals, filled with cruelty and hostility.

For every hundred feet, Linghu Chong had to take a break and lean on the door bolt to catch his breath. After about an hour of struggle, he managed to cover somewhat close to a quarter of a mile. He could see more and more golden flickers circle around him and suddenly the entire world swirled

around him. He almost fell down. Then he heard loud groans coming from inside the bushes right in front of him.

“Who’s there?” Linghu Chong asked, stunned.

“Is that brother Linghu?” the man called out. “It’s me, Tian Boguang!

Ouch! Whew!” He was obviously in great pain.

“Tian…brother Tian? What…happened to you?” Linghu Chong asked in shock.

“I am dying! Brother Linghu, do me a favor, will you? Ouch… ouch…go ahead and kill me to end my misery!” Tian Boguang begged. He groaned as he spoke, but his voice remained loud and clear.

“Are…you…you…wounded?” Linghu Chong asked. But in the meantime, his knees gave out. He fell down and rolled to the roadside. “Are you wounded too?” Tian Boguang asked in shock. “Ouch!

Ouch! Who did it to you?”

“That’s a long story. Tian…brother Tian, so who did that to you?” “Alas, I don’t know!” Tian Boguang answered.

“How come?” Linghu Chong asked.

“I was just walking on the road, and suddenly someone grabbed my two legs and two arms and lifted me off the ground. I couldn’t even see who did it…,” Tian Boguang answered.

“So it’s the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies again…. Why, brother Tian, aren’t you in the same team?” Linghu Chong grinned. “What do you mean we are in the same team?” Tian Boguang was at a loss.

“You came to invite me to go see little apprentice sister…Yilin.

They…they also came…to invite…me to go see…her….” Linghu Chong started panting.

Tian Boguang crawled slowly out of the bush.

“God damn it! We are definitely not in the same team,” Tian Boguang swore as he shook his head angrily. “They came up Mount Huashan looking for a guy and asked me where the guy was. So I asked them who they were looking for. But they said that since they caught me, they get to ask me questions, and I don’t get to ask them anything. If I had caught them, then I would get to ask them questions and they would not get to ask me anything. They…ouch…they said that if I’ve got skills, it would be totally fine for me to lift them up, and then…then it would be my turn to ask them questions.”

Linghu Chong laughed out loud. But only after a few laughs he was already out of breath and had to stop.

“At that time, I was still hanging in mid-air facing down. How the heck could I lift them up even if I did have superb skills? What kind of horse dung was that?”

“So what happened next?” Linghu Chong asked.

“I said, ‘I never wanted to ask you. You are the ones asking here. Put me down.’ Then one of them said, ‘Since we’ve already lifted you up, if we don’t rip you into four pieces, wouldn’t it look real bad for us six great heroes?’ Another one asked, ‘Will he still be able to talk after we rip him into four pieces?’” Tian Boguang paused to catch his breath.

“Those six guys always resort to sophistry and tangle things in a mess. Brother Tian, that’s enough…enough of the story,” Linghu Chong said. “Humph! The hell with them!” Tian Boguang cursed and went on. “Then one of them said, ‘Duh, of course a guy in four pieces can’t

talk. The six of us have ripped hundreds of people into four pieces before. When did you ever hear any of them talk after we ripped them apart?’

“Another one argued, ‘The reason why a guy in four pieces doesn’t talk is because we never asked him to. If we were to ask him anything, I am sure he wouldn’t dare not to answer.’

“Then a third one mocked, ‘He is already in four pieces. What’s there to be afraid of? There’s no point for him to dare. Would he be afraid that

we’d rip him into eight pieces?’

“The previous one said, ‘Rip him into eight pieces? That Kung Fu is no small matter. We used to know that Kung Fu, but we must have forgotten it already.’”

Tian Boguang told the story in a disjointed manner. It was amazing that he memorized every little bit of it while being inflicted with serious injuries.

“Those six brothers are surely the rare kind in this world. They…they got me pretty good too,” Linghu Chong said with a sigh.

“So brother Linghu, they wounded you too?” Tian Boguang asked in astonishment.

“Unfortunately so!” Linghu Chong heaved another sigh.

“To tell you the truth, when I was hanging in mid-air, I was really

scared. So I shouted loudly, ‘If you rip me into four pieces, I won’t talk for sure. Even if my tongue is still capable of talking, I would be so pissed in my heart that I definitely wouldn’t talk.’

“One of them said, ‘Once we rip you into four pieces, your tongue is on one piece, and your heart is on another piece. How can you still relate what your tongue is gonna say with what you feel in your heart?’ “That was when I decided to throw nonsense right back at them. So I shouted, ‘If you want to ask your question, better ask it quick. If you don’t put me down right away, I am gonna let out my poisonous gas now.’

“One of them asked, ‘Let out your poisonous gas? What do you mean?’

“I said, ‘My farts stink like hell. Once it reaches you, you would not only lose your appetite for at least three days and three nights, you would also throw up so badly that even the stuff you ate three days ago would

come back out of your mouth. I’ve warned you. Don’t blame me for not telling you ahead of time.’”

“Hey, good point,” Linghu Chong remarked with a weak smile.

“Yep,” Tian Boguang replied, “as soon as those four guys heard my words, they all cried out in unison and threw me back down to the ground before leaping back. I jumped back onto my feet and then saw six very odd- looking old folks, each covering his nose tightly with his hand, obviously

afraid of my stinking farts. Brother Linghu, did you say that those six guys are called something like Peach Valley’s Six Fairies?”

“That’s right! Alas, too bad that I am not as smart as you, brother Tian, and didn’t think of the stinking-fart…stratagem to scare them off. This stratagem of yours is really no less than the…the empty-city stratagem Zhu Geliang used that scared away Sima Yi’s army.”8

Tian Boguang let out a few hollow laughs and spilled out some more curses before continuing on with his story.

“I knew that those six guys are not to be trifled with, but as luck

would have it, I left my blade on top of your ‘Cliff of Contemplation.’ So I figured that I’d better make it the banana and split, but those six guys had already stood in front of me in a line with their hands still covering their noses, and blocked my way like a wall made of flesh. Ha-ha, none of them dared to stand behind my back though. Seeing that there was no way I could make my way through, I turned around immediately, but who would have thought that those six guys could move like ghosts and somehow had

already circled around to block in front of me again. I turned a couple more times but still could not get rid of them, so I walked backwards step after

step until my back touched the precipice wall. The six freaks burst with joy and chortled as they asked again and again. ‘Where is he? Where is that guy?’

“I asked, ‘Who are you looking for?’

“Those six freaks said in unison, ‘We have surrounded you. You’ve got nowhere to go. You must answer our question.’

“One of them said, ‘If it were you who have surrounded us and we’ve got nowhere to go, then you could ask us and we would have to answer your question.’

“Another one argued, ‘He is only by himself. How will he be able to surround the six of us?’

“The previous one said, ‘What if he had superb skills and could beat the six of us all by himself?’

“The second one said, ‘Then he is capable of beating us, not surrounding us.’

“The previous one said, ‘But what if he drove us into a cave and blocked the entrance so none of us could get out? Wouldn’t you call that surrounding?’

“The second one argued, ‘That’s called blocking, not surrounding.’ “The previous one said, ‘Then what if he extends his arms and

embraces all of us into his arms? Now that’s definitely called surrounding.’ “The second one argued, ‘First, nobody in this world has arms that

long. Second, even if there are really people who have arms that long, this guy here does not. Third, even if he could embrace all of us with his arms, that’s called embracing, not surrounding.’

“The previous one pulled a long face and didn’t know how to argue that, yet he didn’t want to admit his defeat. After a few moment of dazing, he suddenly broke into loud laughter. ‘That’s it! If he keeps farting and

surrounds us with his stinky gas so we couldn’t run away – wouldn’t you call that surrounding?’

“The other four freaks applauded and agreed in laughter, ‘He’s right!

This chap surely can surround us.’

“An idea suddenly struck me. Wasting no time, I started running at once while shouting, ‘I…I am surrounding you now.’

“I figured, since they are so afraid of my farts, surely they wouldn’t go after me, but who would have thought that those six freaks had lightning fast speed. Only after a few steps, they had already grabbed hold of me. As soon as they caught me, they pressed down hard with tight grips and forced me to sit on top of a big rock, so that even if I did fart, my stinking gas

wouldn’t come out.”

Linghu Chong couldn’t help but burst into loud laughter. Only after a few laughs, he felt great uneasiness from his chest and stopped laughing

abruptly.

Tian Boguang went on.

“After those six freaks placed their tight grips on me, one of them asked, ‘Where does one’s gas come from?’

“Another one answered, ‘Gas comes from one’s intestines, then of course it belongs to the Yang-Ming Intestine Channel. I’d better seal his Shang-Yang, He-Gu, Qu-Chi, and Ying-Xiang those Acupoints.’

“Right after those words, he had already sealed those four acupoints with a simple wave. I’ve never seen such lightning fast yet extremely accurate acupoint-sealing techniques. That was something! I couldn’t help but admire him. After he sealed my acupoints, all six freaks let out of a breath of relief as if relieved of a heavy load. They said, ‘This stinking… stinking…stinking fart tank won’t be able to release his stinking gas now.’

“The one who sealed my acupoints asked again, ‘Hey, where on earth is that guy? If you don’t tell us, I’ll never release your sealed acupoints.

Think about it, having gas yet not being able to let it out. You are gonna feel really bloated!’

“I thought to myself that when six freaks with such outstanding Kung Fu skills came to Mount Huashan, it’s obvious that they wouldn’t be looking for any ordinary person. Brother Linghu, at that time your respectful Master, Mr. Yue, and his wife weren’t on Mount Huashan. Even if they had come back, then of course they would be back in the ‘House of Integrity’ and would be very easy to locate. I thought about it back and forth and could only come up with one logical answer. Those six freaks must be looking for your Grand Uncle-Master, Grandmaster Feng.”

Linghu Chong felt a shock in his heart. “Did you tell them?” he asked in a hurry.

“Bah! What kind of person do you think I am?” Tian Boguang was very displeased. “I have already promised you that I would never let out

Grandmaster Feng’s whereabouts. Are you saying that I, a gallant man, was just talking out of my ass?”

“Pardon me, brother Tian! My bad! Please don’t mind,” Linghu Chong apologized.

“If you still look down upon me, we’d better just sever at one blow – make it a clean break, and starting from now on, we are no friends.”

Linghu Chong remained silent and thought to himself, “You are the evil rapist that everyone in the Martial World holds in contempt. Who would ever consider you a friend? But since you could have killed me multiple times yet you never did, so I guess I do owe you a debt of gratitude.”

In the darkness, Tian Boguang couldn’t get a good look at Linghu Chong’s expression. Assuming that Linghu Chong’s silence meant his

compromise, he continued on.

“Those six freaks just kept asking me. I said loudly, ‘I know the whereabouts of this person, but I will never tell. There are countless of

peaks and valleys and caves on Mount Huashan. I am not going to tell you, and you will never find him in this life?’

“Those six freaks were enraged. They tormented and tortured me. But I simply ignored them afterwards. Brother Linghu, those six freaks’ Kung Fu skills are very eccentric. You’d better go tell Grandmaster Feng quickly. Even though his sword skills are splendid, it’s still better prepared than getting surprised.”

Tian Boguang mentioned that “The six freaks tormented and tortured me” in a very casual way, but Linghu Chong could easily imagine how much cruel and brutal torments actually were put on him and how much

excruciating pain and suffering he had to endure. The six freaks had good intentions when they tried to heal his wounds, and what happened? Even now he was still suffering from the consequence. When they coerced Tian Boguang into telling the answer, it was not hard to imagine how nasty they could be. Feeling quite sorry for Tian Boguang, he said to him.

“You are a true man who keeps his words. You would rather die than let out my Grand Uncle-Master Feng’s whereabouts. But…but those Peach Valley’s Six Fairies were really looking for me, not my Grand Uncle-Master Feng.” “Looking for you? Why are they looking for you?” Tian Boguang felt a big shock going through his entire body.

“They are just like you and were asked by little apprentice sister Yilin to invite me to go see…see her,” Linghu Chong answered.

That left Tian Boguang completely traumatized. He opened his mouth wide, yet nothing came out of it except deep groans. After a long while, Tian Boguang finally came back to his senses and spoke again.

“If I had known those six freaks were looking for you, I would have told them everything right away. Once those six freaks invite you over, I can just follow behind instead of rotting here on Mount Huashan dying from the poison. Well, if those six freaks got you, how come they didn’t

carry you to go see the little Sister?”

“That’s really a long story,” Linghu Chong heaved a deep sigh.

“Brother Tian, did you say something about rotting here on Huashan dying from the poison?”

“Didn’t I tell you earlier that someone sealed my Death Acupoints

and planted strong poison in my body so he could compel me into inviting you over within one month to meet that little Sister? Only after I completed the mission successfully would he release my acupoints and give me the

antidote. But I could neither invite you over, nor take you there by force, and ended up having wounds all over me from the torturing of those six

freaks. It’s only like ten days away from the date the poison is scheduled to activate.”

“Where is little apprentice sister Yilin? How many days do you think it will take to get there?” Linghu Chong asked.

“You are willing to go now?” Tian Boguang asked.

“You spared my life on more than one occasion. Although you had many improper behaviors, I can’t just watch you die of poison for my sake right in front of my eyes. On that day when you tried to coerce me into complying, of course I would not bend. But it’s a completely different situation now,” Linghu Chong answered.

“The little Sister is in Shanxi Province. Alas…if we were still fit, it wouldn’t take more than six or seven days to get there on fast horses. But since we are both in such bad shape, forget about that,” Tian Boguang

commented.

“I am only waiting for my final time here on Mount Huashan anyway.

I’ll go with you. Who knows? Maybe God will give his blessings, so we

will be able to hire some fast wagons that will take us into Shanxi Province within ten days,” Linghu Chong suggested.

“I have committed countless crimes in my life and harmed many innocent people. Why would God give me his blessings? Unless God had gone blind.” Tian Boguang grinned.

“Hmm, sometimes…sometimes God…does go blind. We are going to die anyway. There’s nothing to lose for trying it out.”

“That’s right! What’s the difference whether I die on the road or on Mount Huashan?” Tian Boguang applauded. “I think the first thing we need to do is to go down the mountain and find something to eat. Ever since I

was dumped here, I could only eat unripe chestnuts off the ground. I am really craving for some decent food. Can you get up? Let me give you a hand.”

He offered to “give a hand,” yet couldn’t even get up himself. Linghu Chong wanted to give him a prop, but didn’t have any strength either. The two of them struggled for a while but achieved no progress whatsoever.

Suddenly, both of them burst into loud laughter.

“I’ve been wandering in the Martial World for years, yet to find any bosom friend. But today I get to die here together with brother Linghu. What a joy it is!” Tian Boguang said.

“Later when my Master sees our corpses, he probably would assume that the two of us have ended in a common ruin after a fierce fight. Who

would have guessed that we were still calling each other brothers before we kicked the bucket?” Linghu Chong let out a grin.

Tian Boguang reached out with his hand. “Brother Linghu, let’s shake hands before we die.”

Linghu Chong hesitated. Obviously Tian Boguang wanted to be intimate friends with him and share a common destiny. But Tian was the notorious evil rapist, and he was the disciple of a reputable sword school.

How could he make friends with someone like Tian? That day when he beat Tian several times in the contests and spared his life each time, he could

still attribute that to the fact that Tian spared his life multiple times first.

But to still mangle up with him today really couldn’t be justified at all. With those thoughts, he reached out with his hand but stopped half way.

Tian Boguang only thought that Linghu Chong’s wounds were too severe that he simply didn’t have enough strength to move his arm. So he said loudly, “Brother Linghu, you are my intimate friend now. If you die because of your wounds before I die, I swear that I will not stay living

alone.”

Touched by the sincerity in Tian Boguang’s words, Linghu Chong thought, “He surely deserves to be called a true friend.” So he reached out with his hands and held Tian’s right hand. “Brother Tian, at least we won’t be heading to the underworld alone and die a lonely death,” Linghu Chong said with a smile.

Before his words even faded, he suddenly heard a gloomy sneer rise from behind his back. Then a voice said, “Who would have expected the Head Apprentice of the Huashan Sword School Qi-Branch to have sunk so low and made friends with a notorious evil rapist?”

“Who are you?” Tian Boguang yelled out.

Linghu Chong couldn’t help but groan inwardly, “It’s no big deal that I am gonna die from my severe wounds, but now I’ve just put Master’s reputation in jeopardy. How terrible!”

In the darkness, he could vaguely see a shadow standing next to him with a long sword in his hand. The blade flashed dimly from the starlight.

“Linghu Chong, it’s still not too late to take back what you said. Take this sword and waste that Tian-named evil rapist, then nobody will

condemn you for making friends with him,” the shadow said with a sneer as he threw his sword down, which cut into the ground and stood by its own.

Linghu Chong noticed that the blade of the sword was wide and broad

– it was the type of sword used by the Songshan Sword School. So he asked,

“Which respectful member of the Songshan Sword School are you?” “You surely have sharp eyes. I am Di Xiu from Songshan Sword

School,” the man answered.

“So it’s apprentice brother Di. We haven’t had much chance to get to know each other. What respectful business are you tending here on Mount Huashan?” Linghu Chong asked.

“Head Uncle-Master9 gave me the order to come to Mount Huashan and go on a trip of inspection to check if apprentices of the Huashan Sword School are really having bad conducts as the rumor says. Ha-ha, I didn’t

expect to hear you speak straight from the heart about making friends with that evil rapist, right after I climb up Mount Huashan. I didn’t see that

coming at all!” Di Xiu answered. “You god damned punk, you think your Songshan Sword School is

any better? Why don’t you go check on your own ill behavior before poking your nose into other people’s business?” Tian Boguang cursed.

Di Xiu raised his foot and threw a heavy kick at Tian Boguang’s head. “Humph, your end is imminent and you still won’t shut your dirty mouth?” he yelled. But Tian Boguang kept pouring out streams of abuses non-stop. It would have been a walkover if Di Xiu had wanted to kill Tian Boguang, but he decided to give Linghu Chong a good amount of humiliation first.

“Linghu Chong,” he sneered, “since the two of you find each other’s stinks congenial, I suppose you’ve made up your mind not to kill him?”

Linghu Chong was furious. He yelled loudly, “Whether I kill him or not, it’s none of your business. Give me the deathblow if you’ve got any guts. If you have no guts, then get your tail between your legs and get your ass off Mount Huashan.”

“So you are sure you won’t kill him, and would rather consider that evil rapist your good friend?” Di Xiu asked.

“No matter who I have as my friend, it beats having you as a friend,” Linghu Chong answered.

“Right on! Way to go!” Tian Boguang cheered loudly.

“You just want to enrage me and provoke me into killing the two of you with a single blow. It’s not going to be that easy. I am going to strip off your clothes and tie you two together naked. Then I’ll seal your Mute

Acupoint10 and put on a tour of display around the Martial World. I’ll tell everyone that I caught a macho guy and a sissy boy right when they were

doing their illicit dirty stuff. Ha-ha, your Master Yue Buqun of the Huashan Sword School always pretends benevolence and righteousness, and puts on a face of a Confucian moralist to fool people. After today, would he still dare to call himself ‘Gentleman Sword’?” These words made Linghu Chong’s anger explode, which knocked him out cold.

“Go to hell you….” Tian Boguang cursed, but his voice halted

abruptly when Di Xiu sealed his acupoint around his waist with a swift kick.

With an evil grin on his face, Di Xiu reached out to start untying Linghu Chong’s robe. Suddenly, a soft and brisk female voice rose behind his back.

“Hello, big brother, what are you doing here?”

In great surprise, Di Xiu turned his head around for a glance. In the dim light he could vaguely make out the shape of a woman. So he responded, “What are you doing here?’

Tian Boguang immediately recognized the girl’s voice. It was none other than Yilin’s voice. With a tremendous amount of joy, he shouted.

“Little…little Sister, it’s you! That’s wonderful. This god damned rat wants to…wants to kill your big brother Linghu.”

He was going to say, “This god damned rat wants to kill me.” But then a quick thought came upon him: Yilin wouldn’t care about the “me” much at all. So he quickly changed that to “your big brother Linghu.”

Hearing that the man lying on the ground was actually Linghu Chong, Yilin was greatly worried. Wasting no time, she leapt forward and called out, “Big brother Linghu, is that you?”

Noticing how preoccupied Yilin was and how she put on no guard against him, Di Xiu bent his arm slightly and jabbed toward her acupoint

under her rib cage with his index finger. His finger was just about to touch her clothes when suddenly his back collar tightened up as someone lifted him several feet off the ground. Terrified, Di Xiu elbowed back with his right arm, but it hit nothing. He immediately followed with a back kick using his left foot, but it hit nothing either. Horrified, he grabbed back with his hands when a huge hand came to his throat with a tight grip. Instantly, he could hardly breathe and lost all his strength to struggle.

By the time Linghu Chong slowly regained his consciousness, the first thing he noticed was a girl’s worried voice calling out, “Big brother Linghu! Big brother Linghu!” It sounded vaguely like the voice of Yilin. He opened his eyes, and sure enough, under the dim starlight, the pretty white face right in front of his eyes was no other than Yilin’s.

A thundering voice suddenly exploded, “Lin’er,11 is this cripple the Linghu Chong you have mentioned?”

Linghu Chong looked up toward the origin of the voice, and what he saw shocked him. A chubby and enormous giant monk stood there, more like an iron tower than a human. The monk was at least seven feet tall. He extended his left arm out horizontally and lifted Di Xiu off the ground. Di Xiu’s arms hang still by his side. It was hard to tell if he was still breathing or not.

“Dad, he…he is big brother Linghu. But he is not a cripple,” Yilin said. She never took her eyes off Linghu Chong when she spoke and her

eyes were filled with care, concern, and affection. It almost looked as if she really wanted to reach out to caress Linghu Chong’s face but was afraid to do it.

Linghu Chong was astounded. He couldn’t help but think to himself, “You are a little nun. How come you are calling this giant monk Dad? A monk having a daughter is already shocking, now when his daughter is

actually a nun is simply appalling!”

The giant monk let out some more thunder-like laughter. “You yearned for this Linghu Chong days and nights. I thought he must be a bulky and heroic looking guy. It turned out he’s just a tiny loser who couldn’t even fight back when bullied and had to pretend to be dead on the ground. What a cripple! I’d never want him as my son-in-law. Forget about him. Let’s go.”

“Who said I yearned for him days and nights?” Yilin rebuked him in great embarrassment. “You…you always like to talk nonsense. If you want to go, you can go by yourself. You don’t want…want….” She simply

couldn’t repeat the words “don’t want him as son-in-law.”

Hearing that this monk had referred to him again and again as a

“cripple” and a “loser,” Linghu Chong became furious. “Go as you wish! Who asked you to stay?” he scorned.

“You can’t go! You can’t go!” Tian Boguang shouted in worry. “Why can’t he go?” Linghu Chong asked.

“I need him to release my Death Acupoints. I also need his antidotes for the strong poison planted in me. If he leaves, I am dead and gone!” Tian Boguang said.

“Are you afraid now? I said that I’d die together with you, didn’t I. Once your poison activates, I’ll just cut my own throat to go along with you.”

The giant monk chortled and the thundering sound echoed in the valley.

“Excellent! Excellent! Excellent! So this lad actually has some backbone. Lin’er, he is certainly to my liking. But there’s one more thing I have to get a clear answer. Does he drink wine or not?”

Before Yilin even had a chance to answer, Linghu Chong had already yelled out. “I certainly do. Why not? Your old man here drinks in the mornings, in the evenings, and even in my dreams. Once you get to see how addicted I am, I assure you that you’ll tremble with rage because you are a damn monk whose commandments prohibit you from eating flesh, drinking wine, killing people, saying lies, and blah, blah, blah!”

“Lin’er, you tell him. What’s your dad’s name for the Buddhist’s order?”12 The giant monk broke into a loud laughter.

“Big brother Linghu, my dad’s name in the Buddhist’s order is called ‘No Commandment’,” Yilin explained with a smile. “He is a member of the Buddhist order, but he doesn’t follow any of the regulations, taboos, and

commandments for Buddhists, that’s why his name in the Buddhist’s order is called ‘No Commandment.’ Now, please don’t laugh at this. He drinks wine, eats flesh, kills people, steals money, and even…even gave…gave birth to me.” At that final word, she could no longer hold her amusement and broke into giggles.

“Hey, I am very delighted…delighted to meet monks of this type!” Linghu Chong burst into loud laughter. He struggled to stand up, but was short of enough strength. Yilin rushed to prod him up.

“Uncle,” Linghu Chong said with a smile, “since you are open to all kinds of things, why don’t you simply resume secular life? There’s no need to put yourself in this Buddhist robe.”

“Aha, there’s something you don’t know. Because I am open to all things, that’s how I decided to become a monk. I fell in love with a beautiful nun just like you….” Monk No Commandment explained.

“Dad, you are talking nonsense without thinking again,” Yilin cut him off. Her face was completely red from a blush; fortunately, it was dark at night, so no one noticed it.

“A true man is always open and aboveboard. I did it, and I admit it, regardless of how others laugh at me or condemn me. Monk No

Commandment is a true man that speaks the truth! What’s there to be afraid of?” Monk No Commandment replied. “Precisely!” Linghu Chong and Tian Boguang cheered in unison.

Hearing the agreements, Monk No Commandment was quite pleased, so he continued, “The beautiful nun that I fell in love with was, of course, her mother.”

“Turned out that little apprentice sister Yilin’s dad is a monk and her mother is a nun,” Linghu Chong thought to himself amusedly.

Monk No Commandment went on, “I was a butcher at that time and fell in love with her mother, but her mother paid no attention to me. I was at my wit’s end and had no other choice but to join the Buddhist’s order. I thought that since nuns and monks are all members of the Buddhist’s order, like a big family, then when a nun doesn’t love a butcher, maybe she would love a monk.”

“Dad, when are you going to watch your mouth before you speak?

You are already a grown up, but you still talk like a child,” Yilin said with a spat.

“Did I speak the untruth? But at the time I didn’t realize that once one becomes a monk, he can no longer go out with any woman, not even nuns, and it was actually more difficult for me to date her mom, so I didn’t want to be a monk no more. But my teacher insisted that I had some kind of trait perfect for a member of the Buddhist order, so he refused to let me resume secular life. Her mother somehow got muddleheaded and was deeply moved by my true love, and soon this little nun came to this world. Chong, it’s much easier for you now. You don’t have to join the Buddhist’s order

and become a monk to date my little nun daughter.”

Linghu Chong was greatly embarrassed. He thought to himself,

“When apprentice sister Yilin was taken prisoner by Tian Boguang, I put in my effort following the righteous course. She is a nun from the Heng-Shan Sword School who believes in Buddhism. How can she get involved into love relationship with any secular man? It was probably only because she met men close to her age the first time and lost control of herself temporarily that she sent Tian Boguang and Peach Valley’s Six Fairies to invite me over. I must avoid her as soon as possible. If the reputation of the Huashan Sword School and the Heng-Shan Sword School were damaged in any way because of me, even if I died, Master and Master-Wife would still condemn me, and little apprentice sister Lingshan would still look down upon me.”

Yilin looked very bashful. “Dad, big brother Linghu already…already has the person of his heart. He would never pay attention to others. You… you…you’d better never mention that again. You would only get laughed

at.”

“This chap has another lover? This is pissing me off!” Monk No

Commandment yelled angrily. He reached forward with his right arm. The huge palm, almost as big as a cattail leaf fan, shot at Linghu Chong’s chest. Linghu Chong couldn’t even keep his balance let along dodge the attack.

The hand got a good grip of Linghu Chong’s robe and lifted him off the ground.

With his left hand grabbing at Di Xiu’s back collar and his right hand grabbing at Linghu Chong’s chest, Monk No Commandment extended both of his arms out flat and looked as if he was carrying the two with a shoulder pole. Linghu Chong didn’t have much strength to start with, now in the mid air, he hanged there like a ragged bag.

“Dad, put big brother Linghu down immediately! If you don’t put him down, I am gonna be angry now,” Yilin shouted in a hurry.

As soon as Monk No Commandment heard the word “angry” from his daughter, he dropped Linghu Chong in no time, looking very afraid.

“Which beautiful little nun did he set his eyes on? This is outrageous!” he babbled. Since he had fallen in love with a beautiful nun, he felt that other than beautiful nuns, there wasn’t anyone else who deserved to be loved.

“The person of big brother Linghu’s heart is his apprentice sister Miss Yue,” Yilin explained.

Monk No Commandment let out a loud roar, which created an uncomfortable buzz in everyone’s ears. “Who’s this girl named Yue?” he yelled. “Damn it! If she isn’t a beautiful little nun, what’s so lovely about her? I’ll break the damn girl’s little neck as soon as I see her!”

Linghu Chong thought to himself, “This Monk No Commandment is a crude and reckless man, and he is similar to the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies in a sense. Seems that he will live up to his words. What if he really harms the little apprentice sister?”

“Dad, big brother Linghu is severely wounded. Please hurry to heal his wounds. There’s plenty of time to talk over other things later,” Yilin

suggested, feeling greatly worried.

Monk No Commandment always acted upon whatever his daughter

said. “That’s fine. Let’s heal his wounds. What’s so difficult about that?” he said. He tossed Di Xiu behind his back with a random wave and then asked Linghu Chong loudly, “How were you wounded?” Cries of pain continued as Di Xiu rolled down the small hill.

“I took a palm strike from someone on my chest. But that wasn’t critical….” Linghu Chong replied.

“Palm strike on the chest? He must have shaken your Ren Passage pretty good….” Monk No Commandment concluded.

“The Peach Valley….” Linghu Chong tried to explain.

“There’s no whatever Peach Valley in the Ren Passage,” Monk No Commandment cut him off. “Your Huashan School’s inner energy is no good, no wonder you don’t understand. Sure, there’s one called Combined Valley Acupoint among the various human acupoints, but that belongs to the Hand-To-Intestine Yang-Ming Channel and is positioned right between thumb and index finger. It has nothing to do with the Ren Passage. Very

well, let me heal your wound in the Ren Passage.”

“No, no! The Peach Valley’s Six….” Linghu Chong said in a hurry. “What Peach Valley Six, Peach Valley Seven?” Monk No

Commandment waved him off. “Among the various acupoints, there’re

Hand-Three-Li, Foot-Three-Li, Yin-Ling-Quan, and Si-Kong-Zhu. Where did Peach Valley Six or Peach Valley Seven come from? Now shut up and stop the nonsense.” At that word, he swung his hand and sealed Linghu

Chong’s Mute Point.

“I’ll send my supreme inner energy into your Ren Passage through the Cheng-Jiang, Tian-Tu, Tan-Zhong, Jiu-Wei, Ju-Yue, Zhong-Wan, Qi- Hai, Shi-Men, Guan-Yuan, and Zhong-Ji Acupoints. Your wound will heal as soon as my energy flows through. I bet that after seven or eight days,

you’ll be back to normal, as cool as a cucumber,” Monk No Commandment said as he reached out with the two fan-sized hands.

He placed his right hand on the Cheng-Jiang Acupoint by Linghu Chong’s chin, and his left hand on the Zhong-Ji Acupoint by Linghu

Chong’s lower abdomen, and then started sending two streams of inner

energy in through the two acupoints. All of a sudden, he felt a tremendous shock from his hands as the two streams of energy clashed with the six

energy streams left by the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies. Astounded, he uttered a cry of surprise.

“Dad, how did it go?” Yilin asked in a hurry.

“There are several bizarre energy streams in his body,” Monk No Commandment responded. “One, two, three, four. There are a total of

four…wait…there’s one more. That’s a total of five energy streams. These five energy streams…Aha, another one came out. What the hell, six streams of energy! Fine! Let’s see who’s tougher? Your god damned six energy

streams or my two streams of energy? Maybe there’s even more. Ha-ha, kind of crowded, huh? This is so much fun! Come on, come and get me. Humph, no more, right? There are only six. Did you think I, Monk No

Commandment, would be afraid of you puny rascals?” He pressed hard on the two acupoints of Linghu Chong’s, and white steam began to come out from the top of his head. At the beginning, he was still able to call out, but soon, as he worked hard to gather more and more inner energy, he had no strength left to make any sound. By then, it was almost time for daybreak,

and it was getting brighter and brighter. The white steam on top of his head became thicker and thicker as if a heavy mist had completely surrounded his giant head.

After a long while, he finally drew his hands back and burst into loud laughter. Suddenly, the laughter halted abruptly, and with a heavy thump, Monk No Commandment collapsed down to the ground.

In great astonishment, Yilin cried out, “Dad, Dad!” She dashed by his side to help him up. But Monk No Commandment was simply too heavy, only half way up, the two fell back down to the ground again.

Monk No Commandment’ clothes were soaked with sweat. Panting heavily, he still cursed in a trembling voice, “God…God…God damned… God…God…God damned….”

Hearing the curses from him, Yilin relaxed a little. “Dad, what’s wrong? Are you exhausted?” she asked.

“Damn it!” Monk No Commandment cussed, “There are six streams of tough energy inside the lad’s body, and they wanted to have a fight… fight with me. Damn it! After I gathered up my inner energy, I have already overpowered those six streams of weird energy. Hmm, you can relax now. This lad won’t die.”

Yilin felt great comfort. She turned around to look, and sure enough, saw Linghu Chong stand up slowly.

“Hey, the monk’s inner energy is pretty tough indeed. It only took him minutes to heal brother Linghu’s severe wounds,” Tian Boguang praised

with a smile.

Monk No Commandment was quite pleased to hear the praise. He replied, “You have committed countless crimes. I was thinking of killing you with a simple squeeze, but since you did find the lad Linghu Chong and do deserve a little bit of credit, I am going to spare your life. Now get your ass out of here.”

Tian Boguang was furious. He cursed, “What the devil are you talking about, you god damned monk? What kind of garbage is that? You said that if I found Linghu Chong for you within one month, you would release my sealed Death Acupoints and give me the antidote to the poison. Are you going back on your words? If you don’t release my acupoints and give me the antidote, then you are no better than a filthy pig, you god damned monk.”

These vicious curses didn’t anger Monk No Commandment at all. He grinned. “Look at this stinking chap. Look at the coward look on him,

afraid that I, Monk No Commandment would go back on my words and not give him the antidote. You dirty skunk, here’s the antidote.”

He reached into his pocket for the antidote, but because of the great strength he had just spent on Linghu Chong, his hand couldn’t help but tremble. The china bottle fell out of his hand multiple times. Yilin reached over and picked up the bottle, then opened the lid. “Give him three pills. Take the first pill, and then wait three days before taking another one. After that, wait another six days before taking the third one. But if you get killed during the nine days, don’t you blame it on me,” Monk No Commandment said.

“Hey monk, you forced me to take poison and now gave me the

antidote. I am already being nice by not cursing you. Don’t expect me to thank you for that. How about my sealed Death Acupoints?” Tian Boguang asked as he took the antidote from Yilin’s hands.

“Those acupoints I sealed had released automatically after seven days. If I had really sealed your Death Acupoint, do you think you would still be standing here alive today?” Monk No Commandment laughed out loud.

Tian Boguang had sensed that those acupoints were already released earlier. Now hearing these words from Monk No Commandment, he finally relaxed.

“God damn it! You lying monk!” he swore with a big smile.

Turning his head to Linghu Chong, he said, “Brother Linghu, I know you must have things to talk to the little Sister. Farewell for now. If all goes well, we’ll meet again someday!” He cupped his hand before turning

around to follow the main path down the mountain.

“Please wait, brother Tian,” Linghu Chong called out. “Why?” Tian Boguang asked.

“Brother Tian,” Linghu Chong said, “thanks for showing me mercy during those several fights. I will make you a friend, but there’s one advice I’d like to give you. If you don’t listen to me, our friendship won’t last long.”

“I know what you mean,” Tian Boguang grinned. “You want me to stop the kind of trash like raping and stuff. Fine, I’ll listen to your advice. There are plenty of sluts and whores around. Although I am fond of women, I don’t have to prey on innocent girls or get them killed. Ha-ha, brother Linghu, wasn’t it a fantastic scene at the Hengshan Jade House?”

Hearing him mention of the Hengshan Jade House, Linghu Chong

and Yilin both flushed. Laughing out loud, Tian Boguang walked away, but after only a couple of steps, his knee gave out all of a sudden. Falling on the ground heavily, he found himself rolling down a small slope. Finally the rolling came to a halt and Tian Boguang managed to sit up after some

struggle. Taking out one antidote pill, he swallowed it down his throat, and instantly, severe stomachache consumed him. He sat on the ground and had no extra strength left to even move a muscle. Knowing that this was a normal process to neutralize the kind of strong poison he had, he did not panic at all and just waited patiently for the antidote to take its course.

Earlier when Monk No Commandment pumped the two streams of forceful inner energy into Linghu Chong’s body, which effectively repressed the six energy streams from the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies,

Linghu Chong felt so much better. All the nausea seemed to have gone

away and he could feel that he was regaining some of this strength from his legs. Welled with joy, he walked forward and bowed to Monk No

Commandment with deep respect.

“Great Master,13 thank you for saving my life! I am truly grateful!” “No need to thank me! Ha-ha, we are a big family now. You are my

son-in-law and I am your father-in-law. What’s there to thank for?” Monk No Commandment let out a big grin.

“Dad, you…you are talking nonsense again.” Yilin’s face turned completely red.

“Why? Why is that nonsense? You yearned for him days and nights. Don’t you want to marry him? Even if you can’t marry him, don’t you want to make a pretty baby little nun with him?” Monk No Commandment asked in surprise.

“You…you…who wanted…who…?” Yilin spitted in embarrassment.

Sound of footsteps came from the mountain path, and moments later two people showed up. It was Yue Buqun and his daughter Yue Lingshan.

Struck by surprise and joy at the same time, Linghu Chong greeted in a hurry. “Master, little apprentice sister, you are back! Where’s Master- Wife?” he called out.

Noticing that Linghu Chong was much fitter and looked nothing close to the weak look when he had the last gasp the day before, Yue Buqun felt quite happy, but it was not time to ask him yet. Instead, he cupped his hands toward Monk No Commandment.

“May I be enlightened to hear your respectful name, Great Master?

What brought you to our shabby residence?” he asked.

“My name is Monk No Commandment. I came to your shabby residence to look for my son-in-law,” Monk No Commandment replied and pointed at Linghu Chong. He came from being a butcher and didn’t know the kind of polite formula scholars would exchange at greetings. Since Yue Buqun said “shabby residence,” he simply copied it.

Yue Buqun had no clue as who this monk was. When he heard the monk say, “I came to look for my son-in-law,” he thought that the monk was actually spitting out insults intentionally. Although angered, he kept a

calm face and only replied, “Great Master, you must be joking.” Seeing that Yilin came forward to salute him, he inquired, “Nephew apprentice Yilin, did your Master send you here to Mount Huashan?”

Yilin flushed slightly as she replied, “No. I…I…”

Yue Buqun paid no more attention to Yilin and turned to Tian Boguang. “Humph! Tian Boguang, you sure have a lot of guts!”

“I get along with your apprentice Linghu Chong, so I carried two jars of wine up Mount Huashan for a good drink with him. That doesn’t take a lot of guts,” Tian Boguang replied.

“Where’s the wine then?” Yue Buqun’s face turned sterner.

“We finished it on top of the ‘Cliff of Contemplation’ a long time ago.” 

Yue Buqun turned to Linghu Chong. “Is that true?” he asked.

“Master,” Linghu Chong answered, “that was a long story. Please allow me to explain in details.”

“How long has Tian Boguang been on Mount Huashan?” “About half a month.”

“During the half a month, was he on Mount Huashan all the time?” “Yes.”

“Why didn’t you report to me?” Yue Buqun asked in a stern voice. “Master and Master-Wife weren’t here at the time,” Linghu Chong

answered.

“Where were we then?”

“You were in Chang-An Town chasing Mister Tian.”

Yue Buqun let out a snort. “Mister Tian? Humph, Mister Tian! You knew he committed countless of cruel crimes; why didn’t you slay him with your sword? Even if you couldn’t beat him, you should have died fighting him, why did you make friends with him in fear for your life?”

“I didn’t want to kill him. What could he do? Kill himself with his own sword because he couldn’t beat me in a fight?” Tian Boguang interrupted. Still not able to stand up, he remained sitting on the ground.

“What makes you think you are allowed to talk in front of me?” Yue Buqun retorted. He said to Linghu Chong, “Go kill him!” “Father, big apprentice brother has severe wounds. He shouldn’t fight anyone!” Yue Lingshan couldn’t help but interrupt.

“Wasn’t that evil rapist seriously wounded, just as well? What are you worrying about? I am here. Do you think I will allow that villain to injure my apprentice?” Yue Buqun said.

Yue Buqun knew that Linghu Chong was cunning and crafty, and hated evil as if it were his personal enemy. In addition, Tian Boguang had wounded him just recently, so for sure, he would not make true friends with that evil rapist. Perhaps he resorted to a battle of wits after failing the batter

of strength. At the moment, Tian Boguang had been seriously wounded, and probably that would have attributed to Linghu Chong’s effort, already. That was why when he heard that Linghu Chong had made friends with the evil rapist, he wasn’t angry for real, and only ordered Linghu Chong to kill the villain. That would not only rid the people of a scourge, but also make a name for a young apprentice. Yue Buqun was sure that at Tian Boguang’s

current state, even if he could still fight Linghu Chong to a tie, he would

stand no chance against even a slight snap attack from Yue himself. But to his surprise, Linghu Chong replied,

“Master, this brother Tian has promised me that he will sincerely mend his ways starting from now on and never harm any innocent woman. I know that he is a man of his word, why don’t we…?”

“What…what makes you believe that he is a man of his word? How can one discuss word of honor with such a villain who has committed

crimes for which even death cannot atone? How many innocent lives have perished under his murderous knife? What good is it that we martial people practice martial arts if we don’t slay this type of evil? Lingshan, hand your sword over to your big apprentice brother,” Yue Buqun yelled, in a stern voice. “Yes!” Yue Lingshan replied. She unsheathed her sword and handed the sword to Linghu Chong, handle first.

Linghu Chong found himself in a very awkward situation. He never dared to go against his Master’s orders, but earlier on the verge of death, he had already shaken hands with Tian Boguang and made friends with him. In addition, Tian Boguang had promised to correct his errors and make a fresh start. Although Tian Boguang committed countless crimes before, he was one who would truly keep his words. If Linghu Chong killed him now, it

wouldn’t feel right. He took the sword from Yue Lingshan and started

stumbling toward Tian Boguang. After a dozen steps or so, he pretended that his legs were too weak because of the several wounds of his. Bending his left knee all of a sudden, he threw himself to the ground, and with a thud, the long sword in his hand penetrated his left shin.

No one had expected that to happen, and all cried out in shock. Yilin and Yue Lingshan both dashed toward him, but Yilin halted only after her first step, thinking to herself that how could she, a member of the Buddhist order, show her care and affection to a young man in public.

“Big apprentice brother, are you alright?” Yue Lingshan rushed by Linghu Chong and cried out.

Linghu Chong did not answer, his eyes shut tight.

Yue Lingshan grabbed hold of the sword handle and gave it a pull.

The sword came out as blood gushed out from the wound like a spring. She hurriedly took out some medication of the Huashan School and applied them onto Linghu Chong’s wound on his leg. When she looked up by

chance, she suddenly noticed the worried pale face of Yilin that was

covered by care and concern. Yue Lingshan felt a thump in her heart as she thought to herself, “This little nun surely cares for big apprentice brother very much!” “Dad, let me slay that evil villain.” Yue Lingshan stood up with her sword in hand.

“If you kill that villain, you would stain your reputation for nothing.

Give the sword to me!” Yue Buqun directed.

Tian Boguang was such an infamous rapist that his name was well known by many. Yue Buqun worried that when the news spread out later that Miss Yue had killed Tian Boguang, it was destined that some rascals would cook up many stories about how there was an attempted rape, so on and so forth.

Hearing her father’s words, Yue Lingshan handed the sword over, but Yue Buqun did not take the sword, instead, he flicked his right sleeve,

which wrapped the sword inside.

“No!” Monk No Commandment shouted when he saw the scene. He quickly took off his two shoes and held them in his hands. Yue Buqun

swung his arm with a chop stance; the long sword shot toward Tian

Boguang, who was in a distance of a hundred feet or so, like a missile. That was well expected by Monk No Commandment. He threw hard with both of his arms; the two shoes also shot out in great speed. The sword was heavy

and the shoes were light, plus that the sword was thrown before the two

shoes, but somehow the two shoes were able to fly in front of the sword in an arch and circled back. Each shoe hooked onto one side of the sword handle and actually was able to send the long sword back toward where it was thrown. The sword flew a couple dozens of feet back and then finally lost its momentum and fell to the ground. The sword tip penetrated the soil and kept the sword standing. The two shoes were still hooked on the handle and swayed back and forth.

“That was terrible! Terrible!” Monk No Commandment shouted. “Lin’er, your daddy spent too much inner energy on the son-in-law’s internal wounds today. That’s why the sword fell only half way through. It should have flown to only two feet from the son-in-law’s Master and give

him a good scare. Alas, your daddy monk has really lost face this time. This is so embarrassing!”

Throwing a glance at Yue Buqun’s unhappy face, Yilin whispered, “Dad, enough.” She hurried forward and removed the two shoes off the sword handle. Pulling the sword off the ground, she hesitated. She knew

that Linghu Chong didn’t want to kill Tian Boguang. If she had given the sword back to Yue Lingshan, and she went to kill Tian Boguang again,

wouldn’t that break Linghu Chong’s heart?

When Yue Buqun swung his arm and shot out the long sword with his sleeve, he thought that for sure the sword would cut through Tian

Boguang’s heart. Who had expected that Monk No Commandment was

actually able to put so much strength onto his two shoes with such a clever maneuver? This monk kept yelling out loud, referring himself as the little nun’s father and calling Linghu Chong his son-in-law, full of nonsense.

Obviously he was just a mad monk, but his Kung Fu skills are indeed outstanding. Didn’t he say that he just spent a good amount of his inner energy to heal Linghu Chong’s internal wounds? If it hadn’t been so,

wouldn’t he be even more exceptional? Although he didn’t use the Divine Art of Violet Twilight when he flicked with his sleeve, and he was sure he wouldn’t lose to the monk if he had actually used it, still, it wouldn’t be

appropriate for a renowned master to strike again once the first strike had missed. So he cupped his hand and said, “Very admirable! Great Master,

since you are determined to take this villain under your wings, it would be inappropriate for me to intervene today. What do you think?”

Hearing him say that he wouldn’t kill Tian Boguang today, Yilin held the long sword in both hands and walked in front of Yue Lingshan. Bowing slightly, she said, “Sister, you….”

Yue Lingshan snorted as she grabbed hold of the sword handle.

Without even looking, she returned the sword back to its sheath. The shove appeared to be neat and swift.

Monk No Commandment chortled. “Miss, that was a handsome trick!” He turned to Linghu Chong and said, “My little son-in-law, let’s go. Your apprentice sister is very pretty. I’d be nervous to leave you and her together.”

“Great Master, I know you like to kid around. But remarks like that would damage the reputation of both the Heng-Shan and the Huashan

sword schools. Will you please stop that?” Linghu Chong demanded.

“What? When we finally found you and saved your life after so much trouble, now you don’t want to marry my daughter?” Monk No

Commandment was astonished.

Linghu Chong put on a solemn face. “Linghu Chong dares not ever forget the kindness Great Master has shown by saving my life. Apprentice sister Yilin’s Heng-Shen Sword School has very strict school rules. If you keep making such meaningless jokes, it wouldn’t look good for the two

senior sisters Ding Xian and Ding Yi.”

“Lin’er, what…what…what’s up with this son-in-law? I…I don’t get it!” Monk No Commandment scratched his head hard.

Yilin covered her face with both hands and cried, “Dad, enough!

Enough! He does his things and I do my own. Why…why…why mix us together?” Tears burst out from her eyes as she dashed down the mountain path.

Monk No Commandment was even more confused. He dazed for a moment and then muttered, “This is so strange! Before seeing him, she

would give up everything to see him, but once she sees him, she didn’t want to see him anymore. She is just like her mother. It’s simply impossible to understand what a little nun might be thinking.” Seeing that his daughter was getting further and further, he chased after her.

Tian Boguang managed to stand up after some struggle. “The green mountain will always be green and the blue river will continue to flow. I’ll see you around,” he said to Linghu Chong and then turned around and

stumbled his way down the mountain path.

Yue Buqun waited till Tian Boguang had gone far before speaking to Linghu Chong again, “Chong, you are treating that evil villain well. You would rather stab yourself than kill him.”

Linghu Chong’s face showed some shame. He knew that Master had seen through his act with his sharp eyes. He lowered his head.

“Master, he did have many bad conducts, but he has promised to mend his ways and do good. He has shown mercy and spared my life multiple times when he had me in his hands.”

“Talking morality with such a brutal and cold-blooded skunk, sooner or later, you will have to pay for it,” Yue Buqun sneered. He had always favored this Head Apprentice of his. Seeing that he had survived such

severe wounds had already brought him great joy. When Linghu Chong pretended to fall and stabbed himself in the leg, he knew very well that it was an act, but he also knew too well that Linghu Chong had always been crafty since he was only a child, so he decided not to investigate further.

Besides, Linghu Chong’s words to Monk No Commandment were very

effective and appropriate, just the way he wanted it, therefore, he chose to set the case of Tian Boguang aside temporarily.

“Where’s the booklet?” Yue Buqun stuck out his hand.

Linghu Chong had guessed that Master and little apprentice sister must have come back because the “crime” was discovered and the “criminal” identified, that was why Master came back to Mount Huashan after the book. And that was exactly what he had wished for.

“Sixth apprentice brother has it. Little apprentice sister only did it to save my life. Her intention was all good. Master, please don’t blame her.

Without Master’s permission, I would never dare to even touch the manuscript, not mentioning reading about any formula or technique off the booklet,” Linghu Chong swore.

Yue Buqun’s face immediately turned into a smile, kind and pleasant. “You did it right. It’s not that I don’t want to pass it on to you, but since our school is facing some serious events at the time and I could not spare any moment to give you detailed instructions. If I just let you study by yourself, I am afraid that you might go the wrong way, and that would lead to unpredictable trouble.” He paused for a while and then continued, “That

Monk No Commandment acted like a lunatic, but he does have brilliant inner energy techniques. Did he dissolve those six unorthodox energy

streams inside you? How do you feel right now?”

“I don’t feel nauseated any more, and all the burning pain and freezing pain are gone too. But it feels like I’ve run all my strength out,” Linghu Chong answered.

“You have just recovered from severe internal injuries. It’s natural that you feel weak. We have to repay Great Master No Commandment for saving your life one day,” Yue Buqun said.

“Yes, Master!”

Ever since Yue Buqun came back to Mount Huashan, he worried that they might meet the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies again. But so far he had seen no trace of them, which relaxed him a bit. But he still didn’t want to stay long. “Let’s meet with Dayou and then go to Mount Songshan together.

Chong, do you think you are fit to make a long journey?” he asked. “Yes, I am. Yes!” Linghu Chong replied with sheer joy.

Soon, the Master and the two apprentices arrived at the little hut next to the “House of Integrity.” Yue Lingshan rushed forward with a trot and

entered the hut after pushing the door open. Suddenly, she started

screaming, her voice filled with terror. Yue Buqun and Linghu Chong both dashed forward to look inside, and they saw Lu Dayou lying on the floor, motionless.

“Little apprentice sister, don’t be frightened, I sealed his acupoints earlier,” Linghu Chong explained with a smile.

“You sure scared the wits out of me. Why did you seal his acupoints?” Yue Lingshan asked.

“Since I refused to read the manuscript, for my good, he decided to read the scripts in the manuscript for me to listen,” Linghu Chong

explained. “I couldn’t convince him, so I had to seal his acupoints. How come…?”

Suddenly, Yue Buqun uttered a cry of surprise. He bent down to

check on Lu Dayou’s breathing and also checked his pulses before speaking in shock, “How come…how come he is dead? Chong, which acupoint did you seal?”

Hearing the sudden news that Lu Dayou was dead, Linghu Chong

was scared out of his wits. His body started shaking and he almost fainted. “I…I….” he muttered in a trembling voice as he reached out to touch Lu

Dayou’s face. The face was chilling cold. Apparently Lu Dayou died a long while back. Tears burst out from his eyes. “Sixth…sixth apprentice brother, are you really gone?” he cried.

“Where’s the booklet?” Yue Buqun asked. Linghu Chong looked with his teary eyes, and in the blur, he didn’t see the “Violet Twilight Manuscript” either. “Where’s the booklet?” he

couldn’t help but ask himself. He checked Lu Dayou’s pockets in a hurry, but there’s no trace of the manuscript. “When I sealed his acupoint, I remember seeing the manuscript turned open on the desk. How come it’s not there anymore?”

Yue Lingshan looked all over the room, on the bed, next to the desk, behind the door, and under the chairs, but still, there was no trace of the

“Violet Twilight Manuscript” whatsoever.

This manuscript was the ultimate Kung Fu manuscript of the Huashan Sword School. Now when it suddenly disappeared, Yue Buqun was utterly apprehensive. He examined the corpse of Lu Dayou carefully but found no fatal wound. He examined around the little hut, including the top of the roof, but found no traces left by any outsiders.

“If no outsiders had come, then it couldn’t have been the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies or the Monk No Commandment who took it,” Yue Buqun thought inwardly. He asked Linghu Chong with a stern voice, “Chong, which acupoint did you seal?”

Linghu Chong knelt down in front of his Master. “I was afraid that I did not have much strength with my fingers, that’s why I sealed the vital acupoint Tan-Zhong Acupoint. I had no clue…no clue that it would have

killed sixth apprentice brother accidentally.” He extended his arm and drew the long sword by Lu Dayou’s waist quickly, and without hesitation, slashed it toward his own neck.

Yue Buqun flicked his finger, which sent the long sword flying far.

“Even if you want to die, you’ll have to find the Violet Twilight Manuscript first. Where on earth did you hide the manuscript?” Linghu Chong felt a chill in his heart. He thought to himself, “Master is actually suspecting that I hid the Violet Twilight Manuscript.” He dazed for a moment and then spoke again, “Master, someone must have stolen the manuscript. I will chase it back at all cost and return it to you, Master, not

even leaving one page behind.”

“If someone makes a copy or memorizes the entire thing, then even if we get the manuscript back, intact, the high level Kung Fu of our Huashan School would no longer be the ultimately unique technique.” Yue Buqun’s mind was as confused as a tangled skein. After a short pause, he said to Linghu Chong with a gentle tone, “Chong, if you took the manuscript, as long as you give it back, I won’t blame you.”

Staring at the corpse of Lu Dayou blankly, Linghu Chong said loudly, “Master, I swear with all my heart. If there are people who peeped at the ‘Violet Twilight Manuscript,’ then I will kill all of them. If there are ten of them, I will kill all ten, and if there are a hundred of them, I will kill all one hundred. If Master still thinks that it was I who stole it, please kill me now. I have no complaints.”

“Get up. You said it wasn’t you, then I believe you.” Yue Buqun shook his head. “You are very good friends with Dayou, of course you would never kill him intentionally. Then who on earth stole the manuscript?” He stared outside of the window blankly, lost in thought.

“Father, it’s all my fault. I…I thought I did a great thing by stealing Father’s manuscript. Who would have thought that big apprentice brother would refuse to read it and sixth apprentice brother would lose his life because of it. I…I will find the manuscript back no matter what,” Yue Lingshan exclaimed in a sobbing voice.

“Let’s look around one more time,” Yue Buqun said. The three searched every bit of space in the small hut this time, but not only didn’t they find the manuscript, nor could they find any trace or clue.

“We should not spread the news. I will tell your mother about it, and other than that, don’t mention this to anybody else. Let’s bury Dayou and then head down the mountain,” Yue Buqun said to his daughter.

Looking at the face of Lu Dayou’s dead body, Linghu Chong couldn’t help feeling sad. He thought to himself, “Among all the apprentice brothers, sixth apprentice brother was the best friend of all. But I was actually the one who killed him by accident. I had never seen that coming at all. Even if I

weren’t wounded, such a poke wouldn’t have gotten him killed. Could it be that because I had the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies’ unorthodox energy inside me, therefore the strength of the poke was somehow different? Even if that were true, why did the Violet Twilight Manuscript disappear all of a

sudden? Alas, I really can’t figure this out. Master is suspecting me of

stealing the manuscript. It’s useless to plead my innocence. I must find out the truth about this no matter what I have to do. By then, I can cut my own throat to apologize to sixth apprentice brother.”

Wiping off his tears with his sleeve, Linghu Chong found a hoe and worked on digging a grave to bury Lu Dayou’s corpse. Sweat streamed

down all over his body as he dug with all his strength while panting heavily. Only with the help of Yue Lingshan by the side, he was able to finish building the grave.

Some time later, the trio arrived at the White-Horse Temple. Seeing that Linghu Chong had escaped death and had come back together, Madam Yue felt unspeakable joy. After Yue Buqun told her on the quiet about Lu Dayou’s death and the disappearance of the Violet Twilight Manuscript,

Madam Yue shed more tears of grievance. Although it was an important matter that the Violet Twilight Manuscript got lost, in her mind, since her husband had mastered the Kung Fu, it didn’t matter if he still had the manuscript or not. But Lu Dayou had been an apprentice in the Huashan Sword School for many years, and he was genuinely a friendly and good fellow, so of course it was very sad to learn about his tragic death. The many apprentices had no clue, so after seeing the gloomy look on Master, Master-Wife, big apprentice brother, and little apprentice sister’s faces, none dared to make any loud noise.

Yue Buqun ordered Lau Denuo to hire two wagons, one for Madam Yue and Yue Lingshan, the other for Linghu Chong to rest in, and the group resumed the trip east toward Mount Songshan.

On no particulate day, they arrived at the town of Weilin. It was close to dust already. There was only one inn in the entire town, and it was

already full. Since there were quite a few females in the Huashan group, it was too troublesome to stay overnight at any local residence.

“Let’s keep going. We should be able to find lodging in the next town,” Yue Buqun told everyone.

But only one mile into the trip, the wagon Madam Yue sat in broke down with a broken axle. Having no other choice, Madam Yue and Yue Lingshan had to travel on foot.

“Master, there’s a monastery in the woods over there. Do you think it would be a good idea if we spend the night there?” Shi Daizi pointed at the northeast and suggested.

“But we have females and they might feel it’s troublesome,” Madam Yue said.

“Daizi, why don’t you go make an inquiry. If the monks in the monastery decline, then we won’t, no pressure for them,” Yue Buqun instructed. Shi Daizi nodded and then dashed away. Only moments later, he had run back while shouting in a distance, “Master, it’s a discarded monastery. There’s no monk there.”

Everyone was quite glad to hear that. Tao Jun, Ying Luobai, and Shu Qi the bunch of younger apprentices ran over ahead of the rest of the people.

By the time Yue Buqun, Madam Yue, and the rest of the group arrived outside of the monastery, dark clouds had piled up the eastern side of the

sky, and only moments later, the entire sky had turned dark.

“It’s very fortunate that there’s a discarded monastery here, or we would have found ourselves in the middle of a storm half way,” Madam Yue said.

They entered the big hall and found a statue of a blue-faced Buddha. The statue depicted a man holding herb grass with a cape made of leaves on his shoulders. It was the Buddha of the Herb, Shen-Nong, who, as legend

said, tasted hundreds of herbs, himself, to test their medical effects. All the apprentices, led by Yue Buqun, saluted the Buddha to show their respect.

Afterwards, they began to settle down, but before they even opened their bedding rolls, several lightning bolts flashed, and thunder exploded. Before long, pea sized raindrops started pouring down, splashing on the tiles on the roof.

The small monastery had leaks everywhere. Everyone decided to not even open his or her bedding rolls and simply found a dry spot to sit down. Gao Gengming, Liang Fa, and three other female apprentices went to prepare dinner.

“This year’s spring season thunders are too early. It’s probably going to be a year with poor harvest,” Madam Yue said. Linghu Chong sat in a corner of the hall leaning on the rack of the big bell. Rain streamed down the eave’s gutter like a curtain made of water. He stared at it as he thought to himself, “It would be a lot more enjoyable if

sixth apprentice brother were still alive and could chat and joke with us.” During the journey, he rarely spoke to Yue Lingshan. Especially when he saw her and Lin Pingzhi were together sometimes, he would intentionally avoid them and walk far away. He kept telling himself, “Little apprentice sister stole Violet Twilight Manuscript for me to heal my wounds, fully knowing that Master would reproach her severely. It is obvious that she

cared for me very much. I only wish that she would always be happy throughout her life. Since I am determined to commit suicide to apologize to sixth apprentice brother after I find the manuscript, why would I ever provoke her again? Little apprentice sister and apprentice brother Lin are a perfect pair of lovers. I hope she will forget all about me, so after I die, she won’t have to shed any tears.” Even though he thought so in his head, every time he saw her and Lin Pingzhi walking abreast chatting joyously, he

simply couldn’t help feeling sorrow and pain in his heart. At the moment, it was raining cats and dogs outside the monastery; he watched Yue Lingshan walking about the hall, helping with preparing the meal. Each time when her eyes met Lin Pingzhi’s, both would let a slight smile flash across their faces. The two of them probably thought that nobody would notice it, but not even one of the smiles escaped Linghu Chong’s eyes. Each smile would depress Linghu Chong some more. He wanted to turn his head away, but

each time when Yue Lingshan walked by, he simply couldn’t resist the desire to cast a glance toward her.

After dinner, everyone went to sleep. The rain kept coming down, heavy for a while, then light for another, but never ended. Linghu Chong had many things on his mind and they kept him from falling asleep. Sounds of breathing and snorting rose one after another. Everyone else had fallen asleep.

Sounds of hoof beats suddenly rose from the southeast. There were over ten of them and they came closer and closer along the main road.

“Why are they traveling in such a hurry in the middle of the rainy night? Could it possibly be that they are after us?” Linghu Chong’s heart

skipped a beat. He sat up and then heard Yue Buqun speak to everyone in a loud voice.

“Everyone stay quiet.”

Moments later, the pack of horsemen cruised by the monastery. By then everyone of Huashan Sword School were awake and each had his hand next to his sword handle. Hearing that the sound of hoof beats passed by the monastery and went further and further, all let out a breath of relief and

were just about ready to go back to sleep, when the sound of the hoof beats rose again. Apparently these riders had turned around and came back. All the horses stopped right outside of the monastery.

“Is Mr. Yue from the Huashan Sword School inside the monastery?

We have a question to ask him,” a voice shouted, loud and clear.

Linghu Chong was the Head Apprentice of the Huashan Sword School, and it had always been him who stepped forward to handle things. So he walked to the entrance of the monastery, took off the door bolt, and then opened the gate.

“Friends, who are you? Why have you come late at night?” he asked as he looked outside.

There were a total of fifteen riders. They formed an arch and

surrounded the gate. About six or seven of them had waterproof lanterns in their hands, and they all pointed their lanterns at Linghu Chong’s face. In the dark night, when six or seven lanterns all pointed at one’s face, then inevitably, one would end up with blurry eyes. Just this one action had shown that the uninvited visitors were full of hostility. Linghu Chong opened his eyes as wide as he could but only found out that each of the fifteen riders had a black hood over his head, leaving only two holes

showing his eyes. Linghu Chong suddenly realized, “Either we know these people, or they are afraid that we would remember their faces.”

“Please have Yue Buqun, Mr. Yue, come out to see us,” a rider on the left said.

“Who are you? May I have the honor to learn your name please, so I can pass it on to my Master?” Linghu Chong inquired.

“You can save yourself some trouble by stop asking for our names.

You can go tell your Master this: We heard that the Huashan Sword School got hold of the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript of the Fortune Prestige Escort House, so we just wanted to borrow it to take a look,” the man responded.

Linghu Chong felt his anger starting to grow. “The Huashan Sword School has its own set of Kung Fu techniques. Why would we want other’s Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript? We don’t have it. Even if we did have it, are you just going to take it with force? How dare you belittle the Huashan Sword School?”

The man burst into loud laughter. The rest of the fourteen riders also began to laugh out loud. The sound of their deafening laughter swept across the deserted plain like a storm. Obviously each and every one of them had first-class inner strength.

“We’ve encountered tough enemy again,” shocked inwardly, Linghu Chong thought to himself. “It seemed that all fifteen of them are elite fighters. I wonder who they really are.” Amid the loud laughter, a man spoke, “We heard that the chap Lin from the Fortune Prestige Escort House has joined the Huashan Sword School. We’ve always heard that Gentleman Sword Mr. Yue of the Huashan Sword School had superb mastery of sword arts. Then of course he would feel beneath his dignity to pay any attention to it. We are just a bunch of nobodies in the Martial World. Today we make bold to ask Mr. Yue to grant his permission and loan the book so we can have a look.”

The fourteen others’ laughter kept going like tides after tides, but this speaker’s voice still sounded loud and clear, standing out clearly from all the other noises. Apparently, this one’s inner strength was even stronger

compared to the others.

“Who are you, really? You….” Linghu Chong said. But he couldn’t even hear his own words. Astounded, he stopped talking and thought to

himself, “Could I have lost all my inner energy built up during the past over a dozen years? Can there have not a single bit of it left?”

After Linghu Chong left Mount Huashan, he had tried several times to work on his Qi-Gong exercises using the formula and techniques from his own school, but as soon as he started to gather his inner strength, his breathing would lose its rhythm and various uncontrollable energy would start flowing randomly through his body. And as soon as he tried to direct the flow, nausea and dizziness would follow. It would turn so bad that if he didn’t stop the breathing exercise, he would have simply passed out. He tried several times more and always ended up with the same result. When he asked for advice from his Master about it, Yue Buqun only cast a cold glance at him and didn’t answer. At the time Linghu Chong thought to himself, “Master must have suspected that I embezzled the Violet Twilight

Manuscript and was practicing the techniques behind his back. There really is no need to plead innocence. After all, I won’t be alive for long; why should I trouble myself with these inner strength problems?” After that incident, he stopped exercising completely. Who would have thought that when he tried to gather his strength and speak loudly, his voice would be completely buried by the enemy’s laughter?

Yue Buqun’s voice rose from inside the monastery, loud and clear,

“All of you are renowned masters in the Martial World. Why have you been so modest and called yourself a bunch of nobodies? Yue Buqun never tells a lie. We really don’t have the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript of the Lin Family.”

He used the Divine Art of the Violet Twilight when he spoke.

Although his voice was mixed with the loud laughter from all the people outside of the monastery, everyone, both inside the monastery and outside of the monastery, could hear every word loud and clear. He had spoken in a very relaxed manner, no different from any ordinary conversation. It

sounded a lot more natural than the way the previous man had spoke – yelling with immense strength.

“You say you don’t have it. Then where the hell is it?” Another man retorted in a croaky voice.

“What makes you think that you are worthy of the answer?” Yue Buqun mocked.

“Anyone in this world is worthy of an answer for things happening in this world,” the man replied.

Yue Buqun sneered, but did not respond.

“Hey, Yue Buqun, are you going to give it up or not? Don’t you refuse a toast only to drink a forfeit! If you don’t give it up yourself, we’ll have no choice but to resort to force and go in to search ourselves,” that man yelled out loud. “All female apprentices stay together, back to back, and all male apprentices, unsheathe your swords!” Madam Yue told everyone in a whisper.

Rustling sounds echoed as everyone inside the monastery drew their long swords. Linghu Chong stood by the gate and reached for his long

sword, but before he had enough time to draw his sword, two men had leapt off their horses and sprang at him. Linghu Chong dodged to the side and

was just about to draw his sword when he heard someone yell, “Get lost!” Then the man raised his leg and kicked Linghu Chong hard, sending him flying in the air. Linghu Chong flew tens of feet before landing hard in a bush. He found himself in a state of complete confusion.

“His kick wasn’t all that powerful, how come I don’t have any strength with my lower body and my legs feel so light?” he thought.

He struggled to sit up, but all of a sudden, he felt as if the blood between his stomach and his chest were boiling hot while seven or eight streams of energy circled and twisted inside him, clashing and smashing against each other. He couldn’t even move a little finger of his. Linghu Chong was dumbfounded. He opened his mouth wide to scream, but

nothing came out of it. It was almost as if he was under some kind of evil spell. His brain still worked perfectly, but he had become completely frozen, not able to move a single muscle. Sound of weapons clashing into each other echoed in his ears nonstop. Master, Master-Wife, and second

apprentice brother dashed out of the monastery and engaged in fights with seven or eight masked enemies. Several other masked men charged into the monastery. Shouts and yells came out through the gate mixed with girls’ rebukes. The rain started to get heavier. Several waterproof lanterns were

scattered around on the ground. The dim yellowish light flickered as reflections from blades flashed and shadows in all shapes swayed back and forth.

A short while passed when suddenly, a shriek from a female echoed inside the monastery. Linghu Chong became more worried. The enemy

consisted of all men. Then of course the shriek must have been coming from an injured apprentice sister. He watched the fights outside of the monastery. Master was busy waving his sword fighting against four

enemies. Master-Wife was also engaged in a fight with two enemies. He knew that both his Master and Master-Wife had brilliant sword skills. Even though they were both fighting against more than one opponent, chances

were that they would still be able to hold them off. Yelling at the top of his tongue, second apprentice brother Lao Denuo was also fighting against two opponents. Both opponents used long knives. From the weapon colliding

sounds Linghu Chong could tell that both of them had very strong arms. He knew that if the fight lasted longer, Lao Denuo would eventually have no

chance of withstanding their powerful attacks. Seeing how fierce the fights outside of the monastery were with three on his side against eight enemies, he could easily imagine how vicious the fights would be inside. There were a good number of apprentice brothers and sisters inside the monastery, but none of them were elite fighters. Screams and cries rose one after another. Perhaps several people had been slain. The more worried he became, the harder it was to gather any strength. He could only pray inwardly.

“Dear Heaven! Please let me gain my strength back for just one hour.

If I can get back in the monastery, I will be able to protect the little

apprentice sister. Even if the enemy slice me into ten thousand pieces or bestow upon me every kind of torturing, I would be most willing to.”

He struggled some more and tried to work up his inner energy, but suddenly six streams of energy flow lashed at his chest all together, and then two streams of energy flow smashed down from above and pushed the six streams of energy back down. Linghu Chong felt ultimate emptiness as if all of his organs had disappeared and all his blood and skin were also

completely gone. A shiver ran through his heart as he cried inwardly, “Good Heavens! So that’s how it is!”

By then he finally understood. When the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies tried to heal his wounds using their inner energy, they forced six streams of inner energy into his body through different channels and passages. That didn’t do his internal wounds any good, and in addition, the six energy

streams stayed inside him and caused even more problems. Then it just happened that he met Monk No Commandment with excellent inner

strength, but also an utterly impetuous temper, that forced another two

streams of energy flow inside of him and overwhelmed the six streams of

energy from the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies. For a short while, it looked as if his internal wounds were all healed, but the truth was that he had two more energy streams in his body, which created a resistance against the existing

energy streams inside of him, and his own inner energy from years of Qi- Gong exercises had all perished as an end result. He had been rendered into an ordinary person who had never been trained with any martial arts.

A pain came from his heart as he thought to himself, “What a misfortune! This is as if all my martial art skills were taken away from me.

At the moment when my school is in trouble, I couldn’t even help it in

anyway. I am the Head Apprentice of the Huashan Sword School, yet all I can do is to lie here on the ground and watch my Master and Master-Wife getting harassed and my apprentice brothers and sisters getting slaughtered.

What a big loser am I! Fine, I’ll just go die by little apprentice sister’s side.”

He knew that if he even attempted to gather some inner energy, which would trigger the eight streams of energy inside him, he would end up frozen like a dead meat, so he let all inner strength flow back into his

central stomach naturally and didn’t try to gather any inner strength, and

sure enough, he gained control of his four limbs. He stood up slowly, drew his sword in slow motion, and then moved toward the monastery in small steps.

As soon as he entered the gate, a smell of blood immediately assailed him. Two lanterns sat on the altar and lit the hall. Liang Fa, Shi Daizi, Gao Gengming, and a bunch of other apprentice brothers were still fighting a bloody battle. Several apprentice brothers and sister lay on the ground. It

was hard to tell if they were still breathing. Yue Lingshan and Lin Pingzhi were in the middle of a battle abreast against a masked enemy.

Yue Lingshan’s long hair scattered about, and Lin Pingzhi was holding his sword in his left hand; obviously his right hand got injured in the battle. The masked man had a short spear in his hand and demonstrated excellent skills with his spear techniques. Lin Pingzhi had to use the move called Green Pines Welcoming Guests three times in a roll to parry off his fierce attacks. But the sword moves he had learned were too limited. The masked man gave his short spear a sudden shake. The red tassels on the

spear spread open and blinded Lin Pingzhi’s view. With a thump, the spear stabbed into Lin Pingzhi’s right shoulder. Yue Lingshan launched two thrusts frantically and forced the enemy to take a step back.

“Little Lin, go wrap up your wound. Hurry!” she shouted.

“It’s no problem!” Lin Pingzhi responded as he lunged with a thrust, but his feet were already tumbling underneath him.

The masked man let out a long laugh when he swung the spear and struck Yue Lingshan in the waist with the spear handle. Yue Lingshan dropped the sword in her right hand and squatted down in pain. Linghu Chong was shocked. He dashed forward and thrust his sword forward. But the sword only went forward for about one foot before all the energy streams inside him clashed again. Instantly, his right arm gave out

and dropped down. The masked man saw the sword coming toward him and had planned to dodge to the side and then return the attack with his spear, but after only one foot into the thrust, the attacker’s arm had dropped down. He was a bit confused. Without thinking much, he swept his left leg and kicked Linghu Chong all the way out of the gate. “Splash!” Linghu Chong fell into a puddle of water outside of the monastery. The rain was still pouring down nonstop. Linghu Chong found himself unable to move with mud inside his mouth, eyes, nose, and ears.

Lao Denuo was just taken down, with his acupoints sealed by the enemy. His two opponents now joined the other six to attack the Yue

couple. Moments later, another two enemies ran out of the monastery and joined the group. Yue Buqun was now against seven and Madam Yue

against three.

Suddenly, both Madam Yue and one of her opponents cried out. Both had inflicted wounds on their legs. The injured man retreated back. Madam Yue had one less opponent now. But since she had just taken a heavy chop on the leg, with such a severe wound, her strength began to fade away.

After exchanging some more blows, she took a hit on the shoulder from the back of the enemy’s knife. That was it. She collapsed to the ground. The two masked men burst into loud laughter as they sealed several acupoints on Madam Yue’s back.

By then, the apprentices inside the monastery had all been wounded and taken down one after another. The enemies obviously had a plot. They only knocked the Huashan apprentices down or sealed their acupoints but

didn’t kill any one of them. The fifteen masked men surrounded Yue Buqun in a circle. Eight of them took on eight different directions to attack Yue Buqun simultaneously, and the remaining seven each held a waterproof lantern and aimed the light directly at Yue Buqun’s eyes.

The Head Master of the Huashan Sword School had superb inner strength and brilliant sword skills, but the eight attackers were all elite fighters as well. In addition, the seven lanterns pointing directly at him

made it very hard for him to look straight ahead. Yue Buqun knew too well that the Huashan Sword School had suffered a crushing defeat, and the

entire body of the school would inevitably perish in the monastery, but he still put on a good defense by blocking all his vital parts with a shield of blade. He had resourceful inner energy and effective sword art techniques.

When the lanterns were directed at him, he simply looked down. For a good while, the eight attackers made no progress whatsoever.

“Yue Buqun, are you going to surrender or not?” one of the masked men yelled at him.

“I would rather die than submit. Kill me if you want,” Yue Buqun replied.

“If you don’t surrender, I’ll cut off your wife’s right arm to start

with!” the man threatened. He raised his large saber high and aimed it at Madam Yue’s shoulder. The saber had a very thick back and a razor sharp blade. Reflecting the light from the lanterns, the blade shined with dark bluish flare.

“How can I just let him cut off junior apprentice sister’s arm?” Yue Buqun hesitated. But then he thought, “If I threw down my sword and

surrender, undoubtedly I would suffer humiliation all the same. How can I let the hundreds of years of eminence of the Huashan Sword School get ruined in my hands?” He took a deep breath, and suddenly his face shined in violet color as he swung his sword at the man on his left. The man raised his knife to parry it, but Yue Buqun had attached his Divine Art of the Violet Twilight with the chop; the sword carried a tremendous amount of power. The knife was knocked back. Both the sword and the knife cut into the man’s right arm

simultaneously and chopped two sections off his right arm. Blood splashed everywhere. The man uttered a loud cry and fell to the ground.

Succeeding with the first move Yue Buqun thrust his sword down

swiftly. This time the sword penetrated another enemy’s left leg. That man poured out a stream of curses and retreated.

Now there were two less opponents in the battle, but the situation

wasn’t any better. A heavy thump broke out as a meteor hammer smashed into Yue Buqun’s back. He had to lunge three quick thrusts to drive the

enemies back. Barely catching his breath, he couldn’t help but spit out a mouthful of blood. All the enemies cheered.

“Old folk Yue is wounded. Wear him out!”

The six attackers could almost smell their victory, so they all took a

step back and made the circle a bit bigger. Now Yue Buqun didn’t have any chance of a surprise attack.

There are a total of fifteen masked enemies, three of which had been wounded by the Yue couple. Among the three wounded, one had a serious injury – his arm was cut off. The other two only had injuries on their legs, nothing too serious, and each held a waterproof lantern and kept swearing at Yue Buqun wildly.

From their accents, Yue Buqun could tell that they came from different regions. The Kung Fu skills they demonstrated also consisted of many different styles. Obviously they weren’t apprentices from the same

school. But during the fight, they had good understanding of each other and attacked with precision and synchronization. It didn’t seem that they had just ganged up together recently. Where on earth were they from? He pondered but couldn’t find an answer. And the most unusual part of this

whole thing was that since all fifteen of them had elite fighting skills, as one with a good deal of knowledge of the Martial World, he shouldn’t have failed to recognize at least some of them, yet he had no clue whatsoever. He was sure that none of these enemies had ever engaged in a fight with him before or had grudges against him. Could it be true that they came to give trouble to the Huashan Sword School because they were really after the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript?

He pondered and pondered, yet never slowing down with his hands. He used the Divine Art of the Violet Twilight to its extreme, and the tip of his sword shined dimly. After exchanging over another dozen moves,

another enemy got stabbed in the shoulder and had to drop his iron staff. One of the enemies standing outside of the attacking circle sprang forward and took over the attacking position. This man held a knife with a saw

shaped blade. The knife looked very heavy, and close to the tip of the knife, the blade curved into the shape of a hook. The man tried again and again to lock Yue’s sword with the hook. But Yue Buqun had plenty of inner

strength. It seemed as if the longer the fight lasted, the more energetic he

appeared to be. Suddenly he struck a back palm, which landed squarely on one enemy’s chest and broke the man’s two ribs. The steel cane in the man’s hands was also knocked down by the shock. But the man turned out to be

extremely ferocious. The great pain from his broken ribs provoked his fury. He dived down and had Yue Buqun’s left leg in his arms. Astounded, Yue Buqun swung his sword and chopped down at the man’s back, but two knifes reached forward simultaneously and blocked the chop. Not able to

chop down using his long sword, Yue Buqun kicked toward the enemy’s head with his right foot. That man was an expert in grappling. Reaching out with his right arm, he hooked Yue Buqun’s right leg as well. Then he rolled forward. Although Yue Buqun had excellent Kung Fu skills, he could no longer keep his balance and fell down on the ground. Instantly, knife, short spear, meteor hammer, long sword, and other various weapons all aimed right at his vital parts such as head, face, throat, and chest. Yue Buqun heaved a deep sigh and let go of his sword. Closing his eyes in despair, he waited for the deathblow. Then he felt some heavy blows to his waist, rib

cage, throat, and chest. The enemy had sealed several of his acupoints with heavy jabs.

Two masked men propped him up as an old voice spoke out,

“Gentleman Sword Mr. Yue certainly has brilliant Kung Fu skills. You have a well-deserved reputation. We ganged up on you, fifteen against one, yet were only able to subdue you after getting four or five of us wounded.

Hmm, that is very admirable! If I had to fight you one on one, I am sure I would lose to you. But when you look at it a different way, we have fifteen, but you have over twenty people. Your Huashan Sword School still has more bodies and better odds here. Tonight we won the battle with few

against many and completely defeated the Huashan Sword School. I have to say that the victory didn’t come easy. What do you guys think?”

“Most definitely! It wasn’t an easy victory for sure!” The rest of the masked men agreed in unison.

“Mr. Yue,” the old man continued, “we really have no grudge against you. We made bold and offended you only because we want to borrow the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript and check it out. This manuscript didn’t belong to your Huashan Sword School before. When you used all your ingenuity and managed to take in Lin Family’s young boy from the Fortune Prestige Escort House as your apprentice, it was obvious that you were really after that sword manuscript. What you did is truly sneaky. When fellow martial friends heard about this, all were quite mad at you. I am giving you a valuable advice here. Why don’t you give it up?”

Yue Buqun was infuriated. “Humph, I am already in your hands. Go ahead and give me a quick end. Why waste your time with rubbish?

Everyone in the Martial World knows my reputation. You can easily kill me, but if you want to ruin my reputation, humph! Dream on!”

“What’s so difficult about ruining your reputation?” a man in a mask said with loud laughter. “Your wife, daughter, and those female apprentices do not look bad at all. Why don’t we divide them up and make them our bitches? Ha-ha, Mr. Yue, you are going to be very famous in the Martial World indeed!”

The rest of the masked men all laughed out loud. The laughter was filled with evil. Yue Buqun trembled with rage.

Several men in mask pushed the bunch of male and female

apprentices out of the monastery. All of them had their acupoints sealed. Some had blood all over their faces and some fell down immediately after they came out – obviously they had wounds on their legs or feet.

“Mr. Yue,” the old man with a mask spoke again, “you probably have somewhat figured out where we are from. We are no heroes from the righteous schools. There is really no restriction limiting what we can do or cannot do. Some of my buddies here are really fond of women. I am sure it wouldn’t look too good for you if some of them offended your respectful

wife and daughter.”

“Fine! Fine! If you don’t believe me, go ahead and search us. See for yourself whether we have the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript or not,” Yue Buqun croaked. “I’d suggest you give it out yourself. Once we start searching one by one and get to your woman and your daughter, it’s not going to be a pleasant scene,” a man behind a mask said with an evil grin.

“All the trouble started because of me, Lin Pingzhi,” Lin Pingzhi barked. “Listen up! Our Lin Family in Fujian didn’t have any Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript at all! It’s up to you to believe it or not.” He picked up a steel cane from the ground and smacked it toward his own forehead. But

since his acupoints on his arms were sealed, the smack was so weak that

even though the cane hit his head, it only left a scratch on his skin with no blood coming out of it. But everyone understood his intention. He had intended to sacrifice his own life to prove that there wasn’t any sword manuscript that the Huashan Sword School ever got hold of.

“Young Master Lin, you are quite heroic.” The old man with a mask grinned. “We are friends of your deceased father. Yue Buqun murdered your father and took possession of your family’s Evil-Resisting Sword

Manuscript, that’s why we are here to defend the victim against injustice. Your Master has a mere name of a gentleman, but not the reality of a gentleman. I think it would be better if you submit to me as your Master. I guarantee you that you will learn first-class Kung Fu that will enable you to sweep about in the Martial World at will.”

“My parents were murdered by Yu Canghai from the Qingcheng Sword School and Mu Gaofeng. What does it have anything to do with my Master? I am a proud apprentice of the Huashan Sword School. Did you

expect me to incline to life instead of braving death in dangers like this?” Lin Pingzhi snarled.

“That’s right! Our Huashan Sword School….” Liang Fa also snarled. “What about your Huashan Sword School?” a masked man yelled as

he swung his knife forward and chopped Liang Fa’s head off. Blood gushed out like a fountain. Several Huashan apprentices screamed in terror.

Many thoughts tangled in Yue Buqun’s mind, but he still couldn’t figure out where these men had come from. According to what the old man had just said, perhaps they were bandits from the unorthodox side. Or maybe they were key figures of an evil clan. However, even if he didn’t know some of the renowned masters in the region, either on the orthodox

side or the unorthodox side, he would have at least heard about them. There was no clan or gang that had so many elite fighters. That man chopped off Liang Fa’s head with no hesitation. The cruelty he put on display was

exceptionally rare. When people engage in fights in the Martial World, it was usual that people got hurt or killed. But once one side took the other

side prisoner, it was very seldom that one would cut someone’s head off so carelessly.

After killing Liang Fa with a casual chop, the man laughed wildly and walked next to Madam Yue. He chopped the bloodstained knife a couple of times in the air. The blade swished by Madam Yue’s head with a mere half foot.

“Don’t…don’t hurt my mother!” Yue Lingshan screamed before losing her consciousness.

Madam Yue was a brave woman and showed no fear. She actually

wished that the man would kill her with a chop, thus avoiding any possible humiliation from them. So she snarled at him, “You damn coward. Go

ahead and kill me if you’ve got any guts.”

Sound of hoof beats suddenly rose from the northeast corner. Dozens of horses galloped in their direction.

“Who are they? Go check them out?” the old man in the mask yelled. “Got it!” two men in masks responded as they jumped on their

horsebacks and dashed out The sound of hoof beats came closer and closer, and then came the sounds of weapons clashing into each other. “Ouch!” someone cried out. Apparently the two masked men had gotten into a battle with the people coming and someone just got wounded.

The Yue Buqun couple and all the Huashan apprentices were overwhelmed in joy, knowing that the cavalry had arrived. In the dim light from the lanterns, they watched the forty or so riders gallop along the main road. Mud splashed high as the group approached them. Moments later, the riders arrived and reined in their horses outside the monastery. A man on horseback shouted.

“Oh, these are friends from the Huashan Sword School. Hey, isn’t that brother Yue?”

Yue Buqun looked following the origin of the voice. When his eyes stopped at the man’s face, he felt greatly embarrassed. The man was none other than the one who took the Five Mountains Command Flag up to

Mount Huashan only several days ago, the Third Guardian of Songshan –

Crane Hands Lu Bai. The man on his right was tall and chubby. Yue Buqun recognized him: he was the Second Guardian of Songshan – Tower Holding Palm Ding Mian. And the one on his left turned out to be the expelled Sword-Branch apprentice of the Huashan Sword School, Feng Buping.

Many of the Taishan and Hengshan masters who had visited Mount

Huashan several days ago were also among them only that this time there were even more people than the last time. Under the faint light from the

waterproof lanterns, shadows loomed, and in the short time, Yue Buqun had a hard time making out the rest of the people.

“Brother Yue,” Lu Bai said, “you didn’t accept the Command Flag from Chief Zuo the other day, and Chief Zuo was a bit upset. That’s why he sent apprentice brother Ding and Tang together with me to visit Mount Huashan again with the Command Flag. We had no idea that we would meet you here late at night? What a surprise!”

Yue Buqun kept his silence and did not reply.

“So it is Hero Ding, Hero Lu, and Hero Tang from the Songshan Sword School. What an honor to meet you!” the old man in the mask said, cupping his hands.

“You flatter me. May I have the honor to hear your name? Why don’t you want to reveal your true identity?” The Seventh Guardian of Songshan, Tang Ying-E, asked.

“We are just a bunch of nobodies in the heterodox side,” the old man in the mask replied. “If we speak out our ugly bandit nicknames, it would only be an insult to all you great masters’ ears. Well, for the sake of you guys, we dare not show disrespect to Madam Yue and Miss Yue any more. But there is this one thing we’d like you to help uphold justice.”

“What is the matter? Why don’t you tell us about it?” Tang Ying-E suggested.

“Well, this Mister Yue Buqun here has a nickname called Gentleman Sword. We heard that he always talks about humanity, justice and virtues, and always abide by the rules of the Martial World. But what he has done recently seemed way off track. You must have heard that the Fortune Prestige Escort House in Fuzhou was wiped out and the Chief Master Lin Zhennan couple was murdered.”

“Yes. I heard that the Qingcheng Sword School in Szechwan did that,” Tang Ying-E responded.

The old man shook his head again and again. “That sure was the story floating around in the Martial World, but it wasn’t the truth. Let’s get to the bottom of this. Everyone knows that the Lin Family of the Fortune Prestige Escort House has the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript passed down from their ancestors, in which brilliant and profound sword art techniques were recorded. Once one masters the sword art, he would have no match in the entire world. The reason that the Lin Zhennan couple got murdered was because someone coveted the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript.”

“What about that?” Tang Ying-E asked.

“How exactly were the Lin Zhennan couple murdered and who did it?

Outsiders wouldn’t have a clue on that. We heard that this Gentleman Sword secretly plotted some cunning schemes and fooled Lin Zhennan’s

son into becoming a dead set apprentice of the Huashan Sword School. You see what I am saying? The sword manuscript of course was brought into the Huashan Sword School naturally. We thought about it and came to the

conclusion that Yue Buqun was adept at scheming. He couldn’t get it by force, so he tried to get it by trickery. Think about it. How much experience can a young chap Lin have? After he joined the Huashan Sword School, for sure the old fox would play him like a dummy and have him present the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript to his Master of his own will.”

“But I am afraid that this is unlikely. The Huashan Sword School has brilliant sword art techniques of its own, and Mr. Yue’s Divine Art of the Violet Twilight is also a powerful and unique Kung Fu in the Martial World

– one of the best Qi-Gong techniques as a matter of fact. Why would he lust for sword art techniques in other style?” Tang Ying-E commented.

The old man smirked. “Hero Tang, you really are gauging the heart of a rascal with your own decent measures. What kind of brilliant sword art does Yue Buqun have? After the Sword-Branch and the Qi-Branch of the

Huashan Sword School broke up, the Qi-Branch seized control of Mount Huashan. They only emphasized on working with their inner energy. Their sword skills are so ordinary and na├»ve. People in the Martial World respected the reputation of the Huashan Sword School and mistakenly thought that they actually have some true skills. But the truth is…a-ha, ha- ha….”

He paused for a second with a sneer, and then continued. “Logically speaking, since Yue Buqun is the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School, his mastery of sword skills shouldn’t have been ordinary. But you have all seen with your own eyes that he was taken prisoner by us, a bunch of no names. We used neither poison, nor projectiles, and we didn’t have overwhelming numbers. We relied on our true skills to take care of the

Huashan Sword School masters and apprentices. We won the battle the hard way fair and square. From that you probably can figure out yourself how good their Kung Fu skills are. But of course Yue Buqun knew his own limitation. That’s why he wants to get hold of the Evil-Resisting Sword

Manuscript quickly so he could study the great sword arts and not make a fool out of himself in critical moments, so he wouldn’t be carrying a fame that’s untrue.”

“Your words are certainly convincing.” Tang Ying-E nodded.

“We are just a group of nobodies. In the eyes of great masters like you, our level of Kung Fu skills isn’t even worth a laugh. We dare not hanker after for the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript. However, for the last ten years or so, thanks to Chief Master Lin of the Fortune Prestige Escort House who actually thought we were worth of something and kept sending us precious gifts. So when his escort wagons passed by our territory, none of us would touch it for the sake of good relationship. Recently, when we heard that Chief Master Lin ended up dead and his family ruined all because of that sword art manuscript, we couldn’t help but feel very irritated. It has really aroused public indignation. That’s why’ve decided to make Yue Buqun pay for this.” He paused for a moment and cast a glance at the group still on horsebacks before continuing, “All of you here, who have just arrived, are renowned heroes and masters in the Martial World. And among you, there are also reputable senior masters from the Five Mountains Sword Alliance, to which the Huashan Sword School belongs as a member school. We here resort to your judgment on this matter, and whatever you decide, we will

comply.”

“Brother, that’s very kind of you. We really appreciate it. Apprentice brother Ding and Lu, what do you think we should do?” Tang Ying-E

asked.

“Chief Zuo has said before, that the Head Master post of the Huashan Sword School should have belonged to Master Feng. Since Yue Buqun

committed such despicable and brazen act today, we should just let Master Feng purify the Huashan Sword School, himself!” Ding Mian replied.

Everyone on horsebacks agreed in unison, “Hero Ding has judged it

so fair and clear. This is the internal affair of the Huashan Sword School, so naturally the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School himself should handle it. It would also save us from being accused of poking our noses into other people’s business by fellow martial friends.”

Feng Buping dismounted from his horse and bowed to everyone. “I am very grateful for the due respect you have shown here. Ever

since Yue Buqun usurped the Head Master post of our school, cries of discontent rise all the way up to heaven, and the reputation of our school had reached its ultimate low. And now he has sunk so low to commit the many wild things: killing one’s father, seizing his sword art manuscript, and coercing him into becoming an apprentice. I am a man with no great virtue or abilities, and would have never been worth of the Huashan Sword School Head Master post, but I value the hardship the many past masters of the Huashan Sword School had to go through in order to uphold the reputation of our school, and I simply can not bear to watch our Huashan Sword School reduced to rubble in the hands of Yue Buqun, the unworthy

apprentice. That’s why I will have to undertake to do the difficult job as best as I can. Friends, will you please keep offering me advice and

supervision as time goes on?” He bowed again.

The rain had not fully stopped and had turned into a light shower by then. Seven or eight of the riders had lit their torches. The fire from the torches shined upon Feng Buping’s face, which looked immensely

contented.

“Yue Buqun is guilty of the most heinous crimes, which are too severe for any clemency,” Feng Buping went on. “We must follow the

school rules and execute him on sight! Apprentice brother Cong, go ahead and execute the traitors, the Yue Buqun couple, to purify our Huashan Sword School.”

“Got it!” a man in his fifties responded as he drew his blade and walked by Yue Buqun. “Yue Buqun, you corrupted our school; today is your judgment day!” He grinned hideously.

Yue Buqun heaved a deep sigh. “I see! Your Sword-Branch plotted this entire deadly trap so you can take over the Head Master post. Cong Buqi, if you kill me today, when your time comes, how are you going to face the many past masters of our Huashan Sword School in the underworld?”

“He who commits much wickedness brings death upon himself. You have committed so many crimes. Even if I don’t kill you, someone else will. But that wouldn’t be satisfactory at all, would it?” Cong Buqi smirked.

“Save your breath, apprentice brother Cong. Start the execution.” Feng Buping yelled. “Yes,” Cong Buqi replied. He raised his long sword high and then retracted his elbow, getting ready for the deathblow. The blazing fire from the torches illuminated onto the naked blade of the sword and painted it red and green.

“Hold it!” Madam Yue suddenly shouted out. “Where is the Evil- Resisting Sword Manuscript then? To accuse one of stealing, at least you have to show the stolen goods as evidence. Do you think you can just

convince everyone by making slanderous accusations?”

“That’s right!” Cong Buqi replied. He took several steps toward

Madam Yue with a wicked grin. “That Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript is most likely hidden on you. I’d better do a body search so you won’t accuse us of making slanderous accusations.” He reached his left hand out toward Madam Yue’s bosom.

Madam Yue had been wounded in the legs and two of her acupoints were also sealed. She watched Cong Buqi’s big ugly hand reaching toward her, yet couldn’t move an inch. It would be a horrendous disgrace for her if his finger touched her skin. In tremendous despair, she shouted out loud,

“Apprentice brother Ding from Songshan Sword School!”

“What?” Ding Mian asked, not expecting a call from Madam Yue at

all.

“Your apprentice brother Chief Zuo is the chief of the Five Mountains

Sword Alliance, and sets a good example for everyone in the Martial World. Our Huashan Sword School also relies upon his leadership. How would you explain to him if you let this blatant scoundrel disgrace a woman?” Madam Yue challenged.

“Well….” Ding Mian pondered and did not answer.

“That crook was telling a bold lie when he said that they didn’t win with overwhelming numbers,” Madam Yue said. “And as regards to these two traitors of the Huashan Sword School, if any one of them can defeat my husband on his own in a fair fight, we will give up the post of Head Master with all respects and no complaints. Otherwise, you will never get the recognition from the thousands of fellow martial people.”

At the last word, she spat at Cong Buqi’s face, all of a sudden. Since Cong Buqi was right next to her, and Madam Yue’s action took him by a

complete surprise, he couldn’t move out of the way in time. The spit hit him right between his eyes.

“Damn you!” Cong Buqi cursed angrily.

“Listen up, you traitors! Your Sword-Branch only has low-grade

Kung Fu. It doesn’t require my husband. Even I, a woman, can kill you as easy as flipping my hand if I hadn’t fallen a prey of a plot and had my

acupoints sealed!” Madam Yue mocked furiously.

“Fine!” Ding Mian made his decision. He gave his black horse a light spur. The horse walked forward and circled behind Madam Yue. Turning his horsewhip around, he bent down slightly and poked it out. The shaft of the whip jabbed at three different acupoints on Madam Yue’s back. A shock ran through Madam Yue’s body as the two sealed acupoints were released.

As soon as Madam Yue gained control of her limbs again, she knew that Dian Mian intended to let her have a duel with Cong Buqi. The result of the duel would not only make a difference between life and death for the Yue family of three, it would also decide the ultimate fate of the entire

Huashan School. If she could defeat Cong Buqi, it probably wouldn’t turn danger into safety, but at least it would be a turn for the better. If she lost the duel, then there would be no hope. She grabbed her long sword, which was knocked down earlier, off the ground, and held it across her chest in a

stance. But her left leg suddenly gave out on her. She almost had to kneel down on her knees. The wounds on her legs were too severe, and as soon as she tried to use her legs, she found that they lacked enough strength to support her.

“You said you are only a woman. And now you are pretending to have injuries with your legs. Why are we having this sword contest at all? There’s no glory in beating you!” Cong Buqi burst into loud laughter.

Madam Yue wanted no more words from him. “Here it comes!” she yelled and shot out three thrusts in tremendous speed. She had attached her inner strength to the blade. The sword whistled as it stabbed forward. Out of the three thrusts, each thrust went faster than the previous one and all were aimed at her opponent’s vital parts.

“Nice!” Cong Buqi yelled as he took two steps back.

Normally, Madam Yue would have charged forward immediately following the attack, but she was afraid to take any risks with her weak legs and stood still instead.

Cong Buqi stepped forward again and started his own attack. Three loud rings echoed as flickers scattered in all directions. Those were three vicious thrusts, indeed. Madam Yue parried them one by one and immediately turned the third block into an attacking stance and stabbed at the enemy’s lower abdomen.

Yue Buqun stood by the side and watched his wife fighting the tough opponent with wounded legs. Cong Buqi’s sword techniques appeared to be delicate and exquisite. Compared to Madam Yue’s techniques, they had way more clever variations. After exchanging ten moves or so, Madam Yue

started to lose the agility and speed with her sword moves in her lower body. The Qi-Branch of the Huashan Sword School was good at overcoming the enemy with resourceful inner energy, but since Madam Yue had a hard time controlling her breathing after the injuries, her sword moves gradually lost the initiatives and became restricted by Cong Buqi’s moves. Yue Buqun was greatly worried, and he became even more concerned when he saw his wife accelerate her techniques.

“The Sword-Branch is better with their sword techniques, yet you are countering his sword techniques with your own. Countering the enemy’s

strong points with one’s shortcomings would only lead to a defeat,” he thought to himself.

Madam Yue also knew the fundamental ideas here within, but because the wounds on her legs were too severe, and in addition, her acupoints were sealed right after she inflicted the wounds, she was never able to tend the

wounds; even now the wounds were still bleeding, how could she have gathered her inner energy to counter the attacks? At the moment, it was only her determination that had kept her going, and although her sword moves never slowed down, the strength in each move had started to decrease quickly. After another ten moves or so, Cong Buqi had detected Madam Yue’s weak point. While feeling much delighted, he was in no rush for a quick win, and made sure he was putting up a good defense.

Linghu Chong was also watching the fight. Seeing that Cong Buqi’s moves all focused on techniques, not strengths, completely different from what his Master had taught him, he thought to himself, “No wonder our

school was divided into the Qi-Branch and the Sword-Branch. The two branches’ Kung Fu styles are indeed opposite of each other.”

He slowly struggled to get back on his feet. Reaching out around him, he found a long sword on the ground. “Our school has really suffered a

crushing defeat today!” he thought. “But I will not allow the stainless reputation of Master-Wife and apprentice sister get ruined by those

scoundrels. It seems that Master-Wife is no match for that man. Later I will have to kill Master-Wife and apprentice sister and then cut my own throat to preserve the reputation of our Huashan Sword School.” Madam Yue’s sword moves became more and more disorganized. Suddenly, she turned her sword in blazing speed and thrust it out with a loud whoosh. This was none other than that proud move of hers –

“Unrivaled and Unmatched, The Thrust of Ning.” The thrust carried great momentum. Regardless of Madam Yue’s severe injures, it still looked utterly majestic.

Cong Buqi was astounded. He leapt back in a great hurry and luckily was able to dodge away from it. If Madam Yue’s legs had been fine and that she followed the momentum with another attack, the enemy would have no chance of surviving, but all she could do was to hold her sword like a cane to keep her balance and wheezing like mad, her face completely pale.

“What’s the matter, Madam Yue? Have you finally used up all your strength? Can I search you now?” Cong Buqi grinned evilly as he stepped closer and closer toward Madam Yue, his left hand opening wide, high in the air.

Madam Yue wanted to raise her sword and thrust forward, but it

seemed as if her arm had weighed ten thousand pounds by then; she could no longer move her arm.

“Hold it!” Linghu Chong yelled as he walked by Madam Yue’s side. “Master-Wife!” he called out and was ready to thrust his sword out to take away her life, thus saving her from any disgraceful humiliation.

“Good child!” Madam Yue nodded, her eyes filled with satisfaction.

With all her strength exhausted, she could no longer keep herself in a standing position, and collapsed down onto the muddy ground.

“Get lost!” Cong Buqi yelled out while pricking his sword tip toward Linghu Chong’s throat.

Linghu Chong knew too well that he had no strength left with his arms. If he reached his sword out to block, his sword would be instantly knocked out of his grip. So seeing that the sword tip came toward his throat, without much thinking, he also thrust his sword toward Cong Buqi’s throat

– a move that would end in a common ruin for both of them. His thrust was not specifically quick, but the positioning was simply dazzling – it was none other than the “Sword-breaking Stance” out of the Dugu Nine Swords.

Cong Buqi was stunned. He had never anticipated such a sudden

counter attack from the young man covered in mud. Out of desperation, he dived down the ground and rolled till he was over ten feet away, and finally was able to dodge the thrust. If he had come up with his solution only one

second slower, he would not have survived it.

The entire audience watched Cong Buqi in such a sorry plight. By the time he leapt back onto his feet, his head, face, hands, and robe were

completely covered with mud. Some couldn’t help but burst into laughter. But after thinking about it some more, all had to agree that other than the rolling they had just seen, there was really no other way to dodge that move.

Hearing the laughter, Cong Buqi found himself consumed by embarrassment and fury. Holding his sword tight, he charged toward Linghu Chong in a leap.

Linghu Chong had made up his mind already. “I must not use any of my inner strength, and only counter him using sword stances taught by

Grand Uncle-Master.”

He was quite familiar with the Dugu Nine Swords already. He

wouldn’t have used it so boldly against such a tough enemy if it weren’t a life-threatening situation for him. Right on the edge between life and death, he surprisingly found his head clear of all other thoughts. Instantly, all the complicated and magical techniques in the “Sword-breaking Stance” came clearly before his mind’s eye. Seeing that Cong Buqi charged at him like a mad tiger, he spotted the flaw in Cong’s move instantaneously. Holding his sword in a slight angle, he aimed the tip toward Cong’s lower stomach.

When Cong Buqi charged forward, he figured that if his opponent didn’t dodge, then the opponent would have to block with his weapon, therefore, even though his lower stomach was open to attacks, he really had no need to defend that part. But to his surprise, Linghu Chong didn’t dodge and didn’t block either, only pointing his sword tip in an angle and waited for him to put his own stomach onto the sword tip. Before his feet landed back onto the ground, while his entire body was still in mid-air, Cong Buqi had realized the danger ahead. In a frantic rush, he swung his sword toward Linghu Chong’s sword. But Linghu Chong had anticipated that. He raised his right arm slightly. The sword went up two feet and now the sword tip pointed toward Cong Buqi’s chest.

Cong Buqi had hoped that when he swung his sword, it would smack against Linghu Chong’s long sword, and then he would be able to leap aside using that force. But he had never expected his opponent to turn his sword

and point it upward all of a sudden. His swing was only met by thin air.

And without any other forces, he could not change the direction his body was moving toward. He screamed in terror as his body flew right at Linghu Chong’s sword.

Feng Buping dived forward with a jump and reached out to grab at Cong Buqi’s back, but it was already too late. With a thump, Linghu

Chong’s sword tip had penetrated Cong Buqi’s shoulder.

Missing out on the grab, Feng Buping immediately drew his sword and slashed it at Linghu Chong’s back neck. Following normal sword art principles, Linghu Chong should have jumped back quickly before returning the attack, but with all his internal energy in a state of complete

chaos, which prevented him from using any bit of inner strength, he simply couldn’t jump back to dodge. Having no alternative, he retrieved his sword out from Cong Buqi’s shoulder and used another technique out of the Dugu Nine Swords. Stabbing his sword out with a backhand, he pointed the

sword tip at Feng Buping’s belly button. It looked almost as if it was another death-defying move of Linghu Chong that would end up in

common ruin, but the stab had a surprising position that his sword would have pierced the enemy’s belly before the enemy’s weapon would ever reach him. It would only be a split of a second difference in speed, but the end result would be dramatically different.

Feng Buping could tell that the opponent had no chance of fending off his slash, but to his great surprise, the young man conveniently launched a backhand stab toward his lower abdomen. What a vicious attack that was!

He quickly took several steps back. After taking in a deep breath, he

charged forward again with seven consecutive hits, each thrust or slash

swifter than the previous one. The attacks swept toward Linghu Chong like a storm.

Linghu Chong gave no thought of life or death. All he had in his mind were the various sword art techniques Feng Qingyang had taught him.

Occasionally, when a snapshot of the sword moves on the rock wall in the back cave flashed by in his head, he would simply use them at will following the essence flow of his swordplay. Within moments, the two had exchanged over seventy moves, yet their swords never even collided once. Regardless of attacking or defending, all the sword art techniques shown were clever and profound.

Watching the dazzling sword fight by the side, the entire audience couldn’t help but cheer inwardly. Everyone could hear the heavy panting from Linghu Chong. Clearly he didn’t have much strength in him.

However, brilliant sword moves and techniques emerged one after another from his sword with endless variations and changes. Every time when Feng Buping had difficulty countering Linghu Chong’s moves, he would simply chop and slash with sheer force, knowing that the opponent would never try to block it and end up in a competition of strength, thus getting himself out of trouble.

Seeing the display of the undignified fighting style, some bystanders couldn’t help but feel discontented. A Taoist priest from the Taishan Sword School spoke out.

“The apprentice from Qi-Branch has better sword skills and the

Uncle-Master from Sword-Branch has better inner strength. What the hell is going on? Has the Qi-Branch and the Sword-Branch switched place for

some fun?”

Feng Buping blushed at the remark as he waved his sword even faster, showering Linghu Chong in attacks like gusty wind and heavy rain. He was the best swordsman in the Sword-Branch of the Huashan Sword School, and his sword skills were indeed excellent.

Linghu Chong had no extra strength to move around. It already took all his strength to simply manage to stay standing. And because of that, he missed many good opportunities to secure a win. Besides, he was not yet proficient with all the sword techniques, and fighting such a top-notch fighter with his newly learned Dugu Nine Swords certainly aroused fear in his heart. As a result, the fight lasted for a long while and produced no

winner.

Another thirty or so moves passed. Linghu Chong noticed that if he had simply thrust out at will, his opponent would be in a frantic rush and have a hard time dealing with it, but if he had used any of the Huashan Sword School moves or moves of the Songshan, Hengshan, or Taishan

sword schools drawn on the rock wall in the back cave, Feng Buping would be able to counter well and launch his counterattack immediately after.

Once when Feng Buping drew three arcs at him with his long sword, his

entire right arm was almost chopped off. Awfully dangerous indeed! Amid the frenzies, Feng Qingyang’s words suddenly came to his mind, “When you don’t have a sword stance, your enemy would have no way of

countering it. Overcoming stances without a stance achieves the ultimate acme of sword art.”

Actually through the over two hundred moves he exchanged with Feng Buping, he had comprehended the superb techniques of the Dugu Nine Swords better and better. Regardless of how vicious or fierce Feng Buping’s sword moves were, he would always be able to spot the

weaknesses and flaws within Feng’s sword moves, and a simple thrust or slash from him, at will, would always force Feng Buping to retract his

sword to defend. After some more moves exchanged, he slowly gained his confidence. By the time he remembered the key of “Overcoming stances without a stance” told by Feng Qingyang, he took a long breath and thrust

his sword out with an odd angle. This thrust wasn’t part of any sword move, not even part of the sword moves from the “Sword-breaking Stance” of the Dugu Nine Swords. It was weak, and tilted. Even he himself didn’t know

where he was pointing the sword.

“What kind of move is that?” Feng Buping thought to himself,

confused. Not knowing how to counter that, he waved his own sword to protect his upper body.

Since Linghu Chong didn’t have any limit or restriction with that thrust to start with, seeing that his opponent had guarded his upper body well, he gave a gentle shake to the sword tip and stabbed it at Feng

Buping’s waist. Feng Buping didn’t anticipate such an odd change at all. Astounded, he leapt back three steps, while Linghu Chong remained still, not having any strength to lunge after him.

The fight had lasted for quite a while now. Even though Linghu Chong didn’t use a bit of his inner energy, waving the sword about did

require quite some strength. Feeling exhausted, he breathed heavily while pressing his hand on his chest.

Realizing that Linghu Chong didn’t follow up with the attack, Feng Buping didn’t want the fight to just end like that. He sprang back and shot out four thrusts in a row toward Linghu Chong’s chest, stomach, waist, and shoulder. Linghu Chong flicked his wrist and stabbed the sword toward Feng’s left eye. Uttering a cry of shock, Feng Buping leapt back three steps again.

“Strange! Strange! That man’s sword art is very admirable,” The

Taoist Priest from Taishan Sword School spoke again. The entire audience felt the same way, knowing that “that man’s sword art” he admired had to be Linghu Chong’s sword art, not Feng Buping’s.

Feng Buping also heard the remark. He thought to himself, “I am able to take over the Huashan Sword School because I am the Head Master of the Sword-Branch. If I can’t even defeat an apprentice of the Qi-Branch, not only would my grandiose plan to be the Head Master of Huashan Sword School burst in bubbles, I would certainly end up living a hermit’s life again in some remote valley, too ashamed to face anyone in the Martial World.”

At that thought, he cried inwardly, “At this point, there’s no need to hide it any more!”

With a loud roar, he charged forward in an angle, slashing his long

sword horizontally and then bringing it swishing down through the air in an unprecedented speed. Within only five moves, whistles from wind gusts had rose dimly. He waved his sword faster and faster and the sound of the wind gusts also became louder and louder.

This set of sword art was called the “Quick Blizzard Sword Stance,” and was created by Feng Buping while he lived in seclusion in Mount Zhongtiao for fifteen years. Each move would be even faster than the previous one, and the sound of wind gust would be louder and louder as

well. It was the most valued sword art of his. Having some lofty aspirations, he not only wanted to head the entire Huashan Sword School, but also

wished to become the chief of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance after getting the Head Master post. And this “Quick Blizzard Sword Stance” with one hundred and eight moves would have been the tool to help him achieve his goals. He really didn’t want to recklessly show this special skill of his, because once it was shown, it would no longer be a secret weapon of his,

and if he got into fights with elite fighters, the enemy would have had precautions, and the effect of the set of sword arts would no longer be so dramatic. But there was no way to back down from the fight right now. If he couldn’t defeat Linghu Chong, he would lose all face right at this moment. He was pretty much forced into using it as the last resort.

This set of “Quick Blizzard Sword Stance” was incredibly powerful without a doubt. The force created by the blade extended slowly. The

audience could feel the cold front moving toward them while the wind gusts blew onto their faces and hands harshly, making them very uncomfortable, so everyone stepped back more and more. The circle around the two fighters gradually grew bigger and bigger, and soon reached the size of fifty feet in diameter.

By now, even the many masters from the Songshan, Taishan,

Hengshan sword schools, and the Yue Buqun couple dared not underestimate Feng Buping. They all felt that not only his sword moves were brilliant, but also the swift and fierce force created by his blade. He apparently didn’t only rely on his sword moves to win his battles. Feng Buping wasn’t a renowned master in the Martial World; who would have thought that his sword skill was so incredible.

Flames from torches held by the many riders were all blown toward the outside by the forces from the blade, and the sound of wind gusts still seemed to be getting louder and louder.

In the eyes of the many witnesses, Linghu Chong was almost like a small boat traveling in a huge storm with crashing waves hundreds of feet high. In the roaring wind, terrifying waves smashed toward the small boat

like landslides. But the small boat rode the wave high and low, never being swallowed by the mountain-sized waves.

The faster Feng Buping attacked, the more principles and essence of the sword art Linghu Chong comprehended based on the teaching of Feng Qingyang. The more they fought, the better Linghu Chong understood. And the better he was able to understand the many techniques of the sword

stances, the more confident he became. He found himself in no rush to end the fight; instead, he watched the various variations in the opponent’s sword moves with rapt attention.

The “Quick Blizzard Sword Stance” was indeed very quick. Within moments, Feng Buping had used up the entire one hundred and eight moves. Seeing that it still failed to bring Linghu Chong down, he became restless with anxiety. Roaring in fury, he slashed and chopped with his long sword like a mad man, intending to force the opponent to block his attacks.

Linghu Chong was a bit frightened when he saw Feng Buping going all out in such a death-defying manner. Afraid to keep the fight any longer, he shook the blade of the long sword. “Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, and

swoosh!” The blade had left one cut each on Feng Buping’s left arm, right arm, left leg, and right leg. “Clank,” Feng Buping’s sword fell down to the ground.

Because Linghu Chong didn’t have much strength with his hand, the four thrusts were all done quite lightly, but that was enough to turn Feng

Buping’s face completely pale.

“Fine! Fine!” Feng Buping murmured. He turned around and cupped his hands toward Ding Mian, Lu Bai, and Tang Ying-E the trio. “Three

apprentice brothers of the Songshan Sword School, will you please tell

Chief Zuo that I am truly grateful for his great kindness. But…but my skills aren’t good enough, and I am too ashamed…ashamed…” He cupped his hands again and then walked away quickly. After ten steps or so, he

suddenly stopped and called out.

“Young man, your sword skills are truly incredible. I bow before you.

But with such outstanding sword skills, I am sure even Yue Buqun is no match for you. May I have the honor to hear your respectful name, and the name of the great master who taught you the sword art, so I know who and what sword art I had lost to?”

“My name is Linghu Chong,” Linghu Chong replied. “I am the Head Apprentice of my respectful Master – Yue Buqun. It was only because of your mercy, senior master, that I was able to win a move by sheer luck.

There’s nothing to be proud of.”

Feng Buping heaved a long sigh, his voice dreary and gloomy.

Slowly, he walked away, and soon, faded into the darkness.

Ding Mian, Lu Bai, and Tang Ying-E looked at each other, all thinking, “My sword skills perhaps aren’t even as good as Feng Buping’s. Then of course I would be no match for Linghu Chong, either. If we swarm forward to attack Linghu Chong all together, it wouldn’t be a difficult task to slice him into bits and pieces on the spot. But when so many masters from different schools are here as well, something like that would be

completely out of the question.” With the same thought in mind, the three nodded at each other.

“Nephew Linghu,” Ding Mian said in a loud voice, “your sword art is brilliant and broadened everyone’s horizons. Farewell for now. I am sure

we’ll meet again someday!”

“Let’s go!” Tang Ying-E waved his left hand and then turned his horse around. Giving the horse a good spur, he rode away like a wind. The rest of the group followed behind him, and within moments, all vanished into the darkness. The sounds of hoof beats became lighter and lighter, and soon, the night was, once again, swept with silence. By now, other than the bunch from the Huashan Sword School, there were only those masked men left outside of the monastery.

The old man in the mask let out a few wry laughs and broke the

silence. “Young hero Linghu, you have outstanding sword skills and we all admire you truly. Yue Buqun’s Kung Fu skills are far from yours. You

should have been the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School.” He paused for a second and then continued, “After seeing the brilliant sword art you have displayed, we really should have beaten a retreat in the face of difficulties. But since we have greatly offended your respectful school, it’s going to be endless trouble for us. Well, we must destroy both the root and the branches. I guess we’d better take advantage of you while you are injured and take you on with overwhelming numbers then.”

He signaled with a whistle, and the rest of the fourteen masked men pushed their position forward and surrounded Linghu Chong. When Ding Mian and the bunch left, they threw their torches on the ground randomly.

The flames had not been extinguished yet, so only the lower portion of

everyone’s body was lit, and their body portion above their waists remained vague in the dark. Their weapons shined from reflections of the flames as the fifteen masked men closed in on Linghu Chong.

When Linghu Chong fought Feng Buping earlier, even though it didn’t consume any of his inner energy, it did exhaust him and covered him with sweat. The reason he was able to defeat the first-class master of the

Huashan Sword School Sword-Branch was because he had learned the Dugu Nine Swords and was able to take the initiative of the different

moves. But these fifteen men in mask had many different types of weapons and used many different styles of moves. When they all attacked at once, there would be no way for him to counter each one of them. Without the

ability to use his inner energy, he couldn’t even jump forward three feet or leap five feet sideways, how would he manage to break out from the

combined attack of the fifteen elite fighters? He let out a deep sigh and turned his eyes toward Yue Lingshan, knowing that this would probably be the last glance before his end, and hoping that he would get some relief from the expression on Yue Lingshan’s face. Sure enough, he found Yue Lingshan’s pretty eyes fixed on him filled with worry and care. Linghu

Chong felt a surge of joy. Then, he saw her hand hang by her side, and it was holding a hand of a man. A quick glance told Linghu Chong that the man was none other than Lin Pingzhi. Welled with depression, Linghu

Chong lost his will to fight completely and almost wanted to throw down his long sword and simply let the enemy have him.

Afraid of the brilliant performance he had shown during the fierce fight with Feng Buping, the fifteen masked men approached forward half a step at a time, on one dared to launch the first attack.

Linghu Chong turned around slowly and stared at the fifteen masked men. Their thirty eyes shined through the holes on their masks like the eyes of fierce wild animals, filled with cruelty and hostility. Suddenly, a thought sparked in his head.

“The eighth stance of the Dugu Nine Sword, ‘Missile-breaking Stance,’ can counter all types of projectiles and darts. Even if the enemy has shot thousands of arrows at me, or dozens of people shooting many kinds of projectiles and darts at me, I would be able to knock all of them down using this one stance.”

“Let’s attack all at once and cut him into shreds!” the old man in the mask shouted.

Having no time for any further thoughts, Linghu Chong sent his sword out and used the “Missile-breaking Stance” of the Dugu Nine

Swords. The tip of the sword vibrated as it thrust at the eyes of the fifteen men. Cries in terror rose one after another, and then bangs echoed as the many kinds of weapons fell to the ground. Within a split of a second, Linghu Chong had blinded the thirty eyes of the fifteen masked men with extraordinarily swift thrusts.

The “Missile-breaking Stance” of the Dugu Nine Swords was capable of hitting thousands of projectiles and darts. To be able to hit the thousands of targets, of course some would be hit before some others. But because the thrusts were so fast that it seemed as if all the thrusts were shot out at the

exact same time. This stance must be able to hit every target with every thrust. If one thrust had missed the target, the enemy’s dart would have hit the practitioner. Linghu Chong was not proficient with this stance, yet, but it was obviously much easier to try to hit human eyes that were slowly

approaching compared to hitting projectiles and darts approaching in high speed. He thrust out thirty times and hit all thirty eyes on target.

As soon as he completed the thrusts, Linghu Chong dashed out from the crowd. Holding on to the doorframe, he trembled hard, his face completely pale. Then a loud bang echoed as his sword fell out of his hand and hit the ground. He watched as the fifteen masked men each having their hands covering their eyes, blood dripping out from between their fingers.

Some squatted down to the ground; some cried out loudly; some rolled back and forth in mud.

When the fifteen masked men, all of a sudden, saw only complete darkness accompanied by excruciating pain, in astonishment and terror, all they could think of was to cover their eyes and cry in pain. If they had been able to calm down and continue with their group attack, Linghu Chong for sure would have been chopped into shreds. But regardless of how high one’s Kung Fu skills are, who would be able to stay calm when someone had blinded his eyes, all of a sudden? Who would be able to continue his

attacks toward the enemy? The fifteen men stumbled about in every direction like a bunch of headless flies, not able to decide what to do next.

In the critical moment, Linghu Chong actually managed to succeed with his strike. He was overjoyed. But seeing the pitiful sight, he couldn’t help but feel a mixed feeling of fear and pity.

Half shocked and half joyful, Yue Buqun yelled loudly, “Chong, cut their tendons in their legs so we can interrogate them slowly.”

“Yes…yes….” Linghu Chong answered and bent down to retrieve his sword. But when he used that move a moment ago, it had actually triggered the energy flow inside him. Trembling nonstop, he simply could not grab onto his long sword. Then his knee gave out completely and he collapsed.

“Everyone, use your right hand to pick up your weapon and use your left hand to grab onto the waistband from the one next to you. Then follow me!” the old man in the mask shouted.

The other fourteen masked men had been at a loss on what to do. Getting the command from the old man, all bent down to fumble on the ground. And regardless of what kind of weapon they were able to grab onto, they would pick it up. Some were able to pick up two and some weren’t

even able to find one. Each one grabbed onto a fellow masked man’s

waistband and stringed himself together with the group. Following the old man, all of them staggered their way through the puddles of mud and disappeared in the pouring rain.

Except for Madam Yue and Linghu Chong, all members of the

Huashan Sword School had their acupoints sealed and couldn’t move an inch. Madam Yue had severe wounds on both of her legs and couldn’t walk. Linghu Chong, on the other hand, had lost all his strength and could only lie on the ground still. Everyone could clearly see that the fifteen masked men had become completely defenseless, yet none could keep them from getting away.

Chapter 13: Learning Music

Linghu Chong tried playing the "Song of Blue Heaven". Although the fingering was not fluent, in addition, several notes were off, from the music, one could still vision the spectacular spacious view of the cloudless sky.

The night was quiet now. The only noise came from the heavy breathings of the many Huashan apprentices.

“Hero Linghu, aren’t you going to release my sealed acupoints, or are you waiting for us to beg you?” Yue Buqun suddenly broke the silence in a chilling tone.

Linghu Chong was stunned. “Master, why…why are you kidding me like that? I…I’ll help release your acupoints right away.” His voice trembled.

Getting back onto his feet after some hard struggles, he staggered by Yue Buqun.

“Ma…Master, which acupoints?” he asked.

Yue Buqun was furious. He remembered how Linghu Chong had put on the act of stabbing himself on Mount Huashan, not wanting to kill Tian Boguang. Then, of course, it was just the same kind of act Linghu Chong was playing right now. This way, he could let the fifteen masked men

escape by intentionally not releasing his Master’s sealed acupoints for a delay, afraid that his Master would chase after those masked villains. At that thought, he yelled angrily, “Save your breath!”

He continued working on gathering his inner energy using the Divine Art of the Violet Twilight in an effort to break open the sealed acupoints.

Ever since the enemy had sealed his acupoints, he had been trying to break them open using his strong inner energy. But the one who had sealed his

acupoints did it with a tremendous amount of force, and in addition, among the sealed acupoints were Yu-Zhen, Tan-Zhong, Ju-Zhui, Jian-Zhen, and Zhi-Tang those major acupoints. When he sent his inner energy flowing through his inner channels and passages, the flow was somewhat blocked in those major acupoints, which greatly reduced the power of the Divine Art of Violet Twilight and made it very hard to break them open.

Linghu Chong wanted to help his Master in releasing the sealed

acupoints, but he simply didn’t have any strength left in him. Again and

again, he struggled to raise his arm, but every time the effort only made him feel sick while seeing golden flickers circling in front of his eyes and hearing loud buzzing sound in his ear. So all he could do was to lie next to Yue Buqun and wait for his Master to release his acupoints with his own

efforts.

Madam Yue also lay on the ground facing down. Earlier in the state of fury, she had accidentally misdirected her inner energy. As a result, not only couldn’t she gather her strength at all, she couldn’t even lift her hand up to cover the wounds on her legs.

It was already daybreak by now, and the rain had finally stopped.

People’s faces became clearer and clearer in the dim light of dawn. A white and thick mist appeared on Yue Buqun’s head as he worked hard on breaking his sealed acupoints open. His face almost turned completely purple. Suddenly, he uttered a loud roar as his inner energy finally broke through all his sealed acupoints and begun circulation around his body.

Leaping back onto his feet, he circled around all of the Huashan

apprentices, patting and smacking on some of them while poking or pinching some others. Within moments, he had opened all the sealed

acupoints for everyone. Then sitting by Madam Yue, he started sending his inner energy into Madam Yue through her acupoints to help her redirect her own energy flow. Meanwhile, Yue Lingshan rushed forward hurriedly and started tending the wounds on her mother’s legs.

Thinking back about how narrowly everyone had escaped death the night before, all the apprentices shivered in their hearts, feeling as if they were given a new life. And the heartbreaking scene of the beheaded Liang Fa’s corpse only brought down more tears from the many Huashan

apprentices. Several female apprentices burst into loud cries. The same thought floated in everyone’s mind, “Fortunately big apprentice brother defeated the bunch of villains, or else it would be dreadful to even

contemplate.”

Seeing that Linghu Chong was still lying in a puddle of mud, Gao Gengming strode by him and prodded him up.

“Chong, where are those fifteen masked men from?” Yue Buqun asked dryly.

“I…I don’t know, Master,” Linghu Chong muttered.

“You do know them, right? Are they your friends?” Yue Buqun asked again.

“I’ve never met any one of them before last night,” Linghu Chong gasped in astonishment.

“If so, when I told you to keep them here, so we could interrogate them later, why did you ignore my order?”

“I…I…was too exhausted and couldn’t gather any strength. Even now…now….” His body wobbled. It looked as if just to remain standing up was already a tough task for him.

“What a fine act!” Yue Buqun snorted.

Sweat streamed down from Linghu Chong’s forehead. He bent his knees and knelt down on the ground.

“I was an orphan when I was young, and thanks to the immense kindness of Master and Master-Wife, you took me under your wings and treated me like your own son. I am indeed an unworthy apprentice, but I would never dare disobey my Master’s orders or deceive Master and

Master-Wife intentionally.” “You dare not to deceive me and your Master-Wife? Humph, then where did you learn those sword arts of yours? Don’t tell me that a spirit just fell out of the sky and taught you those in your dreams.” Yue Buqun scoffed.

“I beg for your forgiveness, Master. The senior master who taught me the sword arts specifically asked me to promise that I would keep his name a secret and never tell anyone about the origin of the sword arts, not even my Master and Master-Wife.” Linghu Chong explained hurriedly, bumping his head to the floor again and again toward his Master.

“That’s of course.” Yue Buqun sneered. “With such superb Kung Fu, it’s only natural that you think nothing of your Master and Master-Wife.

How would the little bit of Kung Fu from our Huashan Sword School ever stand a chance against a blow from your super sword? Didn’t that old man in mask mention it? You should have been the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School all along.”

Daring not to reply, Linghu Chong kept kowtowing as many thoughts flashed inside his head. “If I don’t tell them how Grand Uncle-Master Feng taught me the sword arts, Master and Master-Wife would certainly not forgive me. But a true man must keep his own words. Even Tian Boguang, an evil rapist, didn’t let out anything about Grand Uncle-Master Feng when the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies performed the much torturing and torments on him. I owe Grand Uncle-Master a great debt of gratitude; I will not let him down. My loyalty towards Master and Master-Wife is true, and Heaven can be my witness. Being wronged like this temporarily is really no big deal.”

“Master, Master-Wife,” Linghu Chong said, “it’s not that I am so bold as to disobey Master’s orders. There are really some unspeakable causes here. Please allow me to beg that senior master and ask for his permission, so I can tell Master and Master-Wife everything in a later date. By then, I would not dare to keep any detail to myself.”

“Fine! You can get up now,” Yue Buqun replied.

Linghu Chong kowtowed to his Master again before standing up.

Suddenly, both of his knees gave out on him and he fell back to the kneeling position. Lin Pingzhi happened to be standing next to Linghu Chong. Reaching his arm out, he propped Linghu Chong up.

“Your sword skills are excellent, and your acting skills are even better,” Yue Buqun said with a sneer.

Afraid to say another word, Linghu Chong kept his silence. “I can never say enough about my gratitude to Master,” he thought. “Even though he wronged me this time, one day, the truth will eventually come to light.

This whole thing is so very odd. I really can’t blame the respectful Master for feeling suspicious.” Though he had been wronged, he really had no resentments.

Madam Yue’s voice rose in a warm tone, “If it weren’t for Chong’s ingenious sword arts, not only would the entire Huashan Sword School be wiped out, perhaps all the female apprentices would have suffered tremendous humiliation. Regardless of who that senior master is, because he taught Chong the sword arts, we have benefited from his grace a great deal. And regarding the origin of those fifteen villains, I am sure we’ll find that out one day. How could they have been Chong’s friends? Weren’t they going to slice Chong into shreds? Didn’t Chong blind all of them with his stabs?”

His head held high, Yue Buqun seemed to have fallen into a daze and didn’t hear a single word from Madam Yue.

The many apprentices soon found themselves busy with different things. Some started a fire and worked on preparing breakfast; some dug a grave and buried Liang Fa. After breakfast, everyone changed into dry clothes from their packs. All the apprentices stared at Yue Buqun and

waited for his command. “Are we still going to Mount Songshan to have it out with Chief Zuo?” they all thought. “Since Feng Buping has lost to big apprentice brother in the sword contest, he would be too embarrassed to fight for the Huashan Sword School Head Master post again.”

“Junior apprentice sister, where do you think we should go?” Yue Buqun asked Madam Yue.

“There’s no need to go to Mount Songshan now. But since we are

already far from Mount Huashan, there’s no need to go back in any hurry, either,” Madam Yue remarked. She was so afraid of the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies and dared not to go right back so soon.

“In any case, since we have some time now, I think it’s a good idea to travel around a bit and see the world. It would generate good experience for all the apprentices,” Yue Buqun replied.

Yue Lingshan was overjoyed. “Wonderful, Daddy….” She clapped her hands. But she suddenly remembered that it would be very inappropriate to look so happy when her senior apprentice brother Liang Fa had just been killed. She halted abruptly only after one clap.

“Look how excited you get every time when I mention the word travel. Alright, we‘ll let you have the fun. Lingshan, where would you like to go visit?” Yue Buqun asked with a smile, looking toward Lin Pingzhi as he spoke.

“Daddy, if we are going to have fun, we might as well have some big fun. I say the further we go the better. It would be really disappointing if we head back after only a hundred miles out or so. Why don’t we go visit Little Lin’s hometown? Second apprentice brother and I have been to Fuzhou before, but too bad that I had to disguise myself into an ugly girl and didn’t get to walk around much. I didn’t see jack! The longan fruits in Fujian are so big and yummy. And there’re also oranges, banyan trees, and narcissus flowers….”

Madam Yue shook her head. “Fujian Province is thousands of miles away from here. We don’t have that kind of money to travel! Unless

Huashan School turns into the Beggars Clan, and we just all beg our way through.”

“Master, Master-Wife, we are only a couple of days trip away from Henan Province. My grandparents live in Luoyang,” Lin Pingzhi said.

“Oh, that’s right. Your grandfather Wang Yuanba, the Unbeatable Golden Blade, lives in Luoyang,” Madam Yue responded.

“Both of my parents have passed away. I would love to visit my grandpa and grandma so they could get the details on my parents’ death. I

am certain that my grandpa and grandma would be honored to have Master, Master-Wife, and apprentice brothers and sisters as their guests, and spend some time there. Then after that, we can take our time on our tour and visit my hometown in Fujian. I was able to seize a good amount of gold and jewels back from the Qingcheng Sword School at the Changsha branch of the Escort House, so please don’t worry…about the traveling expenses,” Lin Pingzhi replied.

Ever since Madam Yue stabbed the Fruit Fairy, she had been in a

constant state of worry. It was all still so clear in her memory how four of the Fairies had grabbed her arms and legs and lifted her off ground. Every time she thought of it, she would freeze with terror. And then the horrifying scene of Chen Buyou’s death, with blood and internal organs splashing

everywhere as he was tore into four pieces, would follow, driving her crazy with fear. Horrifying nightmares had been haunting her for many nights.

She knew clearly that they were really fleeing from a calamity under the name of going to Mount Songshan to reason with the Songshan Sword School. Seeing that Lin Pingzhi had invited everyone to visit Fujian after her husband gave him a glance, she figured that the further they could flee the better. Besides, her husband and herself had never visited the south part of the country before, so it didn’t sound like a bad idea to check it out at all. With these thoughts in her mind, she spoke with a smile.

“Senior apprentice brother, Little Lin is offering free food and lodging. Care to take advantage of him?”

“Pingzhi’s grandfather, Unbeatable Golden Blade, enjoys great fame in the central region. I’ve been looking forward to meeting him someday, but unfortunately never had the chance. Putian in Fujian Province is where the Southern Shaolin Temple resides. It couldn’t have lacked reputable masters. Let’s pay a visit to Luoyang and Fujian Province. It would

certainly be a worthwhile trip if we are lucky to make some friends along the trip.” Yue Buqun smiled.

Hearing that the Master had agreed to go on a trip to Fujian for fun, the many apprentices were all jubilant. Gazing at each other, Lin Pingzhi and Yue Lingshan found themselves wild with joy.

Linghu Chong was the only one in low spirit.

“Of all the places, why did Master and Master-Wife pick Luoyang to visit apprentice brother Lin’s grandpa and Fujian, which is thousands of miles away?” Linghu Chong couldn’t help but think. “It is self-evident that they have decided to betroth little apprentice sister to apprentice brother Lin. They are going to Luoyang to visit the seniors of his family for an

engagement, and when we get to Fujian, they’d probably hold the wedding ceremony right at Lin Family’s house. I am only an orphan who has no parents, nor relatives, while his family owned Fortune Prestige Escort

House, which has so many branches in so many cities. How can I be any match for him? Apprentice brother Lin is going to Luoyang to visit his grandpa and grandma. When I follow him there, what would I have become?”

He felt even more displeased seeing how the apprentice brothers and sisters all bursting with joy with no regard to the tragic death of Liang Fa.

“Maybe I should just leave quietly in the dark tonight after we settle in an inn,” he thought to himself. “How can I just follow everyone else to

enjoy apprentice brother Lin’s free meals and spend his money, and then put on an air of cheerfulness to congratulate little apprentice sister and him,

wishing them to live happily ever after?”

The group of Huashan School hit the road again as Linghu Chong followed behind. Weak and exhausted, he walked slower and slower, and

soon, he fell far behind everyone else. By noon, he decided to sit down on a big rock alongside the road to catch his breath, when he saw Lao Denuo

stride back in big steps.

“Big apprentice brother! How do you feel? You must be tired. I’ll wait for you,” Lao Denuo said.

“Oh, thanks!” Linghu Chong replied.

“Master-Wife has hired a wagon for you in the town ahead. It should be coming anytime now,” Lao Denuo mentioned.

Warmth swelled in Linghu Chong’s heart. “Although Master is

suspicious of me, Master-Wife is still treating me dearly,” he thought to himself.

Not long after, a mule-pulled wagon showed up. Linghu Chong

entered the wagon and Lao Denuo accompanied him by his side. That night, when they settled in an inn, Lao Denuo shared the same room with him.

And in the following two days, Lao Denuo never even went out of his sight. Linghu Chong was quite grateful that a fellow apprentice brother was so kind to care for a wounded patient.

“When junior apprentice brother Lao joined our Huashan School, he had already received prior martial arts training. He is much older than I am, and wouldn’t even spare much word with me during normal days. Who

would have thought that he would treat me with so much caring after what happened to me. All the other apprentice brothers don’t even dare to talk with me much, after seeing the stern face Master has shown me. The old

saying is so true: As distance will test a horse’s endurance, so will time reveal a person’s heart.”

At the third night, as Linghu Chong was resting in bed with his eyes shut, some kind of whisper suddenly caught his attention. It was little

apprentice brother Shu Qi whispering at the door.

“Second apprentice brother, Master sent me to check with you if big apprentice brother has done anything unusual today.”

“Hush! Outside!” Lao Denuo hushed hurriedly and whispered back.

A cold shiver ran through Linghu Chong’s heart. Just from these few words he had realized what a tremendous suspicion Master actually had toward him. Master only sent Lao Denuo to secretly keep a watch on his

every move.

Shu Qi walked away on tiptoes, and Lao Denuo walked by the bed slowly to check if Linghu Chong had really fallen asleep.

Infuriated, Linghu Chong almost wanted to leap onto his feet right away and yell at him, but then he had a second thought.

“Why should I blame him? He really has nothing to do with this. He is only following Master’s order. Would he have dared to defy the Master?” So he forced back his anger and pretended to have fallen asleep. Lao Denuo walked out of the room gingerly. Linghu Chong knew that he must have gone to the Master for a report. He couldn’t help but sneer inwardly, “Humph, I never did anything guilty. Even if you have ten or one hundred people watching every step of mine, days and nights, I am open

and aboveboard. What’s there for me to be afraid of?”

Indignation filled his heart as he breathed wildly, and suddenly, it triggered a slight inner energy flow inside him. Waves of energy streams

swirled inside him and made him feel miserable. He held onto the headrest tightly and gasped loudly. Only after a long while, the nausea finally went away. He sat up, threw on some clothing, and started to put on his shoes, thinking, “Since Master is no longer treating me like an apprentice of his, and instead, is on guard against me as if I am a thief, why should I even bother to stay in the Huashan Sword School? Maybe it would be better if I simply leave and not worry about whether Master would ever understand me one day.”

Right at that moment, he heard more whispers from under the window on the outside.

“Stay down and don’t move,” a voice said.

“Sounds like big apprentice brother is getting off his bed,” another voice replied.

The two said those words in whisper, but because it was a silent night, besides that Linghu Chong had excellent hearing abilities, he was actually

able to hear every single word clearly and also recognize that the voices belonged to two young apprentice brothers of his. Apparently they were hiding in the courtyard to guard the room in case Linghu Chong would flee.

Linghu Chong clenched his fists hard. Cracks from his knuckles

echoed in the silent night. “If I leave now, they would think that my guilty conscience has overcome me, and I am running away. Fine! Fine! I’d rather stay! You can do whatever you want to me! What do I care?” he thought.

“Waiter, waiter! Bring me some wine!” he suddenly broke into a loud

yell.

After quite some shouting, the waiter finally answered and brought

him some wine. One cup after another, Linghu Chong slammed the wine down his throat. Soon he became dead drunk and passed out. The next morning when Lao Denuo prodded him into the wagon, half drunk and half awake, he just kept yelling, “Bring me more wine, I want more wine!”

Several days later, the Huashan group arrived at the city of Luoyang and settled in a big inn. Lin Pingzhi went to his grandfather’s house by himself, first. Yue Buqun and the bunch of apprentices all changed into

clean clothing. Linghu Chong never took off the mud stained long robe he wore in the fierce fight outside of the monastery, so he was still covered with filth and looked very drunk. Yue Lingshan came to him with a long robe in her hands.

“Big apprentice brother, will you change into this robe please?”

“This is Master’s robe. Why do you want me to put it on?” Linghu Chong asked.

“Little Lin is inviting us to his family a bit later. Why don’t you put Dad’s robe on?” Yue Lingshan answered.

“Who said we have to put on nice clothing before visiting his family?” Linghu Chong snubbed as he looked at Yue Lingshan up and down.

Yue Lingshan wore a thin cotton-padded jacket with green silk tops paired with a light green satin skirt. She had put on a thin layer of makeup on her face. Her dark hair was neatly combed and shined beautifully with a flower shaped pearl hairpin by the side. Linghu Chong remembered that she would only dress up nicely during the Chinese New Year. Feeling bitter in his heart, he wanted to spill out some more mocking words, but then he thought that a true man shouldn’t act so narrow-mindedly, and held his tongue.

Yue Lingshan felt somewhat embarrassed from Linghu Chong’s sharp stare. “If you don’t want to, then you don’t have to change,” she said.

“I am not used to wearing new clothes. I’d better not change then,” Linghu Chong replied.

Not wanting to argue with him, Yue Lingshan left with the robe still in her hands.

A resonant voice rose from outside the door, “Head Master Yue has come such a long way here, and I didn’t greet promptly. What a lack of manners!”

Yue Buqun knew that it must have been the Unbeatable Golden Blade

– Wang Yuanba – who had come to the inn personally to greet them.

Casting a pleased smile toward his wife, he felt quite contented. After the

couple greeted out, what they saw was an old man in his seventies. His face shined in a healthy redness while the bush of grey beard drifted in the breeze. He looked certainly hale and hearty. In his left palm were two goose-egg-sized golden balls, which rubbed against each other and echoed as he rolled them in his hand. It was common for martial people to play

with iron balls in their hands, but they would have been made out of iron or steel. What Wang Yuanba had in his hands were two balls made from pure gold, which not only were twice the weight of regular iron balls, but also looked much more luxurious. As soon as he spotted Yue Buqun, he burst into joy.

“What an honor this is! Head Master Yue has such a great reputation in the Martial World. I have been longing to meet you for the last twenty years. Now that you have come to Luo Yang, what a wonderful event it is for the martial arts society in the central region.”

He shook Yue Buqun’s right hand again and again happily. The joy on his face was truly sincere.

“My wife and I have decided to bring our apprentices to travel around so they could gain some experience in the world,” Yue Buqun said with a

smile. “And you, the Unbeatable Golden Blade Grandmaster Wang, the Great Master of the Central Region, is the first on our list to visit, but the

dozens of us are really being crude to just show up so abruptly uninvited.” “Alright now, nobody is allowed to mention the words ‘Unbeatable

Golden Blade’ again in front of Head Master Yue. Anyone mentioning those words would be only putting me done instead of flattering me. Mr. Yue, your saving of my grandson is a favor tantamount to giving him a new lease on life. Starting from now on, the House of Golden Blade and the Sword School of Huashan are both parts of one big family. Come, come!

All of you will move to my house. No one will be allowed to leave until you have lived in my house for at least half a year. Head Master Yue, I’ll even help you carry your luggage.”

“That’s very kind of you! I certainly don’t deserve that!” Yue Buqun replied in a hurry.

“Bofen, Zhongqiang, kowtow to Uncle-Master Yue and Uncle-

Master-Wife Yue,” Wang Yuanba turned his head and called to his two sons standing behind him.

Wang Bofen and Wang Zhongqiang both acknowledged and knelt down to salute. In a hurry, the Yue Buqun couple also knelt down to salute back.

“Please just call us by our names. ‘Uncle-Master’ would be so inappropriate. Even just for Pingzhi’s sake, we are of the same generation,” Yue Buqun remarked.

Wang Bofen and Wang Zhongqiang are both famous masters around the Henan Province and Hubei Province. Though they had always admired Yue Buqun, neither of them really wanted to kowtow to him. They had knelt down reluctantly only because their father had told them to do so, so both were very pleased to see that the Yue Buqun couple also kowtowed back to them. All four of them stood up after saluting each other.

Yue Buqun took a good look at the two: both brothers were tall, only that Wang Zhongqiang was a lot chubbier in comparison, and both had temples plumped high and strong veins and bones that could be clearly seen on their hands. Evidently, the two brothers had great strength both internally and externally.

“All of you come forward and show your respect to Grandmaster Wang and the two Uncle-Masters,” Yue Buqun called out to the Huashan apprentices. “The House of Golden Blade’s martial arts skills enjoyed a great reputation in the central region of the martial society. Our

Grandmaster in the last generation also respected the House of Golden

Blade very much. You are very fortunate to have Grandmaster Wang and the two Uncle-Masters give you some pointers. I am sure you will all benefit a great deal from this.”

“Yes, Master!” the many apprentices replied in unison, and seconds later, the lobby of the inn was filled with apprentices kneeling down on the floor, showing their respects.

“You really flatter me!” Wang Yuanba smiled brightly as Wang Bofen and Wang Zhongqiang both cupped their hands and greeted back with a half salute.

Lin Pingzhi stood by the side and introduced each of the Huashan

apprentices to his grandpa. The Wang Family was a wealthy family. Wang Yuanba had prepared presents for each of the guests ahead of time. Each gift consisted of forty taels of silver. The two brothers in the Wang Family took on the job of distributing the presents. By the time Lin Pingzhi introduced Yue Lingshan, Wang Yuanba said to Yue Buqun with a big grin.

“Little brother Yue, your daughter is such a beautiful girl; is she engaged to anyone yet?”

“The girl is still too young. Besides, in a martial family like ours, a girl plays with swords and knives all day long just like any boy would. She doesn’t know anything about embroidering or cooking. Who would want

such a wild girl to be their daughter-in-law?” Yue Buqun also grinned.

“You are really being modest!” Wang Yuanba replied with a beam.

“An extraordinary family would, of course, raise an extraordinary daughter.

It is only natural that lads from ordinary families would not have dared to claim kinship with her. But you are right, it would be better if the girl learned some girly things.” At that word, he lowered his voice and seemed to have lost in deep feelings.

Yue Buqun knew that he must have thought of his daughter who had passed away in Hunan Province not long ago, so he put on a solemn face and responded, “Yes.”

Wang Yuanba was a man of frank and open personality. He quickly put himself together from the pain of losing a daughter and spoke again with a bright smile.

“Your daughter is talented and beautiful. It would certainly be a difficult task to find a young hero good enough to pair up with her.”

By then, Lao Denuo had gone back in the inn room and prodded Linghu Chong out. Staggering along, Linghu Chong kowtowed to neither Wang Yuanba nor the Wang brothers, and only bowed down deeply. “Linghu Chong here shows his respect to Grandmaster Wang and the two Uncle-Masters,” he said.

“Aren’t you going to kowtow?” Yue Buqun frowned.

Wang Yuanba had heard from his grandson earlier that Linghu Chong had severe internal wounds, so he said with a smile, “Nephew Linghu is not feeling well. There’s no need for excessive manners. Little brother Yue, your Huashan School’s inner energy skill is said to be the best in the Five Mountains Sword Alliance, then I am sure your wine tolerance must be

extraordinary. Come on! Let’s go drink ten bowls of wine each.”

Holding Yue Buqun’s hand in his own, he led Yue Buqun out of the inn. Madam Yue, Wang Bofen, Wang Zhongqiang, and the rest of the

Huashan apprentices all followed behind them. Many wagons and horses had been lined up outside of the inn with fine-looking saddles and bridle; wagons for all the females and horses for the males, ready to take the honorable guests. It was a mere two hours between the time Lin Pingzhi headed out to inform the Wang Family and the time Wang Yuanba came to

the inn to greet his guests. Only from the fact that all the wagons and horses had been ready in such a short time, one can easily tell the kind of great power the Golden Blade Wang Family enjoyed in the city of Luoyang.

The group soon arrived at the mansion of the Wang Family. The building looked tall and majestic with a gate painted in vermilion. The two huge copper rings attached to the gate must have been cleaned frequently as they dazzled brilliantly in the sunlight. Eight brawny guards stood by the gate silently, their arms behind their back, all ready to take commands from their Master. And inside the gate, a huge black board hung from the girder with the words “Help for a Just Cause” painted in gold. The words at the lower portion of the board showed that a governor of Henan Province had inscribed the calligraphy. That night, Wang Yuanba put out a large banquet to welcome Yue

Buqun and the rest of the Huashan apprentices. Not only did he invite many famous masters in the local martial arts society to welcome the noble visitors, among the guests were also numerous wealthy business owners and local celebrities. Linghu Chong was the Head Apprentice of the Huashan Sword School, so other than his Master Yue Buqun, he had the most

seniority among all the male visitors. Noticing the filthy and tattered

clothing he was wearing and the listless face of his, all the guests found themselves puzzled inside. But it was common knowledge that the Martial World did not lack people of strange and unique behaviors. Didn’t elite masters from the Beggars Clan all wear ragged clothing? Since he was the Head Apprentice of the Huashan Sword School, he couldn’t have been ordinary; therefore no one had any belittling thought about Linghu Chong.

Linghu Chong was seated at the second table, accompanied by one of the hosts, Wang Bofen. Soon, the wine had gone around three times. Wang Bofen couldn’t help but notice that Linghu Chong had maintained an indifferent face throughout the time, and would only reply once a while to his attempt to make conversations – apparently Linghu Chong didn’t really think much of him at all. Then he remembered that earlier in the inn, Linghu Chong didn’t even kowtow to them, yet had no problem accepting the present of forty taels of silver. Feeling very displeased, he decided to

change the topic to something in regards to martial arts techniques. So he casually asked for Linghu Chong’s opinion on several martial arts related questions that were in the advanced level, but Linghu Chong only nodded and agreed, never really answering any of them.

Actually, Linghu Chong didn’t have any ill feeling against Wang Bofen at all. It was just that after seeing the luxurious life of the Wang

Family, he realized that the difference between his indigence and the wealth of the Wang Family was so dramatic. It was almost like the difference between Heaven and earth. Lin Pingzhi had changed into a long robe made of silk brocade after he came to his grandfather’s house. He had a handsome face to start with, so after dressing up, he looked extremely elegant and graceful. Linghu Chong simply couldn’t help but feel a sense of inferiority and inadequacy.

“Even if little apprentice sister didn’t become a couple with him and stayed the same to me, what future would she have staying with a pauper like me?” he thought.

All his minds focused around Yue Lingshan, so naturally, regardless of what Wang Bofen said to him, nothing really went into his ears.

Enjoying a great fame in the martial arts society around the central region, Wang Bofen had been used to people fawning on him left and right, yet tonight, he kept getting snags from the young man named Linghu

Chong. Normally, he would have let his temper loose right at the beginning, but for the sake of his dead sister and the fact that his father had great respect toward the Huashan Sword School, he worked hard to hold his temper down and just kept toasting to Linghu Chong.

Every time when someone toasted Linghu Chong, he would slam down the wine in his cup without thinking, so before he even knew it, forty cups of wine or so had gone down his throat. He used to have very good tolerance of wine. Even over a hundred cups worth of wine wouldn’t have made a difference for him. But because he had lost all his inner energy, his tolerance was reduced quite a bit. And in addition, with a tremendous

amount of anxiety gnawing at his heart, each cup of wine seemed to have had a much greater effect on him. By the time he drank up all those forty cups of wine, he was already feeling dizzy. “This lad doesn’t know the ways of the world at all,” Wang Bofen thought. “My nephew is your apprentice brother, so you should have called me an Uncle-Master, or simply uncle. It is all right that you didn’t call me an uncle, but how dare you ignore me completely like this? Very well! I am

going to get you drunk and let you make a fool out of yourself in front of all these guests.”

Seeing that Linghu Chong could barely keep his eyes open and was tipsy already, he said with a smile, “Little brother Linghu is the Head

Apprentice of the Huashan Sword School, and sure enough, he is an outstanding young hero. Not only is his Kung Fu skill extraordinary, his wine tolerance is also extraordinary. Servants! Get rid of the tiny cup. Get Mister Linghu a big bowl and keep it filled!”

The servants cheered and filled Linghu Chong’s bowl with wine.

Throughout Linghu Chong’s life, he had never stopped anyone from pouring wine for him, so as soon as his bowl was filled, he would empty it down his throat. Not long after, he had drunk up another five or six bowls

worth of wine. Suddenly, with a wave of his arm, he swept all the plates and cups in front of him off the table.

“Young hero Linghu has had a drop too much! Better drink a cup of hot tea to sober up,” guests from the same table all suggested.

“There’s no way the Head Apprentice of the Huashan Sword School would get drunk so easily! Little brother Linghu, drink up!” Wang Bofen beamed as he filled Linghu Chong’s bowl once again.

“Who…who said I am drunk? Bottoms up!” Linghu Chong replied.

He picked up the wine and started pouring it down with big swallows. Half of the wine actually ended up dripping down his robe. All of a sudden, his body jerked as he opened his mouth wide and started vomiting, and

seconds later, the entire tabletop was covered with “wine” and “dishes” that had been inside his stomach just moments ago. People around the table dodged backward in shock while a smirk ran across Wang Bofen’s lips.

Hundreds of pairs of eyes were immediately fixed onto Linghu Chong. Yue Buqun and Madam Yue both frowned, thinking, “This lad

really doesn’t know how to behave in formal occasions. He has just made a fool of himself in front of so many noble guests.”

Lao Denuo and Lin Pingzhi both rushed forward and held Linghu Chong in support.

“Big apprentice brother, why don’t I walk you back to rest?” Lin Pingzhi suggested.

“I…I am not drunk. I can drink more. Give me more wine!” Linghu Chong rebuffed.

“Sure! Sure! Someone brings some more wine out,” Lin Pingzhi replied.

“You…you…Little Lin, why aren’t you spending time with little apprentice sister? What are you dragging me for?” Linghu Chong cast a sidelong and bleary-eyed glance at Lin Pingzhi.

“Big apprentice brother,” Lao Denuo said, “let’s go take a break.

There’s a bit crowd here, we’ve got to watch our mouth.”

“Watch my mouth? Humph! Master sent you to keep watch on me.

Have you found any proof yet?” Linghu Chong snapped.

Afraid that Linghu Chong could speak anything without thinking in his drunkenness, Lao Denuo held Linghu Chong’s arms and pushed him all the way into the guest room at the back with the help from Lin Pingzhi.

Yue Buqun also heard Linghu Chong’s words. Even though Yue

Buqun was well self-cultivated, he couldn’t help but show an annoyed face. “Little brother Yue,” Wang Yuanba soothed, “that was only nonsense

from the mouth of a drunken young lad. Why bother? Come on, let’s enjoy our wine!”

“The lad is from the countryside and hasn’t had much chance with formal settings. Will you please pardon him, Grandmaster Wang?” Yue Buqun replied with a forced smile.

After the banquet was over, Yue Buqun told Lao Denuo to stop following Linghu Chong around and only watch him in secret.

It was not until the next afternoon before Linghu Chong finally woke up. Remembering none of what he had said the previous day, he found himself with a terrible headache – almost felt as if his head had been

cracked open. Taking a look around, he found himself the only occupant of a neat and clean room. He stepped out of the guest room but didn’t see any of his apprentice brothers. After inquiring the servants, he learned that they all went to the Training Hall at the backside to swap pointers in martial arts training with the sons and apprentices of the Wang Family.

“Why bother tangle up with them? I’d be better off just take a hike myself,” Linghu Chong thought to himself as he stalked out of the gate and off to the street.

Luo Yang had been the capital for many different dynasties. There were many good-sized buildings everywhere, yet the streets weren’t very busy. Linghu Chong was not very literate and only had a very limited knowledge about history. Staring at the many historical sites in the city of Luoyang, he had no idea as to what they were and what they were for.

Bored stiff, he strolled aimlessly into a small alley. Then something caught his attention. Seven or eight local punks were playing a game of gambling inside a small tavern. Pushing his way through the crowd to the front, he took out the package of the present he had received from Wang Yuanba the previous day. Retrieving the silver out, he joined the game with keen interests. Not until dusk did he finally returned, tipsy from drinking more wine. For the next several days, he kept going back to gamble and drink

with the bunch of local punks. In the first couple of days, he had some good luck and won several taels of silver, but by the fourth day, he kept losing,

and soon his forty taels of silver were completely cleaned out. Naturally, the group of punks kicked him out of the game. Feeling quite infuriated, Linghu Chong kept asking for more wine, but after only a couple of kettles of wine were served, the bartender asked.

“Young man, you’ve lost all your money in the gambling game. How are you going to pay for the wine?”

“Write it under my tab. I’ll pay you tomorrow,” Linghu Chong replied.

“Our business is very small. We don’t give credits to anyone, not even relatives or close friends.” The bartender shook his head.

Infuriated, Linghu Chong snarled, “How dare you think I don’t have any money!”

“Sorry,” the bartender replied with a smirk, “show your money and you’ll get your wine! No money, no wine, no credit!”

Linghu Chong glanced over himself. His ragged and tattered clothing certainly didn’t help convince the bartender that he might be a wealthy man. Other than the long sword by his waist, he really didn’t have anything else that might be worth any money, so he untied the long sword from his

waistband and threw it onto the table.

“Take this to the pawnshop!” he said.

Wanting to win more money out from him, one of the punks replied in a rush, “Sure! I’ll pawn it for you!” He took the long sword and left.

With that assurance, the bartender took out another two kettles of

wine for Linghu Chong. By the time Linghu Chong finished one, the punk had returned with some small pieces of silver. “It’s pawned for three taels and four ounces,” the punk said as he gave the silver and the pawn ticket to Linghu Chong.

Linghu Chong weighted the silver in his hand. It didn’t even weigh a full three taels, but he didn’t complain and went straight back into the gambling game. The game lasted till around dusk when the three taels of

silver exchanged hands again – from both losing in the gambling and paying for the wine he drank.

“Hey, loan me three taels of silver. I’ll pay you back double the

amount if I win,” Linghu Chong said to a punk named Twitch-Lip Chen. “What if you lose?” Twitch-Lip Chen asked with a snicker.

“If I lose, I’ll pay you back tomorrow,” Linghu Chong answered.

“How do I know if you have money at home or not? If you lose, how are you going to pay me back? Are you gonna sell your bitch or your sister then?” Twitch-Lip Chen mocked.

Linghu Chong’s anger exploded. He raised his arm and slapped Chen across the face with a backhand. By then, he had consumed a good amount of wine and was already half drunk. Reaching out, he snatched the small pile of silver in front of Twitch-Lip Chen.

“What the hell! This son of a bitch is a mugger,” Twitch-Lip Chen yelled out loud.

The group of punks all came from the same clan, and immediately, they swarmed forward and started throwing punches toward Linghu Chong. Having no sword in his hand and having no strength to defend himself, Linghu Chong was pushed down on the ground. The punks punched and kicked, and within moments, gave Linghu Chong bruises all over his face

and his body.

Sounds of hoof beats rose. Several horses came by in short trots. “Move out of the way! Get lost!” someone on the horseback yelled and whipped his horsewhip to drive away the punks.

Linghu Chong just lay still on the ground face down and couldn’t even get up.

A girl’s voice suddenly cried out, “Isn’t that big apprentice brother?” It was the voice of Yue Lingshan.

“Let me take a look,” another voice answered. It was Lin Pingzhi this

time.

Lin Pingzhi dismounted from his horse and then turned Linghu

Chong’s body around. “Big apprentice brother? Are you ok?” he cried out in shock as soon as he recognized Linghu Chong’s face.

“I got drunk! And I lost my bets!” Linghu Chong squeezed out a wry smile and shook his head.

In a hurry, Lin Pingzhi propped him up and helped him onto the horseback. Besides Lin Pingzhi and Yue Lingshan, there were four other riders in the pack – they were the two daughters of Wang Bofen and the two sons of Wang Zhongqiang, cousins of Lin Pingzhi. The six of them had set out in the morning to tour around the various temples and historical sites in the city of Luoyang, and were on their way back home after the fun. They

certainly didn’t expect to find a Linghu Chong all beat up in the middle of the small alley. All four of them were astounded.

“The Huashan Sword School is a member of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance,” they thought. “When Grandpa mentioned about them, he would always praise dearly. And when we exchanged pointers with them in martial arts a couple of days ago, they did each show outstanding Kung Fu skills. Isn’t this Linghu Chong the Head Apprentice of the Huashan Sword School? How come he couldn’t even overcome several local punks? But if Linghu Chong’s nose was really bleeding so badly, how could this not be true? How odd!”

Returning back to Wang Yuanba’s mansion, Linghu Chong slowly recovered after several days of good rest. Yue Buqun and Madam Yue were both aggravated at the news that Linghu Chong went gambling with some local rascals and went in a fistfight after losing his money, and neither of them paid a visit to him. By the fifth day, Wang Jiaju, the younger son of Wang Zhongqiang, walked in Linghu Chong’s room excitedly.

“Big brother Linghu, I’ve vented the spleen for you today! I gathered up the seven punks who beat you up that day and gave them each some good lashes.”

Linghu Chong didn’t really mind this incident much, so he replied

casually, “That’s really not necessary. I got drunk that day, and it was really my fault to start with.”

“Nah, they can’t do that to you. You are a guest of the Golden Blade Wang Family. How can the Golden Blade Wang Family let its guest get beat up in the city of Luoyang and not get even? If we don’t straighten this out, would others still show the same kind of respect to the Golden Blade Wang Family?” Wang Jiaju disagreed.

Deep inside Linghu Chong’s heart, he had already disliked the

“Golden Blade Wang Family.” Now when he heard Wang Jiaju mention the “Golden Blade Wang Family” left and right, as if the “Golden Blade Wang Family” was the most powerful and influential family in the entire Martial World, he couldn’t help but mock, “It sure takes the Golden Blade Wang Family to deal with a bunch of punks and rascals.”

As soon as the words came out of his mouth, he regretted saying them. Just when he was about to apologize, Wang Jiaju had responded with a stern face. “Brother Linghu, what are you talking about? If it weren’t for my brother and I who drove those seven punks away, would you still be alive today?”

“I do owe the two of you a debt of gratitude for saving my life,” Linghu Chong replied with a casual smile.

Wang Jiaju could tell from how Linghu Chong said the words that it was sarcastic and that he didn’t mean it at all. Feeling more irritated, he

snapped.

“You are the Head Apprentice of the Huashan Sword School, yet you couldn’t even handle a couple of local punks and rascals in Luoyang.

Humph, aren’t people going to say that you don’t deserve your reputation?”

At this time, Linghu Chong really didn’t care about anything. So he replied, “I don’t even have a reputation to start with, what’s there to deserve or what not?”

“Brother, what are you discussing about with brother Linghu?” a voice rose from outside the door. Then the curtain was lifted and a man walked in. It was Wang Jiajun, the elder son of Wang Zhongqiang.

“Brother, I thought I’d be doing him a favor and help vent his anger, when I gathered up those seven punks, and gave each of them some good lashing. Who would have thought that this Hero Linghu would blame me for interfering?” Wang Jiaju exclaimed angrily.

“Ah, there’s something you don’t know,” Wang Jiajun responded. “I just heard from apprentice sister Yue a moment ago that this brother Linghu is very good at concealing his real abilities. That day outside the monastery of the Buddha of Herb, he blinded fifteen first-class fighters’ eyes with only one swing of his long sword. What brilliant sword art that must have been! Got to be very rare indeed! Ha-ha!” His grin had a sense of mockery.

Obviously he didn’t believe a single word from Yue Lingshan. Wang Jiaju also let out a big grin. “I suppose the martial arts skills of those fifteen first-class fighters must be far from the martial arts skills of the local punks in Luoyang then! Ha-ha! Ha-ha!”

Those words didn’t bother Linghu Chong a bit. He chuckled and then simply sat down on his chair, swaying back and forth gently with his arms around his right knee.

Wang Jiajun was actually sent here by his father and his uncle to interrogate Linghu Chong. Originally, the brothers Wang Bofen and Wang Zhongqiang had told him to try to coax secret using kind words without offending the guest, but seeing the arrogant look on Linghu Chong’s face and how he had treated the two brothers like dirt, he lost his temper.

“Brother Linghu, would you be kind enough to answer a question of mine?” He raised his voice high.

“Certainly,” Linghu Chong answered.

“I heard from cousin Pingzhi that when my uncle and aunt passed

away, brother Linghu was the only one there to attend upon,” Wang Jiajun said.

“That’s right.” Linghu Chong nodded.

“Then it was you, brother Linghu, who passed the last words from my uncle and aunt to my cousin Pingzhi?” Wang Jiajun continued.

“Correct,” Linghu Chong replied.

“Then how about my uncle’s ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript’?” Wang Jiajun pressed on.

At these words, Linghu Chong stood up abruptly. “What did you say?” he yelled loudly.

Worried that Linghu Chong might launch a sudden attack against him, Wang Jiajun took a step back. “My uncle owned the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript’ and asked you to give it to my cousin Pingzhi. Why haven’t you given it to him?” he charged.

Hearing such irresponsible calumniation from him, Linghu Chong trembled in rage. “Who…who said that there’s an ‘Evil-Resisting Sword… Sword Manuscript’ for…for me to give to apprentice brother Lin?” he

asked with a trembling voice.

“If there isn’t one, why do you look so scared and can’t even talk right? Aren’t you showing a guilty conscience?” Wang Jiajun challenged with a smirk.

“Brothers, I am a guest here in your house. Do these words of yours represent what your father and grandpa think of me, or simply what the two of you think of me?” Linghu Chong asked, working hard to control his temper.

“I am just asking you a casual question. What’s the big deal? It has nothing to do with my grandpa or my dad. But it is well known in the

Martial World that the Evil-Resisting Sword Art of the Lin Family in Fuzhou is a very powerful sword art. Since Uncle Lin passed away so abruptly, and the precious ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript’ that he

always carried with him disappeared all of a sudden, as his close relatives, we certainly want to hear about it,” Wang Jiajun replied.

“Little Lin sent you to ask me the question, didn’t he? Why doesn’t he come and ask himself?” Linghu Chong mocked.

“Cousin Pingzhi is your junior apprentice brother. How would he ever dare to ask you?” Wang Jiaju let out some laughs.

“Now with your Luoyang Golden Blade Wang Family backing him up, humph, you sure can force me to talk now. Why don’t you go get Lin Pingzhi now?” Linghu Chong sneered. “You are the guest of the house. We dare not force you to talk. The two brothers of us are simply curious about it; that’s why we asked the question. If brother Linghu is willing to answer, that would be great. If you do not want to answer, then there’s really nothing we can do about it,”

Wang Jiajun said.

Linghu Chong nodded. “I don’t want to answer. There’s nothing you can do about it. Please leave me alone now!”

The Wang brothers gazed at each other in speechless despair. Neither had expected Linghu Chong to be so straightforward and closed the topic so quickly. Wang Jiajun cleared his throat and then tried to start the

conversation again.

“Brother Linghu, you blinded fifteen first-class fighters’ eyes with only one thrust of your sword. This move is brilliant. Perhaps you learned it from the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript,’ didn’t you?”

Linghu Chong was dumbfounded. Cold sweats broke out all over his body and his hands trembled. It had all become so clear to him now: “I have been wondering about this for many days. Why didn’t Master, Master-Wife, and the bunch of apprentice brothers and sisters feel grateful that I saved their lives, yet they all became suspicious of me? Now I know! That’s it! So they are all convinced that I embezzled Lin Zhennan’s ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript.’ Since they’ve never seen the Dugu Nine Swords before, and I refuse to let out the secret that Grand Uncle-Master Feng trained me in sword art, when they saw that my sword skills progressed so tremendously, all of a sudden, after spending several months on top of the ‘Cliff of Contemplation,’ they all concluded that I had learned brilliant

sword techniques from the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript.’ If that

wasn’t the case, where else would I be able to learn such terrific sword arts? It was such a coincident that Grand Uncle-Master Feng showed up and taught me sword arts. No one would ever have expected that. But when the Lin Zhennan couple passed away, I was the only one by their side, so naturally everyone would assume that the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword

Manuscript’, the ultimate sword art book that many elite masters would cast greedy eyes on, had fallen into my hands. It is understandable that others

would have guessed like that. But Master and Master-Wife have brought me up, and little apprentice sister is as close to me as a real sister. They all know me well yet didn’t trust me on this one. Humph, you have really belittled me!” At that thought, his face naturally showed the expression of indignation.

“I guessed it right, didn’t I?” Wang Jiajun said with a triumphant grin on his lips. “Where is the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript’ then? We are not interested in reading it at all. All we want is to return the manuscript to its rightful owner. Just give the sword art manuscript back to cousin Lin,

will you?”

“I’ve never seen any ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript’.” Linghu Chong shook his head. “Chief Master Lin and his wife were taken

prisoners, first by the Qingcheng Sword School, then by ‘Hunchback of the North’ Mu Gaofeng. If he had any sword art manuscript on him, they would have found it first.”

“Precisely!” Wang Jiajun immediately followed. “The ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript’ is so precious. Why would my uncle and aunt carry it

everywhere with them? Of course they had hid it in a very secret place, and only before they passed away, they asked you to pass the message on to

cousin Pingzhi. Who would have thought…who would have thought that…? Humph!”

“Who would have thought that you would go find it behind

everyone’s back and embezzled it to be your own!” Wang Jiaju finished the sentence for his brother.

The more Linghu Chong heard, the angrier he became. He really didn’t want to argue any more, but since this was a very important matter, he would not want to take the blame for it. So he responded.

“If Chief Master Lin really had such a brilliant sword arts manuscript, he should have become invincible himself. Why couldn’t he even defeat a

couple of apprentices from the Qingcheng Sword School and was taken prisoner by them?”

“That…that….” Wang Jiaju could not find any answer to that question and became tongue-tied.

Wang Jiajun, on the other hand, had a glib tongue. He argued, “That wasn’t unique. Brother Linghu, you learned the Evil-Resisting Sword Art

and achieved outstanding sword skills, yet you couldn’t even defeat several punks and rascals and was taken prisoner by them. How are you going to

explain that then? Ha-ha, it’s called pretending. It’s too bad that you have gone a bit too far this time. The Head Apprentice of the Huashan Sword School couldn’t even defend himself against several punks on the Luoyang streets. No one will ever be convinced by this act of yours. And since this is completely impossible, then it must be a trick. Brother Linghu, why don’t you listen to my advice and just admit it?”

Under normal circumstances, Linghu Chong would have answered back sarcastically. But what had happened was such a coincidence, which set him right under the spotlight with the most suspicion. He cared nothing

about the “Golden Blade Wang Family” or the young Wang brothers, but he couldn’t let Master, Master-Wife, and little apprentice sister be suspicious of him.

“I, Linghu Chong, have never seen anything called ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript.’ What Chief Master Lin from Fuzhou told me before he passed away I have already passed on to apprentice brother Lin without omitting a single word. If I had lied about any part of it, may Heaven cast me down to Hell for eternal suffering and never bring me back,” Linghu Chong spoke with a solemn face. He positioned his hands behind his back after those words, his face looking awe-inspiring with ultimate righteousness.

“Did you think you can get yourself off the hook so easily just by

swearing a casual oath? We are talking about a serious matter concerning a secret martial arts manuscript here. Did you think everyone is plain stupid?” Wang Jiajun grinned.

“So what’s your idea then?” Linghu Chong asked while forcing himself to stay calm.

“Please pardon our boldness, but we’d like to make a body search on you, brother Linghu,” Wang Jiaju suggested. He paused for a second and then added with a smirk, “That day when brother Linghu was seized by those seven punks and couldn’t move a muscle, they could have searched all over you, couldn’t they?”

“You want to make a body search on me? Humph! Are you saying that I am a thief?” Linghu Chong mocked with a sneer.

“We dare not!” Wang Jiajun replied. “Since you stated that you never took the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Art,’ why be afraid to let us search you?

Once we do a body search on you and there isn’t any sword manuscript on you, you would be cleared from suspicion. Wouldn’t you want that?”

“Fine! Why don’t you go get apprentice brother Lin and apprentice

sister Yue, so the two of them can be witnesses?” Linghu Chong nodded his agreement.

But Wang Jiajun didn’t like the idea at all, fearing that as soon as he walked away and left his brother alone with Linghu Chong, Linghu Chong would be able to overpower his brother with ease. But if both of them went together, then of course Linghu Chong would hide the “Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript” and they would have no chance of finding it ever again. So he rejected.

“The search would still be the same. If you aren’t afraid of the search, why use so many excuses?”

Linghu Chong thought to himself, “I agree to let you search my body only because I want to prove my innocence in front of the Master, Master- Wife, and little apprentice sister, the three of them. Whether you believe me or not, what do I care? There’s no way I am going to let your filthy claws touch my body if little apprentice sister weren’t here.” So he shook his head slowly.

“Just the two of you? I am afraid you are not worthy of searching

me!”

The more Linghu Chong objected to the search, the more the two

Wang brothers were convinced that the “Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript” was hidden on Linghu Chong’s body. If they were able to find the “Evil-

Resisting Sword Manuscript,” then firstly, they would look really good in front of their father and uncle, and secondly, they’ve heard that the “Evil- Resisting Sword Manuscript” contained superior sword art techniques, and since they were the ones who found it, Cousin Lin would have no choice

but to let them borrow the manuscript and take a look at it. Wang Jiajun had seen with his own eyes the other day that Linghu Chong couldn’t even defend himself when the several rascals subdued him and gave him a good beating. He concluded that Linghu Chong must be only good with sword techniques, but not hand combat techniques. It would be a perfect opportunity right now when Linghu Chong had no sword in his hands. So he threw a meaningful glance at his brother before speaking to Linghu Chong again.

“Brother Linghu, better not refuse a toast only to drink a forfeit. It’s not going to be a pleasant scene if we get on the wrong side of each other.”

With those words, the two brothers closed in on Linghu Chong. Suddenly, Wang Jiaju squared his shoulders and charged forward.

Linghu Chong raised his arm to block. “Hey, you hit me!” Wang Jiaju yelled out loud as he locked Linghu Chong’s wrist and then pushed down with his elbow. Knowing that Linghu Chong is the Head Apprentice of the Huashan Sword School, not someone to be overlooked, he applied the joint manipulation techniques of the Wang Family with all his strength.

Linghu Chong was an experienced fighter. As soon as he saw Wang Jiaju charging in like that, he knew the opponent was all hostile. He had many different counter attacks in mind with this block. When the opponent locked his wrist, he could have turned his arm over and thrust it down in an angle to launch his counter-attack, but because he had lost all his inner

strength and even though he executed the technique the right way, there was no strength behind it. He felt a tingle from the joint on his right arm and then heard a crack. Wang Jiaju had broken his right elbow. Excruciating pain immediately consumed him.

Wang Jiaju was quite ruthless. As soon as he broke Linghu Chong’s right arm with a push, he threw a claw hand and dislocated Linghu Chong’s shoulder immediately after.

“Brother, quick! Search him!” he shouted.

Kneeling down on Linghu Chong’s legs with his left leg to prevent Linghu Chong from throwing any kicks, Wang Jiajun reached into Linghu Chong’s chest pocket and began to empty it. Suddenly, his hand came to

contact with a thin booklet. He took it out quickly. “Here it is! Here it is! Here’s Uncle Lin’s ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript’!”

The two brothers flipped the booklet open in a rash. There were three words written on the first page in ancient scripts14 – Smiling Proud

Wanderer. The Wang brothers were only roughly literate. If those words had been written in normal script, they would have recognized them. But since they were all in ancient scripts, they had no clue. Flipping to the next page, they saw even stranger symbols and characters all over the page. They didn’t know that those were actually symbols and characters for music

scores, and since they had assumed that this was none other than the “Evil- Resisting Sword Manuscript,” by now, all their suspicious had been cleared away.

“Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript! Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript!” the two brothers shouted in unison.

“Let’s show it to Father,” Wang Jiajun suggested. He took the booklet and ran out.

“You shameless thief!” Wang Jiaju cursed as he kicked Linghu Chong in the waist heavily. After spitting on Linghu Chong’s face, he also ran out of the room.

At first, Linghu Chong felt as if his chest was going to explode from the unbearable fury. But then he thought, “Those two brats are simply idiots. Their grandfather and father can’t be so stupid. When they find out that this is only a music score, for sure they would come to apologize.” Waves of pain came from his dislocated shoulder and elbow. He couldn’t help but groan. “I’ve lost all my inner strength, and can’t even defend myself against punks and rascals off the street. I am a good-for-nothing now. What’s the point of staying alive in this world, then?” He lay on the bed, sweating in pain. Tears streamed down as he grieved over himself. But remembering that the Wang brothers must be returning soon, he wiped off his tears so that he wouldn’t show a sign of weakness.

After a long while, sound of footsteps rose. The Wang brothers rushed back in a hurry.

“Go see my grandpa,” Wang Jiajun said with a sneer.

“No way!” Linghu Chong rebuffed angrily. “Your grandpa should have come here to apologize to me. Why should I go see him?”

The Wang brothers burst into loud laughter.

“My grandpa apologizes to you? Dream on! Let’s go!” Wang Jiaju scoffed.

The two brothers grabbed onto Linghu Chong’s robe, picked him off the bed, and carried him out.

“Your Golden Blade Wang Family still calls yourself chivalrous? You are arrogant and conceited, despicable and shameless,” Linghu Chong

cursed.

Wang Jiajun slapped Linghu Chong with a backhand, which bruised Linghu Chong’s face and blood started dripping down his lips. But Linghu Chong kept on cursing while the Wang brothers carried him all the way into the Back Hall.

Wang Yuanba and the Yue Buqun couple had been waiting in the

Back Hall. Wang Bofen and Wang Zhongqiang also sat by Wang Yuanba. But that didn’t keep Linghu Chong from spilling profanities non-stop.

“Golden Blade Wang Family, what a shameless and contemptible family. I’ve never seen a family so low and dirty in the entire Martial World!”

“Chong, shut up!” Yue Buqun yelled with a stern face. Hearing his Master’s rebuke, Linghu Chong finally stopped cursing, but he still glared at Wang Yuanba with angry eyes.

Holding the music score booklet in his hand, Wang Yuanba asked casually, “Nephew Linghu, where did you get this ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript’?”

Raising his head high, Linghu Chong laughed out loud.

“Chong, when a senior asks you a question, you answer to the best knowledge of yours. How dare you to be so rude? Where are you manners?” Yue Buqun admonished.

“Master,” Linghu Chong answered, “because of my internal wounds, I have no strength left in me. And look how those two brats have treated me? Humph, is this how a guest should be treated?”

“Our Wang Family would never dare offend a good friend or a noble guest,” Wang Zhongqiang replied. “But you have failed the trust from a dying man and pocketed the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript’ to be your own. That’s the act of a thief. The Golden Blade Wang Family in Luoyang is an honest family. How can we still treat you like a friend?”

“All three generations of your Wang Family keep on saying that this is the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript.’ Have you ever seen the ‘Evil- Resisting Sword Manuscript’ before? How are you so sure that this is the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript’?” Linghu Chong challenged.

Wang Zhongqiang dazed for a second before replying, “This booklet was found on you, and apprentice brother Yue also confirmed that this is not a martial arts manuscript of the Huashan Sword School, then how can it not be the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript’?”

Fuming with anger, Linghu Chong couldn’t help but laugh. “If you claim that this is the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript,’ then ‘Evil-

Resisting Sword Manuscript’ it is! I wish your Golden Blade Wang Family will have a wonderful time learning the techniques and master the invincible sword arts. From now on, your Wang Family in Luoyang can be called the Ultimate Blade and Sword! Ha-ha! Ha-ha!”

“Nephew Linghu,” Wang Yuanba said, “please don’t take offense on what my grandchildren did to you. Everyone makes mistakes. As long as one will admit his mistake and correct himself, he will still be treated with respect. Since you have already given out the sword arts manuscript, just for the sake of your Master, I will not investigate any further. Starting from today, no one will ever mention this incident again. Why don’t I put your dislocated shoulder and elbow back, first.” At that word, he stood up and walked toward Linghu Chong and reached for Linghu Chong’s left hand.

“Hold it! I don’t need you to play up to me,” Linghu Chong snapped, taking two abrupt steps back.

“What playing up to you?” Wang Yuanba was stunned.

“I am not a puppet. So you just break my arm when you feel like it and put it back when you change your mind?” Linghu Chong growled. He

walked a few steps to the left until he was in front of Madam Yue and then called out, “Master-Wife!”

Madam Yue heaved a sigh and then put his dislocated joints back to

place.

“Master-Wife, this clearly is a music score booklet for zither and

flute. These people of the Wang Family are totally illiterate and insist on saying that it is the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript.’ What a big joke!” Linghu Chong explained.

“Grandmaster Wang, is it alright if I take a look at this booklet?” Madam Yue said to Wang Yuanba.

“Ah, here you go, Madam Yue.” Wang Yuanba handed the booklet

over. After flipping through several pages and browsing through, Madam Yue herself had no clue as to what this booklet was about.

“I can’t read music scores myself, though I have seen sword art manuscripts before. This booklet really doesn’t look like a sword art manuscript. Grandmaster Wang, is there anyone in your house that knows how to play zither or flute? We might as well ask him to take a look, then we would know for sure,” Madam Yue suggested.

Wang Yuanba hesitated, afraid that if this really were just a music score booklet, how embarrassing it would be. So he didn’t answer right

away. Wang Jiaju, on the other hand, was a total blockhead, and shouted in a loud voice.

“Grandpa, our accountant, Mr. Yi can play the flute. We can ask him to take a look at this. This clearly is the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript.’ How can it be a music score booklet?”

“There are many types of martial arts manuscripts. Some people

would intentionally write martial arts formulas or techniques in the form of a music score in order to keep it a secret so others wouldn’t be able to pry about. That’s not at all surprising,” Wang Yuanba immediately added.

“If this mister in your house knows how to play the flute, then he would be able to tell if this really is a sword arts manuscript or a music score for flute,” Madam Yue insisted.

Having no other choice, Wang Yuanba asked Wang Jiaju to get Mr. Yi, the accountant of the house. Soon he came back together with Mr. Yi.

Mr. Yi was a thin and short man in his fifties. He had a sparse goatee on his chin, but his clothing looked neat and clean.

“Mr. Yi, will you please take a look at this booklet and tell us if it’s an ordinary zither score or flute score?” Wang Yuanba asked. Mr. Yi opened the zither portion of the booklet and glanced over a

couple of pages. “Sorry, I don’t know much about this part.” He shook his head.

He quickly skimmed to the flute portion of the booklet, and suddenly his eyes brightened as he started humming along the music score in a low voice and drumming two of his fingers on the table simultaneously. After a while, he shook his head again.

“This can’t be right!”

He continued humming alone, but suddenly the pitch of his voice went very high, and only seconds later, it dropped very low.

“This is impossible! Well…well…I really don’t understand this,” he muttered with a frown.

“Is there anything suspicious about this booklet? Is it very different from an ordinary music score?” Wang Yuba asked with a happy face.

“Oh Master, please look here.” Mr. Yi pointed at the flute score. “This is the Gong major15 here, but it suddenly turned into the Wei minor. That’s totally against musical theories, and it would be impossible for a flute to play. Then from here it suddenly turned into the Jiao major. That’s

something I’ve never seen before. It’s simply impossible to play such music using a flute.”

“Humph, you don’t know how to play it doesn’t mean others don’t know how to play it!” Linghu Chong sneered.

“You’re absolutely right!” Mr. Yi nodded. “But if someone is able to play music like this, I would sincerely admire him from the very bottom of my heart! Certainly the very bottom of my heart! Unless…unless it is he in the East Town….”

“You said that this is no ordinary flute score, and some of the tones are impossible to play using a flute, right?” Wang Yuanba cut him off. “Ah, yes! Definitely not ordinary! Definitely not ordinary! I will never be able to play something like that. Unless it is he in the East Town….” Mr. Yi nodded.

“Which great musician in the East Town can play this music?” Madam Yue asked.

“Well…I can’t guarantee it, but…but there’s this Elder Bamboo-

Green from the East Town who can play both the zither and the flute,” Mr. Yi answered. “Maybe he can play it. His skills in playing the flute are way better than mine. Way better indeed! We are not even talking about the

same league here! Certainly not the same league!”

“If this is no ordinary music score for flute, then there must be more behind it,” Wang Yuanba said.

Wang Bofen had been listening quietly by the side. He suddenly cut in, “Father, isn’t the Four Ways Six Harmonies Knife Form of the Eight Diagrams Knife Dojo in Zhengzhou also recorded in a music score?”

Wang Yuanba immediately understood. He knew that his son was just making things up. The family of the Eight Diagrams Knife Dojo Head

Master, Mo Xing, had been in-laws with the Wang Family for generations. Their Dojo didn’t have anything named the Four Ways Six Harmonies

Knife Form. But he figured that since the Huashan Sword School only focused in sword arts, whether another school had this knife form or not, Yue Buqun most probably wouldn’t have known, even though Yue Buqun had good knowledge of the Martial World. So he nodded.

“That’s right! That’s right! In-law Mo certainly mentioned about it several years back. Recording knife arts or sword arts in music scores is nothing unusual at all.”

“Since it’s nothing unusual at all, then would you, Grandmaster Wang, enlighten me and tell me what exactly are recorded in these two music scores?” Linghu Chong asked with a smirk.

“That…Alas, my son-in-law had passed away, therefore, other than you, I am afraid there’s not another one who would be able to understand the secret in the music score.” Wang Yuanba heaved a long sigh.

If Linghu Chong had wanted to plead innocent, he could have simply told the origin of the “Smiling Proud Wanderer” music score, but then inevitably, he would have to mention about how the Hengshan Sword School’s Great Mr. Mo had killed Great Songyang Palm Fei Bin, and that would certainly bring severe consequences; also, once Master found out that the music score was really related to the Demon Cult Elder Qu Yang, for sure Master would have it destroyed right away, then he would not be

able to fulfill his promise to the dead. With these in his mind, he held his anger and responded calmly.

“Since this Mr. Yi mentioned that there’s an Elder Bamboo-Green who is an expert in music, why don’t we take the music score over to let him examine it?”

“That Elder Bamboo-Green is a weirdo who acts like a mad man.

How can we believe any word out of his mouth?” Wang Yuanba shook his head.

“But we must get to the bottom of this matter,” Madam Yue replied. “Chong is our apprentice and Pingzhi is also our apprentice. We can’t grant favor to either side. To find out who’s right and who’s wrong, we might as well ask that Elder Bamboo-Green to give a judgment.” She didn’t want to say that this was a dispute between Linghu Chong and the Golden Blade Wang Family, so she conveniently replaced the Wang Family with Lin Pingzhi.

“Mr. Yi, would you please send a wagon for this Elder Bamboo- Green?” Madam Yue requested. “Well, this old gentleman is a very eccentric folk. When people ask him for favors, if it’s something that he doesn’t care, he won’t pay any

attention to it even if you kowtow to him at his door. But if he decides to intervene, you can’t even push him away,” Mr. Yi replied.

“That sounds just like us martial people,” Madam Yue nodded. “I suppose this Elder Bamboo-Green must be a senior master in the martial arts society. Senior apprentice brother, we have certainly been really ignorant.”

“That Elder Bamboo-Green is merely a craftsman skilled in making baskets and floor mats with bamboo strips. He is no martial master,” Wang Yuanba replied with a smirk. “He plays the zither and the flute well and also paints pictures of bamboos. Many people buy his paintings. He is just an old craftsman posing as a lover of art, and does attract a certain local

crowd.”

“It would be a pity if we don’t pay a visit to such a figure while we are in Luoyang. Grandmaster Wang, would you please be kind enough to accompany us and pay a visit to such an elegant craftsman?” Madam Yue asked.

Seeing that Madam Yue was quite determined to go, Wang Yuanba had to agree. So led by Mr. Yi, Wang Yuanba, his sons and grandsons set out for the East Town with the Yue Buqun couple, Linghu Chong, Lin Pingzhi, Yue Lingshan, and other Huashan apprentices.

The group went through several small streets and came upon a very narrow alley. A large bush of bamboos occupied the end of the ally.

Swaying gently in the breeze, they set an elegant tone to the surroundings. As soon as the group stepped into the alley, dim sound of zither play echoed in their ears pleasantly – someone was playing a song. The alley appeared to be so refreshing and peaceful that it almost seemed as if this was an entirely different world totally isolated from the crowded city outside. “This Elder Bamboo-Green certainly knows how to enjoy life!”

Madam Yue whispered.

Suddenly, a clank echoed as one of the zither strings snapped, and the zither play halted abruptly.

“Respectful guests have arrived at my humble shack. Is there

something you want to see me about?” an old voice rose from inside.

“Elder, we have this odd zither and flute music score. Would you be kind enough to examine it for us?” Mr. Yi announced.

“You have a zither and flute music score and want me to examine it? Ha-ha, you really flatter an old craftsman,” Elder Bamboo-Green answered.

Before Mr. Yi even had a chance to respond, Wang Jiaju had already shouted out, “Grandmaster Wang from the Gold Blade Wang Family is here to visit.”

He had thought that because his grandfather was a very important figure in the city of Luoyang, as soon as he mentioned his grandfather’s name, the old craftsman would for sure rush out to greet them, but all he got in return were Elder Bamboo-Green’s sneers.

“Golden Blade or Silver Blade, it’s no better than the old craftsman’s rusty iron blade. An old craftsman doesn’t need to visit Master Wang, and there’s no need for Master Wang to visit an old craftsman, either.”

Wang Jiaju was infuriated. “Grandpa, this old craftsman is a moron with no manners. We don’t need to see him. Let’s go home,” he said loudly.

“Since we are already here, we might as well ask Elder Bamboo- Green to take a look at the music score,” Madam Yue insisted.

“Hmm!” Wang Yuanba snorted as he handed the music score booklet to Mr. Yi, who, in turn, took the booklet and walked behind the bush of bamboos.

“You can put it down here,” Elder Bamboo-Green’s voice rose from inside.

“Elder, is this a real music score or some kind of secret martial arts manuscript with formulas and techniques written in disguise in the form of a music score?” Mr. Yi asked.

“Secret martial arts manuscripts? Are you out of your mind? Of course this is a music score!” Elder Bamboo-Green reproached, and moments later, sound of zither rose again, graceful and pleasant.

Linghu Chong listened to the music and soon remembered the melody

– the same melody Liu Zhengfeng had played that day. The music was the same, but the previous player had long perished. Linghu Chong couldn’t help but feel mournful.

Not far into the music, the pitch of the zither sound suddenly went higher and higher until it almost sounded like a shrill whistle. Clank, one of the zither strings snapped. And as the sound went even higher, another

clank echoed when another string snapped. Elder Bamboo-Green uttered a cry of surprise.

“This zither score is really odd. I don’t understand.”

Wang Yuanba and his two sons and two grandsons exchanged looks among themselves, all looking content and triumphant.

“Let me try the flute score,” Elder Bamboo-Green muttered, and soon the sound of a flute rose from behind the bamboo bush.

At the beginning, the flute sounded melodious and pleasant, depicting a romantic scene. But then the pitches of the flute sound turned lower and lower till it was almost impossible to recognize. And after several more notes, the sound became hoarse, and turned into very unpleasant noises. Elder Bamboo-Green heaved a sigh. “Little brother Yi, you play the flute yourself. Don’t you know it’s impossible to play anything with such a low pitch? The zither score and the flute score aren’t necessarily fakes, but the composer is certainly being deliberately mystifying, and perhaps is playing jokes on us. Why don’t you go home first and let me ponder over this a bit more?”

“Sure!” Mr. Yi answered and then walked out from behind the bamboo bush.

“Where’s the sword arts manuscript?” Wang Zhongqiang asked.

“Sword arts manuscript? Oh, Elder Bamboo-Green wants to keep it for a while so he can ponder over it some more,” Mr. Yi answered.

“Go get it back, quick! This is an invaluable sword arts manuscript. Do you have any idea how many people in the Martial World want to get their hands onto this? How can we leave it in the hands of someone totally irrelevant?” Wang Zhongqiang admonished hurriedly.

“Ah, alright!” Mr. Yi replied and turned around to head back toward the back of the bamboo bush, again, when Elder Bamboo-Green’s voice

suddenly rose again.

“Auntie, why have you come out?”

“How old is the Elder Bamboo-Green?” Wang Yuanba asked in a whisper.

“In his seventies. Close to eighty years old I guess,” Mr. Yi answered. “If an eighty-year old man still called her his auntie, then this old

granny had to be at least a hundred years old,” everybody thought of the same thing.

A woman’s voice acknowledged with a muffled “hmm.”

“Auntie, please take a look at this. This music score is very strange,” Elder Bamboo-Green explained. The woman acknowledged again with a muffled “hmm.” Then sound of strings being plucked rose. Apparently someone was tuning the zither.

Then it fell quiet for a moment as the snapped strings were probably being replaced with new ones. After some more tuning sounds, the granny started playing. At the beginning, it sounded the same as how Elder Bamboo-Green had played. Then the pitch of the zither sound went higher and higher, but this time it somehow transformed into a higher scale smoothly and pleasantly as if it were never difficult to start with.

Linghu Chong was half surprised and half joyous. He could vaguely remember that this was exactly the same melody he had heard Qu Yang play that night. The melody sometimes sounded impassionate and moving yet sometimes turned elegant and gentle. Although Linghu Chong didn’t know anything about music, he could still tell that the artistic conception this granny had interpreted was quite different from what Qu Yang had interpreted, even though they were playing the exact same melody. The granny’s play sounded placid and gentle, making the listeners truly

appreciate the exquisiteness of good music, but it lacked the exciting surges Qu Yang’s play was able to bring out. After a long while, the music gradually slowed down as if the music was drifting further and further

away, and the zither player had slowly walked away, hundreds of feet, and then miles away. The notes became so subtle that it simply faded into the gentle breeze.

Just when the sound of the zither was about to fade away, a couple of very low and delicate flute sounds rose next to the sound of the zither. The sweet sound of the flute circled in the air and turned louder and louder, as if the flute player had walked closer and closer, while playing the flute

continuously. The sound was clear and melodious, sometimes high and sometimes low, sometimes gentle and sometimes loud. When everyone thought that the sound was already at its lowest, after some twirls, it would turn even lower. Although subtle and mild to the extreme, every syllable

was still clearly recognizable.

Gradually, some high-pitched notes would occasionally break out from the low-pitched melody, like pearls falling into a jade plate and bounced back and forth, short and brisk, as one fell down, another one

would bounce back. Then more and more sounds joined and echoed each other. First, it was like a spring streaming down the mountain path, echoing as the little waves splashed over the narrow banks. Then it turned into a garden full of colorful flowers, each blossoming so vividly in a competition to earn a glance from the dancing butterfly. There was also the choir from the many kinds of birds, echoing each other here and there, praising the

efforts of the various blossoms, and singing joyously about the beauty of the season. Then gradually, the many birds flew away one after another as the spring season quietly stepped away and the petals from the withered blossoms swirled in the air, performing their sad dance falling toward the ground. Then the rain came, which painted everything in a color of gloom and made the leaves rustle. It was now cold and dreary and lifeless. All there left was the drizzle now, so tiny that no one could tell when it went from on to off and then from off to on again. And finally, everything fell into an ultimate silence.

Only a long while after the flute had stopped playing did everyone realize the silence. All felt as if they had just come out of a dream.

Although Wang Yuanba, Yue Buqun and the many others didn’t know much about music, they all found themselves deeply intoxicated by the magic of the music. And Mr. Yi simply froze there in a trance, as if his soul had faded together with the music and was no longer inside his body. Madam Yue heaved a sigh in great admiration. “Admirable! Very admirable! Chong, what’s the name of the music?”

“It’s called the ‘Smiling Proud Wanderer’ song,” Linghu Chong

answered. “This granny has such incredible skills, and it is even rarer that someone could have such supreme skills in both zither and flute.”

“The composer certainly did a fantastic job writing the music, but it sure takes someone like this granny with such superb skills to be able to bring the best out of it. It must be the first time for you to listen to such

wonderful melody,” Madam Yue remarked.

“Actually, no! Last time when I heard it, it sounded even more spectacular,” Linghu Chong replied.

“Really? How can there be anyone with even better zither and flute skills than that granny?” Madam Yue asked in surprise.

“Not necessarily better than this granny. But when I heard such wonderful music the last time, there were two players. One played the

zither and the other one played the flute, and they were also playing this ‘Smiling Proud Wanderer’ song….”

Before he even finished his sentence, three plucking sounds came from behind the bamboo bush as the granny whispered something in a very low voice. Vaguely, it sounded like that she had said, “Zither and flute playing together? Where can I ever find the other one?”

Elder Bamboo-Green’s voice rose again, loud and clear. “Mr. Yi, this is indeed a music score. My auntie has just played it. You can take it back now.”

“Yes.” Mr. Yi replied. He stepped behind the bamboo bush and soon returned, holding the music score booklet with both hands.

“Such fine work of art as this one recorded in the booklet is very rare and very hard to come by. Such wonder should never fall into the hands of vulgar people. And you should never have the wishful thinking of studying this music piece recklessly. It would only cause you more harm than gain,” Elder Bamboo-Green added.

“Yes, yes! I would never even dare!” Mr. Yi replied sincerely, and then handed the music score booklet back to Wang Yuanba.

Wang Yuanba had heard the spectacular performance himself and knew that it couldn’t have been a fake. Returning the booklet back to Linghu Chong, he said in an awkward tone,

“Nephew Linghu, we are truly very sorry!”

Linghu Chong answered with a sneer and was just about to add some satirical words when he saw Madam Yue shaking her head at him, so he

swallowed them back down.

Feeling so embarrassed, Wang Yuanba, his two sons, and the two grandsons left before everyone else. Yue Buqun and the many apprentices also followed. But Linghu Chong remained. Holding the music score booklet in his hands, he stood there like a statue.

“Chong, aren’t you going back now?” Madam Yue asked.

“I just want to stay here a bit longer,” Linghu Chong answered.

“Don’t be too late. Go back and take a good rest. Oh, be careful with your arms. They were dislocated pretty badly. Don’t try anything heavy.” Madam Yue exhorted.

“I got it!” Linghu Chong replied.

After the group left, the small alley was quiet, once again. The only occasional sound breaking the silence were the rustling of the bamboo leaves in the gentle breeze. Staring at the music score in his hands, Linghu Chong remembered how Liu Zhengfeng and Qu Yang had performed the music together in that late night. “The two of them were so lucky to have found their intimate friendship in each other and composed such a wonderful piece together,” he thought to himself. “Even though the granny behind the bamboo bush has incredible skills in playing both the zither and the flute, she could only play the two parts separately. The Elder Bamboo-Green couldn’t play the music together with her. Maybe this “Smiling Proud Wanderer” song written for a zither and a flute to play together would perish forever and I would never have the opportunity to hear it ever again.”

His mind fell blank for a little while before he thought again, “Uncle- Master Liu and Elder Qu, one was a senior master of the Chivalrous Side while the other was an Elder of the Demon Cult. One represented righteousness while the other one represented evil. They should have been completely irreconcilable. But when they talked music to each other, they

could feel each other’s heart and ended up becoming bosom friends. They were also able to compose such a magnificent and spectacular piece of ‘Smiling Proud Wanderer’ song together. When the two of them left this world together, hand in hand, there were really no regrets in their hearts. That was so much better than what I have to endure right now, living a lonely life in this world, suspected by my Master, forsaken by my little

apprentice sister, while the only apprentice brother who respected me and loved me died in my own hands.” His heart was swelled by grief and

sorrow. Tears ran across his cheeks and dripped onto the music score booklet. Linghu Chong couldn’t help but choke with sobs.

Elder Bamboo-Green’s voice came from behind the bamboo bush again, “Friend, may I ask why you are crying?”

“Oh, I just grieved about my own life experiences besides remembering how the two senior masters, who composed this music piece, passed away. I must have forgotten myself. I am so sorry. It’s my fault that I have disturbed your peace,” Linghu Chong answered. After these words, he turned around to leave.

“Little friend, would you please step in here and have a word with an old man? I’d like to consult you on a few questions,” Elder Bamboo-Green invited.

That caught Linghu Chong in a bit of surprise. He had seen the

arrogant attitude the Elder Bamboo-Green put on display toward Wang Yuanba, and didn’t expect such courtesy toward him, a nobody, at all.

“You flatter me. Anything Elder wishes to ask about, I will answer to the best of my knowledge,” he answered, and then walked through the bush of bamboo.

What came to his eyes were five small cabins, two on the left, and three on the right, all made out of thick bamboo poles. An old man strolled out from a cabin on the left with a bright smile on his face.

“Little friend, please come in and join me for some tea.”

Linghu Chong took a good look at the Elder Bamboo-Green. The old man’s back was a little bit hunchbacked. His head was almost bald. All there left were patches of sparse hair. He had big hands and big feet, yet looking hale and hearty.

“Linghu Chong here pays his respect to an elder.” Linghu Chong bowed to salute.

“I’ve only wasted more years of my life. That’s all. Come in! Come in! Make yourself at home.” Elder Bamboo-Green smiled.

Linghu Chong followed him into the small cabin. The furniture inside was all made out of bamboos. A painting of a bamboo bush hung by the

wall. The strokes in the painting flowed freely. Together with the many dripping ink spots in shape of bamboo leaves, the bamboo bush looked thick and dense. A zither and a flute lay on the table. Elder Bamboo-Green poured out some dark green tea from a pottery teapot and filled a bowl. “Please have some tea,” he invited.

Linghu Chong took the tea bowl with both hands and bowed slightly. “Little friend, would you be kind enough to tell me how you ended up

with this music score booklet?” Elder Bamboo-Green asked.

At those words, Linghu Chong’s heart skipped a beat. The story of the music score contained many secrets. That was why he didn’t even tell his

Master and Master-Wife. But that day when Liu Zhengfeng and Qu Yang gave him the music score, they had intended to leave this music piece behind so it would not perish with them. The Elder Bamboo-Green and his aunt both had excellent understanding of music, and furthermore, his aunt had shown superior skills and understanding in the music piece. The two of them were quite old, but other than these two, where in the world would he be able to find a third one who would be worthy of receiving this music

score? Even though there might be someone else in the world that would be an expert in music, since Linghu Chong wouldn’t be living for long, the

chances of find that person would be very slim. With these thoughts, Linghu Chong pondered over it for a short while and then answered,

“The two senior masters who composed this music piece, one had

superior skills in playing the zither, and the other one had excellent skills in playing the flute. The two of them became bosom friends and wrote this music piece together. But it was so unfortunate that disaster came upon them and they left the world at the same time. Right before they passed

away, the two senior masters gave the music score to me and asked me to find the right person to pass it onto, so the music piece would not perish together with them.” He paused for a second and then continued. “Earlier, when I heard Elder’s aunt demonstrating her superior skills in both zither and flute, I was so relieved that I’ve finally met the destined owner of this music score booklet. Elder, please take the music score booklet and give it to the granny, so I can fulfill my promise to the two composers and comfort their souls in the underworld.” At that word, he held the music score up

with both of his hands respectfully.

But Elder Bamboo-Green didn’t take it. “Please allow me to ask my auntie first,” he said. “I don’t know if she is willing to accept it.”

The granny’s voice rose from the little cabin on the left, “Mister Linghu is too kind to have presented us with such a wonderful gift, showing his vast generosity. It would be disrespectful to decline yet embarrassing to accept. Would you be kind enough to enlighten us with the names of those two senior masters who composed this excellent piece?” Strangely, her voice didn’t sound old in any way.

“Certainly,” Linghu Chong answered. “The two senior masters who wrote this, one was Uncle-Master Liu Zhengfeng, and the other one was Elder Qu Yang.”

The granny uttered a cry of surprise. “So it was them,” she murmured. “Do you know them?” Linghu Chong asked.

The granny didn’t answer his question and kept her silence instead.

Only after a good while, she spoke again.

“Liu Zhengfeng was an elite master in the Hengshan Sword School, but Qu Yang was an Elder of the Demon Cult. The two sides have been bitter enemies for generations. What had made them compose this piece together? I am really lost now.”

Even though Linghu Chong hadn’t even met the granny face to face, from her performance of the zither and flute, he was already convinced that she was an old, kind, and wise lady aloof from any of the worldly affairs,

someone who would never lie to him or sell him out. If she was able to tell who Liu and Qu were, then obviously she was a fellow martial arts master. So he told her everything from the beginning to the end truthfully: how Liu Zhengfeng planned to quit at the Gold Basin Hand Washing ceremony, how Chief Zuo of the Songshan Sword School sent his Command Flag to stop the event, how Liu and Qu were hit by Songshan School elite fighter’s palm strike, how they performed the music together in the remote valley, and how the two asked him to find the right person to pass on the music piece before they passed away. The only thing he omitted was the part when

Great Mr. Mo slain Fei Bin.

The granny listened quietly. After Linghu Chong finished telling the story, she asked, “This is clearly a music score. Why did Golden Blade Wang Yuanba claim that it was a martial arts manuscript?”

Linghu Chong then told the part about how the Lin Zhennan couple was fatally wounded by the Qingcheng Sword School and Yu Canghai, how they had asked him to take their last words to Lin Pingzhi, and how the

Wang brothers suspected him and etc.

“I see,” the granny responded. “You could have told your Master and Master-Wife everything, the reasons and causes. Wouldn’t that have saved you a lot of trouble and kept all these meaningless suspicions off your back? I am only a stranger. Why have you told me everything without reservation?” she inquired again after a short pause.

“I don’t quite understand it myself. I guess it’s because I was deeply moved by your high demeanor after listening to your graceful performance and didn’t feel suspicious about you,” Linghu Chong answered sincerely.

“Then are you saying that you actually felt suspicious about your Master and Master-Wife?” the granny asked.

Linghu Chong felt a shock in his heart. “I dare not. It’s only that…in my Master’s heart, he suspects me a great deal. Alas, I can’t really blame that on my respectful Master.” “From the sound of your voice, I can tell that you lack a solid foundation of inner strength. That shouldn’t have happened to a young man in your age. Why’s that? Have you recently fallen seriously ill or gotten

wounded badly?”

“I did get wounded badly.”

“Nephew Bamboo-Green, will you please bring this young man to my window so I can check his pulses?”

“Sure!” Elder Bamboo-Green answered. He led Linghu Chong to the window by the little cabin on the left side, and then asked him to put his left hand into the window through the window screen made out of thin bamboo sections. Inside the bamboo screen there was another layer of thin gauze.

Linghu Chong could only vaguely see the shape of a person, but none of the face. Then he felt three ice-cold fingers touching his wrist. The granny

started checking his pulse.16 But only a short moment later, she cried out in surprise.

“This is very odd!” A few moments passed before she spoke again, “Your right hand please.”

After the checking was completed, she fell into dead silence.

“Senior master, there’s no need to worry about me. I know my life won’t last for too long. I really don’t give much thought about it,” Linghu Chong said with a slight smile.

“Why are you saying that your life won’t last long?” the granny asked.

“I accidentally killed my junior apprentice brother and also lost my Master’s ‘Divine Art of the Violet Twilight Manuscript.’ I only hope that I

will be able to find the manuscript soon to return it to my Master. After that, I will commit suicide in exchange for my apprentice brother’s forgiveness.” “Divine Art of the Violet Twilight Manuscript? That’s nothing

extraordinary. How did you accidentally kill your apprentice brother?” Linghu Chong then told the story about how the Peach Valley’s Six

Fairies tried to heal his wounds, how the six energy streams clashed and

smashed against each other inside him, how his little apprentice sister stole Master’s invaluable manuscript for him to heal himself, how he refused to read it and apprentice brother Lu Dayou decided to read for him against his will, how he sealed Lu Dayou’s acupoints, and how he must have used too much strength in sealing those acupoints and got Lu Dayou killed.

“Your apprentice brother didn’t die off your hands,” the granny concluded after listening to the entire story.

“He didn’t die off my hands?” Linghu Chong was stunned. “Your inner strength was not pure. Just by sealing those two

acupoints, you wouldn’t be able to kill him. Somebody else killed your apprentice brother,” the granny said firmly.

“Who killed apprentice brother Lu, then?” Linghu Chong murmured. “It’s not necessary that the one who stole the manuscript is the

murderer, himself, but at least the two must have some kind of connection,” the granny said.

Linghu Chong heaved out a deep breath, feeling so relieved as if a huge rock had just been removed from his chest. He had asked himself the same question before. How could he have killed Lu Dayou by jabbing his two acupoints so lightly? But deep in his heart he had always thought that even if Lu Dayou wasn’t killed from his jabs, Lu still died for his sake.

How can a true man shirk responsibility, shift the blame onto others, and find excuses for himself? During the past many days, he had seen again and again the intimate relationship between Yue Lingshan and Lin Pingzhi. Out of disappointment and despair, he had really lost his will to live. There was only one thing on his mind, and that was to die and leave this world once and for all. But now when the granny reminded him, anger swelled in his heart.

“Revenge! Revenge! I must seek revenge for apprentice brother Lu!” he thought to himself

“You said that there were six energy streams clashing inside you, but based on what I read from your pulse, there seemed to have eight energy

streams. May I ask why?” the granny asked.

In loud laughter, Linghu Chong told her how Monk No Commandment had worked on mending his wounds as well.

“You have a sanguine disposition. Even though your pulses are in disorder, they showed no sign of prostration. Would you care to listen to another zither music?” the granny suggested.

“You are too kind. I truly appreciate it,” Linghu Chong replied.

Soon, music rose again, but this time the melody was ultimately mild and tender, like the sound of a slight sigh, the tender petals of blossoms moistened by the silent morning dews, or the morning breeze, stroking the many hanging twigs of the willow tree. Not long into it, Linghu Chong felt as if his eyelids had grown heavier and heavier. He kept reminding himself, “I can’t doze off. I am listening to a senior master playing the zither. If I doze off, that would be so disrespectful.” But as hard as he tried to stay focused, the drowsiness simply was irresistible. Before long, his eyes were closed. He lay on the ground and fell asleep. Even in his sleep, the soft and gentle music echoed vaguely in his dreams. It almost felt as if a gentle hand was caressing his hair with love and caring, and he had gone back to his

childhood, resting in Master-Wife’s arms, and enjoying her tender affection. A good while passed before the sound of the zither finally quieted down. Waking up abruptly, Linghu Chong stood up hurriedly, looking very embarrassed.

“Oh, no! I am so sorry that I was so impolite to have fallen asleep while listening to your wonderful play! This is so embarrassing,” he muttered.

“Don’t blame yourself. I intentionally played that music to lull you into sleep, hoping the music would be able to put the energy streams inside you in order. Why don’t you try to channel your inner strength and see if the feeling of nausea has lessened?” the granny suggested.

“Many thanks!” Linghu Chong replied.

Feeling very delighted, he sat down on the ground with his legs

crossed and started to channel his inner energy. He could feel that those

eight energy streams still charged about inside him, clashing against each other, but that strong feeling of nausea at his chest did lessen quite a bit. He worked some more, trying to gather some inner strength, but only felt dizzier and dizzier. Suddenly, his body collapsed to the side. Elder Bamboo-

Green hurried forth to prop him up and then walked him back inside the cabin.

“The Peach Valley’s Six Fairies and Great Master No Commandment all had resourceful inner energy. The energy streams they planted are too

strong to be messed with from my shallow music play. I am very sorry to have put you through more pain and suffering,” the granny apologized.

“You are being too modest. I have already benefited tremendously from listening to this song,” Linghu Chong replied in a hurry.

Elder Bamboo-Green picked up a writing brush. Dipping it in the black ink, he wrote on a piece of paper, “Ask about learning this song and benefit all your life.” Linghu Chong immediately came to realization. “May I be bold enough to ask the senior master to teach me this song, so I can slowly improve my injury by myself?” he asked.

Elder Bamboo-Green nodded, looking very pleased.

The granny did not answer right away. After a moment of pause, she finally asked, “How are your zither skills? Will you please play a song?”

Linghu Chong blushed. “I have never learned how to play the zither before. I really know nothing about it. It was such a bold request for me to have even thought about learning the superior skills from you, senior master! Please excuse my presumptuous head.”

“I’d better get going now,” he bowed deeply toward Elder Bamboo- Green.

“Please wait. It is embarrassing that we couldn’t repay the great generosity you have shown by giving us the wonderful music. It also troubles me deeply that your wounds are too severe to be cured. Nephew

Bamboo-Green, you can start teaching Mister Linghu how to play the zither tomorrow. If he has enough patience and can stay in Luoyang for a period of time, then…then I might as well teach him this ‘Song of Peace and Serenity’.” In the last several words, her voice almost turned into a whisper, hard to pick up.

In the early morning the next day Linghu Chong came to the small

cabin in the small alley for his first zither lesson. Elder Bamboo-Green took out a brown-ended zither made from the trunk of a phoenix tree and started to teach Linghu Chong basic music theories.

“There are a total of twelve majors. They are Huang-Zhong, Da-Lv, Tai-Cu, Jia-Zhong, Gu-Xi, Zhong-Lv, Rui-Bin, Lin-Zhong, Yi-Ze, Nan-Lv, Wu-Yi, and Ying-Zhong. These all came from the ancient times. Legend has it that many years ago, Huang Di17 commanded Lin Lun to create scales, and Lin Lun was inspired by phoenix’s singing, thus creating the twelve majors. A zither has seven strings and can play Gong, Shang, Jia, Wei, and Yu the five scales. The first string plays the Huang-Zhong major, and the third string plays the Gong scale. The five tones are Man-Jiao,

Qing-Shang, Gong-Diao, Man-Gong, and Rui-Bin.” He went ahead and started explaining every single one of them in details.

Although Linghu Chong had no prior knowledge of any kind about music theories, because of his natural gift, he picked everything up in a very fast pace. Very satisfied with his progress, Elder Bamboo-Green started to teach him the fingering techniques, and also taught him a short song named “Vivid Sky Melody.” Linghu Chong followed the song several times and then played it on his own. Even though he missed several notes and his fingering looked jerky, the music depicted a good picture of the vast blue

sky, cloudless and spacious. The granny listened in the cabin next to it. When he had finished playing, she let out a gentle sigh.

“Young Master Linghu, you have shown great talent in learning the zither. Perhaps it wouldn’t be long before you can start learning the ‘Song of Peace and Serenity’.”

“Auntie,” Elder Bamboo-Green said, “today is only little brother Linghu’s first lesson in music, yet when he played the ‘Vivid Sky Melody,’ he was already able to portray a much better imagery than I could. Sound of the zither came directly from one’s heart. I guess the reason is because he is very broad-minded indeed.”

“Granny, you really flatter me,” Linghu Chong replied. “I wonder when the day will come when I will be able to play the ‘Smiling Proud Wanderer’ song the way you did.”

“You…you want to play the ‘Smiling Proud Wanderer’ song?” the granny uttered. “After hearing senior master’s graceful performance yesterday, I felt great admiration. But of course it’s just my wishful thinking. Even master Bamboo-Green couldn’t play it, and I am far from that.” Linghu Chong blushed in embarrassment.

The granny fell quiet. After a long while, she finally murmured in a very low voice, “If you can play the zither part, of course that would be great….” Her voice fell lower and lower, and then a tender sigh followed.

For the following twenty some days, Linghu Chong would always come to the bamboo cabin in the small alley to take his zither lessons and stay till dusk before leaving. He ate all his lunches at Elder Bamboo-

Green’s place. Though it consisted only simple vegetables and tofu, he enjoyed it a lot more than the expensive dishes that were served in the

Wang Family, especially when there were also great wines to go with the lunches everyday. Elder Bamboo-Green didn’t have a great wine tolerance, but all the wine he stored were cream of the crop. He had a great knowledge about wines. Not only did he know the origins of every kind of wines, he

was also able to tell the place the wine was made and the year it was made with a single sip. Linghu Chong had never heard of the many things about wine before. So he not only learned how to play the zither, but also a great deal about wines from Elder Bamboo-Green. He sometimes even felt that the theories related to wines were as deep as theories of sword arts or zither play.

Several times when Elder Bamboo-Green went out to sell handicraft arts made out of bamboos, the granny would then give him lessons behind the bamboo made screen. As days went by, many of Linghu Chong’s questions regarding the zither play were so advanced that even Elder

Bamboo-Green didn’t know the answer and the granny had to answer them, herself. But Linghu Chong never had a chance to see the granny’s face. Her voice sounded gentle and tender, as if it was the voice of a young girl from a rich family, nothing like the voice of an elderly granny living a poor life in a shabby alley. He figured that it was probably because she had been

continuously nurtured by classical music since her young age, and that was why her voice remained pleasant, just like the pleasing music she played,

even in her old age.

One day, the granny taught Linghu Chong a new song named

“Affectionate Thoughts.” This was an ancient song from the Han Dynasty with a very sweet and melodious tone. Linghu Chong first listened to the granny playing it several times, and then tried it himself. As the music went on, unconsciously, many memories flashed by his mind. He remembered

when Yue Lingshan was still a child many years ago, how the two of them, as a pair of innocent playmates, shared so much joy and fun together. He

also remembered the warm affection little apprentice sister had shown when she practiced sword arts in the waterfall with him and when she brought dinners up the “Cliff of Contemplation” for him. Then, out of nowhere, Lin Pingzhi came, and how the little apprentice sister became colder and colder toward him. Grief swelled in his heart as he played on. Suddenly, the tone

changed into something else, and out came the melody of a Fujian folk song

– it was none other than the folk song Yue Lingshan had sung that day when she walked down the cliff. In shock, he immediately stopped playing.

“You were doing a good job playing this ‘Affectionate Thoughts’ with much affection and good understanding of the meaning behind it. I

guess you must have remembered some past events while you played. But may I ask why the tone suddenly turned into the kind of melody from the Fujian region and sounded almost like a folk song?” the granny asked in a mild tone. Linghu Chong had always been a man of a sanguine disposition, and this was something that had smoldered in his heart for months. Feeling very grateful about how the granny had treated him so warmly and kindly for the last twenty some days, he simply couldn’t hide it to himself any longer and spilled out all about his bitter love toward Yue Lingshan. Once he started telling the story, he could no longer restrain himself, and ended up telling

everything from the beginning to the end without any reservation, as if the granny had become his grandmother, or mother, or a sister. By the time he finally finished telling his story, he felt greatly embarrassed.

“Granny,” he apologized, “sorry that I just babbled on and on with these meaningless things. That is so…so….”

“Fate cannot be imposed upon. Like the old saying says, ‘Everyone has his own fate, so don’t envy others.’ Young Master Linghu, although you’ve lost your present love, it is not to say that you won’t find your soul mate another day,” the granny replied in a gentle voice.

“I don’t even know how many days I still have left in this world. I guess having a family of my own will never be my concern,” Linghu Chong said loudly.

The granny did not speak another word. Sounds of zither rose again; she started playing the “Song of Peace and Serenity.” Only minutes into it, Linghu Chong almost fell asleep again.

The granny stopped playing. “From now on, I will start teaching you this song. It probably will take ten days to learn the entire song. Then you

can play the song every day. Even though your inner strength won’t be fully recovered, more or less, it will be somewhat beneficial for you.”

“Yes,” Linghu Chong answered.

From that day, the granny began teaching Linghu Chong the music score and the fingering techniques. Linghu Chong put in good efforts in memorizing everything, and four days soon went by.

By the morning of the fifth day, when Linghu Chong was just about to head out to take zither lessons in the small alley, Lao Denuo walked to him in a hurry.

“Big apprentice brother, Master has given his order. We will be leaving here tomorrow.”

“We are leaving tomorrow? I…I….” Linghu Chong was taken by surprise. He had wanted to say that he hadn’t finished learning the zither song, but he swallowed the words back.

“Master-Wife asked you to start packing. We will be setting out in the early morning,” Lao Denuo added.

Nodding his acknowledgement, Linghu Chong came to the bamboo cabin in a trot.

“I will be leaving Luoyang tomorrow,” he said to the granny.

The granny was taken by surprise. After a good while of silence, she finally said gently, “Why are you in such a hurry? You…you haven’t finished learning the song yet.”

“I was thinking about the same thing. But this is the Master’s order. Besides, we are only guests in a foreign town. We can’t really live long in someone else’s house,” Linghu Chong answered.

“That’s true,” the granny answered.

That day, the granny taught Linghu Chong some more music score and fingering techniques no different from any other day.

In the many days spent together with the granny, even though Linghu Chong never saw her face, from the sound of her zither play and the dialogues between the two, he could tell that she had great care for him as if he was a member of her family. Only that she was not the kind who liked to show her enthusiasm, so occasionally when her words showed some affection, she would immediately mix it up with other things, apparently not wanting him to catch it. In this world, it used to be the Yue Buqun couple, Yue Lingshan, and Lu Dayou those four who cared the most for him, but by now Lu Dayou had passed away, Yue Lingshan cared for Lin Pingzhi

whole-heartedly, instead, and Master and Master-Wife both were suspicious of him, so he naturally felt that the Elder Bamboo-Green and the granny

were the closest to him. During the day, for several times he had wanted to tell Elder Bamboo-Green that he would like to stay in the small alley,

studying zither and flute and also the craftsmanship instead of going back to the Huashan Sword School. But as soon as he remembered the lovely face of Yue Lingshan, he would drop the thought, not able to bare the idea of parting with his dear little apprentice sister.

“Even if the little apprentice sister stopped talking to me, all I want is to see her once everyday. I would be happy even with just a view from her back or the sound of her few words, let alone the fact that she never stopped talking to me.”

Dusk came, and it was time for farewell. Reluctant to leave Elder

Bamboo-Green and the granny, Linghu Chong walked next to the window of the granny’s cabin and knelt down to salute. Vaguely he could see that behind the bamboo screen, the granny also knelt down to salute back.

“I have taught you zither skills to repay the great favor you have granted us by giving us the music score. Young Master Linghu, why are you saluting me in such a serious manner?” the granny’s voice rose from inside the cabin.

“After our parting today, who knows when I would have the pleasure to listen to senior master’s elegant and magnificent performance? As long as I am still alive, I promise that I would come back to Luoyang once again and pay a visit to Elder and Granny,” Linghu Chong replied. Suddenly a thought came to his mind, “The two of them are already in their final days. Who knows how many years more would they be able to last? By the time I come back to Luoyang again, they’d probably be gone from this world. Alas, life is almost like a dream, hard to tell what’s real

and what’s illusory. It is also like a morning dewdrop, so insignificant, so pretty, yet so brief.” At those thoughts, he choked with sobs.

“Young Master Linghu, at the moment of parting, I have an advice for you,” the granny said.

“Yes, please bestow your wisdom upon me. I will keep it to my heart,” Linghu Chong answered.

But for a long while, the granny kept her silence. After another long while, she finally spoke again in her gentle voice, “Ominous, the Martial World is. Do take good care!”

“I got it!” Linghu Chong replied as a feeling of sadness swelled in his

heart.

He bowed his farewell to Elder Bamboo-Green as sound of zither rose

again from the small cabin on the left, and the music played was none other than that ancient tone – “Affectionate Thoughts.”

The next day, Yue Buqun and the rest of the group bid their farewell to Wang Yuanba and his two sons. The plan was to go north by boat following the Luo River. Wang Yuanba, his two sons, and his two grandsons came all the way to the wharf to see their guest off. Servants brought onto the boat trays of silver ingots piled high – presents from the Wang Family as travel expenses. A sumptuous feast was also catered along the pier for the farewell party.

Ever since that day when the Wang Jiajun and Wang Jiaju brothers broke Linghu Chong’s arms, Linghu Chong never spoke to any one in the Wang Family ever again. At the moment of parting, he simply turned the whites of his eyes up and stared blankly toward the five members of the Wang Family as if the “Wang Family” didn’t even exist.

Yue Buqun almost got a headache because of this Head Apprentice of his. He knew that Linghu Chong was a stubborn young man. If he had forced Linghu Chong to salute Wang Yuanba for the farewell, at the current moment, he probably would bend to Master’s order and give in, but

afterwards, he would most probably cause a great deal of trouble for the Wang Family and create many disturbances. That was why he thanked

Wang Yuanba again and again, himself, and pretended that he didn’t see the rude expression on Linghu Chong’s face.

Linghu Chong glanced over the crowd by the side with cold shoulder. Boxes and packages of presents were brought onboard, and a good number of them were specifically for Yue Lingshan. One after another maids

walked aboard the boat and presented the presents to Yue Lingshan.

“Here are some cookies and candies for Miss Yue from Granny Wang.

These are some dresses for Miss Yue to wear on the road from Madam Wang and some jewelry for Miss Yue to wear from the other Madam

Wang….” It almost seemed as if Yue Lingshan was a family member of the Wang Family.

Yue Lingshan thanked again and again happily with a big smile across her face. “Wow! I don’t think I can eat that much. That’s too many dresses for me!”

An old man in shabby clothing suddenly walked aboard amid the exciting crowd. “Young Master Linghu,” he called out.

Seeing that the old man was none other than the Elder Bamboo-

Green, Linghu Chong was taken by surprise. He immediately stepped forth to greet him. “My auntie asked me to give this small present to Young Master Linghu.” Elder Bamboo-Green raised his arms and presented a long package wrapped in a piece of blue coarse cloth in white flower patterns. Linghu Chong bowed and then took the package.

“Many thanks to the senior master! I am truly grateful!” He bowed again.

The Wang Jiajun and Wang Jiaju brothers caught the entire scene in their eyes. Seeing how Linghu Chong didn’t even bother to cast a glimpse to the famous Unbeatable Golden Blade Grandmaster Wang, yet showed such deep respect to an old folk in shabby clothing, they couldn’t help but

feel enraged. If it hadn’t for the sake of the Yue Buqun couple and the many apprentice brothers and sisters of the Huashan Sword School, they would have dragged Linghu Chong out and give him a good beating to vent their

spleen. When they saw Elder Bamboo-Green step onto the gangboard from the bow to get back ashore after giving Linghu Chong the package, they gave each other a meaningful glance and then jostled toward the old man with their shoulders abruptly from both sides, thinking that just a slight bump would have sent the old folk falling down into the Luo River.

Although the water was quite shallow near the shore and wouldn’t drown the old man, at least it would make Linghu Chong lose a great deal of face.

“Watch out!” seeing what was going on, Linghu Chong called out in a

hurry.

He was just about to reach out and grab the two brothers when he

suddenly remembered that he didn’t have any inner strength left in him to go with the grab. He wouldn’t be able to grab onto them anyway. Even if he did get his hands onto the Wang brothers, it would be useless just the same. Within seconds, the Wang brother had bumped into Elder Bamboo-Green.

“Don’t!” Wang Yuanba shouted out. Wang Yuanba knew clearly that he was very different from ordinary martial people, for he had a big family and lots of properties in the city of Luoyang. His two grandsons were both young and vigorous. If this old and feeble folk had died because of the jostle, there would be endless trouble when the law enforcement began their investigation. But since he was

sitting inside the cabin talking to Yue Buqun at the time, it was already too late for him to stop them.

A loud thud rose as the two shoulders from the two brothers bumped squarely onto Elder Bamboo-Green. All of a sudden, two figures flew in the air. Immediately followed were two loud splashes – the Wang brothers had fallen into the Luo River one from each side of the gangboard. It almost

seemed as if the old man was a big leather bag filled with air, and when the two Wang brothers bumped into it, they simply bounced right back. The old man kept his slow pace and went tottering off the gangboard onto the bank as if nothing had happened.

As soon as the Wang brothers fell into the river, the crowd aboard the boat broke into chaos. Several sailors jumped into the river in a hurry and dragged the two out of the water. It was still early in the spring. Even though all the ice in the river had melted, the river was still icy cold.

Neither of the Wang brothers knew how to swim, so they both drank a good mouthful of water. Their teeth shuddering non-stop, both of the brothers found themselves in a very embarrassing situation.

In shock, Wang Yuanba checked his two grandsons, but what he saw astounded him even more. The four arms of the two brothers were all dislocated at the shoulder joints and elbow joints, which looked exactly the same as how they had broke Linghu Chong’s arms the other day. Their arms hanging by their sides, the two brothers still spilled out streams of abuses

wildly. Seeing what had happened to his two sons, Wang Zhongqiang leapt off the boat onto the bank and blocked Elder Bamboo-Green’s way. But Elder Bamboo-Green still kept his slow pace, his back arched, his head bending low.

“Who are you? Are you here to make trouble for the Wang Family in Luoyang?” Wang Zhongqiang yelled.

Elder Bamboo-Green kept walking as if he had not heard anything.

Slowly, he came closer and closer toward Wang Zhongqiang.

Everyone aboard the boat had their eyes fixed on the two as Elder Bamboo-Green stepped closer and closer to Wang Zhongqiang, who

extended his arms slightly out and blocked in the middle of the road.

Gradually, the distance between the two shortened, from ten feet to five feet, and then from five feet to three feet.

As Elder Bamboo-Green took another step forward, Wang Zhongqiang yelled, “Enough!” He reached out with his two hands and smacked them down at Elder Bamboo-Green’s back in claw hands. Just

when his fingers were about to touch Elder Bamboo-Green’s back, all of a sudden, his giant body flew in the air for tens of feet. Amid the gasps and screams of the crowd, he did a back flip in the air and then landed on the ground steadily.

When two persons ran toward each other in high speed, it would not be surprising if one of them flew in the air like this from the colliding force.

But what seemed very strange was the fact that Wang Zhongqiang stood

still while Elder Bamboo-Green closed in on him very slowly yet was still able to send him flying in the air from the colliding force. Even elite fighters like Yue Buqun or Wang Yuanba had no clue as what techniques the old man used to bump people into flying in the air like that. Since Wang Zhongqiang landed so steadily without any sign of sore straits, people in the crowd who didn’t know any martial arts skills actually thought that he had leapt up all by himself to show off his Qing-Gong. The many servants and chairmen put their hands together and cheered happily. Many couldn’t wait to start praising the superb martial arts skills Master Wang had just put on display.

Wang Yuanba had been greatly surprised when he had found out that the Elder Bamboo-Green dislocated his two grandsons’ arms so easily in a bump without even batting an eyelid. He figured that he could achieve the same effect himself, but it would have been very forceful and overwhelming, never as subtle as the way the old man did it, and never as swift either. By the time he saw his son sent into the air from the bump, it was no longer surprise in his heart but rather terror. He knew very well that

this second son of his had mastered all of his skills and techniques. Not only could he wield a saber in an unruffled yet fierce manner, his skills in fighting barehanded and his accomplishment in inner energy were also very adequate, no less than what he himself had achieved in his prime of life.

But before the two even exchanged one move, his son had already been knocked flying in the air. That was something he had never seen in his life.

Noticing that his son wanted to run back for a fight after the setback, he called out immediately.

“Zhongqiang, come here!”

Wang Zhongqiang turned around and leapt back onboard. Spitting on the floor angrily, he cussed resentfully, “What a stinking, old rascal! He probably knows some kind of witchcraft!”

“How do you feel? Any injuries?” Wang Yuanba asked in a whisper. Wang Zhongqiang shook his head. Wang Yuanba pondered upon the situation, but only concluded that it was likely that he still lacked enough skills to take on this old man. And if he asked Yue Buqun to fight the old man together with him, it would be no glory winning the fight. So the best way out probably would be pretending that nothing had happened and just get on with it. The old man did show

some mercy by not wounding his son or throwing his son off balance. That had already saved him from losing face. He watched the Elder Bamboo-

Green slowly walking away, his heart filled with some kind of indescribable discomfort.

“This old man, of course, is a friend of Linghu Chong,” he thought to himself, “and because my grandsons broke Linghu Chong’s two arms, he

came to get even by breaking their arms. I have ruled the martial arts

society in the Luoyang region for all my life. Could it be possible that I am destined to fall hard in my old age?”

By then Wang Bofen had put his two nephews’ dislocated parts back in place. Two sedan chairs carried the two dripping wet young men back to their home.

“Mr. Yue, do you know who he is? I am so dim-sighted from my old age. I couldn’t tell who that elite was at all,” Wang Yuanba glanced at Yue Buqun and asked.

“Chong, who is he?” Yue Buqun asked.

“He is Elder Bamboo-Green,” Linghu Chong answered.

Wang Yuanba and Yue Buqun both uttered a cry of surprise. Even though they both went to that small alley the other day, neither of them had a chance to meet Elder Bamboo-Green face to face. And it just happened that the only one who would be able to recognize Elder Bamboo-Green, Mr. Yi, decided to see the guests off at the gate of the Wang house instead of coming to the wharf. That was why no one had a clue as who this old man was.

“What did he give you?” Pointing at the package wrapped in blue cloth, Yue Buqun asked.

“I haven’t opened it yet,” Linghu Chong answered.

He opened the package and found a short zither inside. The zither’s body looked ancient and obsolete. Obviously, the zither was an invaluable antique. Two characters “Yan Yu” in ancient script were calved on the tail

of the zither. Inside the package was also a booklet with the words “Song of Peace and Serenity” written on the cover. Feelings of gratitude swelled Linghu Chong’s heart. He couldn’t help but let out a cry of joy.

“What?” Yue Buqun stared at him and asked.

“This senior master not only gave me a zither, but also copied down the entire music score for me,” Linghu Chong explained.

He turned the booklet open and flipped through it. Every page was filled with beautiful calligraphy in small fonts. Not only were there words and symbols recording the music tone, there were also a great deal of notes and comments explaining in detail about the fingering techniques and various keynotes about zither play in general. The papers and the ink prints all looked new, apparently, the granny had just hand printed the entire booklet. Deeply moved by the granny’s affectionate love and care, Linghu Chong found tears rolling in his eyes.

Wang Yuanba and Yue Buqun saw with their own eyes that the booklet only contained techniques relating to zither play, and some of the strange characters and symbols were indeed similar to the ones inside the “Smiling Proud Wanderer” music score booklet. Although there were still many suspicions in their hearts, they had nothing else to add. “A true master never reveals his abilities unless necessary. Who

would have thought that this Elder Bamboo-Green is actually an elite in the Martial World? Chong, do you know which school or clan he is from?” Yue Buqun asked. He had figured that even if Linghu Chong did know the

answer, he would still not tell the truth, but he asked anyway, for it disturbed him very much to not know any details about such an elite fighter with such superb Kung Fu skills.

Not to his surprise, Linghu Chong answered, “I only studied zither from this senior master. I didn’t even know he had martial arts skills.”

After Yue Buqun and Madam Yue bid their farewell to Wang Yuanba and the Wang Bofen, Wang Zhongqiang brothers, the boat set sail toward the north, and soon were hundreds of feet away from ashore. The many

apprentices soon engaged each other into a hearted discussion. Some were convinced that Elder Bamboo-Green had unusually superb Kung Fu skills while some others believed that nothing could prove that the old man had

great skills, the young Wang brothers only fell into the river because of their recklessness, and Wang Zhongqiang only leapt away because he didn’t want to take the old man up on it.

Linghu Chong sat at the back of the boat to read the music score by himself, having no interest listening to the discussion among his junior

apprentice brothers and sisters. Following the directions from the booklet, he lay his finger on the strings and felt the keys. Afraid to disturb his

Master and Master-Wife, he only practiced the positioning and didn’t really make any sound.

The boat was heading in the same direction as the wind and the wave, thus gained some good speed. Madam Yue walked to the bow and tried to

enjoy the scenery, but that didn’t help her get rid of the image of the odd looking Elder Bamboo-Green in her head at all. Many disquieting thoughts surged in her mind when suddenly, her husband’s voice rose next to her ear.

“What do you think of that Elder Bamboo-Green?”

This question was the exact same one she had wanted to ask her husband, so even though he had asked it first, she still asked, “What do you think of him?”

“That old man’s technique was so unusual and strange. Without even moving his arms or legs, he was still able to knock the three members of the Wang Family flying far in the air. I’d have to say that his techniques aren’t from any orthodox school,” Yue Buqun answered.

“But he seems to be very nice to Chong, and it didn’t look like he was intentionally making trouble for the Golden Blade Wang Family,” Madam Yue remarked.

“I hope this is the end of it. Or else, the great reputation Grandmaster Wang had built up throughout his life might be at the very brink of ruin.”

Yue Buqun heaved a sigh. He paused for a good while before speaking

again, “Even though we are continuing our journey by water now, it is still wise to be cautious.”

“Are you saying that someone might come aboard to make trouble?” Madam Yue inquired.

Yue Buqun shook his head. “We are still kept in the dark. We still have no idea who those fifteen masked assassins are and where they came from. We are in the light while our enemy is still in the dark. Our journey might not be as peaceful as we’d like it to be.”

Ever since Yue Buqun became the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School, he had never experienced any serious setbacks until recently. But in the last couple of months, he had realized there was a good chance that many difficulties were awaiting them in the road ahead. But who was the enemy, and what did the enemy want? He couldn’t find an answer. Just because of this clueless feeling he was laden with more and more anxiety.

That day, the Yue couple urged their apprentices again and again to be on good guard days and nights, but as time went by, their boat entered the main river from near the Zigong County and then headed east following the flow of the river; not even one accident happened. The further away they

were from Luoyang, the more relaxed each one became. And before long, their vigilance gradually slacked away.

Chapter 14: Wine Cups

Zu Qianqiu reached into his pocket and took out a wine cup. Smooth and soft, it was actually a white jade cup. He reached in again, and went on taking out more and more wine cups

People in Kaifeng started among the Yue Buqun couple and their apprentices.

“Even though Kaifeng is a big city, there’s not a great deal of interest in martial arts around here. And for people like old Escort Hua, senior

Master Hai, or the Three Elites of Henan, they have neither truly outstanding martial arts skills nor great fame. Let’s just tour around some of the scenic spots and historical sites. We can skip visiting anyone or any

studios so we won’t disturb anyone,” Yue Buqun suggested.

“But senior apprentice brother, have you forgotten that very famous figure in the city of Kaifeng?” Madam Yue grinned.

“A very famous figure? Who…who are you referring to?” Yue Buqun asked.

“‘Cure one and kill one; kill one then cure one. Cure as many as I kill; that shows my skill.’ Now who’s that?” Madam Yue gave a hint.

“Aha, you are talking about the ‘Killer Doctor’ Ping One-Finger. He is indeed very famous. But he’s so eccentric that he most probably wouldn’t want to see us even if we paid him a visit,” Yue Buqun said with a smile.

“That’s true. Or else we could have asked this Killer Doctor to take a look at Chong’s injuries since Chong’s inner wounds are not getting any better and we just happen to be coming to Kaifeng anyway,” Madam Yue

agreed.

“Mom, what does the nickname Killer Doctor mean? If he is a killer, how can he be a famous doctor?” Yue Lingshan asked in curiosity.

“Well, this Doctor Ping is a weirdo…well…a strange fellow in the Martial World. He has profound medical knowledge and his magical hands can bring the dying back to life. It is said that regardless of how ill or how badly wounded the patient is, so long as he agrees to work on him the patient will be cured for sure. But he has this very odd rule. He says that God of Heaven and Lord of Underworld, of course, both know how many people are there in this world. If he cured too many people so that less

people die, there would be too many living and too few dead. Certainly the Lord of Underworld is not going to be too fond of that. And when his final days come, even if the Lord of Underworld leaves him alone, his officers

and goblins would for sure get even with him, therefore, his days in the underworld probably are not going to be easy at all,” Madam Yue explained with a light grin.

Quite amused by these words, all the apprentices giggled.

“That’s why he made an oath,” Madam Yue continued, “that so long as he cures someone, he must kill another one to even the numbers. And if he kills someone, he must cure another one to make up. He put up this big banner right in his office, which said clearly, ‘Cure one and kill one; kill one then cure one. Cure as many as I kill; that shows my skill.’ He says that because of this practice, the God of Heaven wouldn’t fault him for taking

away lives, and Lord of Underworld wouldn’t blame him for taking over his business either.”

The entire audience burst into loud laughter.

“What a funny guy this Doctor Ping One-Finger is! But why does he have such a strange name? Has he only one finger?” Yue Lingshan asked.

“I think he has more than just one finger,” Madam Yue answered.

“Senior apprentice brother, do you know why he picked such a name?” she asked her husband.

“Doctor Ping has all ten fingers. He called himself One-Finger because either to kill or to cure, he only needs one finger to do it. If he

wants to kill someone, he just hits him with one finger, and if he wants to cure someone, he only uses one finger to check pulses,” Yue Buqun clarified.

“Oh, I see. Then I suppose he must be an expert in sealing acupoints,” Madam Yue remarked.

“That I am not too sure. There probably isn’t that many who has fought this Doctor Ping before. Everyone in the Martial World knows how good of a doctor he is. In one’s life, who can say that he is immune to unexpected misfortunes? Maybe one day he will need to ask for Doctor Ping’s help, that’s why no one wants to offend Doctor Ping. But unless it’s absolutely necessary, no one would just rashly ask for his help either,” Yue Buqun said.

“Why’s that?” Yue Lingshan couldn’t help but ask.

“Because whenever a fellow martial person asks him to cure a wound or disease, he would make this person swear an oath ahead of time that after the person is cured, he must obey Dr. Ping’s order to kill a person Dr. Ping

specifies. This is called one life in exchange for another. It’s easier if the person is asked to kill someone totally unrelated to himself, but if he is

asked to kill someone who’s a close friend of his, or even his father, brother, wife, or son, then wouldn’t it be real difficult?” Yue Buqun explained.

“This Doctor Ping is truly odd!” the apprentices remarked.

“Big apprentice brother, in that case, you can’t really ask him to work on you then,” Yue Lingshan concluded.

Linghu Chong had been propping against the door at the backside, listening to Master and Master-Wife discussing the peculiarity of the “Killer Doctor” Ping One-Finger. When he heard little apprentice sister’s words, he replied with a slight smile on his cheeks.

“That’s right! I would be very afraid if he asks me to kill my little apprentice sister, once he cures me.” That brought loud laughter out from the rest of the apprentices.

Yue Lingshan also grinned. “This Doctor Ping has no grudge against me. Why would he ask you to kill me?” She turned her head and asked her father, “Dad, then is this Doctor Ping a good guy or a bad guy?”

“Well, it is said that he is quite grumpy, and always do things to his liking, sometimes chivalrous and sometimes irregular. He is really neither a good guy nor a bad guy. To say it nicely, he is a strange genius. But in plain words, he would be a freak,” Yue Buqun answered.

“Here’s what I think. Many of the rumors flowing around the Martial World are really exaggerations, and this might just be one of them. When we get to the city of Kaifeng, I’d like to go pay a visit to this Doctor Ping,” Yue Lingshan responded.

“Nonsense! Don’t be mischievous!” Both Yue Buqun and Madam Yue admonished almost in unison.

Seeing the solemn expression on her parents’ faces, Yue Lingshan was slightly stunned. “Why?” she asked.

“Meeting people like this? Are you out of your mind? Trouble will come looking for you if you do,” Yue Buqun reproached.

“Why would trouble come looking for me just for a visit? I am not asking him to cure me. What’s the big deal?” Yue Lingshan mumbled.

“We are here to enjoy visiting scenes, not to cause troubles.” Yue Buqun pulled a long face.

Seeing how angry her father had become, Yue Lingshan dared not

speak another word. But her curiosity toward this “Killer Doctor Ping One- Finger” only grew bigger and bigger.

At early morning the next day, the boat entered the city limits of Kaifeng. But it was still quite a distance from the real city. “Guess what?” Yue Buqun smiled a big grin. “There’s this place not far from here where a member of our Yue family once became the center of the limelight many years ago. We’d better pay a visit there.”

“Yay! I know! I know! It’s Zhuxian Town, where General Yue, Yue Pengju,18 kicked Jin Wushu’s19 behind big time,” Yue Lingshan cheered.

Yue Fei, who fought the Jin army and defended China, was a heroic figure all martial people admired deeply in their hearts, and Zhuxian Town was the place where Yue Fei had completely crushed the Jin army.

Naturally, everyone in the group wanted to check it out.

“Hurry up! Let’s go to the Zhuxian Town first. Then we’ll have lunch inside the city of Kaifeng,” Yue Lingshan leapt ashore ahead of everyone

else and shouted.

The passengers started walking off the boat except Linghu Chong who remained sitting by the backside of the boat.

“Big apprentice brother, aren’t you going?” Yue Lingshan asked.

Ever since Linghu Chong had lost all his inner energy, he often felt weary and tired and didn’t want to move much. He figured that since

everybody else was going ashore to have fun, it would be the perfect opportunity for him to learn that “Song of Peace and Serenity.” Besides, seeing how Lin Pingzhi stood side by side with Yue Lingshan, looking intimate and affectionate, he felt even more uncomfortable.

“I am too tired. I won’t be able to keep up with you guys,” he answered.

“Alright, have a good rest then. I’ll get you some good wine from the city of Kaifeng,” Yue Lingshan replied.

Sorrow swelled Linghu Chong’s heart as he watched Yue Lingshan

and Lin Pingzhi walk away abreast, leading the way ahead of everyone else. “Even if learning the ‘Song of Peace and Serenity’ could really cure my internal wounds, why would I bother to cure and why would I bother to learn the music?” he thought to himself.

Staring at the muddy waves of the Yellow River surging east

continuously, he suddenly felt that life’s pain and suffering were really no different from the flowing river – both would come wave after wave and never stop. The thought triggered a disruption in his inner energy flow. An immense pain from his lower abdomen immediately consumed him.

Meanwhile, Yue Lingshan and Lin Pingzhi certainly were in a completely different mood. Walking side by side, whispering in each other’s ears, the two were having a wonderful time.

“Lingshan and Pingzhi are both still young. A man and a woman walking together like this might be all right in the countryside, but it

certainly wouldn’t be appropriate in a big city. Why don’t we give them some company?” Madam Yue gave her husband a pull on the sleeve and whispered.

“We are no longer young. I guess it would be totally appropriate for us to walk together then,” Yue Buqun joked.

Madam Yue let out a smile and then caught up with Yue Lingshan in quick paces. The four of them asked their way from pedestrians and then headed straight toward the Zhuxian Town. Just when they were about to

enter the Zhuxian Town, a big shrine by the roadside caught their attention. The sign on top of the shrine had four words in golden paint, “Shrine of

General Yang.”

“Dad, I know this one. This is the shrine for General Yang Zai- Xing.20 He went to River Shang by mistake and was killed by the Jin archers,” Yue Lingshan said. “Correct! General Yang died defending his country. That is something that deserves great respect and admiration. Let’s go in the shrine to pay our respects to the spirit of a martyr,” Yue Buqun replied.

At the time, the many apprentices were still far behind, so the four of them decided to go inside without waiting for the rest of the group. A statue of Yang Zai-Xing occupied the middle of the shrine. The man in the statue had a white face and wore a set of silver-colored armor, looking very heroic.

“This General Yang is so handsome!” Yue Lingshan thought to herself. She couldn’t help but turn around and cast a glance at Lin Pingzhi to compare Lin Pingzhi with the statue in her heart.

Suddenly a voice came from outside the shrine.

“I bet you this Shrine of General Yang is built for Yang Zai-Xing.”

Recognizing the voice, both Yue Buqun and Madam Yue immediately grabbed onto the hilts of their swords and their faces turned pale.

Then another voice rose, “There are many generals named Yang. How can you be so sure that this is Yang Zai-Xing? Why can’t he be Golden

Blade Grandpa Yang,21 or even Yang the Sixth22 or Yang the Seventh?”23 “Just within the Yang Family Corp, there are many possibilities. It

doesn’t necessarily have to be Grandpa Yang, or Yang the Sixth, or Yang the Seventh. Who says it can’t be Yang Zongbao24 or Yang Wenguang?”25 another voice argued.

“Why can’t it be Yang the Fourth?” yet another voice joined the debate.

“Yang the Fourth surrendered to the foreign invader. No one’s going to build a shrine for him,” the previous one explained.

“Are you implying that I will surrender to the foreign invader because I am the fourth?” the other one mocked. “Sure, you are the fourth. But what has that gotten anything to do with Yang the fourth?” the previous one argued.

“You are the fifth. Yang the Fifth ended up becoming a monk on Mount Wutai. Why aren’t you a monk then?” the other one challenged.

“If I become a monk, you’ll have to surrender to the foreign invader,” the previous one responded.

Only after hearing the first sentence, Yue Buqun and Madam Yue had already figured out who they were – the bunch of Peach Valley’s Freaks.

Yue Buqun waved a signal; the four of them quickly hid behind the statue, the Yue couple on the left and Yue Lingshan and Lin Pingzhi on the right.

The bunch of Peach Valley’s Freaks kept arguing outside of the

shrine, yet neither of them would simply come in to get the answer. Yue Lingshan couldn’t help but feel amused.

“What’s there to argue about? Whether it was Yang Zai-Xing or Yang the Fourth, why not just come in here and take a look? Wouldn’t that save a lot of trouble?” she thought to herself amusingly.

Madam Yue listened carefully and could only recognize five different voices. She figured that the sixth one must have died from her sword stab. The reason why she had left Mount Huashan with her husband was to stay away from those five freaks, afraid that they might go back for revenge.

Who would have expected that they would meet right here? Even though the freaks hadn’t spotted their group of four yet, the other apprentices could show up any minute, and they would have no way of escaping at all.

Worries clouded her mind.

The debate among the five freaks became more and more heated, and finally one of them suggested, “Why don’t we go inside and take a look.

Then we’ll see which stinking guy this shrine was built for.” The five of them all rushed in alongside, and one of them shouted excitedly.

“Aha, look here! It clearly says here ‘Shrine of General Yang Sir Zai- Xing’s Spirit.’ This of course is Yang Zai-Xing.” It was Branch Fairy.

Trunk Fairy scratched his head for a brief moment and then spoke, “It says ‘Yang Sir Zai’ here, not ‘Yang Zai-Xing.’ I see. This General Yang’s first name is Sir Zai. Hmm, Yang Sir Zai, Yang Sir Zai, what a great name!”

“This obviously is Yang Zai-Xing. You are so full of it. Why are you saying that it’s Yang Sir Zai?” Branch Fairy was infuriated.

“Read the words! It clearly says ‘Yang Sir Zai’, not ‘Yang Zai- Xing’.” Trunk Fairy argued.

“Then what do the words ‘Xing’s Spirit’ stand for?” Root Fairy joined in. 

“Xing means happy.26 Xing’s Spirit means the spirit is very happy. After this chap Yang Sir Zai died, people even built a shrine for him, of course his spirit is going to feel very happy,” Leaf Fairy explained.

“Exactly! Exactly!” Trunk Fairy couldn’t agree more.

“Didn’t I say that the shrine was built for Yang the Seventh? I am right once again! Man, I am so smart!” Flower Fairy said contentedly.

“It is Yang Zai-Xing. How can it be Yang the Seventh?” Branch Fairy asked angrily.

“It is Yang Sir Zai. How can it be Yang the Seventh?” Trunk Fairy also asked angrily.

“Third brother, what’s Yang Zai-Xing’s ranking among his brothers?” Flower Fairy asked.

“I don’t know.” Branch Fairy shook his head.

“Yang Zai-Xing was the seventh child. He was Yang the Seventh,” Flower Fairy claimed. “Second brother, what’s Yang Sir Zai’s ranking among his brothers?”

“I used to know. But I don’t remember now,” Trunk Fairy murmured. “Well, I do remember. He was the seventh child also. That’s why he

was Yang the Seventh as well,” Flower Fairy said with a big grin.

“If this statue is Yang Zai-Xing, then it can’t be Yang Sir Zai. If it’s Yang Sir Zai, then it can’t be Yang Zai-Xing. How can it be both Yang Zai- Xing and Yang Sir Zai?” Root Fairy remarked.

“Big brother, think. What’s the meaning of the word ‘Zai?’ ‘Zai’ means again, another one. This must be a statue for two, not just one. That’s why it’s both Yang Sir Zai and Yang Zai-Xing,” Leaf Fairy explained.

“That sounds logical!” The other four Fairies all agreed.

“You say that if there’s the word ‘Zai’ in one’s name, that means one more, then it’s obviously public knowledge that Yang the Seventh had

seven sons!” Branch Fairy suddenly remarked.

“Following that logic, then if someone’s name contained the word ‘Thousand,’ he will have to raise one thousand sons?” Root Fairy asked.

Hearing that the debate took such odd turns, Yue Lingshan almost broke into loud laughter. But she bit her lips hard and kept her silence.

The five Peach Valley’s freaks argued some more when Branch Fairy suddenly blurted out, “Yang the Seventh! If you give blessings to our sixth brother and let him live, I am willing to kowtow to you. Actually, I am going to kowtow right now.” He knelt down on the floor and kowtowed

sincerely.

Hearing those words, Yue Buqun and Madam Yue exchanged a glance, each feeling somewhat relieved. Apparently that freak was still alive even though he took a severe stab from Madam Yue. Those Peach Valley’s Six Fairies’ behaviors were so hard to make sense of; the Yue couple would rather not make an enemy out of them. “But what if sixth brother dies?” Branch Fairy asked.

“Then I’ll smash this statue to bits and pieces and piss on whatever is left of him,” Trunk Fairy answered.

“Even if you smash the statue of Yang the Seventh into bits and pieces, and then piss on it or even shit on it, so what? Sixth brother would be dead already, and your kowtow would all be wasted!” Flower Fairy reminded him.

“You are right! I better hold the kowtow for now. Let’s go get a clear answer, whether sixth brother’s wound is curable or not. If it’s curable, we can come back to kowtow; if it’s not, then we’ll come here to piss on him,” Branch Fairy agreed.

“If it’s curable, he will be cured whether we kowtow or not. There’s no need to kowtow. If it’s not, he won’t be cured whether we piss or not. We can skip pissing,” Root Fairy remarked.

“If sixth brother’s wound is incurable, then we just skip pissing?

Aren’t our bladder gonna explode if we skip pissing? We could die!” Leaf Fairy asked.

Trunk Fairy suddenly broke into a loud cry. “If sixth brother won’t survive this, we’ll all stop taking a piss, even if we’ll all die because of that.”

At those words, the rest four fairies also broke into loud cries.

“Wait a minute,” Branch Fairy suddenly stopped crying and instead, burst into loud laughter. “If sixth brother can be cured, wouldn’t we be just crying for nothing? Come on guys, let’s get a clear answer first, and then we can cry later.”

“What you just said doesn’t make sense at all. If sixth brother can be cured, then why would we be crying later?” Flower Fairy disagreed. Amid the non-stop arguing, the five men rushed out of the shrine in quick steps.

“Whether that man will survive or not is of great importance to us,” Yue Buqun said to Madam Yue. “Let me go look into this. Junior apprentice sister, you, Lingshan, and the other apprentices can stay here and wait for me.”

“You can’t just go all by yourself. Let me go with you and watch your back,” Madam Yue replied in a determined tone and then ran out of the

shrine first.

In the past, when Yue Buqun had important matters to deal with,

Madam Yue would always go with him to aid. Hearing what his wife had said, Yue Buqun knew that it would be impossible to change her mind, so he simply followed quietly.

After the two of them went out of the shrine, from a distance, they

could see the Peach Valley’s Five Freaks turn into a col from a small path. Following the five men quietly, they dared not stay too close and kept a good distance. Thanked to the loud and non-stop arguing from the five, it wasn’t hard for them to shadow the freaks from a long distance behind.

Following the mountain path, after passing by a dozen or so big

willow trees, they came to a small creek. Several tile-roofed houses stood next by the creek. The arguing sound from the five freaks went straight into one of the houses.

“Let’s circle around to the backside of the house,” Yue Buqun suggested.

The couple ran toward their right using their Qing-Gong skills and circled back after about a quarter of a mile. A row of willow trees stood at

the backside of the house. The two hid themselves behind the willow trees and listened. Suddenly, the yelling voice of the Peach Valley’s five freaks broke out abruptly.

“You just killed our sixth brother!”

“Why…why did you cut his chest open?” “I am gonna kill you son of a bitch!”

“We’ll cut your chest open too!”

“Oh, no! Sixth brother! You have died a horrible death! We…we’ll never take a piss again, even if our bladders explode.”

Yue Buqun and Madam Yue were astonished. “Did someone just cut their sixth brother’s chest open?”

After exchanging some gestures, the two of them crept next to the window and looked inside from a crack of the window.

About seven or eight lights lit the entire room and a large bed occupied the middle of the room. A naked man lay on the bed facing up, his chest cut wide open and blood gushing everywhere. The man’s eyes shut tightly as if he had been dead for sometime. His face showed clearly that he was none other than the Fruit Fairy who took a stab from Madam Yue on top of Mount Huashan. The remaining five Peach Valley Freaks stood

around the bed, shouting and yelling hysterically at a short, stocky man.

The short, stocky man had a larger-than-average head. The sparse mustache on his lips and the way he moved his head back and forth added much comical effect to his appearance. Both of his hands were covered with blood, the short dagger in his right hand also had blood dripping down from the tip of the blade. He stared at the five Peach Valley Freaks for a while

and finally spoke.

“Are you done farting?”

“We are done. It’s your turn now,” the five freaks answered in unison. “This half-dead man took a stab in the chest,” the short, stocky guy replied. “You treated the wound with ointment and then carried him such a long way here so that I can save his life. But you were too slow. The wound had grown back together and all the nerves and internal passages had grown back the wrong way. Just to save his life is easy. But since his nerves and internal messages are all messed up, he will not only lose all his Kung Fu, but also become paralyzed from waist down. Why would I want to create

such a good-for-nothing?”

“A good-for-nothing is still better than a dead man,” Root Fairy challenged.

“Humph, either I cure him completely or I don’t touch him at all. How utterly embarrassing it will be if I only make him into a good-for-

nothing? Enough, enough! Now take this corpse and get out of here. I don’t want to work on him no more! You guys are annoying me to death!” the

short, stocky man snapped.

“You said we ‘annoy you to death,’ why aren’t you dead yet?” Root Fairy asked.

“You have already annoyed me to death. Can’t you tell? How do you know that I am not dead already?” the short, stocky man stared right into Root Fairy’s eyes and answered in a chilly tone.

“If you are incapable of curing my sixth brother, why did you cut open his chest?” Trunk Fairy asked.

“What does my nickname say?” the short, stocky man asked coldly.

“Isn’t your stinking nickname something like ‘Killer Doctor’?” Trunk Fairy answered.

A chill went through the Yue Couple’s bodies as they cast a glimpse at each other, both thinking the same thing, “Who would have thought that this odd looking short fatty turned out to be the world-renowned ‘Killer Doctor?’ That’s right, it is said throughout the Martial World that this Ping One-Finger possesses the most excellent skills in healing and curing. It

would only be natural that the five freaks took their seriously wounded brother to him for a cure.”

Ping One-Finger’s cold voice rose again. “Since my nickname is ‘Killer Doctor,’ what’s such a big deal when I kill one or two?”

“What’s so hard about killing somebody? Even I know how to do that. But you only know how to kill people, not how to cure people. You are not worth the part of the name where it says ‘doctor’,” Flower Fairy joined in.

“Who says I don’t know how to cure people? I cut open this half-dead man’s chest so that I can reconnect his nerves and internal passages. After I am finished with him, both his internal and external Kung Fu skills will remain the same as if he was never wounded. Only that will show the true

skills of the ‘Killer Doctor’,” Ping One-Finger replied.

The five Peach Valley Freaks were overjoyed at these words. “So you are capable of curing our sixth brother. We shouldn’t have blamed you,” they responded in unison.

“Why…why aren’t you working on him? Sixth brother’s chest has been cut open. He is bleeding terribly. If you don’t hurry up, it will be too late,” Root Fairy reminded him.

“Now are you the ‘Killer Doctor’ or am I the ‘Killer Doctor’?” Ping One-Finger asked.

“Of course you are. What a dumb question that is!” Root Fairy answered.

“Very well! If I am, then how would you know whether it’s too late or not?” Ping One-Finger retorted. “Besides, I was already working on him

after I cut his chest open. But how can I get on with my work when five wordy creeps simply wouldn’t shut up and leave me alone? Didn’t I tell you to go have fun at the ‘Shrine of General Yang’ for a half-day and then also check out the ‘Shrine of General Niu’ and the ‘Shrine of General Zhang?’ Why have you come back so soon?”

“Hey, get on with your work. You are the wordy one now, not us,” Trunk Fairy responded.

Ping One-Finger gave him a good stare for a moment, and then out of nowhere, he suddenly shouted out, “Get me the needle and the thread!”

The unexpected shout took the five Peach Valley’s Fairies and the Yue couple by surprise; everyone’s heart almost skipped a beat. A tall and thin woman walked in the room with a wooden basin in her hands. Quietly, she

set the basin on the table. The woman was in her forties and had a square face with two big ears and a pair of sunken eyes. Her face looked pale and had little color in the cheeks.

“You want me to save this man here. I have already told you my rules, haven’t I?” Ping One-Finger spoke again.

“Sure. And we have agreed to it and swore our oath already. No matter whom you want dead, just let us know. We promise that we won’t disappoint you,” Root Fairy answered.

“Good,” Ping One-Finger nodded. “I haven’t thought of anyone that I want dead. I’ll let you know once I decide. Now, all of you stand over there and shut your mouth up. If I hear anything from you, I swear that I’ll give it up and not give a damn about this man no more.”

Ever since they were kids, the six Peach Valley brothers had always slept in the same room and eaten on the same table. They never stopped talking. Even in their dreams they kept on arguing back and forth. But now all they could do was to stare at each other, each had a stomach full of things he would love to spill out. When they thought that even a single word out of their mouth would get their sixth brother killed, each one of them bit his lips hard to fight the urge to talk, afraid of letting any sound out, not even a heavy breath or a fart.

Ping One-Finger picked up a big needle from the tray on the table. After threading in the thick, diaphanous thread, he quickly sewed Fruit Fairy’s chest back together. His ten fingers were short and chunky, almost like ten carrots, yet they moved with ultimate efficiency and accuracy.

Within moments, he had already sewed the over nine-inch long wound back together. Then he took many kinds of medicine, some powder, some liquid, from the many china bottles behind him and applied them to the wound.

Next, he pried Fruit Fairy’s mouth open and poured some different kinds of liquid down the throat before wiping the blood off Fruit Fairy’s body with a wet cloth. The tall and thin woman helped by the side, sometimes handing over the medicines, sometimes holding the needle for him, appearing to be very proficient.

Ping One-Finger glimpsed at the five Peach Valley’s Fairies. Seeing that all five of them had already opened their mouths and were in a rush to begin talking, he said, “This man hasn’t come back to life yet. You can begin talking after he comes back to life.” With their mouths still open, the five freaks’ faces froze instantly with a totally awkward look. Ping One- Finger let out a snort and then sat down by the side. The woman took the needle, thread, dagger and the rest of the stuff out of the room.

Hiding outside of the window, Yue Buqun and Madam Yue held their breaths. At the moment it was completely silent inside the room, so any little sound from outside of the window would, for sure, catch the attention of the people inside the room.

After a long while, Ping One-Finger stood up and walked by Fruit Fairy. All of a sudden, he struck out with his palm and smacked heavily on the Bai-Hui Acupoint on Fruit Fairy’s head. “Ah!” six men shouted out in

shock. Out of the six men, five were the Peach Valley’s Five Fairies, and the sixth one was actually the man lying on bed who had been unconscious all the time – Fruit Fairy.

Right after the cry, Fruit Fairy sat straight up and scolded, “God damn it! What the hell did you hit my head for?”

“God damn it! If I didn’t drill open your Bai-Hui Acupoint with my inner energy, would you have recovered so quickly?” Ping One-Finger

scolded back.

“God damn it! Quick or slow, my recovery is none of your business!” Fruit Fairy rebuffed.

“God damn it! If your recovery were slow, how would people know the brilliance of the Killer Doctor’s skills? And wouldn’t it be annoying to have you sleep in my room any longer than necessary?” Ping One-Finger replied.

“God damn it! Are you saying that I am annoying you? I am getting out of here. You think I care about you?” Fruit Fairy mocked. As soon as he said those words, he rolled out of bed and headed out.

The other five Peach Valley Freaks had not expected him to recover so quickly and were able to walk out just like he said he would. In great

shock and joy, they all followed him out of the door.

Completely shocked and terrified, the Yue couple all came to the same conclusion, “That Ping One-Finger’s medical skills are indeed

astonishing. Besides, his inner strength is nothing ordinary, either. When he smacked the Bai-Hui Acupoint on Fruit Fairy’s head, he must have injected vigorous inner energy into Fruit Fairy’s body to wake him up instantly.” Within the moment of hesitation, the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies had gone far away. Ping One-Finger stood up and then walked into another room. Yue Buqun gave his wife a signal, and the two quietly sneaked away. Not until they were hundreds of feet away from the room did they speed up their

steps.

“That Killer Doctor’s inner strength is simply extraordinary. But his behavior was indeed very unusual,” Madam Yue exclaimed.

“Since the Peach Valley’s Six Freaks are around, the city of Kaifeng has gotten to be a place of trouble. We’d better leave here at once. There’s no need for us to get tangled up with them,” Yue Buqun suggested.

Madam Yue answered with a hum. Throughout her life, only the last several months had given her the most grievances. Even her husband, the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School, a member school of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance, had to run around in hiding. And it almost felt as if there was nowhere safe no matter where they went. The couple had never kept anything from each other, but every time when this topic came up, both of them would immediately change topic to avoid the

embarrassment. Now when they finally knew that Fruit Fairy would live on, both felt great relief as if a big rock had been removed from their hearts.

The two of them went straight back to the “Shrine of General Yang” and found Yue Lingshan, Lin Pingzhi, Lao Denuo, and the rest of the

apprentices waiting at the back hall.

“Let’s get back to the boat,” Yue Buqun ordered.

By then everybody had become aware that the Peach Valley’s Five Freaks were close by, so neither questioned the order and all returned to the boat in a hurry. Just when they were going to ask the boatman to set sail, the Peach Valley’s Five Fairies’ loud shouts suddenly came from ashore.

“Linghu Chong! Linghu Chong! Where are you?” All faces of the Huashan Sword School members changed color as they watched six men rushing toward the wharf in trots. Besides the Peach Valley’s Five Fairies, there was also Ping One-Finger among the group. The Peach Valley’s Five Fairies had seen the Yue Buqun couple before, so when they recognized Yue couple’s faces from afar, all cheered uncontrollably.

Within seconds, they had arrived and immediately all five of them leapt toward the boat.

Instantly Madam Yue unsheathed her sword and stabbed it forward toward Root Fairy’s chest. At the exact same time, Yue Buqun also drew his sword and pushed Madam Yue’s blade down using that of his own.

“Don’t be reckless!” he whispered.

The bow of the boat sunk slightly when the Peach Valley’s Five Fairies boarded the boat.

“Linghu Chong! Where are you hiding? Why don’t you come out?” Root Fairy yelled loudly.

“Why should I hide? Am I afraid of you?” Linghu Chong roared in

fury.

Right at the moment, the boat bumped slightly and another person

had leapt aboard – the “Killer Doctor” Ping One-Finger.

Yue Buqun felt a great shock inward. “The minute junior apprentice sister and I got back this dwarf shows up right here. Could we have left any

traces when we sneaked about outside of his window? Could he have found the traces? The Peach Valley’s Five Freaks alone are already hard enough to deal with, not mentioning adding such a tough opponent on top of that.

Alas, perhaps our lives are destined to end here at Kaifeng today.” Then he heard Ping One-Finger speak.

“May I ask which one of you is brother Linghu?” Surprisingly, his words were quite polite. “I am Linghu Chong. May I have your respectful name? May I ask what I can do for you?” Linghu Chong slowly walked onto the bow of the boat and answered.

Ping One-Finger looked Linghu Chong up and down. “Someone has asked me to treat your wounds,” he said.

Reaching out and grabbing Linghu Chong by his hand, he placed his index finger on top of Linghu Chong’s wrist and began checking his pulses. Suddenly, he raised his eyebrows and uttered a cry of surprise. But soon his eyebrows gradually knitted into a straight line and another cry of surprise followed. Raising his head high, he stared into the sky blankly, his left hand scratching his head madly.

“How odd! How odd!” he murmured to himself.

A long while passed before he reached out again to check Linghu

Chong’s pulse from the other wrist. But as soon as his index finger touched Linghu Chong’s wrist, he sneezed all of a sudden.

“This is so weird. I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he muttered.

Root Fairy could no longer hold his tongue and jumped in. “What’s so odd about it? It’s so obvious that he was wounded in his Heart Passage. I have already treated him with my inner energy.”

“Why are you still insisting on saying that he was wounded in his Heart Passage? Obviously he had problems with his Lung Passage. If it weren’t I who opened his many acupoints along the Lung Passage, you think he’d still be alive today?” Trunk Fairy immediately rebuffed.

Wasting no time, Branch Fairy, Leaf Fairy and Flower Fairy all jumped into the big debate, each claiming himself the only one that gave the right and critical treatment and the one who should get the credits.

Ping One-Finger suddenly gave a loud shout, “What crap!” “Hey! Are you talking crap, or are we, the five brothers, talking crap?” Root Fairy mocked angrily.

“Of course you are!” Ping One-Finger answered. “Inside brother Linghu’s body, there are two streams of stronger energy flow, which

seemed to have come from Monk No Commandment. There are also six streams of weaker energy flow, which probably came from you guys, you six fools!”

Yue Buqun and Madam Yue shot a glance at each other, both thinking, “This Ping One-Finger is indeed incredible. It’s not hard to detect the eight streams of energy flow inside Chong from his pulse, but it is

completely amazing that he is able to identify the origin of the different energy streams and knew two of them came from Monk No

Commandment.”

“Why are you saying that our six energy streams are weaker and the god-damned No Commandment’s energy streams are stronger? There’s no doubt that ours are stronger and his are weaker!” Trunk Fairy snubbed furiously.

“What a nerve!” Ping One-Finger sneered. “He was only one, yet his two energy streams overwhelmed all the energy streams of the six of you

combined. How the hell could yours be stronger, huh? Monk No

Commandment the old scumbag, he has outstanding Kung Fu skills yet no brain! God damn it! What an idiot!”

Flower Fairy stuck his finger out and pretended to also check Linghu Chong’s pulse. “Well,” he said, “it seems that the energy streams of the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies are actually in total control and have completely overwhelmed Monk No Commandment’s….” Suddenly he cried out in pain and pulled his finger back quickly as if somebody has bitten it. “Ouch! God damn it!” he shouted. Looking very pleased, Ping One-Finger burst into loud laughter.

Everybody could tell that he must have passed his advanced inner energy through Linghu Chong’s body and gave Flower Fairy a painful shock.

After some more laughing, Ping One-Finger put the solemn face back

on.

“Listen up, all of you! Go wait in the boat’s hold and be quiet! I don’t

want hear a word out of you!”

“Wait a minute! What makes you think we’d do exactly what you tell us to do?” Leaf Fairy protested.

“Didn’t you swear an oath that you would kill a person for me?” Ping One-Finger asked.

“That’s right! But we only agreed to kill a person for you. We never agreed to follow your orders?” Branch Fairy answered.

“It’s totally up to you whether you want to follow my orders or not.

But what if I ask you to kill the Fruit Fairy of the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies? What do you think?” Ping One-Finger sneered.

The Five Fairies all shouted out in protests. “That’s outrageous! You have just cured him. Why are you asking us to kill him?”

“Well, what kind of oath did you five swear to me?” Ping One-Finger asked.

“We agreed that if you can cure our brother Fruit Fairy, then when you order us to kill a person, regardless of who that person is, we must do it. No excuses, whatsoever,” Root Fairy replied.

“That’s correct!” Ping One-Finger nodded. “Now did I cure your brother?”

“Yes, you did!” Flower Fairy concurred.

“Is Fruit Fairy a person?” Ping One-Finger pressed on.

“Of course he is a person. He is no ghost,” Leaf Fairy answered. “Fine. I want you to kill a person for me, and this person is Fruit Fairy!” Ping One-Finger concluded.

The five Fairies looked at each other in blank dismay. All felt that this order was unspeakably queer, yet neither of them could think of any

argument.

“If you are not willing to kill Fruit Fairy, I am sure we can work

something out. Now will you follow my orders? I am telling you to go sit in the boat’s hold and behave yourselves. I don’t want any movement or any word out of you,” Ping One-Finger commanded.

The five Fairies hurriedly acknowledged the order, and within

seconds, all five of them sat down in the hold, their hands on their knees and their backs straight up, making sure that no one could have behaved any better than them.

“Master Ping, I heard that you have this rule when you treat your patients: after you’ve cured the patient, he will have to kill someone for you. Is that true?” Linghu Chong asked.

“That’s correct! I do have this rule,” Ping One-Finger admitted.

“But I don’t want to kill anyone for you, so please save your trouble and don’t treat me,” Linghu Chong exclaimed.

“Huh!” Ping One-Finger uttered a cry of surprise. He looked Linghu Chong up and down as if he had seen something totally eccentric and

abnormal. After a long pause, he spoke again.

“Firstly, your case is too severe and I can’t cure you; secondly, even if I could cure you, someone else has already agreed to kill for me. You don’t have to worry about it at all.”

Ever since Yue Lingshan had shifted her love interests to someone else, Linghu Chong had lost the joy of life. But when he heard from this famous doctor, who had such a great reputation with his capability of bringing the dying back to life, that even he couldn’t cure the wounds, Linghu Chong still found himself swept by utter desolation.

The Yue couple gave each other a stare, both thinking, “Who has gotten such great due respect that could have made ‘Killer Doctor’ to make house calls? What kind of relationship does he have with Chong?”

“Brother Linghu,” Ping One-Finger spoke again. “There are eight streams of foreign energy forces inside your body that could not be

discharged, nor dissolved, nor tamed, nor overpowered, which have caused all the injuries and suffering. I was entrusted the task to cure your wounds.

It’s not that I am holding any effort back from you. Because your injuries are related to inner energy, that’s why medicine and medical treatments

won’t do you any good. Ever since I became a doctor, I’ve never seen any injuries like this. Alas, there’s really nothing I can do. I am so ashamed.”

He took a china bottle out from his chest pocket and then poured ten vermilion pills into his palm.

“These are ten ‘Heart-Soothing’ pills. They contain many kinds of precious medicinal materials and took me a long time to make. Take one pill every ten days and you will be able to live for another one hundred days.”

“Many thanks!” Linghu Chong took the pills respectfully.

Ping One-Finger turned around and headed toward the bank. But suddenly he turned back again. “There are two more pills in the bottle. I might as well give all of them to you.” He took out the china bottle and handed it out.

But Linghu Chong didn’t take it. “I can tell that senior master really treasure these pills very much. They must contain great healing power. It’s probably better to keep them with you to save someone else in the future. Even if I could live ten days or twenty days longer, it’s not gonna do anybody, even I myself, any good.”

Ping One-Finger threw a sideways glance at Linghu Chong for a moment and then murmured, “Having no regards of one’s own life, you do show the qualities of a true man. No wonder! No wonder! Alas, what a pity! I am sorry!”

He shook his giant head, turned around, leapt off the boat, and then walked off in big strides. He came and went so abruptly and completely ignored Yue Buqun, the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School. Yue Buqun was greatly annoyed. But there were still five menaces sitting in the boat’s hold. Getting rid of them was not going to be an easy task.

The five Fairies all sat absolutely still, their eyes looking down, their hands on their knees, as if they were monks meditating in trance. If Yue

Buqun ordered the boat to start sail, then the five menaces would have, for sure, been brought along. If he didn’t order the boat to start sail, then nobody knew how long they were going to just sit there, or if they were going to jump up suddenly to attack in retaliation for the stab Madam Yue

gave Fruit Fairy. Lao Denuo, Yue Lingshan, and some more apprentices had seen with their own eyes the horrible scene how the Fairies had ripped

Cheng Buyou into pieces. Even now, each of them could still feel chills on their back from the fear. They simply gazed at each other in dismay, and neither was even brave enough to cast a glance at those five.

“Hey, what are you doing here?” Linghu Chong came back into the

hold.

“We are just sitting here and behaving ourselves. We are not doing

anything,” Root Fairy answered.

“We are about to start sail. You can go back ashore now,” Linghu Chong urged. “Ping One-Finger told us to sit in the hold and behave ourselves, no talks and no movements. Otherwise, he is gonna ask us to kill our brother. That’s why we are sitting here behaving ourselves and dare not talk or move,” Branch Fairy replied.

Linghu Chong couldn’t help but grin at these words. “Doctor Ping has gone ashore already. You can start talking and moving now!”

“No way! No way! What if he sees us talking and moving about? That’s not going to be good!” Flower Fairy shook his head frantically.

Suddenly a croaky voice floated from ashore, “Hey, you five ugly goblins! Where are you?”

“I think he’s calling us,” Root Fairy suggested.

“Why do you think he’s calling us? Are we ugly goblins?” Branch Fairy argued.

The voice shouted again, “I have one more ugly goblin here. Doctor Ping has just cured him. Do you want him or not? If you don’t want him, I am gonna drop him in the river to feed the fish.”

Hearing those, the five Fairies instantly leapt out of the hold side by

side and landed ashore. The middle-aged woman who had helped Ping One- Finger with the operation stood by the river straight as a ramrod. With her left arm extended to the side, she lifted a stretcher in her left hand, and Fruit Fairy lay on the stretcher. The woman looked ill from her face yet had great strength. To lift the over one hundred pounds Fruit Fairy plus the wooden

stretcher using only one arm seemed so easy for her.

“Of course we want him. Why would we not want him?” Root Fairy said hurriedly.

“Why are you calling us ugly goblins?” Branch Fairy asked.

“Look at yourself, you look more like an ugly goblin yourself,” Fruit Fairy said while lying on the stretcher. It turned out that after Ping One-Finger had sewed Fruit Fairy’s wound back together, fed him some miraculous medicine, and then

smacked his head to inject advanced inner energy, he immediately stood up and walked out. But due to the loss of great amount of blood, he fainted

again after only a short distance and was brought back into the room by the middle-aged woman. Even though he was still far from recovering, his

wounds didn’t keep him from yielding to anyone orally, and he simply couldn’t help but contradict the woman.

“Do you know what Doctor Ping fears the most in his life?” the woman asked coldly.

“We don’t know. What does he fear the most?” the six Fairies replied in unison.

“He fears his wife!” the woman answered.

“We thought he feared nothing at all. Who would have though he

actually fears his wife? Ha-ha! Oh my god! Ha-ha!” The Peach Valley’s Six Fairies laughed so hard that they almost laughed their heads off.

“What’s so funny? I am his wife,” the woman said in a chilling tone. Instantly, the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies shut themselves up.

“He never dare disobey my orders,” the woman continued. “If I want anyone dead, that person will be the one he tells you to kill.”

“Yes! Yes! May we ask you who you want dead, Mrs. Ping?” the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies asked in unison.

The woman cast a glance toward the boat’s hold and looked at all the Huashan members one by one. Her eyes moved from Yue Buqun to Madam Yue, then to Yue Lingshan, then to the rest of the Huashan apprentices.

Every one could feel goose bumps all over his back, all knowing that if this woman with the ugly and bloodless face had pointed at one of them, the five Fairies would instantly rip that person into pieces. Even first class fighters like Yue Buqun perhaps wouldn’t be able to escape from their hands.

The woman slowly looked away from the Huashan members and then turned her eyes to the faces of the six Fairies. The six brothers also felt their heart pounding in their chests from fear. “Uh,” the woman let out a sound,

and the six Fairies immediately answered, “Yes! Yes!” “Hum,” the woman let out a snort, and the six Fairies again answered at once, “Yes! Yes!”

“I haven’t thought of whom I want dead,” the woman finally said. “But Doctor Ping said that there’s a Young Master Linghu Chong on the boat who he respects very much. You must wait upon him until he dies.

Whatever he tells you to do, you will do it for him with no exceptions. Do you hear me?”

“Wait upon him until he dies?” the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies asked with big frowns.

“That’s correct! Wait upon him until he dies. But he only has one hundred days left in this life. Within the next one hundred days, you must obey all of his orders,” Mrs. Ping explained.

Hearing that Linghu Chong only had no more than one hundred days left, the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies all became happy again. “Sure, to wait upon him for one hundred days shouldn’t be that hard!” they all said.

“I am truly grateful for Master Ping’s generous offer, but I dare not trouble the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies to care for me,” Linghu Chong rejected. “Will you please tell them to stay ashore? We hereby bid our farewell to you.”

Mrs. Ping kept her cold face without any sign of joy or anger,

whatsoever. “Doctor Ping said that Young Master Linghu’s internal injury is solely caused by those six scumbags. Not only would Young Master Linghu die because of that, it also made Doctor Ping lose great face from not being able to cure him and give a satisfactory answer to the one who entrusted him for the task, that’s why he must punish these six scumbags to a great extent. Doctor Ping had planned to ask them to kill one of their brothers

following their own oath, but he decided to show mercy and only ask them to wait upon Young Master Linghu.”

She paused for a moment and then continued. “If these six scumbags do not follow Young Master Linghu’s commands and Doctor Ping hears

about it, he promises to kill one of them immediately.”

“Since brother Linghu’s injury was caused by us, it’s really nothing that we wait upon him for a while. A true man knows when to pay back a favor and when to settle a score,” Flower Fairy declared.

“A true man is willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of friendship, much less waiting upon his injuries,” Branch Fairy added.

“My wounds also need someone to wait upon. So I’ll wait upon him and he will wait upon me. Back and forth, it’s good for both of us,” Fruit Fairy followed.

“Not mentioning that we can only wait upon him for a limited one hundred days. How short it is!” Trunk Fairy joined in.

Root Fairy smacked his own thigh loudly and said, “Even in the old days people could travel a thousand miles to help at the news of their friend’s trouble. For us six brothers, did we ever hesitate to jump in troubles and help the needed…?”

Mrs. Ping shot a glance of distain toward the six Fairies and then

simply walked away. Branch Fairy and Trunk Fairy lifted the stretcher and leapt onboard. Root Fairy and the rest of the Fairies all followed. Then six voices shouted simultaneously, “Start the sail! Start the sail!”

By then, Linghu Chong knew that, for sure, they wouldn’t be able to keep the six Fairies from going together with them, so he said, “Six Fairy brothers! I can let you come together with us, but you must show good manners to my Master and Master-Wife. This is my first order. If you don’t do as I say, then I don’t want you to wait upon me.”

“We, the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, have always been refined and

courteous gentlemen. Everybody knows that. We will even show respects to your apprentice or your grand-apprentice, much less your Master and

Master-Wife,” Leaf Fairy replied.

Hearing that he had called himself a refined and courteous gentleman, Linghu Chong found himself greatly amused. He turned to Yue Buqun and said, “Master, these six Fairy brothers would like to board our boat and sail east with us. Do you think it’s alright?”

Yue Buqun pondered. It seemed that, at least for now, these six

wouldn’t make things difficult for the Huashan School. With everybody else on the same boat, they still remained a serious hidden danger. But it was probably impossible to drive them away under the current

circumstance. Fortunately these six men appeared to be mentally deranged despite the outstanding Kung Fu skills they possessed. So it wouldn’t be

entirely impossible to contain them by strategy. At that thought, he nodded. “Alright. I guess they can take the boat with us if they insist. But I

prefer a quiet life and would not want to listen to them argue back and forth non-stop.”

“You’ve said it wrong, Mr. Yue,” Branch Fairy argued. “Why do you think a person is born with a mouth? Other than eating, this mouth is also used to talk. And how about the two ears? Of course they are used to listen to people talking. If you prefer a quiet life, then you are really letting the Almighty Creator down for giving you a mouth and two ears.”

Yue Buqun knew too well that if he had argued back, when the other five brothers’ five mouths all joined in, that would be like opening a can of worms, and there would be no end to it. He couldn’t beat them in physical fight, nor would he be able to beat them in a word fight, so he simply let out a slight smile and then said, “Boatman, set sail!”

“Mr. Yue, didn’t you just open your mouth to tell the boatman to set sail? If you really prefer a quiet life, you should have signaled him to set sail with a gesture,” Leaf Fairy joined in.

“The boatman is at the back of the boat, and Mr. Yue is here in the middle section. If he had signaled yet the boatman couldn’t see him, then it would still be useless,” Trunk Fairy disagreed.

“Couldn’t he have walked to the back of the boat and then signal the gesture?” Root Fairy suggested.

“What if the boatman couldn’t understand his gesture and thought the ‘set sail’ command was the ‘sink the boat’ command? That would be terrible,” Flower Fairy argued.

Amid the arguments from the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, the boatman had weighed the anchor and set sail.

Both Yue Buqun and Madam Yue cast a glance at Linghu Chong

spontaneously followed by a brief glance at the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies. After exchanging some looks at each other, the Yue couple all had the same thought.

“Ping One-Finger mentioned that someone had entrusted him to treat Chong’s injury. From his words, it seems that this person must have been

someone with very high status in the Martial World, that was why Ping thought nothing of the Head Master of the Huashan Sword School, yet was very polite to an apprentice of the Huashan Sword School. Who had

entrusted Doctor Ping to treat Chong? Since Ping called Monk No

Commandment a ‘god damned idiot,’ then obviously it wasn’t Monk No Commandment.” In the old days, they would have called Linghu Chong over and asked him in detail, but unconsciously, much misunderstanding had emerged between the master and the apprentice. Both of them knew it was not yet the time to ask Linghu Chong. When Madam Yue thought of that even Ping One-Finger, the number one doctor in the Martial World, couldn’t cure Linghu Chong’s injury and that he only had one hundred days left in his life, sadness welled up in her heart and tears streamed down her cheek.

Sailing with the wind and downstream, the boat traveled speedily. By evening, they were already not far from the town of Lanfeng. The boatman anchored the boat along the bank and soon had prepared dinner. Just when everyone was ready for supper, suddenly, loud voices came from ashore.

“Excuse me! May I ask if the heroes of the Huashan Sword School are on this boat?”

Before Yue Buqun had a chance to answer, Branch Fairy had already answered, “Heroes of both the Huashan Sword School and the Peach

Valley’s Six Fairies are all on this boat. What do you want?”

“Great! Great! We have been waiting here for an entire day and night.

Hurry! Hurry up! Take those over!” the man replied gleefully.

Over a dozen hefty looking men walked out from a straw mat shed falling into two lines, each with a red-lacquered small case in his hands. An empty-handed man in a blue robe walked by the boat and bowed down.

“Our superior was very concerned when he heard that young hero Linghu was not feeling well. He really wanted to pay a visit himself but simply did not have enough time to make the trip back. So he sent me

specific orders by homing pigeons and asked me to present some small gifts to young hero Linghu on his behalf.”

One by one, the dozen of men walked aboard in a file and placed the over a dozen of cases down on the boat. Utterly surprised, Linghu Chong couldn’t help but ask, “I am Linghu Chong. May I ask who the respectful superior of yours is? I am afraid I am unworthy of such generous gifts.”

“Young hero Linghu is a man of good fortunes. I am sure you will fully recover in no time. Please take care!” the man replied. Bowing down respectfully, he led the bunch of men and walked away.

“I wonder who is sending me the gifts. This is so odd,” Linghu Chong murmured.

The Peach Valley’s Five Fairies could no longer hold their patience. “Let’s open them up!” they acclaimed in unison and soon had opened all of the red-lacquered small cases. Some of the cases were filled with exquisite refreshments and pastry; some contained smoked chicken or ham that were great to go with wine; some held all kinds of expensive and precious medicinal materials such as ginseng, pilose antler, swallow nest, and tremella; the last two cases were filled with small gold and silver ingots,

apparently for Linghu Chong to use along his trip. These were no small gifts at all! As soon as the Peach Valley’s Five Fairies spotted the candies, cookies, candied fruits, and the pastries in the different cases, they wasted no time grabbing the treats and jamming them into their mouths. “This is delicious! So delicious!” they shouted cheerfully.

Linghu Chong checked the many cases carefully and thoroughly yet didn’t find any notes, seals, or signs that would give out a trace of the gift- giver’s identity.

“Master,” Linghu Chong said to Yue Buqun, “I really can’t figure this one out. These people seem to bear no ill will, and it doesn’t look like that they are playing pranks on us either.” Having said those words, he put some of the treats in front of his Master and Master-Wife respectfully before distributing the rest of them to his apprentice brothers and sisters. Yue Buqun cast a glance at the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies. They all had some of the treats, and none of them had any abnormal reactions from the food. It seemed that the food was not poisoned. So he asked Linghu

Chong.

“Do you have any martial friends living in this area?”

“No.” Linghu Chong shook his head after he pondered for a moment.

Sound of hoof beats suddenly rose. Eight riders dashed toward them along the river. Someone shouted among the riders.

“Is young hero Linghu of the Huashan Sword School over there?” “Yes, yes! He’s over here! What good stuff have you brought with

you?” the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies shouted cheerfully.

“Our chief heard that young hero Linghu had come to the town of Lanfeng. He also heard that young hero Linghu is quite fond of wine, so he told me to put together sixteen jars of excellent mellow wine and bring them here, so young hero Linghu can enjoy them on the boat along his trip,” the man shouted back.

Soon, the eight riders had arrived, and sure enough, each saddle atop the horsebacks had two wine jars hanging from it. And on the wine jars,

some wrote “Best Quality Royal-Wine,” some wrote “High Grade Fen- Wine,”27 and some others wrote “Shaoxing Red Wine.”28 These sixteen jars of wine turned out to have contained sixteen different types of wine. In Linghu Chong’s mind, there was nothing else that could have been a better gift than these great wines. He hurried to the bow of the boat and then

cupped his hands to salute.

“Please forgive my ignorance. Will you please tell me the name of your respectful clan? And what is your respectful name?”

“Our chief specifically told us again and again to not mention the name of our clan to young hero Linghu. He said that these are only very humble gifts. It’s embarrassing enough. Why embarrass ourselves even more by mentioning our names?” the man answered with a grin. He waved a signal to his companions, and all the riders carried the many wine jars onto the boat.

Yue Buqun gazed at the eight men from within the boat’s hold. Every one of them was vigorous and nimble. Carrying one wine jar in each hand, they leapt aboard easily. None of the eight had any outstanding Kung Fu

skills, and it was obvious that they were all from different Kung Fu schools. They must have been telling the truth when they said that they were members of a clan.

After sending the sixteen jars of wine aboard, the eight men bowed to Linghu Chong, jumped back onto their horses, and soon faded into the night.

“Master, how strange this is! I wonder who is playing a joke with me and sent me this many jars of wine,” Linghu Chong grinned.

“Could it be Tian Boguang? Or could it be Monk No Commandment?” Yue Buqun murmured.

“Right!” Linghu Chong replied. “Those two tend to do things the odd way. Who knows, it might be them behind all these. Hey, Peach Valley’s Six Fairies! We have so much great wine here. Aren’t you going to have

some?”

“Of course! Of course! We don’t’ see any reason not to!” the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies agreed wholeheartedly.

Root Fairy and Trunk Fairy each picked up a jar. After opening the seal, they poured the wine into bowls. The wonderful smell immediately filled the air. The six Fairies didn’t even pretend to be polite to Linghu

Chong, raising the bowls up and down, they began swallowing the great wine in big gulps. Linghu Chong also filled a bowl with wine and took it to Yue Buqun. “Master, please have some. This wine is not bad, indeed.”

Yue Buqun slightly frowned and hummed.

“Master,” Lao Denuo joined in, “taking precaution never hurts. We don’t know who sent us these wines. Who knows if there’s anything odd in these wines?”

Yue Buqun nodded in agreement. “Chong, we’d better be careful.” But once the wonderful smell of high quality wine had gone into

Linghu Chong’s nose, he could no longer hold his craving.

“I won’t be living much longer, anyway. It’s no difference for me whether the wine was poisoned or not,” he said with a grin.

Raising the bowl up with both hands, Linghu Chong poured all the wine in the bowl into his mouth and swallowed them in big gulps. “Great wine! Fabulous!” he praised.

Suddenly a voice came from ashore. Someone also praised loudly, “Great wine! Fabulous!”

Linghu Chong looked toward the direction the voice had come from and his eyes came upon a down and out scholar looking man in shabby

clothes. The scholar had a torn folding fan in his right hand. Raising his head high, he sniffed again and again in the air, trying hard to catch as much of the great scent of wine as possible.

“Definitely great wine!” the scholar praised again.

“You haven’t even tasted it, how would you know if the wine was good or bad, brother?” Linghu Chong asked with a grin.

“As soon as you smell the scent of the wine, you should have known that this is sixty-two year old High Grade Fen-Wine. Then undoubtedly it has to be great!” the scholar replied. Linghu Chong had become quite an expert in the subject of wine thanked to the enthusiastic teachings from the Elder Bamboo-Green. He had already figured out that the wine was about sixty years old. But it would be simply impossible to be so sure that the wine was exactly sixty-two years old. The scholar must be exaggerating, he thought.

“If this brother doesn’t mind, would you like to join us for some wine?” Linghu Chong invited with a smile.

“But you hardly know me at all,” the scholar replied while wagging his head back and forth. “We have only met by chance like patches of drifting duckweed. I’ve already disturbed you enough by sniffing the scent of wine here. How can I trouble you even further by drinking your wine? I really couldn’t do that! I certainly couldn’t do that!”

“The old saying said it well: We are all brothers within the four seas.

From what you just said, I can tell that you must be an expert in the knowledge of wine. I’d love to consult you on some of the questions. Come aboard please! Don’t be too modest,” Linghu Chong invited again with a

smile.

Hearing these words, the scholar strolled over slowly. After bowing down deeply, he said, “My surname is Zu, the same Zu that’s in the word

ancestor.29 The famous Zu Di30 in history who trained at the first crow of a cock was indeed a remote ancestor of mine. My first name is Qianqiu,

which means a thousand years. This brother! May I ask what your respectful name is?”

“My surname is Linghu, and my first name is Chong,” Linghu Chong replied.

“Great surname! Great surname! And your first name is great too!” Zu Qianqiu praised while walking aboard the boat from the springboard. Linghu Chong was amused. “Just because I am inviting him for some wine, even my name is now a better name. Go figure!” he couldn’t help thinking.

He filled a bowl with wine and then handed the bowl to Zu Qianqiu. “Here you go! Enjoy!” he said.

Zu Qianqiu was a man in his fifties. He had a sallow face, a pair of listless eyes, and a brandy nose. Sparse beard occupied the lower half of his face. The front of his garment had many oil stains. When he extended his hands out, filth could clearly be seen under the fingernails of all his ten fingers. He was a thin man yet had a big belly that was totally out of proportion.

Seeing that Linghu Chong had handed over the bowl of wine, Zu Qianqiu didn’t take it from him right away.

“Brother Linghu, although you have great wines, yet you don’t have any good vessels of wine. What a great pity that is!” he exclaimed.

“We are in the middle of a trip and only have a few rough bowls and cups. Mister Zu, you’ll just have to make do with them,” Linghu Chong replied.

“No way! No Way!” Zu Qianqiu shook his head and exclaimed. “Obviously you haven’t mastered the secret of the art of drinking;

otherwise, you wouldn’t have been so careless about the vessels of wine. The art of drinking must have great regards to the vessels of wine. The kind of wine cup to use is very particular to what kind of wine you are drinking. If you are drinking Fen-Wine, then of course we have to use a Jade Cup. In the Tang Dynasty, a poet once wrote, ‘Jade Cups bring about the light of amber.’31 Evidently a Jade Cup can help to perfect the color of the wine.”

“No doubt!” Linghu Chong agreed. “Look at this jar of the Northeastern White-Wine,” Zu Qianqiu pointed at one of the wine jars and continued, “the flavor of the wine is excellent, but it lacks the sweet scent of good wine. You’d better drink it with a Rhino-horn Cup, which will make the wine taste just perfect. One should know that a Jade Cup will enhance the color of the wine and a

Rhino-horn Cup will enhance the sweet scent of the wine. Our ancestors kid us not. Indeed!”

Back at Luoyang, Linghu Chong had listened to Elder Bamboo-Green teaching and explaining the subject of wine and had mastered a great deal of knowledge about the origin, the smell, the method of winemaking and

storing procedures of the many kinds of famous wines, yet he knew nothing about wine vessels. And now when he listened to Zu Qianqiu speak with

such fervor and assurance, he couldn’t help the feeling of suddenly seeing the light.

“As for Grape Wine, the answer is naturally the Luminous Cup. The ancients wrote in their poems, ‘Wonderful Grape Wine filled the Luminous Cups; I want to drink but the sound of Pipa32 is already calling me to my horseback.’33 Grape Wine has this gaudy kind of reddish color, which doesn’t really promote the kind of heroic spirit us men should have shown when we drink it. But after we pour the Grape Wine into the Luminous

Cup, the color of the wine is now no different from the color of blood. Drinking wine is almost like drinking blood. Yue Fei wrote in his poem, ‘With soaring aspirations I eat my foe’s flesh to rid my hunger; amid my

talk and my smile I drink the enemy’s blood to rid my thirst.’34 How brave and heroic!”

Linghu Chong nodded again and again. He had very little education in literature, so when he listened to Zu Qianqiu quoting various poems he wasn’t very clear as to what each sentence really meant. But when he heard the last one, “amid my talk and my smile I drink the enemy’s blood to rid my thirst”, he agreed wholeheartedly that this line indeed showed ultimately heroic spirit between the words, and could invoke great inspiration from the listeners.

Zu Qianqiu pointed at another wine jar and went on. “As for Sorghum Wine, it is the most ancient wine in human history. Yidi invented the method of wine brewing back in the Xia Dynasty when Yu was the king.35 Yu drank the wine and really loved the taste of it. Guess what? That wine

was none other than this Sorghum Wine. Brother Linghu, ordinary people are so shortsighted. They only know that King Yu achieved a great deal in flood-control, which benefited the entire afterworld, but they didn’t know

that flood-control was so insignificant compared to the real accomplishment he had achieved. Do you know what his real accomplishment was?”

“Making Wine!” Linghu Chong and the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies answered in unison.

“Precisely!” Zu Qianqiu confirmed, and all eight of them laughed out loud. 

“To drink the Sorghum Wine, only a Bronze Jue36 can bring out the ancient meaning of it,” Zu Qianqiu continued. “And as for the Rice Wine, even though first-class Rice Wine has a fair taste, it lacks the appropriate amount of sweetness and seems to be thin and weak. We ought to drink it with big ladlers to show the lofty quality.”

“I am just a man from the wildness. I had no idea that the relationship between wine and wine vessels actually calls for such careful study,” Linghu Chong said.

Zu Qianqiu gave a gentle pat on a wine jar that had the words “Hundred-Grass Wine” written on it. “In order to make the Hundred-Grass Wine, one must collect a variety of grasses and then soak them in top quality wine, that’s why it has a kind of faint, pleasant scent, the kind you would smell on a spring outing to the wilderness, that will make you tipsy even before you drink it. To drink the Hundred-Grass Wine, we ought to use an Age-old Rattan Cup. ‘Hundred- year-old rattan, carved into a cup, when used to drink the Hundred-Grass Wine, enhancing the wonderful fragrance it does.’”

“Hundred-year-old rattan, that had be precious,” Linghu Chong commented.

“Brother Linghu, you’ve said it wrong!” Zu Qianqiu disagreed with a stern countenance. “Compared to the hundred-year-old rattan, hundred- year-old wine is even more precious. Think about it, you can just go to a remote mountain area if you want to look for hundred-year-old rattan. But in regard to the hundred-year-old wine, everybody wants to drink it. After you drink it, it’s gone, yet even after you drink a thousand times using the Age-Old Rattan Cup, the cup is still there, nothing less, nothing more.”

“You are absolutely right! I am so very ignorant. Thank you for the advice,” Linghu Chong replied.

Throughout the entire time, Yue Buqun had paid great attention to Zu Qianqiu’s every single word. He could tell that Zu was definitely

exaggerating, yet his words seemed reasonable. Seeing how Branch Fairy, Trunk Fairy, and the rest Fairies pick up the jar of Hundred-Grass Wine and splash it all over the table when they poured it, as if it were just some kind of cheap wine, even though Yue Buqun was not fond of drinking, he could still smell the pure and nice aroma of the wine assailing his nostrils. He knew that the wine must have been top quality, and it was such a pity for the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies to abuse it like that. “And to drink the Shaoxing Red Wine, we ought to use an Ancient-

china Cup,” Zu Qianqiu went on explaining, “and it would be better to use a china cup from the Northern Song Dynasty. A china cup from the Southern Song Dynasty would be alright, but it certainly has the sign of waning. As for china cups from the Yuan Dynasty, they are inevitably uncouth.37 And for the Pear-Blossom Wine of course it has to be the Emerald Cup. Bai Juyi wrote in his poem Spring View of Hangzhou, ‘The red sleeves of the silk

weaving girls reflected the persimmon leaves, and the emerald green flag of the wine shop sets off the Pear-Blossom Wine.’38 Think about it, the wine

shop in Hangzhou was selling the Pear-Blossom Wine and they had an

emerald green flag hanging outside, which set off the Pear-Blossom Wine wonderfully. Then to drink the Pear-Blossom Wine, of course we have to use an Emerald Cup. And to drink the Jade-dew Wine, it ought to be the

Glazed Cup. There are many small bubbles in the Jade-dew Wine, and only by drinking it with the crystal Glazed Cup can we appreciate the beauty of it.”

“Toot toot toot! Aren’t you just blowing your own trumpet!” a girl’s voice suddenly rose. It was Yue Lingshan, who also made a face while

speaking.

“Lingshan, don’t be rude. What Mr. Zu said is very reasonable,” Yue Buqun admonished.

“How can it be reasonable? Wine can add to the fun, and that’s all it’s good for. Drinking days and nights yet with so many rules, a true hero

would never do that,” Lingshan disagreed.

“Miss, you said it wrong!” Zu Qianqiu wagged his head back and forth. “Liu Bang, the first emperor of the Han Dynasty. Isn’t he a great hero? If it weren’t because he became drunk and beheaded the white snake, how could he have established the Hang Dynasty that lasted several hundred years?39 Isn’t Fan Kuai a great hero? That day in the Banquet of Hongman, General Fan sliced the meat on his shield and drank the wine using a big ladler. Isn’t that the true display of heroic spirits?”40

“Mister Zu, you know these are top quality wines, and you just mentioned that heroes also love drinking, then how come you are not drinking?” Linghu Chong asked with a grin.

“I’ve said it earlier. Without appropriate wine vessels we would just be abusing these great wines,” Zu Qianqiu answered.

“You are really boasting in the most fantastic terms when you talked about the Emerald Cup, Luminous Cup, and whatever else,” Trunk Fairy mocked. “Where are you going to find cups like that? Even if those cups do exist, there is probably only one or two apiece. Who’s able to collect all of them?”

“An elegant gentleman, who has poetic temperament, who cares

about savoring the great taste of wine, would, of course, have them. The

way you guys drink is like cows or donkeys drinking out of a manger, then, of course, any kind of coarse cups or bowls would do for you,” Zu Qianqiu mocked back.

“Are you an elegant gentleman?” Leaf Fairy challenged.

“Well, not too much, yet not too little, I do possess some quality of an elegant gentleman,” Zu Qianqiu answered.

Leaf Fairy burst into loud laughter. “Then the kind of wine cups you just described for these eight kinds of wine, how many do you have with you?” he asked.

“Well, not too many, yet not too few, I do have one for each kind,” Zu Qianqiu answered.

“Braggart! Braggart!” the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies shouted in unison! “How about a bet?” Root Fairy suggested. “If you have these eight kinds of wine cups with you, I’ll eat them one by one. What if you don’t have them? What’s that going to be?”

“Then I’ll eat all these wine cups and bowls here on the table one by one, also, as a forfeit!” Zu Qianqiu vowed.

“Wonderful! Wonderful! Let’s see how he is going to…,” the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies all cheered.

But before they even finished their sentence, Zu Qianqiu had already reached into his chest pocket and took out a wine cup. Tender and smooth, it turned out to be a Jade Cup.

Greatly astonished, the six Fairies swallowed the rest of the sentence back down their throats. Staring at Zu Qianqiu in shock, they watched him taking out one wine cup after another continuously. Among them were indeed the Emerald Cup, the Rhino-horn Cup, the Age-Old Rattan Cup, the Bronze Jue, the Luminous Cup, the Glazed Cup, and the Ancient-china

Cup. After taking out these eight wine cups, Zu Qianqiu didn’t stop and kept taking out more and more wine cups. There were the shinning Golden Cup, the exquisitely carved Silver Cup, and the multicolored and naturally patterned Stone Cup. Furthermore, there were the Ivory Cup, the Tiger- tooth Cup, the Cowskin Cup, the Bamboo-tube Cup, the Rosewood Cup,

and so on and so on. Some were large, and some were small; each looked different from the other ones. Everybody was dumbstruck; neither had

expected that the poor and pedantic scholar had so many wine cups hidden in his chest pocket.

“What about it?” Zu Qianqiu asked Root Fairy in a perky voice.

Root Fairy’s face saddened. “I lost! Fine, I’ll eat eight wine cups,” he

said. Picking up the Age-old Rattan Cup, Root Fairy bit it hard. Crack, the cup broke into two. He stuck the smaller half into his mouth, and after some loud chewing and crunching he swallowed the pieces down his throat.

Nobody had expected him to really eat the wine cup, and within

seconds, he had already swallowed down half of the wine cup. Everyone gasped in astonishment. Extending his arm out, Root Fairy reached for the Rhino-horn Cup this time.

Suddenly, Zu Qianqiu whisked with his left hand and struck toward Root Fairy’s wrist. Root Fairy dropped his right hand slightly and then grabbed back at Zu Qianqiu’s wrist to counter, but Zu Qianqiu flicked his middle finger swiftly toward Root Fairy’s palm. Stunned, Root Fairy drew his arm back.

“Don’t you want me to eat them?” he asked.

“I give up! You surely have got the fortitude. Let’s just say you have already eaten all the eight wine cups. I’d rather keep my cups,” Zu Qianqiu replied. Everybody laughed at these words.

Yue Lingshan had been quite scared of the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, at first, but since they showed no sign of vicious or ruthless intentions throughout the time they were on the boat, instead, they always talked and behaved in a funny and affable manner, Yue Lingshan’s fear slowly slipped way.

“Ahoy! Does that Age-old Rattan Cup taste any good?” she mustered up her courage and asked.

Root Fairy smacked his lips loudly and then lapped them with his tongue. “Yuck! What’s good about it? It’s too bitter!”

“Alas, you’ve really messed up my plan! You’ve eaten my Age-old Rattan Cup, what cup am I gonna use for the Hundred-Grass Wine now? Guess we’ll just have to put up with a wooden cup.” Zu Qianqiu frowned. He took out a handkerchief from his chest pocket. Picking up what’s left of the Age-old Rattan Cup, he began wiping it with the handkerchief.

After a short while, he picked the Rosewood Cup up and also wiped it in and out. The handkerchief appeared to be damp and dirty, so the more he wiped the cup with it, the filthier the cup had become. After spending a

good while wiping the wooden cup, he finally put the wooden cup back on the table. Lining all eight cups in a row, he put the rest of the wine cups back into his chest pocket and then began pouring the Fen-Wine, Grape Wine, Shaoxing Red Wine, and the rest of the eight different kinds of wine into the eight cups. Then he let out a sigh of relief.

“Brother Linghu, please drink these eight cups of wine one by one.

After you finish them, I’ll drink eight cups of wine to accompany you. Let’s savor them carefully and see how different they are from the kind of wine you used to have,” Zu Qianqiu invited.

“Sure!” Linghu Chong answered. He raised the wooden cup and then poured the wine down his throat in a single gulp. Suddenly, a strong flavor of pungency rose from his stomach and completely consumed him. In great shock, Linghu Chong thought to himself, “Why does the wine have such a peculiar taste?”

“These wine cups are truly the most valuable treasures of wine lovers,” Zu Qianqiu exclaimed. “I’ve met some cowards before who dared not to drink the second cup after tasting the strange flavor from the first

cup. Through the ages, I yet have the chance to see one who had the courage to finish all eight cups of wine.”

“I don’t have many days to live anyway,” Linghu Chong thought to himself. “Even if the wines were poisoned, so what? It’s no different to die from poison. Why let him have an excuse to mock me?” So he picked up more cups from the table and drank two more cups of wine. One of them tasted utterly bitter while the other one tasted totally acerbic; neither tasted like good wine. At the time when he raised the fourth cup, Root Fairy

suddenly uttered a cry.

“Oh, no! My stomach is burning! There’s fire inside my stomach.” “You swallowed half of my Age-old Rattan Cup down, how could it

not hurt?” Zu Qianqiu grinned. “The age-old rattan is as hard as steel.

There’s no way you are going to digest that. You’d better take a lot of

cathartic and hope you can get it out of your system. If that’s not gonna

work, then you’d have no choice but to ask Killer Doctor Ping One-Finger to cut open your belly and take it out.”

A thought suddenly emerged in Linghu Chong’s mind, “Something has gotten to be seriously wrong with those eight wine cups of his. After Root Fairy swallowed that Age-old Rattan Cup, even if the rattan were really that hard to digest, he should have suffered no more than some

stomachache. Why would he get the burning sensation? Hum, a true man will look death calmly in the face. The more lethal his poison is the better. What am I afraid of?” At that thought, he slammed another cup of wine down his throat.

“Big apprentice brother, don’t drink any more of those wines! They are probably poisonous.” Yue Lingshan suddenly spoke out. “You blinded

all those people with your sword, better be careful. It’s very likely that they would plot against you for revenge.”

“This Mister here is a man of the forthright kind. I am sure he won’t be plotting against me,” Linghu Chong said as a sad smile flashed across his lips. Deep in his heart, he actually wished that the wines were poisonous, so that they would kill him right after he drank them. “Would little apprentice sister feel the slightest sorrow when she sees my dying body right in front of her eyes?” he wondered as he drank another two cups of wine. The wine in the sixth cup tasted sour and salty, together with some kind of a stinking odor. The taste was not only far from the taste of great

wine, it didn’t even qualify the taste of wine. He couldn’t help but frown. Watching Linghu Chong drinking one cup after another by the side,

Trunk Fairy was bursting to give it a try himself. “Let me have these two cups!” he pleaded and reached out for the seventh cup.

Zu Qianqiu waved his folding fan and smacked it at the back of Trunk Fairy’s hand.

“Patience! Patience!” he urged with a grin. “You’ll have to wait for your turn! Everyone will have to drink all eight cups in sequence to really appreciate the ultimate true taste of wine.”

Trunk Fairy could tell that the smack from Zu Qianqiu’s folding fan had carried a tremendous amount of force. If it had landed on the target

squarely, the force probably was powerful enough to smash his bones. Flipping his palm over, he grabbed at the folding fan and shouted at the same time.

“I’d rather drink this one first! What are you going to do about it?”

Zu Qianqiu’s folding fan had been folded into the shape of a short stick, but when Trunk Fairy’s hand was just about to touch the fan, it

suddenly opened up abruptly, and the edge of the fan shot swiftly toward Trunk Fairy’s index finger. That caught Trunk Fairy by complete surprise. He drew his hand back hastily and the shot barely missed his finger, but numbness still came from his index finger as the force carried by the fan swept by. Crying out loud in shock, he took a step back.

“Brother Linghu, hurry up with those last two cups of wine!” Zu Qianqiu urged hurriedly.

Giving it no more thoughts, Linghu Chong also drank up the last two cups of wine. Neither of the two cups of wine had that stinking odor. But one was so spicy that it almost felt as if someone was slicing Linghu

Chong’s throat with a knife, while the other one had a very strong smell of herbal medicine. How could these be called wine when their flavors were even stronger than the strongest medicinal herb in the world?

Seeing the strange expression on Linghu Chong’s face, the Peach

Valley’s Six Fairies burst with curiosity! “How does it taste after you drink all eight cups?” they asked eagerly.

“Eight cups all together, taste the ultimate wonder of the Heaven. That’s recorded in ancient scripts,” Zu Qianqiu rushed to answer before Linghu Chong had a chance.

“That’s baloney! What ancient scripts?” Trunk Fairy rebuffed.

All of a sudden, four shadows leapt forward and each grabbed onto one of Zu Qianqiu’s limbs. Nobody had a clue as to what kind of odd signal Trunk Fairy must have given out that had prompted the sudden attack. The techniques of the Six Fairies were lightning fast yet utterly strange. When they suddenly charged at Zu Qianqiu completely out of the blue, even though Zu Qianqiu had excellent Kung Fu skills, himself, he still couldn’t

escape. Within a fraction of a second, the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies had already lifted Zu Qianqiu off the ground by his four limbs. Having

witnessed the terrifying scene when the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies ripped Cheng Buyou into pieces, members of the Huashan School couldn’t help but cry in terror. In the split second, an idea suddenly flashed by Zu

Qianqiu’s mind like a lightning. He shouted out loudly.

“The wine is poisonous! Don’t you want the antidote?”

The four Fairies that had grabbed onto Zu Qianqiu’s four limbs all had quite some wine. At the words “the wine is poisoned,” they were all seized by surprise. That brief hesitation from the four Fairies was exactly what Zu Qianqiu needed. “Farts! Farts!” he cried out loudly.

The four Fairies only felt that something all of a sudden started to slip away from their grips. A loud exploding sound followed immediately after. The next thing they know was that a big hole suddenly emerged in the boat’s mat roofing and Zu Qianqiu had escaped through the opening. Both Root Fairy and Branch Fairy found themselves empty-handed while Flower Fairy had a stinking sock and Leaf Fairy had a stinking and muddy shoe in their hands. The Peach Valley’s Five Fairies also moved speedily. Everyone on the boat only saw a blur and the five had already leapt ashore. But Zu

Qianqiu seemed to have vanished into thin air. Just when the five Fairies

were about to chase after him using their Qing-Gong techniques, they heard somebody yelling from the far end of the street.

“Zu Qianqiu, you god damned rascal! Give me back my pills! If any pill is missing, I’ll rip all your tendons out and skin you alive!” the man yelled loudly as he dashed closer.

Hearing someone trashing Zu Qianqiu like that, the five Fairies felt great satisfaction and all decided to give up the chase, so they could take a good look at this man who would truly deserve to be called a friend.

Standing still, all five of them stared toward the newcomer curiously.

A meatball rolled toward them, panting heavily along the way. Only after it finally rolled almost right next to the five Fairies were they able to recognize that the meatball was actually a man. The man was too short and

too fat. It would be even generous to call him a human. He had no neck. His broad and oblate shaped head just sat on his shoulders directly as if

somebody had smashed his head with a hammer at the time when he was born, which squashed his head down and stretched his cheeks, mouth, and nose horizontally. No one could help but laugh inwardly, thinking, “That Ping One- Finger is also a short fatty, but he would certainly pale into insignificance by comparison with this fellow.”

Ping One-Finger was short with an ultra-broad shoulder, but this man also had ultra-thick chest and back. And on top of that, his arms and legs

were so short as if he only had the lower arm but without the upper arm and the belly without the underbelly.

The man walked in front of the boat with arms akimbo and then asked arrogantly as if he had the ultimate seniority, “Where is Zu Qianqiu the dirty rascal hiding?

“That dirty rascal ran away. He surely runs fast! I bet you won’t be

able to catch up with him rolling so slowly like that,” Root Fairy answered with a grin.

The man shot a glare at Root Fairy with his small and circular eyes and let out a grunt. But suddenly he started yelling again.

“My pills! My pills!”

Giving the ground a hard stamp, the meatball sprang onto the boat and then rolled into the boat’s hold. He first sniffed around a little before

picking up an empty wine cup on the table and then put it next to his nose to breathe in. Suddenly, his complexion changed dramatically. Not very

complementary to start with, now after the change, his face had transformed into something completely grotesque and impossible to describe in words.

Apparently his grievance had reached the extreme. He picked the rest seven cups up one after another and gave each one a good snuffle before murmuring, “My pills!” After he said “my pills” eight times, the sorrow on his face looked so sad that no one could even bare to look into his face.

Suddenly he flopped down onto the floor and burst into loud cries. The Peach Valley’s Five Fairies became even more curious. They gathered around the man in a circle and all started talking at once.

“Why are you crying?”

“Did Zu Qianqiu bully you?”

“Don’t feel bad. We’ll find this dirty rascal and rip him into four pieces to vent your anger.”

“My pills are gone. He blended my pills in his wine and drank all of them. Even if I could kill…kill this dirty rascal, it’s already…already…too late,” the man replied in sobs.

Linghu Chong suddenly thought of something. “What kind of pills are they?” he asked.

“It took me a total of twelve years to collect the thousand-year old Ginseng, Tuckahoe, Glossy Ganoderma, Pilose Antler of young stags, Polygonum Multiflorum, Bear Gallbladder, Pseudo-Ginseng, Muskiness,

and other precious medicaments. Then after nine steps of braising and nine times of solarization, I was finally able to refine those “Life-Extending Eight Pills” that had the power of bringing the dying back to life. But who had expected that god damned Zu Qianqiu would steal them from me and then blend them in the wine for a drink?” He shed some more tears.

Linghu Chong was astonished. “Do these eight pills of yours taste the same?” he asked.

“Of course not. Some had a stinking odor, some tasted extremely bitter. Some were so spicy that you’d almost feel like a knife had just slit your throat, and some had a strong flavor of pungency, so strong that you’d think you were on fire. If anyone takes the ‘Life-Extending Eight Pills,’ then no matter how bad his internal wounds or external wounds are, for sure he would come back to life,” the man explained. “Oh, no!” Linghu Chong cried as he struck his thigh with his palm. “That Zu Qianqiu stole your Life-Extending Eight Pills, but he didn’t take them himself. Instead…instead…”

“Instead what?” the man asked.

“Instead, he blended them in the wine and then fooled me into drinking all of them down with the wine. I had no idea that the wine had contained precious medicinal pills. I actually thought he had poison in the wine,” Linghu Chong replied.

“Poison in the wine? Poison my ass!” the man cursed in fury. “Did you really take my Life-Extending Eight Pills?” he asked, his eyes blazing.

“Zu Qianqiu filled eight cups with good wines for me to drink. Some did taste very bitter, and some did have a terrible odor, some surely felt like somebody slit my throat, and some did have a burning sensation. But to be very honest with you, I didn’t see any pills at all,” Linghu Chong explained.

The man shot a nasty glare toward Linghu Chong and his fat face twitched again and again. All of a sudden, he uttered a loud cry as he sprang onto his feet and then charged at Linghu Chong.

Ever since the man put a wicked look on his face, the Peach Valley’s Five Fairies had been watching out for him. So as soon as he sprang off the floor, four out of the five Fairies had reached their hands out in blazing

speed and each grabbed hold of one of his four limbs.

“Don’t hurt him!” Linghu Chong shouted out in a hurry.

But the strange thing was that after the four Fairies had grabbed onto his two wrists and two ankles, his four limbs actually retracted toward his torso and he looked even more like a meatball. In great surprise, the four Fairies gave a loud shout and then pulled harder. The more they pulled, the longer the man’s four limbs extended, and soon his upper arms and thighs all extended out from within his body just like when a tortoise’s four limbs were extending out from within the shell.

“Don’t hurt him!” Linghu Chong shouted again.

The Peach Valley’s Four Fairies relaxed the pulling a little bit. The man’s four limbs immediately retracted back and he became a meatball, once again.

“This is so interesting! This is so interesting! What kind of Kung Fu is this?” Fruit Fairy shouted out loudly while still lying on the stretcher.

The Peach Valley’s Four Fairies gave it a good pull, and the man’s

arms and legs again went a few feet longer. Yue Lingshan and the bunch of female apprentices simply couldn’t help but giggle by the side.

“Hey, don’t you think you look more handsome this way when we stretch your arms, legs, and your body longer?” Root Fairy joked.

“Oh, no!” the man screamed.

“Why?” the Peach Valley’s Four Fairies asked in shock, and naturally their grips relaxed slightly from the distraction.

The man suddenly pulled hard and his limbs slipped out from the four Fairies’ grips. In the echoing of a loud bang, he had cracked open a large hole in the bottom of the boat and escaped into the river. Everyone cried in astonishment, and water instantly gushed out of the hole and into the boat.

“Get the luggage and jump ashore,” Yue Buqun shouted the order.

The hole on the bottom of the boat was about four feet long and four feet wide. Water gushed in very quickly and only moments later, the water in the boat’s cabin had already risen to knee’s high. Fortunately, the boat

was next to the bank and everyone made it ashore safely. Watching the boat sink slowly under the water, the boatman didn’t know what to do and only froze there looking dreadfully worried. “Don’t be troubled. How much is your boat worth? We’ll pay you double that,” Linghu Chong comforted him. In the meantime, he was deeply puzzled, “I have never met Zu Qianqiu before. Why would he steal these precious medicinal pills and then trick me into taking them?” He tried to slightly redirect his inner energy. A warm feeling rose from his lower

stomach, but the eight energy streams still roamed about inside him uncontrollably.

Lao Denuo found another boat to hire and directed people to load the luggage onto the boat. Linghu Chong took out a few of the silver ingots, the ones he had received earlier and had no clue as to who they had come from, and then gave them to the boatman who had lost the boat.

Yue Buqun found himself full of unease at what had happened. It

seemed that there were simply too many eccentrics around here. None of the people who had visited had been very frank with them, and accidents just kept happening one after another. It would be the best for them to leave this troubled place as soon as possible. But since it was completely dark

already, and it would be too risky to sail in the torrential river at night, he had to temporarily hold on to that thought and rested in the boat for the night.

And as regard to the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, having failed twice to secure their prisoners and letting Zu Qianqiu and the Meatball Man escape one after another, they certainly had a hard time. This was something that had never happened to them before. So being the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, the six brothers kept blowing their own trumpet and tried hard to prettify themselves from the incidents. After some great efforts and still failing to justify themselves, very unhappily, they drank some wine and finally went to bed themselves.

Chapter 15: Medicine

The girl was about seventeen years old. Her bloodless face rested on the pillow, and her long hair spread over the blanket. "Dad!" said she in a dim voice, yet without opening her eyes. 

Yue Buqun lay in the cabin. Sound of the river waves beating the shore echoed in his ears as his many thoughts also whirled around in his head.

Slowly, he fell into a state of ooziness when suddenly something caught his attention – the sounds of footsteps coming closer and closer from ashore.

Sitting up from his bed, he looked out through a crack of the window.

Under the misty moonlight he could vaguely see two shadows running towards the boat from afar. One of them raised his right hand, and at that signal, both of them stopped, still dozens of feet away from the boat.

Knowing that the two of them would undoubtedly be talking in whispers, Yue Buqun started loading his “Divine Art of the Violet Twilight”, and instantly his sense of vision and hearing sharpened dramatically and the distance he could see and hear increased considerably.

“That’s the boat,” one of the men whispered. “I made a mark on the mat of the boat earlier. Right after that old fellow from the Huashan School hired the boat. It’s gotten to be it.”

“That’s great! Let’s report back to Uncle-Master Zhu then. Senior

apprentice brother, when did our ‘Hundred-Toxic Faction’ start a feud with the Huashan School? Why is Uncle-Master Zhu going through so much trouble to intercept them in such a big way?” the other one asked in

whispers.

As soon as Yue Buqun heard the words “Hundred-Toxic Faction,” his heart skipped a beat as a slight chill shot down his spine. Because of the

slight distraction, the power of the “Divine Art of the Violet Twilight” decreased, and all he could pick out were pieces of words from the

conversation.

“…not intercepting…Uncle Master Zu owed someone a favor, and that someone has asked him to inquire about somebody…it wasn’t…” the previous one replied. The man spoke in such a low voice that Yue Buqun could only hear fractions of the sentence and couldn’t put the meaning of the words together. By the time he reloaded his “Divine Art of the Violet Twilight,” all he heard were sounds of footsteps descending further and further. The two men had faded into the darkness.

“How did our Huashan School start a feud with the ‘Hundred-Toxic Faction’?” Yue Buqun thought to himself. “That Uncle-Master Zhu they mentioned most probably is the Head Master of the ‘Hundred-Toxic Faction.’ This man has a nickname called ‘Non-lethal Man.’ It is said that this man possesses outstanding skills in the art of poisoning. To kill

someone with poison is simple. Anybody can achieve that easily. But when this man poisons someone, the victim won’t die, instead, he will feel such great torment as if he has been cut thousands of times or as if there are tens of thousands of bugs chewing and feasting on his flesh. The misery is going to be so immense that the victim would have been better off dead, yet he

won’t even have enough strength left to commit suicide and would have no other choice but to suffer more. Together with the ‘Five-Sylph Sect’ in Yunnan Province, the ‘Hundred-Toxic Faction’ has been named the

Ultimate Two Poisonous Clans in the Martial World. Although it is said that the ‘Hundred-Toxic Faction’ is still inferior to the ‘Five-Sylph Sect,’ it is

certainly no trivial matter. Why would this Master Zhu give me trouble in a big way? Who has asked him to do it?”

Yue Buqun pondered the question over and over but could only come up with two explanations: number one, Feng Buping of the Sword-Branch must have asked the Hundred-Toxic Faction to give trouble to him; number two, among the fifteen assassins Linghu Chong had blinded, someone must have been friends with the Hundred-Toxic Faction.

Suddenly a girl’s whispering voice from ashore caught his attention. “Does your family really have that whatever ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript’ after all?”

It was the voice of his daughter – Yue Lingshan. Yue Buqun didn’t even have to listen on to figure out whom she was talking to. It of course had to be Lin Pingzhi. They must have sneaked ashore earlier sometime. Yue Buqun suddenly realized that his daughter’s feelings towards Lin Pingzhi had been growing day after day lately. The two dared not show their affection during the day, afraid that people would make fun of them;

so instead, they went ashore for a date late at night. If it weren’t because he had detected enemy coming ashore and used his “Divine Art of the Violet Twilight” to spy on them, this would have certainly slipped by him. To load the “Divine Art of the Violet Twilight” would exhaust a good amount of inner energy. He wouldn’t have used it under ordinary circumstances. He

certainly didn’t expect to find his daughter’s little secret together with the origin of the enemy? Then he heard Lin Pingzhi’s voice.

“We do have the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Art’ and I’ve shown you the moves several times. But we really don’t have the sword art manuscript.”

“Then why do your grandpa and your two uncles keep suspecting big apprentice brother for embezzling your sword art manuscript?” Yue Lingshan asked.

“Well, they suspected him, but I didn’t,” Lin Pingzhi answered. “Humph, how convenient! Let others suspect for you and save

yourself the trouble,” Yue Lingshan said.

“If my family really had some kind of brilliant sword art manuscript, our Fortune Prestige Escort House wouldn’t have been bullied so much by the Qingcheng Sword School and my family wouldn’t have been broken up.” Lin Pingzhi sighed. “That’s true. Then when your grandpa and your uncles suspected big apprentice brother, why didn’t you defend him against the charge?” Yue Lingshan asked.

“I didn’t hear my mom and dad’s words with my own ears. I wouldn’t have any ground to defend him from,” Lin Pingzhi argued.

“So you do suspect big apprentice brother after all,” Yue Lingshan concluded.

“Don’t say that. If big apprentice brother hears this, it will certainly hurt the brotherhood of fellow apprentices,” Lin Pingzhi suggested.

“Why do you have to put up so much affectation?” Yue Lingshan sneered. “Either you do suspect him or you don’t. If I were you, I’d have

asked big apprentice brother a long time ago.” She paused for a second and then spoke again. “You are so much like my father. Both of you suspect big apprentice brother in your hearts and believe that he had embezzled your family’s sword art manuscript….”

“Master suspects him, too?” Lin Pingzhi intercepted.

“If you don’t suspect him, why did you use the word ‘too’? Didn’t I say that your personality is almost identical to my father’s? Both of you keep your thoughts to yourself but never speak it out directly.” Yue Lingshan chuckled.

Suddenly, a croaked voice roared from the boat right next to the boat of the Huashan members.

“You shameless scoundrels! What a bunch of crap! Linghu Chong is a true hero. Why would he want your god damned sword art manuscript? Do you know what kind of lowlifes I hate the most? The kind that talks garbage behind one’s back!”

His voice exploded like thunders from the sky. Not only were passengers from the many boats along the river bank waken up, even the many birds sleeping on the tree branches along the river bank were startled and began chirping loudly. Immediately following the shout, a huge shadow leapt out of the boat and glided toward Lin Pingzhi and Yue Lingshan rapidly.

Neither Lin Pingzhi nor Yue Lingshan had brought a sword when they came ashore, so both of them could only rush to defend themselves with kicks and punches. As soon as Yue Buqun heard the man’s roar, he could tell that this man must have had resourceful inner energy. And the leap and the glide the man demonstrated clearly showed that he possessed first-class Kung Fu skills. Seeing that the man had launched the attack against his daughter, Yue Buqun shouted out in desperation.

“Please, show mercy!”

Hastily, Yue Buqun threw himself at the window and crashed through it to leap toward the riverbank. Still in the mid air, he could already see that the giant man had grabbed hold of both Lin Pingzhi and Yue Lingshan and darted forward with one in each hand.

Yue Buqun was astounded. As soon as his right foot touched the ground, he dashed forward using his Qing-Gong techniques at once.

Wielding a move named “White Aurora Shooting the Sun,” he thrust his sword toward the man’s back.

The man had a very big and tall body, so of course his steps were much bigger than average. He took a step forward and the stab from Yue Buqun was out of range. Without any delay, Yue Buqun followed with a

move called “Zhong-Ping Sword” and shot his blade forward a second time.

The giant man just happened to take another giant step forward, and once again the attack missed the target.

“Look out!” Yue Buqun let out a crisp roar and shouted out as he stabbed his sword out swiftly using a move named “Cool Breeze Brings Comfort.”

When the tip of the blade was within one foot from the man’s back, suddenly, a strong wind embraced Yue Buqun as someone charged against him from the side, poking two fingers towards his eyes viciously. It was at the end of the street; a row of houses by the street blocked the moonlight and cast a long shadow on the street. Yue Buqun quickly turned his body aside and dodged the attack. Swinging his long sword with an angle, he

sliced the blade out as his counterattack before even catching a glimpse of the enemy. The attacker lowered his head and then stepped forward with a clawed hand striking towards Yue Buqun’s Zhong-Wan Acupoint on his

stomach. Yue Buqun threw a front kick. The man spun around and struck toward his back. Without turning back, Yue Buqun shot a speedy thrust backward with a backhand, but the man dodged the thrust once again and then charged forward to punch at Yue Buqun’s chest. Yue Buqun was infuriated. How dare this man be so disrespectful to fight his long sword with bare hands yet using all attacking moves? In the fury, he made a

circular motion with the sword and then poked upward all of a sudden toward the enemy’s forehead. In a rush, the man flicked the sword with his finger, which changed the direction of the poke slightly. Following the flow of the force Yue Buqun turned the poke into a slice, and with a slight tearing sound he had chopped the man’s hat off, exposing a shaven head.

The man turned out to be a monk. Blood gushed down from his head; obviously, the slice had injured him. Giving the ground a hard push, the monk leapt backward hastily.

Seeing that he fled in the opposite direction from the giant who kidnapped Yue Lingshan, Yue Buqun didn’t chase after him. By then Madam Yue had caught up with him, sword in her hand.

“Where’s Lingshan?” she asked distractedly. “This way!” Yue Buqun pointed with his left hand and the couple immediately chased on following the road the giant had taken. But soon the road intersected with many other roads and they couldn’t tell which way the enemy had taken.

“What now! What now!” Madam Yue cried in despair.

“The man that kidnapped Lingshan is a friend of Chong. I suppose he…he won’t go so far as to hurt Lingshan. Let’s go ask Chong to find out more about it,” Yue Buqun suggested.

“That’s right. That man shouted out loud saying that Lingshan and Pingzhi were defaming Chong. I wonder what made him say that.” Madam Yue nodded.

“It’s about the ‘Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript’ again,” Yue Buqun explained.

When the Yue couple arrived back at the riverbank, they found Linghu Chong and the many apprentices all standing by the river looking deeply concerned. After Yue Buqun and Madam Yue walked back into the middle cabin and were just about to send for Linghu Chong for further inquiries, a voice suddenly rose in a distance from ashore.

“Here’s a letter for Yue Buqun.”

Lao Denuo and a few male apprentices unsheathed their swords immediately and leapt back ashore. Only moments later, Lao Denuo returned to the cabin and reported.

“Master, we found this piece of cloth under a rock on the ground. The messenger left before we got there.” He presented the piece of cloth.

Yue Buqun picked the cloth up and took a good look at it. The cloth was apparently torn from a robe, and someone had written some tremulous words in blood using his finger. It read, “We’ll return your stinking daughter on the Five-Tyrant Ridge.” “That monk wrote this,” handing the cloth over to his wife, Yue Buqun claimed dryly.

“Whose…whose blood is this?” Madam Yue asked anxiously. “Don’t worry. I gave him a cut on the forehead,” Yue Buqun

comforted her. He turned to the boatman and asked, “How far are we from the Five-Tyrant Ridge?”

“If we set sail early in the morning, after the Copper-Tile Town and the Jiuhe Town, it’s Dongming Town. The Five-Tyrant Ridge is to the east of Dongming next to Heze. It’s right on the border between Henan province and Shandong province. If misters want to go there, we can probably get there by dusk tomorrow,” the boatman answered.

Yue Buqun answered with a hum as he thought to himself, “They are asking me to meet them on the Five-Tyrant Ridge. This is an appointment I simply can’t refuse. But who knows how many people they will have there. Besides, they have Lingshan in their hands. I guess this is a battle I am destined to lose.” He couldn’t help but hesitate.

Suddenly someone shouted from ashore. “Peach Valley’s Six Goblins, you damn buttheads, I am your lord Zhong Kui41 here to hunt you bunch of goblins down.”

There was simply no way the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies would be taking those words lightly. All six of them instantly cursed back with

streams of abuses. Except for Fruit Fairy who couldn’t move, the remaining five Fairies all leapt ashore without any delay. What they saw was a man

with a needle hat holding a long narrow white banner.42 At the sight of the five Fairies, the man turned around immediately and started running away.

“Peach Valley’s Six Goblins are all cowards! I dare you to come after me,” he shouted without slowing down his steps. Bellowing furiously, Root Fairy and the rest of the four Fairies darted after the man. But the man certainly had first-class Qing-Gong skills.

Within seconds, the six of them had been swallowed by the darkness.

At the time, Yue Buqun and the many Huashan School members had all come ashore. Suddenly Yue Buqun shouted.

“This is a trick to lure us away. Get back to the boat right away, everybody.”

Right at the moment, a ball shaped shadow suddenly rolled out from nowhere and grabbed onto Linghu Chong’s collar in a swift maneuver.

“You come with me!” he shouted. It was none other than that meatball man.

In his tight grips, Linghu Chong had no way of defending himself.

Suddenly, another man dashed out from behind a street corner and threw a flying kick toward the meatball man. It was Branch Fairy. Turned out that after he chased after the man with the needle hat for a few hundred feet, he suddenly remembered that his brother Fruit Fairy was still onboard. Afraid that his brother might be taken away by that god damned “Lord Zhong

Kui,” he rushed back in guard. And when he saw that the meatball man had taken Linghu Chong prisoner, he immediately rushed over in rescue.

The meatball man instantly dropped Linghu Chong and, in a flash, had entered the cabin and leapt by Fruit Fairy’s bed. Lifting his right foot, he assumed a posture of stepping down on Fruit Fairy’s chest.

“Don’t hurt my brother!” Branch Fairy shouted in shock.

“Old Man is calling the shot here. Why do I have to listen to you?” the meatball man mocked.

Wasting no time, Branch Fairy leapt into the cabin and with a quick pull, he had both Fruit Fairy and the bedplate in his arms. That was exactly what the meatball man had wanted – to draw him away from Linghu Chong. Leaping back ashore speedily, he had Linghu Chong in his grips once again. Throwing Linghu Chong onto his shoulders, he ran away in a scoot.

Branch Fairy suddenly remembered. Ping One-Finger had asked them, the five brothers, to take good care of Linghu Chong, and now Linghu Chong had just been kidnapped. How would they ever justify themselves to Ping One-Finger? Certainly, Doctor Ping would ask them to kill Fruit Fairy as the punishment. But if he left Fruit Fairy unattended, how would Fruit Fairy be able to defend himself at all in his injured state if any enemy were to attack him? At that thought, he held Fruit Fairy in his arms and chased after the meatball man, at once.

Yue Buqun waved a beckon to his wife. “You take care of the apprentices. I’ll go take a look,” he said.

Madam Yue nodded. Both of them knew too well that with so many tough enemies hidden in the dark, if both of them were to chase after the enemy, perhaps all the apprentices would be in harm’s way.

The meatball man’s Qing-Gong was really far less than that of the Branch Fairy, but with Linghu Chong on his shoulder, he was able to run

with all his might, while Branch Fairy didn’t want to risk aggravating Fruit Fairy’s wounds and had to carry Fruit Fairy with both arms while running in steady steps, thus simply couldn’t gain any distance in the chase. Yue

Buqun also used his Qing-Gong techniques and gradually caught up with them. Then, he was able to pick out Branch Fairy’s shouting voice, bellowing again and again, demanding the meatball man to let Linghu

Chong go, or else, he wouldn’t let it go at that. Even though Fruit Fairy

couldn’t move his body, he definitely didn’t want to give his mouth a rest and kept arguing with Branch Fairy along the way. “Even if you really can catch up with him, none of our other brothers are here, what’cha gonna do? And if there’s nothing you can do about it,

what you just said, that you wouldn’t let it go at that, is only bluffing then,” he said.

“Even if I am bluffing, it will at least scare the enemy and slow him down. It’s still better than not bluffing,” Branch Fairy argued.

“Can’t you tell that the meatball is still maintaining a good running speed and is not slowing down at all? I don’t think your bluffing is getting us anywhere,” Fruit Fairy mocked.

“Well, he hasn’t slowed down yet, but trust me, he will slow down after a while,” Branch Fairy disagreed. Even with Fruit Fairy in his arms and while debating endlessly, he was still able to maintain his speed and showed no sign of slowing down.

One after another, running in a straight line, the three of them kept running toward the northeast, and the road gradually turned into a rugged and rough mountain path.

Yue Buqun suddenly thought of something. “If the meatball man had set up an ambush here in the valley, and as soon as I run into their trap, the many elite fighters suddenly launch an all out attack, it would be extremely dangerous.”

At the thought, he slowed down and pondered over the possibilities, meanwhile, the meatball man had run toward a house by the hillside and quickly climbed over a wall into the house. After a quick check around, Yue Buqun resumed the chase. By then, carrying Fruit Fairy in his arms, Branch Fairy had also climbed over the wall and went in. Suddenly he uttered a loud cry, apparently falling into some kind of a trap. Yue Buqun sneaked

closer to the wall and then heard Fruit Fairy’s voice. “Didn’t I tell you before to watch out for yourself? See, you just

wouldn’t listen to me. Well, I guess you like being trapped in this fishing net like a big fish!”

“First of all, it’s TWO big fish, not A big fish. Secondly, when the hell did you tell me to watch out?” Branch Fairy said sulkily.

“Remember that time we went to that courtyard to steal guavas on the tree when we were still kids, and I told you to watch out for yourself. Don’t you remember?” Fruit Fairy reminded him.

“That was like thirty years ago. What has that gotten anything to do with right now?” Branch Fairy disputed.

“Of course it does. That time you were so careless and fell off the tree. Then you got caught and took a good beating. Only after big brother, second brother, fourth brother, and fifth brother came by in time were they able to rescue you and kill that entire family. Now you are being careless again and got caught again,” Fruit Fairy said.

“What’s the big deal? At the most we’ll just have to wait till the rest of our brothers get here and kill this entire family, once again,” Branch Fairy replied.

“Humph, you two Peach Valley’s Goblins, even just moments before your own death you are still thinking about killing people. Now shut the hell up and spare my ears some peace,” the meatball man said in a chilling tone. Some muffled voices from Branch Fairy and Fruit Fairy followed and soon they both fell silent. Apparently the meatball man had placed some kind of anesthetics in their mouth to shut them up.

Yue Buqun inclined his head and listened warily for a good while, but all he heard was silence on the other side of the wall. He crept closer to the wall and found a big jujube tree right next to the wall, so he gently leapt up the jujube tree and then looked inside. A small hut stood about a dozen feet from the wall. Since Branch Fairy fell into the fishing net right after he climbed over the wall, Yue Buqun figured that the space between the hut and the wall most probably had all kinds of booby traps. Hiding himself behind the dense leaves of the jujube tree, he loaded the “Divine Art of Violet Twilight” and listened carefully.

The meatball man set Linghu Chong down in a chair. “How the hell are you related to Zu Qianqiu that old rascal?” he asked in a low and deep tone.

“I’ve only met Zu Qianqiu the first time today. Why should I be related to him?” Linghu Chong asked.

“Even now you are still lying!” the meatball man roared angrily. “Don’t forget that you are in my hands now. I guarantee you a most miserable death.”

“I accidentally ate your precious catholicon. It’s only natural that you are mad at me. But to be honest with you, I really doubt that your pills are as great as how you have described them. See, after I took them, there’s no improvement at all,” Linghu Chong answered with a grin.

“What made you think the result has to be immediate?” the meatball man rebuffed angrily. “The common saying says, ‘Illness comes in overwhelming force as if a mountain has collapsed, but will only recede little by little as if reeling the silk thread off a cocoon.’ Only after ten to fifteen days will the medicine show its efficacy.”

“Then how about we wait ten to fifteen days to find out?” Linghu Chong suggested.

“How about you kiss my ass? You ate my ‘Life-Extending Eight Pills’ on the sly. Old Man is gonna waste you right now,” the meatball man roared furiously. “But if you waste me right now, then my life would have ended right now. That just proves that your ‘Life-Extending Eight Pills’ doesn’t extend life after all.” Linghu Chong grinned.

“I am killing you. It has nothing to do with the ‘Life-Extending Eight Pills’,” the meatball man replied.

“If you are going to kill me, help yourself. I have no strength left in me and am incapable of self-defense, anyhow.” Linghu Chong sighed.

“Humph, you want it quick? It’s not gonna be that easy. But I have to straighten something out first. God damn it! Zu Qianqiu is my decades-long friend. There has gotten be a good reason behind this that made him betray me. Your Huashan School is worthless in the eyes of the ‘Old Ancestor of the Yellow River,’ so of course he didn’t steal my ‘Life-Extending Eight Pills’ for you just because you are an apprentice of the Huashan School.

How odd! Really odd!” While talking to himself, he stamped his feet to the floor angrily.

“Oh, I see. So your nickname is ‘Old Ancestor of the Yellow River.’ Sorry I didn’t know you before,” Linghu Chong said.

“Nonsense! How can I be the ‘Old Ancestor of the Yellow River’ all by myself?” the meatball man chided.

“Why can’t you?” Linghu Chong asked curiously.

“One is surnamed Old and the other is surnamed Zu.43 It of course takes two to make up the ‘Old Ancestor of the Yellow River.’ You can’t

even figure this out. What a moron! I am Old Lord, Old Man, and he is Zu Ancestor, Zu Qianqiu. Since we both live by the Yellow River, that’s why we are called the ‘Old Ancestor of the Yellow River’.”

“Why is one called Old Lord and the other one Zu Ancestor?” Linghu Chong couldn’t help but ask. “That’s because you are too ignorant and don’t know that there are surnames like Old or Zu. My last name is Old, my middle name is ‘Lord,’ and my first name is ‘Man.’ So when others call my name, they either call me Old Lord, or Old Man…,” the meatball man explained.

Linghu Chong simply couldn’t help himself and burst into laughter. “I bet that Zu Qianqiu’s middle name is Ancestor then,” he said.

“Of course,” the meatball man Old Man answered. He paused for a moment and then muttered in surprise, “What? You don’t even know Zu Qianqiu’s name? Then maybe you are not related to him. Well…wait, are you Zu Qianqiu’s son?”

“How the heck did you get that idea? His surname is Zu, and my

surname is Linghu. How did you mix that up?” Linghu Chong found this even funnier.

“How bizarre! I went through so much painstaking effort, by hook or by crook, and finally was able to make the ‘Life-Extending Eight Pills’ so I can use them to cure my darling daughter’s illness. If you aren’t Zu

Qianqiu’s son, why would he steal my precious pills to feed you?” Old Man muttered to himself.

By then, Linghu Chong finally became aware. “So these pills of yours, Mister Old, are for your daughter’s illness. I am so, so sorry that I had taken them by mistake. May I ask what kind of illness does your daughter have? Why don’t you ask the ‘Killer Doctor’ Doctor Ping to treat her?”

“Pah! Pah!” Old Man spat in aversion. “Consult Ping One-Finger when one has hard-to-cure disease, of course I know that. I live here in

Kaifeng, you dummy! He has this rule that after he cures one, another one must be killed to even the numbers. In order to get him to treat my daughter, I went ahead and killed the entire family of five of his in-laws. By then he finally couldn’t reject and devoted himself in diagnosing my daughter’s disease. He found out that even before my daughter was born, she already had this weird disease, so he prescribed the instruction for the ‘Life- Extending Eight Pills’ for me. Otherwise how the heck would I know how to make the eight pills?”

The more Linghu Chong heard, the more surprised he felt. “If senior master you wanted Doctor Ping to treat your daughter, why did you kill his in-law’s entire family?” he asked, utterly confused.

“Man, you are so dumb! Let me explain. Ping One-Finger didn’t have many foes to start with. And in the last several years, even these few have been wipe out by his patients. Out of all the people in the world, Ping One- Finger hated his mother-in-law the most. But because he fears his wife, he couldn’t kill his mother-in-law himself or sent anyone to do it for him. Old Man here is his neighbor, and a fellow martial man in the same region. Of

course I know what’s on his mind, that’s why I did it for him. After I killed the entire family of his in-laws, Ping One-Finger was filled with joy, that’s why he worked his butt off to diagnose my daughter’s illness and prescribed me the treatment,” Old Man explained.

“I see,” Linghu Chong nodded. “Master Old, your pills are wonderful medicine, but they don’t suit my illness. How is your daughter doing right now? Is there enough time to collect the ingredients and make new pills for her?”

“My daughter will only have one year left at most. What makes you think there’s still time to make new pills?” Old Man roared angrily. “Alas, having no other alternatives, I guess I’ll just have to give it one last try.”

He took out several ropes and firmly tied Linghu Chong’s wrists and ankles to the chair. Tearing open Linghu Chong’s robe, he exposed Linghu Chong’s chest. “What are you doing?” Linghu Chong asked.

“Don’t worry, you’ll see,” Old Man answered with a fleer.

Picking Linghu Chong up together with the chair, he walked through two rooms, and after lifting a heavy cotton curtain, he went into the third room.

As soon as Linghu Chong entered the room, he felt the extreme mugginess inside. The room was completely sealed; even the windows were covered with cotton sheets, making sure that no wind would sneak in from

any crack of the window. Two large basins, filled with charcoal fire, occupied the middle of the room. The bed was by one side of the room with curtains hanging low, almost touching the ground. The entire room was filled with a strong smell of herb medicine.

Old Man set the chair down in front of the bed and then lifted the curtain.

“Not-Dead, my sweet girl, how are you feeling today?” he asked gently.

Linghu Chong couldn’t believe what he had just heard. “What? The name of Old Man’s daughter is ‘Not-Dead’. Wouldn’t that make the girl’s full name Old, Not-Dead? Ah, I see. He mentioned that his daughter had this weird disease even before she was born. He probably was very afraid of losing her, hence naming her ‘Not-Dead’ as a lucky charm, because it

would certainly be a very fortunate thing if one can live till he’s very old. Wait, her name starts with the word ‘not’, then she must have been a member of my Master’s apprentice class.”44 The more he thought about this, the more amused he became.

A girl lay on the bed with her eyes shut tightly. She was probably

around seventeen years of age. Her face was completely pale and her long hair scattered all over the quilt looking somewhat yellowish and unhealthy. “Daddy!” the girl murmured without opening her eyes.

“Not-Dead, my sweetheart! The ‘Life-Extending Eight Pills’ Daddy has been preparing for you are finally ready today. After you take them, you will get better in no time, and you’ll finally be able to get up and play,” Old Man said gently.

The girl answered with a hum and didn’t seem to be very concerned.

Seeing the seriousness of the girl’s disease, Linghu Chong felt very sorry for her.

“Old Man must have loved her daughter so very much that he

couldn’t bare to bring himself to speak the truth and had to lie to her to cheer her up,” he thought to himself.

Old Man put his arm under his daughter’s neck. “Why don’t you sit up a little? It will be easier this way when you take the medicine. The medicine didn’t come easy at all. We’d better not waste any of it,” he

explained.

The girl slowly sat up and Old Man immediately placed two pillows behind her back to make it a little more comfortable for her. The girl opened her eyes and then caught the sight of Linghu Chong. Utterly surprised, she rolled her eyes and stared at Linghu Chong.

“Dad, who…who is he?” she asked.

“Him? He is no human. He is medicine,” Old Man beamed. “He is medicine?” the girl was baffled.

“Yes. He is medicine indeed. The effect of the ‘Life-Extending Eight Pills’ are way too strong for you, my darling, that’s why I had this man take the pills instead so I can draw blood from him as medicine for you,” Old

Man replied.

“Draw blood from him? Won’t that inflict pain for him? That’s… that’s probably not a good idea.” The girl murmured. 

her. “This man is a retard. He won’t feel any pain,” Old Man comforted

The girl answered with a hum and then closed her eyes.

With a feeling of mingled shock and fury, Linghu Chong almost broke out swearing, but then on a second thought, he changed his mind.

“Although I didn’t take the girl’s life-saving pills intentionally, if she dies because of it, there’s still fault on my part. Besides, I don’t want to live on like this, anyway, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to atone for my mistake by saving her life with my blood.” At that thought, he let out a mournful smile and kept his silence.

Old Man stood next to Linghu Chong, ready to seal his Mute

Acupoint as soon as the first word came out of his mouth. But to his great surprise, he found a well-composed and unconcerned Linghu Chong

smiling at him quietly, instead. Of course, he had no clue that Linghu

Chong had remained disheartened ever since Yue Lingshan had fallen in love with someone else. Especially when Linghu Chong heard the mysterious man chiding Yue Lingshan and Lin Pingzhi for defaming him behind his back, and then seeing them dating secretly ashore, he had

completely lost the desire to live on and couldn’t have cared less about his own life.

“I am going to cut open your heart and use your warm blood to treat my daughter now. Aren’t you afraid?” Old Man asked.

“Why should I be afraid?” Linghu Chong replied calmly.

Old Man cast a side glance at Linghu Chong for a moment, and sure

enough, there was no trace of fear to be found anywhere on Linghu Chong’s face.

“After I cut your heart open and draw your blood out, you are going to die. Now don’t blame me for not telling you that beforehand!” Old Man said.

“Everyone will die sooner or later. It’s really not that big of a

difference whether one dies a few years earlier or a few years later. It would be great if my blood can save your daughter’s life. Definitely beats me dying for nothing, and no good for anybody,” Linghu Chong replied indifferently.

He could almost see in his imagination how apathetically Yue Lingshan would have reacted to the news of his death. She might even throw in a few comments on top of that like “that’s got to serve him right” or “he’s got what he deserves.” A strong feeling of self-pity welled up in Linghu Chong’s heart.

Old Man raised his thumb. “You are a real tough guy! Man, I’ve never seen anyone like you before,” he praised. “It’s too bad that my daughter will definitely die if she doesn’t drink your blood, otherwise, I’d have let you go.”

Making a trip to the kitchen, Old Man returned with a basin of boiling hot water. While holding a sharp knife with his right hand, he soaked a towel in the hot water using his left hand and then placed it on the pit of Linghu Chong’s stomach. Suddenly, Zu Qianqiu’s voice shouted from outside.

“Old Man, Old Man, open the door. I’ve got some good stuff for your daughter Not-Dead.”

Old Man frowned. With a swift swing, he sliced the hot towel in half, and then stuffed half of it into Linghu Chong’s mouth.

“What good stuff?” he murmured to himself as he set down the knife and the basin before opening the front door to let Zu Qianqiu in.

“Hey, Old Man, how are you going to thank me for this?” Zu Qianqiu spoke excitedly as soon as he entered the room. “It was in such urgency, but I couldn’t find you, so I took your ‘Life-Extending Eight Pills’ and fooled him into taking them. If you had known about it, you would have brought those catholicons of yours to him, yourself, but I bet you he wouldn’t take the pills that way.”

“What nonsense….” Old Man rebuked. But after Zu Qianqiu

whispered something right next to his ear, he jumped up all of a sudden. “Is this real? You…you…are not joking about it?” he asked loudly.

“Why would I joke about it? From what I heard, it is absolutely true. Now Old Man, we have been bosom friends for decades long. Tell me, did I do it the way you would have wanted me to or not?” Zu Qianqiu replied.

“Right, right! Damn, damn!” Old Man shouted, stamping his foot to the ground in agony.

“Wow…what’s going on? What right and what damn?” Zu Qianqiu was confused.

“You are right, and I am damned!” Old Man answered.

“Why are you damned?” Zu Qianqiu was even more confused.

Dragging Zu by the hand, Old Man led him straight into his daughter’s bedroom. As soon as he saw Linghu Chong, he dropped onto his knees and started kowtowing frantically.

“Young Master Linghu, Grandpa Linghu, I must have been so damned blind to have offended you today. Thank Heavens that Zu Qianqiu got here just in time. If I had cut you open and killed you, I would have been damned to hell. Even if someone had roasted me to death and stewed all my fats into grease, it wouldn’t have been enough punishment worth of my crime.”

With the half towel still stuffed in his mouth, Linghu Chong only

answered with some indistinguishable grunts. Zu Qianqiu hurriedly dug the towel out of Linghu Chong’s mouth and asked. “Young Master Linghu, how did you get here?”

“Senior Master Old, please, please get up! I am certainly not worth of such etiquette from you. You are really embarrassing me now,” Linghu

Chong spoke hurriedly as soon as the towel was out of his mouth.

“I had no idea about the relationship between Young Master Linghu

and my savior. How dare I to offend you like this? Alas, I am such a moron. Alas, I should have gone to hell. Even if I had a hundred daughters and all of them are dying right now, I dare not to even imagine having Young

Master Linghu to shed one drop of blood to save their cursed lives,” Old Man mumbled on.

“Old Man, why did you tie Young Master Linghu up here?” Zu Qianqiu rolled his eyes.

“Alas, in a word, it was I who have committed all kinds of outrages and perverse acts. Can’t you just shut up and spare me some

embarrassment?” Old Man replied.

“And why do you have a basin of hot water and a sharp knife over here?” Zu Qianqiu asked again.

Old Man didn’t answer his question; instead, he raised his hand and started slapping his own face hard. His fat face already looked like a pumpkin to start with, now after the strong slaps, it puffed up even more.

“I must have been very muddle-headed that I have no clue about what has happened recently. Will you, senior masters, please shed some lights for me?” Linghu Chong beseeched.

“Why don’t we talk that over some drinks?” suggested Old Man as he and Zu Qianqiu untied the rope around Linghu Chong hastily.

Casting a side-glance toward the girl on the bed, Linghu Chong asked, “Would your daughter’s illness get any worse?” “No, it will not. Even if it does, alas, well…that’s….” Old Man kept murmured to himself words that no one except himself could recognize.

After ushering Linghu Chong and Zu Qianqiu to the front hall, Old Man filled three bowls with wine and also took out a large plate of pork

strips to go with the wine. Raising his wine respectfully, he proposed a toast to Linghu Chong. Linghu Chong poured the wine down his throat in

continued gulps. The wine only had a light taste and was quite ordinary. But if compared to the wine he had drunk from Zu Qianqiu’s wine cups, it tasted at least ten times better.

“Young Master Linghu, I am such a stupid muddle-head to have offended you. Alas, this…that…really….” Speaking with a terrified face, Old Man was out of words to express his sincere regrets.

“Young Master Linghu is a large-minded man. He won’t blame you. Besides, if the ‘Life-Extending Eight Pills’ of yours are truly effective and could mend Young Master Linghu’s health, then you will be the one to thank for,” Zu Qianqiu comforted him.

“Well, I don’t…deserve the credit. Brother Zu, we’ve got to thank you,” Old Man answered.

Zu Qianqiu grinned. “Since I took your eight pills, I was afraid that it might hinder niece Not-Dead’s recovery. Here are some ginsengs for her to take as a tonic.” He stooped down and then took out a basket. After removing the lid, he pulled out holds of ginsengs, some thick and some

slender. There were perhaps at least ten pounds of them.

“Where did you get so much ginsengs?” Old Man asked.

“Where else? From the medicine shop, of course. I borrowed some,” Zu Qianqiu answered with a mischievous grin.

“Like when Liu Bei borrowed the city of Jinzhou,45 there’s no returning,” Old Man burst into loud laughter. Even though he forced a smile, he still couldn’t completely hide the grief and worries written on his face.

“Mister Old and Mister Zu,” Linghu Chong said, “although you had good intentions trying to mend my injures, one of you tricked me and the other one tied me up. Now isn’t that a bit disrespectful for me?”

Hearing that, both Old Man and Zu Qianqiu stood up immediately and bowed to Linghu Chong with their hands folded in front. “Young

Master Linghu, we are so sorry. You can punish us anyway you see fit; we certainly deserve it,” they answered in unison.

“Fine! I have a question. You must give me a straight answer. Will you please tell me who is behind all these that have made you show such great respect to me?” Linghu Chong asked.

Old Man and Zu Qianqiu exchanged a stare at each other. “Well…that…that’s your question?” Old Man murmured.

“Young Master Linghu, of course you know this person. Please forgive us for daring not to mention this person’s name,” Zu Qianqiu answered after a pause.

“But I swear that I don’t know who he is,” Linghu Chong assured them. He couldn’t help but ponder. “Is it Grand Uncle-Master Feng? Or is it Great Master No Commandment? Or even Tian Boguang? How about Elder Bamboo-Green? It doesn’t seem to be any of them. Grand Uncle-Master Feng certainly has such respectful reputation and prestige, but he is living a secluded life and didn’t even allow me to let out his whereabouts? How

could he have left Mount Huashan for this?”

“Young Master, what you are asking here, brother Old and I most definitely dare not to answer. Even if you kill us, we wouldn’t dare answer just the same. You already know the answer in your heart, why do you have to force us to spill it out?” Zu Qianqiu replied. Hearing the firm tone in his voice, Linghu Chong knew that it would be of no use to try to force the answer out from him. So he said, “Fine. Your not answering my question is certainly not helping with venting my fury.

Mister Old, you tied me up to a chair and scared the wits out of me. It’s my turn to tie the two of you up this time. And maybe I still wouldn’t be relieved and would want to cut out your hearts.”

Old Man and Zu Qianqiu exchanged another stare and then answered in unison, “If you want to tie us up, we dare not resist in any way.”

Old Man took out two chairs and a bunch of thick ropes. The two of them first tied their own feet to the legs of the chairs tightly and then placed their hands behind their back. “Young Master Linghu, if you will,” they

said, both thinking that Linghu Chong wasn’t really going to tie them up to vent his anger and most likely he was just joking. But to their great surprise, Linghu Chong actually picked up the rope and tied their hands behind their backs as tightly as he could before picking up Old Man’s knife.

“I can’t seal your acupoints with my finger because I lost all my inner energy. But I am afraid that you would try to get out of the ropes. That’s

why I am gonna strike your acupoints with the knife handle to seal them that way,” Linghu Chong explained.

He turned the knife over and then struck the two with much strength at the Huan-Tiao, Tian-Zhu, and Shao-Hai Acupoints using the knife handle. It took him a while to finally seal the acupoints. Stunned, Old Man and Zu Qianqiu looked at each other in speechless despair, and soon felt tickles of fear growing into swarms of terror, not knowing what Linghu

Chong had planned next.

“You wait here for me,” Linghu Chong exclaimed as he turned and walked out of the hall. Holding the knife in his grip, Linghu Chong walked until he was outside of the girl’s bedroom. He cleared his throat and then asked.

“Miss Old…um…miss, how are you feeling?”

He had wanted to address her as “Miss Old,” but then he decided

against that. Even though the girl’s family name was Old, in her young age, it wouldn’t sound very appropriate to call her “Miss Old,” and “Miss Old Not-Dead” would simply be unimaginably queer. The girl didn’t answer,

and only let out a slight snort.

Linghu Chong lifted the cotton curtain and then entered the room. He could see her still in a sitting position, leaning against the pillows, her eyes slightly open, half awake and half asleep. Linghu Chong took two steps forward. Now he could see that her skin on her face almost looked like

crystal. Blue veins could clearly be seen underneath the light yellowish muscles; it almost appeared as if he could see blood flowing slowly along the veins. It was so quiet in the room. Everything was in a standing still, not even a trace of brisk wind, as if the blood inside her was also coagulating drop by drop, except her tender breathing, so weak that it seemed as if

every time when she breathe out, that was one less breathe for her.

“This young girl could have survived if I didn’t take her medicine pills by mistake. I don’t have many days left anyway. It doesn’t make much difference whether I live a few days more or a few days less, does it?” Linghu Chong thought.

He reached out and grabbed a china bowl. Placing it on the small bed table, he raised his left wrist and then sliced it open with the knife. Blood immediately gushed out like a spring and poured down into the china bowl. Noticing that the basin of hot water Old Man had prepared earlier was still letting out hot steams, he set the knife down and then splashed some hot water over the cut on the wrist so the blood wouldn’t start clotting too soon. Within moments, blood had filled more than half of the bowl.

Even in the wooziness, the girl soon noticed the strong smell of blood and as soon as she opened her eyes, the sight of blood dripping all over from Linghu Chong’s wrist terrified her. She let out a shriek in shock.

Seeing that the bowl was almost filled with blood, Linghu Chong

walked next to the bed and then held the bowl right next to the girl’s mouth. “Hurry, drink this. There are panaceas in the blood that will be able to

cure your decease,” he urged gently.

“I…I…I am scared. I don’t…want to drink that,” the girl rejected.

After shedding a bowl worth of blood, Linghu Chong felt as if his head had become completely drained and his legs almost gave out under him.

“If she doesn’t drink this because she is scared, wouldn’t I have shed my blood for nothing?” he thought to himself.

Grabbing the knife into his left hand, he yelled, “If you don’t do what I tell you, I’ll kill you with this knife.” Right after the last word, he placed the tip of the blade next to the girl’s throat.

The girl feared for her life and had to swallow down the entire bowl of blood. For several times she almost vomited from the nauseating, but

every time when she caught the sight of the shinning blade in Linghu

Chong’s hand, the terror overwhelmed her and prevented her from throwing up.

Linghu Chong watched her drink up the entire bowl of blood. The wound on his wrist had slowly stopped bleeding as blood clots started forming around it.

Linghu Chong thought to himself, “I took Old Man’s ‘Life-Extending Eight Pills,’ but what went into the girl’s stomach was perhaps even less than one tenth of it. Once I use the restroom a few times, I am afraid even more would be lost. I’d better feed her a few more bowls of blood while I still can, until I am too weak to move about.” At that thought, he cut open his right wrist, also, and as soon as the bowl was filled with blood, he rushed to feed the girl again.

The girl frowned. “Don’t…don’t force me. I can’t take anymore of this,” she pleaded.

“It’s not up to you. Hurry up! Drink! Hurry!” Linghu Chong urged.

The girl drank some more reluctantly and had to stop for a moment to catch her breath.

“Why…why are you doing this? Doing this is very harmful for your body,” she said.

“It’s quite alright. Don’t worry about my body. It’s all for your good.” Linghu Chong let out a forced smile.

As soon as Branch Fairy and Fruit Fairy fell into the fishing net booby trap set by Old Man, they immediately tried to set themselves free, but the more they struggled, the tighter the fishing net became, and soon they couldn’t even move their arms or legs any inch. Although the two of them couldn’t move, that did not prevent their ears from functioning perfectly well and their tongues from arguing back and forth. At the time when Linghu Chong had tied Old and Zu to their chairs, Branch Fairy had predicted that he would certainly kill the two while Fruit Fairy had predicted that he would definitely come out and set the two Fairy brothers free first. But that debate ended up a total waste of time. Neither of them had gotten it right. Linghu Chong had entered the girl’s bedroom instead. Since the girl’s bedroom was sealed very well with all the cotton sheets, only segments of Linghu Chong and the girl’s conversation could be vaguely heard. For Branch Fairy, Fruit Fairy, Yue Buqun, Old Man, and Zu Qianqiu, even though all five of them had resourceful inner energy, they still couldn’t tell what Linghu Chong was doing in the girl’s bedroom, so

they had to let their imagination run wild. When suddenly the girl’s scream broke out, all their faces changed color.

“Linghu Chong is a guy. What is he doing in a girl’s bedroom?” Branch Fairy asked.

“Listen, that girl was in terror,” Fruit Fairy exclaimed. “She said, ‘I… I am scared!’ And Linghu Chong said, ‘If you don’t do what I tell you, I’ll kill you with this knife.’ He said ‘do what I tell you.’ What does he want the girl to do?”

“What else? Of course he is forcing the girl to be his woman.” Branch Fairy concluded.

“Ha-ha, how funny! That short melon-size man’s daughter of course has to be a short melon-size girl as well. Why would Linghu Chong want to force her to be his woman?” Fruit Fairy disagreed.

“Different people favor different things! Maybe Linghu Chong has this thingy for fat girls, and as soon as he spots a fat girl, he’d find himself in heaven and totally forget about everything else.” Branch Fairy argued.

“Wow, did you hear that? The fat girl is begging him now. I think she said something like, ‘Don’t force me. I can’t take it anymore.’” Fruit Fairy imitated.

“That’s right. But the chap Linghu Chong is determined. He said, ‘It’s not up to you. Hurry up! Hurry!’” Branch Fairy followed.

“Why is Linghu Chong asking her to hurry up? Hurry up doing what?” Fruit Fairy asked.

“You never got married and are still a virgin, of course you don’t understand,” Branch Fairy mocked. “Like you’ve ever married anyone, you shameless jerk!” Fruit Fairy fought back.

“You know that I never got married. Why did you ask me for?” Branch Fairy reproved.

“Hey, Old Man! Linghu Chong is forcing your daughter to be his woman. Are you just going to sit there and watch her die?” Fruit Fairy shouted out loud.

“Mind your own business,” Branch Fairy admonished. “How do you know that fat girl is going to die? Isn’t his daughter’s name ‘Old Not-

Dead’? How can she die?”

Ever since Old Man and Zu Qianqiu were tied to their chairs and their acupoints sealed, they listened through everything, from Miss Old’s scream to the sound of her begging for mercy. Gazing at each other with blank dismay, they were totally out of ideas. They had suspected the same thing themselves, and the loud arguments from the Peach Valley’s two Fairies in the courtyard only confirmed their suspicion.

“Brother Old, we’ve got to stop this. Who would have expected Young Master Linghu to be such a lubricious man? I am afraid he is going to get into big trouble,” Zu Qianqiu said to Old Man.

“Alas, I wouldn’t have minded him deflowering Not-Dead the kid, but…but that would really be unfair for the other one.” Old Man heaved a sigh.

“Listen, listen to that,” Zu Qianqiu suggested. “Your daughter Not- Dead has grown quite some affection for him. She said, ‘Doing this is very harmful for your body.’ And did you hear how Linghu Chong responded?”

“He said, ‘It’s quite alright. Don’t worry about my body. It’s all for your good!’ God damn it! These two kids!” Old Man replied. “Brother Old, congratulations, congratulations!” Zu Qianqiu burst into loud laughter.

“Congratulations my ass!” Old Man scolded angrily.

“What are you getting angry for? Congratulations for getting a wonderful son-in-law!” Zu Qianqiu grinned.

Old Man let out a loud shout and reproved with a yell, “Stop the nonsense! If this gets out, do you think we’d still be alive?” When he spoke these words, his voice was filled with utter fear.

“Right, right!” Zu Qianqiu replied. His voice also quavered.

Yue Buqun had been hiding on the tree outside of the wall and was even further from it. Although he initialized the “Divine Art of the Violet Twilight,” he was only able to hear fragments of the conversation. At first,

when he heard Linghu Chong forcing the girl, he had wanted to rush inside to stop it, but then he changed his mind, thinking that all these people, Linghu Chong included, had been so secretive and unusual, who was it to say that they weren’t conspiring something. The best thing for him to do at the time would be to observe calmly and not act recklessly. So he simply listened on with his ‘Divine Art of the Violet Twilight’ fully loaded. Then

the dialogues between the Peach Valley’s Two Fairies and the ones between Old and Zu kept ringing in his ears. He was also convinced that Linghu

Chong must have taken advantage of the girl’s precarious condition and had molested the girl. Later when he heard the conversation between Old and Zu, he figured that since Linghu Chong was a dissolute and unconventional young man and the girl probably did carry her father’s genes and was a

short and fat, ugly girl, it would only be natural for her to fall in love with Linghu Chong after losing her virginity to him. Seeing how ludicrous the episode has become, he couldn’t help but shake his head in despair. The girl’s screaming voice rose again all of a sudden. “Don’t… don’t…too much blood. I beg of you….”

Suddenly, someone shouted from outside the walls, “Old Man, I’ve finally lost those Peach Valley’s Four Goblins.” Then came a gentle thud as the man leapt over the wall and entered the hall. It was none other than the man with the white banner who had provoked the Peach Valley’s Four Fairies into chasing him.

“What’s going on?” He was shocked to find Old Man and Zu Qianqiu both tied up to their chairs. He flipped his right hand swiftly and a shining dagger magically appeared in his palm. Waving his arms hurriedly a few times, he had cut lose the ropes around the two’s legs and arms.

The girl’s scream rose from her room once again, “Please…please…I beg you…no more.”

Picking up the urgency in her tone of voice, the man uttered a cry of shock, “It is Miss Old Not-Dead!” He dashed toward the door.

Grabbing the man by his arm quickly, Old Man yelled, “You can’t go in there!”

Stunned, the man put a halt to his steps. Then came the voice of Branch Fairy from the courtyard.

“I bet you the short melon must be thrilled to have a son-in-law like Linghu Chong.”

“Linghu Chong could die any day now. Why would he be so thrilled to have a half-dead half-alive son-in-law?” Fruit Fairy challenged.

“His daughter could die any day as well. They make a perfect half- dead half-alive couple,” Branch Fairy explained.

“Now, who will die and who will live?” Fruit Fairy asked.

“What a dumb question! Of course Linghu Chong will die. Miss Old Not-Dead’s name is Old Not-Dead. How can she ever die? Dummy!” Branch Fairy mocked.

“That’s not necessarily true. Does one’s name always reflect the reality? What if everybody in this world were named Old Not-Dead? Would every one of them grow old yet do not die? If that’s the case, then our training in martial arts would have been no good at all,” Fruit Fairy rebuffed.

Amid the arguing between the two brothers, a loud thud came from inside the room. Something had collapsed onto the floor. Miss Old

screamed again, though her voice was weak, it was filled with panic. “Dad, Dad! Come here, hurry!”

Old Man sprinted into the bedroom, only finding Linghu Chong lying on the floor unconscious, a china bowl leaning by his chest upside down

and blood all over his upper body. Miss Old leaned by the bed. There was also blood by the corner of her mouth. Zu Qianqiu and the other man stood

behind Old Man and stared at the bizarre scene, each with a stomach full of questions.

“Dad, he…he cut himself to draw blood, and then forced me to drink two bowls worth…he…he wants to cut himself more….” Miss Old

exclaimed.

The shock struck Old Man like a thunder. He rushed forward and propped Linghu Chong’s upper body into his own arms. Now he could see the cuts on both of Linghu Chong’s wrists from which blood was still gushing out nonstop. Scared out of his wits, Old Man sprinted out of the room and returned with gauzes, bandages, and medication within moments. In the fluster, even though this was his own home, he still bumped his head on the doorframes, resulting in a big swelling on his forehead and a large hole on the wall. When Branch Fairy heard the banging sound, he thought Old Man must have given Linghu Chong a good beating, so he shouted.

“Hey, Old Man, Linghu Chong is a good friend of the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies. Stop beating him. If you beat him to death, I promise you that the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies will tear all your fats into strips.”

“Wrong! Wrong!” Fruit Fairy reproved. “What’s wrong?” Branch Fairy inquired.

“If he had muscles all around his body, then of course you can tear them into strips. But all he has are fats. You’ll end up with a bunch of grease. How can you tear fats into strips?” Fruit Fairy argued.

Old Man applied the medication to the wrist wounds and then

wrapped the wounds well with bandages. After a good while of massaging the acupoints on Linghu Chong’s chest and stomach, Linghu Chong finally regained his consciousness.

Feeling slightly relieved and utterly grateful, Old Man muttered in a shaky voice, “Young Master Linghu, you…even by smashing us into bits and pieces wouldn’t have…alas…wouldn’t have….”

“Young Master Linghu, it was only because of a misunderstanding that Old Man tied you up earlier. Why did you take it so seriously? You are just making him feel even more embarrassed,” Zu Qianqiu said.

Linghu Chong let out a weak smile. “My internal injury cannot be

cured by any catholicon. I truly appreciate the kindness of senior master Zu for feeding me the ‘Life-Extending Eight Pills’ that belonged to senior master Old. But it was really a waste…I hope this girl’s desease can be

cured….” A strong feel of disorientation, caused by losing much blood, suddenly consumed him, and he passed out, once again.

Carrying Linghu Chong in his arms, Old Man walked out of his daughter’s bedroom and set Linghu Chong down on his own bed. “What now? What now?” he muttered distractedly with a long, worried face.

“Young Master Linghu lost a lot of blood. I am afraid he is on the

edge of his life. What do you think if we three load all our inner energy and inject the inner energy into his body to revive him? What do you say?” Zu Qianqiu suggested.

“Naturally,” Old Man concurred.

He gently propped Linghu Chong up and placed his right palm on the Da-Zhui Acupoint at Linghu Chong’s back. As soon as he initialized his

energy flow, his entire body suddenly shocked violently. A loud crack

echoed as the chair he sat on collapsed to the floor and was smashed into bits and pieces.

Branch Fairy burst into loud laughter. “Guess how Linghu Chong inflicted his internal injury at the first place? It was all because our six brothers tried to heal him with our internal energy. Now the short melon decides to play the ape. Aren’t you just going to cause Linghu Chong new injuries on top of what he already has? Ha-ha! Ha-ha!”

“Hey, did you hear that loud cracking sound? That short melon must have been shocked by the inner energy inside Linghu Chong and smashed into something. Linghu Chong’s inner energy is actually our inner energy. The short melon, once again, is suffering from the wrath of the Peach

Valley’s Six Fairies! Wonderful! Wonderful!” Fruit Fairy added.

“Alas, if Young Master Linghu stays unconscious like this, I guess there’s only one thing left for the Old Man. I’ll just have to kill myself,” Old Man heaved a heavy sigh.

The man came in last suddenly yelled out loudly, “Hi, the one on the jujube tree outside, are you Mr. Yue, the Head Master of the Huashan School?” Yue Buqun was dumbfounded. “So he knew I was hiding here all along,” he thought inwardly.

“Mr. Yue, you are a guest from afar. Why don’t you come in for a visit?” the man shouted again.

Yue Buqun felt very awkward. It wouldn’t be a good idea to go in, yet by now he could no longer stay on top of the jujube tree.

“Young Master Linghu, your apprentice, has fainted. Would you like to take a look at him?” the man urged again.

Clearing his throat to cover up the embarrassment, Yue Buqun leapt over the one dozen feet or so space in the courtyard and landed directly on the corridor under the eaves. By then Old Man had greeted out and cupped his hands to salute.

“Mr. Yue, come in please,” he said.

“Forgive me for being an unexpected guest. I was just concerned about the safety of my apprentice,” Yue Buqun replied.

“It was all my fault. Alas, if…if…” Old Man muttered.

“Don’t you worry about it! Linghu Chong won’t die,” Branch Fairy suddenly cut in.

“How do you know that he won’t die?” Old Man was overjoyed and asked hurriedly.

“He is much younger than you and also much younger than me, isn’t he?” Branch Fairy asked.

“Yeah, what about it?” Old Man was confused.

“Now do older people die first or do younger people die first? Of

course it’s older people who will die first, duh! Since you are not dead and I am perfectly alive, how can Linghu Chong die?” Branch Fairy explained.

Old Man had hoped that he would probably have some unique ideas.

Hearing the drivel from him, he could only let out a wry smile. “I’ve got a real clever idea!” Fruit Fairy joined in. “Let’s all put our efforts together and change Linghu Chong’s name to ‘Linghu Not-

Dead’….”

Yue Buqun followed Old Man and entered his bedroom, and then saw Linghu Chong lying on the bed, still unconscious.

“If I don’t make an exhibition of my ‘Divine Art of the Violet

Twilight,’ these folks here would undoubtedly make light of our Huashan School,” he thought to himself.

He turned toward the bed, so when the violet color showed on his face no one would notice it, and secretly initialized his divine art. As soon as the divine art is loaded, he placed his palm on the Da-Zhui Acupoint on Linghu Chong’s back. Knowing how the energy streams swarmed inside Linghu Chong, he didn’t put much strength into his move, instead, only injected very little inner energy slowly. And as soon as he could feel the inner energy inside Linghu Chong started reacting to his maneuver, he pulled his palm back about half-an-inch from Linghu Chong’s skin and

waited a short moment before placing his palm back onto Linghu Chong again.

A short while went by when Linghu Chong gradually gained his senses back and was able to speak, “Master, you…you are here.”

Seeing how Yue Buqun revived Linghu Chong without putting out much effort, the three observers made no effort to hide their admiration. “This place is a hotbed of trouble,” thought Yue Buqun to himself,

“better get out of here soon. Besides, I wonder what’s happening with my wife and the bunch of apprentices on the boat?” So he cupped his hand and

said, “Thank you very much for your cordial reception to my apprentice and

I. We’d better get going.” “Right, right! Young Master Linghu is not feeling well; we really

should have been a better host. But he would probably be taken better care of with you. It is really a lack of manner on our side. We beg your pardon,” Old Man apologized.

“You are being too modest,” Yue Buqun replied.

Under the dim light in the room, he suddenly noticed the shining eyes of the third man, and a quick thought flashed by his mind.

“May I ask the respectful name of this friend?” cupping his hand in greet, he asked.

“I guess Mr. Yue has never met our ‘Night Owl’ Ji Wushi before,” Zu Qianqiu grinned.

Yue Buqun felt a small chill in his heart as he pondered, “Night Owl Ji Wushi? I heard that this man was born with special abilities and has

extraordinary eyesight. His conducts has always been uncertain, sometimes kind while sometimes wicked, sometimes good, yet at other times evil.

Although his name is Ji Wushi, meaning out of one’s wits, he is really a very tough one full of craft and cunning. Who would have expected him to be mingled up with the bunch such as Old Man?”

Cupping his hands hurriedly, he greeted, “I’ve heard your name many times and have long been looking forward to meet you. It’s so fortunate that I finally got the chance today.”

“Well, not just today. Aren’t we going to meet again tomorrow on the Five-Tyrant Ridge?” Ji Wushi grinned.

Yue Buqun felt another chill in his heart. Even though he felt it wasn’t the right manner to ask for more details after they had only met for a few minutes, his worries regarding his kidnapped daughter overwhelmed his

concern for proper protocols. “I was wondering how I have offended fellow martial friends in the local area, somehow. I figured that it must have been my lack of manners for having not paid any visits to the various masters around here. Would Mr. Ji be kind enough to give me some pointers, as to which friends had invited my daughter and an apprentice named Lin over?”

“Really? I don’t think I know much about that,” Ji Wushi replied with another grin.

To ask Ji Wushi so nicely about the whereabouts of his daughter was already quite a concession for Yue Buqun – the Head Master of the renowned Huashan School. When Ji Wushi obviously had evaded the issue, though worried and irritated, Yue Buqun could not ask any further. So he put on an indifferent face and said dryly,

“I am sorry to have disturbed you so late at night. I’ll see you around.”

He propped Linghu Chong up and was just about to pick him up into his arms, when Old Man suddenly stuck his head out between the Master and the apprentice and rushed to hold Linghu Chong into his own arms.

“I am the one who took Young Master Linghu here, so naturally I am the one responsible for sending him back,” he exclaimed as he grabbed a thin blanket to cover up Linghu Chong’s body before striding out.

“Hey, hold it! What about us, the two big fish here?” Branch Fairy shouted in a hurry.

“Well…” Old Man hesitated. If he let the two brothers go, it would really be difficult to ward off the revenge from the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies. But with these two as hostages, the other four would at least have some scruples.

Linghu Chong knew what Old Man had in his mind. “Senior master Old, will you please set the two of them free? Now you two Fairies, will you please not seek any revenge or cause any trouble for Master Old and Master Zu? How about turning adversity into friendship?” he suggested.

“With just the two of us, I don’t think we can make trouble for them even if we tried,” Branch Fairy replied.

“Of course I am referring to all six of the Peach Valley’s Fairies,” Linghu Chong clarified.

“To not seek revenge or make trouble for them is alright, but there’s no way we are going to turn adversity into friendship. Even if you chop my head off, there’s still no way,” Fruit Fairy exclaimed.

Old Man and Zu Qianqiu both grunted, thinking, “It is only for the sake of Young Master Linghu that we have agreed to not fuss about with

you. Did you actually think the ‘Old Ancestor of the Yellow River’ is afraid of the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies?”

“Why’s that?” Linghu Chong asked.

“The Peach Valley’s Six Fairies never had any grudges against or any scores to settle with the Old Ancestor of the Yellow River. We are never

adversaries, so there’s simply no way that we can turn ‘adversity’ to

anything. That’s why becoming friends would be fine but there’s no way we can turn ‘adversity’ to ‘friendship’ no matter what,” Fruit Fairy elaborated.

At those words, everyone laughed out loud. Zu Qianqiu stooped down and untied the slipknot on the fishing net. The strings of the fishing net

were made from human hair, silk from wild silkworms, and pure gold threads interweaved together, which then became extremely tenacious and persistent. Even sharp knives or swords couldn’t have been able to cut through them. If anyone got trapped inside it, the more he struggled, the tighter it became. Unless someone untied the slipknot from the outside, it would be impossible to get out of the trap. As soon as Branch Fairy got back onto his feet, he dropped his pants and started pissing all over the fishing net.

“What…what are you doing?” Zu Qianqiu asked in shock.

“If I don’t piss all over this damn net, how am I going to vent my spleen?” Branch Fairy answered.

The seven of them returned to the wharf. Yue Buqun could see from a distance that the two apprentices Lao Denuo and Gao Gemming had been guarding the boat with swords in their hands. Knowing that everyone was

alright, he was slightly relieved.

Old Man carried Linghu Chong into the cabin and then bowed all the way down.

“Young Master Linghu, your virtue shines above the nine Heavens, I am utterly grateful for what you have done. I’ll say goodbye for now but we’ll meet again soon.”

Because of the bumps on the way back, Linghu Chong had fallen back into a state of wooziness and almost fainted again. He didn’t really catch Old Man’s words and only answered with a weak hum.

Noticing the completely opposite attitude shown by the meatball man before and after, how respectful and cautious he had become toward Linghu Chong, Madam Yue and the rest of the apprentices were dumbfounded.

Afraid that Root Fairy and the bunch of Peach Valley Fairies might get back soon, Old Man and Zu Qianqiu didn’t want to stay any longer and soon bid their farewell to Yue Buqun.

“Wait, brother Zu.” Branch Fairy beckoned at Zu Qianqiu. “What’s the matter?” Zu Qianqiu asked.

“This!” Branch Fairy answered as he bent his knees and suddenly rammed his shoulder toward Zu Qianqiu’s chest with full speed. This completely caught Zu Qianqiu by surprise. Having no time to dodge away, Zu Qianqiu quickly loaded his inner energy. Within a split second, he had gathered resourceful inner energy in his lower stomach, which made his chest and stomach as hard as a rock. Dozens of cracking

and smashing noises exploded all at once. A split second later, Branch Fairy had quickly withdrawn back dozens of feet, bursting into loud laughter.

“Oh no!” Zu Qianqiu uttered a cry as he reached into his chest pocket and took out countless of bits and pieces. Among those were chips of china, jade, bamboo, and wood. The over two dozens of precious wine cups in Zu Qianqiu’s chest pocket had all been smashed from the collision, even cups like the Golden Cup, Silver Cup, or the Bronze Jue had all been completely flattened out. Consumed by strong fury and deep regrets, Zu Qianqiu waved his hand and shot the scores of debris toward Branch Fairy like a swarm of darts, but Branch Fairy had expected that and swiftly dodged away.

“Linghu Chong told us to turn adversity into friendship. We must obey his orders. That’s why we must become adversaries first before becoming friends,” Branch Fairy shouted.

Having lost all the precious wine cups that took him decades to

collect by Branch Fairy’s one single hit, Zu Qianqiu was infuriated. But hearing Branch Fairy’s words just when he was about to launch his full wave of attacks, he immediately pulled his steps back.

“That’s right. Turn adversaries into friends. Turn adversaries into friends,” he murmured with a wry smile and then walked away together with Old Man and Ji Wushi.

In his muddled mind state, Linghu Chong was still concerned about the safety of Yue Lingshan. “Branch Fairy, will you please ask them to not…not harm my apprentice sister Yue?” he said. “Certainly!” Branch Fairy answered and then shouted out loudly,

“Hey! Old Man, Night Owl, and Zu Qianqiu, listen up! Linghu Chong said that you should not harm his darling apprentice sister.”

Ji Wushi and the group of three had walked quite a distance away when they heard Branch Fairy. At the words they all stopped their steps. Old Man turned his head around and shouted his answer.

“If Young Master Linghu says so, we’ll certainly comply.”

After the three of them discussed this over some whispers, they resumed their steps.

Yue Buqun started telling Madam Yue what he saw and heard over at Old Man’s house, but only a few sentences into it, loud shouts and noises from ashore interrupted him. Root Fairy and the rest of the three Fairies had returned.

The four of them certainly kept their mouths busy bragging

continuously about how they had caught the man holding the white banner and how they had torn him into four pieces.

Fruit Fairy laughed so hard that he almost lost a few teeth. “Wow!

Amazing!! Brothers, you guys are so awesome!” he mocked.

“Ha-ha, so you tore that man into four pieces. Did you know what his name was?” Branch Fairy asked.

“He’s dead already. Who cares what his name was? Could you have known his name?” Trunk Fairy answered.

“Of course I do,” Branch Fairy replied. “His name is Ji Wushi, and he also has a nick name called ‘Night Owl’.”

Leaf Fairy applauded. “Hey! What a wonderful name that was! Turned out this guy actually had some insights. He must have known beforehand that one day he would be caught by the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies and would be totally out of his wits,46 having no way of escaping the fate of being torn into four pieces, that’s why he gave himself that name.”

“That ‘Night Owl’ Ji Wushi was certainly a tough guy. His Kung Fu was so extraordinary! And totally exceptional too!” Fruit Fairy exclaimed. “That’s right, his Kung Fu was excellent,” Root Fairy couldn’t have

agreed more. “If it weren’t for his bad luck that he picked the Peach

Valley’s Six Fairies to mess with, his Kung Fu in Qing-Gong could have ranked him among the top fighters in the Martial World.”

“His Kung Fu in Qing-Gong was nothing compared to this. Did you know that after you tore him into four pieces, he was able to put all the pieces back together and revive himself from death, and then walked

around just like normal? He even came here just moments ago and had a nice chat with us.” Fruit Fairy cracked an evil grin.

By then did Root Fairy and the rest of the three Fairies finally realize that their lie had been uncovered, but neither of them had much concern

about it, and all put on a pretended surprise on their faces.

“Wow, I had no idea that Ji Wushi knew such odd Kung Fu. That just proves the old saying that you cannot judge a person by his look like you

cannot measure the ocean using a ladler. How admirable! Truly remarkable!” Flower Fairy exclaimed.

“I’ve heard that there’s this Kung Fu called the ‘Piece Parts Back into a Whole Art’, which allows the practitioner to put the torn apart four pieces of himself back into a whole and allows him to walk normally within instants. But I thought this Kung Fu had been lost ages ago. Who would have expected that Ji Wushi somehow have mastered it? Hmm, he is indeed a unique one in the Martial World. Well, I suppose the next time when we

see him, it’s all right to befriend him,” Trunk Fairy speculated. Meanwhile, Yue Buqun and Madam Yue found themselves profoundly worried. Their beloved daughter had been kidnapped, yet they had not a clue in regard to whom the enemy might have been. The Huashan Sword School enjoyed great fame in the entire Martial World; they certainly didn’t expect to suffer such a setback by the Yellow River. But they kept the feeling to themselves and showed no sign of it, afraid that it would create a panic among the many apprentices. The couple didn’t discuss any of the doubts and suspicious they had accrued, either, only pondered upon them individually, and the only noises inside the cabin were nothing but the

constant rubbish coming out of the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies.

Over two hours went by uneventfully, and daybreak was almost

around the corner. Suddenly the sound of footsteps from ashore broke the silence and moments later two sedans had arrived by the bank.

The leading sedan carrier announced in a loud and clear tone, “Young Master Linghu said that Miss Yue should not be harmed or frightened in

any way. Our superior has sent us to apologize for the accident and ask for Young Master Linghu’s forgiveness.”

The four carriers set down the two sedans, bowed toward the direction of the boat, and then turned around and walked away.

“Dad! Mom!” Yue Lingshan’s voice shouted from inside one of the sedans.

Shocked but utterly overjoyed, the Yue couple leapt ashore and lifted the curtain of the sedan. Needless to say, it was Yue Lingshan sitting inside, only that the acupoints on her legs had been sealed, which prevented her from moving about. And not to their surprise, the occupant of the second

sedan was none other than Lin Pingzhi.

Yue Buqun stroked the Huan-Tiao, Ji-Zhong, and Wei-Zhong

Acupoints on his daughter’s legs and opened the sealed acupoints for her. “Who was that large-build man?” he asked.

“That tall and big giant, he…he…he….” Curling her cute lips, Yue Lingshan almost cried out.

Gently picking her up and holding her in her arms, Madam Yue walked back into the cabin. “Are you alright?” she asked in a whisper?

Hearing her mother’s question, Yue Lingshan burst into a sob, which almost gave Madam Yue a heart attack.

“Those people weren’t really law abiding citizens of the society.

Lingshan was in their hands for quite some hours. Could she…could she have been disgraced?” Madam Yue’s imagination started running wild.

“What happened? It’s alright, you can tell your mother,” she asked hurriedly. But Yue Lingshan only cried louder.

Madam Yue started to panic, but she couldn’t ask anything further with such a big crowd around. Setting her daughter down to a bed, she pulled a quilt and wrapped it around her.

“Mom, that big giant swore at me,” Yue Lingshan suddenly cried out after some loud sniffs, and her words set Madam Yue’s heart back into its chamber.

“Is that all? Are you just grieving over some badmouthing?” Madam Yue asked with a smile.

“He also raised his hand to scare me, pretending that he was going to hit me,” Yue Lingshan exclaimed as she cried on.

“Alright, alright! When we see him next time, we’ll cuss him back and scare him back,” Madam Yue comforted her with a grin.

“I never badmouthed big apprentice brother, neither did Little Lin.

That big giant was so vicious and overbearing. He said that what he doesn’t like the most was for people to badmouth Linghu Chong. I said I don’t like that either. Then he said that if he doesn’t like someone, he’d simply cook him and eat him. Mom, at that word, he opened his mouth to scare me with his ghastly teeth,” Yue Lingshan whimpered.

“That was evil,” Madam Yue replied. “Chong, who is that giant man?”

“The giant man? I…I….” Still quite muddleheaded, Linghu Chong murmured back.

By then, Lin Pingzhi’s sealed acupoints were also opened by his Master and he had walked in the cabin.

“Master-Wife, that giant man and the monk really do eat human flesh.

They weren’t just trying to sound scary,” he intercepted.

“The two of them do eat human flesh? How did you know?” Madam Yue was stunned.

“The monk asked me about the Evil-Resisting Sword Manuscript for a while and then took out something from his chest pocket and started

chewing on it with full interest. He even stuck that thing under my nose and asked me if I wanted to take a bite just for the taste of it. Turned out… turned out that thing was the hand of a human.”

“Why didn’t you mention any of that to me earlier?” Yue Lingshan uttered a cry of shock.

“I was afraid you would be frightened, so I kept that to myself,” Lin Pingzhi answered.

“Ah, I remember now,” Yue Buqun suddenly spoke out. “Those two are the ‘Bear Duo of the Northern Desert.’ The giant man’s skin is almost completely white while the monk’s skin is very dark, isn’t it?”

“That’s right! Dad, you know them?” Yue Lingshan asked.

“No, I don’t. I just heard before that there are two notorious robbers in the northern desert region. One is called the White Bear, and the other one the Black Bear. If merchants travel by themselves, these ‘Bear Duo’ merely rob them of their goods, but if the goods were transferred by martial escorts, then the ‘Bear Duo’ often cooks the escorts up and eats them. They say that since martial people have stronger muscles, they are normally extra chewy,” Yue Buqun elaborated.

“Ah!” Yue Lingshan let out another cry of terror.

“Senior apprentice brother! Why did you have to bring that up? ‘Extra chewy,’ that’s so gross,” Madam Yue protested.

Yue Buqun let out a slight grin. After a short pause, he continued, “I heard that the ‘Bear Duo of the Northern Desert’ never came to this side of the Great Wall. Why did they come by the Yellow River this time? Chong, how did you know the ‘Bear Duo of the Northern Desert’?”

“Bare Dew of the Northern Desert?” Linghu Chong murmured. He didn’t really pick up the first half of his Master’s words, and thought his

Master had said “Bare Dew” or something like that. “I don’t know him,” he answered after a short daze.

“Little Lin,” Yue Lingshan suddenly intercepted, “when that monk asked you to take a bite at the hand, did you do it?”

“Of course not,” Lin Pingzhi answered immediately.

“You’d better not. If you did, humph, I’ll never talk to you again,” Yue Lingshan exclaimed.

Trunk Fairy suddenly interrupted from the outer cabin, “Human flesh is the most ambrosial relish in the entire world. I bet you that Little Lin must have sneaked a bite and just wouldn’t admit it, that’s all.”

“If he really didn’t sneak a bite, why didn’t he say it at the very beginning? Why bend over backward and deny so frantically now?” Leaf Fairy added.

Ever since Lin Pingzhi’s terrible family tragedy, he had always been watching out for his own words and behavior. The two Fairies’ censure took him by surprise and he found himself speechless.

“There you go. See, his not answering clearly shows his

acquiescence. Miss Yue, he ate human flesh and still wouldn’t admit it. How can you marry someone so dishonest?” Flower Fairy joined in.

“After you marry him, undoubtedly he would court other women behind your back. And when you ask him about it when he gets home, I bet you he would deny everything all the same,” Root Fairy predicted.

“And there’s one more thing, a very dangerous thing I must add. Once he gets totally addicted to human flesh, when he sleeps with you on the

same bed, in the middle of the night, suddenly you wake up from the terrible pain coming from you fingers, while you ears are filled with the

constant cracking sound form somebody chewing on something. Then after you investigate further, guess what it is? It was Little Lin chewing on your fingers,” Flower Fairy added.

“Miss Yue, even when we include your toes, you’ve only gotten twenty digits all together. Now when your Little Lin chews a few today and a few tomorrow, your ten fingers and ten toes won’t last very long at all,” Leaf Fairy said.

The Peach Valley’s Six Fairies had considered Linghu Chong a good friend ever since they first met him on top of the Mount Huashan. Although the six brothers always get tangled up in silly arguments, they certainly

weren’t stupid, and had long noticed what had been happening between Linghu Chong and Yue Lingshan, like how the waterside flower pined for love from the brook by sending the many shed petals, while the heartless brook simply babbles on unrequited love. So when they had finally caught the flaw in Lin Pingzhi’s words, they spared no efforts driving a wedge between Yue and Lin. “You are just talking rubbish. I am not listening! I am not listening to any of it!” covering her ears with her hands, Yue Lingshan shouted.

“Miss Yue, it’s quite alright if you really want to marry that Little Lin, but if so, there’s this one special Kung Fu you’ve got to learn. This Kung Fu is going to be so important for you that if you miss the chance of learning it, I bet you that you are going to regret it for the rest of your life,” Root Fairy claimed.

“What Kung Fu is that? Why is it so important for me?” Noticing the sincerity in Root Fairy’s voice, Yue Lingshan simply couldn’t resist her

curiosity but ask.

“That ‘Night Owl’ Ji Wushi has this Kung Fu called ‘Piece Parts

Back into a Whole Art’,” Root Fairy exclaimed. “Now when Little Lin eats all your ears, nose, fingers, and toes in the future, you don’t have to worry no more. You can simply cut his stomach open and take those pieces out to put back onto your body, piecing parts back into a whole.”

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