Smiling Proud Wanderer Chapter 21-25

Chapter 21 Life in Prison

Before Black-White Piece could figure out his mistake, his wrist was already seized. In a hurry, he rotated his wrist to grab back while pulling his arm back, and then swiftly kicked out with his left foot.

When Linghu Chong finally came around, he found himself

surrounded by complete darkness, knowing neither where he was nor how long he had been out cold. The headache was so bad that he almost felt as though somebody had cracked his head open and loud thunder-like rings

still rumbled continuously in his ears. He tried in vain to get back onto his feet but found no strength left in him at all.

“I must be dead already and have been buried into a grave,” he thought as the strong sense of grief and fuss quickly overwhelmed him and he fainted once again.

By the time he woke up the second time, although his headache didn’t get any better, the ringing in his ears did lighten up a great deal. He felt

something cold and hard underneath him as though he was lying upon

something made of iron or steel. A quick feel with his hand soon confirmed that it was indeed a steel plate underneath the straw mat. As soon as he moved his right hand, a light clank broke out, and at the same time he felt

something icy-cold tied around his wrist. When he tried to feel it with his left hand, the clanking sound rose again. Turned out that his left wrist also had something tied around it. A mixed feeling of shock, joy, and fear soared in his heart. Now he was sure that he had not died but had been shackled.

He felt it again with his left hand and then came to realization that it was a thin steel chain tied around his wrist. A slight move of his two feet also revealed steel chains shackled around his ankles. He opened his eyes as

wide as he could and stared forward, but did not see even a glimmer of light.

“I was having a sword match with the Revered Mr. Ren right before I fainted. How did I fall for the machination of the Four Playfellows of

Jiangnan?” he asked himself. “It looks as though I am also locked up in the dungeon underneath the lake. Have I been locked up in the same place together with the Revered Mr. Ren?” At that thought, he called out immediately, “Revered Mr. Ren? Revered Mr. Ren?”

He called out twice, but did not hear anything in return. Feeling of great shock grew stronger and stronger in his heart and he called out even louder, “Mr. Ren! Mr. Ren!” But once again, all he could hear in the pitch black were his own hoarse and vexed cries.

As desperation began to sink in, he shouted out at the top of his lungs, “First Master! Fourth Master! Why have you locked me in here? Let me out! Let me out!” But other than his own shouting, there was not another

sound all the while.

Soon panic turned into rage, and he began pouring our streams of abuses, “You despicable, brazen, evil scum! You couldn’t beat me in the

sword matches, so you figured that you could lock me up here to get even? How shameless you are!” But the thought that he would be locked up in the dark dungeon underneath the lake for the rest of his life just like the

Revered Mr. Ren instantly made his hair stand on end and his heart filled with despair. The more he thought about it, the more afraid he became, he couldn’t help but bawl on top of his lungs, and before he knew it, the

bawling had turned into loud wails, and tears had streamed down his cheeks uncontrollably.

“You four…four despicable scoundrels…of the Plum Manor,” he cried in a hoarse voice, “If I can make it out of here one day, I’ll…I’ll

blind…blind your eyes with my sword, and sever…sever both your arms

and legs…. Once I escape the dark dungeon….” But suddenly he fell silent when a loud voice echoed in his head, “Will I ever escape the dark dungeon? Will I ever escape the dark dungeon? Even Revered Mr. Ren,

such a capable man, can’t get out. How…how can I make a difference?” Anxiety immediately surged in his heart. Feeling really sick in his stomach, he vomited, and after a few gags of blood, he fainted again.

In the wooziness, he thought he heard a cracking sound, and immediately after, bright light dazzled his eyes. Waking up abruptly, he leapt to his feet, but he forgot that both of his wrists and ankles were still

shackled by steel chains. Furthermore, he did not have much strength left in him, so only instants later, he fell back down heavily and all the bones in his body seemed to have been falling apart. Having been in complete darkness for a long while, his eyes were not adept to sudden lights, but for fear that the gleam of light might just vanish as abruptly as it appeared, voiding him of any opportunity to escape, he kept his eyes wide open and

stared hard toward the origin of the light despite the stinging pain.

The gleam of light had come from a one-foot wide, square-shaped opening. And he remembered at once: the dungeon cell Revered Mr. Ren lived in also had a squared-shaped opening on the iron door. In fact, it had one exactly identical to this one. He took a quick glance around and then confirmed that he was, indeed, also locked in the same kind of dungeon

cell.

“Let me out of here! Huang-Zhong, Black-White, you despicable scoundrels, let me out if you’ve got any guts!” he shouted out.

A large wooden tray came forth slowly through the square-shaped opening, on top of which was a large bowl of rice with some cooked food piled on top. There was also an earthen jar, which apparently held some

soup or water.

This sight made Linghu Chong even angrier, thinking, “Bringing food and water to me only means that you want to lock me in here for an

extended period.” So he cussed loudly, “You four dirty swine, listen up! If you want me dead, just come forward and give me your best shot. Stop playing games!”

But the wooden tray remained still. The person outside the door obviously wanted him to take the tray in. Infuriated, Linghu Chong reached out and struck it hard. Loud clangs echoed as the rice bowl and the earthen jar fell to the ground and smashed into pieces. Food and soup splashed

everywhere. Slowly, the wooden tray retracted out of the opening.

In a storm of rage, Linghu Chong threw himself at the squared-shaped opening, and then he saw a completely gray-headed old man, a light in his left hand and the wooden tray in his right hand, turning away unhurriedly.

Deep wrinkles covered the man’s entire face, a face Linghu Chong had never seen before.

“Go get Huang-Zhong or Black-White here! Tell those four shameless scoundrels to come here and fight me like a man if they’ve gotten any guts!” Linghu Chong shouted out.

But the old man didn’t pay him the slightest attention and kept

walking further and further away unhurriedly, stooping low with his back.

Linghu Chong watched on as the man slowly disappeared around the corner of the tunnel. The light also gradually dimmed until it finally faded into gloom. After a short while, he vaguely heard the sounds of gates opening followed by sounds of the wooden gate and the iron gate closing down one after another. And then once again, the tunnel was enveloped by complete darkness, without a glimmer of light or the slightest of sound.

Linghu Chong felt another strong dizziness in his head. After staring blankly into the blackness for a moment, he decided to lie down on the bed for better concentration with his thoughts.

“The old man delivering food to me must have had strict orders to not exchange any word with me. It would be useless to shout at him,” he thought to himself. “This dungeon cell looks identical to the one Revered Mr. Ren lives in. I guess there are quite a few prison cells built under the Plum Manor. I wonder how many people they have locked up down here. If somehow I can connect with the Revered Mr. Ren, or with any other fellow prisoners here, by working together and uniting our efforts, who knows, we might be able to find a way out of here.”

At that thought, he extended his arm and knocked on the wall. But the clanking sounds clearly indicated that it was made of sheer steel. The

sounds were both heavy and dull. Obviously there was no space on the other side of the wall except solid ground.

He walked to another wall and also knocked on it, but again, the responding sounds were both heavy and dull. Not willing to give up, Linghu Chong sat back on the bed and knocked on the wall behind him. Once again, the sounds were still the same.

Feeling his way along the walls, he carefully knocked on every inch of all the three walls, but other than the side of the wall with the iron door, this dungeon cell seemed to have been buried deep underground all alone. There, of course, had to be other dungeon cells underground, at lease one another, which had the Ren named old man locked in. But he had no clue

where that dungeon cell might be or even how far it was from his own cell.

Leaning against the wall, he very carefully reviewed, in his head, the series of events that had happened before he fainted. He could remember how the old man’s sword moves became faster and faster as his shouting

also became louder and louder. Then, all of a sudden, there was that

earthshaking roar, right after which he lost his consciousness. But how on

earth was he captured by the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan, and then sent to this prison cell, he couldn’t remember a thing about it. “The four Manor Masters all appeared to be talented persons of poetic temperament on the surface, even their day-to-day amusements are related to Music, Gamesmanship, Calligraphy, and Painting these Four Arts. Who would have imagined that underneath their pretending skin, they were all filthy, contemptible characters who stop at no evil,” Linghu Chong thought to himself. “There were many vile characters like these in the Martial World and it shouldn’t have come to one’s surprise. But the strange thing was that these four Manor Masters did hold genuine interests in the art of music, gamesmanship, calligraphy, and painting, which would have been impossible for them to pretend. When Mr. Bald-Brush wrote the ‘General Pei Poem’ on the wall, his writing was completely free from inhibition,

something not a normal martial arts master could have accomplished.”

Then he thought, “Master once said, ‘Only people with extreme

aptitude are capable of extreme evil.’ That is so true. The scam the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan pulled is indeed hard to guard against.”

Suddenly a thought struck him. He cried out and jumped back onto his feet, his heart pounding madly. “What happened to Big Brother Xiang? Has he fallen for their murderous scheme as well?” But then he thought,

“Big Brother Xiang is a man of shrewdness and improvisation. He seems to have known about the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan’s conducts beforehand. As the Right Luminous Advisor of the Demon’s Cult, he has roamed the

Martial World for many years. He won’t fall for their trap easily. And as long as he is not stranded by the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan, he will try to rescue me for sure. Even if I were to be locked up one thousand feet below ground, Big Brother Xiang would still be able to get me out of here. He has the ability to do that.” At that thought, he found himself much relaxed.

Carrying a big grin on his face, he muttered to himself, “Linghu Chong! Linghu Chong! Did you know that you are a real coward? Scared into crying like a baby, where are you going to hide your face if people find out about this?”

Feeling relieved, he stood up slowly, then immediately realized how thirsty and hungry he had been. “Too bad I threw a fit and knocked over the perfectly fine rice meal and the water. If I don’t stuff myself, after Big

Brother Xiang rescue me out of here, where am I gonna find strength to battle the Four Skunks of Jiangnan? Ha-ha, that’s right, the Four Skunks of Jiangnan! How can such vile skunks be worthy of the title the ‘Four Playfellows of Jiangnan?’ Out of the four skunks, Mr. Black-White had to be the most sinister one, always wearing that blank, collected countenance on his face. He is probably the one who came up with the entire scheme.

Once I break out of here, killing him will be the first thing on my to-do list.

Mr. Paint, on the other hand, seems to be relatively frank; I might as well spare his despicable life. But in regard to his collection of great wines, ha-

ha, I’ll drink them all up, leaving not even one drop behind.” At the thought of Mr. Paint’s great wine collection, he found his mouth burning with thirst.

“How long have I been unconscious? Why hasn’t Big Brother Xiang come to my rescue?” he wondered. Then another thought popped out, “Oh, no! If it were a fight one-on-one, Big Brother Xiang’s Kung Fu skills are more than sufficient to defeat any one of the Four Skunks of Jiangnan. But if those four skunks attack Big Brother Xiang all at once, then Big Brother Xiang would have a hard time winning the battle. Even if Big Brother

Xiang gave full play to his ability and kill all four of them, it would be impossible for him to find the entrance of this underground dungeon. Who would have expected to find the dungeon entrance hidden underneath Mr. Huang-Zhong’s bed?”

Feeling completely worn out, he lay down on the bed when another thought suddenly came upon him. “The Revered Mr. Ren’s Kung Fu skills are undoubtedly greater than those of Big Brother Xiang’s, and his wit,

experience and foresight also outclass that of Big Brother Xiang. Even he became a prisoner in the dungeon, what makes Big Brother Xiang so

special that he could ensure victory? Straightforward gentlemen often fall prey of machination from the vile. It is well said that covert attack is far more difficult to defend against than overt attack. Since Big Brother Xiang hasn’t come to my rescue after such a long while, could he have fallen for their trap?” He instantly forgot all about his own trouble, but began

worrying about Xiang Wentian’s safety, instead.

He let his thoughts go off into wild flights of fancy, and before long, he fell asleep. When he woke up again, he had no idea what time it was, and all he could see was still complete darkness.

“It is simply impossible for me to escape by myself,” he thought to himself. “If, unfortunately, Big Brother Xiang also falls for their scheme, then who else might come to free me? Master has announced to the entire world that I am expelled from the Huashan Sword School; of course people from the orthodox schools won’t be coming to my rescue. Ying-Ying, Ying- Ying….”

As soon as he thought of Ying-Ying, his spirit soared, and he sat up, thinking, “She asked Old Man to spread the word to the entire Martial World that she wants me killed; those people from the unorthodox schools of course won’t be coming to my rescue, but what about her, herself? If she learned that I am trapped here, she would surely come to save me. Many people from the unorthodox schools follow her commands. All she needs to do is to let the word out. Ha-ha….” He suddenly chortled, thinking, “This girl is so bashful. What she fears the most is people saying that she likes me. Even if she does come to my rescue, she would surely come alone and would never ask for help from anyone. And if someone learns that she is coming to save me, he most probably would lose his life because of that. Alas, what goes on in a girl’s thinking is truly incomprehensible. Like, for example, Little Apprentice Sister….”

As soon as Little Apprentice Sister came to his mind, his heart ached, and the feeling of grief and despair deepened. “Why am I hoping that

someone might come and rescue me? By now, Little Apprentice Sister and junior apprentice brother Lin probably have already wedded. Even if I can get out of here somehow, what’s there to look for outside? It’s probably much better if I get locked up in this dark dungeon for the rest of my life

and I never find out what happens outside.”

Once he figured out the benefit of being locked up in the dungeon, his worries seemed to have slipped away and he even felt somewhat pleased

with the situation. But the elated feeling did not last long when he was soon overwhelmed with hunger and thirst. Haunted by the memories of the great enjoyments he had when he drank bowls after bowls of wine served with large steaks in the various wine houses, he decided it would still be better if he could get out of the dungeon, after all.

“Well, if Little Apprentice Sister wedded junior apprentice brother Lin, so what? I’ve already been pushed around by others many times,

anyhow. I am already an invalid with none of my inner strength left in me. Doctor Ping said that I don’t have many days left. Even if Little Apprentice Sister is willing to marry me, I can’t marry her. How can I let her stay a

widow the rest of her life?”

But deep in his heart, he still felt that even though he wouldn’t let Yue Lingshan marry him even if she wanted to, Yue Lingshan’s falling in love

with Lin Pingzhi was just too agonizing for him to withstand. But what could he wish for? “I wish Little Apprentice Sister were still the same as before. I wish none of this had ever happened, and I would still be practicing sword arts with her in the waterfall atop Mount Huashan, and junior apprentice brother Lin never came to Mount Huashan, and Little Apprentice Sister and I would be happily spending the rest of our lives

together. Alas, Tian Boguang, Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, apprentice sister Yilin….”

At the thought of Heng-Shan Sword School’s little Sister Yilin, he

could no longer hold a straight face and a gentle smile crept onto his lips. “I wonder how this apprentice sister Yilin is doing right now,” he thought. “If she learns that I am locked up here, she must be very worried. Her Master undoubtedly wouldn’t allow her to come and save me after reading the letter from my Master, but she might ask her father, Monk No-

Commandment, to do it for her. Who knows, Monk No-Commandment might even invite the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies to tag along. Ha, those seven are a total mess and would only mess things up even more. But having people coming for my rescue is still better than having no one paying any attention.”

When he thought of the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies’ constant nagging and arguing, he couldn’t help but grin. When they were around him in the past, he did belittle the six brothers somewhat, but at this point in time, how he wished they could be accompanying him inside the prison cell. Their unintelligible remarks would have sounded like heavenly music to his ears at the moment. He let his thoughts run wild and soon dozed off once again.

In the pitch black dungeon cell he had no way of knowing the time. In his wooziness, he noticed a glimmer of faint light coming though the

squared-shaped opening. Linghu Chong was ecstatic. He sat up immediately, his heart thumping wildly, thinking, “Who has come to rescue me?” But his joy did not last long. Soon came the sound of heavy and slow footsteps, apparently from the old man who brought food to him. Much dispirited, he let his body collapse back down.

“Ask those four skunks to come here; see if they’ve still got any guts to show their faces here!” Linghu Chong shouted.

He could hear the sound of the footsteps getting closer and closer. The light also became brighter and brighter. Then a wooden tray was pushed in from the squared-shaped opening on the door. On the wooden tray were a large bowl of rice and an earthen jar just like the last time. Linghu Chong had been fighting his hunger for a good while and his thirst had also become unbearable. After a slight hesitation, he reached out and took the

wooden tray. As soon as the old man let go of the wooden tray, he turned around to walk away.

“Hey! Hey! Wait a second! I have something to ask you!” Linghu Chong called out.

But the old man completely ignored him. Sound of footsteps faded gradually as the old man dragged his feet along the way and the light also fainted gradually. Linghu Chong murmured a few curses and then picked up the earthen jar. Raising the jar next to his mouth, he poured the content into his mouth. Sure enough, the jar was filled with clear water. He drank up

almost half jar of water in one breath before touching the bowl of rice. Piled on top of the rice were some vegetables. He tasted them in the dark and was able to tell there were some radish, tofu, and the like.

The same routine went on for seven or eight days. The old man would bring food to him once everyday and then collect the previous day’s utensils and water jar together with the jug for human waste. Regardless of what Linghu Chong said to him, his face remained expressionless. Then one day, as soon as Linghu Chong saw the light, he threw himself at the square- shaped opening and grabbed the wooden tray, shouting, “Why don’t you speak to me? Haven’t you heard me?”

The old man pointed at his own ear and shook his head, indicating that he was deaf. Then he opened his mouth. What Linghu Chong saw

shocked him and he couldn’t help but gasp. The old man only had half of his tough left in his mouth; the scene was horrific.

“Someone cut your tongue off? Did the four god-damned Manor Masters do this to you?” Linghu Chong uttered.

The old man did not answer and simply pushed the wooden tray through the square-shaped opening. He obviously could not hear Linghu Chong’s words. Even if he could, he had no way of answering.

Linghu Chong was terrified. Even after the old man had long left, he couldn’t bring himself to eat. The terrifying image of the old man’s remaining portion of his tongue flashed again and again in front of his eyes.

“Those Four Skunks of Jiangnan are too evil,” he murmured to himself as hatred quickly filled his heart. “Unless I am locked up here for life, if one day Linghu Chong can escape from this dungeon, I swear that I’ll find the four skunks, and one by one, I’ll cut off their tongues, drill their ears, and prick their eyes….”

Suddenly he thought of something from deep within his memories. “Could it have been them…them…?” He remembered that night how he blinded the fifteen masked men’s eyes outside of the monastery, but as to

the origin of those people, he never found out. “Could it be that they locked me up in this dungeon cell to take vengeance for their suffering?” At that thought, he heaved a long sigh, and much of the grudge and hatred built up in the past many days evaporated instantly. “I blinded those fifteen men’s

eyes. It’s only natural that they want their revenge,” he thought aloud. Once his anger eased off, each day seemed to be a bit easier to get by.

There was no difference between days and nights in the underground prison; Linghu Chong completely lost track of days and could only tell that each day was hotter than the previous day. He figured that it must have been mid-summer already. There was not even a whiff of wind in the small dungeon cell. The humid heat just got worse and worse everyday. Then the day came when the heat became simply unbearable. With steel chains

shackled around his wrists and ankles, he could not take off his clothes completely. Having no other alternatives, he could only pull his shirt

upward and pushed his pants downward as much as he could. After rolling the ragged mat on the bed and placing it to a corner of the bed, he lay down on the steel plate half naked. Immediately, he felt cool and refreshing and his perspiration also improved dramatically. It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep. A few hours went by quickly. In the daze, when he felt the part of steel plate under his body had been heated up by him, he moved his body inward to find a cooler spot. Pressing his left palm on the steel plate, he vaguely felt some kind of lines of patterns carved onto the steel plate, but in the heavy drowsiness, he paid no attention to it and soon was sound asleep.

This nap was so comfortable; when Linghu Chong woke up, he felt

completely refreshed. Not long after, the old man came as usual, delivering food to him. Linghu Chong had great sympathy for the old man, and every time when the old man pushed the wooden tray in through the square-

shaped opening, he would always squeeze the old man’s finger gently or pat a few times on the old man’s hand to show his compassion. This time was no exception. After he took the wooden tray and was just about to retract his arms, all of a sudden, under the dim light, he spotted three words imprinted on the back of his left hand. It clearly said, “Woxing gets

stranded.” Linghu Chong was dumbfounded, having no clue where these words had come from. After a short contemplation, he hurriedly placed the

wooden tray on the floor and reached out to feel the steel plate on the bed. Turned out the steel plate was covered with carved words, so thickly dotted, he couldn’t even tell how many there were. Linghu Chong understood at once. The words were carved onto the steel plate before he even came, but because the steel plate had always been covered by the mat, he was never

aware of it, until yesterday when he slept half-naked directly on top of the steel plate. That was how the words got imprinted on the back of his hand. Extending his hand to his backside he felt his back and his behind, and he was unable to stifle a laugh. There were words marked on his skin

everywhere he felt. Each character was about the size of a copper coin. The strokes were very deep, but the handwriting was hasty and careless.

By then the old man who delivered the food had been long gone and the dungeon cell was once again engulfed in complete darkness. Linghu

Chong’s curiosity overpowered his hunger. After taking a few quick drinks from the earthen jar, he began feeling the words carved on the steel plate

slowly from the very beginning, one character at a time, and read them out in a soft voice:

“I have been straightforward and willful all my life, killing people like flies. Imprisonment underneath the lake probably is the retribution I deserve. Only that when the old fellow Ren Woxing gets stranded…” At this character, Linghu Chong thought, “So the words ‘Woxing gets

stranded’ came from this sentence.” He went on feeling the characters and the words continued, “…here, his extraordinary divine art that exceeds lofty will inevitably perish together with the old fellow’s skeleton, and people in the aftertime would not have known his exceptional and magical power.

What a great pity that would be!” Linghu Chong paused and raised his head. “Old fellow Ren Woxing!1 Old fellow Ren Woxing!” he pondered. “Then the man who carved these

words of course is named Ren Woxing. So this man’s last name is Ren as well. I wonder if he is related to the Revered Mr. Ren in anyway.” But then he thought better of it, “This underground prison probably was built a long time ago, and the man who carved these words probably passed away decades or even centuries ago.”

He went on feeling the characters and the carvings read, “That’s why I am writing down the succinct principles and secrets of my divine art, so people from the aftertime can practice the divine art and gain the ability to freely roam the world, then although the old man’s flesh will parish, his name will become immortal. Number one, Sitting Meditation….” Then

what followed were various breathing exercises and meditation techniques.

Ever since Linghu Chong learned the “Dugu Nine Swords,” he was only fond of sword art in the many types of Martial Arts, and since he had lost all his inner strength, when he recognized the words “Sitting

Meditation,” his heart was filled with disappointment. He hoped that

somewhere within the remaining words from which he would be able to find a form of exceptional sword art and he might as well learn this sword art as self-entertainment inside the dark dungeon cell. The hope of escape had become more and more distant and indistinct. If he didn’t find

something to occupy himself, life in prison could be very difficult. But the words afterwards were always terms for inner strength cultivation such as “breathing,” “concentrate the spirit in the lower abdomen,” “redirecting the strength to Jin-Jing2,” “Ren Passage” and the like. He followed the

characters all the way to the end of the steel plate and still couldn’t find even one character resembling the character “sword.” Linghu Chong found himself utterly frustrated. “What extraordinary divine art that exceeds the lofty? This man has played a good joke on me! It could have been any other type of Martial Arts; why did it have to be an art of inner strength cultivation, the only one I cannot practice? As soon as I try to gather my inner strength, the energy streams inside my chest and

abdomen would roll over and over, clashing with each other. I’d be asking for trouble myself if practice inner strength cultivation.” He heaved a heavy sigh and picked up the rice bowl to eat, thinking to himself, “What kind of person is this Ren Woxing? He was certainly very arrogant, talking about

exceeding lofty and roaming the world, as though he had no match in the entire world. This dungeon turned out to be used specifically to imprison superior Kung Fu Masters.”

When he first discovered the words carved on the steel plate, his excitement soared high, but by now he had the least interest left in him,

thinking, “Heaven can really play tricks on mortals. I probably wouldn’t feel so down if I never found these words.” Then he thought, “If that Ren Woxing was as capable as how he boasted himself, why he was still

stranded here and couldn’t get away? Evidently this underground prison is simply too durable and secure to break out. Regardless of how capable the captive is, once locked in, all he could do is to slowly and painfully wait for his end to come.” Having come to a conclusion, he paid no more attention to the words on the steel plate.

The city of Hangzhou almost turned into a steam box in the hot

summer time. The dungeon was located deep underneath the lake. Without getting the heat from the direct sunshine, it should have been much cooler, but firstly, the dungeon had no ventilation, and secondly, it had always been overly humid, it turned out a different type of misery for its occupant.

Everyday Linghu Chong would strip off as much clothing as he could and sleep on the steel plate half-naked. Whenever he moved his hand, he would feel the carved characters on the steel plate. As days went by, he had memorized many of the words and sentences subconsciously. One day

when he was wondering where his Master, Master-Wife and Little Apprentice Sister might be and whether they had returned to Mount

Huashan, he suddenly heard the sound of footsteps coming toward him. This time, the sound was quick and light, completely different from the sound made by the food-delivering old man. After spending many days

locked inside, he had not been as anxiously looking forward to a rescuer, so when he suddenly heard the sound of a different set of footsteps, the feeling of surprise and joy instantly welled up his heart. He wanted to leap to his foot, but the ecstasy was so strong and overwhelming, he suddenly lost all his strength and could only lie still on the bed, not able to move a single muscle. The sound of footsteps quickly approached the iron-door.

A voice came from outside the iron-door, “Mr. Ren, it has been very hot in the last couple of days. May I ask if the revered mister still enjoys his good health?”

As soon as Linghu Chong heard the voice, he recognized it instantly. It was the voice of Mr. Black-White. If he had come to his cell one month before, Linghu Chong would have shouted all kinds of invective at him

with no scruples. However, after many days of imprisonment, his anger had mollified a great deal and he was able to think calmly.

“Why did he call me Mr. Ren? Has he come to the wrong cell?” he thought to himself and decided to remain silent and listen on.

“Every two months, I come and ask the revered mister the same question. Today is the first day of July, so please allow me to ask once again: Will the revered mister grant my request?” Mr. Black-White

continued, his tone respectful and cautious. Linghu Chong laughed inwardly. “He got the prison cells all mixed up and must have thought I am the Revered Mr. Ren. How careless of him!” But immediately after, he felt a chill in his heart. “Mr. Black-White obviously is the most meticulous one among the four Masters of the Plum Manor. It might be possible for Mr. Bald-Brush or Mr. Paint to mix up the prison cells, but how could Mr. Black-White actually make such a mistake? There must be a reason behind this.” With that in mind, he kept his silence.

Mr. Black-White continued, “Revered Mr. Ren, valiant and capable all your life, why let yourself languish with the decaying dust in the underground dungeon? My words are as firm as the mountain. If the revered mister grants me my request, I promise I will help the revered mister get out of this prison.”

Linghu Chong’s heart thumped wildly. Many thoughts raced through his mind, but he failed to put them in order. What was Mr. Black-White really after and why did he speak this way? He simply couldn’t figure it out. Then he heard Mr. Black-White asking a second time.

“Will the revered mister grant my request?”

Linghu Chong knew that this could be the very opportunity for him to escape. Despite any possible ill intentions, it would still have been a much better alternative than getting stranded forever in the underground prison for some unknown reasons. But having no way of identifying Mr. Black-

White’s true intention, he bit his lip and remained silent, afraid that he might say something wrong to ruin this precious opportunity.

“Revered Mr. Ren, why aren’t you speaking up?” Mr. Black-White heaved a sigh. “Last time, when that boy Feng challenged you in the art of sword, you didn’t mention a single word about my request in front of my three sworn-brothers. I am truly grateful for the kindness. I thought to myself, the sword fight must have brought back the many fond memories and the lofty sentiments in Revered Mr. Ren’s heart, and reminded him of the vast world outside. If your Excellency could break out of the dark dungeon, the entire world would be yours for the taking, and you can snuff out any mundane life at will, whether male or female, old or young; and no one would ever dare defy your wish. Wouldn’t that be exhilarating?

Granting the request would not have brought any nuisance to your own. Why wouldn’t you ever consent in the past twelve years?”

Linghu Chong could sense the sincerity in his voice. Apparently he really thought he was addressing senior master Ren, which puzzled Linghu Chong even more. He listened on as Mr. Black-White begged again and

again for him to agree to the request. Linghu Chong really wanted to know more details about the request, but he reckoned that the situation would take an immediate bad turn if he opened his mouth. Holding his tongue forcibly with great effort, he dared not make the slightest sound.

“If the revered mister is still so stubborn, I guess I’ll visit him again in two months,” Mr. Black-White concluded. He suddenly let out a few

chuckles. “The revered mister didn’t scold me this time. Maybe there’s a favorable turn in the situation. I hope the revered mister will give my request some good consideration in the next two months.” After those

words, he turned around to exit.

Linghu Chong became quite worried. It would be another two months before Mr. Black-White would return, and how could he stand another two months of the miserable life in the pitch-black prison? He waited until Mr. Black-White had taken several steps and then spoke up in an intentionally lowered and coarse voice.

“What request shall I grant?”

Mr. Black-White turned around at once, and with a swift leap, he had returned back to the square-shaped opening. 

hand. “You will…you will grant me my request?” His voice trembled. Linghu Chong turned to face the wall and covered his mouth with his

“What request?” he said in a muffled voice.

“In the past twelve years, I would take on great risks to come here six times each year, just so that I could implore for the revered mister to

consent. Why is the revered mister asking when the answer is so obvious?” “I forgot!” Linghu Chong snorted.

“I would like the revered mister to teach me the secret of the magical art. Once I master the skills, I promise to let the revered mister out of this place.”

“Has he really mistaken me for that senior master Ren, or is this some kind of intrigue?” Linghu Chong pondered. Still having no clue about Mr.

Black-White’s true intentions, he mumbled something indistinct, not even knowing what he said himself.

Naturally, Mr. Black-White didn’t understand a word of his, and had to ask again and again, “Will the revered mister grant it? Will the revered mister grant it?”

“You don’t live up to your promise. You won’t fool me,” Linghu Chong replied.

“What kind of guarantee would I have to provide so the revered mister will believe my words?”

“What do you have in mind?”

“I understand the revered mister’s worries. What if I break my promise after the revered mister teaches me the secret of the magical art and still not let him out? There is no need to worry! I have it all arranged, and the revered mister can put his trust in my arrangement,” Mr. Black-White

answered. “What arrangement?”

“Does this mean the revered mister will grant me my request?” Mr.

Black-White asked quickly, his voice filled with excitement.

Linghu Chong thought very quickly, “He wants me to teach him the secret of the magical art. Where the heck would I find this secret of the

magical art? But I might as well check out his arrangement. If he really will let me out of this place, I could just give him those meditation techniques

carved on the steel plate. Who cares if it works or not, it doesn’t hurt to give him some false hope.”

When Mr. Black-White didn’t hear an answer, he added, “After the revered mister teaches me the magical art, I would have automatically become an apprentice of the revered mister. In our cult, an apprentice who deceives his master is to be skinned and dismembered alive. In the past

several hundred years, not a single one had managed to get away from the harsh punishment. How would I ever dare to not let the revered mister out?”

“I see,” Linghu Chong let out another snort. “Come back in three days to get your answer.”

“Why won’t the revered mister grant my request today? Why wait another three days in this dark dungeon?” Mr. Black-White pleaded.

Linghu Chong thought to himself, “He is even more impatient than I am. It might be a good idea to wait three days and see if he’s going to pull

some clever tricks.” At that thought, he produced a loud, disgruntled humph as if he was very annoyed.

“Sure! Sure! I shall return in three days so I could ask advice from the revered mister again!” Mr. Black-White hurriedly agreed.

Linghu Chong listened as Mr. Black-White walked out of the underground tunnel and closed the iron gate while many unsettling thoughts swirled inside his head. “Could he really have mistaken me as the Ren-named senior master?

He is a very meticulous man. How could he make such a silly mistake?” Suddenly, an idea struck him. “Could it be possible that Mr. Huang-

Zhong found out about Mr. Black-White’s visits and secretly moved senior master Ren to another cell, then put me in this cell instead? That’s got to be it! In the past twelve years, Mr. Black-White had been paying a visit every other month. It’s very likely that someone found out about it. It must have been Mr. Huang-Zhong who set up this scheme clandestinely.”

Then, he remembered what Mr. Black-White had said earlier. “In our cult, an apprentice who deceives his master is to be skinned and dismembered alive. In the past several hundred years, not a single one had managed to get away from the harsh punishment.”

“Our cult? Which cult?” he thought it over. “Could it be the Demon’s Cult? Is it possible that the senior master Ren and the Four Skunks of

Jiangnan are all members of the Demon’s Cult? What kind of game are they playing? Why are they dragging me into this mess?”

As soon as the name “Demon’s Cult” came to his mind, he found the entire matter surreptitious and beyond his comprehension, and decided to not ponder upon it. Instead, he concentrated only on two things: “Was Mr.

Black-White sincere or was he just acting it up? How shall I answer him when he comes back in three days?”

All kinds of strange idea went through his mind, but no matter how hard he tried, he still couldn’t figure out Mr. Black-White’s true intentions. After some time, he became extremely weary and fell asleep. By the time he woke up, his first thought was, “If brother Xiang were here, with his

experience and knowledge, he would have guessed Mr. Black-White’s intention in no time. That Ren-named senior master was also very bright, likely even smarter than brother Xiang…oops!” He suddenly cried out and jumped to his feet. After the nap, his brain functioned much better and he realized something.

“For the last twelve years, senior master Ren never granted him the request. Why? Because he knew very well what would happen if he did. As sharp and experienced as he is, he clearly knew the pros and cons of the matter.” Then he thought to himself, “Although senior master Ren should not grant the request, I am not senior master Ren. Why can’t I?”

He knew he shouldn’t do it. He could even smell the great danger involved, yet the hope of escape weighed heavily on his mind, and he

would risk the greatest calamity just for an opportunity to break out from the dark underground dungeon. He soon made up his mind.

“When Mr. Black-White comes back in three days, I will consent to his request and teach him the inner strength cultivation and meditation techniques carved on the steel plate. Then I’ll just act according to his reactions.”

Having decided, he began tracing the handwritings on the steel plate and tried to memorize every word of it.

“I must completely memorize this thing, so that the formulas will

simply bolt out when I teach him and he will never have any doubt about it. Only that my voice is too different from that of the senior master Ren. I’ll really have to lower my voice. I’ve got an idea! I can shout at the top of my lungs for the next two days and dampen my voice. Then I’ll also mumble when I speak, so it’ll be hard for him to detect anything unusual.”

In the next while, Linghu Chong would spend some time reading the formulas on the steel plate, and then spend the next moment shouting out loud. He knew that the dungeon was located deep underground, and with the many gates, even if he were to burn firecrackers in the cell, people outside would still not be able to hear anything. Crying at the top of his lungs, he cursed the Four Skunks of Jiangnan for a good while and then began singing songs and theater opera. Eventually, even he, himself,

couldn’t withstand his own ugly singing. He burst out into loud laughter. Then he would go back to memorizing the formulas on the steel plate.

Suddenly, Linghu Chong came upon a few sentences: “Make Dan- Tian3 an empty box and a deep valley. Empty box can store objects; deep valley is a reservoir for water. When inner energy flows through, distribute into the acupoints in the Ren Passage.”

He had actually traced these sentences with his fingers a few times before, but since he detested all energy cultivation techniques in his mind, he never really thought about the meaning inside. Now when they caught his attention, he was very dumbfounded.

“When Master taught me inner strength cultivation, the main

essentials were all about storing inner energy inside Dan-Tian. The more vigorous and dense the inner entry streams inside Dan-Tian, the stronger the inner strength. Why would this formula say that there should be no inner

energy stored inside Dan-Tian? If inner energy cannot reside inside Dan- Tian, then where inner strength would be coming from? No inner strength cultivation methods out there will ever suggest something like this. Is this technique a joke? Ha-ha! Black-White is a wicked and despicable man.

Why don’t I pass this method on to him and make a fool out of him?”

He traced the handwritings on the steel plate and slowly pondered over the meaning. The first several hundred characters taught techniques on how to disperse one’s own inner strength and energy. The more he read it, the more shocked he felt.

“Who in the world would be so stupid and willing to dissolve the inner energy he had once diligently cultivated over his entire life? Unless he was determined to end his life. But if he wanted a suicide, he could just easily slash his throat with his own sword. Why make it so complicated? To dissolve inner energy this way is much more difficult than cultivating inner energy. Besides, what good does it do?”

He mulled over the matter some more and found himself in great depression.

“Once Black-White hears these formulas and techniques, he would know immediately that I am just messing with him. For sure he won’t fall for it. I guess my plan is not going to work at all.”

Linghu Chong became more and more annoyed as he recited the

words again and again, “when there’s inner energy steams inside Dan-Tian, distribute them into the Ren Passage, like a bamboo is empty inside, like a valley is always void….” Anger built up as he went on and eventually he gave a good smack at his bed and cussed loudly, “Damn it! This guy was

angry for being stuck in the dungeon, so he decided to play tricks and make fun of other people.”

He scolded for a while and then fell asleep again. In his sleep, his mind seemed to have started following the formulas on the steel plate and began the exercise. When he thought of the sentence “when there’s inner energy steams inside Dan-Tian, distribute them into the Ren Passage,” a

stream of inner energy actually dispersed into his Ren Passage, and he felt ineffable comforts all over his body. This went on for a good while in his wooziness. Half-sleep and half-awake, Linghu Chong could feel the energy

streams inside his Dan-Tian still flowing toward the Ren Passage. But all of a sudden, he realized what was going on.

“Oh, no! If my inner energy keeps flowing out like this, I’d turn into an invalid!”

Startled, he sat up hurriedly. The inner energy streams immediately flowed backward from the Ren Passage, and he found himself consumed by strong nausea and dizziness. After a long while, he was finally able to breathe normally. Then, a thought suddenly struck him and brought him a pleasant surprise.

“My inner injuries are so difficult to cure all because I have running wild inside me seven or eight heterogeneous inner energy streams from the Peach Valley Six Fairies and Monk No-Commandment. Even Dr. Ping One- Finger couldn’t cure me. Great Master Fang-Zheng, the abbot of the Shaolin Temple, said before that only the Tendon Altering Sutra of Shaolin would allow me to gradually tame and dissolve these heterogeneous inner

energy streams. But aren’t these inner energy cultivation techniques carved on the steel plate teaching me exactly the same thing – how to dissolve the inner energy streams inside me? Ha-ha! Linghu Chong, you are such a fool! While others fear the loss of their inner energy, you actually fear that the inner energy wouldn’t go away. Now there’s this amazing method just perfect for my case. How wonderful!”

He knew that what happened was only because he dreamed what he thought. Because he recited the formulas again and again when he was

awake, those meditation techniques and breathing exercises carved on the steel plate had occupied his entire mind. Once he fell asleep, his

subconsciousness took over and simply started following suit involuntarily. However, since his mind was not focused in his dreams, he didn’t really follow the formulas letter to letter. Now, having figured out the great benefit, he found great inspiration. He carefully traced the carvings on the steel plate two more times and made sure he understood the true meanings before sitting down cross-legged in a meditation pose and beginning the

energy cultivation step by step.

Only about two hours into the meditation, he could already sense a fraction of the heterogeneous energy streams, which had been stuck and getting wild in his Dan-Tian region for a long time, dispersing into his Ren Passage. Although he still couldn’t rid them out of his body, the pain and tension caused by those energy steams rolling over inside him had certainly been greatly reduced.

Great joy welled up in his heart and he couldn’t help but jump to his feet and sing at the top of his lungs. He soon realized how ugly and hoarse the singing was. Turned out his previous day’s screaming and shouting were very effective and had really done it for his voice.

“Ren Woxing! Ren Woxing! You had left these formulas behind with the intention to cause harm. You probably had no idea that one day I’d run into them and actually benefit instead of suffer from them! If you knew this, you’d probably turn over in your grave and cry! Ha-ha! Ha-ha!” he thought to himself.

He continued working on dispersing energy steams without any break. The more he exercised, the more comfortable he felt. Then he thought.

“After I completely disperse the energy streams from the Peach

Valley Six Fairies and Monk No-Commandment, I could very well start all over with our Huashan School’s inner strength cultivation, following the instructions taught by Master. Although I’ll have to start from scratch again, and it might take a lot of time and effort, chances are, my life probably

would be safe now. If Brother Xiang eventually comes and rescues me out of here, there’s a new life waiting for me out there in the martial world!”

Then he had a different thought, “Since Master had already banished me from the Huashan School, why bother practicing Huashan School’s inner strength? There are plenty of inner strength cultivation methods from the many schools in the martial world. Why can’t I study from Brother Xiang or even Ying-Ying?” Desolation and excitement entangled in his mind.

After eating the day’s meal, he practiced the techniques again and felt a great sense of soothing in his entire body. Not able to contain his joy, he burst into hearty laughter. Then, Mr. Black-White’s voice all of a sudden rose from outside of the prison door.

“How are you, revered mister? I have been humbly waiting outside for a good while!”

Linghu Chong was dumbfounded. He had been concentrating so much on the energy cultivation and dispersion that he didn’t even realize that three days had passed and that it was the day he told Mr. Black-White to come back. He didn’t even notice Mr. Black-White’s arrival. Luckily his voice was so coarse now that Mr. Black-White didn’t find anything unusual. He quickly let out several hollow laughs as an acknowledgement.

“The revered mister seems to be in a pleasant mood today. Why not make it the day the revered mister receives a new apprentice?” Mr. Black- White suggested.

Linghu Chong thought to himself, “If I agree to take him in as an

apprentice and teach him these energy cultivation techniques, as soon as he opens the door and comes in, he’ll notice that there’s only Feng Er-Zhong, but no revered mister Ren. For sure he’ll have a fall out immediately.

Besides, even if it were the real revered mister Ren, once Mr. Black-White learns those techniques, he’ll most likely manage to murder revered mister Ren, like poisoning the food or something. Right! It would be so easy for Black-White to murder me with poison. Why would he want to let me

escape after he learns the secret formulas? No wonder revered mister Ren wouldn’t ever agree to teach him the secret art in the last twelve years.” “Once revered mister teaches me the magical art, the humble

apprentice will show his respect by serving the revered mister great wine

and tasty roast chicken,” not hearing a reply, Mr. Black-White immediately proposed.

Linghu Chong had been imprisoned for many days and was only given plain vegetables and tofu each day. As soon as he heard the words “great wine and tasty roast chicken,” his mouth drooled with greed. This was too tempting!

“Fine. Go get me some great wine and tasty chicken first. If they get me into a good mood, I might teach you something.”

“Sure! Sure! I’ll bring back some great wine and tasty chicken. But I am afraid it won’t be today. If opportunity allows, I’ll bring them in tomorrow,” Mr. Black-White replied hurriedly.

“Why not today?” Linghu Chong asked.

“To get in here, I have to pass through my eldest sworn-brother’s bedroom. Only when he is away, I could…could….” Mr. Black-White

explained, to which Linghu Chong let out a snort without saying another word.

Afraid that Mr. Huang-Zhong might return to his bedroom, Mr.

Black-White dared not to stay any longer. He quickly said his goodbye and then went away.

“How can I trick Black-White into the prison cell and whack him?” Linghu Chong thought to himself. “This man is so crafty; it would be impossible to swindle him. Moreover, without a way to break these iron

shackles and chains around my wrists and ankles, even if I succeed in killing Black-White, I would still be stuck here.”

With that thought, his right hand naturally reached for his left wrist

and then pulled. This was only a spontaneous move, and he certainly didn’t expect the iron shackle to break open, but to his great surprise, the iron shackle did actually open. He gave it a few more hard pulls and even managed to free his left wrist from the shackle.

This was definitely not something Linghu Chong could foresee, and his heart thumped quickly from the mixed feeling of shock and delight. He examined the iron shackle with his finger and then found a slit in the middle of the ring. If he had not dispersed the inner energy streams inside him, any hard movement would have made him faint. Even with the slit in the middle of the shackle ring, he would not have been able to pull it open. Since he had been working on dispersing inner energy streams for over two days, the energy streams the Peach Valley Six Fairies and Monk No-Commandment had forcefully injected into his body have been diffused into his Ren Passage, which in turn spontaneously originated strong inner force.

He felt the iron shackle on this right wrist. Sure enough, there was also a thin slit. He probably had felt the thin slit many times before, but never in his mind associated it with a crack in the shackle ring. He pulled

hard with his left hand and freed his right hand from the shackle ring. Next he felt the two shackle rings around his ankles and also found thin slits in both. After some more hard pulling, he found himself breathless, covered in sweat, but completely free from all the shackles.

Once rid of the shackles, the iron chain no longer restrained him in anyway. He was truly puzzled: “Why is there a slit on each of the shackle ring? How could this kind of shackles have fettered anyone?”

The next day, when the deaf and mute old man delivered his food,

Linghu Chong was able to actually look at the shackles closely. Next to

each of the slits was a fine-grained saw pattern. Obviously someone had cut through the four shackles rings with a very thin steel wire saw. The slits shined under the dim light and there were no rust on the fractures. This meant that the cuts must have been made only recently.

“But why were these shackle rings closed again around my limbs?” Linghu Chong asked himself. “Someone must have tried to free me secretly.

This underground dungeon is so well hidden; no one from the outside

would be able to break in. Therefore, the secret rescuer must be someone inside the Plum Manor. Maybe he disliked the plot against me. That’s why he secretly cut open my shackles with a steel wire saw while I lay unconsciously in the prison cell. He probably didn’t want to openly declare himself an enemy of the Plum Manor, and he is still looking for an opportunity to help me escape.” At the thought, his spirit was greatly lifted.

“The entrance to the underground tunnel is concealed underneath Mr. Huang-Zhong’s bed in his bedroom. If it were Mr. Huang-Zhong who had wanted to rescue me, he could have done it anytime. He didn’t have to delay. Mr. Black-White obviously can’t be the one. Out of Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint, Mr. Paint is a confidant in the art of wine and had good fellowship with me. I bet it must be Mr. Paint.”

Then he remembered that Mr. Black-White would return the next day and thought about how he should cope with him. “I’ll just gloss things over with him. Why can’t I fool him with fake Kung Fu in exchange for some

wine and meat?”

Then he thought, “Mr. Paint could come and rescue me any day now.

I’ve gotta hurry and memorize all these formulas and techniques on the steel plate.”

He traced the carved characters and then recited each word carefully. When he studied these characters before, he didn’t pay very close attention, so memorizing everything with one hundred percent accuracy was no easy task. The handwritings on the steel plate were hasty and careless. With his limited education, he couldn’t recognize some of the poorly written

characters. So he forced himself to memorize the strokes of the character

and then randomly picked characters with similar strokes as substitutes. He knew that formulas for first-class martial arts are serious matters. Even one incorrect character could mean difference between life and death, success and failure. Any slight misunderstanding could very well lead to fire- deviation. Once he got out of the prison, who knows when he’ll be able to come back and reference the steel plate again? He must make sure he memorized everything with absolutely no errors.

So he read them again and again, losing count of how many times he had recited them, until he felt that he could even recite backward from the end to the beginning. Only by then, he felt at ease and allowed himself to fall asleep.

That night, in his dream, Linghu Chong actually saw Mr. Paint

coming forth to open the prison cell door and let him out. The excitement woke him and then he realized it was only a fond dream. He didn’t let that depress him.

“He hasn’t come to rescue me today only because he doesn’t have the right opportunity. He’ll certainly come to my rescue before long,” he thought to himself.

He figured that although the formulas and techniques carved on the steel plate were very beneficial to him, they could be extremely harmful to others. If someone else gets locked up in this dark prison cell again in the

future, that someone must have been a good person, and he wouldn’t let that person fall for Ren Woxing’s scheme. With that in mind, he traced the handwritings and recited the entire thing for another ten times or so, and then scraped off over a dozen characters in the passage from the steel plate using the iron shackles he freed himself from. Mr. Black-White didn’t show up that day, but Linghu Chong didn’t care much about it. Instead, he continued cultivating his internal energy streams according to the formulas and methods on the steel plate. For the

next several days, Mr. Black-White never came. Linghu Chong could tell that he had made great improvement in his training. Over sixty percent of the heterogeneous energy steams left inside him by the Peach Valley Six Fairies and Monk No-Commandment had been successfully dispersed out from his Dan-Tian and into his various Ren and Du Passages. He was sure that all of them could be dispersed out if he persevered.

Each day, he would recite the formulas scores of times and then scrape off a dozen or so characters from the steel plate. He noticed a

gradual increase in his strength, and it became easier and easier to scrape the steel plate with the iron shackles. Another month went by in this manner. Although he lived deep underground, he could still sense a gradual decrease of the sweltering summer temperature.

“This must have been the work of divine providence. If I had been imprisoned here during winter, I would never have found the handwritings on the steel plate. Who knows? Perhaps before summer hits, Mr. Paint

would have already had me rescued.”

At that moment, he suddenly heard the sound of Mr. Black-White’s footsteps from the outside tunnel.

Linghu Chong was lying in bed. He quickly turned around with his face toward the inside of the cell. Then he heard Mr. Black-White stopping outside of the prison door and spoke apologetically.

“Revered…revered mister Ren! I am truly very sorry for not having come sooner! In the past month, my eldest sworn-brother never set foot outside. Every day I anxiously awaited the opportunity to come and pay the revered mister my respect, but that opportunity only presented itself today. I hope the revered mister…the revered mister do not take any offense!”

Together with Mr. Black-White’s voice, a wonderful aroma of wine and roast chicken also came in through the square-shaped opening on the

prison door. It had been many days since Linghu Chong last tasted any drop of wine. As soon as the smell of the wine hit his nose, he could no longer hold his patience and quickly turned around.

“Give me the wine and chicken!” he demanded.

“Sure! Sure! So the revered mister has agreed to teach me the secret formulas of the divine art?” Mr. Black-White asked.

“Bring me three catties4 of wine and a whole chicken each time, and I’ll teach you four segments of the secret formulas. Once I’ve had three thousand catties of wine and one thousand whole chickens, you can probably get all the formulas by then.”

“I am afraid this arrangement might be too slow and cause unnecessary problems. How about I bring six catties of wine and two whole chickens each time so the revered mister can teach me eight segments of the secret formulas?” Mr. Black-White bargained.

“You are certainly greedy!” Linghu Chong said with a grin. “Fine!

Come on! Give those to me!”

Mr. Black-White handed over a wooden tray through the square- shaped opening, upon which were a large kettle of wine and a fat roast chicken.

Linghu Chong thought, “I am sure you won’t kill me with poison before I teach you the secret formulas.” So he picked up the wine kettle and quickly gulped down mouthful of wine. The wine was not in any way

spectacular, but in his mind it tasted so good that even Mr. Paint’s Turfan Grape-Wine of four cycles of distillation and ferments was no match for it. Without any stop for breath, he quickly poured half kettle of wine down his throat, and then tore a chicken leg off and shoved it into his mouth. Not very long after, he had already emptied the wine kettle and picked the

chicken clean. Giving a satisfied pat to his belly, he declared approvingly. “Excellent wine! Excellent wine!”

Mr. Black-White let out a big smile. “Now that the revered mister has enjoyed the tasty chicken and great wine, will the revered mister start the teaching please?”

Linghu Chong noticed that Mr. Black-White no longer mentioned anything with regard to the proposed Master-Apprentice relationship and ceremony. “He probably thought I was too busy drinking wine and eating

chicken, and I’d completely forgotten about it,” Linghu Chong thought. So he didn’t mention it either.

“Okay. Here are the four segments. You’d better remember them well. ‘Inside the unique channels and eight passages, there exist inner energy

streams. Gather them in your Dan-Tian. Join them in your Dan-Zhong5.’ Do you understand?”

The original text on the steel plate actually read, “Inner energy

streams inside Dan-Tian, disperse them into four limbs. Inner strengths inside Dan-Zhong, dissolve them into the eight passages.” Linghu Chong

actually deliberately reversed the meaning in his teaching. When Mr. Black-

White heard these, he found them to be just as plain as any ordinary inner energy cultivation methods out there, so he quickly replied.

“I got these four segments. Will the revered mister please teach me the next four segments?”

Linghu Chong thought to himself, “After I made the changes, those four segments sounded quite ordinary. Naturally he wanted something more unique. I must find four peculiar segments to give him a good scare!” So he said, “Since today is the first day, I might as well teach you four more.

Remember these: ‘Split Yang-Wei Passage with shock. Shut down Yin-Qiao Passage with clog. Once all Eight Passages are broken, the Divine Art will

succeed.

Mr. Black-White was stupefied.

“If…if…one’s unique channel and eight passages are broken, how could he stay alive? These…these four segments are really beyond my understanding!”

“Do you expect just any ordinary person to understand such powerful divine art easily? If so, what would be so unique about it? Of course there

are many profound and subtle theories in the divine art so no ordinary person could have understood them,” Linghu Chong said with a snort.

As Mr. Black-White listened on, he became more and more

suspicious. The manner of speaking and the phrases the “revered mister” used seemed to be quite different from the Ren-named person he had known. In the first two meetings, Linghu Chong had only spoken very few words and also muffled his voice. This time, since Linghu Chong was quite high in spirit after he drank a good deal of wine, he spoke a lot more. Mr.

Black-White was a very scrupulous man and these unusual signs quickly brought suspicion to his mind – the “revered mister” must be making up formulas to make fun of him.

“You said, ‘Once all Eight Passages are broken, the Divine Art will succeed.’ Are the unique channel and eight passages of the revered mister all really broken?” he demanded.

“That’s of course,” Linghu Chong acknowledged.

From the tone of Mr. Black-White’s voice, he could sense suspicion developing and building, and he dared not to speak too much. So he quickly concluded. “That’s all. Comprehend well and you’ll understand.”

After these words, he set the wine kettle back down on the wooden tray and then handed the tray back through the square-shaped opening. Mr. Black-White reached forward to receive the tray, but all of a sudden, Linghu Chong let out a cry and then fell forward. A loud clank echoed as his forehead banged against the iron door.

“Why!” Mr. Black-White uttered. People in his caliber with

extraordinary Kung Fu skills always had very quick reflexes. In no time he had reached his hands forward through the square-shaped opening and grabbed hold of the wooden tray, making sure the wine kettle would not fall and smash on the ground. At that split second, Linghu Chong turned his left hand swiftly and grabbed onto Mr. Black-White’s right wrist.

“Black-White! Do you know who I am?” He grinned.

Mr. Black-White was astounded! “You…You…,” his voice trembled. At the time when Linghu Chong was handing the wooden tray out,

the idea of grabbing Mr. Black-White’s wrist hadn’t crossed his mind.

However, when he saw Mr. Black-White’s palms moved under the dim light of the oil lamp, ready to receive the wooden tray from him, an insuppressible urge all of a sudden overwhelmed his heart. It was all because of this person’s sly and calculated tricks that resulted in his many days of imprisonment. If he could break Mr. Black-White’s wrist, it would be a great way to vent some of his anger and hatred. Besides, this out of the blue seize of his wrist would definitely give him a good fright. For such a treacherous man, such a fright was the least punishment he could think of.

He wasn’t even sure if it was the feeling of revenge or his childlike mischievous nature that led to the fake fall, which tricked Mr. Black-White into reaching his hands in, which in turn made the grabbing successful. Mr. Black-White had always been vigilant, but this attack came so sudden and abrupt without any prior signs of warning. By the time he

sensed something was not right, his wrist had already fallen into Linghu Chong’s grip. The grip was so strong that, to him, Linghu Chong’s fingers almost felt like an iron claw and clasped firmly onto the Inner-Pass and

Outer-Pass acupoints in his wrist.

Without thinking, Mr. Black-White reflectively rotated his right wrist and executed an anti-grappling stance. A loud clank echoed when three toes of his right foot suddenly broke, and he cried out loud in painful groans.

How did Mr. Black-White end up breaking his toes on his left foot when his right wrist was been held? How strange? Turned out that Mr.

Black-White always had great fear of the “revered mister.” As soon as his wrist fell into the grip, he desperately feared for his life, and in a rush, used a move named “Flood Dragon Rising above the Deep Pool.” This move

worked particularly well when one’s wrist fell into the enemy’s grip by quickly pulling the arm inward while swiftly and unexpectedly kicking outward with one’s left foot. Such a powerful and fierce kick would land squarely on the enemy’s chest. The enemy would usually end up spitting blood from severe internal injuries. If the enemy were also a skilled Kung

Fu master, he would have easily chosen to let go of his wrist in avoidance. Otherwise, he would have no way of dodging the kick right to the chest.

Unfortunately, in the moment of extreme distress, eager to break free, Mr. Black-White completely forgot about the thick iron door right between him and his opponent. He had executed the move “Flood Dragon Rising above the Deep Pool” perfectly, and the kick had also been very accurate, powerful and fierce. Sadly, he kicked right into the iron door and the only positive effect was a loud echoing bang. Only when Linghu Chong heard the loud bang did he realize how lucky he had been. If it weren’t because of the protection provided by the iron door, there was no way he could have escaped Mr. Black-White’s

extremely formidable kick. He couldn’t help but burst into loud laughter.

“Kick again! If you kick as hard as the first time, I might just let you go,” he said sarcastically.

Mr. Black-White suddenly felt his inner energy gushing out

continuously through the Inner-Pass and the Outer-Pass acupoints on his right wrist, and could not but remember the one thing he feared the most his entire life. Instantly, he was scared out of his wits! He tried his best to slow down the inner energy loss and at the same time begged in sorrow.

“Revered…revered mister, I beg…you….”

As soon as he spoke, his inner energy gushed out in even larger waves. He had no choice but to stop speaking. But the inner energy just kept flowing out of him rapidly.

Ever since Linghu Chong started practicing the Kung Fu techniques carved on the steel plate, his Dan-Tian region felt like a bamboo that was

empty inside and a valley that was always void. At the moment when he felt some inner energy appearing in his Dan-Tian, he didn’t pay much attention to it. Instead, he noticed that Mr. Black-White’s wrist quivered continuously as though he had seen something terrifying. Since he had great grudges

against Mr. Black-White, he decided to give him a good scare. So he yelled loudly.

“After I teach you the secret art, you have become an apprentice of mine. You have been caught deceiving your master. Shouldn’t I punish you for your crime?”

Mr. Black-White could feel that the inner energy inside him was rushing out even faster now. If he tried hard to hold his breath, the gushing could be temporarily stopped. But he simply had to breathe once a while, and in between the exhaling and inhaling, great amount of his inner energy would continue to flow out. At the moment he had completely forgotten

about the pain from his injured toes. He only wished to be able to free his right hand out of the square-shaped opening. Even if he had to lose an arm or an leg, he would have no complaints. At that thought, he immediately reached for his sword by the waist. As soon as made the move, two large gaps seemed to have opened up at the Inner-Pass and Outer-Pass acupoints by his wrist, and all the inner energy from his entire body spurted out like river water bursting through dikes, and impossible to stop the flow ever

again.

Mr. Black-White knew if this continued for another while, all his internal energy would be eventually sucked dry. Gritting his teeth, he finally managed to draw his sword out of its sheath. Raising the sword high, he

wanted to swing the sword down to chop off his own arm, but this movement only caused even larger streams of inner energy surging out of him. A loud ring resonated in his ears and he fainted.

Linghu Chong had only planned to scare Mr. Black-White when he grabbed onto the man’s wrist. At most he was only going to twist and break Mr. Black-White’s wrist to vent his anger. He certainly did not expect Mr.

Black-White to panic so much and faint as if having been scared out of his wits. Laughing out loud, Linghu Chong let go of the wrist, and as soon as he did that, Mr. Black-White’s torso collapsed and his right hand retracted backward from the square-shaped opening.

Suddenly, an idea shot up Linghu Chong’s mind and he quickly reached for the sliding hand. Luckily he was quick with his move and caught the palm in time. “Why don’t I shackle him with the steel chains as a hostage, so I can coerce Mr. Huang-Zhong to let me go?” he thought.

He pulled Mr. Black-White’s wrist hard to get it closer. Unexpectedly, as he gave the strong pull, Mr. Black-White’s head actually came in also through the square-shaped opening, and then his entire body followed.

Linghu Chong did not see this coming. After a brief shock, he

couldn’t help but scold himself for how stupid he was. The square opening was roughly a foot wide, big enough to a put a head though. And if one’s head can go through it, so can the body. If Mr. Black-White can be pulled in, why couldn’t he get out the same way? It would have been impossible for him to escape previously when his hands and feet were shackled in steel chains. But the shackle rings had been sawed through by someone secretly some time ago. Why didn’t he escape?

“After Mr. Paint secretly sawed through the shackles around my hands and feet, day after day, he must have hoped that I’d escape the prison following that old man who delivered my food. He must have been

extremely anxious by now!” he thought to himself.

At the time when Linghu Chong had found out about the sawed- through shackle rings, he had been right in the middle of learning those inner energy cultivation techniques and had focused all his attention to the training. Also he had not memorized all the formulas on the steel plate, so subconsciously he didn’t really want to leave the prison cell. Therefore, the thought of running away by himself never even occurred to him.

Linghu Chong pondered for a second and then came to a decision. He hurriedly removed Mr. Black-White’s robe and his own and then swapped them. He even put Mr. Black-White’s black cloth mask over his own head, thinking, “Even if I bump into someone on my way out, they’ll think I am Mr. Black-White.” Next, he hung Mr. Black-White’s sword by his own waist. With the sword right next to his hand, his spirit soured immensely. Then he cuffed Mr. Black-White’s hands and feet with the steel shackles and then pinched forcefully. The shackle rings were so tight that they even cut into flesh.

The severe pain woke Mr. Black-White, and he groaned, “Revered… revered mister Ren…your…your Magical Art of Essence Absorbing….”

Linghu Chong had heard of the term “Magical Art of Essence

Absorbing” before when he fought alongside Xiang Wentian in the remote wilderness. Someone in the crowd had shouted out this term. Now hearing the term again from Mr. Black-White, he couldn’t resist but ask, “What

Magical Art of Essence Absorbing?”

“I…I…am…damn…damned…,” Mr. Black-White moaned.

Linghu Chong was in a rush to finally get out of the dungeon. He didn’t pay any more attention to Mr. Black-White. Sticking his head out from the square-shaped opening and also extending his arms out, he pushed gently on the iron door. His body shot out swiftly and he landed on the ground without a stagger. He felt a great amount of inner energy depositing inside his Dan-Tian region once again, which made him quite uncomfortable. He had no idea that the inner energy streams were actually absorbed from Mr. Black-White, and only concluded that the energy

streams from Peach Valley’s Six Fairies and Monk No-Commandment had returned to Dan Tian because he hadn’t practiced his energy cultivation techniques for a while. He decided to not worry too much about that and focus on how to get out of the dark dungeon as soon as possible, so he picked up the oil lamp Mr. Black-White had left outside and began following the tunnel out.

All the gates in the tunnel were left unlocked. He figured that Mr.

Black-White must have decided to lock them on his way out. This made his escape so much easier. As he stepped through the many solid gates one after another, the many days of life in the dark underground prison suddenly felt as though they had occurred in a different lifetime. Strangely, his resentment toward Mr. Huang-Zhong and the bunch also seemed to have

significantly lessened. All he could think of was the sweet smell of freedom, and everything else in the world no longer mattered to him.

At the end of the tunnel, he followed the steps upward until he was directly under an iron plate. He listened carefully but didn’t hear anything from the outside. This underground imprisonment experience had taught him to be more careful and cautious, so he didn’t rush out immediately, and instead, waited a good while underneath the iron plate and made sure there was no sound from the outside. By then he felt certain that Mr. Hung-Zhong was indeed not in his bedroom. Lifting up the iron plate gently, he climbed up and then leapt out from the hole in the bed. After carefully returning the iron plate to its original position and pulling the bamboo bedding sheet to

cover it up, he treaded softly on tiptoe toward the door way. Then all of a sudden, someone spoke behind him in a gloomy voice.

“Second brother, what are you doing?”

Startled, Linghu Chong turned around and then saw Mr. Huang- Zhong, Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint completely surrounding him, each wielding his weapon in hand. He didn’t know that the entrance was

equipped with secret trapping devices, and his breaking out had triggered the alarm and attracted Mr. Huang-Zhong and the others. Because he had a black mask on and was also wearing Mr. Black-White’s robe, no one had recognized his true identity.

Greatly frightened, Linghu Chong could only stutter, “I…I….”

“I what?” Mr. Huang-Zhong demanded in an icy-cold voice. “I had a feeling that you were up to something. You went down the dungeon and asked Ren Woxing to teach you the Evil Art of Essence Absorbing, didn’t you? Humph! Do you still remember what vow you pledged all those years ago?”

Linghu Chong found himself quite muddle-headed, not able to decide on whether to reveal his true identity or to keep pretending as Mr. Black- White. After a short hesitation, he drew the long sword by his waist and thrust it toward Mr. Bald-Brush.

“Good second brother! You really want to fight us?” Mr. Bald-Brush bellowed as he raised his brush to ward off the sword.

Linghu Chong’s sword thrust was only a fake. Seeing Mr. Bald-

Brush’s attempt to block his attack, he quickly turned around and dashed out of the room. Mr. Huang-Zhong and the rest immediately chased after him. Running with all his might, Linghu Chong reached the front hall in no time.

“Second brother! Second brother! Where are you going?” Mr. Huang- Zhong shouted from behind.

Linghu Chong didn’t answer and kept on running full speed. He

suddenly spotted a man standing in the middle of the front gate right in his path.

“Second Master, please stop!” the man uttered.

Since Linghu Chong was in such a hurry, he failed to slow down and ran right into the man. The collision sent the man flying in the air and landed almost thirty feet outside of the gate.

Linghu Chong threw a quick side glance and then recognized the man. It was “Straight Line Lightning Sword” Ding Jian, who, at this very moment, lay straight and stiff on the ground. His body position indeed resembled part of his nickname “Straight Line;” however, it had no relation whatsoever with the other part “Lightning Sword.” Linghu Chong dashed along a small road nonstop. Mr. Huang-Zhong and the others stopped at the gate of the manor and gave up the chase. Only Mr. Paint continued shouting out loud.

“Second brother! Second brother! Come back! We brothers can always talk things through….”

Linghu Chong intentionally picked desolated small roads to follow

and eventually arrived at an uninhabited wilderness, a place obviously quite a distance away from the city of Hangzhou. Although he had been running continuously at his top speed, when he stopped, he wasn’t tired at all and

wasn’t even out of breath. It seemed as though his stamina was even better than the time before he got injured.

He took off the cloth mask and then heard the sound of gurgling water. Feeling very thirsty, he traced the sound and soon found a small

creek. He squatted down and then leaned forward so he could scoop some water to his mouth when he suddenly saw a man’s face in the reflection of the creek water. The face was covered in filth, and with the disheveled hair it looked very odd and ugly. Linghu Chong was briefly startled, and then he couldn’t help but grin. Anyone who got locked up for several months and never bathed would look this filthy. He all of a sudden felt his body itching all over. He quickly removed his robe and jumped into the creek for a good deep cleansing, thinking, “the filth on my body must have weighed more than thirty catties.”

After he had thoroughly cleaned himself and also had a stomach full of clear water, he tied his long hair on top of his head. Checking in the

water reflection, he found the familiar face again, a face that had no resemblance to that swollen face of the Feng Er-Zhong. As he was putting the robe back on, he felt some discomfort and blockage between his chest and stomach, so he sat down and meditated for a while using the newly learned inner energy cultivation techniques. Soon he could feel that the inner energy streams inside his Dan-Tian had been successfully dispersed into his unique channel and eight passages. The Dan-Tian region was once again like a bamboo that was empty inside or a valley that was always void. His entire body seemed to be vigorous and he also felt a soothing feeling of carefree beyond words. He didn’t realize that he had mastered one of the best martial arts in the entire world. The seven streams of inner energy from the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies and Monk No-Commandment, together with the inner energy streams infused into him by Great Master Fang-Sheng

when he was treated at the Shaolin Temple, had all been transformed into his own. And when he gripped onto Mr. Black-White’s wrist, he had also

absorbed into his Dan-Tian the entire load of inner energy Mr. Black-White had cultivated for his entire life. Once he dispersed those into his unique

channel and eight passages, he had gained the inner strength of another superior master. Naturally he would feel utterly vigorous.

He leapt up, drew the long sword by his waist, and leisurely thrust it toward the hanging branch of a green willow by the side of the creek,

whisking his wrist gently as he thrust out. The blade whistled as it cut through the thin air and then swiftly returned to the sheath before he landed smoothly on his left foot. Lifting his head, he watched as five leaves slowly drifted down in the air. The long sword cleared its sheath for a second time and made an arcing slash, catching all five leaves on the side of the blade.

He picked up one of the willow leaves from the side of the blade with his left hand as a mixed feeling quickly submerged his heart. It was a mixture of joy and disbelief. He stood silently by the creek, and all of a sudden, found deep grieve in his heart.

“The superior Kung Fu I have right now would not have been possible from Master and Master-Wife’s teaching. But I would rather everything was the way it was as before, when my inner strength and my sword art were equally futile, when I could live a carefree life inside the Huashan School, spending time with little apprentice sister from morning till dusk, instead of wandering the martial world alone like a loitering ghost.”

His martial arts skills had reached the most superior level, but at the mean time, he had never felt so lonely and desolate in his entire life. All his life he’d enjoyed lively crowds, bosom friends, and tasty wines. In the past several months since he was locked away in the underground dungeon, he had no choice but to be alone. Now that his body had finally break free, but his mind was just as lonely. Standing next to the gurgling creek all by himself, the feeling of joy gradually waned away. The cold moon casted his lonely shadow on the ground as the gentle breeze brushed his body, filling his heart with boundless despair.

Chapter 22 Out of Trouble

Ren Woxing picked up the wine kettle and filled a cup with wine. "It's fate that have brought us here together." Said he, "If you agree with my suggestion, then please drink up this cup of wine. 

Linghu Chong sadly stood still for a long time until the moon was directly above his head. The night was still and he pondered over the events that occurred at the Plum Manor. He decided to go back to the manor to understand what had happened and also to rescue senior Ren if he was not a bad person.

Having finally decided on this course of action, he started his journey back to the Plum Manor. He went up Mount Gu and approached the Plum Manor through the forest surrounding it. He listened for sounds inside the manor and after awhile, having heard no sound, he lightly jumped over the fence onto the manor's ground. All the ten or more rooms inside the manor were shrouded in darkness. However, there was one window on his right

with lights from inside the room. He silently walked across the ground and crouched underneath that window. From inside the room, he heard the voice of a person.

The voice sounded very strict. "Mr. Huang Zhong, do you know your crime?"

Linghu Chong was surprised. He wondered what Mr. Huang Zhong's position was in this manor when there was someone who could actually use this kind of tone when speaking to him. He peered inside the room from a

crack in the window and was able to see four people sitting in a row. Three of these are men around fifty to sixty years old while the other one is a middle aged woman. They were all wearing black robes with a yellow belt tied around their waists. Mr. Huang Zhong, Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint were standing in front of them with their backs to the window. From this, Linghu Chong could tell that those people sitting have higher rank than them.

"Yes, your subordinate knows his crime. On the elders' arrival, we didn't go far to welcome you. Very guilty, very guilty," Linghu Chong heard Mr. Huang Zhong's reply.

"Hmm, not going far to welcome us, is this a crime? Where's Black- White? Why doesn't he come out to see me?" the gentleman sitting in the middle coldly asked.

Linghu Chong laughed inside, "Mr. Black-White has been imprisoned by me inside the underground prison, but Mr. Huang Zhong and the rest of them thought that he has run away from the manor." He also thought, "What elder? What subordinate? They all must be people from the devil cult."

"Four elders, your subordinate has not been strict enough. Mr. Black- White's temperament is strange and recently he has been acting like his former self. In the last few days, he has unexpectedly disappeared from the manor," Mr. Huang Zhong replied.

This elder's eye flashed and stared at Mr. Huang Zhong.

"Mr. Huang Zhong, Chief ordered you four to guard the Plum Manor.

However, from what we heard, you've been playing zither, drinking wine, drawing and playing go. Is this true?" the elder coldly asked.

"We four subordinates have accepted Chief's order to stay here and guard the traitor," Mr. Huang Zhong replied while bowing.

"That is correct. How's that traitor doing?" the elder asked.

"We can report to the elder that the traitor is still being held inside the underground prison. Over the last twelve years, subordinate has never

stepped foot outside the Plum Manor. We do not dare to relax our guard," Mr. Huang Zhong reported.

"Very good, very good. You never stepped foot outside the Plum Manor and do not dare to relax your guard. So for sure that traitor is still being held inside the underground prison?" the elder questioned.

"That's true,” Mr. Huang Zhong replied. Suddenly, that elder lifted his head and laughed loudly facing the roof. The dust from the ceiling was seen falling around the room.

"Very good! Bring that traitor here for us to look at," shouted the

elder.

"Four elders, please forgive us. Chief's strict order was not to let

anyone visit the traitor except for Chief himself. We don't dare," replied Mr. Huang Zhong.

The elder took out something from inside his robe and lifted the object he took out high above his head. The other three elders stood up immediately as well, looking at the object reverently. Linghu Chong

squinted his eye trying to look at the object. It was a half-foot high dried up black wood. On top of the object was some kind of flowery patterns carved on it which looked completely strange to Linghu Chong.

Seeing this object, Mr. Huang Zhong and the rest of the people in the room bowed towards the object.

"Chief's Black Command Wood is here, it's as if Chief himself is here, subordinate is ready to receive order," Mr. Huang Zhong said.

"Good, bring that traitor here!" commanded the elder.

"That traitor's hands and feet are bound in metal chains. We can't....

we can't bring him up here," said Mr. Huang Zhong hesitantly.

"Even until this moment, you still refuse to bring him here. I ask you, has that traitor escaped?" the elder asked coldly.

"That traitor... that traitor has escaped? Im.. impossible. That person is still locked away in the underground prison. I have just seen him recently

with my own eyes. How how can he have escaped?" Mr. Huang Zhong

answered in fright.

"Oh, so he's still in the underground prison. I've wronged you. Please forgive me," the elder spoke warmly with a softened expression. Then, the elder stood up and slowly approached Mr. Huang Zhong. It looked like that he was going to apologise to the three masters of the Plum Manor. But he suddenly extended one hand to pat Mr. Huang Zhong's

shoulder. Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint simultaneously retreated two steps in a hurry. Although their movements were really fast, that elder's hand moved even faster. Two sounds "bang, bang" can be heard as both of Mr.

Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint's right shoulders were hit. As he carried out this sneak attack, the elder was still showing a smile on his face. Actually, even with Mr. Huang Zhong's skill in Jiang Hu, he had no chance of avoiding this sneak attack. Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint's skills were inferior, so

even if they were aware of the attack, they had no chance of escaping the strikes.

"Elder Bao, what sin have we committed? Why do you use such a vicious method to deal with us?" said Mr. Paint loudly. He sounded both injured and angry.

"Chief ordered you to guard the traitor here. But you've let that traitor escaped. Don't you think you deserve to die?" the smirking Elder Bao said slowly.

"If that traitor has really escaped, then subordinate deserves to die. But he's still being held in the underground prison. Elder Bao, you're too vicious, we brothers cannot accept this,” replied Mr. Huang Zhong indignantly, as he was leaning slightly to one side.

Linghu Chong outside the window could see Mr. Huang Zhong

sweating profusely. He thought that Elder Bao's palm strike was very good as he managed to subdue Mr. Huang Zhong, whose kung fu was already powerful, using only one palm. However, he also thought that Mr. Huang Zhong's kung fu could not be inferior to Elder Bao's. If not for Elder Bao's sneak attack, Mr. Huang Zhong may not have lost. "Go to the underground prison and have a look. If that traitor is still in there, I... humph... I, Bao Dachu, will give you three kowtows to apologise. Naturally, I will also immediately forgive you from this sin," said Elder

Bao.

"Ok, four elders please wait here," said Mr. Huang Zhong.

Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint immediately went out of the room to follow Mr. Huang Zhong. Linghu Chong trembled as he saw these three people walking away from the room. He thought that he shivered because of the injuries still affecting him. But it was merely because he was excited from watching all the things happening right in front of his eyes.

Fearing the four people inside the room detecting him, he didn't dare to look inside again and slowly sat down on the ground.

"The Chief they're talking about must be the current world's number one Dongfang Bubai. He assigned the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan to guard this traitor and they've been at it for 12 years now. Of course the traitor they're talking about isn't me then. It must be that senior Ren. And he has managed to escape without Mr. Huang Zhong and other's knowledge.

Wow, this senior Ren is really resourceful. That's right! They all really didn't know that senior Ren has escaped. Otherwise, Mr. Black-White wouldn't have mistaken me for senior Ren," thought Linghu Chong.

Thinking that once Mr. Huang Zhong and his brothers entered the underground prison and recognised Mr. Black-White, things will get very complicated for them; Linghu Chong felt wonderful and very happy.

"Why did they also imprison me in the underground prison? All I did was to compare sword art against senior Ren. They must've been afraid that I would leak their secret out, so they locked me up in there too. Humph, this is called eliminating a potential informant without murder. But eliminating a potential informant in this way is just the same as murder. This time, they would be the ones to suffer difficulties. See how they like it. This will repay for the wrong that they did to me," thought Linghu Chong indignantly.

Linghu Chong heard the four people inside the room sat back down without saying a single word. He didn't dare to breathe loudly. Even though there's a wall that separate him with the four people in the room, the distance between them is only around 10 feet. He only had to breathe

slightly heavily and they'd be able to detect him immediately.

Suddenly, a cry of "ah" could be heard in the still and quiet night. It sounded full of pain and dread. Whoever heard it could not help but feel

absolutely terrified. When Linghu Chong recognised that it was Mr. Black- White's voice, he felt sorry for him. However, this Mr. Black-White had plotted his own demise, it could be said that the consequences matched his own action. But now that he has fallen on Elder Bao's hand, this is even more unfortunate for Mr. Black-White.

He could hear their steps coming closer. Then, he heard Mr. Huang Zhong and his brothers entering the room. Linghu Chong edged closer to the window's crack to take a look inside the room. Inside, he could see Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint carrying Mr. Black-White. Mr. Black-White's face was pale and his eyes lacked any spirit. The atmosphere inside the room was completely different than before.

"Report... Reporting to the Four Elders. That traitor has... has

escaped. Subordinate is ready to receive death," said Mr. Huang Zhong while bowing down.

He looked like he already knew what his fate would be. His speech was calm and collected, unlike before.

"You said that Black-White is not in the manor, how come he's here now? How can it be?" calmly replied Bao Dachu. "All sorts of reasons. Actually subordinate is really confused. Ai, all because we four subordinates are too engrossed in the arts and has let other people looked at our weaknesses. And they have managed to take away that traitor from right under our noses," replied Mr. Huang Zhong.

"We four people have received Chief's order to come here and verify that the traitor has escaped. It seems that you have reported truthfully now and is not trying to deceive us anymore. Then... then, maybe we can plead mercy to Chief on your behalf," said Bao Dachu.

Mr. Huang Zhong sighed and said, "Even considering Chief's mercy and the four elders' compassions, how can we, subordinates, still live in this world with all this shame? The whole event is very complicated,

subordinate doesn't understand the true story. Even after we've died, we won't be content. Elder Bao, is Chief... is Chief in Hangzhou city at the moment?"

"Who said Chief is in Hangzhou city?"

"That traitor has just escaped yesterday, how did Chief know about this so fast and sent four elders to Plum Manor immediately?"

"Humph... you're becoming more and more stupid. Who said that traitor escaped yesterday?"

"That person really escaped yesterday at noon. At that time, we three people thought that person was Mr. Black-White. We didn't know that he had switched places with Mr. Black-White. He was wearing Mr. Black-

White's robe when he escaped. In this matter, we three brothers... four brothers are certain. Also, there's still Ding Jian, who that traitor knocked down, and got several of his ribs broken..." Mr. Huang Zhong said

assuredly.

Bao Dachu turned his head to look at the other three elders. "This person is talking nonsense. I don't know what he's talking about," scowled Elder Bao.

"We received the message last month on the 14th..." A fat and short elder said while calculating with his fingers. "This is the 17th day."

Mr. Huang Zhong fiercely withdrew two steps and hit the wall with a "bang".

"No... This can't be! We're really certain. We saw him escaped yesterday with our own eyes."

Mr. Huang Zhong walked to the door and shouted "Shi Lingwei, bring Ding Jian here!"

"Yes!" Shi Lingwei replied from somewhere distant.

Bao Dachu walked up to Mr. Black-White, grabbed his chest, and lifted him up. Mr. Black-White's hands and feet were dangling down. It

seemed that all the bones in his body had been broken. His body looked like a sack of leather.

Bao Dachu lost all colour from his face as if he was scared to death.

He quickly let go of Mr. Black-White's body, which crumpled to the ground.

"Correct, this is that bastard's ... that bastard's Art of Essence

Absorbing. It can absorb the whole body's energy clean," said a tall and strong looking elder, his voice quivering and looking completely scared.

"When did you get in his way?" Bao Dachu asked Mr. Black-White. "It... It... was yesterday. That bastard... that bastard grabbed my right

wrist. I... I couldn't move at all. He controlled me completely," answered Mr. Black-White.

Bao Dachu looked completely baffled. His face muscle twitched slightly and his eyes looked bewildered.

"And after that?" "He then pulled me through the hole in the iron gate, removed my robe and wore it. Then he shackled my hands and feet with the steel chains. He then escaped... escaped through that hole."

Bao Dachu scowled and asked, "Yesterday? How can it be yesterday?"

"The shackles for the hands and feet were made out of steel. How did he break them?" asked the fat and short looking elder.

"I don't know," answered Mr. Black-White.

"Subordinate examined the shackles and found that they were sawed through by a fine steel saw. I don't know where this bastard got the saw from," said Mr. Bald-Brush.

After Mr. Bald-Brush finished speaking, Shi Lengwei and two

servants entered the room bringing Ding Jian and laid him down on the

carpet. Ding Jian's body was covered by a thin quilt. Bao Dachu lifted the quilt and lightly poked his chest. Ding Jian screamed, showing that he was in extreme pain. Bao Dachu nodded and waved his hand telling them to take Ding Jian away. Shi Lingwei and the two servants carried Ding Jian out of the room.

"This hit is definitely caused by that bastard," said Bao Dachu.

The middle-aged woman who until this moment had not said a single word yet, suddenly said "Elder Bao, if that bastard escaped yesterday, then the message we got last month must be a fake. That bastard's follower is

still outside spreading confusion, trying to make us sway in our loyalty." Elder Bao shook his head and said, "It cannot be a fake."

"Cannot be a fake?" asked the middle-aged woman.

"Lord Xue Xiang's whole body was covered by a metal gown. He used this metal gown to practise kung fu and even a sabre cannot chop through it. But someone managed to grab and dig out his heart using just his five fingers. Besides this bastard, in this world, there's no second person who can do this... " reasoned Bao Dachu.

Linghu Chong was lost in thought while listening to the conversations inside the room. Suddenly, he felt his shoulder patted by someone. He was truly startled and quickly jumped three steps away. He pulled his sword out, turned his head and saw two people standing there.

As the moon was at the back of those two people, he couldn't see their faces. One of them turned his head and said, "Brother, let's go in."

It was Xiang Wentian's voice.

Linghu Chong was overjoyed and he whispered "Brother Xiang!"

However, the people inside the room had heard the sound of the sword being drawn and Linghu Chong's answer.

"Who's out there?" Bao Dachu shouted.

"Ha Ha Ha," the person beside Xiang Wentian laughed loudly.

This laugh shook the tiles inside the room while Linghu Chong

started to feel an unbearable pain. He started to hear a "weng, weng" sound inside his ear and felt blood rushing up his stomach. That person took a step forward and used both hands to push towards the wall. A thunderous sound was heard. In the middle of the wall was now a big hole, which that person then used to enter the room.

Xiang Wentian stretched his hand and grabbed Linghu Chong's right hand. They entered the room side by side. Inside the room, the four elders were standing up and had their hands ready in front of them. Their faces looked very intense. Linghu Chong was anxious to know who this person was but the person's back was facing him. He looked very tall with black hair and was wearing a suit of blue-green gown.

Bao Dachu's voice was trembling when he said, "It's... It's Ren...

Senior Ren has arrived." "Humph," that person answered and took a long stride forward.

Bao Dachu and Mr. Huang Zhong involuntarily took two steps backwards. That person turned and sat at the chair which Bao Dachu sat in earlier. Linghu Chong now managed to see his face clearly. That person's face was long and white as snow, not a trace of blood could be seen on the face. His feature was handsome. But his white complexion was just like a corpse which had just come out from the grave.

He beckoned to Xiang Wentian and Linghu Chong, "Brother Xiang, Brother Linghu Chong, please come and sit here."

When Linghu Chong heard his voice, he was pleasantly surprised. "You... You are Senior Ren?" asked Linghu Chong.

That person smiled slightly and said "I am. Your sword art maybe much better."

"You're really out of trouble already. Today... Today, I came here to rescue you... " said Linghu Chong excitedly.

That person laughed and said, "Today you came here to rescue me out of prison, didn't you? HaHa, HaHa. Brother Xiang, your brother Ren has so many friends."

Xiang Wentian pulled Linghu Chong's hand and seated him on the right side of Senior Ren. Then he sat himself down on the left side.

"Brother Linghu is really sincere in dealing with people. You're really the world's most upright and couragous person," said Xiang Wentian.

"Brother Linghu, you've given up more than two months of your life to live in the dark underground prison. I feel very sorry for you. HaHa,

HaHa!" said that person.

By now, Linghu Chong had an inkling but was not able to completely understand what was going on. With a smile on his face, that person Ren looked at Linghu Chong and said, "You were imprisoned for more than two months because of me, but in that time you've finished learning the Art of Essence Absorbing that I had

written on the iron panel. Hey Hey, that means I've paid you back for your time in there."

"That secret on the iron panel was written by senior?" asked Linghu Chong in surprise.

"If it wasn't me, then who else in the world knows Art of Essence Absorbing?" answered that person with a smile.

"Brother, Chief Ren's Art of Essence Absorbing has been passed on to you only. Congratulations!" said Xiang Wentian.

"Chief Ren?" asked Linghu Chong confused.

"Originally, when you arrived here, you didn't know Chief Ren's position. Chief Ren is the chief of Sun Moon Sect. His name is "Woxing". Have you heard of this name before?" asked Xiang Wentian.

Linghu Chong knew that "Sun Moon Sect" was the Devil sect, but he didn't know the origin of this sect. And the Jiang Hu people mostly knew of this religion by the name Devil Sect, and Devil Sect's chief had always been Dongfang Bubai. Where did Ren Woxing come out from?

"Chief... Chief Ren's name, I found it carved on the iron panel, but I didn't know that he was Chief," muttered Linghu Chong.

The tall and strong looking elder suddenly shouted, "What Chief is he? Everyone under the heaven knows that our Sun Moon Sect's chief is Chief Dongfang. This person Ren was expelled a long time ago for

rebelling against our sect. Xiang Wentian, what you said was heresy, this is a big sin."

Ren Woxing slowly turned his head and stared at this elder. He then asked, "You are Qin Weibang, aren't you?" "Correct," said that tall and strong looking elder.

"When I was the Chief, you were the master of our Jiangxi headquarter, correct?" asked Ren Woxing.

"That's right!" answered Qin Weibang.

Ren Woxing sighed and said, "You're now one of the Sect's 10 elders.

You were promoted rather quickly, don't you think? How come Dongfang Bubai rates you so highly? Is it because of your martial art or is it because of you can take care of sect's business?"

"I'm loyal to the sect and takes care of sect's business. Also, my

accomplishments in the past 10 years earned my promotion," replied Qin Weibang.

Ren Woxing nodded his head and said, "That's not too bad."

Suddenly, Ren Woxing's body shook. Before anyone can react, he was already in front of Bao Dachu. His left hand quickly shot out and grabbed

Bao Dachu's throat. Bao Dachu was startled and he tried using his right hand, shaped in a knife-form, to deflect the grab but it was too late. So he used his left elbow to protect his throat. At the same time, he used his left foot to retreat a step, while using his knife-form right hand to hack down.

This was done in an instant, one hand defending tightly and one hand attacking fiercely. A wise technique to use.

But Ren Woxing wasn't finished yet. His right hand was now coming in fast to grab Bao Dachu's right hand. Before Bao Dachu was able to use his knife-form right hand to chop down, his chest was grabbed and his gown torn open. In Ren Woxing's left hand was now an object that he's grabbed from inside Bao Dachu's gown. It was the Black Command Wood. With his right hand turned over, he twisted Bao Dachu's right wrist.

At the same time, three "dang, dang, dang" sounds were heard. This was Xiang Wentian using his long sword to separate Qin Weibang and the other two elders from Bao Dachu. Each of the three elders had drawn their weapons. Xiang Wentian had attacked three times, but these attacks were only meant to prevent the three elders from helping Bao Dachu. When these three attacks were finished, Bao Dachu was completely under Ren Woxing's control.

Ren Woxing smiled and said, "I haven't used my Art of Essence Absorbing yet, you wanna taste it?"

Bao Dachu knew that if he didn't surrender then he would be killed in an instant. He has no other option but to surrender. So he made the decision quickly and said, "Chief Ren, Bao Dachu from now on vows loyalty and devotion to you."

"Once in the past, you swore loyalty to me and then you betrayed me," answered Ren Woxing.

"Chief Ren, please allow subordinate to atone for my sin by pledging my service to you," quivered Bao Dachu.

"Alright! Eat this pill first," said Ren Woxing and released his wrist.

He took out a small medicine bottle from his chest. He turned it over to get a fiery red pill out and threw the pill over to Bao Dachu. Bao Dachu grabbed the pill. Without looking at it, he put it in his mouth and swallowed it.

"This... This pill is "Three Corpse Brain" pill?" muttered Qin Weibang.

Ren Woxing nodded his head and said "Correct. This is definitely the "Three Corpse Brain"!"

He took out six more "Three Corpse Brain" pills and threw it on the table. The pills rolled on the table.

"Do you know how terrible these "Three Corpse Brain" pills are?" asked Ren Woxing. "After taking the brain pill, our lives will be in Chief's hand, so we must forever follow Chief's order. Otherwise, the corpse bugs in the pill will be released and they will enter the brain and start eating it. The pain would be unbearable. Also, you will become insane just like a crazy dog,"

explained Bao Dachu.

"What you said is very true. You already knew the efficiency of my brain pill, how come you still took it?" asked Ren Woxing.

"From now on, subordinate will be loyal to Chief forever. Even though this brain pill is very efficient, it's irrelevant to me."

"HaHa! HaHa! Very good! Very good! Who else wants to take these pills?" said Ren Woxing laughing.

Mr. Huang Zhong, Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint looked at each other in dismay. Along with Qin Weibang and the other two elders, these six people had been in Sun Moon Sect for a very long time. So they already knew that the corpse bugs inside the "Three Corpse Brain" pill didn't just break out suddenly. Usually, at noon every year at the dragon boat festival, they had to take the medicine to restrain the corpse bugs. If they didn't, then the corpse bugs would be released. Once the bugs entered the brain, this person would become like a ghost and would no longer have the capacity to reason. He would also lose all rationality. He would even eat his own parents or wife. No other poison in the world is as potent as this.

Furthermore, the "Three Corpse Brain" pills were made by many different people and have different natures. So Chief Dongfang's medicine wouldn't have any effect on Ren Woxing's "Three Corpse Brain" poison.

They were all scared to death hesitating what to do. Suddenly, Mr.

Black-White said loudly, "Chief, have mercy, please. Subordinate will take one first." He was struggling to the table to take the pill. Ren Woxing lightly brushed away with his sleeve. Mr. Black-White was hit and fell hard on the ground, his brain matter scattered all over the wall.

"You're a crippled and have lost all your martial art already. Don't waste my wonder pill," coldly smiled Ren Woxing.

"Qin Weibang, Wang Cheng, Sang San Niang, you guys don't want to take my wonder pill?" asked Ren Woxing as he turned his head to them.

The middle-aged woman, Sang San Niang, bowed and said "Subordinate vows her loyalty to Chief from now on."

The fat and short looking elder, Wang Cheng, honestly said, "Subordinate sacrifice myself willingly to Chief."

Both took a pill each from the table and swallowed them. Those two people dreaded Ren Woxing completely. They had already seen with their own eyes Ren Woxing's ruthlessness. They would never dare to revolt

again.

When Ren Woxing was Chief, Qin Weibang was in charge of the headquarter responsible for several districts. He had seen the various fierce methods that Ren Woxing used.

"I won’t accompany you!" shouted Qin Weibang as he jumped through the hole in the wall.

"HaHa, HaHa!" laughed Ren Woxing without trying to stop him escaping.

Qin Weibang's body was outside the wall when a long and slender black whip shot out from Xiang Wentian's left sleeve. Everyone in the room heard a cry of "Ah" from outside the wall as the whip was now being pulled back through the hole in the wall. Qin Weibang was being dragged back through the wall with the whip coiled around his left foot. He struggled

with all his might, rolling around on the ground trying to break free. "Sang San Niang, take a brain pill and peel its outside skin," said Ren Woxing.

"Yes!" responded Sang San Niang.

She took one pill from the table and used her finger to peel its shell.

Inside the pill was a small gray coloured round ball. "Feed it to him," ordered Ren Woxing.

"Yes!" answered Sang San Niang. She went in front of Qin Weibang and ordered, "Open your mouth!"

He turned around and shot out a palm. Even though his kung fu was slightly above Sang San Niang, but his ankle was under the whip's control. So his palm power was greatly reduced. Sang San Niang's left foot kicked his wrist, followed by her right foot kicking his chest, and in Yuan yang mandarin style, her left foot kicked again at his shoulder. These three kicks had sealed his accupoints. She then used her left hand to pinch his jaw forcing it to open and her right hand put the peeled brain pill in his mouth. Her right hand followed by pinching his throat, making him swallowed the pill.

Linghu Chong had been observing everything intently. He thought that these people had acted as if these things happened all the time in their normal ordinary days.

"This granny's hand and foot movements are clever," Linghu Chong thought. He didn't know that Sang Sa Niang used her "hand capturing" martial art to show off her vitality and unique skill to Ren Woxing. Also, she wanted to show the Chief that she was loyal to him. Ren Woxing nodded his approval and smiled. Sang San Niang got up and stood guard respectfully besides Qin Weibang.

Ren Woxing turned around and looked at Mr. Huang Zhong and his two brothers. They understood that he was asking them whether they were going to take the pill or not.

Without speaking a single word, Mr. Bald-Brush went to take a pill and swallowed it.

Mr. Paint was mumbling to himself before he finally went and took a

pill.

Mr. Huang Zhong looked grieved. He took a book out of his bosom.

This was the "Guang Ling San" music score. He walked to Linghu Chong and said, "Your honorable's martial art is very high. You are also very wise to setup this strategy to help Ren Woxing got out. I admire you. This music score has harmed us four brothers. I return this to you." He then tossed the music score to Linghu Chong.

Linghu Chong was startled. He then saw Mr. Huang Zhong turned around and walked towards the wall. Feeling regret and sorrow watching Mr. Huang Zhong walking towards the wall, he couldn't help thinking,

"This was all Brother Xiang's plan to save Chief Ren. I didn't even know

anything about it. But Mr. Huang Zhong and the two brothers will hate me always. I can never separate myself from this matter."

Mr. Huang Zhong leaned against the wall and said, "Originally, we four brothers entered the Sun Moon Sect with the intention of upholding justice in Jiang Hu. But Chief Ren's temper was very irritable and he used the power for his own gain. So we four brothers didn't get involved much in sect's affairs. When Chief Dongfang became Chief, he was crafty and villainous, and he expelled a lot of brothers from the sect. We four brothers became downhearted. So we asked to be sent here, to be far away from

Dark Wood Cliff and not to be involved in other people's affairs. So we

stayed in the West Lake cherishing the arts. In the past twelve years, we've enjoyed a lot of happiness and good fortune. A man's life is full of worry and short of happiness. This is fate... " Speaking until here, a "heng" sound was heard. His body slowly dropped down.

"Big Brother!" shouted Mr. Bald-Brush and Mr. Paint. They ran to

Mr. Huang Zhong's side to support him. Only to see a dagger sticking out of his heart, his two eyes opened wide, and his breath had stopped.

"Big Brother! Big brother!" cried both of them, their tears pouring down.

Wang Cheng applauded and said, "This old fellow didn't follow

Chief's order. Now, he's killed himself fearing his crime. He's also added one more crime to his name. What are you two chaps being noisy about?"

Mr. Paint, his face full of anger, turned around. He wanted to charge at Wang Cheng disregarding his own life.

"What? You wanna rebel?" smirked Wang Cheng.

Mr. Paint remembered that he had taken the "Three Brain Corpse" pill already. From here on, he mustn't defy Ren Woxing's order at all. With this in mind, his anger subsided. He merely lowered his head and wiped his tears.

"Bring his corpse and this crippled corpse outside. Bring in the wine and dishes! Today, I'm gonna get drunk with Brother Xiang and Brother Linghu!" said Ren Woxing.

"Right away!" said Mr. Bald-Brush after he'd brought Mr. Huang Zhong's corpse outside.

A servant came in and arranged six sets of bowls and chopsticks.

"Take away three sets. How can we share a table with Chief?" said Bao Dachu while helping to setup the bowls and chopsticks.

"You have worked hard also. Have a drink outside," said Ren Woxing.

Bao Dachu, Wang Cheng, and Sang San Niang bowed together and replied "Thank you for Chief's grace." They then withdrew out of the room slowly.

After Linghu Chong saw Mr. Huang Zhong's suicide, he came to regard him as a righteous and upright person. He remembered the day when Mr. Huang Zhong offered to write a letter to Shaolin Abbot Fang Zheng to treat Linghu Chong's illness. Linghu Chong couldn't help but feel sad at Mr. Huang Zhong's death.

"Brother, you've had a really good fortune being able to learn Chief's Art of Essence Absorbing. Let's hear your story," said Xiang Wentian

smiling. So Linghu Chong told them how he found the skill on the iron panel and everything that went on afterwards.

"Congratulations, this type of opportunity is really precious. It makes brother's life good and happy," said Xiang Wentian happily. As he finished speaking, he lifted his wine cup and chugged it down in a mouthful. Ren Woxing and Linghu Chong also lifted their wine cups and chugged them down.

Looking happy, Ren Woxing said, "When you look at this matter, it is actually very dangerous. Initially, when I engraved this martial art's secrets on the iron panel, I was just feeling melancholy and wanting to kill some time. I didn't actually have any intention to preserve this martial art. This divine martial art is of course real, but I didn't leave any direction to help in learning or to avoid having "fire deviation". This is to prevent people from getting this skill. There are two major difficulties in learning this divine

skill. The first difficulty involves scattering all of the body's internal energy and emptying everything from the Dantian region. If the internal energy is not emptied out or if it was scattered into the wrong acupoints, you will get "fire deviation". At best, your whole body will be paralysed and you will be crippled. At worst, your meridians will flow backwards and you will bleed to death from 7 holes in your body. This martial art was created by Cheng Yida several hundred years ago and it is rare to get instructions for it. Also, very few people finished learning it completely because this scattering step is very difficult. Brother Linghu actually had a few big advantages. First, you have lost all of your internal energy. So you didn't care about scattering your energy and it didn't take too much effort for you to complete the first

step. For other people, this is the most difficult and dangerous step. You, on the other hand, passed this step unexpectedly and unwittingly. After

scattering your internal energy, it is essential to absorb other people's qi immediately. This energy from another person must be stored in your

Dantian and then scattered into your 8 meridians. Ordinarily, this step is

also very difficult. Your whole internal energy has just been dispersed into the meridians. You then must absorb someone's qi. How can this be an easy thing to do? Who wants to give up his life for you to practice this skill?

Brother Linghu again had an advantage with this second difficulty. I've heard Brother Xiang said that, there are 8 types of internal energy in your body from various masters. Although they are only a portion of each person's qi, each one is already extremely good. Brother Linghu, you've passed these two major obstacles very easily and finished learning the skill. It must be heaven's will."

Linghu Chong's palm was wet with cold sweat. He said, "Luckily all my internal energy was lost already. Otherwise, I don't dare to think what would have happened. Brother Xiang, how did Chief Ren escape from the underground prison? Little brother still doesn't know how this happened."

Xiang Wentian chuckled and took out an object from his bosom and put it on Linghu Chong's palm.

"What's this?" asked Linghu Chong as he felt a hard ball on his palm.

It was the object that he gave to Ren Woxing on that day. He opened his palm and saw a metal ball. There was an inlay with a metal bead on the ball. He pushed the metal bead and it turned around in the inlay. When he pulled on the bead, an extremely fine metal thread came out of it. The end of this metal thread was connected to the ball on his hand. With a row of saw tooth, this metal thread was just like a metal wire saw. Linghu Chong was suddenly enlightened.

"So that was how the shackles on Chief's hands and feet were broken!" exclaimed Linghu Chong.

"I completely knocked out all five of you by laughing a few times using my internal energy. Then I used that metal saw to cut the shackles.

How did you deal with Mr. Black-White when you were escaping? What do you think I did?" asked Ren Woxing with a smile.

"First, you switched your clothes with mine and then you shackled my hands and feet. No wonder Mr. Huang Zhong didn't notice what happened." beamed Linghu Chong.

"Of course, it wasn't easy to conceal this from Mr. Huang Zhong and Mr. Black-White. But when they woke up, Chief and I had already left the Plum Manor. We left them the chess book, the music score, the calligraphy and the painting. Seeing these probably made them very happy. How can they suspect that the person inside the prison has escaped?" explained

Xiang Wentian.

"Brother's strategy was certainly divine. No other person could have done it this well." said Linghu Chong. But in his heart, he was thinking,

"You planned all of this from the very beginning. You deceived these four people to lead us inside the prison. But it has been a long time since Chief escaped. How come it took you so long to rescue me?"

Xiang Wentian noticed the change of color on Linghu Chong's face and guessed correctly what Linghu Chong was thinking. With a smile, he said, "Brother, Chief had many major matters to deal with after the escape from prison. We cannot let the enemy know of the

escape at the time. So, it was better to wrong you and let you stay under the West Lake for several days first. Didn't we come to rescue you today?

However, we found you've turned bad luck into good fortune and have finished learning this marvelous martial art. That should compensate for your time in there. HaHaHa. Wasn't it a fair trade?" Saying this, Xiang Wentian filled their wine cups to the brim.

Ren Woxing laughed loudly and said, "Cheers!" Each of them gulped their wine down.

"What fair trade? I have to thank the two of you. Originally, I had serious internal injuries that have no cure in this world. After learning

Chief's divine martial art, this internal injuries were healed, giving me back one life," smiled Linghu Chong.

The three of them laughed loudly, feeling very happy.

"Twelve years ago, Chief went missing and Dongfang Bubai seized power. When I found out about this matter, I could only bear patiently. So I worked together with Dongfang Bubai with little interest. Until recently,

when I found out that Chief was being imprisoned here. I came here straight away to help Chief escape from this prison. How was I supposed to know that when I descended from Dark Wood Cliff, that bastard Dongfang Bubai would send many groups to kill me. Then I accidentally met with those orthodox sect scoundrel bastards when they were having a meeting.

Brother, that day at the bottom of the valley, you told me the reason for losing your internal energy. At that time, I thought of scattering your various strange internal energies. At the present age, only Chief can do this," reasoned Xiang Wentian. After drinking more than ten cups of wine, Linghu Chong thought that this person RenWoxing's style of speaking was heroic, his knowledge and experience were not ordinary. He really was a rare grand hero. He

couldn't help but to admire him. At first, when he saw how he dealt with Qin Weibang, Mr. Huang Zhong and Mr. Black-White, he thought that his method was excessively vicious. But after hearing him talk, he quite resembled that of a hero. Also, he thought that his temperament couldn't often be this vicious. Hence, his heart, which at first, held a resentful thought towards Ren Woxing gradually subsided.

"Brother Linghu, when we treat with the enemy, we treat them viciously. Managing subordinates must also be strict. You're probably not accustomed to it. But you think, how long have I been locked up under the West Lake's underground prison? You've been imprisoned in there, you know how it feels likes. How do others treat me? Regarding the enemy's rebel, can you treat them compassionately?" said Ren Woxing.

Linghu Chong nodded agreeing with him. Suddenly, he wanted to deal with a matter and stood up.

"I have a matter to request from Chief, hopefully Chief will agree to it," said Linghu Chong.

"What matter?" asked Ren Woxing.

"The day when I first met Chief, I heard Mr. Huang Zhong said, that when Chief escaped and re-entered Jiang Hu. That you will give Huashan School great trouble. I also heard Chief said that if you meet my master then you will give him some embarrassments. Chief's martial art is godly, if you give trouble to Huashan School, then no one there would be able to

withstand it," said Linghu Chong.

"I heard Brother Xiang said that your master announced to everyone that you've been expelled from Huashan School. I'll go and disgrace them. After we've found them, we'll wipe Huashan School out from the Wulin world. This is to substitute for the bitter feeling in your heart," told Ren Woxing.

Linghu Chong shook his head and replied, "My parents died when I was young. It was Master and Master-wife's kindness that they took me in. They took care of me when I was growing up and then took me in as a disciple. They're like parents to me. It was my fault that Master expelled me from the school. Also, there might be some misunderstanding between us. I wouldn't dare blame my kind Master."

"It was Yue Buqun who treated you heartlessly. But you're not willing to seek justice?" smiled Ren Woxing.

"I beg for Chief's kindness and to be broadminded. Please don't go

after my Master, Master-wife, and Huashan School's disciples," said Linghu Chong.

"Emm, I've escaped from that dark prison and you've also had your strive at the same time. But I've passed on to you the divine skill Art of Essence Absorbing and saved your life. Both things should be equal. I've

re-entered Jiang Hu and have a lot of grudges. I can't agree to your request. Later, when I handle my affairs, I can't have both my hands and feet tied," answered Ren Woxing.

Hearing him said this, Linghu Chong felt that his master would meet great difficulty. He couldn't help but felt anxious.

Ren Woxing laughed and said, "Little brother, sit down. Today, in this world, I only trust you and Brother Xiang. You requested one matter from me. We can always discuss this. How about this? I also have a request to make to you. Why don't you agree to this matter for me first? After today, when I meet Huashan's disciples, as long as they're not disrespectful towards me, then I won't bother them. Even if I must teach them a lesson, if I see you at that time, I will hold my hand and only use thirty percent of my power. What do you say to this?"

Linghu Chong was very happy. He replied, "I'm deeply grateful for this. Who dares not to follow Chief's order?"

"We three are now sworn brothers, from today, we'll share all happiness and woes together. Brother Xiang is Sun Moon Sect's Guang

Ming Zuo Shi (left protector). You will become my sect's Guang Ming You Shi (right protector). What do you think of this?" said Ren Woxing.

Linghu Chong was startled when he heard this. He didn't anticipate that Ren Woxing wanted him to join the Devil Sect. When he was young, he heard from Master and Master-wife that Devil Sect has many kinds of evil

and vicious people. After he'd been expelled from Huashan School, he was thinking of just leisurely wandering the Jiang Hu and not belonging to any school or sect. Even if his body wanted to join the Devil Sect, his mind thought that he should not. His heart was disconcerted. He didn't know how to answer.

Ren Woxing and Xiang Wentian were staring at him. The room was now completely quiet and not a single sound could be heard.

After some time, Linghu Chong said, "Chief is very kind to let me, Linghu Chong, enter the sect so late. But how would I dare to stand side- by-side with Chief? Also, I'm still hoping that, even though I don't have a

chance to rejoin Huashan School, Master will have a change of attitude and take back his command. "

Ren Woxing smiled tastelessly and said, "You call me Chief. Actually, although I've escaped from prison, my life is still in a precarious state and this word "Chief" means nothing. It's only good to hear. Today, everyone knows that Sun Moon Sect's Chief is Dongfang Bubai. This person's kung fu is high and is not below me at all. His strategy and wisdom are also above me. With a signal from him, many people will rush to help him

against only Brother Xiang and me. So, taking the position of Chief from him is a hopeless battle. It's a foolish and deluded action. You're not willing to be my sworn brother. Of course, this is a wise idea to protect your own life. Come, come, come! Let's drink wine and be happy. Let this matter rest."

"How did Dongfang Bubai take away Chief's power and position? Also how did you get imprisoned in the underground prison? There are many matters that I still don't understand. Can these two matters be

explained?" asked Linghu Chong.

Ren Woxing shook his head. His smile was mournful. He said, "I've been living under the lake for 12 years. What fame and authority do I have left? Hey, hey. I've grown older and my temper has also become worse."

He filled a wine cup to the brim, drank it in a mouthful, and laughed loudly. His laughter sounded sad and forlorn.

"Brother, that day Dongfang Bubai sent a lot of people to chase after me, you've seen his vicious method with your own eyes. If you didn't give me a hand, I would've become minced-meat in that pavilion. Right now, your heart is divided between the orthodox school and the Devil Sect. But on that day, those several hundred people from both sides allied together

and tried to kill the two of us. Where is the division? What orthodox

school? What devil sect? Actually this division is only artificial. Inside the orthodox schools, there are good people. But don't they also have some despicable and evil diciples? Although the Devil Sect has no shortages of bad people, but we three people would be able to hold the power in the sect. So we'll be able to reorganise the sect well and get rid of those evil degenerates. Won't we then be seen as a proud and heroic sect in Jiang Hu?" Xiang Wentian said. Linghu Chong nodded and said, "What big brother said is true."

"Back in those days, Chief treated Dongfang Bubai fairly. He was promoted to the position of left protector and was given all the power in the sect. Meanwhile, Chief was concentrating on correcting some small flaws in the Art of Essence Absorbing. That wolf Dongfang Bubai, with his unexpectedly wild ambition, took care of everyday affairs. On the surface, he treated Chief respectfully and didn't dare to violate anything. But

secretly, he gathered power to himself and did things on false pretexts. He removed all the ministers loyal to Chief, all were possibly killed. A few years later, all of Chief's trusted people were all gone. Chief is an upright and most sincere person. He saw that Dongfang Bubai was respectful and prudent so he didn't suspect anything. But Dongfang Bubai had positioned himself well in the sect with his hands in everything. He had everything

arranged to his liking. We didn't have any suspicion from the beginning to the end," explained Xiang Wentian.

Ren Woxing sighed and said, "Brother Xiang, I'm actually very

ashamed of this matter. You honestly told me many times to guard against treachery. But I trusted Dongfang Bubai too highly and I didn't like to hear those honest talk. Instead I thought you were jealous of him. After I blamed you, you sowed dissension and a lot of lives were lost. Then you left in

anger and from then on we haven't met again till now."

"I wouldn't dare to blame Chief. I merely saw that something wasn't right. That Dongfang Bubai encircled us secretly then launched his attack. If subordinate was besides Chief at that time, then I would also suffer his violent treachery. Although I was willing to face difficulty and death for the sect, I had to consider about the future in this case. So I felt that I must have a way to escape for every situation. If Chief was able to see through his deceitful heart and ordered him to not pursue his own goals, then I would have been really happy. Otherwise, I should be outside the sect. At the very least, I should avoid him unless he discovered about my suspicion,” said

Xiang Wentian.

Ren Woxing nodded and said, "That's true. But how did I know about your pain at that time? I only saw you left without saying goodbye and felt really angry. At the same time, my martial art practice had just reached its

critical point and I nearly had a calamity. That Dongfang Bubai actually did everything to please me and advised me not to worry. Then I fell even deeper in his plot, I went as far as giving him the sect's secret Sunflower Scripture."

When Linghu Chong heard of this “Sunflower Scripture”, he let out an "ah".

"Brother, you also know about the "Sunflower Scripture”?" asked Xiang Wentian.

"I only heard master mentioned this name before. I knew that it's a deep and profound martial art secret. But I didn't know that it was in Chief's possession," answered Linghu Chong.

"For many years, "Sunflower Scripture" has been Sun Moon Sect's well guarded treasure. It is handed down from the previous Chief to the next. When I was practising the Art of Essence Absorbing, I neglected to eat and sleep. I didn't care about any matters at all and I wanted to give up the position of Chief to Dongfang Bubai. So I gave Dongfang Bubai the

"Sunflower Scripture". This is to make him understand clearly about my intention. That not long after, I was going to give the position of Chief to him. Ai, originally Dongfang Bubai is a very intelligent person. But once he understood that he was going to get the position of Chief, why did he have to rush in getting it and not willing to wait until I formally give him the position myself? Why did he instead rebel to seize this position?" said Ren Woxing.

He scowled and it appears that even until now he didn't understand clearly about this matter.

"Apparently, he couldn't wait a moment longer. He didn't know when Chief was going to formally give him the position. So he worried and afraid that something might suddenly change," explained Xiang Wentian.

"Actually, he already secured everything for himself. What sudden change should he be afraid of? It's difficult to predict the minds of other people. When I was in the underground prison, I went over his treasonous

plan from many different angles, trying to understand. Why did he suddenly launch the attack? Even until now, I still don't understand his logic.

Originally, he was a little bit jealous of you, afraid that I might give the position of chief to you. But he'd seen you left with his own eyes. So it was better for him to just wait for a little while," reasoned Ren Woxing.

"At the night of the dragon boat festival's feast in the same year that Dongfang Bubai launched his attack, Miss said something at the banquet. Does Chief still remember what she said?" asked Xiang Wentian.

Ren Woxing scratched his head pondering, "Dragon boat festival?

What did that little Miss say? Hmm. What's the connection? I don’t remember."

"Chief, don't treat Miss as a little child. She's very clever and thoughtful, and no lesser than any adult. That year, miss is seven years old, right? She was at the banquet looking at people when she suddenly asked you, "Dad, dad, how come when we drink wine at the dragon boat festival every year, there's always one person less?" You were startled and asked her, " What do you mean there is one person less every year?" Miss

answered, "I remembered there were 11 people last year. The year before, there were 12 people. This year, one, two, three, four, five... we only have ten,"” recounted Xiang Wentian.

Ren Woxing sighed and said, "That's true. Ahh. At that time, when I heard what little miss said, I felt very unhappy. The year before, Dongfang Bubai had executed younger brother Hao Xian. The year before that, Elder Qiu died at Gansu with no clear reason. When I think about it now, this must have been Dongfang Bubai's evil doing. And one year before that, Elder Wen was removed from the sect and was killed by the masters from SongShan School, TaiShan School and HengShan School. That disaster must also be Dongfang Bubai's doing. Ai, little miss accidentally said the right word and revealed his plan. At that time, my mind was like in a dream, I couldn't comprehend it."

He stopped for a while and gulped his wine down.

He continued, "This Art of Essence Absorbing was created by Xiao Yao Sect in times of Northern Song. It was a combination of the two skills, BeiMing Shen Gong and Hua Gong DaFa (Author's note: Please read "Tian Long Ba Bu"), which were left behind by Dali's Duan family and XingXiu Sect respectively. They were combined into one, and became the Art of Essence Absorbing. The Art of Essence Absorbing’s main principle is inherited from Hua Gong DaFa. But the scholars who wrote the formula down didn't know the proper way, so there were some flaws on the skill. In the meantime, for more than ten years, I've been repairing this Art of Essence Absorbing. In Jiang Hu, this divine martial art still has a big reputation. When people from orthodox school hear this name, they still tremble with fear. But I know that this divine martial art has a few big flaws in it. In the beginning, I didn't feel anything wrong. But later, a disastrous problem was slowly revealed. In those several years, I came to understand the problem deeply. I knew that if I don't find the remedy soon, I would one day die by "fire deviation". Those energy that I've absorbed from other people could suddenly reverse. Because I've absorbed a lot of energy, the reverse energy would also be just as big."

When Linghu Chong heard all this, he secretly felt that there was one big thing that wasn't right. Ren Woxing continued, "At that time, I've

already absorbed the internal energies of ten evil masters. But because each of the ten internal energies was very strong and different, they prohibited

each other from being sent to different gates. I believed that there must be a way to make all these internal energy harmonious and whole so that I could use them. Otherwise, I will always be in danger. In those few years, I thought day and night on how to solve this problem to the point that I neglected everything except thinking on this matter. That day at the Dragon Boat Festival feast, although I was drinking wine and cracking jokes, but in my heart, I sought a way that would allow the energy in my body to flow freely amidst the twenty-two acupoints of the Yangjiao Channel and the thirty-two acupoints of the Yangwei Channel. These made up a total of fifty-four acupoints, through which the energy could flow in its passage from the Yangjiao into the Yangwei and vice-versa.”

"At that time, I also thought that it was strange as Chief is usually

alert. Chief only needs to hear half a word to know what a person wants to say. You observed everything and missed nothing. But in those several years, not only were you not aware of Dongfang Bubai's treasonous plan, but also every day... every day... " sighed Xiang Wentian.

Ren Woxing smiled a little and said, "Everyday I was dazed and witless. My mind seemed to be elsewhere all the time."

"That's true. Ahhh. After miss said those words, Dongfang Bubai laughed and said, "Miss, you love things to be lively, don't you? Next year, we'll invite more people to drink wine” When he said those words, his face was full of happiness. But when I observed his eyes, it was full of hesitation. He must've suspected that Chief knew of what he was up to. And that right then, Chief was just pretending to be ignorant to test him. He knew that Chief is astute so he expected that Chief knew about his plan

already," said Xiang Wentian.

Ren Woxing scowled and said, "I couldn't remember at all what little miss said at the dragon boat festival's feast twelve years ago. I now remember only after you mentioned about it. That’s right, when Dongfang Bubai heard those words, how can it not raise his suspicions?"

"Also, Dongfang Bubai was afraid that Miss would see through his treasonous plan in a year or two when she had grown up and gotten even smarter. Furthermore, he was afraid that if he waited until she became an adult, Chief might give the position of Chief to her. So, when Dongfang Bubai heard this, he didn't dare to wait any longer. He took a risk and launched the attack. This is the logic behind all this," Xiang Wentian

explained.

Ren Woxing nodded his head agreeing with what Xiang Wentian said. "Ai, if my daughter is by my side right now, then we'll have one more

person and our position wouldn't be as weak as right now," said Ren Woxing.

Xiang Wentian turned to Linghu Chong and said, "Brother, Chief has already said that there's a big flaw with the Art of Essence Absorbing. As far as I know, Chief was working on a solution to fix this divine martial art while he endured being imprisoned for the last 12 years. Of course, by the time he escaped from that prison, he already had a breakthrough and found the solution for this divine martial art. Chief, is this right?"

Ren Woxing rubbed his thick black fine beard, laughed, and was feeling proud of himself. He said, "Of course. From now on, when I absorb other people's energy, I don't have to worry about these energies suddenly reversing. HaHa! Brother Linghu, take a deep breath, don't you feel there's qi drumming fiercely at your Yuzhen and Shanzhong acupoints?"

Linghu Chong took a deep breath and felt a faint qi flowing at his Yuzhen and Shanzhong acupoints. He couldn't help that his complexion changed as he did this.

"You've only begun your practice, so you can probably only feel it a little bit. But during those years, before I found the remedy, the qi in these two pressure points was drumming really fiercely. It felt like the sky was falling down and the earth shaking. It was torture. Even though I looked

calm and quiet outside, inside my ears, it sounded like there were a thousand horses charging through. Sometimes, it sounded like thunder

continuously striking down. Ai, if I wasn't having such a big disaster with my qi, how can Dongfang Bubai's treasonous plan have succeeded?" said Ren Woxing.

Linghu Chong knew that Ren Woxing was saying the truth. He also knew that Xiang Wentian mentioned this problem to get him to ask for

advice from Ren Woxing. But he was determined not to join the Sun Moon Sect and ask for Ren Woxing's help. He couldn't say anything, but in his heart, he was thinking, "I've already learned his Art of Essence Absorbing. This skill absorbs other people's energy for myself to use. It's a very selfish and vicious skill. I had decided not to practise and use it. If I can't stop these absorbed energies from reversing, then that's the way it's gonna be. This is gonna be my fate. How can Linghu Chong be greedy and be afraid of death? How can I commit a big violation over this when I'm originally

sincere?"

After he mulled over this matter in his mind, he said, "Chief, I would like to consult you on a matter I still don't understand. My master said that the "Sunflower Scripture" is the most supreme martial arts secret. No one will be able to match you in the whole world after learning this martial art. He said your life would also be prolonged to over 100 years. How come you didn't learn this martial art and instead learned that dangerously fierce Art of Essence Absorbing?"

Ren Woxing weakly smiled and said, "I don’t think outsiders are worthy enough to know the reason.”

Linghu Chong's face turned red when he heard this. He said, "Yes, I was too bold."

"Brother, Chief is already old, your big brother is also only a few years younger than him. If you enter the sect, then Chief's successor will of course be you. I know that you dislike the Sun Moon Sect's bad reputation. But when you're chief, wouldn't you have the power in hand to reorganise the sect so that people in this world would benefit from it?" Xiang Wentian logically told Linghu Chong.

Linghu Chong felt that Xiang Wentian's speech was logical and reasonable. He was moved. He saw Ren Woxing picked up his wine cup and with his right hand, picked up the wine pot and filled the cup to the

brim. Ren Woxing then said, "Several hundred years ago, there was enmity between my Sun Moon sect and the orthodox sects and schools. After that, we couldn't coexist anymore. If you adhere stubbornly to this opinion and don't enter our sect then your internal injuries will be difficult to heal and your life isn't guaranteed. This doesn't need to be said. Also, I’m afraid that your Master and Master-wife of Huashan school... Hey, hey, I want to make all of Huashan School disciples perish and stamp Huashan School out of

existence from the Wulin world. This isn't a hard thing to do at all. It was fate that brought us here together. If you agree with my suggestion, then please drink this cup of wine." These words were said threateningly. Linghu Chong's felt his anger rising up and in a clear voice said, "Chief, big brother, originally my injuries were enough to shorten my life and I was only living from day to day. Then I accidentally learned Chief's divine martial art. But now, because I'm unable to meld all the energies together, I might not live long. So it's just like my old injuries. This is no big deal. For a long time, I've already thought my life was unimportant. Dead or alive, I still have my life now.

Huashan School has been around for several hundred years and has managed to survive till now. It's not necessarily true that other people can just raise their hands and destroy Huashan School. Today, we've finished our talk. Let us part here."

As soon as he finished speaking, he cupped his hands in salute towards the two people, turned around and left.

Xiang Wentian still had words to say but Linghu Chong was already far away. As Linghu Chong ran out of the Plum Manor, he felt the cold air brushing his body and he felt unrestrained in his heart. As he sighed and raised his head, he saw the crescent moon hanging from the tip of a willow branch. In the middle of the lake, he could see reflections of the bright moon and the clouds on the water. When he reached the bank of the lake, he stood there quietly for some time and thought, "Chief Ren must now be going to Dongfang Bubai to settle the matter concerning the position of

Chief. He wouldn't search for Huashan School straight away to bring them trouble. But, Master, Master-wife, and martial brothers and sisters didn't know about this matter. If they meet him, they may suffer under his violent hands. I must tell them as soon as possible so that they can be prepared. But I don't know whether they've returned from Fuzhou or not. From here, it's not that far to Fuzhou. I don't have anything else to do. I'll just go to Fuzhou for a trip. If they're on their way back, then maybe I'll meet them on the way."

His thought immediately turned to the letter his master wrote to the Wulin world. In that letter, his Master announced that he'd been expelled from Huashan school. A sour feeling rose up in his heart as he remembered this. He thought to himself, "I'm going to report to Master and Master-wife about Chief Ren compelling me to join his sect. They will understand that I didn't intentionally make friends with people from Devil sect. Maybe

Master will take back his command and will only punish me to spend three years on top of that cliff thinking about my fault. If that's the case, then it's going be good." Thinking that there may be a chance to re-enter the school, his spirit rose.

He immediately started off to look for an inn to stay overnight. He felt that he would be able to sleep long until noon this time. Then he thought that as he hadn't seen Master and Master-wife, it would be better to hide his original appearance. Furthermore, Yingying gave orders to those people to take his life. So, he felt it'd be best to disguise himself and not look for trouble. But what appearance should he take on for his disguise?

As he was deep in thought, he arrived at an inn. He walked slowly into the inn. Just as he entered the courtyard, he suddenly heard the sound of a door being opened and a basin full of water splashed towards him. He evaded quickly as the basin emptied out. In front of him was an angry looking military officer glaring at him, holding a wooden wash basin. The officer rudely shouted, "Did you not bring your eyes? Didn't you see grandfather throwing water out?"

Linghu Chong was feeling angry. He couldn’t believe that such an unruly and unreasonable man existed. With a fine thick beard, this military officer looked like he was around forty years old. He was wearing a full body military gown and there was a Yaodao saber on his waist. Linghu

Chong thought that he was probably an officer from a military school. With his chest flat and his belly bulging out, he looked accustomed to the good living.

That military officer loudly shouted, "What are you looking at? You don't recognise your granddad?"

Linghu Chong suddenly got an inspiration, "Why don't I disguise myself as this military officer? He's quite interesting. I'll be walking around Jiang Hu in an impressive disguise. People in Wulin won't even give me a

second look."

That military officer shouted loudly again, "What are you laughing at? Your granny6, what's so funny?"

Linghu Chong unconsciously smiled, feeling proud of himself. When he went to the counter to pay for a room and meal, he whispered to the innkeeper, "What's the background of that military officer?"

The shopkeeper frowned at his question, but he still answered, "Who knows where he comes from? He came from Beijing and has stayed here for one night. The servants served him three meals already. He’s also ordered a good quantity of good wine and good meat. Don't know if he's going to pay or not."

Linghu Chong nodded and walked into the teahouse. He brewed a pot of tea and slowly drank it. After waiting for an hour, he heard the sound of a horse trotting. That military officer was going out of the inn on a red jujube- coloured horse. While lashing his horsewhip making a "Pai, pai" sound, he was loudly bellowing, "Make way! Make way! Your granny, hurry up and get away!" A few people were too slow getting out of his way and got lashed by the whip. Linghu Chong already paid for his tea, so he got up and followed the horse. He saw the officer exiting from the west gate and galloping away on the southwesterly road. After a few li, there were less and less people on the road, so Linghu Chong quickened his steps. He rushed to the front of the horse and raised his right hand. The horse was frightened and reared at him causing that officer to almost fall from the horse.

Linghu Chong shouted loudly, "Your granny, didn't you bring your eyes? Your horse almost kicked this old man to death!"

That officer didn't open his mouth but he looked indignant and

snorted three times. He waited till his horse's front foot dropped back down before he selected a whip and lashed out towards Linghu Chong's head. He saw that it's inconvenient to settle this matter on the main road so he

shouted, "Ai yo!" and staggered into the forest. That officer wasn't willing to just let Linghu Chong go like that. So he dismounted his horse and quickly tied the horse's rein on a tree. He was madly impatient to start

chasing.

Linghu Chong shouted, "Ai yo! I want my mommy!" as he fled into the forest.

That military officer started pursuing and raised a clamor as he was running through the forest. Suddenly he felt a tingling sensation on the side of his body and fell down on the ground. Linghu Chong's left foot stepped on his chest and laughingly said, "Your granny, your skill isn't good. How can you march to war?" He searched the officer's bosom and took out a big envelope. On the envelope was the "Seal of the Ministry of War Office" on red vermillion and a written word "Announcement" in big letters. He opened the letter and took out a thick paper. It was the ministry of war office's appointment order. Written on it was the promotion of Hebei’s Cangzhou prefecture's officer Wu Tiande to become Fujian's Quanzhou prefecture’s general.

Linghu Chong laughed and said, "Oh, it's big general, so you're Wu Tiande?"

That officer was pinned underneath Linghu Chong's foot and his face starting to turn purple.

"Let me get up! Quickly! You… you... very daring. Insulting a government official, not… not afraid of the law?" shouted that officer. Although he was shouting, his anger had long been exhausted.

Smiling, Linghu Chong said, "Your old man doesn't have anything to tie you up with but I want to borrow your clothes to try on,” After saying

so, he knocked out the officer by hitting him on the head with his palm.

He then quickly took the officer's clothes off. Thinking that this guy was hateful, he decided to teach him a lesson and took off all his underwear, leaving the officer buck-naked on the ground. He then picked up the officer’s bundle and opened it. Inside, there were several hundreds silver taels and three gold coins. He thought, "This must have been taken away from good and honest people. It's going to be hard to return these to the owners. I’ll just have to use it to buy wine for my General Wu Tiande." He chuckled as he thought of this. Immediately, he took off his clothes and put on the officer's clothes, leather boots, and Yaodao saber. He also took the bundle with him. Afterwards, using a strip of his own clothes, he tied the officer's hands to a tree and stuffed his mouth full with mud. He thought for a while and took his knife out to shave the officer's beard and put those

shaved beard in his bosom. He smiled and remarked, "You've changed into a pretty face now. You’ve become much more beautiful."

When he got back to the main road, he untied the horse’s rein and mounted it. He lashed out with the whip and shouted, "Make way! Make way! Your granny, didn't you bring your eyes? HaHa, HaHa!" Laughing loudly, he galloped away to the south.

That same night, he arrived at an inn at the border area of Hangzhou.

The shopkeeper and servant at that inn greeted him with "Army officer,

army officer". At daybreak, Linghu Chong asked the shopkeeper the road to Fujian. After receiving 5 taels of silver, the shopkeeper and his servant

accompanied him while bowing all the way to the door. Linghu Chong thought, "You guys are fortunate that you met my general; if you had actually met the real General Wu Tiande, you would certainly have

suffered." After leaving the inn, he went to a store and bought a face mirror and a bottle of glue water. Once he got outside the city, he looked for a desolated place. Once he got there, he took out the mirror and carefully glued the shaved beard on his face. This took him around an hour. When he checked himself in the mirror, his cheek was full of fine thick beard and

couldn't help but laughed at himself.

On the way south, he reached Jinhua prefecture and arrived at the prefecture office. In this area, he found it hard to understand the southern

accent. But it was good that he was dressed in military attire because people started talking to him in a more formal manner, which made him able to understand them much better. In his whole life, he's never had this much money before, so he kept ordering wine and drank to his heart's content.

The many different internal energies that he had were circulating throughout the meridians in his body, not a trace of it was leaving his body. When suddenly, an energy stream rushed towards his Dantian region making him dizzy, seeing stars, and wanting to vomit. This was Mr. Black- White's qi. He felt the pain was even more unbearable than before.

Whenever this happened, he only had to follow the method written by Ren WoXing on the iron panel and expel the qi out from the Dantian region. After the qi in the Dantian was emptied, then his qi would become smooth and he would feel vigorous immediately. If he followed this practice every time this happened, he knew that his energy would also increase by a level but he would also be deeper in trouble by one level. He was always upbeat in his thinking. "I already got my life back. Living for one more day, even for one more minute is already good." He calmed down straight away.

That afternoon, he entered the Xianxia mountain range. The area was rugged and as he went on, he got higher and higher and could see less and less smokes from the mountain people’s habitation. He rode on for another 20 li and no house was around anymore. He knew straight away that he had made a mistake by going past the last inn so now he had to stay the night on the road with robbers around the area. The night was getting darker as he picked a fruit up and ate it. Then he spotted a small cave underneath the

cliff. It looked dry and seemed as if there were not many bugs inside to bother him. So he tied his horse's rein on a tree and let it eat some grass, while he went to collect some dry grass to spread inside the cave.

He felt that the qi in his Dantian wasn't relaxed so he sat down to meditate. With more practice, Ren Woxing's divine martial art was going to get even harder to restrain and he was going to feel uncomfortable more often. When he finished meditating, his whole body felt relaxed and light. It was as if he was on a cloud. He then expelled the breath in his mouth, stood up, and smiled bitterly. " That day when I asked Chief Ren, how come he

still wanted to learn the Art of Essence Absorbing when he already had

"Sunflower Manual" in his possession, he didn't answer willingly. But now, I understand why. This Art of Essence Absorbing, after you practiced it, you won't be able to give it up." After reaching this conclusion, he couldn't help but feel frightened. "I heard Master-wife said before about Miao people raising poisonous evil things. Even when they knew it was evil, it was hard to give up. If they don't use those poisonous bugs to harm people then the bugs would harm the host's body. In the future, will I become just like those Miao people?"

When he walked out of the cave, he saw a lot of stars in the sky and heard the chirping of insects. Suddenly, he heard people coming towards the mountain. It seemed that they're still quite far away but his internal energy

allowed him to hear further. Immediately, he went to his horse, loosened its rein, hit its back to make the horse move into the cave. He then hid himself behind a tree. After some time, he heard the steps coming closer. The light from the stars allowed him to see many people with black gowns and yellow waistbands, walking along. From the outfits, he reckoned they were people from the Devil Sect. There were more than thirty people in the group and none of them spoke a word. Linghu Chong thought, "They seemed to be going south towards Fujian. I wonder if they have anything to do with my Huashan School. Have they received orders from Chief Ren to cause trouble for Master and Master-wife?" He waited until those people were gone far enough before he quietly followed.

After he had walked for several li, the mountain road became really steep. Then he saw the two mountain peaks besides each other with a very

narrow mountain road going through the middle. It would be impossible for two people to go up side by side on this road. Those thirty people were

climbing through the pass in a single file. Linghu Chong thought, " If I were to follow them up now, it's possible that once they reached the top, one of them might accidentally turn his head around and see me." So he quickly hid himself in the bushes to wait for them to finish climbing the slope and to start going down on the south slope before he started chasing again. But when these people reached the peak of the slope, they suddenly scattered and hid themselves behind the mountain rocks. Not a single shadow was seen.

Linghu Chong was frightened. The first thing that entered his mind was, "They saw me." But he knew immediately that he was wrong. He

considered further, "They're going to ambush people who will go up the

slope. That must be it! This is the perfect place to plan an ambush. Whoever climbed up here would have trouble escaping. Who are they trying to

ambush? If Master and Master-wife had gone back to the North, what urgent matter do they have to go back to Fujian that they would be walking through here at night? Will I see my little martial sister tonight?" As his thought turned to Yue Lingshan, his whole body became hot. He quietly

stepped away from the bushes. After he had gained a bit of distance away from the mountaintop, he quickly dashed down from the mountain. After several bends, he turned around and couldn't see the mountain slope

anymore. Then he headed back north away from the mountain pass. He scampered along the road while trying to listen if anyone was coming

towards him. After 10 more li, he suddenly heard voices from a hillside on the left. "Linghu Chong is a dirty rascal. You're still defending him!"

Chapter 23 Ambush

Yilin turned around hurriedly and stuck out her hand. Linghu Chong reached over and held on to her hand. Yilin pulled hard upwards, and after several embarrassing stumbles, Linghu Chong finally regained his balance. Several female apprentices behind him simply could not help giggling.

Linghu Chong was alarmed to suddenly hear someone calling his own name on a desolated mountaintop in the middle of the night. His first thought was, "It's master!" But it was the voice of a female and it wasn't master-wife or Yue Lingshan. This outburst was followed by a softer and quieter female's voice, which he could not hear clearly. Linghu Chong went towards the hillside and saw the shadows of thirty-four people standing up. His heart turned sour. "Who scolded me? Is it really HuaShan School's party? If martial sister heard someone scolded me like that, I wonder how

she would react?"

He lowered his body to hide beside a shrub on the side. He crouched and circled around the hillside to get closer to the group and hid himself behind a big tree. He heard a female's voice said, "Martial uncle, Martial brother Linghu is an upright and heroic... " Hearing this half sentence, the picture of a delicately pretty face came into his mind. His chest became

slightly constricted as he realised that the person saying this was Yilin, the little nun from Heng-shan school. He was disappointed to learn that these people were not from Huashan School. As his mind was somewhere else, he missed the next two sentences said by Yilin. He only heard the sharp voice of the previous speaker saying angrily, "You still dare to argue with your elder? Then that letter from Mr. Yue of Huashan School is fake? Mr. Yue sent this letter to the entire realm, telling everyone that Linghu Chong had been expelled from HuaShan because he's involved with Devil Sect's people. What wrong can we do to him? When Linghu Chong saved you before, he probably wants to depend on this small favour to plot against us..." "Martial uncle, it wasn't a small favor, Martial brother Linghu disregarded his own life... " answered Yilin.

"You're still calling him martial brother? This person is most probably a shrewd and wicked scheming thief. Putting on airs and deceiving young

children like you. In Jiang Hu, there are all sorts of sly and crafty people, swindling young people like you because you have never experienced meeting them," the elder shouted in reply.

Yilin answered, "How can disciple not listen to martial uncle's order?

But.. but.. martial… Linghu ... " and the word "brother" wasn't said. She stiffly stood there enduring the lecture.

That elder asked, "But what?" Yilin appeared to be frightened and didn't dare to speak anymore.

"This is a message from SongShan's Alliance Chief Zuo. Devil Sect is conducting a large-scale operation in Fujian to rob the Lin family of Fuzhou of their Evil Resisting sword art. Alliance Chief Zuo wants the Five

Mountains Sword Alliance to help in preventing the demon people from having the sword art manual. When great masters from the Five Mountains Sword Alliance stepped in, it is unavoidable that people will die without being buried. That child from FuZhou's Lin family has already entered Mr. Yue's school so it seemed that HuaShan School has obtained the sword art manual but actually they have not. We fear that the Devil Sect will have many traps. Also, when you add that ex-disciple of Huashan School, Linghu Chong, into the equation, our plight becomes even more unfavourable because the Devil sect may have inside information. Alliance Chief has put the responsibility of handling this matter on my shoulder and ordered me to lead us into Fujian. This matter concerns the fortune of both the orthodox and Devil Sect. We can't allow any careless or indiscreet acts. Thirty li from here is the border between Zhejiang and Fujian. Today, everyone has worked hard and had been hurrying along at night. We'll rest when we get to Nianbapu town. We'll then hurry along so we can be in front and wait for the Devil Sect people to launch their operation. By then, we

would have waited at ease and have the advantage of waiting for an exhausted enemy. But you must still be on your guard," that elder

announced. All the female disciples (numbering in scores of ten) complied with one voice.

Linghu Chong thought, "This master is in charge of this Heng-Shan School group and Yilin also called her martial uncle. I’ve heard of "Three Ding of Heng-Shan", she must be Dingjing Shi Tai7. She received my master's letter and thought that I'm a bad person. I can't blame her for thinking this way. She wanted to get ahead but didn't know that Devil Sect people are already setting up an ambush in front. Luckily, I already knew, but how do I tell them about this?"

He then heard Dingjing Shi Tai said, "Once we enter Fujian's boundary, you must be on your guard. Everyone around you will be your enemy. Even the servants from the restaurants or the teahouses might be spies from the Devil Sect. The walls have ears, just like the bushes might have enemy hiding within. From now on, do not mention anything about the Evil Resisting sword art manual, Mr. Yue, Linghu Chong, and

DongFang BiBai8."

The female disciples answered together, "Yes!"

Linghu Chong knew that Devil Sect's Chief DongFang BuBai's kungfu had no match in the world, which was why he was called undefeated. But when the orthodox schools talked about him, they frequently referred to him as "Bibai". They did this to nullify the meaning behind the enemy's name and to mock him. After hearing her mentioned his own name, his master’s name and DongFang BuBai’s on the same level, he couldn't help but laughed bitterly. "I'm just a nameless person while you're a senior from Heng-Shan School. You flatter me too much to mention my name in the same breath as my master's and Dongfang Bubai's."

Dingjing Shi Tai continued, "Everyone, let's go!" All the disciples answered in one voice and complied with the order. He then saw seven female disciples sped away from the hillside followed by another seven

soon after. Heng-Shan School's qinggong was famous in the wulin world; the seven people in front and the seven people at the back kept the distance between them constant as they run, resembling a troop formation The

sleeves of the fourteen people were floating in the air and they were all

synchronous in their running. It was extremely beautiful to look at. Not too long after that, another seven people started to go down the hill. In a short time, all of Heng-Shan School's groups have moved out. Altogether, there were six groups. The last group consisted of eight people, with the extra person being Dingjing Shi Tai. Some of these females were not nuns, but

secular disciples of Heng-Shan.

In the darkness of the night, Linghu Chong wasn't able to recognise which group Yilin was in. He thought, "These disciples from Heng-Shan must each have their own unique skill. But when they're climbing that steep

slope between the two peaks, the Devil Sect people will ambush them. They will definitely suffer heavy injuries and deaths."

He took a handful of green grass, squeezed them and smeared the juices on his face. Then he dug out some mud and smeared it on his face, hands and thick beard. Even if it were daytime, Yilin would not be able to recognise him under all the mud. Linghu Chong then circled the hillside to go back to the road and started chasing after them. Originally, his qinggong wasn't that good. But whether your qinggong was high or low was dependent on the strength of your internal energy level. Right now, his internal energy was high, so he could take a step as he willed and each step was also very far away. At this speed, he caught up with Heng-Shan School's people in no time at all. He was afraid that Dingjing Shi Tai might hear his footsteps as he came closer to them so he overtook them by running in a big circle. Once he was ahead of them and was back on the main road, he ran even faster. When he arrived at the bottom of the slope, the moon was already above his head. He stood there listening to his

surrounding and did not hear a single sound. "If I didn't see the Devil Sect people setting up an ambush here, then a disaster would have happened at this place. A great disaster."

He slowly walked up the steep slope and arrived at the beginning of the road between the two peaks. He was around a li away from the ambush place; he sat down and started thinking, "The Devil Sect people have probably seen me here. But they're afraid to alert the enemy so they are just letting me sit here." After waiting for some time, he lied down on the ground. Finally, he heard faint steps coming up from the hillside. He thought, "It's best if I lead the Devil Sect's people to start fighting with me first. After fighting for a little bit, then Heng-Shan School will be aware." He then said angrily at the people on the top of the slope, " What old man hates the most is being stabbed in the back. Then I won’t know whether they are real swords or spears. Stabbing in the back is a very rotten method.

You hiding there, get up! Evil ghosts, harming people by ambush! How

contemptible and disgraceful." Although his voice wasn't loud, he had put an abundant of qi to deliver it, so it was able to travel far. He was guessing that the Devil Sect people had heard what he said. But who would have thought these people could really hold in their anger and unexpectedly did not pay attention to him at all. Not long after, Heng-Shan School's first group of seven diciples arrived in front of him. Under the moonlight, the seven diciples could see an officer sleeping on the ground with his four limbs extended out. Only one person at a time can go up the mountain pass as it was flanked by high cliffs on both sides. Therefore, if they wanted to go up the slope, they have to step across his body first. These disciples only had to lightly jump to go across his body, but between man and woman, there must be a separation. In order to jump across, they also have to go over his head. This was just too rude.

A middle-aged nun said with a clear voice, "Excuse me, officer.

Please lend us a path."

Linghu Chong made two "woo, woo" sounds snoring loudly. That nun's buddhist name was Yihe but her temper was not peaceful at all9 .She saw that this officer was sleeping soundly in the middle of the road snoring so loudly that he must be deliberately pretending to be asleep. This made her all the more agitated. She held back her anger and said, "If you don't make way, we will jump over you." Linghu Chong kept up his loud snoring and muttered, " Lots of demons and ghosts on this road. Mustn't go through it. Woo... woo... the sea of bitterness is endless... turn... turn... turn around then you will see the beach." Yihe was startled when she heard this as his words seemed to carry two meanings. Another nun pulled Yihe back by tugging her sleeve and the seven nuns retreated several steps.

One person whispered, "Martial sister, this person is weird."

Another one said, "I'm afraid he might be Devil Sect's spy challenging us."

Another person said, "I don't think Devil Sect's people would go and get a government job as a military officer. I think he's disguising himself. He didn't dirty his attire when he was disguising himself."

Yihe said, "Don't worry about him! He's not letting us get through so we'll jump over him." Before she jumped, she asked again, "If you're really not making way then we just have to offend you."

Linghu Chong stretched out lazily and slowly got up. He was still

afraid that Yilin might recognise him so he faced the hillside. The back of his body was facing the Heng-Shan School disciples. With his right hand leaning on the cliff face, his body swayed from side to side looking like a drunk. He said, "Good wine! good wine!" At this moment, the second group of Heng-Shan School disciples arrived.

"Martial sister Yihe, what's this person doing here?" asked a secular disciple.

"Who knows what he's doing here!" answered Yihe.

Linghu Chong said in a loud voice, "Just then I butchered a dog. My tummy's so full after eating it. I've also drunk a lot of wine. I'm afraid I might vomit. Aiyo, not good, really gonna vomit!" A vomiting sound was heard briefly.

The female disciples scowled and one by one retreated back. Linghu Chong made the vomiting sound a few more times although nothing was

coming out. The disciples were discussing among themselves when the third group also arrived.

He heard a soft voice said, "This person is drunk, he's very pitiful. Let him rest, we can't be delayed."

When Linghu Chong heard this voice, his heart fluttered. He thought, "Martial sister Yilin has a very good heart."

But Yihe said, "This person is deliberately making a fuss here, he must have some bad intention!" She then took a step forward and shouted, "Make way!" While she pushed Linghu Chong's left shoulder. Linghu

Chong swayed forward and shouted, "Aiyo, this is disastrous!" He took a few stumbling steps up the slope, staggering from side to side. After walking a few steps, the situation had become even more awkward. His body was now filling in the narrow pass completely. If it were not for the inappropriateness, the people behind him would have jumped over his head to get pass. Yihe went forward and shouted, "Make way already!"

"Yes, yes," answered Linghu Chong. He took a few more steps up. He got even higher as he moved forward making the narrow pass even more difficult to pass. Suddenly he shouted very loudly, "Hello, friends above

waiting to ambush, pay attention please! The people you're waiting for have arrived. You guys should come out now, no one here would be able to

escape."

When Yihe and the other disciples heard of this, they immediately retreated back. One disciple said, "This place is really dangerous, if the

enemy ambush us now, we'll have great difficulty in fighting back." Yihe

said, "If there's someone waiting to ambush us, why is he calling them out? It's just empty threat, empty threat. There's nobody up there. If we retreat in fear, the enemy will laugh at us." Another two middle-aged nun said together, "Yeah! We three people will make way in front, martial sisters follow behind us." The three nuns pulled their long swords out and went forward towards Linghu Chong's back.

Linghu Chong continuously panted loudly and said, "This hillside road is very steep. Ai, old man is very old now. I can't go further."

One of the nuns said, "Hey, you go to one side and let us walk ahead first, is this ok?"

"Don't get angry. Walking fast will get us there, walking slow will

also get us there. Hai.. Hai.. Ai, when going towards the gates of Hell, it is better to go slowly."

That nun said, "Why are you beating around the bush trying to scold people?" With a shout, Yihe thrust her sword towards Linghu Chong's heart from behind. This thrust was only meant to scare him into making way for them. So when the sword was about to pierce his body, it stopped short. At this exact moment, Linghu Chong also turned his body around. He saw that the tip of the sword was pointed at his chest and shouted, "Hey! You... you... what are you doing? I'm a government official. Didn't expect that you dare to be this rude. Come people, seize these nuns!"

Some of the younger nuns couldn't help to hold in their laughter anymore. This person was on a desolated mountainside but was still

exhibiting a bureaucratic air. It was really comical.

A nun laughingly said, "Officer, we have an urgent matter and are hurrying along. Please move to a side and let us through."

"What officer, I'm a general. You should call me general. Then I'll let you through," said Linghu Chong.

Seven to eight female disciples laughingly said, "General, please make way."

Linghu Chong laughed and straightened up. He puffed up his chest and tucked in his stomach, looking arrogant. Suddenly, he slipped and fell on the ground. The female disciples squealed and called out in alarm, "Be careful." And two of them quickly held onto his arms. Linghu Chong

slipped one more time before he stood firm. He then scolded, "His granny....

this ground is so slippery. The local government is a bucket of rice, unlike those common people10 . They should keep the mountain road in good

condition." He had already slipped twice and now he leaned his body

against a small depression on the cliff wall. Heng-Shan School's disciples quickly used their qinggong to go through. One by one, they went pass him swiftly. One of them laughed, "The local government will send eight people with a sedan chair to carry general over this mountain range. That's the way to do it."

Another one said, "General rides a horse not a sedan chair."

The next one said, "This general is different than the others. When riding a horse, he's afraid that he might fall down on the ground."

Linghu Chong indignantly said, "Nonsense! How many times have I fallen down from riding a horse? Last month, that horse was scared to death by a tiger. Only then did I slid from the horse's back and injured my upper

arm. So that one cannot be counted." The disciples laughed aloud while climbing the slope like wind.

Linghu Chong saw a slender body shook. It was Yilin. He immediately followed behind her, again blocking the disciples behind her. His steps were heavy and he was also panting heavily. For every three steps, he slipped two steps. He was climbing and falling at the same time.

Fortunately, he was actually walking quite quickly. The disciples behind were laughing and complaining at the same time. "You, general, is really... cough. Don't know how many times must you fall down in a day!"

Yilin turned her head and said, "Martial sister Yiqing, don't rush general. He's already trying to hurry, don't make him slip for real. This slope is really steep, falling down would be serious."

Linghu Chong saw her two big eyes. They were clear and bright like two clear fountains. Her elegant face shone under the moonlight looking very beautiful. He remembered the day when they were evading the pursuit of Qingcheng School. She carried him out from inside the city of Hengshan and he was staring at her right now just like he did at that time. Suddenly, he felt a soft and gentle feeling rising up in his heart. He thought, "At the top of this slope, there are many concealed enemies wanting to harm her. I don't care about my life but I must protect her and make sure she is safe."

Yilin saw his two eyes looking dull and his appearance ugly. She nodded slightly at him, revealing a warm and smiling countenance. She said, "Martial sister Yiqing, if General slipped and fell, you must quickly give him a hand."

Yiqing laughed, "He's very heavy, how do I help him?"

Originally, Heng-Shan School's rules were very strict. These female disciples did not easily chat and laugh with strangers. But Linghu Chong had been acting like a clown making them laugh repeatedly. Also, there

were no elders around. As the dark night hurried along and after exchanging some harmless jokes, everyone was feeling livelier.

Linghu Chong indignantly said, "You girls are speaking without knowing what you’re talking about. I'm a great general. Back in those days, in the battlefield, I routed and killed numerous thieves. The type of killing that makes you shiver with fear that the air around it would even be filled with a shimmering murderous aura. If you girls saw it, hey hey, you will

admire me completely. This trivial mountain slope is nothing to look at for me. How can I fall down? You're talking rubbish... Aiyo, not good!"

His foot seemed to have step on a small stone and he fell down. He put both of his hands out waving them about trying to grab onto something. The disciples behind him yelped in surprise. Yilin quickly turned back and stuck her hand out to help him. Linghu Chong grabbed her hand and Yilin used all her strength to pull him upwards. Linghu Chong was now

crouching down with his left hand on the ground supporting himself. He appeared to be very distressed. The disciples behind him were clutching their stomachs laughing loudly. Linghu Chong said, "My leather boots are too heavy to use for

climbing up mountain roads. If I were wearing your hemp shoes, then I guarantee I wouldn't fall down at all. Also, I’m only slipping and falling, what's so funny about that?"

Yilin slowly loosened her hand and said, "Yeah. General is wearing riding boots so it's not comfortable to climb up the mountain."

"Of course it's not comfortable. But with my very high prestige, I have to wear these boots. If I were just an ordinary common person like you people then I can wear those hemp shoes without any shame," said Linghu Chong. After hearing him trying to save face at all cost, the disciples all laughed again.

By now, a few more groups have arrived at the bottom of the slope while the first person who had gone up have reached the top of the slope Linghu Chong shouted, "This region has the most thieves, stealing

chicken and dogs. They don't care at all if the weather is cold, they'll still come out to steal our money. Although you buddhists don't have too much wealth, be careful. Don't let them steal your hard earned alms money."

Yiqing giggled and said, "General is here, those thieves wouldn't dare to show their faces here."

Linghu Chong answered back, "Hey, hey, be careful. I see some people at the top lurking around."

One of the female disciples said, "General, you are talking nonsense.

With us around you're still afraid of a few small time thieves?"

Just as she said this, two female disciple suddenly shouted, "Ai yo!" and rolled down the slope.

Two female disciples hastily went up and held them. From the front, a few of the female disciples shouted, "The thieves used some projectiles. Be careful!" As soon as they said this, another disciple rolled down the slope. Yihe ordered in a loud voice, "Everyone get down! Be careful of projectiles!"

Everyone quickly crouched down while Linghu Chong scolded out loudly, "Bold thieves, you don't know that General is here?" Yilin was pulling his arm and worriedly implored, "Quickly get down!"

The disciples in front were shooting their metal bead projectiles from inside their sleeves. But the enemies on the hilltop had concealed themselves behind the rocks again. Not one could be seen. So their projectiles did not find their targets. Dingjing Shi Tai rushed forward when she heard that there was enemy at the top. She was jumping over the disciples' head to get ahead. When she arrived behind Linghu Chong, she

also jumped over his head and kept going forward11.

Linghu Chong called out, "This is bad luck! Bad luck!" and spat out some saliva . He saw Dingjing Shi Tai waving her big sleeve around as she charged towards the hilltop. She was met by a rain of the enemy's projectiles. Some of the projectiles were trapped while some were knocked away flying by her sleeves.

Dingjing Shi Tai jumped a few more times and reached the top of the slope. Before she steadied herself, she felt a strong wind; a copper staff was coming towards her head. Hearing the sound of the staff cutting through the air, she knew that the strike was very heavy so she didn't dare to parry it.

She dodged to the side of the staff, but at the same time saw two spears coming forward. One was aiming high and the other one low making the

situation very dangerous. The enemy was holding an advantageous position by blocking the mountain pass with three good fighters. Dingjing Shi Tai

shouted, "Shameless!" while pulling out her long sword. Her sword slashed at the two spears and broke them, while the copper staff was swept at her

waist. She countered by hitting the top of the staff with her sword to change its direction. Just then, another spear was thrust towards her right shoulder.

The female disciples on the slope started to scream in surprise and large crashing sounds were heard. Apparently the enemies on the hilltop were pushing big rocks down the slope. Heng-Shan School's disciples were

crowded in the middle of the pass. They were jumping and crouching to

avoid the rocks from hitting them, but soon after some of them was hit and got injured.

Dingjing Shi Tai retreated back two steps and ordered, "Everyone turn back! Go back down the hill and regroup!"

She wielded her sword to prevent the enemy from going down but the enemy still managed to continuously toss more rocks down the slope. Then she heard the sounds of fighting coming from below. Apparently, enemies were also waiting for them at the bottom of the slope to prevent them from retreating.

Someone shouted from below, "Martial uncle, the martial art of the enemies cutting off our escape are strong. We can't go down."

Another one shouted, "Two martial sisters are injured."

Dingjing Shi Tai angrily flew down. She saw two men wielding

sabres preventing two disciples at the back from retreating down the hill. Dingjing Shi Tai cried out and attacked using her sword. Suddenly she heard two "hu, hu" sounds; two small hammers connected by a long chain were flying down vertically attacking the front of her body. Dingjing Shi

Tai lifted her sword to block one of the meteor hammers while the other one went through and almost hit her head. Dingjing Shi Tai was startled, "Great power." If they were on flat ground, she wouldn't have used her sword to block the hammer. She would have instead launched an attack from the

side. But the mountain pass was too narrow and there was only two ways to go; which was either up or down. The enemy twirled his meteor hammers quickly and the hammers, looking like two black clouds, came hurtling towards Dingjing Shi Tai. Dingjing Shi Tai was unable to use her clever

sword art against him so she retreated step-by-step back towards the hilltop.

From above, she heard the cries of the disciples and saw some of them falling down on the ground after being hit by projectiles. Dingjing Shi Tai calmed herself down and thought to herself that the enemies' martial art were weaker at the hilltop and should be easier to deal with. So she quickly rushed back up and jumped over some of the disciples and also passed over Linghu Chong's head.

Linghu Chong called out to her, "Aiyo, what are you doing? Do you think you're jumping over a chicken here? You're already so old but still joking around, jumping over my head to go here and there. Do you think I can still gamble after this?"

Dingjing Shi Tai was hurrying trying to break through the enemy's trap so she didn't hear those words. But Yilin apologised, "Sorry, my martial uncle didn't do it on purpose." Linghu Chong grumbled and complained, "I already said earlier that there were thieves here. But none of you believed me." But in his heart, he was thinking, "I saw earlier that the Devil Sect people were setting up an ambush on the hilltop, but apparently they also have people at the bottom. Even though Heng-Shan School has many people here, they're all crowded in the middle of this narrow pass. So they

can't display their skills. The situation is not encouraging at all."

When Dingjing Shi Tai arrived at the hilltop, she suddenly saw the shadow of a stick moving. A Buddhist steel staff was coming towards her head. The enemies have adjusted so that their better skilled people were now fighting her. Dingjing Shi Tai thought, "Today, if I don't manage to

break through this pass, I'm afraid these disciples will be annihilated." She leaned to one side and thrust her sword out in an angle. The Buddhist staff missed her body by only a few inches. She then shot forward and plunged her sword towards the monk. In making this move, she disregarded her own life, as it was potentially disastrous to both people. That monk tried hard to protect himself but it was too late. He scoffed lightly as the sword pierced the side of his body. But that monk was extremely brave. Uttering a cry, he broke the long sword in two with his fist. His fist was bloodied as it hit the sword.

Dingjing Shi Tai shouted, "Quickly get up here! Give me a sword!"

Yihe flew up and held her sword horizontally. She shouted, "Martial uncle, sword!" Dingjing Shi Tai turned her body around to take the sword. But a spear was thrust slantingly towards Yihe, while another spear was thrust towards Dingjing Shi Tai. Yihe had to use her sword to ward off the attack which allowed the spear wielding person to close in on her bit by bit. This also forced Yihe to retreat back down the slope. With this happening, Yihe wasn't able to pass the sword to Dingjing Shi Tai. In the mean time, three people charged onto the hilltop, two with sabres and the other one

with a judge's pen, surrounding Dingjing Shi Tai. Dingjing Shi Tai's two palms were flitting about using Heng-Shan School's "Tian Zhang Zhang Fa" (Heaven's Palm) to ward off the attack from the four people. She was

already around sixty years old but her hands were still agile. Unexpectedly, she was holding her own using only her bare hands even though the four masters from the Devil Sect were fighting cooperatively against her.

Yilin was frightened and whispered, "Ai yo! What do I do? What do I

do?"

Linghu Chong said with a loud voice, "These small time thieves are

too unruly. Make way! Make way! General is going up there to capture these thieves!" Yilin worriedly said, "You mustn't go! They're not small time thieves. All of them have good martial art. If you go up there then they'll kill you."

Linghu Chong puffed up his chest and shouted boldly, "Under a

sunny day... " He then raised his head up to the sky; it was almost daybreak, but it wasn't a "sunny day". But he didn't care and continued, "These small time thieves are cutting off the road and plundering people. Bullying

women. Hng, hng, aren't they afraid of the law?"

"We're not ordinary women. Enemies are also not small time thieves cutting off the road and plundering people," said Yilin.

Linghu Chong took a big step going up the slope. He squeezed through the female disciples to go up. The female disciples were staying close to the side of the cliff face and allowed him to go up.

When Linghu Chong reached the hilltop, he extended his hand to pull out his Yaodao sabre. As a fraction of the sabre was pulled out, he suddenly stopped and pretended that he couldn't pull the sabre out anymore. He

scolded, "Your granny, this sabre is looking for trouble. When an important matter comes up, it suddenly becomes rusted. How can General capture thieves with a rusted sabre?"

Yihe was fighting for her life against one of the Devil Sect’s people on the hilltop when she heard Linghu Chong behind her talking nonsense about his sword rusting and why he couldn't pull out his sword. She was angry but also found it funny. She shouted, "Quick! Go away! It's dangerous up here.” As she called out, she lost her concentration slightly and her defense wasn't as tight. With a fierce sound, a spear was thrust forward and nearly hit her shoulder. Yihe retreated half a step while that person thrust his spear again.

Linghu Chong shouted, "That's wrong, that's wrong! Bold thieves, don't you see General standing right here?" In a flash, he slanted his body and was in front of Yihe. The spear wielding man was startled. As the sky was gradually becoming brighter, he was able to see his clothes were like those that government officials wear. Just at that moment, even though his spear was pointing at the officer's chest, he didn't thrust it forward. He

shouted, "Who are you? Before this, someone was calling out from the bottom of the hill. Was it you, government dog?"

Linghu Chong rebuked, "Your granny, are you calling me a government dog? You're a thief dog! You're here cutting off the road and plundering. And even though General is here, you still haven't run away. You're the real outlaw! After General has captured you, I’m going to send you to the local authority. With fifty planks each, you all are going to be beaten until your bottom is swollen and you are calling out for your mommy!" The spear-wielding man didn't want to kill a government official. But he was greatly annoyed and shouted, "Scram you rotten egg! If you talk nonsense again, I’ll poke three holes through your government dog's body!"

Linghu Chong saw Dingjing Shi Tai had not been defeated yet and the Devil Sect people had stopped shooting projectiles and throwing rocks down the slope. He shouted, "Bold thieves, quickly kneel down and kowtow. If General sees your eighty years old mother in your home, then maybe I'll go easy on you. If not, hng, hng, I'll chop everyone's head off...

..."

When Heng-Shan School's disciples heard this, they all scowled and shook their heads. They all had the same thought, "This person is crazy." Yihe walked up a step with her sword up. If the enemy thrust his spear towards the General, then it's going to be easier for her to block it. Linghu Chong used his strength to pull out his sabre again and then scolded, "Your

granny, just before battle, my precious sabre from my ancestor has suddenly become rusted. Hng, if only my precious sabre were not rusted, all of your small time thieves' heads would’ve been chopped off."

That man wielding the spear laughed loudly and shouted, "Go back to your mum!" He then swept his spear towards Linghu Chong's waist. Linghu Chong was hit and pushed down but at the same time he pulled out his

sheath. He shouted, "Ai yo!" and pushed his body forward. Yihe shouted, "Be careful!" As Linghu Chong was falling down, he held his sheathed

sabre out and used the point of his sheath to hit the spear wielding man’s side of the small of the back.

That man dropped to the ground wordlessly. With a slapping sound,

Linghu Chong also fell to the ground. Then as he struggled to get up, he

shouted, "Ah ha! You also fell down. We've both fallen down. I’m not going to concede defeat. Come on, we fight again!" Yihe grabbed that man and threw him behind. She was thinking that now she had captured an enemy, things would become easier. Another three Devil Sect people came over to save that person. Linghu Chong called out, "Ah Ha, this is disastrous, these small time thieves are really going to refuse being captured."

Linghu Chong raised his sheathed sabre to the west and his finger on the other hand was pointed to the east. It was completely unmethodical.

Dugu Nine Swords didn't have any set moves so when it was used, it can be either graceful or clumsy and awkward, but strangely still maintaining the

same power. This was because Dugu Nine Swords concentrated on the sword intention not set moves.

He was now thrusting his sword towards an enemy's various

accupoints without any great force. During a fight, it would be difficult to accurately hit people's accupoints. But a refined sword art with vigorous internal energy attached to the strike, even if it wasn’t that accurate, might

still perhaps hit the side of the accupoints. So considering this, the enemy in front of him continuously protected himself following Linghu Chong's sheathed sabre wherever it went.

At the same time, Linghu Chong was staggering, looking like he was about to fall down, and waving his sheathed sabre about. When suddenly, the point of the scabbard hit that enemy's stomach. That person gasped and went limp. Linghu Chong yelled, "Ah Ha!" and jumped back a step. At the same time, his sword handle hit the back of another enemy's shoulder. That person immediately fell down and swayed back and forth on the ground.

Linghu Chong continued to step back and tripped on that person's body. He scolded him, "Your granny!" and kicked his body away.

Then his sword handle inadvertently hit a Devil Sect person wielding a sabre. This person was one of the three masters besieging Dingjing Shi Tai. The back of his body was hit and he dropped his sword. Dingjing Shi Tai took this opportunity to hit his chest making that person sprout blood from his mouth and life fled from his body.

Linghu Chong called out, "Careful, careful!" While he retreated a few steps and was about to bump into the back of the person holding the judge's pen. That person quickly sent his pen back to protect himself. Linghu

Chong staggered and dashed forward while waving his scabbard around. Soon, more Devil Sect people were hit and fell down.

That person wielding the judge's pen was greatly annoyed and rushed at Linghu Chong. Linghu Chong yelled, "Mommy!" as he pulled up and ran away with that person pursuing him. Linghu Chong suddenly stopped and bent his waist forward; while at the same time poked his sword handle through his armpit. That person never expected him to be able to run so fast and suddenly stopped motionless in an instant. Although his martial art was already high, he was still inferior. He quickly applied a downward force to stop, but his chest was still hit by Linghu Chong's extended sword handle. That person's face showed an extremely odd expression. He couldn't believe what just happened. But his body had slowly started to fall down.

Linghu Chong turned around and saw the fighting on the hilltop had ceased. A few of the Heng-Shan School's disciples had already gone up the slope. Both the orthodox and Devil Sect people were now facing each other while the remaining disciples were quickly rushing up the slope. He

shouted, "Hey, small time thieves, you've seen General here. Quickly kneel down and surrender. Really strange!" He then started to dance his sheathed sabre around, cried out and charged towards the cluster of Devil Sect people. The Devil Sect people quickly sent out their swords and spears.

Heng-Shan School disciples were about to go forward and help when they heard Linghu Chong shouted, "Skillful! Skillful! Very fierce thieves!" and he came out from the cluster of Devil Sect people. His steps were heavy and he was dragging his feet through the mud as he ran. He missed a step

and fell down. His scabbard shot up and hit his own forehead making him dizzy. But he had already managed to hit five people as he entered and

exited the cluster of Devil Sect people. Both groups were dumbfounded looking at him.

Both Yihe and Yiqing rushed forward and asked, "General, are you alright?"

Both of Linghu Chong's eyes were closed. He didn't answer them pretending to have passed out. The leader of the Devil Sect group saw that one person had died and this lunatic general had hit eleven of his people.

Just now, when the General charged at his party, he made his moves one

after another to grab the General. But all of his moves ended up with him in danger of being hit by the scabbard. Although the scabbard was not

attacking any accupoints, it was coming in swift and fierce with its weird positioning. He didn't know this person's background but sensed that his martial art was high and its true depth couldn't be measured.

He then saw the people who had been hit; the Heng-Shan School had now captured five of them. Today, everything had gone pear-shaped. He

shouted with a clear voice, "Dingjing Shi Tai, do you want the antidotes for your disciples who got hit by the projectiles?"

Dingjing Shi Tai already saw that those disciples who got hit by the projectiles fell into a coma and couldn't be woken up. The injuries made by the projectiles were also leaking black blood. She knew that the projectiles were poisoned. When she heard his words, she already had a clear idea of what to do. She shouted, "Give us the antidotes in exchange for your people!" That person nodded his head and muttered something under his

breath. One of the Devil Sect people took out a porcelain bottle and stood in front of Dingjing Shi Tai and bowed slightly. Dingjing Shi Tai took the bottle and fiercely said, "If the antidote is effective then I'll release them myself."

That old person said, "Alright. Heng-Shan's DingJing Shi Tai, I'm not the kind of person who eats his own words." He waved his hand and the

Devil Sect people went down the west slope taking their injured and dead people with them. A short time later, all of them had left the hilltop leaving their five captured comrades.

After a long time, LingHu Chong woke up and called out, "Ouch, hurts so much!" as he rubbed his swollen forehead. Then with a surprised tone, he asked, "Where did all those thieves go?" YiHe giggled and said,

"General, you're really strange. Just then, it was lucky that you somehow hit a number of them when you charged at their group. The leader of those

small-time thieves was truly frightened by you." LingHu Chong laughed loudly and said, "Wonderful, wonderful! Big general has such a big reputation. When I ride out to confront these small- time thieves of course it's a different matter altogether. They would

certainly run away with their tails between their legs. Ai yo...” Then he rubbed his swollen forehead again with his face showing a painful

expression.

"General, have you been injured? We have some medicine," said Yiqing.

LingHu Chong answered proudly, "No, no, I'm not injured! When a gentleman dies in the battlefield ("Ma Ge Li Shi"*), it's a common thing..."

YiHe pursed her lips smiling and said, "I'm afraid it's "Ma Ge Guo Shi"*, how can it be "Ma Ge Li Shi"*?"

YiQing gave her a stern look and said, "You always love to find other people's fault, what's the point of pointing out his fault?"

LingHu Chong said, "We people from the north learns "Ma Ge Li Shi", you southern people must have learnt it differently."

YiHe turned her head and said, "But we're also from the north." 12

Master DingJing went to the injured disciples and gave them the

antidote for the poison. When she reached LingHu Chong, she bowed to him and said, "I am Heng-Shan's old nun DingJing. May I ask for young hero's name?"

Linghu Chong's heart shivered in fear, "This Heng-Shan School

senior really has good eyesight. She knows that I'm still young and also that I'm actually a brave general."

He immediately bowed and clasped his fist respectfully returning the bow. He said, "As Shi Tai requested, my surname is Wu. My name is Tiande. Tian from "Tian En Hao Dang" (enormous graciousness). De from "Dao De Wen Zhang" (Morality)13. I'm going to Quanzhou government office to take up office."

Dingjing Shi Tai already expected that he wouldn't reveal his real identity and he might not necessarily be a real general. She said, "Today, my Heng-Shan School has met difficulty and General has helped us. I don't know how to repay your virtue and kindness. General's martial art is very deep. Although poor nun has taken a look at it, I still don't know which

school General comes from. Really admirable."

Linghu Chong laughed loudly and said, "Old Shi Tai flatters me. But to be honest, my martial art has a few foundations. On the top "Snow falling from the sky", at the bottom "Ancient tree root", in the middle "Black tiger stealing heart". Ai yo, ai yo." As he was talking, his hands and feet were

moving about showing off the martial art moves. It looked like that he had used too much force in his demonstration and had strained himself. He rubbed his aching joints while his eyes stole a look towards Yilin.

She was startled and for a moment it looked as if she had something to say. He thought, "My martial sister has a really good conscience. I

wonder how she will react if she knew I am the general."

Naturally, Dingjing Shi Tai was aware that he was pretending. She smiled and said, "General doesn't want to reveal himself since he's an

honorable man. Poor nun can only burn the incense stick from morning till dusk to pray for General's good fortune and health. Best wishes to General."

Linghu Chong said, "Thank you very much, thank you very much.

Please pray to Buddha for my promotion and wealth. Little general will also pray for the safety of old Shi Tai and all the little Shi Tai on your journey, for bad luck to turn into good, and for all matters to go smoothly. HaHa!

HaHa!" As he was laughing loudly, he bowed deeply to Dingjing Shi Tai and swaggered away. He had been in the Five Mountains Sword Alliance for a long time, so even though he was pretending to be crazy, he still didn't dare to be inappropriate towards this senior from Heng-Shan School. The school disciples were now looking at him stumbling towards the south slope. As he disappeared, they quickly surrounded Dingjing Shi Tai and started to barrage her with questions: "Martial uncle, what's his background?" "Is he really insane or is he just pretending?" "Is his martial art very high, or was he merely lucky and mistakenly hit the enemies here and there?" "He doesn't resemble a general. He still looks young, am I right?"

Dingjing Shi Tai sighed and turned her head to look at the disciples injured by the projectiles. After the medicine was applied to their wounds, the black blood had turned red and their pulses strengthened. They were no longer in danger. She then gave Heng-Shan School's unique medicine to

each of the disciples to administer it to their own injuries. After that she released the acupoints of the five captured Devil Sect people and told them to leave.

She then ordered the disciples, "Everyone go under that tree to rest", while she went alone and sat on a big stone. She closed her eyes and pondered, "When this person charged at the Devil Sect group, the leader of the group fought with him. But he still managed to hit five of their people.

He wasn't using a martial art that aimed at the acupoints. He was using some martial art style but I didn't expect that there was not even a slight demonstration of his school's martial art. In Wulin, there must be such a

young person who's that skilful. But whose disciple is he? This person was a friend and not an enemy. This is really Heng-Shan School's big fortune."

At mid-morning, she ordered the disciples to fetch a brush, an ink

stone, and a thin silk to write a letter. She ordered, "Yizhi, bring the pigeon here." Yizhi answered and took a pigeon out of the bamboo cage she was carrying. In the mean time, Dingjing Shi Tai rolled up the thin silk letter into a thin strip and put it in a slender bamboo tube. She put the cover on

and sealed it with melted wax. Then using an iron wire, she put the bamboo tube on the pigeon's left feet. After a silent prayer, she released the pigeon. The pigeon flew north, gradually going higher and further. Not long after, it was only a black dot in the sky.

After Dingjing Shi Tai released the pigeon, everyone became quiet, completely different from before when they were vigorously fighting the

enemies. Dingjing Shi Tai raised her head to look up. She saw the black dot entering a white cloud and disappeared, but she continued to look into the distance. All the disciples didn't dare to make any sound. At the recent battle, although that clown general was jesting around and acting comical, the situation in actuality was really dangerous. It can be said that everyone had now escaped death. After standing there for a long time, Dingjing Shi Tai turned around and beckoned forward a fifteen or sixteen years old girl. The girl immediately went and stood in front of her.

She quietly called out, "Master!"

Dingjing Shi Tai lightly brushed the girl's hair to comfort her and said, "Juan'er, were you scared before?"

The young girl nodded and said, "I was scared! Lucky that General was brave and fought those bad people off."

Dingjing Shi Tai smiled and said, "This General wasn't really brave but his martial was really good."

"Master, is his martial art really that high? I saw his moves were erratic and he was really careless. He even hit his head with his own

scabbard. Also he was saying something like his saber was rusting and couldn't pull it out of the scabbard?" said that girl unbelieving. This young lady Qin Juan was Dingjing Shi Tai's disciple. She was clever and bright, and she was really loved by her master. Between the

Heng-Shan School disciples, sixty percent of the disciples were nuns, while the rest were secular disciples. Some of these disciples were middle aged

and there were also fifty to sixty year old grannies. Qin Juan was the youngest disciple in the Heng-Shan School.

The other disciples heard Dingjing Shi Tai conversing with martial

sister Qin Juan so they slowly gathered around. Yihe interposed herself and said, "What do you mean that his moves were erratic? He was just pretending and was actually concealing his excellent martial art. That is

called smart! Martial uncle, what do you think of this General's background? Which house or school is he from?"

Dingjing Shi Tai slowly shook her head and said, "This person's martial art might be "immeasurably deep". I don't know how else to describe him except with these two words."

Qin Juan asked, "Master, was that letter for martial uncle? Do you think it will get there soon?"

Dingjing Shi Tai said, "When the pigeon gets to Suzhou's Baiyi Temple, they will exchange it with another pigeon. At Ji'nan Miaoxiang

Temple, they will change to another pigeon. Again at the mouth of the old river at Qingjing Temple, they will use another pigeon. The letter will arrive in Hengshan after the use of these four pigeons."

Yihe said, "Fortunately we didn't lose anyone. I believe those several martial sisters who got hit by the projectiles won't be a big hindrance after two days. While those who got hit by the rocks, we also don't have to worry about them losing their lives."

Dingjing Shi Tai was lost in her own thoughts so she didn't hear what Yihe just said. She was thinking, "Currently, Heng-Shan School’s position and movement in the south is a secret. We've been sleeping during the day and travelling at night. How did the Devil Sect people find out and managed to setup an ambush here?" She then turned her head towards the disciples and said, "The enemies have disappeared and wouldn't dare to

come back right now. Everyone is now very tired so we'll eat some provisions here and then sleep for a while under that tree's shade." Everyone complied with her order. Some people erected an iron trivet to boil some water for brewing tea. After eating their meal, they slept for a few hours till around noon.

Dingjing Shi Tai looked at the weary expressions of the injured disciples. She said, "The enemies have discovered our movements so there's no need for us to travel at night anymore. Those injured must also recuperate. Tonight, we'll rest at an Inn in Nianbapu."

They went down the hill and, after several hours, reached Nianbapu. It was an important location for transportation between Zhejiang and Fujian province for people travelling through the Xianxia mountain range. As they neared the small town, the sky had not darkened yet. Unexpectedly, there

was not a single person inside the small town.

Yihe said, "Fujian's custom is really weird. It's still so early but everyone went to sleep already."

Dingjing Shi Tai said, "Let's go further to get lodgings for the night." Even though Heng-Shan School has contact with every temple in

Wulin, there was no temple to stay in at Nianbapu so they had to find an inn to spend the night. It was inconvenient that normal people had a taboo

against nuns and frequently caused trouble because they believe that seeing nuns brought them bad luck. It was good that the nuns were accustomed to receiving this kind of treatment and never held a grudge. But now they saw all the stores on the street were closed and boarded up. Nianbapu was neither big nor small, but it had around two hundred stores and inns. But as they looked around, the town resembled a ghost town. The setting sun was still providing some light but Nianbapu's streets were deserted as if it were in the middle of the night.

The disciples were on the street looking around when they noticed a white cloth hanging on a pole in front of an inn. The words "Xian An Inn" were written in big letters on the cloth. The inn's big door was shut and there was no sound at all on the street. One of the disciples named Zheng E knocked on the door. Zheng E was a secular disciple. She had a round face and was always carrying a smile. She was good at talking and very likeable.

Whenever the nuns had to deal with people on the road, Zheng E was

always the one to do it. This was to prevent other people from seeing nuns and becoming agitated. Zheng E knocked on the door a few times, stopped a while and then knocked a few more times. After waiting for a long time, no one answered the door. Zheng E called out, "Uncle, please open the door." Her voice was clear and carried far, just like people who have practised martial art. Even people several courtyards away would be able to hear it. But there was no answer from inside the inn. The situation was

clearly very strange. Yihe went forward and put her ear on the door. No sound could be heard from the inside. She turned her head and said,

"Martial uncle, there's no one inside."

Dingjing Shi Tai secretly felt something wasn't right. She saw the sign for the inn was still new. The door's board had also been washed clean recently. It didn't look like a place that had gone out of business at all. She

said, "We’ll keep going and take a look around. This town must have more than one inn."

They kept walking forward and passed several more shops before they saw another inn named "Nan An Inn". Zheng E went to knock on the door again but the result was still the same. No one answered. Zheng E said, "Sister Yihe, let's go in and take a look."

"Ok," answered Yihe and they both jumped the wall to go in. "Anyone here?" asked Zheng E.

When no one answered, they pulled their swords out and walked into the main hall of the inn. They took a look around the kitchen, the barn and every room in the inn. But they still didn’t see anyone. But they observed that there was no dust on the table or the chairs. Also, the teapot on top of a table was still warm. Zheng E opened the main door to let Dingjing Shi Tai enter and to report the situation. Everyone thought that the situation was really strange.

Dingjing Shi Tai commanded, "Get seven people into a group. Go

around the town and ask what's going on. Don't go too far, if you see signs of enemies then whistle out."

They acknowledged her order and quickly went out the door. Only Dingjing Shi Tai remained inside the main hall. Before long, the sounds of the disciples’ footsteps have disappeared and no more sound was heard.

The stillness of this Nianbapu town made the hair at the back of Dingjing Shi Tai's neck to stand up. The town was so big but not a sound was heard. There was not even a small sound of birds chirping or dogs barking. This was really strange.

Dingjing Shi Tai suddenly felt uneasy. "Could it be that this is the Devil Sect's trap? The female disciples don't have much experience travelling the Jianghu. They might be deceived and can easily fall into a trap." She walked to the door and saw shadows moving in the northeast. From the west, she also saw some people moving into other people's houses. They were all Heng-Shan School's disciples. She felt slightly relieved after seeing them. After some time, the disciples started to return. They all reported the same thing: there was no one in the town.

"Not just people, we also couldn't see any animals around," added

Yihe.

Yiqing said, "I think they haven't been gone for too long. There were

opened chests and baskets inside the houses. They seemed to have taken all the money."

Dingjing Shi Tai nodded and asked, "What do you think is going on?"

Yihe answered, "I'm guessing that the Devil Sect people have chased out all the townspeople just recently to launch an attack."

"Correct! This time the Devil Sect wants to fight us again. That's very good, are you all scared?" said Dingjing Shi Tai.

"Eradicating evil is our inherent responsibilities as Buddhists," the disciples answered together.

Dingjing Shi Tai said, "We'll rest at this inn. We'll take our meals first.

Be careful and see if the water, rice, or vegetables have been poisoned." Heng-Shan School people did not speak while taking their meals.

They were on alert and tried to listen for any sound from the outside. The first disciple to finish eating went out to relieve the disciple guarding outside. Yiqing suddenly thought of something and said, "Martial uncle, why don't we go out to some of the houses and light up the lamps in there. The Devil Sect people won't know our whereabouts."

Dingjing Shi Tai said, "This idea is very good. You seven people go and light up the lamps."

Not long after, Dingjing Shi Tai also went out the main door. She looked towards the west and lights were showing through the windows of many houses. After some time, lights came on from the houses in the east. The street lit up with lights from the windows. But there was still no sound to be heard. Dingjing Shi Tai raised her head and looked at the moon. She prayed, "Buddha, bless and protect us. Let my Heng-Shan School disciples escape from harm this time. If disciple Dingjing can go back to Heng-Shan, then I will light up an incense and won't use my sword ever again."

In her former years, she had roamed Jianghu and had many imposing achievements under her belt. But after last night's battle on Xianxia mountain range, she had lingering fear on her mind for the disciples under her command. If she were by herself, even if the situation had been ten times more dangerous, she would not even worry about it. She prayed

again, "Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin, if Heng-Shan School people must receive injuries, let disciple Dingjing alone received that disaster for retribution for killing people. Let disciple alone bear this."

Suddenly, she heard a female's voice shouting from the northeast. "Help, help!" The shrill voice sounded sorrowful. Dingjing Shi Tai was alarmed. The voice did not sound like any of her school's disciples. She squinted her eyes looking towards the northeast and did not see any movement. She then saw Yiqing and six disciples went towards the

northeast. She waited where she was watching what was going on. After a long time, Yiqing and her group still had not came back.

Yihe said, "Martial uncle, disciple and six disciple sisters will go to take a look."

Dingjing Shi Tai nodded her head. Yihe quickly led six disciples and went away to investigate. Suddenly, the flashing of a sword appeared briefly and the same female's voice was heard shrieking. "Someone's murdered! Help, help!" Heng-Shan School disciples crowded together to have a look. They did not know what was going on there. The voice originated from where Yiqing and Yihe's two groups had gone before.

Seemed like they had met the enemies but there was no sound of fighting. They then heard that female's voice shrilly shouting again, "Help!" Everyone looked at Dingjing Shi Tai waiting for her to command them to go and help.

Dingjing Shi Tai said, "Yu Sao, take six disciple sisters to check that area. No matter what you see, you must immediately come back."

Yu Sao was a forty years old middle-aged woman. She was originally Dingxian Shi Tai's servant from Hengshan's Baiyun Temple. Later,

Dingxian Shi Tai saw that she was capable and accepted her as a disciple. This trip with Dingjing Shi Tai was her first experience in Jianghu. Yu Sao bowed to comply with Dingjing Shi Tai's order. Then she took six disciple sisters to go towards the northeast.

But none of these seven people came back either. Dingjing Shi Tai became more frightened suspecting that the disciples had fallen into the

enemy's trap; enticed by the enemy and captured one by one. They waited for a while longer but there was not the slightest bit of movement and there were no more calls for help either.

Dingjing Shi Tai said, "Yizhi, Yizhen, wait here and tend to the injured sisters. No matter what happens, you mustn't leave the inn so as to prevent the enemy from luring you out."

Yizhi and Yizhen bowed acknowledging the order. Dingjing Shi Tai said to the three young disciples Zheng E, Yilin and Qin Juan, "You three come with me," while pulling out her long sword and starting out to the

northeast. When they got nearer, they saw a big house where the lamps have been extinguished. The area was dark and no sound was heard.

Dingjing Shi Tai fiercely shouted, "Devil Sect witch, come out and fight. What kind of heroic deeds is it ambushing people like this?"

After waiting for a while, they still did not hear anyone answering from inside the house. So Dingjing Shi Tai flew and kicked the main door of the big house. The door latch broke and the door banged opened. It was dark inside the house and Dingjing Shi Tai could not tell if there was

anyone in there so she didn't dare to rashly charge in.

She inquired, "Yihe, Yiqing, Yu Sao, do you hear my voice?" Her voice was loud and it travelled far. She then heard her echo from

somewhere far. Once the echo died out, the place was completely quiet

again. Dingjing Shi Tai turned her head around and said, "The three of you follow behind me closely." She brandished her sword as she went around the outside of the house but didn't find anything unusual. So she jumped on top of the house and squinted her eyes to look around the four directions.

There was no wind at all and the tree branches were still. The cold moon's light shone on the tiles. The scenery was just like that in Hengshan when she was strolling beneath the moon. But in Hengshan, there was a feeling of tranquillity while in this place, there was a feeling of

surreptitiousness and murderous air. Dingjing Shi Tai was using her whole body to sense her surrounding but she hadn't been able to sense the enemy so far. She was really at a loss. She was feeling anxious and regretted, "I

already knew that the Devil Sect demons would have many deceptions. I shouldn't have sent them in turns..." Suddenly, she shivered in fear and

clapped her hands while going down the house. She quickly used her qinggong to run back towards the Nan An Inn. She called out, "Yizhi, Yizhen, have you seen anything?" No one answered from inside the inn.

She rushed in with cold sweat drenching her body but there was no one inside the inn. The couch that the injured disciples were sleeping on had also disappeared. At this point, Dingjing Shi Tai thought carefully but she had run out of idea. The shadow casted by her sword point was quivering as reflected lights from her sword flickered around the room. Her hand holding the sword was shaking. Her female disciples had suddenly disappeared without making any noise. How did this all happen? What's there to do? After a moment, she felt her lips dried, her tongue parched, and her whole body drained of energy. She felt paralyzed.

But this weakness was only momentary, as she took a deep breath and gathered her qi in the Dantian region. With her vigor immediately restored, she quickly went from room to room. She found nothing unusual in those rooms. She called out, "E'er, Juan'er, come in here." But in the midst of the night, she could only hear her own voice. There was no sound from Zheng E, Qin Juan and Yilin. Dingjing Shi Tai muttered, "Not good!" and quickly rushed out. Once she was outside, she shouted, "Zheng E, Qin Juan, Yilin, where are you?"

Outside, the pale moon was shining down and there was no trace of the three disciples. Dingjing Shi Tai wasn't frightened by this turn of event but turned angry instead. She jumped up the roof and shouted, "Devil Sect demons, what type of cheap tactic is this? What kind of win is this,

ambushing people?" She cried out repeatedly. But all the area around her was very quiet and not a single sound was heard. As she was continuously calling out, it seemed that she was the only remaining person inside the

Nianbapu town. There was nothing she could do. Suddenly, she shouted

with a clear voice, "Devil Sect demons, listen to me. You still don’t want to appear? So, Dongfang Bubai's disciples are shameless and gutless. You don't dare to face me and my school's people. What Dongfang Bubai? It's merely Dongfang Bibai. Dongfang Bibai, do you dare to come out and meet this old nun? Dongfang Bibai, Dongfang Bibai, I think you're afraid!"

She knew that when any Devil Sect people heard someone insulting their Chief's reputation then they would have to come out and risk their lives in defending it. This was a big matter for them. Sure enough, after she called out a few "Dongfang Bibai", seven people rushed out from inside a house. They quietly jumped on the roof and surrounded her. Dingjing Shi Tai felt happy now that the enemies had appeared. She thought, "Finally, you demons have come out after being scolded by me. Wanting to cut me up and cut my corpse in two. This is better than not seeing their shadows at all." But these seven people just stood there without saying anything.

Dingjing Shi Tai angrily asked, "Where's my disciples? Where have you taken them?" Her enemies stayed quiet and didn't answer her. Dingjing Shi Tai saw the two people guarding at the west were around fifty years old. Their faces were stiff like that of corpses and there was no sign of anger on their faces.

She sighed heavily and shouted, "Ok, watch out for my sword!"

She thrust her sword towards a person standing at the northwest. She knew that she was surrounded and that this thrust may not find its mark so she used this thrust as a false move. That person just stood still waiting for the sword as he knew it was only a false move. Dingjing Shi Tai was planning to take her sword back but when she saw him not paying attention to her, instead of taking her sword back in mid stroke, she put power into her right hand and pushed the sword forward. But the two people besides her target moved quickly and separately aimed their palms towards her left and right shoulders. Dingjing Shi Tai leaned to one side, jumped into the

air, turned around and thrust her sword towards the tall person at the east

side. The tall man slid back half a step and with a ringing sound, the sword hit a heavy iron tablet. He then lifted the iron tablet and struck at the top of her sword. Dingjing Shi Tai sneered, circled her sword and thrust it towards an old man on the left. The old man extended his left hand along the

sword's path to try and grab it. In the moonlight, it looked like that he was wearing a black glove. Dingjing Shi Tai guessed that the glove's material might be impervious to the sword thrust. That seemed like the only reason why he was brave enough to use just his hands to grab a long sword.

She fought one enemy after another. Dingjing Shi Tai had now fought with five of the seven enemies. She felt that these five enemies were not that good. If she were only fighting with one or even two of them, she

would not be afraid at all and would most probably win. But against these seven people, when she attacked any little crack in one person's defense, it

was immediately covered by the next person. Then they would immediately counter-attack and turned the situation dangerously against her. After some more fighting, she thought in alarm, "Who are these capable people from the Devil Sect? I know most of their well-known people. Their martial arts and the weapons they used are also known by the Five Mountains Sword

Alliance. So what's the background of these seven people, I really can't tell where they come from. I didn't anticipate that Devil Sect's power would grow so large in these past few years. They unexpectedly have many masters working for them."

She had fought around sixty to seventy moves but she was unable to keep up any further. She was now breathing heavily when from the corner of her eyes she saw more than ten shadows on the roof. Clearly, these people had been hiding there for a long time and only now appeared

suddenly. She gloomily muttered, "It's finished, it's finished! I can't even handle these seven people. Now there are more enemies watching from the sides. Dingjing, it would be hard to escape from your death today. You

would suffer a big insult if you fall into the enemies' hand. It would be better if you had killed yourself earlier. This stinky sack of leather is only my temporary residence. But when it's destroyed, I would still have some regrets. This time I had taken along many disciples and delivered them to their deaths. Old nun Dingjing is ashamed to face Heng-Shan School’s ancestors."

She thrust three times "Shua, shua, shua" forcing the enemies to take two steps back. She suddenly reversed the long sword and pierced it towards her own heart.

As her sword was about to reach her chest, a "dang" sound was heard, her hand shook and the tip of her long sword was knocked away from her

chest. A man was besides her with a sword in his hand. He exclaimed,

"Dingjing Shi Tai, don't be short-sighted. Friends from Songshan School are here!" He was the one who knocked her long sword away. She then heard the sounds of swords clashing. More than ten men had one by one jumped out from their hiding spots to fight with those seven Devil Sect people.

Having escaped from death, Dingjing Shi Tai felt revitalised. She immediately went to join the battle again. But she saw that the Songshan School people were now fighting two against one and the seven Devil Sect people were at a disadvantage. Those seven people saw that sheer number was overwhelming them. They whistled and started to retreat towards the

south. Dingjing Shi Tai chased them holding her sword. She suddenly heard the sound of wind coming towards her and recognized that many small projectiles had been released. Dingjing Shi Tai lifted her sword and

concentrated on deflecting each of the projectiles aimed at her. In the middle of the night, there was only a glimmer of light from the moon and stars. Her long sword danced around and a "ding, ding" sound was heard

continuously as her sword deflected all the projectiles. As she was hindered by the projectiles, those seven Devil Sect people had managed to escape far. She heard the person behind her said, "Heng-Shan School's "Ten-thousand Blossoms Sword Art" is exquisite and peerless. Today our eyes have been widened." Dingjing Shi Tai sheathed her long sword and slowly turned around. In a short moment, everything had become still and quiet. When she was fighting just then, she was a vigorous wulin martial artist. But now that the fight is over, she had turned into an amiable and benevolent old nun. She joined her two hands greeting the Songshan School people and said, "Older martial brother Zhong, thank you very much for breaking the encirclement."

She now recognised the middle-aged man as Songshan School leader Zuo's younger martial brother. His name was Zhong Zhen and his nickname was "Nine Bent Sword". This nickname was not because he really used a bent sword but it was because his sword art fluctuates irregularly and was unpredictable. Dingjing Shi Tai had met him before at a meeting of the Five Mountains Sword Alliance at Taishan Mountain monastery. From the remaining Songshan School people, she knew three or four of them.

Zhong Zhen cupped his hand returning the courtesy. He smiled and said, "Dingjing Shi Tai, you fought with seven people by yourself. These seven people are Devil Sect's "Seven Star Emissaries". Your sword art is really high. I admire you." Dingjing Shi Tai pondered, "So, these seven

chaps are called 'Seven Star Emissaries'." She didn't want to appear unknowledgeable so she didn't ask anymore. She thought she could inquire about those people some other day. It was already good enough now for her to know their names.

One by one, the rest of the Songshan School people went up to greet her. Two of them were Zhong Zhen's younger martial brothers, while the rest were disciples a generation lower than them. Dingjing Shi Tai was still returning the greetings when she said, "I'm really ashamed. My Heng-Shan School has arrived in Fujian with several tens of disciples. But they've

suddenly gone missing in this town. Martial brother Zhong, how long have you arrived at Nianbapu town? Do you have any clues for old nun to investigate?"

She believed that Songshan School people had been hiding here for a long time but they wanted to wait for her to get exhausted first before they come out and help. It was obvious that they wanted to shame her and at the same time show their power. She wasn't pleased at all. But many of her disciples had gone missing and it was a matter of grave importance. So she had no choice but to ask them about it. She felt this was her own problem to handle so she didn't want to ask these people for help. She already felt it

was wrong to ask Zhong Zhen for information.

Zhong Zhen said, "Devil Sect witches are very crafty. They knew that Shi Tai's martial art is very outstanding and that it would be very hard for them to win. So they secretly captured all the disciples first. Shi Tai doesn’t have to worry. Although Devil Sect is daring, they wouldn't harm martial

sisters. Let's go down and discuss carefully on how we're going to save them."

After he finished saying this, he extended his left hand inviting her to go down. She nodded her head and jumped down. Zhong Zhen followed her and also jumped down. He then went to the west while saying, "I'll lead the way." After walking for a hundred feet, he turned north. They arrived in front of Xian An Inn and he pushed the main door open.

"Shi Tai, we'll discuss the matter in here," said Zhong Zhen.

The other two martial brothers were "Divine Whip" Deng Bagong

and "Bright Hair Lion" Gao Kexin. The three of them led Dingjing Shi Tai to a big room upstairs. After the lamps were lighted, they took their seats while the other disciples offered them tea and then retreated out of the room. Gao Kexin went to the door and closed it. Zhong Zhen said, "We've long admired Shi Tai's sword art, Heng- Shan School's number one. "

Dingjing Shi Tai shook her head and said, "Wrong, my sword art isn't as good as my martial sister. It's also inferior to martial sister Dingyi."

Zhong Zhen smiled and said, "Shi Tai, don't be too modest. We martial brothers have long admired heroine and been wanting to see Shi Tai's clever sword art. That's why we were late in helping. We don't have any bad intention. I sincerely apologise. Shi Tai please don't blame us."

Dingjing Shi Tai felt a bit calmer and saw the three of them stood up and cupped their fists. She also stood up to return the gesture and said,

"Well said."

Zhong Zhen waited for her to sit down before saying, "When our

schools formed the Five Mountain Sword alliance, we considered ourselves to be of the same branch and share all weal and woes together. It's just that in the last few years, we've had little time to meet together and we also haven't collaborated on any matters. This has caused the Devil Sect to grow stronger and become more arrogant."

Dingjing Shi Tai uttered a "Hmph" thinking, "What is he doing saying all these idle talk?"

Zhong Zhen said again, "Everyday, older brother Zuo says: Together, we are strong. Divided, we are weak. If the Five Mountain Sword Alliance can join together and become one, then the Devil Sect wouldn't antagonise us. Even the big school of Shaolin and Wudang who have been enjoying their big reputation for a long time wouldn't be able to compare to us.

Brother Zuo wishes that we no longer had this disunity of the five mountain sword schools. He wants us to combine together and become the "Five

Mountain School". That way, we would have many people cooperating together and we would really become the leader of Wulin. What does Shi Tai think of this?"

Dingjing Shi Tai scowled and said, "Poor nun at Heng-Shan School is only an idle person and don't pay much attention to matters. However,

Martial brother Zhong has raised an important matter. You should come

with me to meet my martial sisters to speak about this. Right now, the most important thing is to rescue my school's female disciples who have fallen into the Devil Sect's trap. We can discuss other matters in details after this."

Zhong Zhen smiled and said, "Shi Tai, don't worry. I've already asked Songshan School people to handle this. Heng-Shan School's problem is also Songshan School's. We wouldn't let your school's disciples to suffer."

Dingjing Shi Tai said, "In that case, many thanks. But I don't know how brother Zhong came to have this optimistic outlook about my problem? What assurances do you have to say these words?"

Zhong Zhen smilingly said, "Shi Tai yourself is here. You're Heng- Shan School's well-known master. How could we still be afraid of a few demons from the Devil Sect? Also, there are still we martial brothers and several other martial nephews. We'll definitely use all our power to fight them. If we still can’t handle these second rate fighters from Devil Sect then, hey hey, that’s too ridiculous for us to say."

Dingjing Shi Tai heard him talking about irrelevant things that she became anxious and angry. She stood up and said, "Brother Zhong is talking as if the situation looks good. Let's go now!"

"Where are you going Shi Tai?" asked Zhong Zhen. "Going to save people," answered Dingjing Shi Tai.

"Where are you going to save people?" asked Zhong Zhen again.

Dingjing Shi Tai was dumbfounded and unable to answer the question. After a moment, she said, "My disciples haven't gone missing for a long time. So of course they're still somewhere nearby. We've procrastinated for a long time now, so it's going to be more difficult to find them."

Zhong Zhen said, "According to our intelligence, the Devil Sect people have a lair not far from Nianbapu town. It's very likely that your school's martial sisters are being held captive there. According to..."

Dingjing Shi Tai interrupted, "Where's this lair? We'll go save them."

Zhong Zhen slowly said, "Devil Sect would be well prepared to receive us. If we rashly go and make a mistake, then I can't say for sure that we'll be able to save them. We already know where they are. In my opinion, we should discuss this first before going to save them. This is a

comparatively better plan."

Dingjing Shi Tai couldn't stand it anymore but she still sat back down. She said, "I'll listen to martial brother Zhong's high opinion."

"I've come to Fujian under martial brother's order to discuss an important matter with Shi Tai. This matter concerns the destiny of the Wulin world. It also implicates the rise and fall of our Five Mountains Sword Alliance. So this is not a small matter at all. We need to discuss this big matter first and the remaining matters like saving people will have to wait. This is how we should go about it,” said Zhong Zhen.

"But I don't know what big matter brother Zhong is talking about?" asked Dingjing Shi Tai.

Zhong Zhen said, "The big matter is the one that I've just raised before. The matter of combining the Five Mountains Sword Alliance into one."

Dingjing Shi Tai suddenly stood up and her complexion turned green.

She stuttered, "You.... you.... you. " Zhong Zhen just smiled slightly and said, "Shi Tai, please don't misunderstand. I'm not taking advantage of someone in a precarious position. I'm just compelling Shi Tai to agree to this matter."

Dingjing Shi Tai indignantly said, "You said it yourself. If this is not taking advantage of someone in a precarious position, then what is this?"

Zhong Zhen answered, "You're from Heng-Shan School. I'm from Songshan School. When your school is facing a problem, of course my school is also concerned. After all, this is a matter of life and death. Of

course, I'm willing to help Shi Tai with all my power. But I don't know if my martial brothers and martial nephews would be willing to do so. But if the two schools have merged into one, then this problem would become our school's problem. Then they would have no more excuses."

Dingjing Shi Tai said, "According to what you said, if my Heng-Shan School doesn't merge with your school, then you would just sit on your hand and be a spectator regarding the matter of Heng-Shan School's missing disciples?"

Zhong Zhen said, "It can't be said like that. I've been ordered by martial brother to catch up with Shi Tai to discuss this matter. So other matters must wait before martial brother's order is completed. That’s why I don't dare to handle this matter carelessly. Shi Tai, please don't blame us."

Dingjing Shi Tai's face had gone completely pale. She coldly said,

"Poor nun can't take the responsibility for making the decision regarding the merging of our two schools. Even if I agree to this but my school's martial

sisters don't agree, then everything would've been in vain."

Zhong Zhen leaned forward and whispered, "If Shi Tai agree then Dingxian Shi Tai can't disagree. Originally, the leader of each school and

each faction has always been held by the first disciple. Looking at Shi Tai's attitude, martial art, and also your position in the school, Shi Tai deserves to be the leader of Heng-Shan School. "

Suddenly, Dingjing Shi Tai slapped the table and broke it. She fiercely retorted, "You want to sow dissension? I was the one who requested my deceased master that martial sister be the leader of our school. It was

also me who persuaded martial sister Dingxian to take up the position. If Dingjing wanted to be the leader of the school then I would've done it during that time instead of using other people to incite it now."

Zhong Zhen sighed and said, "What brother Zuo said wasn't wrong." "What did he say?" said Dingjing Shi Tai.

Zhong Zhen said, "Before we went south, brother Zuo said: 'The

conduct of Heng-Shan School's Dingjing Shi Tai's is too good. Her martial art is also extremely high and she's admired by everyone. But it's a pity that she always fails to see the larger issue.' I asked him why he said these

words and he answered: 'I have known Dingjing Shi Tai's manner for some time; she's naturally aloof from worldly affairs and doesn't cherish unwarranted reputation. On common matters, she's happy not to pay

attention to them. If you ask her about this matter of combining the five

schools, then you'll certainly meet with this problem.' This matter actually concerns a lot of things. We know that we wouldn't be able to handle it by ourselves but we're still going to try. If Dingjing Shi Tai is only concerned

about yourself and ignores the thousands of lives from the orthodox schools who are in danger, then the Wulin realm will fall under a disaster and there's nothing we can do."

Dingjing Shi Tai stood up and coldly said, "You cleverly took this opportunity to say many honeyed words. But they're all completely useless to me. Songshan School has taken this path. You're not only taking advantage of someone in a precarious situation but also hitting a person when he is down."

Zhong Zhen said, "Shi Tai, you're wrong. If Shi Tai agrees to this matter and let the people in Wulin to know about this, it will facilitate our Songshan, Heng-Shan, Taishan, Huashan, and Hengshan five mountains to merge together. Then Songshan School will definitely support Shi Tai to become our "Five Mountains School" leader. So you can see clearly that our brother Zuo is sincere and doesn't have any personal ambition..."

Dingjing Shi Tai shook her hand continuously and shouted, "Say no more! My ear is already drowning in filth."

She put her hand together and pushed them out. A noisy "peng" sound was heard as two boards were blown away by her qi. She moved quickly

and in no time was already outside Xian An Inn.

When she was out of the door, the calm wind caressed and cooled her red-hot face. She considered, "That surname Zhong said that Devil Sect has a lair near Nianbapu town. The missing school disciples must be there. I don't know how much of what he said is true and how much is false." Then she walked away undecidedly without a plan. Walking alone, she looked at her own long shadow reflected on the slab stone as the moon lowered in the sky.

After walking for some distance, she stopped and thought, "I only have my own power to rely on. Just by myself, I won't be able to save my disciples. The old grand heroes had always been able to adjust themselves to any situation. Why didn't I just temporarily agree to that guy Zhong?

After we've saved my disciples, I could immediately cut my own throat to thank them and teach him that with my death he will have no proof of the agreement. He would only be able to announce that I've eaten my own

words and dirty my name. This I'm willing to bear by myself." She sighed thinking about this. Then she turned around and slowly walked back to Xian Xia Inn. Suddenly she heard someone shouting from the end of the long street. "Your granny, General wants to drink wine and

get some sleep. Your granny, shop servants, why don't you quickly open the door?" It was just yesterday at Xianxia mountain range that she met with

General Wu Tiande. When Dingjing Shi Tai heard his voice, it was like a drowning person catching a big lumber.

Yesterday, Linghu Chong had helped Heng-Shan School escaped from danger at the top of Xianxia mountain range. Feeling proud of himself, he hurried along the road and arrived at Nianbapu town. He then quickly found a restaurant and went in. He shouted, "Bring out the wine!" When the servants saw that it was a General who had entered the shop, they didn't dare to be slow and lazy. They quickly poured the wine, cooked the rice, killed the chicken and sliced the beef. They were being very respectful towards him and were standing at attention and serving him attentively.

Linghu Chong became slightly drunk after many bowls of wine. In his heart, he was thinking, "Devil Sect has suffered a great setback this time.

But they probably wouldn't be resigned to it. Nineteen people are still enough to cause trouble for Heng-Shan School. Dingjing Shi Tai is

foolhardy and isn't Devil Sect's match. So I must look after them in secret."

After he had paid for his meal and wine, he went to Xian An Inn to

sleep. He woke up at noon to wash his face when he suddenly heard people shouting on the street. "Huang Fengzai's people from Chaos Stone Mound are coming to Nianbapu to plunder the town. They will kill every person they meet. They will take all the money they see. Everyone quickly run

away to save your life!" The shouting could be heard from everywhere.

The servant at the inn screamed, "General, General, there's a bad thing coming!" Linghu Chong inquired, "Your granny, what bad thing is coming?" "General, Huang Fengzai's men from Chaos Stone Mound are

coming. They're coming to plunder the town tonight. Everyone is escaping already," replied the servant.

Linghu Chong opened his room's door and scolded, "Your granny, today is a sunny day. The sky is clear. How can there be robbers? General is right here. Do they still dare to plunder?"

That servant had a bitter expression on his face. But he still answered, "Those robbers, they're fierce... they're very fierce... they... they also don't know General that you. you are here."

Linghu Chong said, "You go tell them then."

The servant answered, "I. I'm only a nobody, I don't dare to go and

tell them. They'll chop my head off."

Linghu Chong said, "What kind of place is Huang Fengzai’s Chaos Stone Mound?"

The servant answered, "I don't know what kind of place Chaos Stone Mound is. I've never heard of it before. I only know Huang Fengzai's people are very fierce. Two days ago, they plundered a town 30 li north of Nianbapu called Rongshutou. They killed sixty to seventy people and burned more than one hundred houses there. General, you. although your

martial art is high, your two hands would find it difficult to fight four hands. Not counting their big leader, I heard that they have more than three hundred people."

Linghu Chong scolded, "Your granny, so what if they have three hundred people? When General fights a battle with a thousand people and ten thousand horses, then when seven people entered the battle seven people will come out alive, eight people enter then eight people come out alive." The servant said, "Yes, yes" and turned around to quickly go out.

The situation outside was already in chaos. People were calling out to each other in Zhejiang's speech but in Fujian's dialect. Linghu Chong

couldn’t understand completely what was being said. He could only guess they were saying something like: "A Mao's mom, have you taken the quilt yet?" or "Da Bao, Xiao Bao, hurry up. The robbers are coming!" When he walked outside, he saw tens of people carrying bundles behind their backs and basket on their hands. They were going south to escape.

Linghu Chong thought, "This is Zhejiang's boundary. Hangzhou and Fuzhou's Generals aren't taking care of this area causing the robbers to

create chaos here and hurt the common people. My Quanzhou's big General Wu Tiande is here already so I can't just sit back and do nothing. Killing those robbers' leader would be an accomplishment. This is called feeding him good fortune and being loyal. Your granny, why not? Haha!" After his train of thoughts arrived at this conclusion, he couldn't help but laughed

continuously. He called out, "Servants, bring out the wine! General wants to drink wine before killing some thieves."

But at that moment, everyone inside from the guests to shop owner,

shop owner's wife, second aunt, third aunt, as well as the shop servants, and the cooks were all going out of the inn one by one. They only slowed down a step when they heard his voice but then continued their escape, afraid of the coming robbers. Linghu Chong kept calling them but no one paid any

attention to him. Linghu Chong couldn't stand it anymore so he went to the kitchen himself to fetch the wine. He then sat in the main hall and poured himself some wine. Next, he heard the sounds of chickens, dogs, horses and pigs. He guessed that the townspeople were taking these animals to escape with them. After a moment, it gradually became quieter. He drank three more bowls of wine and by then all the frightened and anxious sounds were gone. The town had become completely quiet. He thought, "Bad luck for Huang Fengzai's people. I don't know where the townspeople got the news from but when the robbers got here, they wouldn't have anything to plunder."

He was the only remaining person now in this big town. He found the silence really strange and was feeling quite lonely. Suddenly, he heard the

sound of horses galloping in the distance. There were four horses coming from the south in a rush. Linghu Chong thought, "The robbers have arrived. But how come there's only a few people?" The four horses galloped down the street making a "zheng, zheng" sound when the horseshoes hit the stone slabs on the road.

A person shouted, "Nianbapu people, listen to Chaos Stone Mound Huang Fengzai's order. All males, females, old and young, get out of town!

We won't kill you if you're outside. Everyone who stays inside will be chopped to death." They were shouting continuously while their horses

galloped down the street. Linghu Chong went to the main door and opened it a crack to have a look. But the horses had gone past and he was only able to see the back of the people riding the horses. He thought, "This is not right! Looking at those people riding, it's clear they know some martial art.

How can the bandits have this kind of people?" He pushed the door open and walked out. After walking for more than one hundred feet, he still

couldn't see anyone around. Then he saw a scholar tree on the side of the road, its branches and leaves luxuriant. He quickly went up the tree and sat on the highest branch. There was no sound at all around him. He waited up there for a long time knowing that something was not right. Huang Fengzai's people had come a long time ago but his big group still had not

come yet. Could it be that some of the robbers came here to notify the townspeople to escape? After he had been waiting for an hour, he faintly heard some voices. It was the chirping of females' voices. With rapt attention he heard a few

sentences. From the sentences he heard, he knew that it was the Heng-Shan School's disciples. He thought, "How come they arrived here at this time? Oh, they must've spent the day resting on the mountain." He heard them knocking on the Xian An Inn's door and then went to another inn to knock on that inn's door. There was quite a bit of distance between Nan An Inn

and the scholar tree, so when Heng-Shan School people entered the inn, he couldn't hear or see what they were doing in there.

He secretly felt, "In all likelihood, this is the Devil Sect's trap to

ambush Heng-Shan School people." At the moment, he was still concealed on top of the tree calmly waiting for something to happen. After waiting for a long time, he saw Yiqing and six disciples went out of the inn to light up the lamps. The whole street was now lit up by the lights from the houses'

windows. After another moment, he suddenly heard the voice of a female shouting, "Help!" Linghu Chong was startled: "Aiyo, this is not good.

Heng-Shan School disciples have met the Devil Sect's treachery." He immediately jumped down from the tree and went to the house where the

scream came from. He looked inside the house from a crack in the window.

But there was no light in there and only the pale light from the moon was

coming in through the window. He saw seven or eight men standing against the wall and one female standing in the middle of the room. She shouted,

"Help, help, someone's murdered!" Linghu Chong looked at the side of her face and noticed that her expression was fierce. It was obvious that they

were waiting to ambush people.

As expected, as she just finished calling out, a female disciple outside the house shouted, "Who has committed murder here?" The house's door

was pushed open and seven females jumped inside; one of them was Yiqing. These seven disciples were each holding a long sword in hand thinking they were going to save someone. Suddenly that female, who

shouted for help before, threw out her right hand and hurled open a roughly four square feet of green cloth. Yiqing and the other six disciples started to tremble. It looks like they were dizzy when they started to turn around in

circles and dropped down.

Linghu Chong was alarmed and he felt shocked through his heart,

"That woman's green cloth must have some kind of confusion poison in it.

If I go in to save them then I'll also fall in their trap. I can only wait and watch what happens for now." Those men on the wall quickly crowded around, took out some rope, and started binding Yiqing's and the other disciples' hands and feet. Not long after, another female shouted sharply

from outside, "What kind of person is here?" When Linghu Chong passed through the Xianxia mountain range, he had met with this bad tempered nun and had also chatted with her. He knew that Yihe was the one out there. He thought, "You are really hot-tempered. This time, you'll become rice dumpling again14." He heard Yihe shouted again, "Sister Yiqing, are you here?" and a "peng" sound was heard as she kicked the door open.

Yihe and another disciple went forward shoulder to shoulder. As they stepped inside the house, they waved their swords around separately on their left and right sides, protecting themselves from an enemy's attack. At the same time, the other five disciples were walking backwards into the house and were also waving their swords around. When the two of the disciples got inside the house, the woman and her cohorts held their breath and stopped moving completely. Once all seven of the disciples were in the house, that woman hurled open her green cloth again and the disciples were again confused before collapsing to the ground. They were followed by Yu Sao's group which also fell into the same trap. There were now twenty-one of Heng-Shan School disciples that have lost consciousness and tied up at the corner of the house. After a while, an old man in their group made some hand signals and they quietly retreated from the house's back door.

Linghu Chong jumped to the roof and crouched down. He was following them for a short distance when he suddenly heard sounds of flapping clothes from the house in front. The sound was coming from the roof ridge of the house. He saw ten men hand signaling to each other. They were all concealed from the street while seated on the side of the roof ridge. His current hiding place was only tens of feet away from them. Linghu

Chong slid down the wall quietly when he saw Dingjing Shi Tai coming to this area leading three disciples.

Linghu Chong thought, "This isn't good. This is using "luring the tiger leaving the mountain" tactic. Those nuns left at the Nan An Inn will be in trouble." In the distance, he saw shadows moving hurriedly towards the

Nan An Inn. What he thought before had become a reality. Suddenly he heard someone whispering, "Delay that old nun from coming over, the

seven of you entertain her here." This voice came from above his head so Linghu Chong couldn't move at all or he would be discovered. So he flattened his back on the wall and didn't move at all. He heard Dingjing Shi Tai kicked the door open and called out, "Yihe, Yiqing, Yu Sao, do you hear me?" Her voice travelled far and then he saw her going around the house

and jumping onto the roof. But she didn't look carefully inside the house. Linghu Chong thought, "What is she doing? Why isn't she going inside the house to have a look? Once she goes in then she'll see the twenty one female disciples tied up on the ground." He realised immediately, "It's

actually good that she's not going in. Those Devil Sect people are on the roof waiting for her to enter the house. Then they'll immediately surround her from four directions. That's like capturing a turtle in an urn." He saw Dingjing Shi Tai going here and there realising that she didn't know what to do. Suddenly, she went quickly towards Nan An Inn and those three disciples couldn't keep up with her. As that happened, a lot of people turned up from the side of the street and hurled that green cloth open. Those three disciples immediately collapsed and they were dragged inside a house. With the pale light from the moon, he could blurrily see that Yilin was among those three people. Linghu Chong quickly thought,

"Should I quickly go and save little martial sister Yilin?" And another thought quickly followed, "I"m only by myself and the fight will be big. The Devil Sect has captured so many of Heng-Shan School’s people. I must be careful not to harm them while I'm taking care of the Devil Sect people. I can't fight in front of them so I must still do this in secret."

He saw Dingjing Shi Tai came out of Nan An Inn and started to scold the Devil Sect in the middle of the street. Then she went up to the roof and started scolding Dongfang Bubai. As expected, Devil Sect people couldn't bear this anymore and seven people went up to fight her. When Linghu

Chong saw this, he pondered, "Dingjing Shi Tai's sword art is refined and deep. Even one against seven, she would be able to hold them out for some time. I'll go save martial sister Yilin first."

His body moved like lightning entering the house. He saw a person in the main hall holding a sabre and the three disciples tied up on the ground beside him. Linghu Chong jumped forward and took out his Yaodao saber. Then using his sheathed sabre, he stabbed it towards that person's throat.

That person didn't even react before he died. Linghu Chong was dumbfounded, "How come my sword is so fast? I just extended my hand

and it already reached his throat?" He himself didn't know that ever since he practised the Art of Essence Absorbing, the internal energies of the Peach Valley six fairies, Monk No-Commandment, and Mr. Black-White had become his own internal energy to use. His initial idea was that once he

stabbed with his sabre then the enemy would raise his own sabre to block

and he would then use his sheathed sabre to hit his enemy's legs to drop him on the ground. Then he would be able to save the three martial sisters.

Unexpectedly, his enemy didn't even have time to raise his sabre before he got hit and killed.

Linghu Chong felt apologetic as he dragged the dead man away. Then he looked down, he saw that Yilin was among the three female disciples lying on the ground. He extended his hand to check her breathing and found her breathing evenly. Except for being unconscious, she was otherwise unharmed. He quickly went to the kitchen to fetch a ladle of cold water and splashed it on her face. In a little while, Yilin woke up and groaned slightly. At the beginning, she didn't know that she was on the ground. She opened her eyes and suddenly realised what had happened. She quickly jumped up and wanted to draw her sword. But both of her hands and feet were tied up, and she fell back down.

Linghu Chong said, "Little Shi Tai, don't be afraid. That bad person has been killed by General." He then used his sabre to cut away the ropes binding her hands and feet. In the darkness, Yilin heard his voice and it was that person "Big brother Linghu" that she had been thinking of day and night. She was alarmed and happy at the same time. She called out, "You... you are Linghu Big... " This word "brother" wasn't said when she thought that it wasn't right. Her whole face turned red and she quietly whispered,

"Who... who are you?"

Linghu Chong heard her recognizing him and then correcting herself. He whispered, "General is here. Those small-time thieves wouldn't dare to bully you anymore." 

Yilin. "Ah, so it's General Wu. How about my... my martial uncle?" asked

"She's outside fighting with the enemies. Let's go out and take a look," said Linghu Chong.

"Sister Zheng, Sister Qin..." said Yilin.

She took out from her bosom a fire stick and lighted it up. She saw her two disciple sisters lying on the ground.

She said, "En, they're all here." She wanted to cut the ropes on their hands and feet.

But Linghu Chong said, "Don't bother. Helping your martial uncle is more important at the moment."

Yilin said, "That's true."

Linghu Chong turned around and went outside with Yilin following behind. They had just walked several steps when they saw those seven

enemies fleeing. Then they heard the projectiles being deflected and

someone praising how high Dingjing Shi Tai's sword art is. Dingjing Shi Tai recognised that the person is from the Songshan School. Not long after that, he saw Dingjing Shi Tai following those men to go into Xian An Inn. Linghu Chong signaled to Yilin to follow him to the inn and hid outside the window to eavesdrop. They heard Dingjing Shi Tai chatting with Zhong Zhen inside the room. That person surnamed Zhong wanted Dingjing Shi

Tai to agree to the merging of the Heng-Shan School first before they would help save her disciples. Linghu Chong heard him harbouring evil intentions and taking advantage of someone who was already down. He secretly felt

angry. He also heard Dingjing Shi Tai getting more and more angry as Zhong Zhen said more words until she finally jumped out of the inn.

Linghu Chong waited for Dingjing Shi Tai to go a bit further before he went down and knocked on Xian An Inn's door. He shouted, "Your granny, General wants to drink wine and sleep. Your granny shop servants, why don't you quickly open the door?" It was just at that time that Dingjing Shi Tai had run out of ideas when she heard this general's shout. She felt really happy and quickly went over. Yilin went up to welcome her and

called out, "Martial uncle!" Dingjing Shi Tai felt even happier. She hastily asked, "Where did you go before?"

Yilin answered, "I was captured by Devil Sect demons. General rescued me..."

At this time, Linghu Chong had pushed the door open and walked in. Inside the main hall was two candles lighted up and Zhong Zhen was sitting in the middle of the hall. Zhong Zhen gloomily said, "Who's making all those noises? Come out quickly!"

Linghu Chong scolded him, "Your granny! This is general working for the government court; you still have the guts to speak out? Shopkeeper, Boss' wife, servants, quickly come out."

Songshan School people heard him scolding and then asking for the shopkeeper and the boss' wife. It was obvious to them that he looked fierce on the outside but soft on the inside and that he was feeling afraid in his heart. They all found it funny. Zhong Zhen was still thinking about the big matter in his heart when this government dog came in the middle of the night. He quietly said, "Get rid of this chap but don't kill him." Bright Hair Lion Gao Kexin nodded his head. He then laughed aloud and went towards Linghu Chong. He said, "So it's granddad from the government. Pardon me for not paying respect."

"It's already good that you know. You people are only ordinary folks so you don't know any rules..." said Linghu Chong.

Gao Kexin laughed, "Haha! Yes! Yes!" and in a flash, his body was in front of Linghu Chong. He extended his forefinger and stabbed it towards Linghu Chong's waist. Linghu Chong saw where he was aiming at and he quickly concentrated his internal energy at his waist. Gao Kexin stab found Linghu Chong's laughing acupoint. When an opponent was hit at this point, he would laugh loudly once and would immediately lose consciousness. To his surprise, Linghu Chong just giggled once and said, "You're not following any rules. What kind of joke are you playing with General moving your hands and feet about?" Gao Kexin was greatly surprised. But he already executed his second stab. This time he was using all of his power in his stab. Linghu Chong laughed loudly and jumped up. He laughingly

scolded him, "Your granny, what are you doing rubbing general's waist? You want to steal some silvers? Hmm, you look solemn, handsome and intelligent. But actually you're an unlearned man."

Gao Kexin's left hand shot out to grab Linghu Chong's right wrist and he was going to use his right hand to fling him down to the ground.

Unexpectedly, as his hand touched Linghu Chong's wrist, his internal

energy started to rush out of his body and he couldn't stop it. He couldn't help but be completely frightened. He wanted to shout but even when his mouth was opened wide, no sound was coming out.

Linghu Chong was aware that his opponent's internal energy was being absorbed into his body. It was just like that day when he grabbed Mr. Black-White's wrist. He was alarmed, "I can't use this demonical method." He quickly flinged Gao Kexin away, breaking the contact.

Gao Kexin felt as if he had received a King's pardon as he was

stupidly thrown down. He quickly stood up but felt weak all over as if he had just recovered from a big illness. He shouted, "Art of Essence

Absorbing. Art... Art of Essence Absorbing!" His shout came out as more of a hiss but it was full of fear. Zhong Zhen, Deng Bagong and the rest of the Songshan School disciples jumped up at the same time and asked, "What?" Gao Kexin stammered, "This.. this person is using art... art of Essence Absorbing."

All of a sudden the room was filled with lights flickering off swords as everyone drew their long swords out from their scabbards while Divine Whip Deng Bagong held a whip in his hand. Zhong Zhen's sword art was

the fastest. Under the trembling cold light of the room, the reflective light of his sword had already pierced Linghu Chong's throat. When that Gao Kexin shouted, Linghu Chong already anticipated that Songshan School people

would immediately gang up on him and they were now thrusting their swords towards him. But as they were pulling their swords out, Linghu

Chong also pulled his Yaodao sabre along with its sheath out from his waist and used it like a long sword. His hand shook lightly and the back of

everyone's hand was hit and "qiang lang" sounds were heard. The "qiang lang" noise had not stopped yet when all the swords were dropped on the ground. Zhong Zhen's martial art was the highest, even though the back of his hand had been hit by Linghu Chong's scabbard, he still managed to hold on to it. He was frightened and jumped back. Deng Bagong was distressed and let go of the whip's handle, which made the whip lashed up and

wrapped around his neck restricting him from drawing any breath.

Zhong Zhen was leaning his back against the wall and his face had lost all colour. "A well known in Jiang Hu. Devil Sect's Chief Ren resurfaces. You... you... you are Chief Ren... are you Ren Woxing?"

Linghu Chong laughed, "Your granny, what Ren Woxing, Ren Nixing, General won't change his surname and won't change his name either15. My surname is Wu, my name is Tiande. From which mound did you come from? Are you that whatever Zai's small time thieves?"

Zhong Zhen clasped both his hands, "Sir, you have re-entered Jiang Hu. Zhong knows that I'm not your match so I'm going." He jumped through the window to get out. Gao Kexin followed him and jumped out the window too. Then one by one, they all jumped out through the window.

Although the floor was full of long swords, none of them dared to take any of them. Linghu Chong's left hand was now holding the scabbard while his right hand was holding the sabre's handle. He then used his strength to pull on the handle a few times but that sabre never came out from its sheath. He said, "The rust on this treasured sabre is really bad. I should look for a grindstone and sharpen it."

Dingjing Shi Tai clasped her hands and asked, "General Wu, how do we save my disciples?" Linghu Chong expected that as soon as Zhong Zhen and his people went away, no one would be able to match Dingjing Shi Tai's divine sword. He replied, "General wants to drink a few bowls of wine here. Old Shi Tai, do you want to drink wine too?" When Yilin heard him talking about drinking wine again, she thought, "If this general meets with big brother Linghu, they would certainly become drinking buddies." As she took a peep at him, she saw that the general was staring at her. Her face turned slightly red and she lowered her head. Dingjing Shi Tai said,

"Forgive me. Poor nun doesn't drink wine. General, I won't accompany you!" She clasped her hands again and then turned around to leave. Yilin followed her out but when she reached the door, she couldn't help but to take another look at him. She saw him looking for wine and calling out in a loud voice, "Your granny, all the people in the inn have all disappeared.

How come those servants are still not coming out.” She thought, "His voice sounds similar to big brother Linghu's but whenever this general speaks, he's very vulgar. Every sentence he has to mention his whatever. Big brother Linghu isn't like that at all. His martial art is also much higher

compared to big brother Linghu. I... I must be imagining things... Ai, must be... " Linghu Chong had finally found some wine and he immediately gulped it down. He thought, "When these nuns, grannies and ladies come back, they'll talk non-stop and I'll have to endure it for sure. It’s better if I just run away before then. Saving these people would take around an hour and my tummy would be very hungry by that time. It's better if I find

something to eat first."

After he finished a pot of wine, he went to the kitchen looking for something to eat. Suddenly, he heard from somewhere far away, Yilin

sharply shouting, "Martial uncle, martial uncle, where are you?" She sounded frightened.

Linghu Chong hurriedly rushed out of the inn and followed the voice.

When he got there, he saw Yilin and two young ladies standing on the street. They were calling out, "Martial uncle, master!"

Linghu Chong asked, "What happened?"

Yilin answered, "I went to wake martial sister Zheng and martial

sister Qin. Martial uncle was concerned about the other martial sisters so she went ahead to rescue them. But when we got out, maybe... we don't

know where she has gone to." Linghu Chong saw that Zheng E was around twenty one two years old while Qin Juan was even younger, looking like fifteen sixteen years old. He thought, "I haven't seen these young ladies before. What's Heng-Shan School doing sending them out to come here?"

He smiled, "I know where they are. Come with me!"

He walked quickly to the northeast towards the house where the disciples were captured earlier. When he arrived at the house with the broken door, he was afraid that the woman with the confusing drugs was still inside ready to ambush them. He said, "Use your handkerchiefs to

cover your mouth and nose. There's a smelly granny inside who releases poison." He pinched his nose using his left hand and shut his lips tightly. Then he rushed into the house. When he reached the main hall, he was dumbfounded.

Previously, the main hall was full of Heng-Shan School female disciples. But now, there wasn't a single trace of them. He was surprised. There was a candle lighting up the hall but the hall was totally empty.

Where did they go? He searched every room in the house but found nothing unusual. He called out, "There's something strange here!"

Yilin, Zheng E, and Qin Juan eyes were wide open looking at him, their faces full of doubt. Linghu Chong said, "Your granny, your martial sisters were right here. An old granny had poisoned them all. Then they were tied up right here. How come they're all gone now?"

Zheng E asked, "General Wu, when you saw our martial sisters being poisoned, was it really here?"

Linghu Chong answered, "Last night, when I was sleeping, I had a dream. I saw with my eyes many old nuns, about seven or eight of them lying right here. How can it be wrong?"

Zheng E said, "You... you..."

She wanted to say that it was his dream so how can it be accurate? But she knew that he liked to speak nonsense. He said that it was a dream but he probably saw it with his own eyes so she quickly corrected herself, "Where do you think they've all gone to?"

Linghu Chong hummed deeply, "I'm not sure where we can find big fishes and big meat. I think they've all gone to have a feast. Or maybe the place where there's opera; they're watching opera."

He moved his hands around and continued, "You three are small girls.

So it's better if you stay close behind me. If you want to eat meat or watch opera, we’ll do it later." Although Qin Juan was still young, she knew the situation was really dangerous. Her other martial sisters had all fallen into enemy's hands. While this general blindly said some nice words, she knew they were all not true.

Tens of Heng-Shan School disciples had gone out but now only the three of them remained. Except for listening to this general's order, she had no other option. She followed the general outside along with Yilin and Zheng E. Linghu Chong was talking to himself, "Could it be that I saw the wrong people in my dream last night? Tonight, I won't be able to have such a good dream again." But in his heart, he was thinking, "The other female disciples must've been moved away. But how come Dingjing Shi Tai had also disappeared? I'm afraid she might have met the enemy by herself and

chased them. Hmm... It wouldn't be appropriate to leave Yilin and these two in Nianbapu town, I'd better take them along." He said, "We don't have

anything to do right now. Why don't we go and look for your martial uncle and see where she's playing? What do you think?"

Zheng E answered, "That's extremely good! General's martial art is high and your experience is vast. If General doesn't lead the three of us in looking for martial uncle then I'm afraid it would be very difficult for us to find them."

Linghu Chong laughed, "'Martial art is high and experience is vast', you're not wrong in saying these eight words. In the future, when General hangs up his command and got a promotion and got rich, then I'll send the three of you one hundred, two hundred shining silver taels to buy clothes to wear."

As he was talking non-stop, they've reached the edge of Nianbapu town. He then jumped onto a roof and looked at the four directions. At this time, the morning sun was already above the horizon, the white fog filled the air, and above the treetops the sky was cloudy. He gazed far but there was no one on the two main roads. Suddenly, he saw an object on the main road to the south. He couldn't see clearly what it was because of the distance. But when the whole road was empty and an item was in the middle of the street like this, then it would definitely catch the attention of your eyes. He jumped down from the roof and quickly went to where that object was. Once he got there, he picked it up. It was a female shoe.

Apparently it was identical to the one Yilin was wearing. He waited for Yilin and the other two girls to arrive. He gave the shoe to Yilin and asked, "Is this your shoe? How come it's here?" Yilin received the shoe and realised it was the same type of shoe that she was wearing. She couldn't help but check her feet and saw that she was still wearing her shoes.

Zheng E said, "This... this is the shoe that our martial sisters wear.

How did it end up here?"

Qin Juan said, "It must be one of the martial sisters who were

captured by the enemy. She must've struggled here and dropped her shoe."

Zheng E replied, "Or she deliberately left the shoe behind to let us know."

Linghu Chong said, "Correct. Your martial art is high and your experience is vast. Should we go chase to the south or to the north?"

Zheng E answered, "Of course to the south."

Linghu Chong quickly started running to the south. At the beginning, the distance between him and the three girls wasn't that far. But as he went on, the distance became really far. Linghu Chong looked carefully along the road and he frequently looked back to watch the three ladies. He was afraid that he might get too far and wouldn't be able to help them if needed. So he waited for them to catch up to him before he ran again. They had gone for more than ten li in this manner when he saw that the road in front was rugged. There were a lot of trees on both sides providing a lot of places for enemies to hide in. If Yilin was captured while they were on these parts of the road, he wouldn't be able to save her. After a long time, he saw Qin Juan running towards him. Both of her cheeks were really red. He knew that she was still young and couldn't run for long distances. He decided to let them walk slowly for the moment. He said loudly, "Your granny, if we keep running that fast then General's leather boots will be worn through to the bottom. Can't let this happen. Why don't we just go slowly?" After walking for around seven to eight li, Qin Juan suddenly shouted, "Yi!" She crouched besides a shrub on the side and picked up a cap. It was the cap that Heng- Shan School's people wear.

Zheng E said, "General, it's one of our martial sisters' cap. They must've gone through this road."

The three girls quickly continued walking. They were going faster as they went. Linghu Chong was now behind them.

At noon, the four of them found a restaurant on the road. The shop owner saw a general with a nun and two young girls with him. He was really surprised and repeatedly hit the sides of his head. Linghu Chong

slapped the table and scolded, "Your granny, what are you looking at? You've never seen monks and nuns before?"

That man said, "Yes, yes. I don't dare."

Zheng E asked, "Uncle, have you seen a few nuns passing by here?" The man said, "I haven't seen a few nuns but I've seen one. One old

Shi Tai passed by here. She was much older compared to this young Shi Tai here..."

Linghu Chong shouted, "You talk too much! One old Shi Tai, then how could her age be younger than this little Shi Tai?"

That man said, "Yes, yes."

Zheng E impatiently asked, "What happened to that old Shi Tai?" The man answered, "That old Shi Tai hastily asked me whether I've seen a few nuns passing by this road. I said no and she just went. Ai, she's already old but she was still running really fast. She was also holding a

sword in her hand. She looked like she was going to play a part in an opera."

Qin Juan clapped her hands and said, "That must be Master. Let's go quickly and chase her."

Linghu Chong said, "Don't rush. We'll eat first."

The four people hastily eat their meals. Just before they left, Qin Juan bought four steamed rolls. She said she was giving it to Master to eat.

Linghu Chong's heart turned sour, "She's very filial towards her master. But for me, I can't even be filial to my master."

They chased until the sky became dark. But they had not seen a trace of either Dingjing Shi Tai or the Heng-Shan School's disciples. They kept an eye on the field with thick long grass while the street was getting narrower as they went. As they went further, the long grass was up to their waist and they weren't able to see the road anymore.

Suddenly, they heard some sounds of fighting coming from the northwest. Linghu Chong called out, "There's some fighting going on there. Let's take a look."

Qin Juan said, "Ai yo, maybe it's my Master?"

Linghu Chong went to the direction of the noise. After going for

several hundred feet, the surrounding area was suddenly bright. They saw tens of tall fire sticks around the area and the sounds of fighting got noisier.

He quickened his steps as he got near to the area. Then he saw tens of people holding the fire sticks in a circle. Inside that circle was a person with her big sleeve flitting about and her long sword slashing around. It was

Dingjing Shi Tai. Outside the circle were tens of people lying down on ground. With one look at their clothes, he knew that it was Heng-Shan School's female disciples. Linghu Chong saw that those people holding the fire sticks were wearing masks on their faces. He walked nearer to the circle step by step. At the moment, every person there had his attention on the fight and no one saw him coming nearer. Linghu Chong laughed loudly and shouted, "Seven against one, that's shameful."

All those people with their faces covered were surprised to suddenly see him appear out of nowhere. They all turned their heads around to look at him. Only the seven people surrounding Dingjing Shi Tai didn't hear him and they kept on fighting. All of them were attacking her upper body.

Linghu Chong saw on Dingjing Shi Tai's gown some splotches of fresh blood. He also saw blood splashed on her face. She was using her left hand to hold her sword. Obviously, her right hand had been injured.

At this time, someone shouted, "Who are you?" As a man jumped in front of Linghu Chong with both of his hands shaped in a knife form.

Linghu Chong shouted, "General has been going everywhere non stop but everyday I have to meet you small time thieves. Let's exchange names, General's sabre here doesn't chop nameless people."

A man laughed, "So it's this muddled person." as he slashed his sword to chop Linghu Chong's leg off.

Linghu Chong shouted, "Ai yo, you're really using your sabre?" His body swayed as he charged into their group with his sheathed sabre up.

Seven continuous "Pa, pa, pa" was heard as seven people wrists were hit. Seven weapons fell on the ground one after another. A "ci" sound was heard as Dingjing Shi Tai's sword pierced into an enemy's chest. That person was startled as he couldn't avoid Dingjing Shi Tai's lightning fast sword.

Dingjing Shi Tai swayed a few times and as her legs couldn't support her anymore, she sat on the ground. Qin Juan screamed, "Master, master." as she went towards her master to support her.

One of the masked men lifted his sabre and put it on a Heng-Shan School's disciple's neck. He shouted, "Retreat three steps, if you don't do as I say, I'll kill this woman first."

Linghu Chong laughed, "Very good, very good. If you want us to retreat, then we'll retreat. What's so strange about that? Don't say three steps, even thirty steps is ok."

Suddenly he thrust his Yaodao sabre towards him and the point of the scabbard hit his chest. That person cried out "Ai yo" as his body flew away. Linghu Chong was dumbfounded as he didn't expect that his internal energy would be so strong. He again wielded his sheathed sabre as he hit three more masked men and shouted, "You're still not retreating? I'm going to

capture you one by one and have you sent to the government here. Everyone will get thirty planks."

The leader of those masked men saw that his martial art was high and was really amazing. He clasped his hand and said, "We respect Chief Ren’s good name. We’ll back down." He waved his left hand and shouted again,

"Devil Sect's Chief Ren is here. Everyone be tactful, let's go." They lifted the corpse and the four people who were hit before. They also threw the fire sticks down and retreated towards the northwest. In a short while, they were all gone from the field. Qin Juan took out Heng-Shan School's medicine to apply to her master's wounds. While Yilin and Zheng E untied their martial sisters' hands and feet. Four disciples then took up the fire sticks and gathered around Dingjing Shi Tai. Everyone saw that her injuries were

serious and all their faces had a worried expression. They all kept silent. Dingjing Shi Tai's chest was continuously going up and down. She slowly opened her eyes and asked Linghu Chong, "You... you... are really the past... Devil Sect's.... Chief Ren. Woxing?"

Linghu Chong shook his head, "No."

Dingjing Shi Tai's eyes were losing its liveliness. She was expelling a lot of air but inhaling very little air. It was obvious that she was having great difficulty breathing. She gasped a few times and suddenly in a fierce voice said, "If you're Ren Woxing, even if my Heng-Shan School is defeated to the ground and be... be destroyed. Please don't... don't.." As she said till here, she couldn't draw her breath. Linghu Chong saw that her life was in danger and didn't dare to talk nonsense anymore. He said, "I'm still young, how can I be Ren Woxing?"

Dingjing Shi Tai asked, "Then how come you know know that art

of Essence Absorbing? You're Ren Woxing's disciple. " Linghu Chong

remembered the day he was still at Huashan when Master and Master-wife mentioned Devil Sect many evils. These past two days, he had seen with his own eyes the methods that Devil Sect employed to attack Heng-Shan School. He said, "The Devil Sect has committed many evil acts. How can

we still make friends with them? That Ren Woxing isn't my master. Shi Tai, don't worry. My master is a benevolent and kind man. He's heroic and upright. In Wulin, he's looked up by everyone and considered to be a senior hero. Shi Tai has many relations with him."

Dingjing Shi Tai's face revealed a smiling expression. She said,

"Then... then I won't worry anymore. I. I won't make it. I want to bother

General to bring Heng-Shan School's.... disciples.... to... to. " Her

breathing hurried while she talked. After a moment, she said, "Bring them to Fuzhou's Wuxiang Temple help them settle down, my school's martial

sisters... in a few days. they would arrive." Linghu Chong said, "Shi Tai, don't worry. Just rest for a few days and you'll recover."

Dingjing Shi Tai asked, "Do you agree?"

Linghu Chong saw her two eyes looking at him full of hope and her face was hoping for him to agree. She was afraid that he might not agree to her request. He said, "I will definitely do Shi Tai's request."

Dingjing Shi Tai smiled, "Amituofo, I've been relieved of this burden.

I'm not to be admired. Young hero... who are you really?"

Linghu Chong saw her eyes were unfocused and her breath was very shallow. Her life wasn't long anymore. He couldn't conceal it anymore from her so he put his mouth to her ear and said, "Shi Tai martial uncle, I am

Huashan School's ex-disciple Linghu Chong."

Dingjing Shi Tai let out an "ah" and said, "You.... you... Thank you, young hero," and held his hand, her eyes filled with gratitude. She couldn't draw a breath anymore and her breathing stopped16.

Linghu Chong called out, "Shi Tai, Shi Tai," as he checked her breath.

But she had stopped breathing. He couldn't help but feel mournful. Heng- Shan School's disciples started weeping wildly. The fire sticks were dropped onto the ground and one by one, they were extinguished. All

around them became really dark. Linghu Chong thought, "Dingjing Shi Tai was considered to be her generation's expert in martial art. But by accident, she had lost her life tonight in this wilderness. She was only an old nun

without anyone else to help her here. Can't the Devil Sect just let her go?" Suddenly, he thought aloud, "When that masked men's leader went,

he said: 'Devil Sect's Chief Ren is here. Everyone be tactful, let's go.' Devil Sect's real name is "Sun Moon Sect" and when they hear these two words "Devil Sect", they would feel really insulted. They often kill people who

call their sect "Devil Sect". So why did this person call his own sect "Devil Sect"? Since he used the term "Devil Sect", he must not be from the Devil Sect. So, what's the real origin of this person?" He heard the disciples

sorrowfully crying so he didn't disturb them. He leaned on a tree and slept.

When he woke up in the morning, he saw a few senior disciples

standing guard besides Dingjing Shi Tai's corpse while the young ladies and nuns slept beside him. Linghu Chong thought, "This General has to take these women to Fuzhou. It'll look really odd and strange, neither fish nor fowl. I also need to go to Fuzhou to look for Master and Master-wife. I don't need to lead them, just protecting them will do."

He coughed and was just about to go when Yihe, Yiqing, Yizhi, and Yizhen quickly went and clasped their hands to him and said, "Poor nuns were rescued by Hero, thanks to Hero’s virtue and kindness. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do to repay Hero’s kindness. Martial uncle had met great misfortune and in her last breath entrusted us to Hero. We're waiting for Hero to give orders for us to follow."

They no longer called him General as they believed that this General was a brave person. Linghu Chong said, "What hero? This is not good to hear. When you look at me, just call me General."

Yihe looked at the other disciples and then they all nodded their heads. Linghu Chong said, "Last night I had a dream. In that dream, I saw an old granny poisoned all of you and that you were all lying down inside a big house. How did you all get here?"

Yihe answered, "We didn't know what happened after we were poisoned and fell unconscious. They splashed cold water to wake us all up later. They released the binds on our feet and led us out from the city through a small road. We didn't stop on the road as they kept pulling us trying to hurry. When we walked a bit slow, those thieves whipped us. Even when night fell, we still didn't stop. Then martial uncle caught up with us. They surrounded her telling her to surrender...” When her narrative arrived at this point, she choked and tears started to drop again.

Linghu Chong said, "So there's another small road besides the main one. No wonder we couldn't find any trace of you at all."

Yiqing said, "General, our most important matter right now is to

cremate martial uncle's remains. Could you please show us how to do it?"

Linghu Chong shook his head, "General doesn't know anything about the matters of monks or nuns. It'd be like a blind person leading if you want me to guide you. The most important matter is for General to get his promotion. I'd better go!" He quickly took large strides and headed towards the north.

The female disciples shouted, "General, General!"

How could Linghu Chong pay attention to them? When he went around a hillside, he went up a tree. He waited up there for around four

hours before he saw the Heng-Shan School disciples walked past in sorrow. He followed behind them from far away, secretly protecting them.

When Linghu Chong arrived at an inn in a small town, he thought,

"I've already clashed with the Devil Sect and Songshan School groups. This Quanzhou's General Wu Tiande must have a bit of reputation by now. Your granny, this disguise as a general isn't that good anymore." He called the inn's servant and gave him two silver taels to buy him clothes, shoes and

cap to remodel his disguise. He told him that he was handling a case to

catch thieves so the servant wouldn't tell anyone about what's he's doing and that if the thieves escaped to the ocean then he would come back and arrest the servant instead.

Later, he arrived at a calm and secluded place. He pulled his fine thick beard off and took off his general's clothes, leather boots, Yaodao sabre, and the government documents. He then changed into the set the inn's servant brought him. He buried the all of the previous disguise in a big hole. From now on, he couldn't be called "General" anymore. As he finished changing into his new disguise, he felt a slight melancholy missing the General character already.

Two days later, he bought a long sword from a weapon shop in

Jianning prefecture and put it in his bundle. He again felt happy that he had no other matters. Linghu Chong then observed the Heng-Shan School's nuns entered Fuzhou's wall to enter a monestary. The board in front of the monastery said, "Wuxiang Temple". He sighed and thought, "This burden has been released from my shoulder. Although I promised Dingjing Shi Tai to bring them here, I didn't really bring them here. But they already arrived here safely so I've already fulfilled my promise."

Chapter 24 Injustice

In the picture, Monk Dame's right hand was placed behind his back, and the index finger of his right hand pointed at the ceiling. The gray- haired old man struck out towards the ceiling with both of his palms aiming at the exact spot Damo had pointed at.

Linghu Chong turned around and walked back towards the main road.

He then inquired from a passer-by the direction to the Fortune Prestige Escort House. However he actually didn't feel like going there at the moment, so he just wasted some time by wondering around aimlessly on the street. He didn't know himself whether it's because he didn't dare to meet his Master and Master-Wife or it's because he didn't dare to see his martial

sister and martial brother Lin's present situation. But it might also be because he didn't know what to say to them when he met them. So he looked for some distractions to keep himself busy for the moment.

Suddenly, he heard a familiar voice, "Little Lin, are you going to drink wine with me?" Linghu Chong felt heat rising up his chest and

suddenly felt dizzy. He had travelled more than a thousand li to come to Fujian just to hear this voice and to look at the owner of that voice's face. But right now, hearing that voice, he didn't dare to turn his head around to take a look. All of a sudden, he was frozen there like a statue and tears

started to blur his eyes. The way she called him and the word she used to call him made him realise that his martial sister and martial brother Lin were very intimate with each other.

He then heard Lin Pingzhi replied, "I don't have the time. I'm still not familiar with the lessons that Master taught me."

"Those three sword moves are really easy. After we drink wine, I'll tell you the know-how. Alright?" Yue Lingshan persuaded.

"Master and Master-Wife ordered us not to walk around in the city for the next several days so we don't get into trouble. I think we should just go home," Lin Pingzhi reasoned. Yue Lingshan retorted back, "Then we also can't take a stroll on the main street? I haven't seen any people from Wulin. If a grand hero from

Jiang Hu comes here, we wouldn't interfere with him and he also wouldn't interfere with us. So what else is there to be afraid of?"

As they chatted, they gradually walked further. Linghu Chong slowly turned around and saw Yue Lingshan's slender body at the left and Lin Pingzhi's tall body at the right. The two of them were walking shoulder to

shoulder along the street. Yue Lingshan was wearing a lake-green gown and a jade green skirt. Lin Pingzhi was wearing a pale yellow gown. Both of their gowns were new and clean. As he looked at their backs, they looked very beautiful as a couple. Linghu Chong felt as if there was something

stuck in his chest and he could barely draw his breath.

He had been separated from Yue Lingshan for several months now.

Although he had not stopped thinking of her, when he saw her today, he knew that he still loved her deeply. His hand was gripping the sword handle tightly itching to pull it out and cut his own throat. Suddenly, his vision became dark and he felt as if the sky was spinning and the ground was

shifting. He sat down on the ground heavily. After a while, he composed himself and slowly stood up. He was still feeling dazed, "I shouldn't see these two ever again. What's the use being miserable when seeing them? Tonight, I'll go secretly to look for Master and Master-Wife. I'll leave them a note to tell them that Ren Woxing has reentered Jianghu and wanted to act against Huashan School and that his martial art is strangely high so they'll have to be very careful. There's also no need to leave my name on the note. Then I'll then go far to another region and won't enter the central plains ever again."

He then returned to the inn and called for wine. After he got heavily drunk, he slept with his clothes on. When he woke up in the middle of the night, he jumped over the wall to get out and went towards the Fortune Prestige Escort House. The escort house was big and spacious so it was very easy to recognise. But he saw that all the lights inside the escort house had been extinguished and there was no sound at all coming from there. He thought, "I don't know where Master and Master-Wife are. At this time, they must be asleep already."

Just then, he saw a black shadow moving at the top of the wall to his left. That shadow was coming out of the house and it looked to be a woman. This woman was going towards the southwest. She was using her qinggong and it looked like it was his school's qinggong. Linghu Chong used his qi

and quickly gave chase. When he saw indistinctly the shape of the body from the back, he knew it was Yue Lingshan. He pondered, "Where's little martial sister going so late at night?"

When Yue Lingshan reached the town's wall, she stopped for a second before continuing on her way. Linghu Chong felt that this was very weird.

He followed her at around forty to fifty feet and he kept his steps light to keep her from hearing them. On Fuzhou's road, Yue Lingshan turned east and then west, not hesitating at all when she arrived at an intersection. It

seemed that she was familiar with the path she was taking. After going for more than two li, she took a turn into a small alley when she reached the

side of a stone bridge.

Linghu Chong flew up to the top of a house and saw Yue Lingshan reaching the end of the alley. She then jumped over the wall of the big house to go inside. The house had a black door with white walls. The wall was lined with rattan trees on the top. Inside the house, there were a few windows bright with lights from the inside. Yue Lingshan walked to a side window in the east and peeped through the window. Suddenly, she made a

few sharp sounds, "Zi, zi, zi". At first, Linghu Chong thought that this place was an enemy's house that she was peeping into. But when he suddenly heard her made those sharp sounds, he already guessed what she was doing. Even so, when he heard the voice of the person inside, he felt really disappointed.

The person inside said, "Martial sister, are you trying to scare me to death? If I die then I'll become a ghost and be just like you."

Yue Lingshan giggled, "Smelly Lin, dead Lin, are you saying I'm a ghost? Careful, I'll dig your heart out."

"You don't need to do it. I'll do it myself and give it to you," replied Lin Pingzhi.

Yue Lingshan laughed, "Ok. I'm going to tell mommy that you're talking to me in this kind of manner."

Lin Pingzhi also laughed, "If Master-Wife asked when and where did I say these words to you, then how are you gonna answer?"

"I'll say today at noon when we were practising sword moves. You didn't have the heart to practise anymore and just spent the time saying those words to me."

"If Master-Wife got angry then she'll lock me up and I won't be able to see you for three months."

Yue Lingshan replied, "Pei! Am I that desirable? If you don't see me then you don't see me! Hey, open the window already!"

Lin Pingzhi pushed the window open while laughing at the same time. Yue Lingshan stepped back and went to the side of the window. Lin Pingzhi said to himself, "I thought martial sister has come just then. But there's no one outside," and slowly closed the window. Yue Lingshan quickly jumped through the window. Linghu Chong was crouching at the corner of the house and was able to hear them joking around. They were talking like there was no one else in the world. Linghu Chong wished that he hadn’t heard those words. But unfortunately for him, he heard every word very clearly.

From the reflection on the window, it looked like that the two of them were now hugging each other as their laughter gradually quietened down.

Linghu Chong lightly sighed as he dropped his head and walked away when he suddenly heard Yue Lingshan said, "It's so late, how come you still haven't slept yet? What were you doing?"

Lin Pingzhi answered, "I was waiting for you."

Yue Lingshan giggled, "Pei, you're not afraid losing your teeth for telling lies. How did you know I was gonna come back?"

Lin Pingzhi explained, "The Mountain God calculated from my fluttering heart that my good martial sister would come back."

Yue Lingshan said, "I understand from looking at this house in such a mess that you must be looking for that sword manual. Am I right?"

Linghu Chong stopped and turned back around when he heard the words "sword manual". Then he heard Lin Pingzhi said, "I've been

searching this house for the last several months. I've even turned over the roof tiles one by one. The only thing I haven't done is tear down the wall

and look at the bricks. Martial sister, there's really nothing in this old house. How about we really tear the walls down and take a look?"

Yue Lingshan answered, "This is your own Lin family's house. If you wanna tear it down or not, it's up to you. Why do you need to ask me for?"

"That's why I must ask you first." "Why?"

Lin Pingzhi reasoned, "If I don't ask you then who do I ask? In the future, won't your.... your surname... surname become mine... hng.. hng... hehe." Hearing this Yue Lingshan laughed and scolded him, "Smelly Lin, dead Lin, you think marrying me would be that easy, don't you?" Then "pa, pa" sounds were heard. It sounded like that she used her hand to hit him. As the two people were laughing inside the house, Linghu Chong was heartstricken outside. He really wanted to leave but that Evil Resisting Sword Manual was a matter of great importance to him.

When Lin Pingzhi's parents died, he was the only one there and they left him a message to give to their son. It was because of this that he had now suffered a lot of blame. He had learnt Dugu Nine Swords from grand martial uncle Feng but everyone from Huashan School believed that he had deceived them and took that Evil Resisting Sword Manual for himself.

Even martial sister suspected him of deceiving them. To be fair, the cause of this matter couldn't be blamed on other people. That day when he practiced sword with Master-Wife, he easily stopped her ‘Unrivaled and Unmatched, The Thrust of Ning’. At that time, he had spent several months by himself on that cliff. Suddenly, his sword art had advanced by a lot and it wasn't the same as their school's sword art. If he didn't learn another school's sword art then how would he have improved so much? And if this sword art wasn't the Lin family's Evil Resisting sword art then what else could it be?

He had earlier promised grand martial uncle Feng not to reveal

anything about him. Thus, he couldn't say anything to argue against other people when they accused him of theft and worse. As he thought tonight,

Master must have expelled him because of this although publicly it was said that he was expelled because he was colluding with people from the Devil Sect. But the other major reason must be because they believed that he had embezzled them of the Evil Resisting Sword Manual. Thinking that he had done this despicable conduct, Master wouldn't have tolerated him belonging to the Huashan School anymore. Right now he had to endure the sour taste in his heart as he heard these two people, Yue and Lin, joking around as they also talked about the sword manual. He had to endure it to wait for the truth to be revealed.

He then heard Yue Lingshan said, "You've already been looking for

several months now but still haven't found it. Of course, that sword manual isn't here. Why do you still need to tear the wall down? Big brother Big

brother said those words to you, do you think they're real?"

Linghu Chong ached in his heart, "She still calls me "Big brother"."

Lin Pingzhi said, "Big brother did pass on dad's final words. He said there's an object left by my ancestor in the old house at Xiang Yang Lane and I wasn't allowed to read it. I think Big brother must have borrowed the

sword manual and hasn't returned it yet. " Linghu Chong coldly smiled and

thought, "You're saying this so politely and didn't say that I’ve embezzled you. You only said that I borrowed it and hasn't returned it yet. Hng, hng, you don't have to be that restrained in scolding me."

He then heard Lin Pingzhi continued, "But the words "old house at Xiang Yang Lane" can't be made up by big brother. My dad and mum must've told him these words. Big brother and my family weren't

acquainted. Also he had never been to Fuzhou so he wouldn't know that Fuzhou has several Xiang Yang Lanes. Furthermore, he wouldn't know that my ancestors' old house is at Xiang Yang Lane. Even people from Fuzhou might not know much about it."

Yue Lingshan said, "If we consider that what your dad and mum said was true then what do we do?"

"When big brother told me my dad's last word, he also mentioned:

"don't read". That thing that I'm not allowed to read, is it a classic scripture or some accounting book? I've been thinking about it over and over, and I'm sure it has something to do with the sword manual. Martial sister, since dad's last word mentioned the old house in Xiang Yang Lane, even though the sword manual isn't here, we might still discover some kind of clue here," said Lin Pingzhi.

"That might be a possibility. These last few days, I saw that you've been feeling pretty down. At night, you came to this place instead of staying at the escort house and sleeping. I was worried for you and that's why I

came here to take a look. So during the day, you're practising sword and accompanying me while at night you're here digging a nest," said Yue Lingshan jestingly.

Lin Pingzhi weakly smiled and sighed, "My dad and mum died miserably. When I find the sword manual, I'll be able to use it to deal with my enemies and console my dad and mum in heaven."

Yue Lingshan said, "I don't know where big brother is right now. If only I can meet him then it'll be good because I can ask him to return the

sword manual to you. He has been practising for a long time already so his sword art must be extremely high now. He should return the sword manual back to its owner. I'd say, little Lin, why don't you give up this idea and stop searching inside this old house. If you don't have this sword manual, then finish learning my dad's Divine Art of Violet Twilight then you'll get your revenge."

Lin Pingzhi said, "Of course. But my dad and mum were tormented and died miserably. If I can use the Lin family's sword art to take revenge

then it would be a real revenge which would get rid of the insult done to my dad and mum. Also, our school's Divine Art of Violet Twilight isn't easily passed down to the disciples. I was the last one to enter the school so even if Master and Master-Wife want to give me a look, martial brothers and martial sisters would refuse to accept this. They would say... would say... "

"What would they say?" Yue Lingshan demanded. "They would say that you and I are not a real couple. That it's merely for me to have a look at the Divine Art of Violet Twilight and to get Master and Master-Wife's favor," explained Lin Pingzhi.

Yue Lingshan said, "Pei! I don't care what they say, let them say whatever they want. I only need to know that your heart is real then

everything's ok."

Lin Pingzhi laughed, "How do you know that I'm real?"

A "pai" sound was heard. But Linghu Chong didn't know whether she hit his shoulder or his back. She then spat out, "I know that your heart is false and insincere, you're heartless and cruel!"

Lin Pingzhi laughed, "Ok, ok. you've been here for a long time

already, you should go back. I'll take you back to the escort house. If Master or Master-Wife find out then I'll be in big trouble."

"You're getting rid of me, aren't you? I can go back by myself. I don't need you to take me back." She didn't sound pleased at all. Linghu Chong knew that she must be pouting her small mouth at this moment and looking angry. Her expression must be attractive right now.

Lin Pingzhi said, "Master said that Devil Sect's former Chief, Ren Woxing, has reappeared in Jianghu. I also heard that he had arrived in Fujian and that this person's martial art is immeasurably deep. He's also heartless and ruthless. If when you're walking alone late at night and unfortunately meet him, then. then what would you do?"

Linghu Chong thought, "So Master knew about this matter already.

Must be because I've made such a big disturbance in Xianxia mountain range. Everyone must be saying that Ren Woxing has reappeared. How can master not heard about this news? I don't need to write that note anymore."

Yue Lingshan said, "Hng, so if you take me back and we unfortunately meet him then you'll be able to kill or capture him?" Lin Pingzhi answered, "You're teasing me again. You already knew that my martial art isn't that high. Of course, I'm no match for him but I only wanna be together with you. If we were to die, then we should die together."

Yue Lingshan softly said, "Little Lin, I didn't mean that your martial art isn't high enough. You're practising so hard that in the future, you'll

surely be stronger than me. In fact if you're more familiar with the sword art right now and we fight in a real battle, I probably won’t be your match."

Lin Pingzhi laughed lightly and said, "Only if you use your left hand then maybe we can have a competition."

"I'll help you look around. You're already too familiar with this house so you won't notice anything strange. But maybe I'll be able to recognise

something," said Yue Lingshan.

Lin Pingzhi said, "Alright. Go have a look and see if there's something strange here."

After that Linghu Chong heard the sound of drawers and tables being pulled. After some time, Yue Lingshan said, "Everything is so ordinary here. Is there any unusual place in this house?"

Lin Pingzhi thought for a while and said, "Unusual place? No."

Yue Lingshan asked, "Where's the courtyard to practise martial art?"

Lin Pingzhi said, "We don't have a courtyard to practise martial art here. When my great grandfather opened the escort house, he moved

everything and lived there. Both my grandfather and father also lived and practised their martial art in the escort house. Also, dad said the word

"read", what's there to read in the courtyard?"

Yue Lingshan said, "That's true. Let's go to your family's study room and have a look." Lin Pingzhi said, "We're an escort house. We have an accounting room but no study room. The accounting room is also in the escort house."

Yue Lingshan said, "That thing is really hard to find. What's there to read in this house?"

Lin Pingzhi said, "I've been pondering over what big brother told me. He said dad told me not to read what great grandad left me. But I think that this sentence might be the other way around, it might be that my dad was telling me to look for this thing left by my great grandad in this old house17. But what's there to read in this house? I've been searching all over this place but I've only found my great granddad's Buddhist scriptures."

Yue Lingshan jumped up and clapped her hands. She said, "Buddhist scriptures! That's very good. Ancestor Da Mo left sword manuals inside

Buddhist scriptures. So it's not uncommon for this."

When Linghu Chong heard what Yue Lingshan said, he got excited.

He thought, "If martial brother Lin can find that sword manual inside a Buddhist scripture then it'll be good. He won't suspect me of embezzling him anymore."

But he heard Lin Pingzhi said, "I've already thought of this. I've read not only one or two scriptures, or even eight or ten scriptures. I'm afraid I've even read more than one hundred scriptures. I've gone and bought Jingang

scripture, Fahua scripture, Xin scripture, Lengqie scripture and compared them all with my great granddad's Buddhist scriptures. But not one word is different. They're all normal scriptures."

Yue Lingshan said, "Then there's no point reading them."

She thought deeply and suddenly said, "Have you looked in between the scriptures binding?"

Lin Pingzhi pondered, "The binding? I haven't thought of that. Let's go take a look." They each took a candle and walked out of the room hand in hand going towards the back courtyard. While Linghu Chong followed them from the top of the house by looking at lights coming out of the windows. They finally arrived at a room facing the northwest. Linghu Chong followed them and went down to the courtyard. He then peeped through a crack in the window.

Inside the room was a Buddhist hall. A water painting of Da Mo’s back was hung in the middle of the room. It was portraying the period of nine years when Da Mo meditated facing a wall. At the east side of the hall were a very old kneeling mat and a meditation table. On the table were a

wooden fish, a small wooden hammer and a closed Buddhist scripture. Linghu Chong thought, "This was the place where Senior Lin established the Fortune Prestige Escort House. During those days, his name shook the world and he must have killed quite a few people. In his later years, he must have come here to confess for his killings." He then imagined a grand hero of the Jianghu, with his long white hair flying around, sitting alone in this hall, immersed in reading Buddhist scriptures while striking the wooden fish.

Yue Lingshan picked a scripture up and said, "Let's take apart the

scriptures and see if we can find this thing in the binding. If we can't find anything then we'll just patch the scriptures again. What do you think?"

"Alright," answered Lin Pingzhi.

He picked a scripture up and started to pull apart the book-bindings.

He then spread the scripture pages around the floor to see if there's any

writing on the part of the pages that were bound. While Yue Lingshan took apart another scripture and put up each page in front of the candle to see if there's anything. Linghu Chong was looking at her back but he was able to see her jade white wrist. She was still wearing that silver bracelet on her left hand. Sometimes, he was able to see the side of her face as she gave a look to Lin Pingzhi and smiled at him before going back to take the scriptures

apart. He didn't know whether it was because of the candle or because her cheeks had turned red, but the side of her face looked like a ripe peach.

Linghu Chong was standing quietly outside the window feeling

sentimental while the two of them tore apart scripture after scripture. Before long, twelve scriptures were torn apart and were now on the table.

Suddenly, Linghu Chong heard a sound behind his back. He quickly pulled back from the window and turned his head around. He saw the shadows of two people coming from the south side of the house. They made a hand

signal before jumping down to the courtyard and noiselessly landing on the ground. The two of them then went to the window to look inside the

Buddhist hall.

After some time, he heard Yue Lingshan disappointingly said, "We've already taken apart all the scriptures. There's nothing there." She was

suddenly excited and continued, "Little Lin, I think we should bring over a basin of water."

Lin Pingzhi asked, "For what?"

Yue Lingshan answered, "When I was small, I heard daddy told me a story about manuscripts immersed in acid. Then they would write on it and when it's dried, the letters would disappear. But when the pages were

wetted, the letters would appear."

Linghu Chong's heart turned sour as he remembered the time his

Master told this story. Yue Lingshan was only eight or nine years old and he was only around seventeen or eighteen years old. Remembering those past days, the memories bubbled over in his heart. He remembered that day

when he went with her to catch crickets. He took the biggest and strongest cricket and gave it to her. But her cricket still lost to his in a fight, so she wept incessantly while he tried to comfort her for a long time. Finally, he was able to comfort her before the two of them went to Master to ask him for a story. Remembering these events, tears started to bubble up in his

eyes.

Then he heard Lin Pingzhi said, "Right, no harm in trying." As he turned around to go out, Yue Lingshan said, "I'll go with you." The two of them went out hand in hand. Those two people hiding beneath the window were holding their breath and remaining still. After some time, Lin Pingzhi and Yue Lingshan came back to the Buddhist hall with a basin of water.

They then soaked seven or eight pages of the scriptures in the basin. Lin Pingzhi couldn't wait anymore and took out a page out of the water and held it up against the candle's light. But there was no new letter appearing on the page. The two of them had tried more than twenty pages but there was still no clue at all. Lin Pingzhi said, "We don't need to test anymore. There's no letters appearing on these pages." After Lin Pinghzhi said these words, those two people hiding beneath the window quietly moved to the door and pushed it open. Lin Pingzhi asked, "Who's there?"

The two people rushed in, moving like the wind. Lin Pingzhi lifted his hand ready to fight as one person attacked the side of his body. Yue Lingshan already pulled half her sword out when the enemy's two fingers were thrust towards her eyes. She quickly let go of her sword handle and swept her hand up to block the attack. Without missing a beat, that person changed the direction of his attack and was now stabbing towards her throat. Yue Lingshan was astonished and retreated two steps when she hit

the side of the meditation table and couldn't go back anymore. That person immediately lifted his left hand and chopped down on her head. Yue Lingshan raised her two palms to block the attack but unexpectedly this attack was a fake as that person stabbed an acupoint on Yue Lingshan's waist with his right hand. She leaned on the table unable to move.

Linghu Chong saw everything that went on in that room and at the moment wasn't worried about their lives. He was thinking that there was no hurry to save them. Furthermore, he wasn't sure of the background of these enemies. Also, the enemies were looking around the hall right now. One took the kneeling mat and tore it in two. While the other one smashed the wooden fish into seven or eight pieces. Lin Pingzhi and Yue Lingshan were

unable to talk or move when they saw these two people tearing the kneeling mat and smashing the wooden fish. It was obvious that they were looking for the Evil Resisting Sword Manual. They both thought the same thing,

"How come we didn't think that the sword manual might be in the kneeling mat or the wooden fish." But there was nothing inside the mat or the

wooden fish and they both felt happy.

The two intruders were around fifty years old. One was bald and the other one was full of white hair. Those two people moved really fast and before long all the objects on the table were broken to pieces already. They then turned their attention to the portrait of Da Mo. That bald old man

extended his hand to grab the portrait but the white-haired old man

extended his hand to block it and shouted, "Wait, look at where his finger is pointing to!" Linghu Chong, Lin Pingzhi, and Yue Lingshan immediately looked at the painting. They saw Da Mo's left hand was behind his back holding a sword manual and his right hand was pointing towards the roof.

The bald old man asked, "What's so strange about his fingers?"

The white-haired old man answered, "I don't know! Let's have a look first." He jumped straight up and aimed his two palms at the roof where the portrait of Da Mo was pointing. With a crash, dust and bits of roof tiles

started to rain down. The bald old man asked, "What's there. " He only said these two

words when a red Buddhist robe floated down from the hole in the roof. The white-haired old man extended his hand and grabbed the robe.

He then took a look at it under the candle's light. He said, "It's. it's here."

He was overjoyed and his voice was trembling. The bald old man asked, "What?" The white-haired old man said, "Look at it yourself."

Linghu Chong squinted his eyes and saw that there were many small words written on the Buddhist robe. The bald old man said, "Could this be the Evil Resisting Sword Manual?" The white-haired old man said, "Most likely this is the sword manual. Haha, we two brothers have done this great service tonight. Brother, put it away." The bald old man was so happy that his mouth was open as he folded the robe and put it in his bosom. He pointed at Lin Pingzhi and Yue Lingshan with his left hand and asked,

"Shall we kill them?" Linghu Chong gripped his sword handle waiting for the white-haired old man to reveal his murderous intention before rushing in there and killing these two old men. Who would have thought that the

white-haired old man would say, "We already have the sword manual. Let's not pick a fight with Huashan School. Let them go." The two people then walked out of the Buddhist hall and jumped out over the wall.

Linghu Chong immediately jumped over the wall to follow them and saw that those two old men were extremely quick with their footsteps.

Linghu Chong was afraid to lose those two in the dark so he quickened his steps but still kept a distance of twenty feet between them. The two old men went even faster but Linghu Chong kept up with them. Suddenly, they

stopped and turned around. Linghu Chong saw a sudden flash of light and felt his right shoulder and right arm hurting. Unexpectedly, his shoulder and arm had already been slashed by their sabres. These two men suddenly stopping, suddenly turning around and suddenly slashing their sabres out were like that of thunder suddenly striking down.

Although Linghu Chong's internal energy was deep and his sword art was brilliant, he was still inferior to first-class fighters by a big level when faced with sudden changes in the battlefield or encountering strange and unusual enemies' skills. The enemies' attacks were so fast that it didn't even need mentioning that he didn't manage to use his sword to fight back. He didn't even have enough time to reach his sword handle before he got heavily injured.

The sabre art of the two old men were very fast as they quickly followed with a second slash. Linghu Chong was startled and hastily jumped back. Fortunately, his internal energy was deep which allowed him to jump back for twenty feet with one leap. He then jumped back again for another twenty feet. These two old men saw that he had been heavily injured but he was still able to jump really fast and far. They were alarmed but they still rushed forward. Linghu Chong quickly turned around and ran away.

Initially, his injured shoulder and arm didn't hurt that much. But now, the pain was so severe that he felt like fainting. He thought, "These two people have stolen the Buddhist robe with the Evil Resisting Sword Manual written on it. I need it to right this injustice I'm being blamed for. I must take it back and return it to martial brother Lin." He endured the pain on his arm and shoulder as he extended his hand to grip his sword handle. As he pulled the long sword out, it stopped halfway. Unexpectedly, his injured right hand was unable to pull the sword out any further. His right hand had no more energy. He then heard the sound of the wind at the back of his head as the enemies' sabres were chopping down on his head. Linghu Chong gathered his qi and quickly leaped forward while his left hand forcibly pulled on his belt tearing it. He then gripped his sword with his left hand and shook it free from the scabbard. When he felt the cold air rushing towards him again, he turned around and saw the two sabres chopping down.

He leaped back another step. The sky would get brighter soon, but at the moment it was the darkest time just before dawn. Besides the flashes of the sabres, he could see nothing else. When he learned the Dugu Nine Swords, he needed to look at the weakness of the enemy's moves and attack that point. But right now, he wasn't able to see the enemies' movements so he couldn't use his sword art at all. Just then, he felt his left arm also hurt as an enemy's sabre scratched it. He rushed towards a long street with his left hand gripping the sword and pressing down on the injury on his right

shoulder to stem the blood from flowing down to the ground.

As the two people chased him, they saw that his steps were really quick that they wouldn't be able to chase him down. Thinking that it was good already that they had grabbed the sword manual, they didn't want to linger anymore so they stopped chasing. They turned around and went

away. Linghu Chong shouted, "Hey, bold thieves, you wanna run after stealing?" and turned around to chase. This angered the two people that they also turned around and wielded their sabres to chop him. Linghu

Chong didn't want to cross swords with them so he quickly turned around and ran away again. He secretly prayed, "Someone please pass by carrying a lamp." After running for several steps, he thought of an idea. He quickly jumped onto a roof and looked around. He spotted a house at his left with

the light from the window lighting up the area around it. He quickly went to that lighted area. But those two old men had again stopped chasing.

Linghu Chong stooped down, grabbed two roof tiles, and threw it towards them. He shouted, "You've robbed Lin family's Evil Resisting Sword Manual! One bald, one white-haired, you want to escape to the end of the world but Wulin's heroes will capture both of you and cut your

corpses into pieces." Those two roof tiles broke as they hit the slab stones on the street.

When the two old men heard him mention the "Evil Resisting Sword Manual", they quickly jumped onto the roof to give chase. Linghu Chong felt his legs becoming weaker and losing his strength. Fiercely, he drew a breath and ran to the lighted area at top speed. Suddenly, he staggered and fell on the ground below. However, he quickly somersaulted using the

"Carp’s Leap" move and landed on his feet. Then he leaned back against the wall.

The two old men lightly jumped down and approached him separately from his left and right. The bald old man smiling fiercely said, "I've given you one life but you didn't wanna go." Linghu Chong saw his baldhead was shining like a crystal. His heart shivered, "So it's dawn already." He laughed, "Which house or school are you from? Why do you want to kill me?"

The white-haired old man lifted his sabre and slashed it down to split his head in two. Linghu Chong threw his sword into his right hand and lightly pierced his throat. That bald old man was startled and quickly brandished his sabre as he rushed forward. Linghu Chong slashed his sword towards the hand carrying the sabre and cut his wrist off. Then he pointed the sword at his throat and said, "Tell me who you two really are and I'll let you live." The bald old man laughed. Looking mournful, he said, "We brothers have rarely met a match when running amuck in Jianghu. Today, I'll die under your honor's sword. Really admirable. But I don't know your honor's name. I'll die… die with regrets." Linghu Chong saw that although he had lost a hand, he was still unafraid. He respected him deeply for this so he said, "I was forced to defend myself, actually I'm not acquainted with you two at all. Handless man, I'm sorry. Sir, please give me the Buddhist robe. Then we don't have to keep going."

That bald old man said, "How can Bald Eagle surrender?" and with a flash of his left hand, he pierced his own heart with a dagger.

Linghu Chong thought, "This person rather die than surrender. What a unique character!"

He then stooped down to take out that Buddhist robe but he felt dizzy and knew that he had lost a lot of blood. He ripped his gown and carelessly struggled to tie his injured shoulder and arm with the cloth. Only then did he take out the Buddhist robe from the bosom of that bald old man. He then felt dizzy again and immediately took a few deep breaths. The sky was brighter now and he was able to recognise the road. He then walked back towards Lin Pingzhi's old house on Xiang Yang Lane.

After walking for a couple hundred feet, he felt he couldn't support himself anymore. He thought, "If I fall down now, I won't be able to protect my name but after I am dead, everyone will think that I did steal the Evil

Resisting Sword Manual. With that thing on my body, if I die now my name will be like dirt." So he gathered his energy to continue walking and finally arrived at Xiang Yang Lane. But the Lin family house's main door was

closed. Lin Pingzhi and Yue Lingshan had been knocked out by those people so there was no one to open the door. He wanted to jump over the wall but he had no more energy left. He knocked on the door a few times before kicking the door.

But his kick wasn't able to open the big door. Strained to the utmost at this point, he staggered and passed out. When he woke up, he felt that he was lying on a bed. He opened his eyes and saw the Yue Buqun couple in front of the bed. Linghu Chong was overjoyed and called out, "Master,

Master-Wife... I.... I. " He was really excited and tears started to drop. He

struggled to sit up. Yue Buqun didn't answer but asked, "What matter do you have here?" Linghu Chong said, "Little martial sister? Is. Is she ok?"

Madam Yue answered, "She's fine! How how come you're in Fuzhou?"

Her voice was full of concern and her eyes were red already.

"Martial brother Lin's Evil Resisting Sword Manual was stolen by two old men. I killed those two people and brought it back. Those two...

those two people are likely good fighters from the Devil Sect," Linghu

Chong explained and reached inside his bosom but that Buddhist robe was gone.

He quickly asked, "Where... where's that Buddhist robe?" "What's that?" Madam Yue asked.

"There were words written on that Buddhist robe. It was most likely the Lin family's Evil Resisting Sword Manual."

"If that's Pingzhi's then he should be the one taking care of it," Madam Yue said.

"Yes. Master-Wife, are you and Master well? Martial brothers and sisters are all well?"

Madam Yue used her sleeve to wipe her teary eyes before saying, "Everyone's fine."

"How did I end up here? Did Master and Master-Wife rescue me?" Linghu Chong queried.

"When I arrived at Pingzhi's old house this morning, I saw you passed out on the ground," Madam Yue explained.

Linghu Chong groaned, "Lucky that Master-Wife found me.

Otherwise, if the Devil Sect's people found me first, I'd have been dead." He knew that Master-Wife came to Xiang Yang Lane to look for her daughter when she didn't see her early in the morning. It was just that it was awkward to mention it right now.

"You said you killed two evil people from the Devil Sect. How did you know they're from the Devil Sect?" Yue Buqun wondered.

Linghu Chong answered, "When disciple was going south, I've run across many Devil Sect's people on the road. I've also fought with them a few times already. These two people's martial arts were weird. They're definitely not from our orthodox schools." Secretly he was feeling happy, "I've returned martial brother Lin's Evil Resisting Sword Manual. Master, Master-Wife, and little martial sister wouldn't suspect me anymore. Also,

since I've killed those two Devil Sect's evils, Master wouldn't blame me for colluding with the Devil Sect anymore."

Who would have thought that Yue Buqun's complexion would turn pale on hearing Linghu Chong's reply. He snorted and scolded, "You're still talking nonsense! Do you think I can be deceived that easily?"

Linghu Chong was alarmed and quickly said, "Disciple doesn't dare to fool Master."

Yue Buqun's voice quaked, "Who's your master? I've already disowned you as my disciple."

Linghu Chong quickly got up from the bed and kneeled down on the ground. He kowtowed, "Disciple has done many wrong things, I'm willing to receive punishments from Master. But... but my expulsion from the

school, I request Master to take me back."

Yue Buqun moved aside not receiving his kowtow. He then coldly said, "The daughter of Devil Sect's Chief Ren already favors you and you’ve also been cooperating with them for a long time already. Why do you still need me as your master?" Linghu Chong was confused, "Daughter of Devil Sect's Chief Ren?

Master, I don't know what you're saying? Although I've heard of that Ren... Ren Woxing's daughter, I've never met her before."

Madam Yue rebuked him lightly, "Chong'er, even now, why are you still telling lies?" She sighed and continued, "That lady Ren gathered those evil people of Jianghu at the top of Five-Tyrant Ridge to give you medications. That day, didn't we go..."

Linghu Chong was greatly astonished. His voice was trembling as he said, "That lady on the Five-Tyrant Ridge, she's... she's... Yingying... she's Chief Ren's daughter?"

"Get up before speaking," Madam Yue requested.

Linghu Chong slowly stood up. His heart was at a loss and he kept on mumbling, "She's... she's Chief Ren's daughter? How... how can this be?"

Madam Yue was angry and she wasn't pleased at all, "Why are you still telling lies to Master and Master-Wife?"

Yue Buqun indignantly said, "Who's his master or Master-Wife?" He extended his hand and hit the table repeatedly. With each hit, a piece of the table broke away.

Linghu Chong was frightened, "Disciple doesn't dare lie to Master and Master-Wife... "

Yue Buqun fiercely said, "I have eyes but I couldn't see and had

accepted such a shameless child as a disciple. I'm very ashamed to face the heroes of the realm. You want to dirty my name, don't you? If you ever call us "Master, Master-Wife" again, then I'll kill you right now." He was

extremely angry and his face was turning purple readying his qi.

Linghu Chong answered, "Yes!" as he put his hand on the edge of the bed to support himself. His face was pale and his body was shaking violently. "They did give me some treatments on that ridge. But... but they never told me that she... she was Chief Ren's daughter."

Madam Yue said, "You're bright and clever, you're also very alert, how could you not have figured it out? She's only a very young lady, but

with only one word from her, she could control all those evil people. Every one of them struggled to be on that ridge only to give some kind of treatment for you. Besides the daughter of Devil Sect's Chief Ren, who else has such a big reputation?"

"Disc... I... I thought she was only an old granny at that time," Linghu Chong explained.

"She was disguising herself?" Madam Yue asked.

"She didn't. It's just... it's just that I've never seen her face before," Linghu Chong said.

Yue Buqun uttered a laugh but there was no sign of laughter on his face. Madam Yue sighed, "Chong'er, you're already grown up. Your

character has also changed. You're not taking the words that I just said into your heart."

Linghu Chong said, "Master... Master... the words that you said, I...

I... " What he wanted to say was: "The words that you said, I wouldn't dare to violate." Master and Master-Wife had repeatedly told him not to make friends with people from Devil Sect. But with the connection he had with Yingying, Xiang Wentian, and Ren Woxing, how can they just merely be

called "friends"?

Madam Yue continued, "That daughter of Chief Ren was so nice to you so she gathered so many people to treat your illness. Because of that you were able to live. So maybe this is excusable..."

Yue Buqun indignantly said, "What do you mean excusable? Are you allowed to stop at nothing just to live?" He usually treated Madam Yue very courteously as if she was an honored guest. But today, he had repeatedly spoken to her in a fierce manner and had also cut her off in the middle of

her sentence. It was obvious that he was in an uncontrollable rage. Madam Yue understood her husband's mood so she didn't consult with him before continuing, "But why were you together with one of the Devil Sect elders,

Xiang Wentian, and killed many of our orthodox school's people? Both of your hands are stained with their blood, you... you quickly get out of here!"

Linghu Chong's back was drenched with cold sweat as he remembered that day on Liang Pavillion. He was welcoming the enemies together with Xiang Wentian and many people from the orthodox schools died under his hand. But at that time the fight was very dangerous so if he didn't kill them, he would have been the one to get killed. There was really nothing he could do differently at all. But these blood debts would forever be on his hands.

Madam Yue said, "Below the Five-Tyrant Ridge, you joined hands with that Devil Sect's young Lady Ren again to kill a few Shaolin and

Kunlun Schools' disciples. Chong'er, I've long regarded you as my own son but these things that have happened so far, your... your Master-Wife is powerless to protect you anymore." As she said this, two teardrops fell on her cheeks.

Linghu Chong bleakly said, "Son has really done some unpardonable wrongs. But I’m responsible for what I did; I cannot let Huashan School's reputation to be covered in dirt. I request you, two honourable, to open a

court of law and invite every house and every school to come and witness my execution according to Huashan School's rules."

Yue Buqun sighed, "Master Linghu, if you were still my Huashan School's disciple today, then this might work. Your death would have protected Huashan School's reputation as you would have still been my disciple. But I've already announced to the whole realm about your

expulsion from the school. Hereafter, what do your actions have to do with my Huashan School? Also, what position do I have to put you in your place? Hey, hey, the just and evil cannot coexist together. Next time when you're doing evil things, if I bump into you at that time, then I would definitely kill you. I can’t just let you do whatever you want."

When he spoke until here, someone called out from the outside, "Master, Master-Wife." It was Lao Denuo.

Yue Buqun asked, "What is it?"

"There are people outside paying a visit to Master and Master-Wife. He said he's Songshan School's Zhong Zhen. His two martial brothers are also here," Lao Denuo answered.

Yue Buqun said, "Nine Bent Sword Zhong Zhen, he's also in Fujian?

I'll come out straight away," and he made his way outside.

Madam Yue looked at Linghu Chong, her eyes were brimming with tears and it looked like she was asking him to wait here. She turned her head again looking like she had something to say before going out of the room.

Linghu Chong had long regarded Master-Wife as his own mother. He felt extremely remorseful seeing her tender affection towards him. He

considered, "I can blame my unrestrained behaviour for a lot of things that have happened. I didn't distinguish "right and wrong" and "good and evil"

clearly. Brother Xiang is evidently not a noble person. Why didn't I find out clearly before helping him fight? If I die now, it's no big deal. But not only it would make Master and Master-Wife lose face in front of Wulin’s heroes, all the other martial brothers and martial sisters would also lose their faces because people would say Huashan School has produced such an unworthy disciple." He thought more, "So Yingying is Chief Ren's daughter. No wonder Old Man and Zu Qianqiu were so respectful towards her. She thoughtlessly said a word and all those Jianghu heroes were banished to the East China Sea’s Huang Island and wouldn't be able to come back to the

central plains ever again. Ai, I should have realised it earlier. In Wulin, besides a leader of the Devil Sect, who else has such power? But when she was with me, she was coy and bashful, she was even more so compared to little martial sister. Who would have expected that she would be a head of the Devil Sect? But Chief Ren was imprisoned by Dongfang Bubai at the bottom of the West Lake. How did his daughter get so much power?"

His mind was like a tide, going up and down indeterminately.

Suddenly he heard footsteps approaching and a person entered the room quickly. It was the person he had been thinking of day and night. The person whom he had borne in his mind all the time; it was his little martial sister. Linghu Chong called out, "Little martial sister! You... " He was at a loss for words.

Yue Lingshan said, "Big martial brother, quickly... quickly get out of here. Songshan School's people are looking for you." She was very anxious as she was telling him this. But when Linghu Chong saw her, all the matters that were in his mind were all forgotten. What Songshan School? He didn't even hear what she said. All sorts of emotions were bubbling inside of him as he was looking at her. Sweet, sour, bitter, hot, and all sort of other tastes were rushing forth in his mind.

Yue Lingshan saw him staring at her. Her face turned red as she said, "It's someone surnamed Zhong, he brought two of his martial brothers here. He said that you killed some Songshan School's people and he had chased you till here."

Linghu Chong was dumbfounded and was at a loss, "I killed some people from the Songshan School? I didn't..." Suddenly, the door to the room banged open and Yue Buqun walked in. He was angry and said fiercely, "Linghu Chong, you've done very well!

You've killed Songshan School's seniors but you tried to deceive me by saying that they were Devil Sect's villains."

"Disc... I... I killed Songshan School's seniors? I... I didn't..." Linghu Chong stammered.

" 'White Hair Immortal' Bu Chen, 'Bald Eagle' Sha Tianjiang, didn't you kill these two people?" Yue Buqun asked indignantly.

When Linghu Chong heard the nicknames of these two people, he recalled what that bald old man, who committed suicide, said before he died: "How can Bald Eagle surrender?" Then the other person must be 'White Hair Immortal’ Bu Chen. "One white-haired old man and one bald old man, I killed those two people. But... but I didn't know they were from Songshan School. Since they were using sabres, it's definitely not Songshan School's martial art."

"So you killed these two people?" Yue Buqun looked stern as he asked this question again.

"Yes," Linghu Chong answered.

"Dad, those white-haired old man and bald old man... " Yue Lingshan pleaded.

Yue Buqun cut her off, "Get out! Who asked you to come in? Do I want you to interfere while I'm talking here?"

Yue Lingshan could only drop her head and slowly walked out of the

room.

Linghu Chong felt miserable and happy at the same time, "Although

martial sister and martial brother Lin are on good terms, she still considered me as a friend. She bravely rebuked her father. And before, she alerted me to quickly run away to avoid disaster." Yue Buqun laughed coldly, "Do you know all the martial arts of the Five Mountains Sword Schools? These two people, Bu and Sha, came from Songshan School. Since you absolutely have no rules or regulations

whatsoever; I don't know what kind of despicable method you used to kill them. But Songshan School tracked the traces of blood all the way back to Pingzhi's old house at Xiang Yang Lane. They then investigated further and traced the clues to here. Now, martial brother Zhong from Songshan School is outside as my guest. Do you have anything else to say?"

Madam Yue walked into the room and said, "They never saw

Chong'er killing the two people. They were only relying on the trail of blood. How can they be sure that it was done by someone inside the escort house? Why don't we just tell them that we don't know anything?"

Yue Buqun indignantly retorted, "Martial sister, even until now, you still want to protect this "stop at no evil" good-for-nothing kid? I'm the leader of Huashan School. How can I tell lies just because of this animal? You... You... how can we do that? We mustn't bring ruin and shame upon ourselves."

For the past several years, Linghu Chong had always known that Master and Master-Wife went from martial brother and sister to husband

and wife. If he could be like that for one day with little martial sister, then he'll be satisfied and would have no other wish in this life. But when he saw Master talking so fiercely to Master-Wife, he suddenly thought, "If little martial sister were my wife, I'll do whatever she wants me to do. I'll do it if it was a good thing. I'll still do it if it was a bad thing. I'd never brush away her idea in the slightest bit. Even if she wanted me to do ten really evil things, I'd do it in a heartbeat." Yue Buqun suddenly saw Linghu Chong's

expression becoming tender and soft with a hint of a smile. Linghu Chong's eyes shone passionately as he thought of that girl standing outside the room. Yue Buqun lashed out "Little animal, what kind of evil plan are you cooking up now?"

Yue Buqun's loud shout woke Linghu Chong up abruptly from his flights of fancy. When he looked up, he saw that his master's face had turned purple and he had his hand raised ready to strike his head. Suddenly, the feeling of joy washed over him as he felt ready to give up all the bitter things that had happened to him. Today, under his Master's hand, he would die happily and be freed. His heart yearned for death especially with little martial sister besides him to see him get killed by her own father.

Gazing at Yue Lingshan, he smiled slightly and waited for his

Master's palm to strike down. He heard the wind whistle as Yue Buqun's palm descended. But suddenly, Madam Yue cried out, "No! You can't!" as her finger stabbed towards her husband's "Yu Zhen" acupoint at the back of his head. The two of them had been practising their martial arts together

since they were small and were both very familiar with each other's skills. This acupoint that Madam Yue was attacking was a fatal point so Yue

Buqun automatically turned around to block the strike while Madam Yue quickly put herself in front of Linghu Chong.

Yue Buqun's faced turned pale and indignantly asked, "What... what are you doing?"

"Chong'er, quickly go! Go!" Madam Yue hurriedly urged.

Linghu Chong shook his head, "I'm not going. If Master wants to kill me then he can kill me. I deserve this punishment for my sins."

Madam Yue stamped her foot and insisted further, "Now that I'm here, he can't kill you. Quickly go, go really far and never come back."

Yue Buqun snorted, "Hng, if he goes then what do we tell those three people from Songshan School waiting outside?" Linghu Chong thought, "So Master is worried that he might not be able to deal with Zhong Zhen and his brothers. I should go and meet them in his place." Deciding this, he declared, "Alright, I'll go meet them." and went out of the room in big strides.

Madam Yue pleaded after him, "You cannot go. They'll kill you."

But Linghu Chong kept on walking very fast and in no time at all, he arrived at the main hall.

Sure enough, he saw Nine Bent Sword Zhong Zhen, Divine Whip

Deng Bagong, and Bright-Haired Lion Gao Kexin sitting on the guest seats. Linghu Chong went and took a seat opposite to them. He coldly questioned, "You three, what are you doing here?"

At this moment, wearing the clothes of a servant and having no fake beards attached to his face, Linghu Chong looked completely different from the General they had met that night. When Zhong Zhen and his brothers

saw this wretched looking and blood-stained young servant being rude to them as soon as he had entered the room, they all became angry.

Gao Kexin shouted, "What kind of thing* are you?"

Linghu Chong laughed, "You three people, what kind of north south18 are you?"

Gao Kexin was startled and wondered, "How can it be called "north south"?" But he decided that it was just badly spoken. Indignantly he demanded, "Go and get Mr. Yue out here! Do you think you are good

enough to talk to us?"

In the mean time, Yue Buqun, Madam Yue, Yue Lingshan, and the multitudes of Huashan School's disciples had arrived by the screen door outside the hall. They all heard how Linghu Chong answered Gao Kexin's question. When Yue Lingshan heard Linghu Chong asking "You three people, what kind of north south are you?", she thought it was very funny even though her big martial brother was being rude. But she knew that because big martial brother had killed people from Songshan School, these three masters and big martial brother would definitely have to fight later

and the fight would unavoidably be fierce. Father and mother would be unable to help big martial brother and she didn't know what to do herself. Her heart was so filled with anxiety that she didn't laugh at the joke.

Linghu Chong taunted, "Who's Mr. Yue? Ah, you mean the Huashan School's leader. I came here looking for him. Songshan School has two unworthy disciples, one is called White-Haired Monster Bu Chen, and the other one is Bald Owl Sha Tianjiang. I killed both of them already. But I heard Songshan School has three more chaps hiding in the Fortune Prestige Escort House. I came to ask Mr. Yue to hand over these people to me but he didn't consent. This irritates me, really irritates me!"

He continued by shouting loudly, "Mr. Yue, there are three idiots here from Songshan School. There's one called Soft Sword Zhong Zhen, another one called Little Ghost Deng Bagong, and the other one called Scabies Skin Cat Gao Kexin. Please quickly bring them out here. I have debts to collect from them. You want to protect them? That won't do! You Five Mountains Sword Schools have the same root but different branches. How can I settle this debt?"

When Yue Buqun and the rest of the people heard his taunts, they weren't shocked at all. They all knew that he was saying all this to let

everyone know that Huashan School had nothing to do with him. These three people from the Songshan School had been famous for a long time

already, especially the Nine Bent Sword Zhong Zhen. It was obvious to the people outside that Linghu Chong knew the backgrounds of the Songshan School's people already. It was no small matter when Linghu Chong defeated Feng Buping from the sword sect and blinded the eyes of fifteen swordsmen. But at the moment, he was heavily injured and he might not even be able to stand up. They were perplexed as to why was he so daring as to rashly challenge three master-hands?

Gao Kexin was so angry that he jumped up and drew the sword out of his scabbard. As he was about to stab his sword towards Linghu Chong, Zhong Zhen held up his hand to stop him. He then asked Linghu Chong,

"What's your honour’s name?"

Linghu Chong laughed, "Haha, I recognise you but you don't recognise me. Your Songshan School wants to combine the Five Mountains Sword Schools into one by taking over the other four schools. You three

"north south" came to Fujian to steal the Lin family's Evil Resisting Sword Manual and to kill important people from the Huashan and Heng-Shan School. All these plots of yours; I already know all about them. Haha, very funny, very funny!"

When Yue Buqun and Madam Yue saw what was happening, they both thought, "Why is he unnecessarily saying all these nonsensical talk?"

Zhong Zhen was surprised, "Which school is your honour from?"

Linghu Chong answered, "Big temple didn't want to accept me, small temple also didn't want to accept me. I'm a masterless lonely soul

wandering alone on wild mountains and plains. I won't bother with your Songshan School's business. You don't need to worry. Haha, haha." His laughter sounded miserable.

Zhong Zhen said, "Your honour is not from Huashan School so we cannot disturb Mr. Yue anymore. Why don't we go outside to talk?" These

words were said softly but his eyes were fierce and were full of murderous intent. At this point, Zhong Zhen had already decided to kill Linghu Chong. But he was slightly afraid of Yue Buqun so he didn't dare to draw his sword to kill him inside the Fortune Prestige Escort House. Hence, he wanted to lead Linghu Chong out of the escort house first before making his move.

This was just what Linghu Chong wanted. Before he went out, he shouted, "Mr. Yue, from now on you must protect yourself better. Devil Sect's Chief Ren Woxing has reappeared. This person can absorb other

people's internal energy by using his Art of Essence Absorbing. He said that he wanted to give some trouble to the Huashan School. There's also the matter of Songshan School wanting to swallow up Huashan School. You're an honourable man while other people are heartless and cruel so you must protect yourself." He came to Fuzhou because he wanted to tell his Master these words. After he finished speaking, he took large steps and went out of the house. Zhong Zhen and his martial brothers followed him out.

Just as Linghu Chong was stepping out of the escort house, he saw a group of nuns and women standing outside the main door. They were the female disciples from Heng-Shan School. Yihe and Zheng E were walking in front of the group holding a visit box19.

It seemed that they had just arrived to pay a visit to Yue Buqun and Madam Yue. Linghu Chong was startled and he hastily turned his head

around not wanting to meet them but Yihe and the other disciples had

already seen him. But it was good that Yilin was right at the back of the group and didn't manage to see his appearance.

As soon as Zhong Zhen and his two martial brothers stepped out of the door, Yihe and Zheng E recognised them. Startled, they stopped where they were. Linghu Chong thought, "Heng-Shan School's disciples already know that my Master is here so they came here to visit. There's my Master and Master-Wife to tend to them here so they won't suffer a loss." He didn't want to meet Yilin so he slipped away to the side wanting to get away. Simultaneously, Zhong Zhen, Deng Bagong, and Gao Kexin drew their swords out and jumped in front of him and shouted, "You want to run away?"

Linghu Chong laughed, "I don't have any weapon. How do I fight?" At this time, Yue Buqun, Madam Yue and the rest of the Huashan

School's disciples had arrived at the door wanting to see how Linghu Chong would cope with Zhong Zhen and his two martial brothers. Yue Lingshan pulled her sword out of the scabbard and shouted, "Big...” intending to toss the sword to him. But Yue Buqun extended his left hand and used two fingers to hit the top of her sword shaking it. Yue Lingshan pleaded, "Dad!"

But Yue Buqun just shook his head. Linghu Chong had turned around and saw all this and he was reassured, "Little martial sister still care for me like in the old days." Suddenly, a few people shouted in surprise.

Linghu Chong knew that someone must have started a sneak attack.

There wasn't enough time to turn his head around so he immediately jumped forward. His internal energy was very deep, so his jump was very high and fast which enabled him to escape from that attack. But he still heard the sound of the wind at the back of his head as a sword was slashed down close to the back of his body. If he had jumped a fraction of a second later or not used enough energy, he would have been half a foot closer and his body would have been split in two. He had luckily escaped from a very dangerous situation.

Linghu Chong immediately turned his head around as soon as he landed. He heard someone yelling and saw moving white lights. It was the Heng-Shan School's female disciples joining the fight. They had divided into three groups of seven people each. Each of the group separately

surrounded one person. This instance of pulling out the swords, moving, surrounding, fighting and movement of the swords were done extremely fast especially when aided with their qinggong. Their movements were also beautiful. It was obvious that they had practised this type of fighting formation. Each of their swords was pointed at the enemy's head, throat,

chest, stomach, waist, back, and side. These seven places on their bodies were threatened simultaneously. Once the formation was completed, the seven disciples all stopped moving.

It was Zhong Zhen who sneakily attacked Linghu Chong just then.

After hearing Linghu Chong's harmful speech towards Songshan School, he tried to take advantage of Linghu Chong's unpreparedness and tried to kill him. He wanted to get rid of a potential informant in order to prevent him from saying more which might increase Yue Buqun's suspicion. Even though he executed an extremely deadly move, his opponent still managed to escape. And now the Heng-Shan School's disciples had finished their formation. Although his martial art was high, he couldn't move at all. If he even moved a muscle then a sword would pierce into his body.

Yue Buqun and Madam Yue didn't know that Heng-Shan School and Zhong Zhen's party had met before in Nianbapu town. They were greatly surprised when both parties started to fight each other. The fighting formation of the Heng-Shan School's disciples looked wonderful once it

was completed. Twenty-one people were divided into three groups and their twenty-one swords trembled slightly as cold lights flickered around the

area. Besides their sleeves floating in the air, everything else was totally

still but there were unbounded murderous opportunities in their formation. When Linghu Chong turned around to protect himself, he saw how

Heng-Shan School started and completed their fighting formations with seven swords attacking and surrounding each enemy. He did not find any flaw at all in the formation, as if it had been executed with "No move to break a move" sword intention from Dugu Nine Swords. He cheered out loud, "Wonderful! What a splendid sword formation!"

Seeing that he had been completely restrained, Zhong Zhen suddenly laughed, dropped his sword and offered, "Everyone is on the same side.

What kind of joke are we playing here? I admit defeat, ok?" Yihe was leading the group surrounding him. When she saw that the enemy admitted defeat and dropped his sword, she withdrew her sword. The remaining six people also withdrew their swords. To their surprise, Zhong Zhen used his left foot to kick his long sword up and hit its handle with his hand to shoot the sword forward. As the sword pierced Yihe's right arm, she uttered an

"ah" and dropped her sword.

Zhong Zhen laughed as he moved like lightning injuring Heng-Shan School's disciples one by one. In the ensuing confusion, the other fourteen disciples in the other two formations were distracted. Deng Bagong and

Gao Kexin simultaneously took advantage of this to launch their attacks. Immediately, there were sounds of swords clashing. Linghu Chong grabbed Yihe's sword from the ground and struck out. There were sounds of "qiang lang", "ah", "hey", and many others as he hit the back of Gao Kexin's hand causing him drop his sword, made Deng Bagong's soft whip turn over and wrap around his own neck, and struck Zhong Zhen's hand forcing him to retreat a few steps. But Zhong Zhen still managed to feebly hold on to his trembling sword with a weakened hand.

Two girls sharply called out; one shouted, "General Wu!" while the other cried, "Big brother Linghu!” Zheng E was the one who called out

"General Wu!” The way Linghu Chong made these three people retreat with his sword art was identical to the sword art used to defeat these three people in Nianbapu's inn. Gao Kexin was at a loss, Deng Bagong was choking

while Zhong Zhen was startled and angry at the same time. Zheng E had a sharp mind and she had previously seen Linghu Chong used this move. Although his appearance and clothes were now completely different, she still managed to recognise him immediately from his sword move.

The other person who called out, "Big brother Linghu!" was of course Yilin. She was in the group with Yizhen and Yizhi surrounding Deng

Bagong. While they were in formation, everyone was concentrating

completely and their eyes were observing the enemy closely. With their eyes so focused, they only saw the point that each was aiming at. The person aiming at the head was only looking at the head and the person

aiming at the chest was only looking at the chest. They didn't look at any other parts of the enemy's body. So naturally, they didn't even see the person next to them. Only when the formation was scattered, she was able to see Linghu Chong.

Yilin had not seen him for more than a year when he suddenly

appeared in front of her. Yilin’s whole body shook and she was feeling giddy. Now that he had been recognized, Linghu Chong realized that he wouldn't be able to conceal his identity anymore. He laughed and chided,

"Your granny, you three chaps don't know about good and evil. Heng-Shan School's Shi Tai already spared you a life but you unexpectedly return their kindness with enmity. General isn't pleased in seeing this at all. I... I... " Suddenly, he felt dazed, his vision darkened and with his legs giving out, he fell down on the ground heavily.

Yilin rushed forward quickly to support him and worriedly called out, "Big brother Linghu, big brother Linghu!" She then saw his right shoulder and arm were bleeding profusely. She took out her school's "White Cloud Bear Gallbladder" medicine pill from her sleeve and fed it to him. Zheng E and Yizhen also took out their school's "Heavenly Connecting Glue" and

applied it to his wounds. Each of the Heng-Shan School's disciples was grateful to him for helping them. If he hadn't helped them that day, each of them would have lost her life. Not only would they have died miserably, they might also have been insulted by those evildoers.

Heng-Shan disciples busied themselves applying medicines, wiping blood and wrapping the wounds up. They were doing all these tasks with all their hearts. When any female in the world has met with this kind of urgent situation, they would start talking incessantly. Even though Heng-Shan School disciples were warriors of Wulin, they weren't exempt from this female trait. They were all talking at once as they surrounded Linghu

Chong. Some were sighing, some were showing concern, some were asking who hurt my General, and some were saying that the attacker was vicious

and heartless. They were all talking about different things while some were also reciting "Amituofu". Huashan School's people were quite surprised

when they saw this scene unfolding in front of them.

Yue Buqun thought to himself, "Heng-Shan School's disciples are highly disciplined. Why are these female disciples acting in this way?

They're actually fussing over this loafer Linghu Chong and staring at him, not even observing the proper distance between man and woman. They're

also calling him big brother and general. When has this young thief become a general? They're really ignorant and have become muddleheaded. How

come there is no Heng-Shan School elder in charge of them?"

Zhong Zhen made a hand signal to his two martial brothers and they immediately pointed their weapons and rushed at Linghu Chong. They knew that if this person were not eliminated, they would have endless trouble in the future. Moreover, they had lost twice under his sword. This was a good opportunity to get rid of this person while he was still unconscious. Yihe whistled and fourteen female disciples immediately formed a row dancing their swords about and blocked Zhong Zhen and his two brothers. Each of these female disciples' martial art wasn't high but when they were fighting in formation, they were like four or five first class masters. Originally, Yue Buqun wanted to mediate between these two sides, but he couldn't anticipate how all these incidents had unfolded. He also didn't know how the two sides had developed this enmity. In addition, he disliked both the Songshan and Heng-Shan Schools. So he thought he

should just watch for the moment and wait patiently for things to change. He saw the Heng-Shan School's disciples were defending very tightly.

Zhong Zhen was attacking continuously but he wasn't able to get near at all. Kao Gexin came up with an idea. He feinted an attack towards the front person but instead slashed towards Yiqing's thigh. Suddenly injured and

seeping blood, Yiqing was distressed even though her injury wasn't heavy.

From his dazed state, Linghu Chong heard the sounds of swords

clashing continuously. He opened his eyes to have a look and saw Yilin's anxious face. She was praying, "All living things are distressed. There is immeasurable bitterness all over the body. Guan Yin with her divine

intelligence can offer salvation from this bitterness..." He felt very thankful for Yilin's prayer. As he struggled to stand up, he whispered, "Thank you, little martial sister. Hand me a sword."

"You... you... don't... don't..." Yilin pleaded.

Linghu Chong returned a slight smile as she gave her sword to him. He held onto her shoulder with his left hand to stand up and then staggered and swayed as he walked forward. Yilin was still anxious about his injury but when she felt that she was supporting his weight on her shoulder, she felt more courageous. She then transferred her whole body's energy to her right shoulder. Linghu Chong passed by several female disciples to get in front. With the first strike of his sword, Gao Kexin dropped his sword. With the second strike, Deng Bagong's soft whip wrapped around his neck. The third strike hit the top of Zhong Zhen's sword. Zhong Zhen knew that Linghu Chong's sword art was strangely magical and that he was definitely not his match. But he saw him standing unsteadily. So he relied on his internal energy to hit Linghu Chong's sword out of his hand. As the two

swords clashed, he immediately transferred his internal energy into his

sword. Suddenly, he felt his internal energy started to flow out swiftly and unexpectedly he couldn't stop it. It was because Linghu Chong's Art of Essence Absorbing had become unwittingly deep. It didn't need contact between skins anymore. As long as the opponent used his internal energy to attack then he would be able to absorb the internal energy through the

sword.

Zhong Zhen was alarmed and quickly withdrew his sword. He then thrust his sword out again. Linghu Chong saw the lower part of the side of his body was wide open and wanted to take advantage of this and kill him. But his arm felt weak and he couldn't do what he wanted to do. So he was only able to block the sword. When the swords clashed again, Zhong Zhen's internal energy flowed out once more and his heart rate increased. He was frightened and angry at the same time but he withdrew his sword again. He then gathered his strength to thrust the long sword forward. Midway through the stroke, the sword changed direction sharply and was now

aiming at Yilin's chest. This move was both false and true at the same time. It had many variations and was extremely fierce. If Linghu Chong moved to save Yilin then Zhong Zhen would pierce Linghu Chong's lower abdomen. If Linghu Chong didn't move to save Yilin then this sword would really pierce Yilin. Also, he wanted to confuse Linghu Chong so that an opportunity to kill him would arise. Everyone was calling out in alarm when they saw the point of the sword had already reached Yilin's gown. Linghu Chong's long sword suddenly crossed over and hit the top of Zhong Zhen's sword.

Zhong Zhen's long sword instantly stopped in the middle of the air glued to Linghu Chong's sword. Zhong Zhen used more strength to push his sword forward but unexpectedly it didn't even move the slightest bit. His

sword slowly bent upwards and at the same time, his internal energy started to flow out. Summing up the situation really quickly, he hastily withdrew his sword and jumped backwards. However, he had lost a lot of internal

energy previously and had not time to gather more energy yet. As his body was in mid air, he suddenly felt paralysed and landed heavily. This landing looked very awkward and it was as if it was done by an ordinary person

without any martial arts. Supported by his two hands on the ground, Zhong Zhen slowly struggled to get up but only managed to get up halfway before he tottered to one side and fell to the ground again.

Deng Bagong and Gao Kexin rushed over to help him stand up. They both asked, "Martial brother, what's wrong?"

Zhong Zhen was staring at Linghu Chong's face. His thought turned back to more than ten years ago when Devil Sect's Chief Ren Woxing shook the entire Wulin world. But Ren Woxing couldn't be this twenty something years old youth. He stammered, "You're Ren Woxing's disc... disciple. You know the Art... Art of Essence Absorbing!"

Gao Kexin was alarmed, "Martial brother, did he absorb your internal energy?"

"Yes," answered Zhong Zhen. But he was now standing steadily and he felt his internal energy gradually increasing. It was because Linghu

Chong's cultivation of the Art of Essence Absorbing was not that profound yet. Also, he didn't intentionally absorb Zhong Zhen's internal energy. It was just that Zhong Zhen fell awkwardly because he felt his internal energy flowing out and was scared to death.

Deng Bagong whispered, "Let's get out of here. We'll come back here later." Zhong Zhen waved his hands and said to Linghu Chong in a loud voice, "Devil Sect's demon, you're using such an evil method. From now on, you are the enemy of all of the heroes in this world. Today, I'm not your match, but our orthodox schools would never surrender to the disgusting power of your evil method."

He then turned around, gave Yue Buqun a bow and inquired, "Mr.

Yue, you have no relationship with this Devil Sect's demon, correct?" Yue Buqun just uttered an "Hng" but did not answer.

Zhong Zhen didn't dare to be unruly in front of him so he said, "The real situation would eventually be revealed. We’ll meet again." He then

walked away with his two martial brothers.

Yue Buqun went down the entrance stairs and agitatedly said,

"Linghu Chong, you're good. So, you've learned Ren Woxing's Art of Essence Absorbing."

Although Linghu Chong had learned Ren Woxing's martial art

accidentally, the fact was he had learned it. So he couldn't dispute it at all. Yue Buqun fiercely asked, "I ask you, is this true?"

"Yes!” Linghu Chong answered.

Yue Buqun viciously declared, "You've practised this evil method. So you're the enemy of all the orthodox schools. Today, you're carrying an injury so I won't take advantage of you. When we meet again, if I don't kill you then it means that you've killed me." He turned sideways and addressed the Huashan School's disciples, "This person is your mortal enemy.

Whoever still has any feeling towards him like he was your martial brother, then remove yourself from this school. All of you understand this?" All the disciples answered together, "Yes!"

Yue Buqun saw his daughter looking like she had something to say.

He said, "Shan'er, even though you're my daughter, I won't make an exception. Do you understand?"

Yue Lingshan answered in a small voice, "I understand."

Linghu Chong was already weak from his injuries but when he heard these words, he suddenly felt both his knees powerless. He dropped his

sword and slowly slumped down.

Yihe, who was standing on his right, extended her hand to support him. She ventured, "Martial uncle Yue, there must have been a misunderstanding. It's just too crude to sever your relationship like this when you haven't investigated this matter yet."

Yue Buqun demanded, "What misunderstanding?"

Yihe answered, "My Heng-Shan School's disciples were recently

accosted by the Devil Sect's demons. At every battle, this Linghu General Wu helped us in fighting them. If he was a Devil Sect's person, why would he help us in fighting them off and make himself an enemy of the Devil Sect?"

Yihe had heard Yilin called him "Big Brother Linghu" while Yue

Buqun had called him "Linghu Chong"; but she knew him as "General Wu". So she decided to just call him with both names.

Yue Buqun said, "Devil Sect's demons are very crafty. Don't believe his act. Which Shi Tai is leading your school's group in coming to the

south?"

He believed that these young nuns and ladies had been affected by Linghu Chong's fancy speech and only an experienced senior Shi Tai would be able to see through his ruse. Yihe mournfully answered, "Martial uncle Dingjing Shi Tai was unfortunately killed by the Devil Sect's demons en route."

Yue Buqun and Madam Yue were both alarmed. Right at that moment, a middle-aged nun came towards the Heng-Shan School's disciples. She stopped in front of Yihe and said, "A letter has arrived from the White Cloud Temple's pigeon", as she offered her a small bamboo tube with both hands. Yihe took the tube, opened its plug, took out the small rolled up cloth from inside the tube and rolled it open. After reading it, she exclaimed, "Ai yo, this is not good!" When Heng-Shan School's disciples heard that a letter had arrived from the White Cloud Temple, they all

crowded around Yihe. When they saw Yihe was frightened, they hastily

asked, "What?" "What's on Master's letter?" "What's not good?” Yihe gave the letter to Yiqing saying, "Martial sister, have a look." Yiqing took the letter and read it out aloud, "Dingyi Shi Tai and I are besieged by enemies in the Dragon Spring Sword-forging Valley20." She then questioned, "This is Abbess'... blood letter21. How come they are at Dragon Spring?"

"Let's go!" Yizhen rallied.

"But we don't know who the enemy is?" Yiqing reasoned.

Yihe said, "They're already in an ominous situation, let's hurry up and catch up to them. If we have to die, then we'll die together with Master."

Yiqing thought, "Master and martial uncle's martial arts are levels

above us but the enemies still managed to besiege them. If we go there, it's most likely that we won't be able to offer them any aid." She took the blood letter, went in front of Yue Buqun, bowed to him and requested, "Martial uncle Yue, our Abbess sent us a letter, it said: '...besieged in Dragon Spring Sword-forging Valley.' Martial uncle, considering the friendship among the Five Mountains Sword Schools, please think of a way to save them." Yue Buqun took the letter and read it. He questioned, "How come Abbess and Dingyi Shi Tai are in Zhejiang? The two of them have outstanding martial arts. How did the enemies manage to besiege them? This is really strange. Is this Abbess’ writing on the letter?"

"It's my Master's writing. I'm afraid they must have been injured already that they hastily used their blood to write the letter," Yiqing

assuredly answered.

"You don't know who the enemy is?" Yue Buqun asked.

"It's probably the Devil Sect's people. Other than them, our school has no other enemy," Yiqing said.

Yue Buqun looked at Linghu Chong from the corner of his eyes and slowly said, "Maybe it's a false letter from a Devil Sect's demon to entice you into a trap. We must be wary of their deceptions.”

“This matter is most urgent as Abbess had surely met with a disaster.

So the most important thing for us is to go and save them. Martial sister Yiqing, let’s go quickly and catch up to them. Martial uncle Yue has no time so it’s useless to ask for his help any further,” Yihe shouted in a clear voice.

“Right. If we arrive too late, we will regret this for eternity,” Yizhen said agreeing with Yihe.

When Heng-Shan School’s disciples saw that Yue Buqun had flatly refused their request regardless of its upright intentions, they were all

angered.

“Big brother Linghu, you stay at Fuzhou to tend to your wounds.

We’ll go and save Master and Martial uncle first. Then we’ll come back to look for you here,” Yilin said.

“Fearless thieves are harming people again. How can this General just sit back and watch? Everybody, let’s go and save them,” Linghu Chong responded in a loud voice.

“Your injuries are serious. How can you hurry along?” Yilin said. “This General is ready to give his body to his country and die in the battlefield. I’m going to use my feet to get there. Go, go, hurry up and go!” Linghu Chong said.

Heng-Shan School’s disciples were doubtful that they would be able to save their Abbess from danger. But when Linghu Chong said he was going to come with them, their spirits lifted and all their faces were filled with joy. Yizhen said, “In that case, many thanks. We’ll look for a horse for you to ride.”

“Everybody rides! How can you not get a horse if you want to fight later? Go, go,” Linghu Chong said loudly. Seeing how his Master had harshly severed their relationship earlier, he was feeling bitter and a bit insane.

Yiqing bowed to Yue Buqun and Madam Yue, “We take our leave from seniors.”

Yihe cried out in fury, “Why do you need to be polite to this sort of person? You’re wasting time. Hng, their reputations have no merit and they have no sense of righteousness.”

“Martial sister, say no more!” Yiqing reproached in a loud voice. Yue Buqun was laughing and didn’t pay attention to what was said.

But Lao Denuo rushed out and shouted, “Watch what your filthy mouth is saying! Our five mountains sword schools have the same root but different branches. When one school encounters a problem, the other four are ready to save them. But you are colluding together with this Devil Sect’s demon Linghu Chong and so your conduct must be crafty and evil. My master has to consider this extensively before giving his help. Why don’t you kill this demon Linghu Chong first to make everything clear.

Otherwise, my Huashan School cannot collaborate with your Heng-Shan School and follow your bad example.” Yihe was indignant when she heard this. She took a big step forward and put her hand on her sword handle. She demanded, “What do you mean ‘follow our bad example’?”

“You are colluding with the Devil Sect. That’s what's called to follow their bad example,” Lao Denuo said.

Yihe was affronted and she declared, “Hero Linghu is brave and righteous. He helps people in trouble. That’s what you call a real hero, a gentleman. But your type of people, who call yourself a hero but run away from danger and when you see death, you still don’t help. That’s what you call a hypocrite!”

Yue Buqun’s nickname was “Gentleman Sword” and what Huashan School’s people hate the most was being called a “hypocrite”22. When Lao Denuo heard her ridiculing his Master, he pulled his sword out and thrust it towards Yihe’s throat. He was using Huashan School’s clever move

“Graceful Phoenix”. Yihe didn’t anticipate that he would suddenly pick a fight so she didn’t have time to block the move. She was startled as the

sword reached her throat. But at the same time, flickering of swords was seen and seven swords were already piercing towards Lao Denuo. Lao

Denuo hastily pulled his sword back but this enabled a sword to reach his chest. Sounds of “chi, chi” were heard as the other six swords also slashed his clothes, each making a rip of about a foot long. It was only because

Heng-Shan School’s disciples didn’t want to take his life that they stopped as their swords reached his skin. But Zheng E’s martial art was still shallow so she didn’t manage to control the power of her sword properly. Once she had ripped his right sleeve, the point of her sword continued forward and

slashed his skin. Lao Denuo frighteningly jumped backwards in a hurry. Just then, a book fell out of his bosom. The sun was shining brightly. Everyone saw clearly the words “Violet Twilight Secret Manual” written on the book. Lao Denuo’s expression

changed greatly and he tried to snatch the book back. Linghu Chong shouted, “Stop him!”

Yihe already had a sword in her hand and she quickly made three

slashes. Lao Denuo lifted his sword to trade moves but he couldn’t advance a single step.

“Dad, how come second martial brother has the secret manual?” Yue Lingshan cried.

“Lao Denuo, you killed sixth martial brother, didn’t you?” Linghu Chong asked in a loud voice.

That day when sixth martial brother was killed, the “Violet Twilight Secret Manual” also went missing. He had been blamed for both incidents since then on. But today, it was really unexpected that after Lao Denuo's waist band was cut by Heng-Shan School’s disciples, Huashan School’s treasured scripture would fall out from his pocket.

“Nonsense!” Lao Denuo shouted.

As he said this, he lowered his body and charged towards a small

alley. Linghu Chong was fuming as he gave chase. But he only managed to run a few steps before he swayed and fell down. Yilin and Zheng E quickly rushed to his side to support him while Yue Lingshan picked the book up

and gave it to her father. “Dad, it was second martial brother who stole the book.” Yue Buqun’s expression was pale as he looked at the book and

ascertained that it was the internal energy secret manual that had been passed down from the previous Huashan School’s leader. Luckily, the book was still intact and undamaged. He then bitterly said, “It was you who

wasn’t good, taking the book because of your feelings.” Yihe didn’t want to let them off that easily so she said in a loud voice, “That's what you called to follow your bad example.”

Yu Sao walked in front of Linghu Chong and asked, “Hero Linghu, how do you feel?”

Linghu Chong gritted his teeth, “My martial brother was killed by that thief. It’s a pity I can’t chase him.”

He saw Yue Buqun turned around and entered the escort house followed by his disciples. They then shut the escort house’s main door. He thought, “Master’s first disciple has learned the Devil Sect’s evil martial art. His second disciple killed a martial brother in the same school and stole the school’s secret manual. No wonder he’s outraged!” He then said, “Abbess is being besieged so we can’t delay any longer. Our most urgent matter is to quickly go and save them. Sooner or later, that thief Lao Denuo would fall under my hand.”

Yu Sao said, “You’re currently injured, so... so... ai, I can’t say...” She was previously a servant. But at this time, her position in Heng-

Shan School wasn’t low and her martial art was not weak, but her knowledge was limited. So she didn’t know how to express her appreciation towards him. Linghu Chong said, “Let’s go quickly to the horse market and buy some horses.”

He took out the gold and silver taels out of his bosom and gave them to Yu Sao. But there weren’t enough horses on the market, so the lighter female disciples had to ride double. They rode out quickly towards the north from Fuzhou. After going for more than ten li, they saw more than ten horses grazing on a field guarded by about six or seven soldiers. So these horses must belong to the military.

“Get those horses.” Linghu Chong said. “Those are military horses. I’m afraid it’s not appropriate,” Yu Sao hastily replied.

“Saving people is most important. Even if it’s the emperor’s horse, we’ll still take it. What do we care about appropriate or not appropriate?” Linghu Chong argued.

“It’s a crime against the government authorities, I’m afraid...” Yiqing

said.

“Is saving your Master more important or obeying the law more

important? What his granny government authorities? General Wu is a government authority. If General wants horses, those little soldiers won’t dare to deny him!” Linghu Chong reasoned.

“Yes!” complied Yihe.

“Knock those soldiers down and get their horses,” Linghu Chong cried out.

“Twelve horses are enough,” Yiqing said. But Linghu Chong roared, “Get them all.”

He had an air of authority about him as he roared out his commands. Ever since Dingjing Shi Tai passed away, the Heng-Shan School's disciples had been mournful, frightened, and were at a loss about what to do. But

when they heard Linghu Chong vigorously shouting his command, they urged their horses to charge forward, knocked down the soldiers guarding the horses, and seized all the horses. Those soldiers had never seen outlaw nuns before, so as they were knocked down to the ground and unable to move, they shouted, "What are you doing?" "What kind of joke is this?"

After they had taken the horses, all the disciples were excited. They were all giggling and talking non-stop. They all wanted to get on the fresh horses so they jumped onto the military horses. At noon, they arrived at Nianbapu town. When the townspeople saw a group of nuns leading an army of horses with a male in their group, they were greatly surprised.

When they finished eating their meals, Yiqing counted the money they had and whispered, "Brother Linghu, we don't have enough money." At the horse market, because everyone was thinking about their Master, they weren't in the mood to haggle. All their monies were used up to buy the horses and now they only had coppers left.

"Martial sister Zheng, take Yu Sao to the horse market and sell a horse. But don't sell any of the military horses," Linghu Chong said.

Zheng E complied leading the horse and Yu Sao to the horse market.

The other disciples covered their mouths and giggled as they were all thinking, "Yu Sao is finished and Zheng E is such a delicate little lady, it would be a rare sight at the horse market."

But Zheng E was intelligent, clever, and good in speaking. She had only been in Fujian for a few days and she already managed to speak a few hundreds words of the difficult Fujian's dialect. Not long after, she had sold the horse and brought some money back to pay their bills.

When night fell, they were able to see a big town far away with houses scattered like the stars. There were at least around seven to eight hundred houses in the town. When they reached there, they ate their dinner and used the money from selling the horse to pay for the bill. Not much of the money was left afterwards. Zheng E was excited and laughed,

"Tomorrow, we have to sell another horse." Linghu Chong whispered, "Go to the street and ask around who the richest person in this town is and also who among the richest is also the meanest or worst."

Zheng E nodded and pulled Qin Juan to come with her. Not long

after, they came back, "This town has one very rich person. His surname is White. His nickname is White Peeling Leather. He has a pawnshop and also a rice shop. With a nickname like White Peeling Leather23, I dont' think he's a good person."

Linghu Chong laughed, "Tonight, we'll go and ask him for alms."

Zheng E said, "These type of people are very stingy; I'm afraid we won't get any alms from him."

Linghu Chong smiled slightly but didn't say a word. After a while, he said, "Everybody, let's go."

Everyone saw that the sky was dark already. But Master was in trouble so they were resigned to continue traveling during the night to save them. They went north from the city, but after a few li, Linghu Chong called out, "Ok, we'll stay here to rest for the night." Everyone stayed besides a

creek to have a rest. Linghu Chong also closed his eyes to have a rest. After about an hour, Linghu Chong opened his eyes and said to Yu Sao and Yihe, "Each of you bring six martial sisters and go to White Peeling Leather's house to ask for alms. Martial sister Zheng, you lead the way." Yu Sao and Yihe both thought that it was strange but they still complied with his order.

Linghu Chong went on, "Get at least five hundred silver taels, but it'd be best to get two thousand silver taels." Yihe was surprised, "A yo, how

can we ask for that much?" Linghu Chong said, "Two thousand silver taels is so small, this General wouldn't even take a look at it. If we get two thousand taels, we keep one thousand taels to use ourselves and give the other thousand to the poor townspeople." They suddenly understood what he meant and they looked at each other.

“You... you want us to plunder the rich and then give it to the poor?" Yihe said.

"It's not plundering. We're getting alms from the rich to aid the poor. We only have a few people here, even if we gather all of our money, we'd probably only get around two silvers. If we don't ask the rich to give us poor common people some money then how do we get to Dragon Spring Sword-forging Valley?" Linghu Chong said.

When everyone heard the word "Dragon Spring Sword-forging Valley", they all changed their minds and said, "Let's get alms!"

"You’re inexperienced at getting this kind of alms, so I'm afraid you won't be getting any money. The method is slightly different. Cover all your faces with handkerchiefs. And when you ask for alms from White Peeling Leather, you don't need to say anything. When you see the gold and silver, just take them," Linghu Chong said.

Zheng E giggled, "And if he's not giving them?"

"Then that's unappreciative of him. Heng-Shan School's heroes are different from Wulin's other small warriors. Even if other people would send sedan chairs to ask you to visit, you still wouldn't pay them a visit.

How can they ask you to come that easily? White Peeling Leather is just a small town boss. What kind of position does he have in Wulin? If he unexpectedly gets a visit from fifteen honourable masters from Heng-Shan School, isn't this giving him a lot of face already? If after seeing you, he

still doesn't want to give you alms, then you might as well trade some moves with him. See if White Peeling Leather's martial art is better or martial sister Zheng's fists and kicks are better?" Linghu Chong answered. Some of the disciples laughed as they heard him talking like this.

There were a few people who were more experienced like Yiqing and they secretly thought that this was inappropriate. Heng-Shan School's rules were very strict. They warn against stealing and plundering. This kind of getting alms definitely violated those rules. But Yihe and Zheng E were

already hastily walking away so those people who disagreed with this idea didn't manage to say anything more. When Linghu Chong turned his head around, he saw Yilin's beautiful eyes were watching him attentively. He smiled, "Little martial sister, you think it's not right?"

Yilin avoided his eyes as she replied softly, "I don't know. Whatever you said we should do, I... I think they're always not wrong."

"That day when I wanted to eat a watermelon, didn't you go to the field and take a watermelon for me?"

Yilin's face turned red as she thought of the time she spent together with him in that wild plain. Right at that moment, they suddenly saw

shooting stars falling across the night sky leaving long beautiful trails. Linghu Chong queried, "Do you remember what you wished for?"

Yilin replied softly, "I remember", as she turned her head around. She then continued, "Big brother Linghu, this kind of wish is very effective."

"Really? What did you wish for?"

But Yilin just lowered her head and did not reply. In her heart, she was thinking, "I've wished for several hundreds several thousands times to be able to see you again. Finally, my wish came true and I was able to see you again."

Suddenly, they heard the sound of a horse's gallop from far away. A person on horseback was coming from the south towards them from the

same road that Yu Sao, Yihe and the other disciples used to go away just then. But Yu Sao's group went without their horses. Who could it be?

Everyone stood up and was looking towards the sound of the horse's gallop. Then they heard a female calling out, "Linghu Chong, Linghu Chong!"

Linghu Chong's heart trembled as he recognized Yue Lingshan's voice. He called out, "Little martial sister, I'm here!" Yilin's body shook and her face turned pale. She then retreated a step. In the dark, a white horse came towards them. When it was still tens of feet away from them, Yue Lingshan stood up and suddenly pulled back on the rein stopping the horse and making it neigh. When Linghu Chong

saw her riding hastily, he felt that something wasn't right. He called out, "Martial sister, are Master and Master-Wife alright?"

Yue Lingshan was still on the horse, her face illuminated by the moonlight. He saw her looking pale as he heard her saying, "Who's your Master, Master-Wife? Why do you have to concern about my dad and mum?"

Linghu Chong felt as if someone had punched his chest and his body swayed. Before, it was only Yue Buqun who was acting severely towards him but Madam Yue and Yue Lingshan were still treating him like in the old times and didn't embarrass him. But now hearing Yue Lingshan talking to him in this manner, he couldn't help but feel sad. "Yes, I've already been

expelled from Huashan School and don't have the good fortune of calling them Master and Master-Wife anymore."

"You already know you can't call them that anymore, why did you

still call them that just now?" Yue Lingshan scolded. Linghu Chong could only hang his head down and felt as if his heart had been stabbed by a knife.

Yue Lingshan uttered an "Hng" as she rode the horse forward a few steps. She demanded, "Give it to me!" as she extended her right hand forward.

Linghu Chong answered despondently, "What?"

"Even now, you're still pretending. Do you think you can conceal it from me?" She suddenly shouted louder, "Give it to me!"

Linghu Chong shook his head, "I don't understand. What do you want?" "What do I want? I want the Lin family's Evil Resisting Sword Manual!"

"Evil Resisting Sword Manual? Why are you asking me?" Linghu Chong was baffled.

Yue Lingshan laughed coldly, "If I don't ask you, then who do I ask?

Who took that Buddhist robe from Lin family's old house?"

"Those two chaps from Songshan School, "White Hair Immortal" Bu Chen and "Bald Eagle" Sha Tianjiang."

"Who killed these two chaps, Bu and Sha?" "I did," Linghu Chong answered.

"And that Buddhist robe, who took it?" "I did."

"Then give it to me!" Yue Lingshan demanded.

"I was injured at the time and passed out after getting to the old house. Then... then your mother saved me. When I came to, the Buddhist robe wasn't with me anymore," Linghu Chong said.

Yue Lingshan looked up and laughed, but there wasn't a hint of real laughter in her voice. She said, "So according to you, my mum embezzled the manual? What contemptible and shameless words that are coming out of your mouth!"

"I didn't mean that your mother embezzled it. Gods above and inside my heart, I didn't mean to disrespect your mother in the slightest bit. I only said... only said..." Linghu Chong stammered.

"What?" Yue Lingshan shouted.

"Your mother must have seen this Buddhist robe and realised that it belonged to the Lin family so she must have given it to martial brother Lin," Linghu Chong reasoned. Yue Lingshan coldly said, "Why would my mum search you? You disregarded your own life to snatch that thing back to supposedly return to martial brother Lin. Hng, hng, couldn't you have returned it when you woke up? Why wouldn't she have given you face over this matter?"

Linghu Chong thought, "What she said is true. Then someone had stolen that Buddhist robe?"

As he pondered about this, cold sweat started to pour out from his back. "If it's like that then there must be some other reason."

He then shook his clothes all over. "I don't have the Buddhist robe on me. If you don't believe me, you can search me."

Yue Lingshan replied in a coldly, "You're a very clever person. Why would you keep it on yourself after taking other people's stuff? Also, you have so many shady nuns and monks with you here. One of them could've kept it for you."

Yue Lingshan was treating Linghu Chong like she was examining a prisoner; all the Heng-Shan School's disciples already thought that this was unfair. When they heard her insulting them, a few of them cried out at the

same time, "Nonsense!" "What shady nuns!" "There are no monks here!" "Aren't you shady yourself?"

Yue Lingshan grabbed her sword handle and shouted, "You're all

Buddhist disciples but you're entangled with this man and followed him day and night. Can't this be called shady? Pei! Shameless!"

Heng-Shan School's disciples were outraged. Seven or eight of them immediately pulled their swords out. Yue Lingshan also drew her sword out and shouted, "You want to rely on numbers to win and shut me up? Come on! If Lady Yue is afraid of you people then I wouldn't be a Huashan School's disciple!" Linghu Chong waved his left hand stopping the Heng-Shan School's disciples from attacking. He sighed, "You've already suspected me from the beginning so I don't have anything to say to that. How about Lao Denuo?

How come you didn't go and ask him? He already stole the "Violet Twilight Secret Manual". Maybe he also stole this Buddhist robe?"

"You want me to ask Lao Denuo, don't you?" Yue Lingshan replied loudly.

Linghu Chong thought that her question was strange but he still answered, "Yes!"

"Ok. Then come here and take my life! You're already proficient in Lin family's Evil Resisting Sword Art, so I'm not your match at all!" Yue Lingshan shouted.

"Why would I... I want to injure you?" Linghu Chong confusedly

said.

"You wanted me to ask Lao Denuo. If you don't kill me then how do I

meet him in this world?" Yue Lingshan said.

Linghu Chong felt happy and surprised when he heard this. He asked, "Lao Denuo, Mast... your father killed him?" He knew that after he was

expelled from Huashan School, Lao Denuo's martial art would be the highest among the disciples. If Yue Buqun didn't kill Lao Denuo himself then other people might not be able to do away with him. Linghu Chong hated Lao Denuo to the bone as he had killed Lu Dayou. So when he heard that Lao Denuo had died already, it was a joyful occasion.

Yue Lingshan laughed coldly, "When a gentleman does something, he takes responsibility for it. You've killed Lao Denuo, why do you still not

admit to it?"

Linghu Chong was totally puzzled, "You said I killed him? If I had really killed him, why wouldn't I admit to it? This person had killed sixth martial brother and deserved to be killed. My only regret is that I couldn't do it with my own hands."

"Then why did you also kill eighth martial brother? He didn't offend you at all, you... you're so cruel," Yue Lingshan said in a loud voice.

Linghu Chong was even more startled. His voice was trembling,

"Eighth martial brother and I are good to each other. Why... why would I want to kill him?"

"Ever since you colluded with the Devil Sect, your behaviour has been really strange. Who knows why... why you want to kill eighth martial brother? You... you..." Her tears started to flow as she said this.

Linghu Chong took a step forward and said, "Little martial sister, don't guess wildly. Eighth martial brother was still very young and didn't have any enmity with anyone or did anyone wrong. Not just me, even other people wouldn't have the heart to harm him."

Yue Lingshan looked outraged as she fiercely shouted, "Then why did you have the heart to kill Lin Pingzhi?"

Linghu Chong was apprehensive as he asked, "Martial brother Lin... he... he also died?"

Yue Lingshan whimpered, "He hasn't died yet, your sword didn't manage to kill him. But... but who knows whether he'll... he'll be alright."

Linghu Chong calmly asked, "He's heavily injured, is he? He would naturally know who attacked him. What did he say?"

"Who else in this world is as crafty as you? You attacked him from behind, he... he has no eyes in the back of his head," Yue Lingshan

answered.

Linghu Chong felt heartbroken and bitter. He couldn't check his anger as he pulled his long sword out, gathered his qi, pulled his arm back, drew a breath and threw the sword out. The sword flew out towards a tall tallow tree with a trunk of a few feet diameter wide. It went through the middle of the tree and severed it. Half of the tree started to shake before it crashed thunderously, throwing up stones and dust off the ground. When Yue Lingshan saw the extent of the power displayed, she pulled her horse's rein back to retreat a couple of steps. "What? So you've already learned the

Devil Sect's evil method and your martial art is very good now. You want to show off in front of me?"

Linghu Chong shook his head, "If I wanted to kill martial brother Lin, I didn't have to do it from his back. My strike would not have failed to kill him either."

"Who knows what kind of crafty scheme you're planning? Hng,

eighth martial brother must've seen you sneaking around so you killed him to shut him up. Then you chopped his face up imagining that it was

second... Lao Denuo."

Linghu Chong took a deep breath knowing that there must be some kind of secret plot going on here. He asked, “Lao Denuo’s face was also chopped up?”

“Why do you ask me? How could you not know when you did it with your own hands?”

“Who else from Huashan School was injured?”

“You killed two people and injured one. That’s not enough?” Yue Lingshan answered.

When Linghu Chong heard what she said, he knew that no one else had been injured and he felt relief. He thought, “Who did all these?” Suddenly, his heart felt cold as he remembered what Ren Woxing said that day at the Plum Manor. He said that if Linghu Chong didn’t join the Devil Sect then he would destroy Huashan School and slaughter everyone in it. Could it be that he had arrived in Fuzhou and already started to destroy Huashan School?

He hurriedly said, “You... you quickly go back and report to your father and mother, I’m afraid... I’m afraid it was the Devil Sect’s big leader who has come to harm Huashan School.”

She pursed her lips before laughing coldly, “Right, it is a big leader of the Devil Sect who has come to harm my Huashan School. Now he's a big leader of Devil Sect, but in the past, he belonged to the Huashan School.

This is called to raise a tiger to sow seeds of disaster and repaying kindness with animosity.”

Linghu Chong laughed bitterly and thought, “I promised to go to Dragon Spring to save Dingxian and Dingyi Shi Tai. But my Master and

Master-Wife are confronted with a big disaster. What should I do? If it was really Ren Woxing then I’m naturally not his rival. But my respected

Master and Master-Wife are now facing a disaster, even if I go there to sacrifice myself, it would still be of no use. But I should be there to die together with them. In all matters, there are important ones and not

important ones. And in all relationships, there are those that are close to you and those far from you. Regarding Heng-Shan School's matter, I'm forced to let them manage it by themselves first. If I'm able to stop Ren Woxing, then I'll go catch up to them at Dragon Spring to help." After he decided what to do in his heart, he said, "Ever since I left Fuzhou earlier today, I've been together with martial sisters from Heng-Shan School. How could I have divided my body to go kill eighth martial brother and Lao Denuo? You might as well ask them."

"Hng, ask them? They're already following you and have also followed your bad example. Couldn't they lie for you?" When Heng-Shan School's disciples heard this, a few them started shouting again. A few of the Buddhist nuns were retorting politely, while

the secular disciples were scolding really sharply. Yue Lingshan pulled the horse's rein to retreat a few steps. "Linghu Chong, little Lin has been injured heavily but even when he's in a coma, he's still concerned about the sword manual. If you still have the slightest feeling then you should return that sword manual to him. Otherwise... otherwise..."

"You really think that I'm such a contemptible and shameless person?" Linghu Chong asked.

Yue Lingshan indignantly said, "If you're not contemptible and

shameless, then there's no one else in this world who is contemptible and shameless!"

Yilin heard everything that was said between them. She felt excited as she couldn't bear this anymore. "Lady Yue, Big brother Linghu treats you very well. His heart is actually very sincere towards you. Why are you

scolding him so fiercely?"

Yue Lingshan laughed coldly, "Whether he treats me well or not, you're only a nun, what do you know?"

Yilin suddenly felt disdainful as she felt that Linghu Chong had been accused falsely. Even if she had to die a hundred times, she had to plead innocence for him. As for Buddhism's rules and regulations or how Master would blame her in the future, she put all that at the back of her mind. She immediately said clearly, "Big brother Linghu told me himself."

Yue Lingshan said, "Hng, he also talks to you about this sort of things. He... he believed that he treats me well by harming martial brother Lin?"

Linghu Chong sighed, "Martial sister Yilin, say no more. Your respectable school's "Heavely Connecting Glue" and "White-Cloud Bear Gallbladder Pill", could you please give a bit to martial... give a bit to Lady Yue for her to take back to treat the injured?"

Yue Lingshan shook the horse's head to turn her body around. "You didn't manage to kill him, so you want to poison him now? I'm not gonna fall for your trap. Linghu Chong, if little Lin doesn't get better, I... I... " and she started weeping. She then stroke her horsewhip urging her horse to gallop towards the south. As Linghu Chong heard the galloping of the horse gradually getting further, he felt a slight bitterness in his heart.

Qin Juan said, "This girl is so rude. It's best if her little Lin dies."

"Martial sister Qin, we are Buddhists and our hearts should be filled with mercy. Even though that lady isn't, we mustn't wish for other people's death," Yizhen said.

Linghu Chong suddenly remembered, "Martial sister Yizhen, can I ask you for a favor to go for a trip?"

"Martial brother Linghu only has to say what it is. I'll do it immediately," Yizhen said.

"I don't dare. That person surnamed Lin is a martial brother from the same school. According to Lady Yue, he was heavily injured. I believe your respectable school's matchless and divine medicine..." Linghu Chong said.

"You want me to deliver the medicine to him, don't you? Alright, I'll go back to Fuzhou straight away. Martial sister Yiling, accompany me to go back there," Yizhen said.

Linghu Chong clasped his hand thanking her, "Thank you two honourable martial sisters for delivering the medicine."

"Martial brother Linghu was always together with us. How could you have killed those people? I'll speak to martial uncle Yue about this injustice," Yizhen said. Linghu Chong shook his head laughing bitterly as he thought how Master had already believed that he had joined the Devil Sect. That he

would stop at nothing and stop at no evil. Do they really think that Master would believe them? He thought of this as he looked at Yizhen and Yiling galloping away from them.

He considered, "They're so concerned about me. If I abandoned them and go back to Fuzhou, how can I feel comfortable? Moreover, Dingxian Shi Tai and her people are being besieged by the enemy. And I don't know whether Ren Woxing really came to Fuzhou or not..." Then he saw Qin

Juan retrieving his sword and giving it back to him. He suddenly thought, "If I wanted to kill martial brother Lin, why would I attack at his back?

Also how can my sword not manage to kill him? If the person who attacked him was Ren Woxing, how could he fail to kill him with a sword? Then it must be someone else. If it's not Ren Woxing, then Master has nothing to

worry about." When he thought about this, he felt slightly relieved.

He then heard the faint sound of horses galloping from somewhere far. From the sound, he gathered that there were several horses coming and thought that it must be Yu Sao and the other disciples coming back from getting alms. Sure enough, not long after, fifteen people on horseback were seen coming towards them. When they arrived in front of him, Yu Sao said, "Young hero Linghu, we... managed to get a lot of gold and silver from begging alms, but I don't know... don't know how much we got. It's in the middle of the night so we can't go and give some of these to the poor."

"Let's go to Dragon Spring now. We can delay helping the poor till later." Yihe then turned her head towards Yiqing and said, "Just then we met a young girl on the road, did you meet her? I don't know who she is, but we traded some moves."

Linghu Chong was frightened, "She fought with you?" "Yes. This girl was rushing on a horseback. When she met us, she scolded us for being shady nuns. How shameful!"

Linghu Chong secretly felt miserable and hastily asked, "Was she heavily injured?"

Yihe was surprised, "Hey, how did you know that she was injured?"

Linghu Chong thought, "Your temperament is like a firecracker going off. If she scolded you then you'd definitely fight her. And if she had to fight fifteen of you, then how could she not get injured?" But he asked,

"Where did she get injured?"

"I asked her first. Why did she scold us when we didn't even know each other? She said: "Hng, I know who you are. You're Heng-Shan

School's nuns who are not following rules and customs." I said: "What not following rules and customs? Nonsense, you should clean your mouth." Then she lashed her horsewhip and didn't pay attention to me anymore. She shouted: "Make way!" So I grabbed her horsewhip and shouted, "Make

way!" Then we started to fight," Yihe narrated the incident.

Yu Sao explained, "She pulled her sword out. We saw that she was from Huashan School, but it was too dark for us to look at her appearance clearly. Then I thought that she looked like Mr. Yue's daughter. I quickly told them to stop but her arm was already injured in two places. However, the injuries weren't that serious."

Yihe laughed, "I already knew who she is from the beginning. Those Huashan School's people at Fuzhou treated martial brother Linghu rudely. Also, when Heng-Shan School has a problem, they just put their hands in their sleeves and didn't care at all. So I wanted her to feel a bit of hardship."

"Martial sister Yihe showed mercy when fighting this Miss Yue. She used the move "Thread of the Golden Needle” to slash Miss Yue's left arm but she only did it lightly and only scratched her arm before she withdrew her sword. If she had used her full power, Miss Yue would have lost her arm," Zheng E added.

Linghu Chong had not calmed down yet when he felt worried again.

Little martial sister was very arrogant and she wouldn't admit defeat that

easily. She would have considered that tonight's fight was a big insult to her. In all likelihood, she would also blame this on him. All these things happening were fate and he couldn’t do anything else. Luckily, her injuries were not serious and it shouldn’t be a problem for her.

Zheng E had observed that Linghu Chong's concern towards this girl Yue was unique. She said, "If we knew earlier that she was martial brother Linghu's martial sister, then we would just let her scold us and it would be no problem. But it was so dark so we couldn't see anything clearly. When we meet her the next time, we'll apologise to her."

Yihe angrily said, "Apologise for what? We didn't wrong her at all. It was her who scolded us as soon as she spoke to us. There's no reason to do this anywhere in the world."

Linghu Chong said, "We've already got some alms, let's go now. How did that White Peeling Leather react?"

He was feeling awful and didn't want to hear about Yue Lingshan

anymore so he changed the topic. Yihe and the disciples she had taken with her started to talk about how they got the alms. They were all excited and were talking over each other. Yihe said, "Usually when we go to a rich man's place for alms, even begging for one or two taels is already difficult. But tonight, we actually wanted several thousand taels."

Zheng E laughed, "That White Peeling Leather was on the ground

crying and shouting. He was saying that several decades of hard work was gone in one night." Qin Juan laughed, "Who told him to have the surname White? He’s been peeling other people’s skin and plundering the things they owned.

Now all he can see is a white courtyard.”

Everyone was laughing when they heard this. But not long after, they remembered about their Martial uncle and Master still being besieged by the enemies. Their moods became heavy. Linghu Chong said, "We have

some funds for our journey now. Let's go catch up to them!"

Chapter 25 Information

After several drinks of wine, the down and out Great Mr. Mo suddenly changed into someone cheerful and confident, and kept calling for more wine. But his tolerance was far less than Linghu Chong. After several bowl more, his face had become scarlet.

The group hurried along on their horses. Every day they only slept for around four hours and they didn't tarry along the road. In a few days, they finally arrived at Zhejiang's Dragon Spring. Although Linghu Chong lost a lot of blood after being injured by Bu Chen and Sha Tianjiang, his injuries were mostly flesh wounds. With his abundant internal energy and the Heng- Shan School's medicines that he had taken, he had mostly recovered by the time they arrived inside Zhejiang's border.

The disciples were so anxious that they started to inquire about the location of the Sword-forging Valley as soon as they entered Zhejiang's border. However, none of the villagers they asked knew the location of the valley. When they finally arrived in Dragon Spring, they saw numerous

sabre and sword forges. But surprisingly, none of the blacksmiths knew the location of the Sword-forging Valley.

Everyone was now feeling very worried. They asked two old nuns they met on the road but they didn't hear about any fighting. All the blacksmiths they asked also didn't hear about any fighting. As for nuns, the blacksmiths said that they frequently saw nuns around and that there was a Water Moon Temple near the east wall of the city. The disciples asked for the location of the Water Moon Temple before rushing there on horseback.

But when they arrived there, they saw the temple's main door was tightly shut. Zheng E went up to knock on the door but no one answered even after a long time. Yihe saw Zheng E knocked on the door again but they still didn't hear any sounds coming from the inside. She couldn't bear

to wait anymore so she pulled her sword out and jumped over the wall to go inside. Yiqing also followed her in jumping over the wall. "Look at it. What's this?" Yihe said as she pointed to the ground. They saw on the courtyard around seven to eight bright pieces of sword points. It looked like that they had been cut off. "Anyone inside the temple?" Yihe

shouted while going inside the hall. At the same time, Yiqing opened the main door to let Linghu Chong and the other disciples come in. Yiqing then picked up a piece of broken sword point and gave it to Linghu Chong.

"Martial brother Linghu, there was some fighting here."

Linghu Chong examined the broken piece and saw that the break was very smooth. He asked, "Do Martial uncle Dingxian and Dingyi use some kind of treasured swords?"

"They don’t use any treasured swords. My Master once said that we must practice our sword art till we're very good at it then we would be able to win even if we're using a wooden sword or a bamboo sword. She also

said that treasured sabres and treasured swords are too overbearing. If our hands were to slip slightly then we might take someone's life or disable a person's limbs..." answered Yiqing.

Linghu Chong hummed and said, "Then these swords were not broken by martial uncles?"

Yiqing nodded her head.

They then heard Yihe shouted from behind the main hall, "There are also broken swords here."

Everyone then went towards the back courtyard through the main hall. When they got inside the hall, they saw that the tables and everything in the hall were thick with dust. In all the temples in the world, there were always people to sweep the hall and keep it clean. So judging from the

amount of dust collected in the hall, it seemed the temple had been uninhabited for several days already. In the back courtyard, Linghu Chong and the rest of the disciples saw several trees hacked by weapons. They examined the places where the trees had been hacked and realised that they were at least a few days old. There was a hole where the back door was and the door planks were tens of feet

away. It looked as if the door had been kicked open. Outside the door was a small path leading to the mountains. They followed the path and after more than a hundred feet, the road branched into two. Yiqing called out,

"Everyone, separate and look around. See if there's anything unusual."

Not long after, Qin Juan shouted from the right branch, "There's a projectile here." And another one also called out, "Iron awl! There's an iron awl here!"

They saw this branch of the road passed through a mountain range that went up and down. Everyone quickly rushed towards that small road.

Along the road, they often saw projectiles and broken pieces of sabres and

swords lying around. Suddenly, Yiqing uttered an "ah" and picked up a long sword from the bushes. She said to Linghu Chong, "It's our school's sword." Linghu Chong reasoned out loud, "Dingxian and Dingyi Shi Tai must have fought here. They must have come towards this direction."

Everyone knew that the Abbess and Dingyi Shi Tai had fled towards this direction because they could not handle the enemies. What Linghu

Chong said was only to make things sounded better. They saw a lot of weapons scattered about on the road and guessed that the fighting must

have been fierce here. They had received the urgent call for help many days ago; they did not know whether there was still time to rescue them.

Everyone was worried as they hurriedly went forward.

As they climbed further up, the road became more rugged as it circled around the mountain. Amongst the Heng-Shan School's disciples here, Yilin and Qin Juan had the lowest martial art and they fell behind as they kept going. After several li, the road became rocky and there was no more road to follow and also no more weapons to give them some direction. So they

stopped paying attention to the road. Suddenly, they saw thick smoke rising from the back of the mountain on their left.

Linghu Chong said, "Let's go there to have a look." and they rushed towards the smoke. They saw the thick smoke getting higher and higher as they get nearer. Finally they rounded a hillside and saw a big valley. In the middle of the valley, there was a big fire roaring up into the sky. The burning woods and leaves crackled loudly. Linghu Chong hid himself behind a rock and then turned around and waved his hand telling the others not to make any sound. Just then, they heard an old person shouted,

"Dingxian, Dingyi. Today, I'll send you both into the Buddhist's paradise to confirm your spritual progress in Buddhism. You don't even need to thank us."

Linghu Chong felt happy hearing this, "The two Shi Tai are still alive.

Lucky we didn't arrive too late."

Another male joined in, "Chief Dongfang sincerely advised you to surrender but you persistently don't want to listen. From today, there

wouldn't be a Heng-Shan School anymore."

The previous person shouted, "You mustn't blame our Divine Sun Moon Sect for being cruel and merciless. You should blame yourself for being obstinate and getting those young disciples killed in vain. What a pity. Haha, haha!"

They now saw the fire in the middle of the valley was getting larger as it burned. They knew that Dingxian and Dingyi Shi Tai were surrounded by the fire. Linghu Chong grasped his sword and drew a breath before

shouting loudly, "Fearless Devil Sect thief, you dare to give trouble to

Heng-Shan School's Shi Tai. Five Mountains Sword Schools' masters have come from everywhere to help. Thieves, you're still not surrendering?" His shout was heard everywhere in the valley.

At the valley, the firewood, stacked twenty to thirty feet hight, was blocking the road. Linghu Chong didn't think deeply before he jumped inside the fire. Fortunately, the firewood in the middle wasn't burning that much. He went forward a few steps and saw two stone ovens but there was no one around. He shouted, “Dingxian Shi Tai, Dingyi Shi Tai, Heng-Shan School’s force has arrived to help!” At this time, Yihe, Yiqing, Yu Sao and the rest of the disciples were outside the fire shouting, “Master, martial uncle, disciples have arrived!” This was followed by the enemies shouting, “Kill them all!” “They’re Heng-Shan School’s nuns!” “They’re bluffing, there’s no Five Mountains Sword Schools’ masters.” This was followed by the clashing of swords between the enemy and the Heng-Shan School’s disciples.

Linghu Chong saw a tall shadow of a person coming out of the stone oven. Her whole body was covered with blood. It was Dingyi Shi Tai. Her hand was holding a sword and she stopped at the entrance of the stone oven. Even though her gown was ragged and her face was caked with dirt and blood, she still stood there looking proud and powerful. She had not lost the aura of a master at all. When she saw Linghu Chong, she was greatly

startled. “You... you are...”

Linghu Chong bowed, “Disciple Linghu Chong.”

Dingyi Shi Tai said, “I know you are Linghu Chong...” She had seen his face before through the window from the outside of the Jade House brothel.

“Disciple will open the way. We’ll fight our way out,” said Linghu Chong as he stooped down to pick up a branch for swatting away the burning woods. Dingyi Shi Tai said, “You already joined the Devil Sect...” She said till here when they heard someone shouted, “Who has come here to disturb us?” The sabre was lightning fast as it chopped down.

Linghu Chong saw that the fire was getting more intense and the

situation was desperate. But Dingyi Shi Tai was being suspicious towards him and unexpectedly didn’t want to rush out with him. In this situation, he had to move fast and kill as many enemies as possible. Only then would he be able to save them out of danger.

He took a step back to avoid the sabre chopping down and that person followed his first move with a second slash. Linghu Chong countered this move by cutting off his arm holding the sabre. Then he heard a female disciple shouting sharply in misery from the outside. It was a Heng-Shan School’s disciple who had met with a disaster. Linghu Chong was startled

and hurriedly jumped out of the fire.

He saw a group of people on the east hillside and another group on the west hillside. The enemy had more than a hundred people with them. Some of the Heng-Shan School’s disciples were already in groups of seven using the sword formation to fight the enemies. But there were still some disciples who were fighting alone as they didn’t have time to form the formation. Even though those who were fighting in formation didn’t have the upper hand, they were still able to hold their own. But the situation was extremely dangerous for those who were fighting alone. Two female disciples had already been killed.

Linghu Chong swept his eyes across the battlefield to assess the situation. He then saw Yilin and Qin Juan fighting back to back against

three men. He gathered his qi and rushed towards them when he suddenly saw a bright light moving towards him. A long sword was being thrust towards him but Linghu Chong promptly killed him by piercing his throat. He leaped a few times and arrived in front of Yilin. He pierced the back of one man killing him. He killed the second man by piercing the side of his body. The third person lifted his steel whip to smash it down towards Qin Juan’s head but Linghu Chong reversed his sword and slashed upwards cutting off that person’s arm at the shoulder. Yilin was looking pale but now there was a slight smile on her face, “Amituofo, big brother Linghu.”

Linghu Chong now saw that Yu Sao was being attacked by two good fighters. He rushed towards her and slashed twice. The first slash hit the person on his lower abdomen killing him. The second slash cut off the

second person’s right wrist.

He turned around and rushed towards Yihe and Yiqing who were fighting against three men. Linghu Chong wielded his swords and the three men cried out miserably before they dropped dead to the ground.

Suddenly he heard an elder shouted, “Join forces and kill this servant

first!”

Three grey shadows responded to this call and three swords were

thrust towards his throat, chest and lower abdomen. These three sword moves were really wonderful and their positioning was masterful. These were first-class sword art. Linghu Chong was startled, “This is Songshan School’s sword art! Could it be that they are from Songshan School?” As

Linghu Chong thought of this, the three swords were closing in on his three fatal points. Linghu Chong used the sword-breaking stance from the Dugu Nine Swords as he circled his sword towards the three attacking swords to neutralise them. His sword intention had not finished yet as he forced the

enemies to retreat a couple of steps. He saw that the enemy on his left was a fat looking Han Chinese around forty years old with a short beard on his face. The one in the middle was a thin old man with dark skin and bright- looking eyes. He didn't have the time to look at the third person clearly before he slanted his body and escaped.

With two thrusts, he killed the two people attacking Zheng E. The previous three people roared out and chased him. Linghu Chong had

already made a decision, "These three people's martial arts are high and I probably won't be able to finish the fight quickly. If I fight too long with them, a lot of disciples from Heng-Shan School would be injured." He gathered his qi and started running non-stop to the east and west thrusting here and there. His sword was everywhere. With each thrust, an enemy

either fell down to the ground or was killed.

Those three masters were still chasing him but the distance between them stayed around ten feet as they weren't able to close in on him. In the time to drink a pot of tea, thirty people had been injured by Linghu Chong's sword. They were being routed as not a single person was able to stop a

single move from him. As thirty of the enemies were injured in such a short time, the situation was now reversed. For every enemy that Linghu Chong killed, he slowly managed to free some Heng-Shan School's disciples from the fighting, enabling them to go help the other disciples. In the beginning, the Heng-Shan School was outnumbered greatly by the enemy but now they were gradually turning the situation around and were getting the upper hand. Linghu Chong knew that this fighting today was very dangerous for

everyone. He decided that he couldn't spare anyone. If he didn't manage to push the enemy back in a short time then the fire would get even bigger and Dingxian Shi Tai and everyone else inside the stone oven would be unable to escape.

It was as if he was flying, he was sometimes rushing forward and

sometimes rushing at an angle. All the enemies within ten feet of him had no way of escaping. Not long after, another twenty enemies had dropped to the ground. Dingyi was surveying the battle scene standing on top of the stone oven. She saw Linghu Chong appearing and disappearing like a demon killing those enemies. His sword art was wonderfully skillful and she had never seen it before. She felt really happy and astonished at the

same time. There were around forty to fifty enemies left and they had seen Linghu Chong rampaging like a demon with no one able to resist him.

Suddenly, someone sent out a cry and around twenty people escaped into the surrounding grove. After Linghu Chong had killed several more people, the remaining enemies lost their will to fight. Before long, all the enemies who were able had escaped.

Only those three masters still remained as they chased after him but the distance between them was gradually getting farther. It seemed that they were also afraid of him. Linghu Chong stopped suddenly and turned

around. He shouted, "You're from Songshan School, aren't you?" Those three people quickly jumped back.

That tall Han Chinese shouted, "Sir, who are you?"

Linghu Chong didn't answer him but called out to Yu Sao and the other disciples, "Quickly open up a way to save your master, martial-uncle and the others."

The female disciples cut some tree branches and started to beat on the burning firewood while Yihe and a few other disciples jumped inside the fire. The dry branches were already burnt through to the core that they

weren't able to extinguish the fire. But everyone worked together to beat on the firewood and before long a gap had been opened up in the fire. Yihe and the others quickly helped the suffocated nuns get out from the inside of the stone oven.

"How's Dingxian Shi Tai?" Linghu Chong asked. He heard an elderly female's voice answered, "Thank you for your

concern." as a nun of medium stature slowly walked out of the ring of fire.

Her white gown wasn't stained at all with blood or dirt. There was no

weapon on her right hand. In her left hand, instead of a weapon, she held a strand of Buddhist prayer beads. Her appearance was kindly with her spirit

calm and her aura leisurely. Linghu Chong was surprised, "Dingxian Shi Tai is so serene. Even after all the difficulties she went through, she still managed to keep her calm countenance. She really lives up to her reputation." He approached and bowed to her, "Linghu Chong pays his respect to Shi Tai." Dingxian Shi Tai returned his propriety but warned,

"Someone's attacking. Be careful."

"Yes!" Linghu Chong calmly answered.

Without turning his body, he reversed his sword and slashed it backwards blocking that fat Han Chinese's sword and said, "Disciples was late in coming to help. Shi Tai, please forgive this sin." He blocked a few more thrust from that fat Han Chinese when two more swords were thrust at his back.

At this time, more than ten nuns came out of the fire ring carrying their martial sisters' corpses. Dingyi Shi Tai took large strides to emerge from the fire while saying fiercely, "Shameless traitor, that wolf's wild

schemes..." The bottom of her gown had caught on fire but she didn't care about it at all. Yu Sao went to her to beat on the gown and extinguished the fire.

Linghu Chong exclaimed, "Both Shi Tai are well! This is a joyous occasion." Just then, the sounds of "chi, chi" could be heard behind his body as three long swords were thrust simultaneously at him. At this time, Linghu Chong's sword art was not only one of the best but also not many in this world could match his internal energy strength. Not only did he hear the edge of the swords splitting the air, his internal energy also felt it and he automatically knew the enemies' sword paths. He wielded his long sword and countered the enemies' strikes. But those three people's martial arts were very high and their movements were lightning fast, which enabled them to escape from Linghu Chong’s thrust. But the back of the tall Han Chinese's hand was still slashed and fresh blood started to flow. Linghu Chong questioned, "Shi Tai, Songshan School is the leader of the Five

Mountains Sword Schools. Also, they have brotherly ties with Heng-Shan School, why would they suddenly attack your school? I don't understand a single thing."

"Where's martial sister? How come she didn't come?" Dingyi Shi Tai asked.

Qin Juan cried as she answered, "Master... master was besieged by evildoers. She fought vigorously until... until she perished..."

Dingyi Shi Tai was grieved and indignant as she scolded, "Good thieves!" and started to take large strides forward. But after only a few

steps, she started to sway that she had to sit down on the ground heavily and threw up some blood from her mouth.

Even though the three Songshan School's masters were cooperating to fight Linghu Chong, they were still unable to endure his attack. Throughout the fight, they had only been looking at the back of his body while Linghu Chong was fighting with the long sword reversed in his hand. His sword art was marvellous and unpredictable. If he actually had turned around to fight them, they would not be his match at all. The three people were secretly feeling miserable and they were thinking of running away.

Suddenly, Linghu Chong turned around and started to attack them. He attacked the enemy on the left from the left and the enemy on the right from the right forcing them to crowd together. His one sword was able to encircle them and after eighteen moves they were unable to return another move. All three people were using Songshan School's wonderful sword art. But under the unceasing attack of Dugu Nine Swords, they were unable to return

another move. Linghu Chong actually forced them to use their own school's sword art so they wouldn't be able to deny their association any further. He saw that even though sweat was flowing down on their faces, their

expressions were still fearsome and their sword arts were still executed properly. It seemed that each of them had at least practised their sword art for at least ten years; it was really amazing.

"Amituofo. Martial brother Zhao, martial brother Zhang, martial brother Sima, my Heng-Shan School and your respectable school has no enmity with each other. Why did the three of you attack us and wanted to burn us to death? Poor nun doesn't understand and would like to consult with you," Dingxian Shi Tai said.

Those three Songshan School's masters really did have the surnames of Zhao, Zhang, and Sima. The three of them rarely traveled in Jianghu and their positions in the school were a secret. Linghu Chong had already given them so much trouble and now suddenly Dingxian Shi Tai called their

surnames out. They were startled. "Qiang lang", "qiang lang".

Two of them were hit on the wrists and dropped their swords. Linghu Chong pointed his sword at the short person's throat and commanded,

"Drop the sword!" That old short person sighed and exclaimed, "The world unexpectedly has this kind of martial art, this kind of sword art! Zhao has been defeated by your sword and I wouldn't regard it as injustice." After

saying this, he gathered his qi, passed it into his hand and broke his sword into seven or eight pieces. Linghu Chong moved back a few steps and Yihe with six other disciples drew their long swords and surrounded these three people.

Dingxian Shi Tai slowly said, "Your respectable school wishes to combine the five mountains sword schools into one and create the Five

Mountains School. Heng-Shan School has been around for several hundred years. Poor nun doesn't dare to end the school at my hand so I refused your school's proposal. We've already exhausted the discussion on this matter

already. But now you disguised yourself as the Devil Sect and tried to wipe out my Heng-Shan School. Isn't this method too high-handed?"

Dingyi Shi Tai indignantly butted in, "Why is martial sister saying so much to them? Just kill them so they won't give us anymore trouble in the future... " She then coughed a few times and vomited blood again at the

same time.

That tall person surnamed Sima said, "We were just following an order to dispatch a message. We didn't know any details at all..."

"Let them kill us or peel our skins off, why do you need to talk to them?" that old man Zhao indignantly chided.

Sima shut his mouth and stopped talking after being scolded. He looked ashamed.

Dingxian Shi Tai said, "Thirty years ago, the three of you were running amuck in Hebei but suddenly you just disappeared without a trace. Poor nun thought that the three of you had turned away from your unruly ways. But I didn't expect that you would join and conspire with the Songshan School. Ai, Songshan School's leader Zuo is a respected person

of our generation but he has accepted many unorthodox... Jianghu's unusual warriors, and together with them cause problems. This is really harboring

evil... Ai, I don't understand this." Although she had changed her mind at this time, she still didn't want to offend anyone with her speech. She felt that she might have spoken too much and immediately stopped talking. She sighed, "My martial sister Dingjing Shi Tai, was she harmed by your respectable school as well?"

That cowardly person with the surname Sima wanted to make up for before so he said in a loud voice, "Right, that's martial brother Zhong..."

"Hey!" rebuked that old person surnamed Zhao as he indignantly stared at him.

That person surnamed Sima realised that he had said the wrong thing, but he still continued, "Now that it has come to this, what's there to hide

anymore?

Leader Zuo divided our forces into two. Each force came to Zhejiang to handle the matter."

"Amituofo, amituofo. Leader Zuo is already the head of the Five

Mountains Sword Schools. What higher honour does he want by joining the five schools and becoming its leader? So he wages a war and destroys our

alliance, wouldn't the Jianghu heroes laugh at this?" asked Dingxian Shi Tai.

Dingyi Shi Tai fiercely said, "Martial sister, this thief's wild scheme is insatiably greedy... you..."

Dingxian Shi Tai waved her hand then said to those three people, "The net of Heaven stretches everywhere, they might be loose but they

never miss. You will suffer retribution for these unrighteous conducts. Get out of here! I'd bother the three of you to tell Leader Zuo that from now on,

Heng-Shan School will no longer receive his order. Although my humble school only has weak females, we would not yield under his violence. We won't follow Leader Zuo's order to combine the schools."

Yihe called out, "Martial uncle, they're... they're very malicious... " "Withdraw the sword formation!" ordered Dingxian Shi Tai. "Yes!" replied Yihe. Complying with the order, she lifted her sword which was followed by the other six disciples. They then retreated several steps.

Those three masters from Songshan School never expected that they would be released so easily. They couldn't help but feel appreciative as they bowed towards Dingxian Shi Tai. They then turned around and flew off.

When they were tens of feet away, that old man Zhao stopped and turned

around. He asked in a clear voice, "May I ask the young hero with the godly sword art for your honourable surname and given name? I was defeated today though I don't dare hope to take revenge. But I would like to learn the name of the great hero who taught you and the name of this sword art."

Linghu Chong laughed, "This General is from Quanzhou prefecture.

I'm called General Wu Tiande! Let's exchange names." That old person knew that Linghu Chong's answer was fake so he sighed and turned around to go.

At this time, the fire had gotten larger. There were many dead people from the Songshan School lying on the ground. More than ten of the Songshan people who were lightly injured had slowly crawled out of the valley while those who were heavily injured were lying in pools of blood. They saw the fire was getting closer but they were too powerless to move away. Some of them shouted for help. Dingxian Shi Tai said, "They didn't do this on their own accord. It was Leader Zuo who ordered them to come here because of an error in his thought. Yu Sao, Yiqing, help them." They knew that their Abbess was a merciful person and they didn't dare to disobey her. They separately started to check on the injured Songshan

School's people. Those who were still breathing were helped to the side and given some medicine. Dingxian Shi Tai looked towards the south and there were teardrops falling down her cheeks. She cried out "Martial sister!” She then swayed a few times and fell forward.

Everyone was startled and quickly rushed to her side to support her. They saw fresh blood flowing down from the side of her mouth. It seemed that her injuries were just as serious as Dingyi Shi Tai. The disciples were all frightened and didn't know what to do. They all turned around and looked at Linghu Chong wanting to hear his idea.

Linghu Chong instructed, "Quickly give the two Shi Tai medicines for their wounds. For the injured, wrap their wounds first to stop the bleeding. The fire is still going strong in this place. Everybody, let's go there to rest. Can I ask a few martial sisters to go and look for some fruits to eat?"

The disciples responded to his order and separately did the tasks.

Zheng E and Qin Juan attended to Dingxian Shi Tai, Dingyi Shi Tai, and the injured disciples. They got some water from the creek with a kettle for them to drink with the medicine. During the Dragon Spring fight, thirty-seven of the Heng-Shan School's disciples died. When the disciples thought of how Dingjing Shi Tai and the other disciples had died, their hearts were full of grief.

Suddenly, a few people started to cry and this affected the rest of the disciples. They all started to cry. All of a sudden, the valley was filled with cries of sorrow. Dingyi Shi Tai fiercely scolded, “The dead are already dead, why do you take this so hard? You have all read the Buddhist’s sutras and comprehend this matter of “life and death”. What’s so good about this smelly sack of leather?” The disciples knew that Dingyi Shi Tai’s nature

was like a raging fire. No one dared to go against her wish. In a short time, the weeping sounds ceased but many of them were still sobbing. Dingyi Shi Tai continued, “How did martial sister finally meet her end? E’er, why don’t you report to Abbess and tell us clearly what happened.”

“Yes,” answered Zheng E. She stood up and started to narrate how they were ambushed in the Xianxia mountain range, how Linghu Chong helped them, how they were captured in Nianbapu town with the use of confusion poison, how Dingjing Shi Tai was threatened by Songshan School’s Zhong Zhen and then besieged by masked men, how Linghu

Chong luckily caught up and drove them away, and how Dingjing Shi Tai finally succumbed to her heavy injuries. She narrated everything to them.

Dingyi Shi Tai uttered, “That’s how it is. Songshan School’s thieves were pretending to be Devil Sect to compel martial sister to agree to the merger. Hng, how vicious. If you had all been captured by Songshan School and martial sister didn’t agree, it could’ve been disastrous.” As she said this, she ran out of breath and her voice became weak. After taking a breather, she continued, “When martial sister was besieged on the Xianxia mountain range, she knew that the enemies weren’t easy to handle so she dispatched the pigeons asking for us to send help. Unexpectedly... unexpectedly... this matter, was already anticipated by the enemies.”

Dingxian Shi Tai’s second disciple, Yiwen, said, “Martial uncle, please rest, disciple will narrate how our group met with the enemies.” Dingyi Shi Tai indignantly retorted, “What’s there to tell? Water

Moon Temple was attacked by the enemy at night. And we’ve been fighting continuously till today.”

Yiwen said, “Yes.”

It was just a simple narration of how they had been fighting with the enemies for many days. That night, Songshan School’s people raided the temple wearing masks and pretending to be the Devil Sect. The attack on Heng-Shan School that time was so swift that the nuns were worried of being annihilated. Luckily, Water Moon Temple was an artery of Wulin and it stored five treasured swords from the Dragon Spring. In that critical

situation, Abbess Qingxiao distributed the treasured swords to Dingxian

and Dingyi Shi Tai to fight the enemies. Dragon Spring’s treasured swords were able to cut through iron as if it were mud. They used the treasured

swords to cut many weapons and injured many enemies. They retreated as they fought until they reached this valley. Qingxiao Shi Tai died in protecting them.

This valley used to produce fine iron and several hundred years ago metals were cast here. Later, the iron ran out and the sword forges were moved somewhere else. The only remaining things in this valley were a few stone ovens for smelting. It was lucky that those stone ovens were around

as it enabled the Heng-Shan School to fight with the ovens at their back. By doing this, they were able to hold out for many days and averted a big disaster. When Songshan School was unable to break through with their

attack, they collected firewood and tried to use fire to burn them. If Linghu Chong and the other disciples had arrived half a day late, it would have been very difficult to save them. Dingyi Shi Tai was impatient to get to the end of Yiwen's narration of the events of the past few days. She stared at Linghu Chong and suddenly said, “You... you are good. Why did your

Master expel you from his school? He said that you were colluding with the Devil Sect.”

Linghu Chong answered, “Disciple wasn’t careful while traveling and became acquainted with a few Devil Sect’s people.”

Dingyi Shi Tai uttered an “hng” before saying, “Songshan School is even more ambitious and vicious compared to what Devil Sect is capable of. Hng! Are people from the orthodox schools better than those from the Devil Sect?” Yihe said, “Martial brother Linghu, I wouldn't dare to judge whether you master was right or wrong. But he... he knew clearly that my school was facing a difficulty but he just put his hand in his sleeve and would rather be a spectator. Given this... given this... maybe he already approved of Songshan School’s plan of combining the schools together.”

Linghu Chong’s heart was moved and he thought that what Yihe said was not unreasonable. But he had grown up under his respected master and had always looked up to him. So he didn’t dare to have any disrespectful thought towards his master. He said, “My respected master wasn’t putting his hand in his sleeve and acting as a spectator. It’s most likely that he has another matter... this...”

Up until now, Dingxian Shi Tai had her eyes closed to meditate. Now, she slowly opened her eyes and said, “My humble school has met with a few big difficulties and young hero Linghu has helped us get through them. This virtue and kindness...”

Linghu Chong hastily said, “I didn’t do much. Martial uncle’s words flatter me too much. I don’t deserve it.”

Dingxian Shi Tai shook her head and said, “Why must young hero be so modest? Martial brother Yue is unable to come himself so he sent his

eldest disciple to represent him. That’s just the same. Yihe, don’t talk nonsense and be rude to your elders.”

Yihe bowed, “Yes, disciple doesn’t dare. But... but martial brother Linghu has already been expelled from Huashan School. Martial uncle Yue doesn’t want him anymore. So he didn't really come here to represent martial uncle Yue’s school.”

Dingxian Shi Tai smiled slightly, “You still don’t want to give in and want to keep debating it.” Yihe sighed, “It would be good if only martial brother Linghu were a female.”

“Why?” asked Dingxian Shi Tai.

“He’s already been expelled from Huashan School and couldn’t go back there again. If he were a girl then he could join our school. We’ve

shared a lot of trials and tribulations together, he’s already like our own people...” answered Yihe.

Dingyi Shi Tai shouted, “Nonsense. You’re grown up already, but you’re still speaking like a child.”

Dingxian Shi Tai smiled slightly, “Martial brother Yue must have misunderstood something. Later in the future, he will see clearly and would accept young hero Linghu back into his school. When the news of Songshan School’s plot spread, he would not be able to just sit back any longer given the situation. Then Huashan School would need young hero Linghu to rely on. Also, if he couldn’t go back to Huashan, with his martial art, he could just establish his own school and no one would blame him.”

Zheng E said, “What martial uncle said is true. Martial brother Linghu, Huashan School's people treated you so badly. Why don't you just establish a... a “Linghu School” and show it to them. Hng, then why do you still have to return to Huashan School?”

Linghu Chong smiled bitterly and said, “Martial uncle speaks so highly of me. Disciple is not worthy of your praise. If only my respected master would forgive my faults in the future and permit me to reenter the school, then I won’t have anything more to ask from him."

“Nothing more to ask from him? How about your little martial sister?” Zheng E asked.

Linghu Chong shook his head and changed the topic, “Shall we bury the remains of martial sisters or cremate them and take the ashes back to Hengshan?”

Dingxian Shi Tai answered, “Cremate them!” and her voice started to choke as she saw the dead bodies of her disciples lying on the ground. Even though she completely understood the human affairs, they had been her disciples for many years and she couldn’t help but feel sad. A few of the disciples started crying again on hearing this.

Some of the disciples had been dead for several days already and some were hundreds of feet away. While the disciples were moving the

bodies, they all kept scolding Songshan School’s leader Zuo Lengchan for having sinister intentions and methods. After they had finished cremating their martial sisters’ bodies, the sky had turned dark, so they stayed the night in the wild mountain under the stars.

At dawn, the disciples carried Dingxian Shi Tai, Dingyi Shi Tai, and their injured martial sisters on their backs. When they arrived at the Dragon Spring town, they went to the harbor and hired seven black boats to travel to the north. Linghu Chong was still afraid that Songshan School might

attack them while traveling on water so he followed them north. Now that there were two elders traveling with the Heng-Shan School’s party, Linghu Chong controlled himself and didn’t dare to talk nonsense to the female disciples anymore.

Dingxian Shi Tai, Dingyi Shi Tai, and the injured disciples’ injuries were not light but luckily Heng-Shan School’s medicines were very

effective. By the time they had passed Qian Tang River, their injuries were not life threatening anymore. As many of the Heng-Shan School’s disciples were injured, they didn’t want to encounter any incidents on the road and

also wanted to avoid meeting anyone from Jianghu. When they reached the Yangtze River, they hired different boats to go upstream towards the Jiangxi Province. They traveled slowly in this manner. When they arrived in Hankou, about six or seven out of ten of the injured had already recovered. So they went back on the road and continued going north towards

Hengshan.

On the day they arrived at the bank of Poyang Lake, there were

several boats anchored at the mouth of the Nine River. These riverboats

were really big and all of them were able to fit into two boats. At midnight, Linghu Chong was sleeping at the stern of the boat with the sailors when he suddenly heard light clapping from the bank of the river. They clapped three times, stopped for a moment, then clapped for another three times. This was followed by clapping from a boat west of them. A person on that boat

clapped three times, stopped for a moment, then clapped for another three times. The sound of the clapping was very light but Linghu Chong still managed to hear it, as his abundant internal energy made his hearing

superb.

He immediately woke up upon hearing these unusual sounds as he knew that these were the signals of Jianghu's people greeting each other. For the last few days, he had been watching attentively for unusual signs to protect against any surprise attack. He thought, "No harm in having a look. If it's unrelated to Heng-Shan School then it's good. Otherwise, I'll just take care of it in secret. There's no need to bother Dingxian Shi Tai and the rest of them." He squinted his eyes to look at the boat at the west and saw a black shadow with average qinggong jumping for around ten feet repeatedly till he reached the shore. Linghu Chong lightly flew off and landed on the shore noiselessly. He then went around the back of a row of big baskets filled with oil on the east side. As he hid himself behind the baskets, he heard a person said, "Those nuns on the boat must be from

Heng-Shan School."

The other person asked, "What should we do?" Linghu Chong slowly got nearer and the glimmering light from the

stars and moon allowed him to see the faces of the two people. One of them had a face full of beard while the other one had a long and pointed face

which was not only oval but was also like an open sunflower seed face. He then heard that Han Chinese with the pointed face said, "White Flood

Dragon Clan24 is the only one doing this. Although we have a lot of people, our martial art isn't higher than other people so we shouldn't trade blows

with them."

"Who said we’re going to trade blows? These nuns' martial art might be good but on water, their water skill might not be that good. Tomorrow, we'll get a boat to go over to their boat. Then we'll go under water to bore some holes in their boats. Then we'll just capture them one by one," That bearded person said.

That pointed-faced Han Chinese happily said, "This plan is very

clever. We two brothers would've done a great service for the Nine River's White Flood Dragon Clan. From now on, our names would be heard throughout Jianghu. But I'm still worried about one thing."

"What are you worried about?" asked the bearded person.

"They're in the Five Mountains Sword Schools alliance. They have a saying, same root different branches. If Mr. Mo Da found out about this, he wouldn't let the White Flood Dragon Clan get away with it," replied the pointed face.

"Hng, for the past several years, we've always endured with Hengshan School's influence. Enough already! This time if we don't do this thing for our friend and with all our hearts then if we met with a problem in the future, they won't help us. When we're done with this, maybe Hengshan School would be annihilated, why are you still afraid of Mr. Mo Da for?"

said the bearded face. "Alright, that's the plan then. Let's look for some help who can swim well," said the pointed face agreeing to the plan.

Linghu Chong leapt out and used his sword handle to hit the pointed face at the back of his head knocking him out. That bearded face person threw a punch but Linghu Chong extended his sword handle and hit his left Taiyang acupoint, which made him spin around a few times like a screw before plunking down heavily on the ground. Linghu Chong extended his long sword across to open the lids of the two oil baskets. He picked those two people up and separately squeezed them into the baskets. The baskets were filled with vegetable oil and each weighed around three hundred

catties. They were actually for that day's shipments. As the two people were dunked into the basket, their whole bodies were immersed in oil and oil

entered their nose and mouth. The cold oil woke them up immediately and made them gasp for air but they only managed to swallow some oil instead. Suddenly, someone at Linghu Chong's back said, "Young hero Linghu, don't kill them."

It was Dingxian Shi Tai's voice. Linghu Chong was slightly alarmed, "When did Dingxian Shi Tai get behind me? I wasn't aware of it." He quickly took both of his hands off their heads and replied, "Yes!" As soon as their heads were released, they wanted to jump out of the basket but Linghu Chong hit the top of their heads forcing them back in and laughingly commanded, "Don't move!"

Those two people had their knees bent to crouch inside while the oil reached up to their necks and they were having trouble opening their eyes. They were entirely confused about how they had gotten into such difficult circumstances. They then saw another grey shadow leapt from the boat towards the bank. It was Dingyi Shi Tai and she asked, "Martial sister, did you catch some thieves?" "They're the hall leaders of the Nine River's White Flood Dragon

Clan. Young hero Linghu is playing a joke with them." replied Dingxian Shi Tai. She then turned her head towards the bearded face person and asked,

"Sir, is your surname Yi or Qi? Is clan leader well?"

That bearded person's surname really was Yi and he asked, "My... my surname is Yi, how did you know? Our clan leader is well."

Dingxian smiled, "White Flood Dragon Clan's hall leader Yi and hall leader Qi are famously known in Jianghu as "Yangtze River's Pair of Flying Fish". Old nun has heard of your names, they're like thunder entering the

ears."25

Dingxian Shi Tai was very meticulous; although she rarely went out of the temple, she kept detailed knowledge of all the personalities from

every school and every sect. Otherwise, how could she have recognised those three masters from Songshan School previously? The bearded person surnamed Yi and the pointed-faced person surnamed Qi were third or fourth class personalities in Wulin. But as soon as she saw their countenances, she was able to guess their backgrounds correctly.

That pointed-faced Han Chinese felt proud of himself that Dingxian Shi Tai had recognised him and said, "Like thunder entering the ears? I

wouldn't dare." Linghu Chong used his sword to press the top of the pointed face's head, forcing him to submerge in the oil and then released his hold.

He then laughed, "I've long admired your name, like oil entering the ears." That Han Chinese indignantly said, "You... you... " He wanted to scold Linghu Chong but he didn't dare.

Linghu Chong said, "I have one thing to ask, why don't you answer truthfully. If you lie in the slightest bit, then your nickname "Yangtze

River's Pair of Flying Fish" will change into "Mud Loaches Dead in Oil"." He then also pressed that bearded fellow into the oil. But that bearded fellow was already prepared for this so he didn't swallow any oil but the vegetable oil still entered his nose. So he was still feeling distressed over this. Dingxian Shi Tai and Dingyi Shi Tai couldn't hold back their smiles

and both thought, "This youth is really naughty. But this can be regarded as a good method to get information."

Linghu Chong asked, "When did your White Flood Dragon Clan start colluding with Songshan School? Why did you want to trouble Heng-Shan School?"

That bearded person was confused, "Collude with Songshan School?

That's weird. We don't even know any hero from Songshan School."

Linghu Chong said, "Aha! The first word that came out of your mouth is false. I'll give you a mouthful of oil to drink!" He used his sword to press down on the bearded person forcing him to enter the oil. Although this bearded person was not a first class master, his martial art wasn't that weak. But Linghu Chong transferred his abundant internal energy into his sword. It was as if a thousand catties stone was being pressed onto his head making him unable to move up. The vegetable oil covered both his nose

and mouth and exposed both of his eyes. He was feeling very miserable. Linghu Chong said towards the pointed face man, "Quickly tell me!

You want to remain 'Yangtze River's Flying Fish' or become 'Mud Loach Immersed in Oil'?"

That person surnamed Qi answered, "Now that I've met with Hero,

even if I don't want to be 'Mud Loach Immersed in Oil', I might still have to become one. But brother Yi didn't lie; we really don't know anyone from Songshan School. Also, Songshan School and Heng-Shan School are allies and everyone in Wulin knows this. Why would Songshan School tell our

White Flood Dragon Clan to make life difficult for... your respectable school?" Linghu Chong released his long sword letting that person surnamed Yi to lift his head above the oil. He then asked, "You said that tomorrow in the middle of Yangtze River, you were going to sink Heng-Shan School's boats. What has Heng-Shan School done to wrong you?"

Dingyi Shi Tai arrived late so she didn't know why Linghu Chong treated those two people in this manner. But hearing what he said, she became angry and shouted, "Good thieves. You want to kill us in the middle of the river." Her Heng-Shan School's disciples were mostly from the north and they couldn't swim. If the boats were sunk then many disciples would inevitably die. As she thought of this, her body trembled with fear.

That Yi person was afraid that Linghu Chong might push him under the oil again so he quickly said, "Heng-Shan School and our White Flood Dragon Clan have no enmity. We're only a small gang in Nine River's dock. What kind of skills do we have to look for trouble with all the Shi Tai from Heng-Shan School? It's just... it's just that we know that you Buddhists are all one family and we saw your respectable school going westward. So we thought that you were going there to help. That's why... this... we overrate our own ability and concoct this evil plan. We don't dare anymore."

As Linghu Chong heard more, he became even more confused, "What do you mean Buddhists are one family and who do we help by going west? You're not speaking clearly!"

That Yi person said, "Yes, yes! Although Shaolin Temple isn't part of the Five Mountains Sword Schools, we thought that monks and nuns are of one family..."

Dingyi Shi Tai shouted, "Nonsense!"

That Yi person was startled and he involuntarily pulled back and

swallowed a mouthful of oil. He was speechless with his mouth feeling so greasy. Dingyi Shi Tai held her smile and said to the pointed face person, "Explain it clearly."

That Qi person said, "Yes, yes! That "Ten Thousand Miles Loner" Tian Boguang, does Shi Tai know him well?"

Dingyi Shi Tai was indignant as she thought in her heart why would she be well acquainted to such a notorious rapist in Jianghu as "Ten Thousand Miles Loner" Tian Boguang and that this servant actually dared

to ask her this question. It was really the greatest insult to her. She lifted her right hand to smash his head open. Dingxian Shi Tai lifted her hand to hinder her and said, "Martial sister, don't be angry. These two have been indulging themselves in the oil basket for a long time now, their brains are probably not too clear right now. Furthermore, don't lower yourself to their level."

That Qi person asked, "What's wrong with Tian Boguang? That "Ten Thousand Miles Loner" Tian Boguang, uncle Tian is a good friend of our clan leader. These last few days, uncle Tian..."

Dingyi Shi Tai indignantly said, "What uncle Tian? You should've killed this despicable evildoer a long time ago. But you're making friends with him instead, I think White Flood Dragon Clan isn't a good clan after all."

That Qi person agreed in a hurry, "Yes, yes, yes. We're not... not good people."

Dingyi Shi Tai questioned, "We asked you before, why did you want to trouble Heng-Shan School? Why do you mention Tian Boguang regarding this?"

Tian Boguang had been inappropriate with her disciple Yilin once before. But Dingyi Shi Tai had yet been unable to kill him to vent her anger so she felt that this was a shameful matter to her. So she didn't wish this person to mention Tian Boguang's name.

That Qi person said, "Yes, yes. Everybody's going to rescue young lady Ren. We were afraid that the orthodox schools are going to help the monks. That's why we two brothers didn't think properly and confusedly cooked up this plan. This method that we wanted to employ towards your respectable school..."

Dingyi Shi Tai still didn't understand in the slightest bit what he was going on about. She sighed, "Martial sister, I'll just let you question these two muddy people."

Dingxian Shi Tai smiled and asked, "Young lady Ren, is that the Devil Sect's previous Chief's daughter?"

Linghu Chong was shocked, "They're talking about Yingying?" His face turned pale and his hands started to sweat.

That Qi person answered, "Yes. Uncle Tian... no, that Tian... Tian

Boguang came to Nine River some time ago to drink wine with clan leader Shi. He said that on the fifteenth day of the twelfth month, we are all going to go to Shaolin Temple to make some disturbance and get young lady Ren out of there."

Unable to tolerate what was being said, Dingyi Shi Tai interfered, "Disturb Shaolin Temple? What kind of skills do you think you have to provoke the best there is in the martial world?"

That Qi person replied, "Yes, yes. Of course we're inadequate."

Dingxian Shi Tai said, "That Tian Boguang has the fastest qinggong so he's acting as a messenger, isn't he? Who's presiding over this matter?"

That Yi person answered, "When we heard that young lady Ren was being kept in the Shaolin Temple by those thieves... no, by the Shaolin monks, we all took action separately without consulting each other. We all wanted to save her but there's no one presiding over this matter. We remembered young lady Ren's kindness, so we all said that we're willing to sacrifice ourselves for her."

A moment later, Linghu Chong's heart was filled with countless doubts, "That young lady Ren they're talking about, is it really Yingying? Why would the Shaolin monks detain her? She's so young; what kind of kindness could she have given to these people? Why did so many people want to go and save her without caring about their own life after hearing news of her trouble?"

Dingxian Shi Tai said, "You were afraid that my Heng-Shan School would go and help Shaolin School. That's why you wanted to sink our boats, didn't you?"

"Yes, we thought that monks and nuns... this... that..." That Qi person stammered.

"What this that?" Dingyi Shi Tai indignantly said.

"Yes, yes. This... that... I don't dare say it. I can't say..." That Qi person hastily said.

"On the fifteenth of the twelfth month, your White Flood Dragon Clan is also going to Shaolin?" Dingxian Shi Tai asked.

They both answered at the same time, "We'll obey clan leader Shi's command."

That Qi person went on, "Since everyone else is going, our White Flood Dragon Clan couldn't be left behind."

Dingxian Shi Tai asked, "Everyone? Who's everyone?"

That Qi person answered, "That Tian... Tian Boguang said, Zhejiang's West Sea Sand Clan, Black Wind of East Mountain Association, Western

Hunan Sect, ..." In a single breath, he was able to say the name of thirty clans from Jianghu. This person's martial art was only average, but he was able to remember the name of all the clans involved.

Dingyi Shi Tai scowled, "They're all unorthodox clans. Even though they have lots of people, they're not necessarily a match for Shaolin School."

Among the names mentioned by that Qi person were Heavenly River Faction's Chief “Silver-Bearded Dragon” Huang Boliu, Long Whale Island's Chief Sima Big, and a few other people that Linghu Chong had met before on top of the Five-Tyrant Ridge. He had no more doubt that the person that they wanted to save really was Yingying and he was happy to have gotten news of her. But she was currently detained in Shaolin School and she had killed a few of their disciples before, so he felt really worried. He asked, "Why did Shaolin School want to detain this... this young lady

Ren?"

"I don't know about that. Maybe those Shaolin monks have been

eating too much and have nothing else to do. So they just look for trouble and detain her," That Qi person said.

"Please pay my respect to your respectable clan leader Shi and tell him that Heng-Shan School's Dingxian, Dingyi and a good friend passed by the Nine River. We've been impolite for not paying a visit to clan leader Shi; please ask clan leader Shi to excuse us. Tomorrow, we'll keep going to the west by boats. Please pardon us and don't dispatch people to sink our boats," Dingxian Shi Tai said.

Those two people immediately answered, "We don't dare."

Dingxian Shi Tai said to Linghu Chong, "It's a fine night, the moon is white and the air is clear. Young hero, please enjoy the night scenery at the shore slowly. Forgive poor nun for not accompanying." She then held

Dingyi Shi Tai's hand and slowly went back to the boat. Linghu Chong knew that she intentionally left him alone so that he

could question these two people further. But for the moment, he was utterly confused and didn't know what else to ask. He just walked back and forth on the riverbank and didn't say anything for a long time. He saw half of the moon's reflection in the middle of the river. The river was flowing to the

east and the moon's reflection was trembling incessantly. He suddenly thought, "Today is already the third week of the eleventh month. There's not much time left till the fifteenth of next month when they're going to the Shaolin Temple. Shaolin School's Great Master Fangzheng and Fangsheng treated me very well. When these people go to save Yingying, a big fight is bound to happen there. No matter who wins or who loses, the injuries to both sides will be enormous. Why don't I go in front of them and ask

Abbott Fangzheng to release Yingying and avoid this bloodbath. Wouldn't this be better?"

He thought more, "Dingxian and Dingyi Shi Tai's injuries are almost fully healed. Although Dingxian Shi Tai's outward appearance is just like

any other nun, she's actually very knowledgeable and her experience is vast. She's actually one of Wulin's great masters with very high skill. She's leading them back north; I don't think they'd meet another large number of Songshan School people attacking them. So they'd be able to deal with any kind of calamities they might face. But how can I just say goodbye to them?"

He had gone through a lot of trials and tribulations with these nuns

and ladies. They treated him very respectfully and they were also very close and dear to him. Also, although he never mentioned about the time when his master expelled him or when his little martial sister abandoned him, he could tell from their expressions that they shared his sadness as if it was their own. In the Huashan School, besides Lu Dayou, there was no one else that close to him. Now, he suddenly had to say goodbye to them, it was really hard for him to speak up. He heard the light footsteps of two people coming closer to him. They were Yilin and Zheng E. When they were still

twenty to thirty feet away from Linghu Chong, they called out, "Big brother Linghu." and stopped coming closer.

Linghu Chong went up to welcome them, "You were also woken up?"

Yilin said, "Big brother Linghu, martial uncle Abbess asked us to come to tell you..." She pushed Zheng E and said, "You tell him."

"Martial uncle Abbess wants you to say it," Zheng E said. "You say it, it's the same," Yilin said.

"Big brother Linghu, martial uncle Abbess said, we don't need to say thanks for your kindness. After today, no matter what kind of matter you have, Heng-Shan School will follow your order. If you want to go to Shaolin to save that young lady Ren, everyone will help you with all their hearts," Zheng E said.

Linghu Chong was surprised and thought, "I didn't say that I was going to save Yingying, how on earth did Dingxian Shi Tai know? Ayo,

Yes! Groups of heroes gathered on top of the Five-Tyrant Ridge to treat my illness. They must've done it in respect to Yingying. These two "Yangtze

River's Pair of Flying Fish" knows about it, why wouldn't Dingxian Shi Tai know?" As he thought of this matter, his face turned red with

embarrassment.

Zheng E went on, "Martial uncle Abbess also said that it's best not to do this by force. Abbess and Dingyi Shi Tai have already gone ahead to Shaolin Temple to meet Great Master Fangzheng to request for her release. She asked that big brother Linghu lead us to go to Shaolin."

When Linghu Chong heard this, he felt dumbfounded and speechless. He lifted his eyes towards the middle of the river and saw a small boat with a small white sail cruising to the north. He felt appreciative towards them but he also felt ashamed. "These two Shi Tai are learned and virtuous

Buddhists with high positions in Wulin. Yet, they're willing to go by themselves to ask for Shaolin's compassion. This is probably the best way. Compared to me, an unrestrained, improper, and nameless person of Wulin, their reputations are a hundred times better. It's most likely that when

Abbott Fangzheng saw the two Shi Tai, he would have to consider their reputations and agree to release Yingying."

As he thought of this, he felt relieved. He turned his head around to look at those two, Qi and Yi, person who are still immersed in the oil baskets as they were afraid to climb out. He saw that these two were

enthusiastic in saving Yingying so he felt that he had wronged them and felt quite sorry for them. He went up to them and cupped his hands. He

solemnly offered, "I was being rude before and offended the two "Yangtze River's Pair of Flying Fish" heroes from the White Flood Dragon Clan not knowing your reasons. Please forgive me."

Those two "Yangtze River's Pair of Flying Fish" were greatly

surprised as they saw him turned respectful towards them so suddenly. They hastily returned his propriety and also cupped their fists. In their haste, the vegetable oil splashed everywhere and some was actually splashed on Linghu Chong. Linghu Chong smiled and nodded his head.

He turned towards Yilin and Zheng E saying, "Let's go!" and returned to their boat. Heng-Shan School's other disciples unexpectedly didn't say

anything when they got back. Even Yihe and Qin Juan, who were usually curious, didn't ask him anything. It was because Dingxian Shi Tai had ordered them not to ask questions to save Linghu Chong from

embarrassment. Linghu Chong appreciated this inwardly but he saw

shadows of a smile on a few of the female disciples. Unavoidably, he now found himself in a difficult situation. He thought, "They must be thinking that Yingying is my sweetheart. Actually, there's nothing between Yingying and me. But since they're not asking me anything, how do I explain?" When he saw Qin Juan's bright and cunning eyes smiling at him, he couldn't

endure it anymore and said, "It's not like that at all. Don't... don't let your imagination run wild."

Qin Juan giggled, "What am I imagining?" Linghu Chong blushed, "I've already guessed it." Qin Juan teased him, "Guess what?"

But Linghu Chong didn't answer her. Yihe reproached, "Martial sister Qin, don't say it anymore. Have you forgotten Martial uncle Abbess' order?"

Qin Juan pursed her lips holding back her laugh, "Yes, yes, I didn't forget."

Linghu Chong turned his head away to avoid her eyes only to see Yilin sitting alone in the boat's cabin. She was looking pale and her

expression was indifferent. He felt anxious, "What is she thinking? What did I say to upset her?"

He was startled when he suddenly remembered that day outside

Hengshan. He recalled her expression while she was running and carrying him until they reached the wilderness. At that time, she was deeply troubled and excited, unlike her very indifferent expression right now. Why? Why?

Yihe suddenly said, "Martial brother Linghu!" But Linghu Chong didn't hear her so he didn't answer her. Yihe called out louder, "Martial brother Linghu!"

Linghu Chong was startled and turned his head around, "Hmm, what?" Yihe said, "Martial uncle Abbess also said that we should listen to Martial brother Linghu's plan whether we should go by road or boat tomorrow."

Linghu Chong actually wanted to go by land to learn about Yingying. But looking from the corner of his eyes, he saw tears flowing down Yilin's cheeks looking very pitiful. So he decided, "Martial uncle Abbess told us to just go slowly so we'll just travel in this boat then. I don't think those people from White Flood Dragon Clan would dare to bother us."

Qin Juan giggled, "You're not worried?" Linghu Chong blushed and didn't answer her.

Yihe shouted, "Martial sister Qin, you're just like a child, can you stop talking?"

Qin Juan giggled, "I can! Why can't I? Amituofo, I feel worried."

At dawnbreak, the boat sailed westward and Linghu Chong ordered it to stay close to the shore to protect against a potential White Flood Dragon Clan's attack. But everything was quiet as they entered Hubei's border.

These last few days, Linghu Chong didn't chit chat much with Heng-Shan School's disciples. Every night when they dropped anchor, he went ashore by himself to drink wine until he got drunk.

That day, the boat went pass Xiakou and turned north going to the

Hanshui River. At night, they stopped at the dock of a small town. He again went ashore and drank wine at a small store. After a few bowls of wine, he suddenly thought, "I wonder how little martial sister's injuries are? Martial sisters Yizhen and Yiling delivered Heng-Shan School's medicine to them.

So her injuries should be healed by now. I wonder if martial brother Lin has recovered from his injuries? If martial brother Lin's injuries didn't get better, how would she react?" As he thought till here, he was startled, "Linghu

Chong, Linghu Chong, you're such a contemptible person! Even though you're hoping that little martial sister would recover, but inside you're also hoping that martial brother Lin would die. Even if martial brother Lin is dead, little martial sister still wouldn't marry you."

He was feeling bored and after he finished three bowls of wine, he again thought, "I don't know who killed Lao Denuo and eighth martial brother? Why did that person also want to harm martial brother Lin? I

wonder how Master and Master-wife are doing recently?"

He picked up another bowl of wine and grabbed some salty peanuts to eat. He suddenly heard someone sighing behind him and said, "Ai! All the males in this world have no feeling at all."

Linghu Chong turned his head around to see who spoke those words. Under the candlelight, beside himself in that small store, there was another person crouching beside a table in the corner. On top of the table were also a wine pot and a wine cup. That person's gown was ragged and he looked

shabby. He didn't look like an educated or elegant person. So Linghu Chong ceased paying any attention to him and continued to drink another bowl of wine. He then heard that voice spoke behind him again, "A person has been confined in a sunless place because of you but you're spending every single day together with those girls. Young ladies, bald nuns, old grandmas, they're all together with you. Ai, what a shame, what a shame." Linghu

Chong knew that this ragged person was talking about him but he didn't turn around. He thought, "Who's this person? He said that a person has been confined in a sunless place because of me. Is he talking about Yingying?

Why was she confined because of me?"

He again heard that person said, "Even people who have no

connection to this thing are saying that they want to sacrifice themselves to help her. Everyone wants to be the alliance chief. The person hasn't been rescued yet but there's already fierce fighting inside the group. Ai, old person has never seen this kind of matter in Jianghu before."

Linghu Chong picked his wine bowl up and went over to sit opposite that person, "There are a lot of matters that are not clear to me. Old chap please teach me what to do."

That person still lay prostrated on the table. Without raising his head, he said, "Ai, how much is because of a weakness for women, how much is sin? Heng-Shan School's ladies and nuns will be in real trouble because of this."

Linghu Chong was even more startled that he quickly stood up and saluted earnestly. "Linghu Chong pays his respect to senior. Please bestow your guidance."

Standing there, he suddenly saw a very old, deep yellow-coloured huqin on the chair. A thought flashed in his mind and he realized who this person was. He immediately paid respect to him, "Junior Linghu Chong is lucky to have met martial uncle Mo from Hengshan School. Sorry for my inappropriateness."

That person lifted his head and his bright eyes swept across Linghu

Chong's face. It was really Hengshan School's "Xiao Xiang Night Rain" Mo Da. He uttered an "hng" before saying, "You called me martial uncle. You flatter me. Hero Linghu, these last few days you've been really happy!"

Linghu Chong bowed, "Martial uncle Mo is wise. Disciple received martial uncle Dingxian's order to accompany Heng-Shan School's martial sisters to go to Shaolin. Although disciple is ignorant, I don't dare to be inappropriate with martial sisters from Heng-Shan School."

Mr. Mo Da sighed, "Please sit! Ai, how could you not know that the rumours being spoken by all these people in Jianghu can even melt metal?" Linghu Chong smiled bitterly, "Junior's behaviour was imprudent and I didn't check myself. I can't even show my face in front of my own school. But I don't think we should care too much about these idle talks in Jianghu."

Mr. Mo Da laughed coldly, "Your name is already dragged through the mud, who would pay any attention to you? But Heng-Shan School's hundreds of years of reputation will be ruined by your conduct. This does not move you at all? There are many talks in Jianghu about how you're an adult male mixing with all the ladies and nuns from Heng-Shan School. So

many of their names are damaged by you, even... those two very disciplined old Shi Tai are being laughed at. This... this won't do at all."

Linghu Chong retreated two steps and grasped his sword handle, "I don't know who dare to spread these rumours and say all these shameless words. Martial uncle Mo, please tell me."

"You want to kill them? The number of people who says this in Jianghu is around eight thousands. You want to kill them all? Hng,

everyone is envious of your luck in love, what's not good about that?" Mr. Mo Da said.

Linghu Chong dejectedly sat down and thought, "Whenever I do things, I never thought about the past or the future but I only ask myself to have a clear conscience. But I never thought that I would implicate

everyone from Heng-Shan School. How... how can this be good?"

Mr. Mo Da sighed and warmly said, "For the last five days, I've been prying into your boats every night..." Linghu Chong let out an "ah" and thought, "Martial uncle Mo has been prying into our boats for five nights

already but I didn't even notice him. I'm really incompetent."

Mr. Mo Da went on, "I saw you slept on the stern of the boat every night, you don't even chat with any of them. Your conduct is irreproachable with these Heng-Shan School's female disciples. Brother Linghu, you're not only not a loafer, but you're actually a real gentleman. Even though the boat is full of young nuns and pretty maidens, you never showed any interest in them. Not even one night, but for tens of nights you didn't show any interest. Your type of person, a gentleman, is really rare nowadays. I, Mo

Da, really admire you." He raised his right thumbs up praising him. He then slammed his fist down, "Come, come, come! I, Mo Da, am saluting you." He picked up the wine pot and poured wine for them.

Linghu Chong said, "Martial uncle Mo's words scares nephew here. Little nephew's conduct is mostly improper; that's why I wasn't tolerated in my own school. But these Heng-Shan School's martial sisters who I'm traveling with, why would I dare to offend them?"

Mr. Mo Da laughed a few times before answering, "To be frank, this is actually the true colours of males. If I, Mo Da, were still in my twenties and had to accompany all these ladies every night, I wouldn't be able to follow your example in maintaining my moral integrity. This is rare, very rare! Come, bottoms up!" The two of them lifted their wine bowls and gulped them down. Then they laughed together.

Linghu Chong saw that Mr. Mo Da's appearance was unrestrained and his clothing and personal adornments were poor. He didn't look like an

earth-shattering figure of a school leader in Jianghu. But as his eyes swept across, it was sharp as a knife-edge. But this fierce look disappeared

immediately and he again became a sleepy old man. Linghu Chong thought, "Heng-Shan's leader Dingxian Shi Tai is kind and gentle. Taishan's leader Priest Tianmen is dignified and sincere. Songshan's leader Zuo Lengchan is like a dangerous bird of prey. My respected master is a refined gentleman.

Martial uncle Mo's appearance, on the other hand, is common and humble, just like any other ordinary person. However, within the five mountains sword schools' five leaders, he's actually the wisest one. I, Linghu Chong, am only a crude-fellow; compared to them I still lack by a long distance."

Mr. Mo Da said, "When I was in Hunan, I heard about you mixing together with the nuns and ladies from the Heng-Shan School. I was really surprised. I wondered how Dingxian Shi Tai could allow this matter to arise from her school? Later, I found out your whereabouts from the White Flood Dragon Clan and caught up with you. Brother Linghu, when you made that disturbance in Hengshan's Jade House, at that time I, Mo Da, firmly believed that you were a frivolous young man. Later, after you helped my martial brother Liu Zhengfeng, I held a good opinion of you. I wanted to

catch up to give you some advice. Who would've thought that I would meet a hero of this generation. Unexpectedly, brother, you're such a great young hero. Very good, very good! Come, come, come! We'll drink three cups!"

He then called out to the shop servant to add more wine to drink with Linghu Chong. After a few bowls of wine, a sad and poor looking Mr. Mo Da suddenly became cheerful and energetic as he continuously called for more wine. But his tolerance for wine was far less than Linghu Chong.

After a few more bowls, his face had become bright scarlet.

"Brother Linghu, I know that you really like to drink wine. Mo Da didn't consider my own position and accompanied you to drink many bowls of wine already. Hey, hey, in Wulin, Mo Da hasn't accompanied many people to drink wine. That day at a meeting in Songshan, there was this Songyang Palm Fei Bin. This person was really bossy and arrogant, the more Mo Da looked at him, the more I didn't like him. So I didn't even drink a drop of wine. The words coming out of his mouth were also rude.

Damn it, don't you think he's annoying?"

Linghu Chong laughed, "Yes, this kind of person overrates his own ability and his conduct's really overbearing. At the end, he didn't have a good fate."

"Later, this person just suddenly disappeared. His whereabouts is also unclear and no one knows where he's gone. This is really strange," Mr. Mo Da said.

Linghu Chong wondered about that day outside the walls of

Hengshan city. He clearly saw Mr. Mo Da used his wonderfully divine

sword art to kill Fei Bin then and he was also sure that Mr. Mo Da saw him there witnessing the whole event. But how come Mr. Mo was saying he didn't know what happened to Fei Bin? Linghu Chong didn't want to appear as if he knew something about it so he said, "Songshan School has no other people who they can rely on. So probably this Fei Bin is holed up

somewhere in a cave on Songshan mountain diligently practising his sword art."

Mr. Mo Da's eyes suddenly flashed with a cunning look. He laughed lightly and slapped the table, "That must be it! If brother didn't mention this, I would've racked my brain trying to figure out where he's gone to and still wouldn't have figured out the reason." He drank a mouthful of wine before asking, "Brother Linghu, why are you really mixing with Heng-Shan School's disciples? Devil Sect's young lady Ren has deep feelings towards you. So you should never disappoint her."

Linghu Chong's face turned red when he heard this. "Martial uncle Mo is wise. Little nephew is already frustrated in love. This matter of male and female, I've long been indifferent to this already." As he thought of his

little martial sister, Yue Lingshan, his heart turned sour and his eyes couldn't help but turn red. Suddenly, he laughed loudly and in a clear voice said,

"Little nephew is already disillusioned with this mortal world and wanted to become a monk. But I'm afraid that the regulations for the monks are too strict. Like can't drink wine. So I didn't go and become a monk. Haha, haha!" Even though he was laughing loudly, it sounded mournful.

After a while, he related the story of how he met Dingjing, Dingxian, and Dingyi Shi Tai and how he helped them. He just thoughtlessly described every event while playing down his role in it.

Mr. Mo Da calmly listened to his story till the end. He then just dumbly stared at the wine pot for a long time before saying, "Zuo Lengchan's desire is to annex the other four schools into his own to make one big school. This one big school would then be able to match the two big schools of Shaolin and Wudang and stand as their equal. He hatched this

secret plot a long time ago. Although he's concealed it deeply, I've seen clues of it for a long time now. His granny, he didn't allow my martial

brother Liu to wash his hand and also helped the sword branch of Huashan School to challenge and usurp Mr. Yue's leadership. All these things happened because of this reason. But I never thought that he would be so rash as to brazenly attack Heng-Shan School."

Linghu Chong said, “He didn’t attack openly with boldness.

Originally, he pretended to be from the Devil Sect to force Heng-Shan School to have no other alternative but to agree to combine their schools.”

Mr. Mo Da nodded his head agreeing with him, “Correct. The next step he'll be taking must be to deal with Taishan School’s Priest Tianmen. Hng, even though Devil Sect is vicious, they’re not necessarily more vicious than Zuo Lengchan. Brother Linghu, you’re no longer in Huashan School, you're free like the cloud and cranes in the field. You're unrestrained. So you don’t need to care about this orthodox school and

Devil Sect matters anymore. I advise you, don’t become a monk and also don’t grieve because of this. Go and rescue that young lady Ren out of Shaolin and marry her. Even if other people don’t want to come and drink your celebration wine, I, Mo Da, will come and drink three cups. Damn Zho Lengchan! Does he think we’re afraid of him?”

Mr. Mo sometimes talked in a refined manner but sometimes he talked really vulgarly. He didn’t look like a leader of a school at all.

Linghu Chong thought, “He thinks that I’m discouraged about love because of Yingying. But it's not good talking to him about the matter of little martial sister.” He then asked, “Martial uncle Mo, why did the Shaolin School imprison young lady Ren?”

Mr. Mo Da’s mouth dropped open. He eyed Linghu Chong intensely with his expression full of amazement, “Why did the Shaolin School imprison young lady Ren? You really don’t know, or you already know but you are still asking? Everyone in Jianghu already knows why, you... you... what are you asking for?”

“For the past several months, little nephew was imprisoned by some people and didn’t hear of any news from Jianghu. After that young lady Ren killed four disciples of Shaolin School, little nephew was together with her for some time. But I didn’t know how we got separated later and how she

ended up being captured by Shaolin School?” Linghu Chong explained.

Mr. Mo Da answered, “If that’s the case, you really don’t know the whole story then. Your body’s internal injury was incurable by any medicine. I heard that the unorthodox sects assembled thousands of people on top of the Five-Tyrant Ridge to flatter this young lady Ren and to heal

your injury. The result is that no one was able to do anything for you, is this right?”

“Right,” replied Linghu Chong.

“This whole event shook Jianghu. Everyone was wondering how this kid Linghu Chong got so much good fortune. Unexpectedly, it was because the Dark Wood Cliff’s Sacred Lady Miss Ren favours you. So even though your illness couldn’t be cured, it wasn’t all in vain,” Mr. Mo Da said.

“Martial uncle Mo is teasing me,” said Linghu Chong while he thought, “Although Old Man and Zhu Qianqiu had good intentions, their method was really crude and they announced this matter to everyone. No wonder Yingying was angry.”

“So how did you finally get better? It’s Shaolin School’s “Tendon Altering Sutra” divine art, wasn’t it?” Mr. Mo Da asked.

“It’s not. Shaolin School’s Abbot Fangzheng was merciful and forgave old animosities. He agreed to impart Shaolin School’s unsurpassed internal energy cultivation method to me. It was little nephew who didn’t want to join the Shaolin School. This Shaolin’s divine martial art wasn’t

allowed to be imparted to outsiders so I had to disappoint Abbott Fangzheng’s kindness,” Linghu Chong answered.

“Shaolin School is Wulin’s most respected school. At that time, you have already been expelled from the Huashan School, so it was by chance that you were able to join Shaolin. This is once in a lifetime opportunity. Why didn’t you take into consideration about that and about your own life too?” Mr. Mo Da said.

“Little nephew has been with my respected Master and Master-Wife since I was young. Even if my body is grounded till dust, I still hope that

someday my respected Master would allow little nephew to correct myself and join the Huashan School again. I didn’t want to be greedy to preserve my life and be afraid of death and join another school,” Linghu Chong said.

Mr. Mo Da nodded his head, “So that’s the reason. In that case, your internal injury was healed by another method.”

“Yes! Actually little nephew’s internal injury isn’t completely healed yet,” Linghu Chong answered. Mr. Mo Da stared at him and said, “Shaolin School never had any relationship with you. Although Buddhist people are merciful, they

wouldn’t just casually pass on their divine martial art to anyone. When

Great Master Fangzheng promised to teach you “Tendon Altering Sutra”, you didn’t know the reason behind this?”

“Little nephew really don’t know. I hope that martial uncle Mo can tell me,” Linghu Chong said.

“Alright! Everyone in Jianghu says, that day, Dark Wood Cliff’s young lady Ren carried you on her back and went to Shaolin Temple. Once there, she begged to see the Abbott and told him that he must save your life and she would leave herself to the mercy of the Shaolin temple. If they

wanted to kill or peel her flesh, she wouldn’t object,” Mr. Mo Da said. “Ah!” uttered Linghu Chong as he jumped up and turned over the

wine bowls on the table. His whole body was suddenly covered in cold sweat and his limbs were trembling. His voice trembled, “This... this... this...” His mind was confused. He thought back to those days when his body was getting weaker as days passed by. One night, when he was

sleeping, he heard Yingying wept sorrowfully. She said, “You’re getting thinner every day. I... I...” She was saying this very sincerely and he

appreciated her concern. Then he vomited some blood and lost

consciousness. When he became clear-headed, he was already inside the Shaolin temple and Great Master Fangsheng had already passed him

countless amount of inner energy to save him. But he didn’t know how he ended up in Shaolin or where Yingying had gone. She had actually risked her own life to save his own. He couldn’t help as tears filled his eyes and finally flowed down his cheeks.

Mr. Mo Da sighed. “Although this young lady Ren’s family background is from the Devil Sect, she treated you with sincerity and passion. From Shaolin School, Xin Guoliang, Yi Guozi, Huang Guobo, and Jueyue had all fallen under her hand. So when she went to Shaolin, she didn’t expect to return alive, but in order to save you, she... she disregarded her own life. Seeing this, Great Master Fangzheng didn’t want to kill her but he also couldn’t just let her go. That’s why she was imprisoned inside a cave at the back of the Shaolin temple. This Young lady Ren has many generations of subordinates from various clans. Of course they all wanted to save her. I heard these last few months, Shaolin School hasn’t had one day of peace. From the day they captured her till now, some people said more than a hundred people had gone there to rescue her.”

Linghu Chong’s mood surged when he heard this and he couldn’t

control it for a long time. As his feelings subsided, he asked, “Martial uncle Mo, you said before everyone was vying for the Chief position and there's already fierce fighting inside the rescue group. How is this matter?”

Mr. Mo Da sighed. "I heard that these people from the unorthodox sects usually just follow young lady Ren's order. Without someone with

authority to order them around, they're just madly running and fighting with each other. None of them would submit to anyone. Now they're going to Shaolin temple on a rescue mission. They all know that Shaolin temple is the realm's oldest martial art school and matters would be difficult to handle there. Moreover, if they go there one by one then they know they would never be able to go back out alive. That's why they gathered so many people to form an alliance before going. After this alliance was formed, then there must be a leader. I heard in these last few days, they've been fighting over this leadership position. Several people have died and been injured and they've lost many people because of this. Brother Linghu, I think you

should rush over there and control them. Whatever you say, who would dare to disobey you, haha, haha!" Mr. Mo Da was laughing happily while Linghu Chong's face turned scarlet red. He knew that what he said was correct, but the alliance would only submit to him because of their respect towards Yingying. Later, when she found out about this, she would surely throw a big tantrum. Suddenly, he thought, "Yingying has very deep feelings towards me but she's very thin-skinned. What I'm afraid most is if people joke at her saying that her love towards me is unrequited and I can't repay her kindness. I must repay her kindness but when news of this spread throughout Jianghu, people will say that Linghu Chong is passionately devoted to her, then she probably don't want to live anymore because of embarrassment. It's best if I just rushed into Shaolin by myself and rescues her. If I couldn't rescue her, then they can just say that I made a disturbance there to beg for alms." At this

thought, he said, "Heng-Shan School's Dingxian and Dingyi Shi Tai already went to Shaolin temple to seek for Abbott Fangzheng's compassion to release Young lady Ren. They're doing this in order to avoid a bloodbath in the Shaolin temple."

Mr. Mo Da nodded his head. "No wonder, no wonder! I found it really strange that Dingxian Shi Tai wasn't worried that you were left alone with her school's young ladies and nuns. So it was because of you that she's going to Shaolin."

Linghu Chong said, "Martial uncle Mo, little nephew now knows about this matter and feels really worried. I wish I could fly to Shaolin

temple to see how the two Shi Tai are doing with their request. It's just that Heng-Shan School's martial sisters are all women and I'm worried that they might meet some difficulties en route to Shaolin."

Mr. Mo Da answered, "You can go!"

Linghu Chong happily said, "There's no harm if I go first?" Mr. Mo Da didn't answer but picked up his huqin instead, and started playing it. Linghu Chong knew the meaning behind his word was that he was going to tend to Heng-Shan School's disciples. Martial uncle Mo's martial art and experience was not ordinary. No matter whether he was protecting them in secret or not, Heng-Shan School would be safe. He immediately bowed and said, "Thank you for your kindness."

Mr. Mo Da replied, "Five Mountains Sword Schools, same root different branches. Why do you need to thank me for protecting them? If that Young lady Ren found out, I'm afraid she'll drink vinegar because of this."

Linghu Chong said, "Goodbye. Little nephew will bother martial uncle Mo to look after Heng-Shan School's martial sisters then." As he finished saying this, he rushed out of the shop.

He halted a step and looked towards the middle of the river. He saw lights from the windows on the boat spilled over and reflected on the

Hanshui River. In the shop behind him, the sound of Mr. Mo Da's huqin rapidly disappeared. He could only hear the calm of the night. It was really peaceful.

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